7 December, 2006
There’s a new expansion for EQ2, so I’ve been a bit bad and playing more than I should. But, one of the new features they have is a race called the Fae: wee pixies with cute wings.
But, the real fun isn’t just the race, but what the race can do: Fae take no falling damage, and one of the racial abilities they can choose is called “Glide”. This allows the fae characters to jump a further than your average character. You can often do amazing jumps that would cause other characters to simply plummet to their doom.
So, this got me thinking, what makes movement abilities so darn fun in these types of games?
One thing that really got people talking about City of Heroes (CoH) was the movement abilities in that game. After a few levels, you could get an ability that gave you super speed, super jumping, teleportation, or really slow flight. I remember lots of people grinding out levels just to get to the level where they could get the super movement ability just to have fun with it. My favorite was the super-jump, where you could literally leap across a whole zone in half a dozen hops.
It’s interesting how movement played a role in the other thing people really remember about CoH: using the Z-axis in gameplay. You could sit up on a shelf or fire escape and blast enemies with distance powers. Of course, almost every enemy had a ranged attack (read: gun), so there wasn’t much advantage to attacking from a distance. But, it was still neat not to have to always engage enemies face-to-face, or to have the risk of pathing problems taking all your immersion out of an encounter.
But, why is movement so interesting in these games? As an Explorer type, one of the things I like about movement abilities is that I can get to some places easier. As a Fae running around the city of Kelethin high in the trees, I can jump from one platform to another easily. This is something other characters can’t do. When I got the flight ability in CoH, I flew up to the tops of some buildings just to see what was up there. I also got some interesting views of the zones as well.
I think Achievers enjoy these types of abilities as well, mostly for the convenience. As I was running around the same area later with my higher level character with another friend, we accidentally jumped off a cliff together; this was a cliff our Fae characters would have not even thought about, but our normal characters narrowly avoided death by falling damage in this case thanks to a convenient nook we were able to hit instead. The convenience of the movement ability was denied to us with the older characters.
The problem is, of course, that too much freedom in movement becomes problematic. Our games are generally made in such a way that the experience is controlled. You have to turn a corner to get to the next area because that blocks all the polygons in the previous area from your view, which makes rendering easier. In CoH, you lost a lot of detail of the world when you were jumping super high in order to not make the typical computer of the time cry for mercy. So, it’s not like a game can just throw in easy movement as feature; this is something that must be carefully planned, and that will affect many aspects of the game. I’m sure that there will be some problems in the near future when the Fae characters in EQ2 find a way to get someplace the original developers never intended. Heck, witness the ability for some characters to get around in WoW with the few movement-related abilities there!
So, what’s your thoughts? Do you enjoy movement-related abilities? If so, why do you enjoy them?