Time-to-kill

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.

17 thoughts on “Time-to-kill

  1. Yeah, I’m no expert on TSW builds. but I have a single mob deck and a multi-mob deck at th least for each character. Even then, I find it easier going on my Blood/Blade Templar (working on Preacher) and my Elem/Blade Dragon (Ninja) than my AR/Fist Illuminata (Fixer). So I think some Deck combos are simply better for TTK than others. I covered this regarding Trinity roles in the past. Tanks and Healers have lower XP rates than pure DPS because of TTK, even though their survivability is usually higher.

  2. Dude, if you think it takes a while to kill things in Blue Mountain, wait til you get to Egypt.

  3. This is something I was thinking about for a while now – Lotro and TSW are pretty slow, Vanguard is somewhat quicker while Rift is extremely quick. But I don’t think the issue is there. As you pointed it out, there are games where some mobs are quick, others are slow, and that is what I find particularly hard to accept, and basically do the same as you – get around the slower ones.

    City of Steam – as of the alpha – is pretty quick, but there are literally swarms of enemies around.

  4. I had similar experiences with shotguns/elementalist in BM. I switched to working on Preacher (blood/blades, as mentioned by Rowan) when I got to Egypt and it feels like things sped up. Some fights can get pretty long still, but many fights in BM was painful. I guess you are talking about the A’kabs? I feel your pain.

  5. In Lotro, you picked a support/buff class in Captain; I’m sure it takes longer since you are just not built for damage dealing. Try to team up with a dps class if slayer deeds frustrate you. As a RK (as would a hunter or champ), I slice through mobs so quickly, on-level landscape mobs and skirmish mobs take 2-6 seconds to kill… it takes longer just to get in range and smite them. I feel certain that if you were slicing through mobs like a dps class does, you would completely disagree with your statement also. On the flip side, Captains are awesome and make groups so much better!

  6. I think game devs don’t think about this issue on the terms it *needs* thought. I don’t think TTK matters as much as *what* you’re killing and *how many* of it you must face. If you’re going to create a world densely populated with hostile creatures, kill time needs to be pretty quick. However, if your world has very few hostile mobs make them take quite a while to kill and make sure it’s worthwhile to kill them. I think the balance has to be had in between those factors.

    As to TSW, I think the TTK is too high for the amount of mobs you face running through any given area. If they weren’t ALL hostile, it’d be fine. But aggro is an issue so the TTK is overtuned I think, but not detrimentally. It’s not annoying yet.

  7. The TTK goal in TSW is 30 seconds, according to the devs. A friend of mine joined me in game recently and so I made a new char to play with him; this char is running Shotgun/Elementalism as well. I will say that things felt faster on my Blades/Blood char, but I’m not having any real problems with my TTK thus far on the new char. Obviously a LOT of this comes down to build and tactics though; saying what weapons you use isn’t the same as saying how your character is built or how he/she kills things.

    On the shotgun side, I use Pump Action and Both Barrels for nice AE cone damage. Shock, Electrical Storm, and Thor’s Hammer are my longer-range damage dealers, with Anima Charge to buff the big hits (usually Thor’s Hammer) and Molten Earth to lock foes in place (then I run behind them). This is an early build still but it works well enough for me. I’m still helping my friend through Kingsmouth but I’ve soloed a fair bit of SC and BM already (QL 4 talismans, QL6 blue weapons from the Wabanaki Trading Post in BM).

  8. Having Shotgun/Elemental leveled all the way myself and with weapons skills at 10 and Talisman at 10. Best I can say is it makes allot of difference in the skill build you have even with the 2 very same skills. That can make a huge amount of difference if the skills your using dont have synergy with each other to cause added on damage effect. I had QL6 all through BM and don’t think it took me more than 30 sec if that to kill the moth insect annoying as they are. What’s hard is when someone else aggro the insects into you fighting which can mean a very likely death fast.

    As well Shotgun/Elemental does have lots of AoE and different skill builds you can make that works but you have to have the right passive and active skills. I usually have a skill build that’s single target focus saved and one modified for AoE when feel the need.

    However how you make up your custom skill deck with 2 weapons make allot of difference in the results you get as well tactics used using them. At around QL6 I was using a Hindered build that had synergy that worked for me and was quite comfortable and knew how to use it to full effect. Not probably popular using Hindered effects compared to other effects on target but what i used worked great for me and survival while dpsing as I was familiar with the skill setup and why it was setup the way I had it. Fighting 2 or more of those annoying giant moth insects usually not a good thing that usually ends well though.

  9. Weird, when I saw TTK I thought about making fight longer, not only “pffft”.

    I agree with Doone it’s more important to consider TTK in relation with the respawn rate rather than just by itself.

  10. Re James’ comment above, it may depend on build but my experience has been the exact reverse. Blue Mountain mobs took forever to kill (and Blue Mountain is vile) so I abandoned it and went to Egypt. In exactly the same (Q4/5) gear I was able to start killing there immediately and with the Q6/7 gear that dropped like autumn leaves I was able to upgrade all my gear in a session or two, after which Egypt was a complete doddle.

    I then went back to Blue Mountain to finish off some essential stuff and found that even in my much better gear the mobs there still took much longer to kill and I still died much more often. My advice is do the absolute minimum in Blue Mountain and go to Egypt at the earliest opportunity.

    As for TTK in general, back when I soloed in EQ in at the turn of the millennium I worked on an expected TTK of around 3 to 5 minutes. Twenty minutes or more wasn’t unusual when kiting something and more than once I spent over an hour killing a single mob.

    I really love a long fight. In almost all MMOs these days I find the individual fights far too fast. I’d prefer maybe ten or a dozen fights per hour, each of them significant and lasting minutes not seconds. That, of course, would need to be provide the same degree of XP/progression that we currently get from killing ten or even a hundred times as many mobs. The constant killing pace we have nowadays is wearing, both mentally and on my joints.

  11. TTK is actually a pretty standard term and one that I guarantee any decent developer cares about so long as their mobs drop exp & loot.

    As for your TSW woes, I just posted a few tips on massively about dealing with Blue Mountain.

    1) If you’re pure dps like ele/shotgun then grabbing the inner ring Fists passive Lick Your Wounds is very good for it’s whopping 1 AP cost.
    2) I found Valley of the Sun God a lot easier than BM. YMMV of course, but the mob density in parts of BM is just brutal.

    For some more general Magus advice I would say:

    1) Get Whiteout and learn to love it. It’s a fantastic AoE CC that does good damage with a minor CD.
    2) Grab the two Hammer passives Wrecking Crew and Punishment. Crit and crit damage go together like two things that go together really well and the Magus deck is all about crit.
    3) Strafe kite at all times. You’ll be amazed at how much damage you can avoid by doing it religiously.
    4) Get a healing weapon and invest points in it anyways. I recommend an Assault Rifle. Replace Raging Bullet with Shot of Anima, throw on 1-2 green healing pieces and you’ve got a significant survivability boost without a totally crippling your damage.

  12. I am not as far as QL6 gear yet, only green QL4:ish in Savage Coast, so I don’t know how it will be in Blue Mountain area. But right now my TTK is perhaps 20-25 seconds for a yellow single dot with my survival/solo chaos/fist build. It varies a bit depending on the type of enemy of course also.

    However, I do not think that low TTK = more fun necessarily. At some point it will become too easy and boring unless you have many different enemies to deal with at the same time. This can work out well in a game that can scale the number of enemies in a good way (e.g. City of Heroes).

    There is a balance and some variation needed – too much of the same regardless of whether it is high or low will lower the fun factor.

  13. I have a feeling that Ak’ab are going to become an internet meme at some point; everyone seems to universally loathe them.

    I’m finding the TTK for TSW with my tanky build (AoE Blade/Chaos, but with mainly DPS talismans) is about 20 seconds or so. I generally try to round up 2-3 mobs and take them out at once. I don’t remember the skill name off hand, but it’s coupled with a passive that gives regeneration while making you harder to hit (from the Blade tree) and it’s wonderful survival. I should probably focus on putting together a single-target build here at some point, too.

    Anyway, if you want to see a really long TTK in action – give FFXI a whirl. (or FFXIV)

  14. Ha. If I ever have to watch 4 noobs beat on an IT++ crab or beetle for 5 mins and 200 xp again in my life it will be too soon.

  15. @danania – agreed that in LOTRO, your class plays a big part to how quick TTK is. Hunters & dps-specced RKs are by far the fastest. But the slowest is definitely Guardian, my main. Yeah, I can go 2-handed with Overkill, but I’m trying to level up some normal legendary stuff and finish off V3.Bk6, so 1-handed with shield I go forward and take 60-90 seconds to kill a single stupid bear! Having just returned to LOTRO from SWTOR, it’s a little jarring. This of some other games I’ve played, AoC can be somewhat slow as well, but Vindictus is really fast paced (though you spend too much time chasing after those coins).

    My thought is that a same lvl mob should not be a quick kill (unless you surprise it) – about 20-40 seconds should be about right. There were time in SWTOR when I’d dispatch someone in 10 seconds and it felt too easy (then again, I am a Jedi :D). If TTK is too quick, you lose some the strategy you need in a fight. One of the things I like when facing different mobs is figuring out which approach to use – the fight strategy. And yes, I know that in LOTRO, there isn’t much strategy to Guardians (“Hmm… there 4 of you? So what, I’ve got gobs of armor, enough healing pots to cure a plague and I AM A DWARF, so bring it on you band of demented sons of Sauron!:) but since the fight take soo long I do have to consider some things.

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