Sea of Thieves

Dorito’s Doable Details #1: PvP Melee Combat Rework

Content of the article: "Dorito’s Doable Details #1: PvP Melee Combat Rework"

I want to start a few mini-series to (hopefully) stimulate some more meaningful game discussions in the subreddit, both to get people thinking about this game in a different light and to, theoretically, draw some attention from Rare towards certain topics (should the topic be debated enough and reciprocated). However, there are so many topics to talk about in this game including future content, cosmetics, combat variety, meta, engagement flow, etc etc. And some topics will certainly be worth discussing more than others. As such, I will be splitting this into 3 different mini-series, and because alliteration is fun, they shall be called:

  1. Dorito's Doable Details: A talk about a certain mechanic or interaction of mechanics that is widely considered improvable, with little controversy, and could be reasonably improved in a small patch with small detail changes (most likely number changes).
  2. Dorito's Dumb Desires: A rant where I go off about some interesting content concept that is completely unreasonable to ask of the devs all at once, but could be added to in some degree in the future to improve upon certain aspects of the game. These are not truly intended to be listened to entirely, but it's important to get any and all brainstorms out when it comes to any form of scratch designing. The best solutions often come from the absolutely dumbest brainstorms.
  3. Dorito's Divisive Discussions: A controversial debate where I put forth an opinion that may not be shared by all, but is intended to be used as a gauge of opinion or method of persuasion.

Today, I will be doing a Doable Detail on improving PvP melee combat using nothing but numerical changes. As always, leave thoughts below.

Before I begin, I’m going to address two quick questions:

What is the problem with melee?

Most of you probably know the answer to this, but, to make it quick, melee in its current form is very hectic, formless, and simple. The best strategy the majority of the time is to simply repeat the basic attack until the target is dead. As a result of this simplicity, the victor of a melee duel is often not an indicator of the “more skilled” player (if you can even classify that, as the skill ceiling is extremely low). This also results in 1vX (where X > 1) scenarios are generally not winnable in melee unless all of the X are very low on health or very bad, as the 1 will simply be killed by the multiple attacks faster than they can accomplish anything, with no real viable counterplay. Adding more depth to this system will allow skilled players to more adeptly outplay these opponents and potentially turn a losing situation into a winning one. I will refer to this situation as “anti-gank”, a term used frequently in MOBAs, such as DotA 2 or LoL.

What makes me qualified to suggest these changes?

Skip this section if you don't want to read me tooting my own horn.

I'll make this brief. I have a bit over 2,000 hours in melee games, with the vast majority of them being PvP melee games. I have roughly 900 hours in Mordhau, roughly 900 hours in For Honor, and then several hundred hours combined in other melee games such as Chivalry, Dark Souls, Absolver, Last Oasis, yadda yadda, etc etc. I've played in a few tournaments in both Mordhau and For Honor, and have understood all the mechanics fairly well in both games, especially Mordhau. Many of the terms I use to explain Mordhau may spill over in this post, such as "whiff", "combo", "hitstun", "blockstun", "recovery", etc. I will try to explain these terms after the list, as I understand that this game is far more than a melee game, so it is perfectly normal for a lot of people playing this game to have never played a melee game before and never heard these terms.

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The Changes:

I will begin by simply going to list all the changes I am suggesting with no explanation. Then, I will provide a lengthier explanation of all the changes together below the list. This format is being used for two reasons. Firstly, melee game balance and flow is frequently based on the interaction of many mechanics together, and some changes may be difficult to properly explain without the full context of the rest of the changes. Secondly, this allows those who wish to just see the changes suggested and rather not read all the explanations to have an easier time doing so. I am also going to note that these changes assume perfect hit registration, which is obviously not the case, but there's no simple numerical fix for that and you can't balance around technical issues.

  1. Increase 'whiff recovery' of basic attacks to 1200 ms.
  2. Increase 'hitstun' of first and second attacks of the 'combo' to 600 ms. Increase hitstun of third combo attack to 1200 ms.
  3. Increase 'blockstun' from blocking the third combo attack to 1200 ms.
  4. Increase blocking angle to cover a full 180­° vertically.
  5. Grant 'hyperarmor' to the second and third combo attacks.
  6. Grant 40% damage reduction to melee attacks during the second and third combo attacks.
  7. Increase blunderbuss one-shot range by 0.25 meters (this can be done by either tightening the spread slightly or slightly increasing damage per pellet).
  8. Increase Eye of Reach damage to 75.
  9. Increase Flintlock damage to 65.
  10. Shorten Flintlock reload time by 200 ms.
  11. Provide a very short (~0.2 meters) forward lunge on all first basic attacks.
  12. Integrate the ability to move at full speed while charging a heavy lunge without the need to use the held block bug.


So, what the hell did I just suggest? I've essentially done 4 main things:

  • Introduced systems of 'initiative' and 'whiff punishing'.
  • Improved blocking to make jumping over blocks a non-viable tactic, focusing more on getting around or behind blocks by circling or dodging behind.
  • Introduced a small 'anti-ganking' system that allows single fighters to make predictions on their opponents' actions and have some chance of defeating them all with some skill and luck.
  • Buffed gun damage to counterbalance the small overall Cutlass buffs, as well as better differentiate the Eye of Reach from the Flintlock, especially when paired with a Cutlass.

So, let's start with the initiative and whiff punishing:

Whiff punishing is an easy explanation. This increased recovery after missing an attack will heavily reduce the viability of simply spamming the attack button while charging an opponent. Missing an attack will mean a fairly lengthy period of time where you cannot attack or block, which means a well-performed backwards dodge can be used to force an attack-happy player to miss and then be followed up with a guaranteed attack.

The initiative changes (hitstun and blockstun) essentially reward attacks/defenses by allowing you to further continue your offense/begin new offense. The hitstun ensures that landing a successful hit on a player that is not in a combo interrupts any current attack and prevents them from continuing to spam the attack button and trade blows with you. No more getting a clean combo on someone and still getting hit by all their attacks! The blockstun ensures that after successfully blocking the last attack in their combo, you are now given the opportunity to counter with your own offense without fear of being interrupted by them (again) continuing to spam the attack button. Gotta work for your turn and then make the most of it.

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Now, the blocking change:

This one is fairly simple. Increasing the the blocking angle so that jumping over a player's block is no longer viable helps reduce the amount of bunny-hopping in this game's combat and removes a fairly uncounterable form of offense. More focus should be on using strafing and dodging through/around people to get around blocks, as these are more difficult to accomplish and more reliably counterable should the opponent predict it.

On to the anti-ganks:

What these changes allow is for an outnumbered player to manipulate their combo attacks (mostly just switch their targets) to take advantage of the fact that other melee players cannot interrupt them to deal damage to multiple players and take reduced damage themselves (10 damage per cutlass hit). Combining this with movement to keep from being surrounded and hit too frequently, and mixing up who exactly they are switching to can allow better players to, to some degree, outplay multiple opponents and come out on top. This absolutely does not mean that a single player will be at an advantage, and most anti-ganks will still be lost. But it is important that the single player has at least a chance, or else numbers becomes too strong of a factor when it comes to boarding PvP.

Finally, the gun buffs:

Yes, I know. These are not changes to the Cutlass, and many people may fear any buffs to double gunners. However, it is important to counter-balance buffs to some playstyles with reasonably scaled buffs to others, so as to encourage diversity in playstyles. The biggest buff here is for the Eye of Reach, as it will means someone tagged by it will be one-shot to a Cutlass. However, with the extra lunge added to first basic attacks and the extra hitstun preventing anyone from shooting whatsoever when being comboed, it's important that, should a player land an Eye of Reach shot at such a close distance against a player with a now decently stronger Cutlass, the damage should be rewarding. The Blunderbuss buff is to counter-balance the added lunge and ensure that Blunderbuss remains as a reasonable counter to melee. Finally, the Flintlock buff is to further distinguish it from the Eye of Reach and staple itself as a versatile close to mid-range weapon.


Whiff Recovery Time between the end of an attack that missed any target to being able to perform another attack or block.
Hitstun Total time of being unable to attack after being hit by an attack.
Combo A chain of attacks seamlessly strung together. In SoT, refers to the 3 basic attacks you may perform in a row.
Blockstun Total time of being unable to attack after being blocked. Will be using it specifically for having your third combo attack being blocked, as blocking the other attacks impose no blockstun.
Hyperarmor A common fighting game term used to indicate the inability for a certain attack to be interrupted/cancelled in the middle of it by being hit by other attacks.
Initiative Another fighting game term used to indicate who is the attacker and who is the defender at any point in time in an action. Essentially, if one player has the initiative, it means that, if both players were to attempt to attack as soon as they possibly could, the player that has the initiative would have their attack land first due to whatever recoveries, hitstun, etc. This dictates that the other player is the defender as not defending themselves when the other player has initiative will most likely lead to taking damage.
Whiff Punish To deal guaranteed damage to a player after they have missed an attack, as they are unable to attack back or defend themselves.
Anti-Ganking A common MOBA term used to indicate fighting against multiple opponents as a single player.


Alright, how'd I do? Leave all your thoughts, be they supportive, constructive, or critical down below. I'm always down to discuss and analyze these changes or different changes. Just remember, the point of this post is to make changes that do no require new animations or drastic mechanics. Just numerical changes. Thanks for reading. See you on the next post.


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