My previous post on five features that I’d like to see spread to other MMOs I play sparked an interesting discussion over the merits and pitfalls of casting while moving. Honestly, I didn’t expect anyone to be against it; I always saw the “need to stand stock-still to cast a spell” as an unnecessary relic of old school MMO design that required heavy-handed balance to smack those ranged powerhouses down to a mortal level. As in, it might have been necessary and standard back in the day, but it’s become a creaky element that isn’t as welcome nowadays.
But there are obviously two camps when it comes to this issue, so I wanted to clarify why I think it’s great that we’re seeing this feature go bye-bye.
First of all, I’m not a developer but a gamer. I don’t care — nor do I have to care — about balance difficulties or whatnot when it comes to MMOs. I just report from my perspective, which is a gamer. And my perspective is that casting while moving is fun and freeing, while needing to come to a screeching halt and standing still like a redcoated British soldier during the Revolutionary war while I slooowly load my musket under withering enemy fire is annoying. Maybe that was the solution for “balancing” a long-range damage dealer a while back, but if devs can’t figure out other ways without breaking down into gibbering panic, then that’s on them, not me.
You see, movement is essential to gaming. I don’t need to always be moving in a fight, but it’s nice to know that I have the option. And it feels more natural, too. Even in MMOs where my moving back and forth, jumping, or “dodging” has absolutely no impact on what the behind-the-scenes die rolls say, I still like to do it because standing still in the face of a mobile enemy makes me feel foolish. Moving during fights feels far more dynamic, even if it’s the occasional repositioning for a shot or jumping out of a pool of fire. Stupid fire pools, the one place where you should pee in them and yet your raid leader never lets you.
I’m not a strong advocate for real-time combat in MMOs, mind you; I like the back-and-forth, and would probably be equally irked if a game made me memorize all sorts of combo moves just to survive a fight. But whether it’s action-clicking in DDO, stunning and then backstabbing a droid in SWTOR, dodging a fireball in GW2, or strafing while I’m loading up a potent spell in TSW, the movement makes combat more exciting.
But perhaps more than all of this is the unnecessary crippling of spellcasters that result in classes being far less enjoyable than they should be. I never understood why ranged bow/gun users, for example, often had a huge slew of instant-cast attacks, decent armor, and good damage, while the terry cloth robe-wearing mages were forced to stand in place while doing essentially the same long-distance attacks. It started to feel even more unfair as melee fighters were given several abilities of their own to do damage at range and close ranged gaps quickly. The rock-paper-scissors balance evolved except in this one area.
Having played several spellcasters, I can attest that it’s not just the immobility that proves irksome, but how picky the game is when it comes to letting you cast. As a previous commenter said, you have to come to a dead stop to start casting, which means that error messages become standard as you try to stop and cast without your avatar slowing down on a dime. That wastes precious time as you get that error message, have to check that you’ve fully stopped, and then try to cast again. It’s not enjoyable in the least.
Or what about being a healer with long cast times? I’ve shaken my fist at the screen more times than I can count because I’m trying to help Mr. Dying Pants over there, but because he’s able to be mobile and I have to stand stock-still through a three-second cast, he’s got three seconds to accidentally duck around a corner or an object that obscures and breaks the cast. Why can’t I just run after him, prepping the spell on the go?
Listen, I play MMOs like RIFT, LOTRO and SWTOR that retain the casters-must-stand-still design, and after having tasted the alternative with TSW and GW2, it’s just not as much fun to return to that. I can adapt and play by the game’s rules, but I’m stating that I have a personal preference that casters should get to move. Devs have made it work, and work well, in the latter two titles (and other games that I don’t frequent at the moment), and I’ve never once heard someone in either game lament that casters moving was a horrible design decision. Cling to the past if you will, but I like my wheels round, not square.