Raiding in MMO’s

Raiding in MMO’s

A Companion Piece to Cerebral vs. Visceral

Over at, my recent column looks at the different combat systems in MMO’s.  In that column, I break combat down to (a) turn-based, (b) simulator and (c) action systems.  I also provided some video clips of combat in each of those systems.  I didn’t, though, put up much in the way of party or multi-party (e.g. raid) videos.

Quite simply, I don’t have that many of those of my own.  While I have raided for years, I didn’t start using FRAPS until recently.  Additionally, as a tank, most of my FRAPS tend to look like a giant monster kneecap.

All the same, I did want to run through what raiding (or end game in one case) combat looks like in some of these systems.

Simulator Systems – Old School

In simulator systems, combat is largely determined by random rolls and extensive use of automated combat.  In these systems, character abilities are used intermittently and (hopefully) to good effect.  In the older simulator systems, combat largely focused on interdependencies between players and/or abilities.  Raid-wide responsibility checks were rare, but occasionally fights required some movement or dealing with additional mechanics.


The grand-daddy of the theme park MMO, EQ is still rolling strong.  Here’s a video of a recent raid on something I dare not try to pronounce.

Combat seems pretty passive to the casual observer.  A couple of players have key responsibilities (agro, healing, adds).

Anarchy Online

Another of the older MMO’s, Anarchy Online still exists although I’m not sure it’s thriving.  Here is video of a FROOB (free to play) raid on an outdoor contested encounter.

Final Fantasy XI

FFXI, like EQ, is still rolling along with a recent new expansion.  Here we see a raid on the Pandemonium Warden.

Everquest II

I haven’t played EQ2 in at least four years, but EQ2 is probably my favorite raiding MMO.  A collection of some of the better elements of older raiding, far better interface options, and a pretty generous (maybe too much so) amount of abilities to use.

Simulator Systems – New Wave

The modern raid games still tend to emphasize elements of the simulator model.  However, auto-attack has generally been phased out (or greatly reduced in emphasis) in place of ability rotations which players bang out repeatedly.  You know, auto attack without the auto!

Additionally, modern raid games use a number of personal responsibility checks (“get out of the goo”) ensuring all (or most) of the raid is responsible for the success or failure of the raid.


While I am not a huge fan of these highly scripted raid games, I really enjoyed raiding in RIFT.  While a few encounters were insultingly over-scripted (any time a mechanic involves jumping in place or running in circles, the player is being insulted).  Most raid encounters in RIFT weren’t over-scripted (a few were), but they all placed a lot of responsibility on your entire force to bring close to their A game.

Star Wars: the Old Republic

Whether TOR is oft or over maligned probably depends on how important you find end game or playing alts respectively.  While TOR suffered from a horrid UI (particularly at launch) and lackluster itemization, they had some interesting raid ideas.  I liked both of their puzzle raids as an interesting blending of personal responsibility and team interdependency checks.  Here’s a video of the final boss in the first TOR raid zone.

Action Combat Games

Recently, we have seen a number of MMO’s billing themselves as action based combat.  In part, this is an evolution of the scripted, movement heavy combat from recent simulator systems.  In part, this is also an emphasis on full player action combat – including aiming in at least one of the systems.

The Secret World

There aren’t many raid options in TSW.  You have a single 10-person raid zone and a couple of lair quests that allow for multi-group play.  However, TSW bills its hard modes as 5-person raid type content in that it’s fairly complex high-skill gameplay.  TSW combat is a mixture of combat rotations and major movement (with dive rolls).  Here’s a video from the raid boss.


To the best of my knowledge, TERA does not have raiding.  Granted, I only played TERA through level 25-ish, so if I’m wrong please feel free to correct me in comments.  TERA is often cited as ‘the best combat system, ever’ in MMO’s.  It’s a full action combat system, with reticle aiming.  Additionally, TERA requires active dodging and blocking.  Given the size of most bosses, aiming in TERA may be overrated – but I do remember healers hating tiny tanks.

DC Universe Online

The first of the MMO’s billing itself as action combat, DCUO features a number of good PVE encounters.  I have never raided in DCUO, but I have completed all of the T1 duos and alerts (group combat).  It’s a pretty decent game, but certainly one appealing to specific tastes and preferences.

Everything Old is New Again

One thing that really stands out across these videos is that things aren’t as different as people may think.  Whether it’s action or simulator combat, MMO fighting just doesn’t look that exciting from the outside.  Making it more action oriented hasn’t changed this.

What has changed?

  1. Auto-attack has been replaced by rotations.  This really bugs me.  First it adds a mess of repetitive keystrokes in the dubious claim for immersion.  Second, it seems technologically backwards to make repetitive actions manual.
  2. Synchronized Swimming.  Modern raids put a lot of emphasis on personal responsibility checks.  Rather than a few players playing key roles and everyone else having to (a) stay out of the cleave and (b) know who to assist, in the modern MMO it’s all about staying out of the goo.  Done sparingly this can be pretty fun, but it can be overdone.

What do you want raiding to look like in FFXIV?

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4 Responses to Raiding in MMO’s

  1. Pai says:

    I’m pretty old school in my tastes; I would prefer a slower and more strategic type of combat; I’d rather instead watch for boss tells or positioning/party combo cues. I’ve always liked CC/support-type roles in MMOs so it’s the group teamwork that’s a big part of my enjoyment of the combat. In many modern MMOs that role is pretty much gone it seems.

    Skill rotations are just so much pointless busywork imo — one thing I like about GW2′s combat is that auto-attack (the number 1 skill on your bar by default) is a perfectly legitimate DPS skill with your other skills largely being situational. There is no need to spam a mathematically-calculated ‘ideal’ pattern of skills to do well in a fight, in other words. I wish more games had that ‘less is more’ attitude rather than the skill bloat so many rely on to keep people’s fingers occupied during fights. Instead of having to macro things and/or constantly run around like a headless chicken during a boss fight, I’d like if FFXIV put more emphasis on the group working thoughtfully together, if that makes sense.

  2. Ryahl says:

    I agree with you on these points.

    I wouldn’t mind seeing an MMO take the idea of GW2′s #1 attack and turn it into a customized ‘script’ for auto-attack.

  3. kruunchKruunch says:

    I’m not a huge fan of the current dissection and categorization of gaming elements in an MMO. The answer (imho) should always be “yes”.

    What I mean by that is sometimes you want dynamic reactive combat options (twitch) and sometimes you want a slower thoughtful approach (turn-like). Most times, you should expect elements of both (and in most cases, you’re presented these in current MMOs to one extent or another).

    Asking a person what kind of action they think is best is sort of like asking a person what their favorite book is. Did you mean Fantasy? Sci-Fi? Spy Thriller? Non-Fiction? Accordingly, MMO play style preference shouldn’t be a factor in determining the enjoyment of the game itself as the play style should be a shifting quality dictated by the content that is currently being consumed.

    How does this relate to MMO raiding? Encounters shouldn’t be formulaic (which is the current problem with MMO raids imo). They should be dictated by in-game experience of the content encountered (i.e. Dragon’s should breathe fire, fire should burn, zombie’s should move slowly and spiders should swarm). The content should dictate the formula … not the reverse.

  4. tupo says:

    “You know, auto attack without the auto!”

    Quite. Why have a trained monkey when you can train yourself.

    I’ve never been a raider but i think it would be cool if players who liked it could raid from level 1.

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