Posted in General

In defense of auto-attack

autoI’ve decided something lately: I really like auto-attack and I somewhat resent MMOs that lack it.

I guess auto-attack — that default, base-line damage attack that your character will perform over and over again without additional input — can be seen as a relic of early MMO design.  Back in the day, it was standard to start up auto-attacking and only occasionally trigger special attacks, skills, and spells.  But now we’re getting more and more into an era of action MMOs, and auto-attack is a casualty of “progress.”

Now, I’m not against action MMOs nor strictly for them; I’d rather evaluate them on a case-by-case basis.  Games where the left mouse-button can be held down for a stream of basic attacks (Marvel Heroes, Neverwinter) sort of feels like auto-attack to me, and so I don’t mind so much.  But yeah, I wish that my character in The Secret World would fire off a few weak shotgun attacks if I wasn’t doing anything else, and I really never liked how SWTOR lacked auto-attacks as part of its design.

In a weird way, not having auto-attacks makes combat feel more draining because I’m constantly having to mash keys or else my character will just stand around like a dummy.  It’s the one thing I don’t like about WildStar’s combat, particularly because there’s so much movement involved.  When I’m constantly moving to avoid attacks, I don’t or can’t always have an attack skill going.  It’d be nice if my character would just know how to attack on his or her own for those few seconds.

It makes me really appreciate how Guild Wars 2 handled its action combat.  It’s mobile and fast-paced, yet your character knows well enough to run through default attacks if your cooldowns are not up or you just have other things going on.

So devs, please don’t give up on auto-attack in your mad stampede to make MMOs an arcade button-mashing experience.  There’s a lot of good still left in the traditional control scheme and I’d hate to see that go away.

10 thoughts on “In defense of auto-attack

  1. I came to really appreciate the auto attacks in LOTRO as the timing of rotations can be altered to fit more AA’s in and therefore more DPM…it feels natural 🙂

    And so useful when a mob spawns while fetching that essential cup of coffee…difference between life n death…

  2. In some games I fine it great but I’m also rather wary of accidentally pulling some random enemy you targeted them by accident, usually when ranged.

    City of Heroes allowed you to toggle this on for one power which would auto-fire once the cool-down had elapsed, it was very handy for quick fast basic attacks but also saw alot of use with PBAoE heals and Defensive powers.

  3. I’m very much of two minds here. I’ve seen it go to far many times were auto attack is good enough that it doesn’t need player input, at that stage you become a mere passive observer rather than a player.

    A personal enjoy how developers are trying to get the players more active and involved during combat, the issue is they don’t provide enough alternative activities so all your doing is combat and as you said… that gets extremely draining after a while

  4. The last game i played with “heavy auto-attack use” was Perfect Word. Warhammer Online also had auto-attacks, but they did not matter that much, they just filled the gap when you were out of energy, not to mention the result of “passive play” in a PvP environment.

    My fond memory of Perfect World is that i was able to move from one fight to another, attack and watch Dr. Who in the meanwhile.

    While i sure enjoyed it, this is to be credited to Dr. Who, and i would have had the same fun without “playing” a game along. This “play without playing” style is impossible to perform with more modern games which want your whole attention to really be successful. On the other hand, i find games where i have to pay attention more fun and engaging than those which do well as background task.

    That being said, there is one point in favour of auto-attack: after a long playing session in rather hard content with purely active combat like in TSW, i can feel some fatigue in my hands.

    At the same time, i have similar concerns to yours in a completely different genre: real time strategy. Starcraft 2 is the premium example, with it being built for 200 actions per minute. This turns the game into an action game and violently pushes the strategy part far to the back, to be lost and forgotten there. These are not the RTS games i liked to play, and thus i lost interest in them. Apparently i am not alone with this, among my friends the older titles sometimes still get played, as in those strategy still determines the winner, unlike the newer installments where clicking speed seems to be the most important aspect.

  5. I’m in the camp that says auto-attack is bad (mmkay?), but I’m not overly zealous about it. The honest truth is that I hardly notice a difference between auto-attack versus no auto-attack in most cases. These days, the majority of games require you to be constantly pressing buttons regardless. Whether there’s a little automatic damage added up top of that doesn’t make much of a difference.

    It’s only on the now rare occasions that auto-attack actually starts to take over that I get upset. This is a huge problem rogues have in WoW right now. Unless you’re playing subtlety spec or in full heroic warforged gear, you’re going to spend half your time waiting around for energy to recharge. Your job as a rogue player has essentially become occasionally hitting a button to maintain slice and dice and a few other debuffs while the server plays your character for you.

    That’s not fun, and that’s where auto-attack gets to be a real burden.

    You can also run into a similar problem at low levels. Games with auto-attack tend not to give players full rotations until at least an hour or two in (potentially much more), making the early leveling experience a painful grind of watching your character slowly chip away at enemies with little or no input from the player.

    But put a high level, well-designed class from an auto-attack game (like a monk or paladin from WoW) versus a character from an action game (like any class from Neverwinter), and I’m really not going to notice the difference.

  6. So very much agree. I love action-based combat in MMOs, but I also like being able to take a moment mid-combat to sip my drink and in those cases, auto-attack is my favourite thing in the world.

  7. I use auto-attack when I’m soloing but will turn it off when grouped for dungeon runs. Did Carn Dum (LotRO) with a group where the hunter had auto-attack on. He nearly wiped us a few times pulling trolls and other mobs that were behind us on to us while we were fighting the other crazy mobs he’d pulled thanks to his auto-attack. It’s funny now but I may have yelled at him at the time ….

  8. Lol, I like auto-attack just because it gives me less buttons to press and less things to worry about – which a lot of the time is a godsend (especially in things like raids which we all know can get seriously chaotic).

  9. @catchersrule: Out of curosity, what games are you playing? In my experience, games with auto-attack tend to require much more buttons and things to keep track of than those without. Compare my nine button rotation plus a bajillion cooldowns and situational skills in WoW to my eight button total action bar in TSW.

  10. I have decided I shall not play action combat; no interest in twitch. ( I might briefly try Widlstar when the f2p is announced. ) So auto-attack fits naturally into my antediluvian tab-target/hotbar combat until normal combat MMOs or I die.

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