(Dev Hangout) - Transcription [sometimes paraphrased] Deep Dive – Combat, Magic, & Affinity MARCH 31, 2014 RD: We're going to have a Deep-Dive-a-day leading up to April 7th. On April 7th we're going to have a 12-hour extravaganza where we do all the fun stuff. RG: Our initial goal for combat,... when you think about any role playing game, there's a few systems, especially for 'the Ultimate Role Playing Game' we're trying to develop, there's a few core systems that we just have to get right. One of those is the entire crafting system; the gathering of resources through crafting and producing final products for the players. Another one is the Virtue Systems and quest systems and other things that lead you on adventures through the play space. But the third kind of big pillar is clearly combat. Combat is something we have to do right. If we don't do combat right the game will not succeed. It's very difficult to do right, especially if you're trying to do something new and unique, and we've decided to do something new and unique. Our opinion is,... that a lot of role playing games, especially the MMOs, have turned into spreadsheet management style combat, where you stand before your opponent and once you're in range of each other you really just sit there trading blows, trying to just figure out who can do the most damage over time while receiving the least damage over time. With your combinations and your cool-down timers, you pretty much know the right pattern you could macro into existence and go on the 'level grind' for the rest of your gaming life. We really wanted to get away from that. We really wanted to do something that meant that each player was more distinct, and each battle was also more distinct, so that you really couldn't just stand there with your standard set of effectively macro'd sequence of events. You have to be really more thoughtful in real time as to what you are going to take on, and that's what's driven us to try some of these new experiments to how that combat might play out. CS: I'll second that and just say that we're trying something new here just because we do feel that it's been a very stagnant element in most games. It's down to the point of "I need to know my DPS exactly,... it's all gear-based". We are trying to break a little bit of new ground here so, we will probably will have a little bit of stumbling as we try to figure out some things, since no one's done anything quite like this before, but we're all super excited about it and what it can bring to the game, and the skill it can allow; skill in online game, and the planning that goes into it ahead of time, and practice. We expect lots of feedback from you guys. We know it won't all be positive, but that's why we do a Release a little bit later each time. RG: An argument I've been having with Starr Long has been what to display about every body's hit points and mana. I personally think that when you display the attributes of your foes and friends down to the exact number, it sort of drives home this, 'I want to, need to, should know the precise DPS and all the factors involving combat'. When I think in real combat, and what makes watching a movie fun, and what makes something exciting to be in the middle of is that there are some additional elements of risk, or abiguity. If I'm looking at a monster that I'm hitting or a creature that I'm attacking, whether it's choosing to face me or flee, or if it's limping, or bleeding, that should be the primary indicator in my mind as to what that thing's attitude and health is. So, that's why you've seen those little green dots around players all the time, but hopefully, they'll only be shown when somebody's in combat, or not at full health. Otherwise, we're going to minimize those numbers to get you back into the role playing of what's going on instead of the spreadsheet management. That's one the internal debates. We'll try it out and see what you like. If you don't like it, we'll obviously listen. SL: I'd like to mention how we are laying out the skills and the idea of classes. That was part of the request to talk about. We're trying to support the idea of play-styles, like tank-style, or swashbuckler, but we don't want to confine players by saying, "You are a tank class". We really want players to be able to use the Skill Trees that we'll be laying out for schools of magic and combat to create their own unique combinations, or more traditional layouts. One of the things that we think the Deck System and that ability to on-the-fly assemble those skills gives you is not being locked into whatever skills you chose, like other games. This Deck System, and assembling skills into different configurations, once you're a higher level character, which is something I know Chris will talk about, is this wider vs. deeper kind of leveling model that we're going for. We want you to have more options, so when you group up with players, you won't wait for a 'healer', because the chances are that someone's got some skills that they've invested in healing. There is the Life School, or the Water School, that both have some healing elements, so a person could quickly put together a 'deck' that has healing skills in it. It will be dynamic building, rather than dynamic advancement. This can change as needed, vs. being pro-scripted by us. CS: WoW has perfected this DPS gear content system, where they know you can't beat this tier unless you have the tier before it, or the next tier unless you have the tier before it. It's all very gear based. The problem with that ends up being that it pulls the players skill out of combat play. It doesn't allow for any major skill differences between players. Tier 4 gear beats Tier 4 things. Tier 5 gear beats Tier 5 gear things. That's one of the big things we're trying to get away from so we can pull more skill into combat, and push the spreadsheet stuff out. RG: Question from Melchior Miejer about positioning. One of the things we did in Tabula Rasa that I personally was particularly excited about was that enemies, rather than a 'Napoleonic' combat, in Tabular Rasa they wouldn't do that. If they were exposed, to you, they would actually try to find something that they could stand behind. They would still shoot over, so you would be exposed to them, but only part of them would be exposed to you, which would cause both parties to look for an advantage position. We're going to try to do something like that here as well. Your question was specific, "Is there going to be a backstab where you're going to literally be standing behind." We're going to try to be doing things that are very lag-friendly. because we've got a very distributed network. Synchronous tactics we'll have to approach with great care to make sure we don't set up situations that are ambiguous or fail because of a lack of perfect synchroniaztion. Your general idea of the flavor of trying to say, "Look, it's not just stand there and fight toe-to-toe", but you really should be looking around the environment to be sure you're not standing in fire, which I have done before, you need to be sure you're in the best place for your advantage, and your foe's least advantage. That will be part of it; I hope. SL: That positioning and using cover, we're already laying the groundwork for that. It's subtle, but a brilliant idea that Chris came up with about how the enemies surround you. The best way to see that is if you're by yourself. If you're alone and you run into the open plains area where the Elves are, you'll notice that the Elves really spread out and they get all around you. They will pick a spot around you for ultimate range. Area of Effect attacks are harder for you to do on them. CS: The Fireball in this Release will be working differently in the next Release. We wanted something in there to make it look interesting, but that is not the final version; that's already being changed. Fireball may target a 'spot' in the world, so that you may have an opportunity to move away. You may be able to take cover and move away from things, so there's good places to be, and bad places to be for a fire fight. SL and CS: (Talking about the player animations' bugs, that only let the individual see their own animations, and not animations on the other players.) We have doubled our fulltime QA (Quality Assurance) staff. We can have people playing together and they can catch that stuff. RD: Finn is working on particle effects and Fireballs and combat stuff, and he showed me something. I think I'll be allowed to share this. In every MMO if you stand somewhere inaccessible, and you shoot something, there's not mechanics to show you're not attacking something that's not at your height. You're still swinging straight out even if you're attacking something above or below you. Finn stood a couple of steps above a Kobold, and his character got down, and actually swung down at the enemy. From a Single Player game, like 'Skyrim', that's not terribly exciting, but from an MMO perspective that was exciting. I've never seen that in an MMO before. CS: I have no idea if they'll get that in for the next Release. One of the things that is being done now is taking the character, and rig the character model so that they can be fighting and moving at the same time. We were working more on 'big game play' and less on visuals, but now we're going to have to turn internally to work on visuals more as we get into the project. RG: I saw an interesting question go by. "When creatures have maximum range away from their home location, that they will chase you, are those going to be fixed distances, 'gray', if they hate you enough, what is the real strategy for AI?" Do you know, Chris? CS: Yes. What they were doing for this one was wrong, and we had last minute changes we were trying to deal with getting Multi-player ready, changes for spawners, that probably contributed to it. Right now, in the R4, the behaviour was that they would follow you to some fixed distance from their spawn point, and then they would stop. Next Release they will follow you for some distance, and 'give up', and 'leash' home, most likely. They will run back to their spawn point, healing all the way, especially for common creatures. There will be exceptions to that where they just chase you until you die type stuff. SL: From a broad category standpoint, we've broken the AI into a couple of different things. You have passive creatures, Watchers as well, that just try to move away. Aggressive animals will generally try to chase you from their territories. Aggressive humanoids will have built up hate, and follow you longer distances, and have a 'decision-tree' on how they react. CS: It's a tough thing to balance, because we're trying to keep things immersive, and yet avoid exploits. If you can lead something far from it's 'home', that opens things up for exploits, so we'll try and balance that with immersion. RG: Darkonus was asking about Multi-player Party in combat types of things between maps. When will it be Private, Party, or Open? The answer is that all of those will be possible, and relatively common. Cities and towns will be Open. We pack as many people into those as we can. Some will be the opposite extreme. The task I'm doing at the office these days, if you've been looking at my daily reports, is that I'm breaking up the story that Tracy and I wrote into all the individual town fragments, and what it means for each town. Within towns, there really are a lot of places where we really need you to be Solo. You might go into the Throne room or the Oracle chamber, and suddenly you'll be in a private instance. Another example could be the Clink, in Owls' Head. Right now I think it's open, but it could just as easily have been set to Solo or Party-based. SL: All of the underground areas were set to 'Party-based' for R4. RG: They may not have worked. I was in the Clink for the whole time with other people, and there was never any 'Party-based' restriction. We always want you to be able to go in with your Party when possible, so the default is to set things to go in with your Party. However, there are places on the map that we purposefully have as 'contested' zones, even if they're not PvP zones. What I mean is, areas of the map that players might have to work together to get through, for example, a mountain pass that is guarded by creatures of some kind. In that case, we want the players to 'dog-pile' in, because the enemies are trying to hold the pass from players moving from one side to the other. Maps will vary like that, from Solo to Open, to Party, but we like Open, so everyone can see everybody as much as we can do that, until we overload the size of the map. CS: Seir question: "Will corpses reanimate themselves in the future like we saw in R4?" The answer is, definitely not. That was actually a last minute thing. We realized how empty the world would be if we did not have respawns. A lot of these scenes stay open for long periods of time. We added that in, that they respawn, so no; that was very temporary. RG: Disclaimer! We are here to have dialogue. We are here to discuss the current thinking and the possibilities about what we might do. We don't want to mislead you all. We don't want you to hold us to task about talking about our plans and therefore assuming that is set in stone as 'this is the way it's going to happen come hell or high-water'. When we talk to you guys about 'this is the current thinking', it's because this is the current thinking. We often will discuss ahead of time what things are we really willing to talk about, but it's really occasionally for the fun factor of releasing it to you as the upcoming surprise in the Release. Otherwise, we're here to talk about the things, whether they're implemented or not, to see how they fly. We have discussions among ourselves. We have discussions with you to change and modify those plans as they evolve. This is a real time discussion not a definitive answer session. SL: Yeah, what I was jokingly saying this morning was, "Don't lawyer me, Bro". We want to have these dialogues with you. Things will change. Even when we launch, things will change. Yes, there will be outrage when we nerf things, or make things too hard or whatever. When things change, we'll try to give you the information ahead of time, but things sometimes don't change until the actual last minute. The map is a great example, but I don't want to get us off into that tangent, but that changed about two days before the launch of R4. I know a lot of you were asking why we didn't up date you on the map change, but that was because of the last minute change. We wil try when it happens early enough to keep you abreast of those changes. GD: It's not like the Support Tickets aren't fun when they come in and quote the exact time in a video that you said something, and it's most always out of context. This is a process and we're walking a path. We want to be able to interact with you and not have the reaction that the sky is falling. SL: Yeah, or when they quote me in the chat room and neglect to include the next line where I usually tell them, usually in all caps, "NO PROMISES', or 'current thinking' !!! RG: A good specific question just popped through, which was, "Will shields only count as part of the math, resistance, or damage reduction, or whether part of your skills and moves will be that you can evoke a defensive posture because you have a shield?" SL: In old games, shields were just about increasing your armor class or your defense value. In reality, if you look at how people fought with shields, the shield was almost as much a weapon as the blade or the ax. The edge of the shield, the shield 'bash' -- reminds me -- I have to take a note about shield bash. RG: Akalabeth has mages that you can't grab weapons like a rapier, but you can use the shield, and you can do the shield 'bash' with it. SL: So shields have their own School. The use of shields is meant to be a dynamic thing. If you look at the 'shield tree' in my Mega-post about combat and magic, it has shield skills to use in real tme. I did note that while I have the shield bash, I don't have the shield edge in the skill tree yet. RG: I need my sword pommel hit! (Starr makes a note.) GD: What effect does it have on a player's combat who wants to dabble in several skill sets? SL: Really, over time, you build up a pool of points to apply to your skills. you can allocate those however you wish. You can allocate them to dive really deep into one or two Schools, or you can spread them out across many schools. You can go deep or shallow; it's really your choice. We're not currently planning on having a systemic cost, except to have heavier armor get a focus cost to it. That could make it undesirable for something that is focus-intensive, like magic. That doesn't prevent you from being a mage wearing heavy armor, but you'll have less focus, or mana, available in combat to you. You can be more protected, be able to absorb more damage, but there's a cost to that, not just to magic, but anything that uses focus. We're not trying to penalize you in any way for investing your skills in a variety of places. Part of the way we want to do leveling is not his exponential power increase. It's really about giving you more options. You can have a 'healing' focus deck, or my sword-use deck; that's on-the-fly. But even in real time, the more skills you have, the more skills will pop up, and more 'combos' that are available to use, so the more you can do. That doesn't mean you're exponentially more powerful than that other person. Richard often talks about using the scale for more strength as the human norms, where at a certain level, you'll have the strength and skill of an Olympian. You'll be at the peak of human condition, but you're not Superman or the Hulk. You might find a boss that is Superman or the Hulk, in strength, like a dragon. RG: Somebody else asked, "Do you have any skills that specifically effect aggro? Can you do a Berserker yell, for example, or a more stealthy move, which tends to make you less visible for aggro?" SL: Yes. I don't know them off the top of my head. There are skills that are about crowd control. CS: Someone asks, "for R5, how many skill points will we get to try out for combat and magic?" SL: For R5, we're actually going to have the skill advancement dialogue working. There's going to be a User Interface where you pick which skills you want to advance. It's not standard 'advancement'. The way it works is, we give you a pool of skill points. We haven't decided what that number is. Say it's 100. We'd give you 100 points, With those 100 points, you can go into this skill UI, and start plugging in those points. Wherever you put those points will be your 'deck'. There will just be one deck, but you can change it by where you allocate those points, with just a '+' or '-' to move the skill up or down, to give you more 'cards' in your deck. It's not actual deck-building, but it's a way to use the interface to 'mock it up'. There won't be much advancement, because in the R5 time limit, you don't have time to really advance, but we're thinking to put all the skills out there to at least try, and see how that works. We won't let it be crazy over-powered. RG: Question from Lady Amber Raine, the wonderful host of the Shroud of the Avatar radio station, "What about combat skill pool points vs. crafting skill pool points? How do those work, can we put all toward one or the other, or not?" SL: She's 'Chaos', by the way. (RG jokingly acts indignant) There are at least two, possible three, if we add PvP in there, of possible 'pools' of skill points. Chris and I are going back and forth about how you earn those. There are two methods. One is that, if I am crafting, and I 'level', I just get crafting skill points to spend. The same with combat; if I go out and kill things, I level up my adventuring skill points to spread around in combat and magic. That method is logical, because I'm 'leveling' in what I'm practicing, and not in what I am not practicing. That method unfortunately walls the two groups off from each other, and it makes it more expensive for players who want to do some of both. The other method is that you get mostly points for what you're practicing, like combat, but maybe you get one or two points for what you're not working at, like crafting, which you can spend on that 'side of the fence'. RG: Starr, I know we have to talk about a PvP pool, but - just to show in real time how these discussions are meant to be, we have three Sigils for skills, and one is just for magic. Magid is an independent third sigil. Just as you're talking about it, there's a part of me that is saying, "Hmm, why are magic and combat the same?" CS: I'll jump in. I support getting points for other skill pools while you're practicing something else, partially for cost. We're building three games really, crafting, adventuring, and PvP. We want people, as much as possible, to experience all three of those. The players are paying for all three, and we are paying to build all three. Giving points in all skill pools encourages players to go try the other play-styles out. RG: (Talks about how his invincibility is not set yet, and things are almost killing him in-game.) CS: (Talks about 'OneAndOnly' jokingly killing 'Lord Violation', and it turned out to be 'perma-death'.) SL: Affinity was supposed to be a topic in this Hangout. How do we want to deal with items, as items have a value; especially player-made items? There are two ways an item builds in value. One way is its ability to be enhanced, or enchanted. We also would like to have the idea of affinity, and we're not quite sure how we're going to implement it. The idea would be that as that sword or weapon is used in certain ways or by certain players, it would also gain 'something'. That 'something' could be a 'title', as in killing enough Elves, gives it the title 'Elf-slayer'. It might gain a power, so if it kills enough Elves, like the 'Sting' idea, it glows when Elves are around, and could do more damage to Elves. The converse of that, it could attract Elves. It might be very effective against Elves, but Elves can smell it, and so they come running to kill you, to balance the power of it. For loot and ransom in PvP, such items that have enhancements or affinity, and you can lose them, that will bring more meaning as well. It adds to the intensity of that experience. RG: (Talks about having too many Chaos, Darkstarr fans in chat) CS: (Talks about armor balancing some affinity power with encumbrance, where it didn't in the past games.) RG: The Affinity system to me fits in nicely with the Maker's Marks in crafting. Something else we've discussed but not implemented with weapons having a history, like the 'Elf-slayer' earned title. A side effect of why no one could find any weapons in R4, which is that we really want to make all the things you find in the game as much player-made, and as much player-made to be special, and as much history of that thing tracked through the world, as possible. Even when the game needs to spawn treasure, like the Lich, someone was saying, "I hope the Lich eventually gets more than 30 gold pieces available for when you kill it." Hopefully, the Lich will actually provide you with the swords and armor of the people it has killed before you, when they tried to defeat it. Maybe more simply, things crafters have sold to 'the game engine' or sell off their old equipment to shopkeepers, maybe we'll throw that out from the shopkeepers to the dungeons for you guys to find. The side effect of that was that we shut down most of the chests that spawn equipment, trying to push people to craft their own things in the game. Since the recipes aren't very well known to people, the resources to be gathered aren't very well known or incomplete, so it's actually kind of hard to get the world started when you just invite everybody in for a weekend. We're headed in the direction that items are special. Dallas: (Winners from a contest are announced.) SL: Darkonus asked, "Will certain skills be locked out? Can fighters use mage skills?" Absolutely. That's what I was talking about from the very beginning. It is a truly class-less system. CS: It's really the depth you put into the skill trees. If you put a lot into a single tree, you can get into the deeper, more specific result spells and skills. You can go broad and wide, but you won't get to the deeper stuff. SL: The other thing that you would potentially sacrifice is there's two skills in any kind of given School. One is 'Active' skills. Those are the ones that you use during combat. There is another set called 'Innate' skills. Those effect everything in that school; range or power, for example in the Fire School, it will do more damage or give you more range. There was another question of how pets would work in combat. For Episode One, they'll be fairly simple. You can give them basic commands; attack, stop attacking, aggressive stance. We want to make those more sophisticated over time, and being able to level up your pets. (Starr Long tells his 'role play' about sheep murder) "Give us the feedback!" RD: Tomorrow's Deep Dive topic is PvP and Death!