ESO – What Does Floaty Mean?

Today I am pondering what it means when combat feels "floaty." This is one of the most common criticisms I’ve seen about ESO: "The combat is too floaty." I’ve seen this criticism leveled against a lot of games over the years, actually.

But what does that mean?

I don’t know about anyone else, but when I was swinging my dual daggers in the ESO beta, at no point did my Argonian begin to float away into the sky*. His feet stayed right there on the ground where they belonged. His weapons did not levitate out of his hands, either. So what in god’s name do people mean when they say combat is "floaty?"

The only thing I can figure is that these criticisms are coming from people who jump a lot while they fight. That is: Those PvP players. You know the ones I mean. The ones who took advantage of game engine bugs and splash damage back in the 90s and now think of jumping as a core component in fighting, even though it probably has no effect on combat anymore, especially in an MMO.

I say that because I could see characterizing the jumping in ESO as "floaty." It’s a very high jump and you stay in the air a long time. I think you can change trajectories in the air, too, but I don’t remember. It’s very unrealistic in comparison to the rest of the game, because it feels like you’re on a planet with 1/4th the gravity of earth. So if people were saying "the jumping is too floaty" I’d be right there with them. But they aren’t.

So I’m left thinking that people must be using the word "floaty" as a generic term for "unfamiliar." As in: "The combat in this game I just started playing doesn’t feel like the combat in these other games I’ve played for 5,000 hours. It’s too floaty."

(By the way, I don’t mean to suggest that ESO’s combat is not floaty. I just can’t figure out what people think is wrong with it.)

* There was a time in ESO when I was walking up a short set of stairs and somehow got launched into the air like I’d been shot out of a cannon. It was pretty cool but I couldn’t duplicate it to save my life.

One thought on “ESO – What Does Floaty Mean?”

  1. Usually it’s a reference to games where characters seem to have high inertia and low friction, as opposed to situations where precision-movement is easier. I’m not sure where ‘floaty’ as a specific term came around, but it’s pretty well-recognized. It’s more common a criticism of platformers rather than FPS games, though.

    Sometimes this can even be intentional — in Super Smash Bros, characters like Jiggly Puff or Sonic are much more floaty than Mario, and it’s not unusual for racing games to have an explicit stat for ‘handling’ or a similar term.

    More often, it’s a criticism of animations, physic models, and/or controller latency — situations where you feel like you’re fighting with the control scheme to have the character do what you want. This sorta ‘floaty’ is really unpleasant, and to some extent it’s been an issue with Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls games — it wasn’t until Skyrim that they really handled blocked attacks in a way that let me understand how much recoil was applied, and even then third-person mode was still an exercise in frustration at times.

    Haven’t played ESO, so can’t comment on it specifically.

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