WildStar's newest video takes aim at... well, aiming

Eliot Lefebvre
E. Lefebvre|07.11.13

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WildStar's newest video takes aim at... well, aiming
In hindsight, the telegraph that this was happening was the guy holding an enormous sword.
There's an element of fire-and-forget in a large number of MMOs, a sense that all of the hard work of targeting is done for you by the game. You click on your target, you activate your ability, and that's all the thought you need to put into aiming. But WildStar is looking to change that, as outlined in the newest Dev Speak video. Aiming your abilities correctly is a big part of playing the game, and failing to do so means missing your target about all of the time.

Lead class designer Hugh Shelton and lead combat systems designer Chris Lynch took the time to talk a little more about the particulars of aiming with several media outlets because this is something that takes a large amount of consideration. So head past the cut not only for the video, but also for more valuable details on the art of making abilities go where you want.

Aiming came to the game mostly because the team wanted to try something for fun. When the game had telegraphs in place, some of the team members wanted to see what happened if the Esper had abilities linked to telegraphs. A test build was assembled, and the team realized that this made the game feel even more organic, promoting a greater range of motion and experimentation from players.

It also allows the team to do more interesting things with ability design as a whole. Some skills deal different amounts of damage based on where they hit -- close to the caster or far away, on the borders, in the center, and so forth. The team has also found new and interesting ways to design telegraph shapes, creating more involved placement and making abilities more differentiated from one another.

The team is finding that the end result is better at supporting more flexible builds. Healers and DPS aren't constantly switching between targets, since many abilities of both are targeted in a freeform nature. The result is that dedicated healers are still worrying about placement and aiming, just like DPS, and there's very little preventing you from tossing some heals in with your damage skills or vice versa.

The class that launched a thousand swords.  And a gameplay mechanic.
If you're not much good at aiming, the game does have systems in place to help. Some of those systems may or may not be in the final build, but the team is definitely aware that not everyone is good at twitch gaming. One of the major features in the current build is an option to automatically face your target when you activate an aiming ability. At first players have tended to use the option, but with more experience most prefer to turn it off and allow more freeform aiming.

Sometimes it's less about aiming and more about generally pointing.The game also does still have some traditional targeted abilities, although the development team is steadily moving away from that as a design principle. Most of the remaining targeted skills are heals rather than attacks. Some classes are also more focused on complex aiming than others; ranged classes tend to be more focused on aiming, while melee classes are more likely to be able to just get in and swing away.

But aren't auto-aimed abilities easier to use? Yes, but they're weaker as a result. The development team allocates a certain power budget to each skill, and range as well as aiming plays a factor. It also depends on whether or not the skill has a travel time or just hits instantly.

Telegraphs of your skills will give you a reasonable idea of where they'll hit. Most abilities have a reasonable bit of vertical clearance, but not so much that you can stand on a tall cliff and hit targets above or below with impunity. Most skills also respect line of sight, meaning you can't shoot your targets through walls because your telegraph would normally hit that region.

None of this means that the team is done experimenting, however. Tanks in particular are still getting more abilities that have freeform targeting around allies, and the team continues moving away from abilities that don't use freeform targeting. In addition, there's work being done to make mouselook a toggle rather than a hold, since players frequently spend most of their time with the right mouse button held down.

Beyond that, there are some other elements that are being played around with, such as reworking how charged abilities work. Some skills can be charged up and then released, and originally that was designated by simply having players hold down the button. To make the interface more intuitive, it's been changed so that pressing the button once starts the charge and pressing it again fires the skill.

WildStar still has its sights set on releasing later this year, so fans should keep their eyes open for any further development on the game's mechanics. For now, you can keep your eyes peeled for big reveals coming out of San Diego Comic Con next week.

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