It seems like every studio developing a new MMO gets a bee in their bonnet about a particular game design mechanic or topic. Sometimes it’s more than one, but you’ll end up hearing lots of talk on this one subject that will hardly — if at all — be mentioned in any of the other MMOs out there, in development or released.
One of these topics for Warhammer Online was the concept of “time-to-kill” — in other words, how long it took the average player to kill an average mob. Seriously, TTK (as Mythic called it) was like a major subject worthy of numerous posts and quotes, but it’s something I’ve also heard zilch about in other titles. Do studios consider how long it takes a player to dispatch an enemy? Probably, but I’m guessing it’s not the centerpiece of design, either.
In any case, the reason I bring this up is that time-to-kill has stuck in my head over the years. I actually do notice that in Game A it takes a lot longer than Game B to kill a critter (all things being equal — levels, gear, etc.). Right now, time-to-kill for me in The Secret World is absurdly high. Fighting white or yellow single-dot mobs with my QL6 shotgun and elementalist magic, I can expect to spend a minute trying to burn that puppy down. If there’s more than one mob (unless it’s a swarm), I have to flee. Maybe I’ve really gimped myself and my build, but I don’t think so. Or it could just be that this combination isn’t great for single-target stuff. Or I’m just at a tough point in the game and my power level will start to grow from here. I have no idea, but every quest is a slow slog through mobs that I’d much rather be killing in 15-20 seconds than in 60.
LOTRO’s pretty bad with TTK as well. At higher levels, those mobs don’t fall down that quickly, and even though my Captain is highly specced for damage, with an archer out and sometimes even my landscape soldier, I never feel like I’m killing as fast as I’d like to be. This is especially noticeable when trying to complete slayer deeds.
On the flip side, I adore RIFT’s time-to-kill. Battles feel quick and breezy, and I’m rarely stuck with a stubborn enemy that refuses to budge a single inch on its health bar. This has a trickle-down effect on quests: I can just throw myself into the fray and not worry as much that getting through an enemy camp is going to take the better part of a half-hour. Guild Wars 2, as well, seems like it has a good TTK rate, although I just saw content through level 15, so who knows.
SWTOR is a good example of how TTK can work both for and against a game. There are pretty much three standard mobs in the game: packs of 2-4, solo tougher guys, and solo elite guys. The packs are always lightning-fast battles and lots of fun. The semi-tough guys are acceptable and usually what I consider a standard MMO fight. But dang it if I didn’t try to avoid them or especially the elites, not because I couldn’t kill them, but because the trade-off in time was usually unacceptable.
So if there’s any great conclusion to all this — and there isn’t, trust me — it’s that I prefer faster fights that might come more often to compensate. And I really wish I could figure out a better way to take down these @%#^ bug mobs in TSW’s Blue Mountain.