Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Collision Detection in MMORPGs

According to MMORPG.com one of the most highly anticipated forthcoming MMORPGs is Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning . The general impression I get is that a lot of emphasis will be put on PVP. I haven't done much pvp myself and I never got into the whole Warhammer scene so I guess I am not exactly waiting with baited breath. One point does interest me though and that is the fact that Warhammer will implement collision detection.

Collision detection isn't exactly new, Guild Wars implements it very well and in my opinion it is one of the features that elevates Guild Wars combat model head and shoulders above most MMORPGS. If collision detection is properly implemented then it brings a whole new fluidity to combat. Suddenly position and movement are everything. Enemies can be blocked from moving to advantageous positions. Support characters can be protected by standing in front of them. In Guild Wars it helps unify pvp and pve play. There is no taunting mechanic in Guild Wars. Warriors protect squishy casters by standing between them and an attacker. Unlike taunt this technique works as well PVP as in PVE.

Multiplayer battles in MMORPG are generally frenetic. Trying to monitor multiple allies and multiple enemies while keepin an eye on your own vitals and skills is no easy task. In a traditional MMORPG group combat often degenerates into a meter watching exercise - watching health bars and skill cooldowns instead of actualy looking at the live action on the screen. This approach doesn't work in a game where position and movement are vital. If a game implements collision detection then it has to have a simple uncluttered user interface and a responsive control system.

Guild Wars does a fairly good job here, the interface is uncluttered, the light game engine is wonderfully responsive and there are useful interface and control options to allow you to keep tabs on what is happening. It doesn't stop at just the layout of the screen though. Guild wars only allows eight active skills at a time - this greatly reduces the amount of onscreen clutter compared to a traditional MMORPG with multiple hot bars and dozens of skill buttons. Also Guild wars doesn't have 40 man raids where healers screens are filled with HP bars.

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