Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Game Developers Conference

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the East Coast Game Developers Conference (ECGC) in Raleigh NC for the second year running. I'm very lucky to be going to school in Raleigh, less than 10 minutes from the convention center downtown. The event went off without a hitch, and there were a lot of great speakers. Jason Rice in particular gave a very interesting talk on designing and balancing for competitive multiplayer games. The challenge of balancing asymmetrical situations in competitive games, whether it's different characters, classes, weapons, maps, races, units, or anything else (pokemon?), is what really draws me to game design, so his seminar spoke to my particular interests in a very immediate way. All in all the conference was a fun and informative experience. Can't wait for next year.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Pet control

WoW did a lot of things right, but I don't think the interface for controlling pets was one of them. I'm a little disappointed to see GW2 adopting a similar system for ranger pets (3 toggled pet 'modes' and 3 active movement commands).

Six different buttons to move a pet around is a pretty clunky system, and many of the options are redundant. For someone who wants to have everything keybound it can be really annoying when all those pet keys are competing with your other skills for prime keybind locations.

On top of that, moving a pet around (or just setting it to the correct mode and forgetting about it), is the entirety of the ranger's unique mechanic, which seems far too passive compared to the other profession mechanics. More importantly it doesn't seem like it would be very fun or rewarding for the player.

Basic pet control commands should be streamlined to allow as much control in as few buttons as possible, and pets should have at least one activated ability specific to that pet or pet type.

For basic pet commands what I'd like to see is two buttons. One button orders your pet to attack your target. Double clicking sets your pet to automatically attack whatever are attacking. The second button brings up a green targeting circle that allows you to click on the ground to tell your pet to move your pet to that spot and stay there. Double clicking the second button will tell your pet to stop attacking and return to your side.

For activated pet abilities I'd like to exclusively see skills that incorporate the position of the pet somehow, otherwise they just feel like extra ranger skills. For instance, skills that affect the area around the pet, or a skill that allows you to leap to your pet or swap places with it. A skill that lets you click and drag to determine a direction for your pet to charge would be particularly cool.

Ultimately you have more control over your pet (GW2 currently has no move-to-target-location command or activated pet skills) with half as many buttons, and having an activated skill will make the ranger mechanic more fun. Plus each pet type will feel more distinct, and choosing a pet will be a more rewarding decision.

Runner up in GW2 'design a skill' contest

Guess I should mention this here. I was a runner up in the GuildFans 'design a skill' contest a while back, judged by Jon Peters and Isaiah Cartwright. It was awesome to see what veteran game designers had to say about my entry. Big thanks to them.

Contest results and ArenaNet Commentary:

My entry: