Melee and Kiting
In the extreme off-chance you have not been following the gripping drama unfolding in the comment section of my post about Guild Wars 2 questing (which long ceased to be about questing), let me summarize my position on the design intention of melee kiting mobs.
…actually, wait. Let me quote GW2’s Jon Peters instead (emphasis mine):
Hey all. I wanted to talk about this a bit since it is a hot topic here and also on the internets. The intention is that both styles are viable. Certainly right now Melee is more difficult than ranged. There are some things we will try to do to address this, but I think the more you play you would find they are closer than you think.
First what’s already there:
- Melee does more damage. Melee damage is simply higher than ranged damage across the board.
- Melee has more control. With a few intentional exception Melee has a lot more control than ranged.
What Melee needs:
- defensive tools on more weapons, particularly on lower armor professions.
- ai needs to favor Melee a bit less than it currently does.
Finally because of the more action based nature of combat Melee needs to be taught better. Effective Melee requires skills that translate over from FPS games which are notoriously harder on casual players. You have to wasd to move, constantly aim with your mouse camera, and hit skills on 1-5.
If you have learned any good Melee tips that you think we should pass on to newer players feel free to post them here. I’ll start with a few tips of my own.
- If you don’t have mouse look on when using a skill you will turn to face. I sometimes let go of mouse look as I activate to help me aim through the chaos and then click it back down in between attacks.
- Melee has a lot of hard hitting skills and good setup. Utility skills Can really help set up big Melee attacks. Bulls charge on warrior, scorpion wire on thief, judges intervention on guardian.
- Know when to run. No matter what you are not a tank. You have to move in and out avoiding damage. If you have to soak damage try and bring boons like Protection and Regeneration or conditions like Blindness and the very undervalued Weakness.
Thanks for reading this all. Rest assured we will keep working on this and just keep in mind the subtle differences in GW2 combat that take a while to sink in.
The above was posted May 1st, the same day I basically pointed out the same thing, vis-a-vis the melee vs ranged discrepancy, with my first GW2 beta weekend impressions. As of the second beta weekend, there has been no improvement I could detect. Jon mentions that melee deals more damage “across the board,” but what difference happened to exist was not perceptible to me.
But for the sake of argument, let us assume Jon is correct. Let us assume, as Conwolv does, that I “like to make up excuses for [my] poor playstyle” rather than have any possible legitimate complaint. Let us, in other words, look upon the design principals as they exist in their purest form:
- Melee deals more damage | It is more difficult to get/stay in melee range.
- Melee is at greater risk of damage | Melee takes less damage.
- Ranged deals less damage | It is easier to stay on target.
- Ranged is at less risk of damage | Ranged takes more damage.
Do you believe the above is good, balanced game design?
Go ahead and write down your answer.
Write it down?
You see, the problem with the above “balanced” game design is the notion that both ranged and melee are intended to ultimately be viable, e.g. be equivalently good at damage. If ranged DPS is as good as melee in the long-run, that means there is no benefit to it being more difficult to get into/stay in melee range. If melee has greater burst damage to compensate, that merely imbalances PvP and/or forces encounter designers to include adds that need to be killed quickly… and somehow make it so that ranged cannot simply kill them in the time it takes melee to switch targets.
Similarly, “risk” is not a particularly compelling balance mechanism for two reasons. The first is simple psychology: most people are risk averse. Would you rather have $50 right now, or $100 if you win a coin flip? Both have an average payout of $50, so there is no difference between the two… right? Second, there are “perceived fun” barriers that designers have to keep in mind when crafting encounters. Instant-death mechanics are probably not fun for a lot of people, even if that is a way to balance ranged having an easier time avoiding said attack than melee (whom would only take 50% damage or whatever). At the other end, if melee doesn’t take enough damage, they could potentially ignore the mechanic altogether.
There are potentially ways to balance the melee vs ranged rift, but the bottom line is that a “mirrored” approach simply does not cut it.
Flying the Melee Kite
This brings me back to the GW2 melee problem.
Simply put, melee has every possible disadvantage. Instead of melee taking less damage per the balancing mechanism for #2, melee takes the same or more damage. You have less time to react to “Dodge This!” abilities, nevermind how few of those abilities ranged even has to care about. As Jon points out, “You have to move in and out avoiding damage.” What does ranged do? Move… backwards? To be honest, at the levels I played, my Ranger never had to move at all if I lead off with a snare. And here is the thing: even if that changes later, I would not be doing more than my melee toons already do.
More often than not, melee characters having to kite mobs is a sign of design failure. What else could it be, by definition?
One of the interesting defenses that a commenter named Fn0 presented was the following:
GW2 goes further. Capiche? It is not the same. GW2 allows you as melee (as in, you started melee at level 1) to spec as full-blown ranged with the blink of putting a ranged weapon equiped. In GW2 you can respec in battle with they key ` which allows one to, for example, switch between melee and ranged. This means we are much more hybrid than in previous MMOs.
It is an interesting thought that ArenaNet might be endeavoring to do away with both class roles (i.e. the Trinity) and any distinction between ranged and melee classes. I do not believe the argument works particular well, given that melee vs ranged is still a balance issue regardless of whether each class can be both – just because a Thief can be ranged 100% of the time doesn’t fix the fact that melee is imbalanced. And I have a more subjective problem with the idea of presenting Thieves, Guardians, and Warriors as “ranged” archetypes. But it is an interesting thought just the same.
Having said all that, what do you guys think? Is kiting a “standard strategy for melee in all MMO games?” Even in questing and general PvE? Are the discrepancies between melee and ranged classes something you think about at all? I have not played TERA, so I would also be interested in knowing how melee vs ranged is handled in that game. And if you played a game where you thought things were balanced pretty well, let me know that as well in the comments below.