PODCAST NOTE: Hey, where’s episode 8? I was sick and out of town for a bit, so the next episode of the Cat Context Podcast will be delayed a week. But in return you’ll get 3 episodes over 3 weeks!
August 20 – Dungeon Defenders, Day Z, other stuff.
August 27 – We’re talkin’ about the first 24 hours of Guild Wars 2!
September 1 – EPISODE 10 LIVE FROM PAX!! Time and guests coming soon.
I have given Blizzard a lot of crap over the years about World of Warcraft and some of their design and business decisions, to the point where I occasionally wonder how I spent so many years in the game in the first place. That attitude isn’t really fair, though — WoW may no longer be a game I enjoy, and Blizzard may have repeatedly proven themselves to be clueless on social justice matters, but the fact is there are reasons their game was such a huge success in the first place and it wasn’t entirely because of great market timing.
I was talking with someone the other day about RIFT, as I’m wont to do, and a very familiar topic came up. “I like RIFT a lot,” they said, “but the combat just isn’t as smooth as WoW.” And indeed, they are absolutely correct. I have played a number of MMOs at this point, live or in beta, and I have yet to find one where the combat is as fluid and responsive as that in WoW. Even if you’re not a fan of “hotkey combat”, you have to admit that the actual technology behind the fighting is pretty tight.
SWTOR initially went with tying together animations and skill timing and while I think it contributed to making combat look more action packed on the screen it also messed with responsiveness. Trion built RIFT for quick and easy patching, and while they have far surpassed WoW in that area the game does suffer from some performance issues. Everquest II, The Secret World, Guild Wars 2 — same thing, although to be fair I’ve only played the latter two in beta tests.
As a healer, I know that a half second delay between pressing a button and my character performing an action can lead to chaos and death, and quite honestly there is NOTHING more frustrating than having a tank die due to jerky combat. I can say without hesitation that WoW is the only game I’ve played up to this point that I felt 100% certain that my spell would hit exactly when I expected it to based on my input.
I’m not saying that any of those other games are bad or poorly made. I certainly have almost no idea of what goes into the development of a major piece of online software, and I assume it’s a pretty elaborate process. But credit to Blizzard where it’s due: despite a notoriously awkward launch back in 2005, I have yet to ever play an MMO that ran as smoothly or was as responsive to my controls as WoW.