On Character Defense – Active Dodging And Stats

This subject came up the other day when I was filling in on the Aggrochat podcast for my friend Belghast, and I thought I’d expand upon my thoughts a little bit.

For a bit of background, I’ve been playing MMO’s for many years now starting with Star Wars Galaxies. Before that I dabbled in MUDs (Multi User Dungeons for the youngins’). So you can say I’ve been around the block a few times. Most of the games that I’ve played up till this point have used stats for determining how much damage you take, and how much is deflected. Recently I’ve played several games that have started implementing “Active Dodging” systems. “Active Dodging” sits on top of your defensive stats, but introduces the ability to try to avoid taking damage by timing your dodge and moving out of the way. This is usually accomplished by double tapping a direction which makes your character doge in that direction.

The first game that I played that had this system was Guild Wars 2, and it is currently being used in Wildstar and Elder Scrolls Online. I’m sure there are others I am not aware of, and I couldn’t say for certain Guild Wars 2 was the first game to use it. These are just examples from the games that I’ve personally played.

Now as far as I can tell, the act of “active dodging” is optional. You can stand there and take it if that is what you want to do, but I think the fact that the system is implemented is a good indication you should use it. You still have defensive stats based on your armor class, and attribute points, so you don’t have to rely purely on your double tapping skills. Personally I kind of suck at it. If I had to rely solely on my ability to time a dodge I’d die a lot more in games.

I have mixed feeling about “active dodging” still. The more I use it the more I adapt to that play style but there are times I do miss not having to worry about it. I’ve played World Of Warcraft so long that I am used to the stat based defense where you just look for better armor ratings and let the damage be mitigated by your stats.

That being said, I do think the new dodging system is pretty interesting. You have to have some actual skill to avoid attacks as you cannot simply rely one your armor anymore. This requires the player to be attentive and know what they’re doing. Most of the games I’ve seen with this system show you a sort of attack area that you need to get out of, similar to the area of affect graphics (or poo on the ground) from older games such as WoW. Of the games that I have played recently Elder Scrolls Online handles this the best. There is a nice combination of dodging skill, but there is still a fair amount of mitigation based on what type of gear you’re wearing.

There is an added benefit that I thought of while typing this up, and I’m not sure if it is as effective as I’m thinking. But, in games like Elder Scrolls players who do not actively dodge might have a harder time surviving solo play. This might be an effective bot deterrent since I’m not aware of any bot smart enough to block/actively dodge. This might be why you always see them in clusters though. A solo bot at least would have a harder time.

So to end today’s post I will say that I think that I’m starting to enjoy the new “active dodging” system when it is done right. I might not be very good at it, but I think that is is a welcome addition to the genre and requires people to have actual skill.

I do understand that this system might not be for everyone, and I believe this is discussed in the podcast linked above. For some people this might be enough of an issue to prevent them from buying the game. That’s fine though, every player enjoys different things. It doesn’t bother me enough that I wouldn’t at least give the game a chance.