Introducing the Action Camera

by Joel Helmich on October 20, 2015


PvP Fighting Mesmers

Hey, everyone! My name is Joel Helmich, and I’m excited to talk to you today about the action camera, a feature that will be shipping with Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns™. Action camera is a mode you can enter in which mouse look is always on, and skills aim at a crosshair in the center of the screen, much like in a shooter or similar type of game. However, there are a lot of parts that come together to make the overall experience work. Read on to find out more!

Lights, Camera, Action!

Action camera draws on influences from shooters, single-player RPGs, and even some other MMOs. Guild Wars 2 is an action game, and to that end should make the player feel like they’re in complete control of their character rather than an outside observer issuing orders. In order to achieve this effect, it’s important to be able to turn the camera toward the objects that you want to look at, move toward, and interact with. Previously, players in Guild Wars 2 have gotten along by holding down the right mouse button constantly during gameplay to keep the game in mouse-look mode. With action-camera mode, this will no longer be necessary; so long as the mode is active, mouse look is always on, and you will only need to move the mouse in order to look around.

Action-camera mode can be switched on and off as necessary by using the Toggle Action Camera keybinding. It will also automatically turn off while you’re viewing dialogue, menus, or panels.

Take Aim

All targeting while in action-camera mode is based around the crosshair. Autotargeting will choose targets that are underneath the crosshair, while ground-targeted skills and skills fired with no target will aim precisely at the crosshair.

The crosshair has four states to give you immediate feedback about what your skills will do when used:

  • The default state, in which skills will fire at the crosshair.
  • The target under the crosshair is a valid target, but is out of range. Skills will still fire at the crosshair.
  • The active target is within range of something on your skill bar, and skills will fire at the target.
  • The active target is within range of skill 1, and skills will fire at the target.

In addition to relying on autotargeting, you can also explicitly lock targets. Unlike the default control scheme, you will still need to mostly aim at locked targets in order to use skills on them. However, target selection for locked targets is more generous than for autotargets, making it possible to lock a high-priority target in a group and stay focused on it. To lock a target, you can use the next, previous, and closest target selection keys as usual. Additionally, the right mouse button, which is not used for mouse look while in action-camera mode, serves to lock the target under your crosshair or clear your target if you’re aiming at empty ground.

Playing with autotargeting enabled is the intended way to use action-camera mode, but you certainly don’t have to! Melee attacks will strike the area in front of you, and projectile attacks will aim right at the crosshair, so if you prefer, you can take aiming completely into your own hands. Just be sure to remember that certain skills require a target to function, so you’ll need to lock targets when using them.

I Swing a Sword Again

It’s common in shooters and action games to associate a basic attack with the left mouse button since it’s something that players will be using frequently. Fortunately, with the left mouse button no longer activating free-camera mouse look, action-camera mode can do the same. Left-clicking will now fire skill 1, and holding down the left mouse button will cause the skill to fire continuously. If you don’t want to left-click, you can also continue using your regular keybinding for skill 1. Also note that the continuous-fire behavior will work even if skill 1 is a ground-targeted skill, so long as you use instant ground targeting—you’re welcome, engineer players.

Stay on Target

Ground-targeted skills will aim at the crosshair while in action-camera mode. However, this can be a bit inconvenient when you’re in combat with an enemy. You might prefer to aim at their body when using normal skills, but you will still need to aim at their feet for ground-targeted skills.

To help deal with this, a new option, “Snap Ground Target to Current Target,” has been added. When enabled, the ground target marker will be placed at your active target’s position rather than exactly under the crosshair. This should make it easier to cast ground-targeted skills where you want them without needing to constantly adjust your aim. However, enemies can move, and sometimes you may need to lead your target rather than fire your skills right at their feet. A keybinding has also been added that toggles this snapping behavior when held down so that you can access regular ground targeting when you need it. This feature works with or without action-camera mode enabled.

Active Adaptation

Currently in Guild Wars 2, skills that attack many times are stuck firing at the same target for their full duration. Additionally, some skills will do nothing when activated without a target, causing them to be wasted. These issues became especially apparent with action camera, where the expectation is that skills should always fire at whatever is under your crosshair.

Accordingly, another supporting feature is being added, “Allow Skill Retargeting.” When enabled, this option allows you to change the target of a skill prior to any of its attacks. For example, this could be used to sweep a skill with many attacks across multiple targets, or you could use it to start a skill before you have a target acquired. It’s also useful for picking up a new target if your current target dies, allowing you to still make every attack in your skill count. As with snap ground targeting, this feature was developed with action-camera mode in mind, but it works whether or not action camera is enabled.

And that’s a quick overview of the new action-camera mode, snap ground targeting, and skill retargeting. You can check out our Guild Chat recording for more information on what this feature will bring to the game!