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So there's a way it's been done lately that I don't really agree with. You know, first auto attack goes on dealing peanuts of damage throughout the fight while you use your other abilities to deal the bulk of it by pressing the numbers lined up at the top of your keyboard.
It works and all, and it's a fine tradition, but I feel like I'm missing out on something. Gameplay in games is kind of mindless when you're actually in the fight, you know? Some people set up special macros so they can press 1 button and use all their abilities in a chain. Back in Meridian 59, it used to be hammering on the ctrl key. to deal all your melee damage. Spells and Ranged you had to fool around with various panels and then click on your target. For that, I agree with the invention of the spellbar.
I played this facebook game called Dungeon Rampage today, and it enlightened me a bit. The movement is 3rd person, so you press right to go right, left to go left, down to go southward, and up to go forward instead of turning your character. That's not the kind of movement I'm suggesting, just giving some info.
So you use z, x, and c to attack, which you assign a weapon to as you please. You hammer the key and you attack in a 3 move combo. So I thought it out and I wondered whether or not people would like the idea of actually having to focus in combat (to an extent; we don't need to melt our brains when we're supposed to be having fun). So the basic rule is that your character can't block or attack within a certain cooldown period that lasts 0.1-3 seconds in real time after an attack. So if you go in swinging like a madman, you're going to get toasted. The varying cooldown time is based on the weight of your weapon. Heavy weapons are going to lean toward longer recovery times, and light weapons will lean toward shorter ones. Also, a weapon that is unbalanced will take a little longer to cooldown because topheavy weapons give you a little more force in your slashes and therefore imitate having more weight.
If your character is able to block incoming attacks, they will. When you block, there's another cooldown. Only this time it lasts half as long. Note that you don't have to think about blocking; it's automatic, this just explains why weilding a claymore against a pair of daggers would be bad- you block to the left and then you have to recooperate and get your weapon to your left side. This would be 1/2 cooldown. Therefore, to block a torso blow, you have a 1/4 cooldown. Imagine 5 boxes in a cross that represent high, low, left, right, and middle. Crossing 2 boxes would be 1/2, crossing one 1/4.
Of course you're not really thinking about this either. You're just keeping in mind that you can't just hammer as fast as you want, and thinking that you should probably wait until you block and then hit that key so you can catch them off guard.
Now you attack in 3 hit combos. Let's say that the keys are z x c. You'll press z and it will activate your first z attack, z1. You'll use z1 every time you make a single strike. But if you say... stun your opponent, you have a window to hammer that z key. So if you press z twice without letting more than a second pass between blows, you'll activat z1 and z2 in a chain. You can guess what you have to do to ge z3.
Now the interesting part comes in with the ability to equip your choice of combos. Your 1's will be very general. Something like Aiming for the torso. A really good attack would get you a critical hit- a chest shot. But maybe you get a rather good attack, lower torso. Maybe the attack sucked. You hit a limb. Maybe it really sucked. You miss.
z2 would be a little more direct, and would build on z1. z2 might be an upper chest shot with a little more power behind it. If your enemy is aware though, they'll be more apt to block z2 because of how vital they know their chest is. The attack has more damage capability, but is more specific and harder to land. Same with the third, just much more so in both respects.
So there would really be an amount of skill in the game. It wouldn't all come down to the hours spent playing the game, or how stats were placed. It'd come down to the player's ability to find the right pace and stick to it.
Also, mobs could purposely be made to have a certain "box" they don't cover too well. So if you can find it, you know how to attack it. Say you have c assigned to aim low, and this mob doesn't cover their feet. You could hammer your z and strike at the chest, but you'd cripple them pretty well if you aim low first.
So where do spells fit in? Well you can't use them without being cooled down either. It's up to you to figure out how you want to do it. I'd set up my basic attackers to exploit the enemy, leaving them with a good 5 second window of helplessness, then using a powerful spell to whipe them out.