Oct 7, 2011

Posted by in Fully Operational | 26 Comments

Fully Operational: Not-So-Auto-Attacks

“Now witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle station!” — There is no better example of damage in the Star Wars galaxy than the scene attached to that quote. Each week in Fully Operational, join Kray as he takes a look at the damage dealing role in Star Wars: The Old Republic. And yes, we’ll blow up a planet if we get the chance.

Welcome, dealers of damage, DPS machines, pew pewers and stabbity stabbers! It’s that time again, time to kick back after a long work week and join me on a magical adventure through The Old Republic. I’m in a pretty good mood right now, so today’s listening music reflects it.

So far we’ve gone over class playstyles, hybridization, and group dynamics, all speaking in general terms. Now, my friends, it’s time we start getting into the nitty-gritty. Our topic of conversation today will bounce around a bit, but I promise it’s all linked together — let’s talk about the absence of auto-attacks for ranged and melee, and how it’s going to affect our lives in the DPS world.

White Damage

BioWare announced many moons ago that the beloved (or hated) auto-attack system would not be implemented in The Old Republic, and has since developed on the concept further, detailing how the basic combat system will flow both visually and technically. For those of you unfamiliar with auto-attacks, it refers to the concept that during periods of downtime — i.e. when the player is “in combat” but pushing no buttons, executing no commands — his character will automatically slash and shoot with a basic attack. These attacks are often referred to as “white damage”, a term pulled from the fact that auto-attack damage numbers are typically non-colored to help differentiate from vibrant special attack numbers. In some games, auto-attacks make up a large chunk of damage dealt, especially over time; they’re free and relatively quick, giving a nice easy boost to your damage done. What a fantastic feature!

BioWare disagrees, and let me tell you why.

You Are in Control

I’d like to refer you to the chart below to help make my point. This is a damage parse from a top Rogue in World of Warcraft, in arguably the best guild in the world.

Interesting part highlighted in red. The rest of it is BORING. (Click to embiggen)

As you can see, a whopping 23.5% of this player’s damage on the fight came from Melee, which is the basic, auto-attack strike. Now, there is a caveat that this particular class has a few buttons they click to increase their white damage, but the fact remains that those 268 hits made required absolutely no input from the player. In fact, if you want to get into the meat of it, Instant Poison, Deadly Poison, and Main Gauche are all damaging abilities tied directly into those auto-attacks, meaning that roughly 45% of the damage this character did required almost no input from the player. This is a bit of an extreme example, but you can see the issue that arises: nearly half of what this rogue did was controlled by the computer.

The Old Republic approaches damage from a different route: all offensive (and most defensive) actions your avatar makes should be a result of direct input from you – auto-attacks do not exist!  Principle Lead Combat designer Georg Zoeller chimed in back at the beginning of the year with some official commentary on the issue:

  • Basic attack sequences in Star Wars: The Old Republic generally consist of multiple blaster bolts or strikes, so you don’t click-spam attacks. We call these attacks ‘flurries’.
  • The actual number of flurries during a basic combat cycle against a normal creature is generally low, we try to put an emphasis on special attacks instead.
  • As a result, an auto-attack feature becomes unnecessary, since you chain few flurries together and often switch up your combat routine to deal with emergent issues during a fight.
  • You can definitely shoot on the run (or backpaddle and shoot on those following you).

… and later in the thread …

 Combat in The Old Republic allows for a lot of dynamic movement on the battlefield (force jumps, grappling hooks, people being sent flying in ballistic arcs), so the ability to perform your basic melee attacks while moving is important for the game to feel correct.

You are never idle in combat – there is no situation where you just stand there waiting, unable to do anything (unless you are stunned that is.)

Since I mentioned you can shoot on the run, I should clarify that you can also perform melee attacks on the run.

Worry not! White damage will not be missed!

The How and Why

The removal of auto-attacks makes sense from a technical and storyline perspective — you’re the hero or villain, you should be the master of your own actions — but that’s not the only reason white damage has no place in The Old Republic. Take a look at things from an animations point of view and you’ll see what I mean. Read most any quote about combat animations or watch any gameplay video and you’ll see that in between combat actions, your character will be doing a LOT of other things! Between shielding and parrying attacks, dodging or deflecting blaster fire, and of course player-controlled movement, there’s a lot of animation going on. Having no automatic strikes in-game gives the graphical team more freedom to make an entire combat sequence flow together smoothly; TOR will be devoid of the awkward “interrupt myself mid-strike to do a different type of strike then restart my old strike because I sure do love me some strikes!” scenario (see, it was even awkward to read). Each action is fluid and melds together with the overarching combat animation seamlessly.

Pictured above: not an auto attack

The final hurdle BioWare had to jump in the excision of white damage is the fact that, well, this is an MMORPG. Being an MMO, there will be periods of time where you won’t have enough resources to perform an attack, or just need to do a little bit more damage to take down an enemy. Well, being the solution-factory they are, BioWare implemented a free, basic attack to all classes. Whether or not you use this attack is completely up to you, it merely serves as a filler while waiting for an ability to proc or some resources to recharge. BioWare goes so far as binding this default attack to the right click action on an enemy target (in addition to its slot on your action bars), to ease growing pains of people used to auto-attacks in previous games. Keep in mind, you’ll have to click it each time for it to go off, but with the wide range of abilities you’ll have by the time you hit level cap, don’t expect to be hitting your basic attack too often.

I love the lack of white damage in TOR and I hope you do too. If you disagree with something I said or would like to pick apart my analysis of a Combat Rogue, please post in the comments. As always check out the other Fully Operational articles here on Ask A Jedi, and follow me on Twitter: @kraybaybay!

  1. Well, instead of auto-attack it sounds like they have auto-defend… if all of those blaster deflections aren’t just for show. Are they?

    But I never saw auto-attack as a big deal… sure there’s a lot of damage but the fights are balanced to account for it. In WoW it eliminates dead space, which I have a feeling we’ll see in TOR somewhat.

    And plus the “choreographed” combat only applies to melee-on-melee and sentient beings at that.

    I think they probably should have left auto-attack part of the game, but that’s just my opinion.

    • Well, if you look at it from a WoW perspective, none of the spellcasters have any white damage to speak of, and they get along just fine. My issue with the extra damage auto-attack brings is the fact that it’s damage that requires no input. I think back to the days of my hunter in vanilla WoW where the vast majority of my damage came from just sitting there autofiring my gun =P

      I’m not sure what you mean as far as sentient beings for choreographed combat, and I know melee-on-melee is incorrect. Characters will actively animate dodges and deflections when avoiding attacks, regardless if they’re ranged or melee attacks.

      • I mean when you’re fighting beasts and things, there is no choreography… it only applies to melee vs. melee sentient beings.

        Do we know if the deflections and blocks are actual in terms of mechanics, or are they for show only?

        Anyway, I always looked at white damage as a damage pad, but the real numbers are outside of it. Yes, maybe your hunter did white damage alot… but if you tried to pull that in a raid and your other abilities and numbers aren’t comparable to others of your class, you’re out!

        Questing and killing boars? Probably no big deal either way as the fight is extremely short. This only really comes into play for raid style mechanics IMO.

        • I have to disagree, I think that padding anything is a bad idea. Why not replace said padding with something fun to use and pretty to look at? I do not think that it fits to well in the Star Wars Universe seeing a trooper shooting a constant blaster shot every second or so. Hacking at someone with a lightsaber like your making firewood certainly does not.

          I, for one, would much rather watch “Star Wars Kid” dance around then a lumber jack chopping wood for hours.

      • “Do we know if the deflections and blocks are actual in terms of mechanics, or are they for show only?”

        From what was inferred in the combat animation blogs and videos, it -should- match actual blocks/deflect/etc.

  2. Grinstone says:

    There are arguments for and against it, of course. In large part it’s a question of balance. The presence or absence of auto-attacks are a factor that must be taken into account when looking at a class’ overall performance. In Kray’s example with the WoW rogue, there’s so much auto-attack damage because rogues dual wield, attack very quickly, and have abilities that boost that damage. Other classes do considerably less white damage. I can well imagine that removing that element from the equation makes the exercise that much easier.

    BioWare has additional compelling reasons to do away with auto-attacks, which is great. I certainly look forward to appreciating the animations that’ll be in the game. I really can’t say I’ll miss the auto-stabbity-stabs in addition to the active stabbity-stabbing, or pewity-pewing (is that a word?), I’ll be doing.

  3. I like the fact that there is no white damage in TOR. Who knows that way we dont have to see people running around “full socketed with strenght” and “doing” 50% of their total DPS for doing exactly nothing.

    I have a question Kray, about this: “BioWare implemented a free, basic attack to all classes” does that basic attack shares Global Cooldown? Plz tell that it does.


  4. I love the idea of no auto-attack. It’s very nice to see a jedi or sith parrying or dodging an attack than just hit a target. It makes the game more realistic !

  5. Wow, I can already feel the oncomming carpal-tunnel syndrome ;P

  6. Awesome article, having a rogue alt in World of Warcraft makes this a very familiar topic.
    One more reason why Auto-Attacks are a bad thing is the itemization, since the auto-attacks were subject to certain stats that only boosted auto-attacks or mostly boosted auto-attacks, such as the Hit, Haste, Expertise and more. It made the itemization really dull for the Rogues in particular too. This has become better when Cataclysm was released but was the case from The Burning Crusade up until then.

    Tl;DR I’m very happy they are going away with it, there’s many more reason why it fails =)

  7. I’m 100% on board with no auto-attacks. I played a spriest in WoW for a long time so I’m used to not using auto-attacks. I love the way Bioware is going with the combat animations. Combat should be visually exciting. I know that with my spriest in WoW I was always chopping casting animations to hit the next priority cooldown, it gets really old. DCUO went with a platform style combat system, no auto-attacks there and it was actually a lot of fun. I really hope Bioware’s system works as beautifully as they claim. I can’t wait to see some “real” epic fights :)

  8. Almost all MMos i played had a combat system with auto attacks and global cooldown. The first MMO i really played for a longer time was DAoC. They had a combat system without any auto attack (at lease not like what we think of them today) or global cooldown. It was the best combat/skill system in a game i have played. That doesn’t mean it could not be improved. But i’m really excited to see what they did there and that they coose to try something different. Still waiting for my beta invite :(. And please excuse my english. I’m not a native speaker.

  9. so shooting and melee on the run…. will sages and sorcerer are able to cast on the run, too ? if not, could make them the badest pvp ACs

  10. Evenprimes says:

    Something that no one is mentioning about the lack of auto attacks is that we can (mostly) say goodbye to people accidentally attacking targets. It’s sad the number of wipes I’ve seen where someone (*ahem* hunter) clicked the wrong target and auto attacked, or had WoW’s wonderful “target something in range and start blasting” system pull groups/bosses.

    There’s a whole range of issues that are, sometimes rightly, blamed on players that just won’t occur now. Cheers to BioWare on this!

  11. I really liked this idea when first read about it, really hated the autoattack issue on huntards as an example, back on the days i played wow, ranged autoattack is just retard, worst players i have ever seen were all huntards and only killed because of autoattack…

  12. well, if we talk about rogues and melee classes. the thing behind white damage is that you HAVE to stay on your target all the time to do damage, while casters mainly have to do opposite. hit and run, or do some fast burst damage; and basically do anything to avoid having melee on your back 24/7.

    the only thing that worries me is how are they gonna balance that out. you simply can’t press 3 buttons simultaneously and spamming buttons are not the ideal game-play imho. and if melee will have fast heavy hitting attacks with abilities for gap closing, i think that range classes gonna have relay hard time. special in arena like encounters, where i can jump, hit for a lot of damage, and run back los-ing you ….

  13. pwnttothemax says:

    i prefer auto attack. if i enter a new area that’s already been cleared of enemies by other players, and decide this is a good pee-break, i want to be able to leave my computer for 1 minute and not come back to my character at a med center

  14. Auto attack does not protect you from dying if you afk.. Maybe your companion will take that spot (maybe I even know what I am talking about)

  15. If you played a caster in WoW (or virtually any other MMO), you didn’t cry about the lack of an auto attack. Suck it up, folks. Next thing you know, people will be complaining about the existence of a global cooldown. “We didn’t have a GCD in [My Previous MMO]! We have to **wait** 1.5 seconds between instant cast abilities!?”

    Oh wait, they’re already doing just that…

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