MMO Movement Controls: Is it time to standardize?

I’ve been playing World of Warcraft for a bit more than four years. I also played City of Heroes for a year (unfortunately, it happened to be the last year of its existence - I discovered it late). When I started playing WoW, it took me about two minutes to figure out and become comfortable with the movement controls. When I started playing CoH, I found the controls to be virtually identical, and I stepped into the game with no difficulty. Both of those games have/had the “standard” WASD keyboard controls, along with the ability to steer by holding the right mouse button and moving the mouse. This setup was so intuitive that I “got it” almost immediately, despite no MMO experience prior to taking up WoW. My only 3D gaming experience before MMOs was a lot of Duke Nukem 3D and a bit of Doom. I’ve done no console gaming since the Super Nintendo.

I’ve been trying my hand at a few other MMOs, with mixed success. The movement in RIFT is pretty much the same as WoW, and LotRO is pretty close. But I’ve tried a few others with very mixed success:

D&D Online: Uses a click-to-move system that I found counterintuitive; lost interest in the game for other reasons

Tera: Uses a FPS “mouse-look” movement system - you hold down ‘W’ to move, but steer by waving the mouse around without holding down a mouse button. I found this incredibly distracting and disorienting; you can’t move the mouse at all without spinning your character around. So frustrating that I uninstalled the game before I got out of the starting area.

Wizardry: New F2P MMO from SoE, based on the old-school Wizardry RPGs from the 1980s. It looks fantastic but … I simply could not make my character go where I wanted. By default, both the X and Y mouse axes are “reversed”. I found the setting to change that, but even then the movement controls felt so strange that I couldn’t stand it. Like Tera, uninstalled before getting out of the starting area.

So that got me thinking: Is it time for the various MMO developers to agree on a standard for movement? Differentiate all they want in combat systems, content, and other features between games, but let them all handle movement the same way. Character movement is such a basic thing that, IMO, there’s really no need for innovation. You just need to be able to move forward and backward, turn right or left, or strafe. The earliest games came up with a simple, effective, and mostly foolproof way to do those things.

I look at it like driving a car. Cars all look different, have different instrument layouts, different features, etc. But the movement controls are the same (disregarding manual vs. automatic transmissions): steering wheel, accelerator, and brakes are in the same places in every model of vehicle. I went 15 years without driving, and during my hiatus car makers came up with this “cab forward” design philosophy. When I started driving again, I had some difficulty relearning how to parallel park because I wasn’t accustomed to not being able to see the front end of my car while sitting in the driver’s seat … but I could still drive the car just fine because the steering, accelerator, and brakes all worked the same way they did on the older cars I’d driven in the past.

I just wonder how many people might end up missing out on an otherwise good game because, like me, they found the movement controls confusing/unintuitive.

I do not think this is the time. I don’t really see why there would ever be a time for that. Why would developers agree to something like that? Movement and combat-system is tied very much togeather, and is a feature that can set an MMO apart from the rest. Why would any developer agree not to be unlike others?
What about games like Planetside, where an important part of the whole thing is that it is an MMO in first-person perspective?

Tera is not in first-person perspective, it’s in third-person perspective, just like WOW. Instead of using a tab-target auto-attack system like WOW, it features “real-time” combat, where you aim and click to attack. The movement in itself is basically the same… WASD. It’s just how you steer that’s a bit different. Also I would think most gamers in general, w/ or w/out any experience with MMO’s, to be more familiar with standard FPS/TPS movement and combat, which has been prevalent in both single-player and multi-player 3D games for a long time now, than a tab-target system.

With that said, some variation of TPS with tab-target has sort of been the norm in MMO’s since EverQuest afaik.

The first 3D MMO, Meridian 59, was in first-person perspective, with real-time combat, so I don’t really see how “The earliest games came up with a simple, effective, and mostly foolproof way to do those things” really fits with you’re idea of an ideal, standardized movement-system.

I don’t really see the problem of taking a bit of time to get used to a different movement-system, as long as you enjoy the game. It’s not like they’re that different. If you can’t get over it, there’s probably some other game out there that fits the bill.

Aren’t most PC game controls fully customisable?

Most games have highly-customizable controls, but not all. One of the things I look for is whether they are customizable or not (a surprisingly amount are not, and these often assume a specific keyboard layout as well), and whether you can double-bind or not.

I assumed the game examples I gave would make it clear what kind of games I’m talking about, but I guess not. I’m not talking about first-person shooters or online multiplayer PvP shooting/fighting games. I’m talking specifically about third-person MMORPGs in the WoW/EQ/Rift genre. This excludes games like Planetside or Meridian 59.

I still don’t think Tera necessarily qualifies. EQ & WoW don’t require the same active attacking and dodging as Tera. Tera’s combat is closer to games like Divinty II: DKS which uses the same control scheme. I can see where it would take getting used to but I don’t think it’s a failing.

So the question is if it’s time to standardize a particular group of MMO’s that is mostly standarized already, hence the terms EverQuest/WoW-clone?

Both Planetside and Meridian 59 are MMO’s. Why are they excluded? Is Ultima Online excluded, since it’s isometric 2D? It’s still an MMO. What does pvp have to do with any of it? Do pvp have any effect on movement? You brought up TERA. One big attraction with TERA, atleast early on, was it’s semi real-time combat and larger scale open-world pvp. Is that grounds for exclusion?

TERA DOES allow you to use the mouse for mouse things, you just need to push a button to turn the cursor on.

However, the scheme is notable different from other MMOs. Because the game itself is notably different - it has no sense of “targetting” whatsoever, so there’s really no REASON to click on things - it doesn’t do anything. You by and large don’t need or even WANT a mouse cursor except when you want to fiddle with your inventory or whatever, and it pops up automatically if your inventory or character sheet, because then they figure “Oh, hey, you’re doing inventory management now, you’ll want a mouse for that.”

Honestly, it doesn’t sound like the OP played TERA long enough to understand how it worked, or if he did, he’s deliberately written a misleading OP.

The funny thing is that, in my brain, MMO controls ARE pretty much standardized. I went from EQ to DAOC to WoW to LOTRO and they’re basically the same.

I’ve only played one MMO and from your description of the controls, I don’t think I would like WOW or something similar. In my MMO, we use the number pad on the right side to navigate so we can chat using the keyboard. I don’t want to have to push Enter or some other button to talk first, often in MMOs we need to be able to communicate quickly. I think your games should standardize to mine :smiley: It frees up the keyboard for chatting

In WoW you’re pretty much expected to re-bind your keys away from the default scheme. A “key-turner” is a slang term for a noob who still uses the A and D keys (or any other keys) to turn; one is better off re-binding A and D to strafe left and right (or abandoning the WASD scheme altogether in favor of ESDF), and then using only the mouse for turning. Mouse-turning is much faster and more accurate than key-turning, to the point that a mouse-turner can literally run circles around a key turner and defeat him without taking a scratch.

sigh I honestly didn’t start this thread to nitpick about terminology and the precise definition of “MMO”. I used “MMO” in the thread title for the sake of brevity, and thought I could depend on the traditional SDMB level of reading comprehension to look at the games I listed as examples and understand what kind of games I was talking about: Quest-driven, third-person, RPGs.

Planetside 2 (formerly known as PlanetSide Next) is a Massively Multiplayer Online First Person Shooter (MMOFPS) game


“What about games like Planetside, where an important part of the whole thing is that it is an MMO in first-person perspective?” (from your first post, bolding mine)

No, you’re correct, I didn’t play it very long. I found the movement controls nearly incomprehensible. I’m not saying the controls are bad - from the sound of things they’re apparently well-suited to TERA’s combat paradigm. It was just that I, personally, am put off by the idea that I need to read a manual and spend a bunch of time practicing something as basic as walking my character from point A to point B. I’ve been playing video games since 1980, and TERA was simply the first game I’ve ever encountered where basic movement wasn’t immediately obvious to me. If simple movement was giving me that much trouble, I clearly wasn’t going to enjoy or have success in more complex things like combat.

That said, from what some have said about TERA, I will admit that I apparently went into the game with the wrong expectations. I look to RPGs primarily as a quest-driven, storytelling medium that incorporates combat; TERA sounds more like a combat game with a supporting story and RPG elements. Probably due to my age and slower reflexes, I avoid things like fast-paced combat and PvP. I can’t keep up with the “kids”.

What the heck game do you play? Almost every key on my keyboard (when playing WoW) is bound to some specific function or command.

True dat. I rarely use anything but the W key + mouse steering. I can also hold down both mouse buttons to move forward, but I find that tiring and also that it tends to restrict my range of motion with the mouse.

Final Fantasy XI, an 11 year old Japanese MMO. In FFXI, the commands are bound to the Alt/Ctrl + Number. Another reason why I don’t want to use any kind of mouse input is that MMO’s frequently lag, and the movement of the mouse cursor on FFXI is noticeably slow, so nobody uses it. Its a keyboard-centric game. I would probably also have issues with using the mouse in an MMO, as I would frequently have other windows open and need the mouse to navigate an online map or look at quest tips. How does that and chatting work on WOW?

Chatting in WoW works much like in FFXI, except that you press the enter key to open a chat box; when a chat box is open, your keyboard is for typing. Otherwise, keys perform their assigned functions (M brings up your map, L opens your quest log, B opens your bags, and so on); these can all be re-bound. Various abilities are typically bound to 1 through =, alt+1 through alt+=, etc. IIRC, FFXI just has your keyboard for typing at all times. The only other difference I can think of is that you switch chat modes more fluidly. You don’t select a default chat mode; each new chat box is in the mode of the one before it.

How’s FFXI holding up, anyway? Is it more solo-friendly than it used to be?

Yes, much more solo-friendly. Exp is gained more easily, there are more modes of play where you can get decent exp, and small party exp and alliance exp is both easier and actually useful now

And its holding up well, new expansion just came out yesterday.

I saw some ads for the expansion. I was thinking of checking it out, but I think I’ll wait until I’ve managed to get myself a proper gaming PC. I play WoW (and used to play CoH) on my 5-year-old Mac, but the latest WoW expansion’s graphics performance on my Mac has made it pretty clear that my Mac is not going to handle the next expansion’s inevitable graphics upgrades. So I figure I may as well get a desktop gaming PC; not just for WoW, but for the other games I’d like to try. I’ve been trying the previously-mentioned games on a Windows laptop, and I’ve found a laptop less than ideal for gaming.

The mouselook + WASD system you describe is essentially the default movement system used in any 3rd person PC game so most gamers are very familiar with it. I’m not saying this to discount your experience, but just as an FYI that you can expect to encounter it again in MMORPGs like TERA that try to mimic non-MMORPG gameplay.

See, this is what’s confusing me about your issues with Tera; W Key + mouse is exactly how you move in that game, except that you don’t need (or want) to hold down any buttons, because buttons are mapped to attacking and defending.

So you move with WASD and turn with the mouse, just like everything else. And when you want to swing your axe, shoot your bow, or whatever, you click the mouse.

You just need to adjust to the fact that there’s no reason to put the cursor on a monster and click on it.

You’re right though - the game is basically a combat game wrapped in some flimsy fantasy trappings. It is hands down the most “gamey” MMO I’ve ever played, so if you’re looking for a satisfying fantasy world, you probably want to go elsewhere. PvP is entirely optional though, and PvE can be a LOT of fun compared to other MMOs.

Call it a mental block in my perception, then. i.e., it’s just me. There’s probably a better term I could use, but holding the mouse button when I turn/steer feels “proactive” - it’s a deliberate action that says, “I’m turning my character within the world”. In the absence of that mouse click, it felt like the world was turning, not my character. Not to mention every inadvertent/unintentional mouse movement making me look/go somewhere I didn’t mean to.

This whole concept seems bizarre to me. I play WoW, and the customizability is a huge part of the play control. Yes, the WASD + mouse is standard, but a lot of high end players don’t use that scheme at all. For instance, one common scheme I’m aware of is mapping the strafes to the usual left and right turn and actually unmapping the turns and backwards keys and using the mouse to aim. The idea being that it frees up more hot keys for abilities and they’re using the mouse for turning and aiming which is considerably faster and more accurate than turning.

In fact, there’s even a term than many players use to identify people using the WASD default, key-turners, and they’re pretty easy to identify in groups because you will see them turn in place and run straight out rather than immediately spinning with the mouse or strafing out.

There are also some people who use other movement keys besides WASD. I’ve seen suggestions for ESDF and even RDFG with the idea that it gives additional hot keys. However, the tradeoff of that is that you’re farther from Tab and the modifiers. As a healer, I use the modifiers extensively with mouseovers, since it allows me to keep the three movement fingers on those keys and still cast every heal, but for DPS roles or tanks, I could see ESDF being advantageous because they will be using the mouse more and won’t really be using their mouse for abilities.

Personally, I use a combination of WASD, mouse aiming, and click movement because each serves a purpose in different scenarios. I use QE for strafing and I’ll use QWE and mouse aiming to position my player when accuracy and speed are important. However, I also play a healer, which means I need my mouse and mouseovers to heal effectively. As a result, sometimes I need to change my aiming while casting, which means I need to key-turn. Or, in more complex situations, I’m busy trying to heal with instant casts while on the move, and thus will make some small adjustments with the turn keys and will make some quick mouse adjustments by moving my mouse just above my healing frame, making the appropriate turn, then moving it back in all during a GCD so as not to negatively impact my throughput.

In some other situations, click-moving is actually the most efficient way to move. In some situations, there’s a specific stack point or other assigned position. If I click-move to it, it will automatically take the shortest route and stop, so I can focus on other aspects of what’s going on around me, like heals, damage, making calls, etc. At other times speed and accuracy are not as imperative, click moving can be convenient. For instance, if I’m questing and looting, doing a click-move to the corpse will let me move to it and loot it all at once, rather than running up to it, making sure I’m in loot range, then clicking on it. It’s also nice for interacting with NPCs like quest givers and vendors.

Ultimately, though my movement scheme is something that works well for me and I’ve developed overtime as a reaction to high-end raiding and pvp. For a lot of players, that’s way more complex than they can handle, but they’re also not playing at the same level. So, sure, maybe standardizing a basic setup makes sense, which seems to have settled fine on WASD, and it works well for a huge number of players. But it’s important to have that standardization because, frankly, WASD is wholely inadequate for high-end players, and other low to moderate players may prefer something else.

For me, it’s mostly “is it configurable”? Case in point–I remapped my WoW and other MMO controls to the FPS style you mentioned, and I also have one of those custom left-hand controls (Logitech G13, to be specific). The only thing that puts me off an MMO is the inability to tell it how I want to move and look.