After playing the new and improved Gunslinger (compared to my summer-time experience during beta with a level 30 Gunslinger), I have some new thoughts on how to improve the cover mechanic, making it more fluid and less frustrating while retaining its high skill cap. I will be updating this post as new ideas come to mind and will incorporate any ideas from posters that are sound. Hopefully we can see some of these things make it onto live in the future.
More Cover Locations and Types
There are so many obstacles that look like cover objects but fail to pop up a Gumby silhouette. There are so many bottlenecked areas, such as the hallways in Ord Mantell and flashpoints such as Athiss, where putting a cover spot on either side of the doorway would be perfect (I don't know why pillar and door covers were removed back in beta but I hope they make a come back).
Simply put, natural cover is king and we need more of it. I'd like there to be a situation where you have so much cover available to you at any given time. More cover locations grants more survivability, yes, but ALSO more MOBILITY; you never have to be restricted to such a small area of the battle to ensure you get the bonuses of natural cover if there are enough locations to hide behind.
Defense Against Tech and Force Attacks
I have an anecdote to share, but I'll first detail this point: Tech/Force attacks should not bypass cover but should instead "break" cover. A portion of the damage from all Tech/Force attacks should be completely absorbed into your cover (higher mitigation behind natural cover, of course). After your cover absorption achieves a certain threshold based off your maximum HP and/or other factors, the Gunslinger's/IA's cover should break. Hunker Down/Entrench should provide raw immunity to the breaking mechanic, but otherwise you should be forced to seek new cover ever so often. If your cover breaks, you should be unable to enter cover for 3 to 5 seconds.
It doesn't make sense that a missile or Force energy/lightning attack completely defies the laws of physics, passes through the physical object we are hiding behind, and hits us square in the face for full damage (before armor); cover should defend against these attacks. However, these attacks are powerful enough that they should force us to seek new cover (or spec in a way that mitigates their effects on our cover location of choice) if we want to avoid being rendered defenseless.
A short anecdote: I recently did Fall of the Locust (Heroic 4, Republic Taris) and we had a very unorthodox group (Sage, two Sentinels, myself as a Gunslinger). We didn't have a proper tank so I knew I had to ranged tank a mob or two, abusing the crap out of my 100% ranged defense bonus when behind natural cover, to keep our Sentinels alive. And ranged tank I did.
I bring up this anecdote for two reasons: 1) so I could tell Bioware to PLEASE add a tank skill tree to Gunslingers/Snipers in the future, that experience was fun as hell and so Star Warsy!, and 2) the bosses demonstrated the "cover breaking" mechanic I outlined above. After enough attacks from The Locust boss, I started losing stacks of my "Cover Reliability" buff; when I lost all the stacks, I was kicked out of cover for 4 seconds, completely vulnerable to the extremely powerful enemy in question.
Good news: the cover breaking mechanic is already in the game! It just doesn't apply to Tech/Force attacks and to PvP. With enough tweaks and design passes I am sure we can see cover utilized in PvP as something not only as an enabler of a specific set of abilities but also as an actual form of defense.
Automatic Cover on Defensive, Cover-Only Ability Use
I think this header is self-explanatory, but let me clarify. Abilities such as Pulse Detonator and Hunker Down/Entrench should automatically make you crouch (or jump into natural cover) if you aren't already utilizing cover. Streamlining these abilities would allow the player to more quickly react to the everchanging battlefield without having to fumble all over their mouse and keyboard by first manually entering cover and then pressing the button to defend against the enemy.
The goal of this type of change would be to minimize frustration and lack of user-friendliness as opposed to lowering the class's skill ceiling. It's bad enough that you have to manage 30+ hotkeys, but when you can't fire off those powerful cooldowns just because of an extra hassle, it can be very frustrating. In that split second between life and death, the game is basically asking you to be superhuman as you need to do 2x as much work as your enemy to stay alive.
TPS-style Cover Entering/Exiting/Switching
I get that this is an MMO, but I don't see why we can't enjoy some of the finer aspects of the cover systems of the third person shooter games that have basically perfected this system.
Combat situations are constantly changing and the current cover system roots the player too much for us to be able to adapt. I'd like to see the following modifications to cover in this game to make it more user-friendly:
- Allow lateral movement (see Alderaan middle fortress ledges) to fight LOS or range issues; useful for staying in cover as you move around crates and pillars or hug walls
- Ability to cancel channeled/casted attacks without breaking cover or pressing the escape key (out of comfortable reach). Lateral movement behind cover can achieve this.
- Fluidly switch between nearby cover locations (see Alderaan ledges again...jump from one side of the ramp to the opposite side by using Take Cover while already in cover)
More to come.