To Recount or not to Recount – that’s the question of the day, and an issue heavily debated on the Star Wars: The Old Republic forums (at least until they were wiped). Do we really need a combat meter system, or can SWTOR survive without it?
Greetings, TORWarriors! It’s time again for “Open TOR Policy”, where I’ll take a look at the challenges Star Wars: The Old Republic faces as a new and potentially powerful force in the MMO market. Today, I’m examining both the role of a “damage meter” system in massively multiplayer games and the impact of such a meter being present (or absent) in SWTOR.
Damage Meters: Or, What the Hell am I Talking About?
For those who may not be MMO veterans or who like their UI uncluttered by add-ons, damage meters (more accurately, combat meters) are add-on programs designed to take data from a game’s combat log and report it in various useful and statistically appealing ways. One of the best known of these is Recount, which is able to generate a visual report of a player’s total damage done during a fight, their damage per second (DPS), or the percentage of damage they do as part of a group. Add-ons such as Recount are also able to track things such as total healing output per player, heals per second (HPS) and any “overhealing” done, which occurs when a heal hits a target already at 100% health.
Recount has long been used by guilds and groups in That Other MMO SWTOR Is Constantly Compared To in order to assess the performance of players during a boss fight or instance. A group leader can easily see from their damage meter add-on who is pulling their weight, DPS-wise, and who’s lagging behind; in addition, they can also assess the performance of healers and to a lesser extent, tanks. The add-on doesn’t do anything a game doesn’t naturally support – it simply takes data being generated and formats it into something that’s comprehensible.
SWTOR and the Great Meter Debate
Now that damage meter 101 is over, we can get to the heart of the matter: metering SWTOR. Recently, the forums came alive with discussion about the “need” for a DPS meter, with passionate defenses on both sides. At one point, there was concern that BioWare wouldn’t even make combat logs accessible – rendering such meters useless – but as of my last trawl of the forums that was no longer an issue.
What we do know for certain is that when SWOTR launches on December 20th, there will be no support for third-party add-ons, which means that even if a damage meter program did exist it wouldn’t be useful in-game. The developers have talked about making the UI more customizable but there has been no final word on if add-ons will be permitted, helping to stir the pot even more on the forums – some frequent forum-goers find it offensive that BioWare would even release an MMO without such support, but these are generally the same ‘goers that find everything offensive; you can spot them by their inability to divide up paragraphs naturally and the use of ALL CAPS. But I digress – instead of laughing at forum trolls in their natural habitat, let’s briefly delve into the good and bad of a combat meter in SWTOR.
A Metered Response
On the pro side of the DPS meter debate is the argument that such a meter serves as a way to measure not only who does the most damage or healing in a group, but also for individuals to bring up their performance if they are lacking. Once guilds start hitting end-game content in SWTOR they will look for ways to ensure they can clear a given Operation as smoothly as possible – which means having solid healers and damage dealers. Without a combat meter – or so the argument goes – there will be no way to separate the “bad” players from the “good” players.
On the con side of the meter-madness are those who argue that meters only encourage elitism, a common problem in The Game That Must Not Be Named. There, pick-up groups (PUGs) often want proof that a damage-dealer can keep up based on the equipment they’re wearing and the DPS they can put out – if they can’t provide the numbers or slip up even marginally, they may be removed from the group. Some SWTOR fans are worried that the addition of damage meters will pave the way for regular-sized jerks to become massive jerks and make BioWare’s game less fun overall.
Start the Meter?
Honestly, I’m torn about this one – I’ve used Recount for years and yeah, I like being on top of the charts. The trouble is that I sometimes get so caught up in watching the meter I forget what I’m supposed to be doing and die to a boss mechanic I could have avoided or stay on the boss when I’m supposed to switch targets. I love the data made available by damage meters, but I’ve met enough players in my two-plus years doing end-game MMO content that the bad and the good are easily separated – without the need for a meter.
What do you think, TORWarriors? Does SWTOR need a combat meter to survive in the quest-eat-quest world of MMOs?