Here is a post i found on the live journal of Pilgrim4444 and while i may have gone a little overboard some of the analysis I pulled from his comments seems to remain valid. Enjoy
Boring - The MMORPG - Chapter One: The brainless struggle
Don't get me wrong there are lots of things I like about today's MMORPGs. The vast and diverse world in which they usually play is certainly one of them, as well as the whole creating your personal ultimate hero over time thing.
But there are vast abysses which keep me canceling the accounts of the few MMORPGs I started playing every few months. Today I want to introduce you to one of these great fun killers: The combat system.In City of Heroes I play a tank called Crimson Lion on the German server Zukunft. He is great at standing up to even the toughest guys (lots of patches before he could even hold out against an arch-villian, one of the toughest things around). Before you run away, it's fine with me that I don't deal lots of damage and I'm not going to whine that I am not as invincible as some tanks would like to be.
So, one night Crimson Lion was out on his own, taunting some unfortunate Freak away from whatever sinister thing he was planing. A fierce battle issued - or was it? I surely hit him hard and as I picked one of a challenging level he scored some hard punches, too. But that was all there was to it: Two guys standing in the middle of the street hitting each other without any other consideration.
Luckily in real life I have never been much of a fighter, so tell me if I am wrong, but in a real battle I don't suppose that's all there is to it. First of all, you try not to get hit. So you parry. When you parry you can't attack. Instead you probably try to make the best of it, keep a good standing, move this way and that so you get a tactic advantage and wait for a good chance to counter. And when you are the one attacking you don't just hit as often and hard as you can, you can test your opponent to find for chinks in his defence, try to get him in a position where he has a clear disadvantage and THEN strike for damage. Sometimes it might even be in your best interest to stop attacking, if your next strike would make you vulnerable for a counter that would be hard to avoid.
Yet in MMORPGs (as well as many other games including most pen and paper I've seen), opponents just keep hacking and slashing at each other until one side has no more hit points left and that is imho plain boring.
Of course you could argue that the real strength with MMORPG combat lies in team interaction. And it is true that you can think of quite a few strategies how to fight as a whole.
Yet in the end it often boils down to this: Tankish characters run into the mob and get the opponents attention. As soon as they got it the remaining party jumps in and does their stuff, be it healing, damage dealing or controlling. A well organised group even singles out some opponent to attack together.
Is this really how heroes should fight? Wait until the opponent is distracted and then stab or shoot him in the back? I don't feel very heroic attacking someone who is busy fighting the one he has been challenged by and what attacks I use to take him down is quite irrelevant when some friendly sorcerer has made a temporary statue out of him anyhow. Not to mention these boss fights when a whole cluster of "heroes" surrounds a single fighter and batters him with blows from all sides.
If I play a hero, I don't want to have to act like a berserk and just launch an endless series of attacks and I don't want to be part of a mob of guys whose strategy is to make their enemies helpless to respond to their assault. There is no honor in that, and for me no fun either.
Now My Response
I see this trend as a lack of animation vision. What you would like to see and what you do see being just a construction of how to represent the flow of time from beginning to the end of the fight. I usually forgive these transgressions when dealing with an MMO because you have to consider all the extra tracking the server has to do to maintain a battle that could "range all over". Its actually a really good excuse for them. Just sit and blame these graphical improprieties on non instanced combat. Its more a question of design when trying to overcome this issue though. The considerations here are numerous but some of the first that comes to mind is how does the environment interact with the conflict. Is there line of site that is accurate. Do attacks execute On Demand or on a timer. In the example of COH there is a great deal of opportunity to take it to that next step since all attacks execute server side first and just register on the player terminal with server cuing. So the lucky few that experienced the Matrix Online may know what I mean by embellishing the combat. If not the effect is to place a number of pointless but entertaining animation chains in between these pre-calculated server cues.
My Solution for On Demand and Timer Based Combat. First we want to consider the network cluster ideal as a point of interest for connecting a large number of players to each other. This method load shares many computers all accessing the same data giving the illusion of 1 system. With that out of the way here comes my crazy idea. Let the client do the work. This has been an industry faux pas for years in online games because it gives the client the power to cheat. In a low bandwidth world this is true. But not today and exploits will exist anyways. These games are not CIA databases. There is a necessity for a bit of flexibility in where the data can come from. So let the player both render the combat and the combatants AI locally. Faster reactions and a whole lot of pretty for the players. So now I am sure your thinking... Hey that's instanced combat... Well yes but not strict instanced combat. The actions of the player will still be for public consumption but at a pace slightly behind reality and a little less embellished. Finally I want to touch on how this affects group combat. This is actually the tricky part. The game server needs to allocate data and assign multicast grouping to a combat party so they receive the same information at the same time instead of relying on the server only to broadcast each player on its own as the server sees fit. Each member of the combat party in reality recieves the data being sent to the other players in the party along with its own. This allows for a greater level of precision. So now that data sync is done how bout group AI. Well I would venture that in this current Internet world actually peering the AI would not work. But my idea would work as such. Terminals would be profiled when they installed the game to figure out how much extra work they can do without affecting game play then load sharing the AI decisions and motions in a WAN cluster that spans only the group. read