Explanation and update on balancing efforts for R74 and Q1

Discussion in 'Announcements' started by Chris, Jan 23, 2020.

  1. Chris

    Chris Tech Lord Moderator SOTA Developer Ambassador

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    After a rather frustrating stream yesterday I realized that we might not have clearly stated our goals for the next few releases in terms of balancing. Also, there are some repeated comments I keep hearing that are not based in reality that I wanted to clear up. Before I go into the changes, I just wanted to discuss the reality of player behavior a bit and why balance is so critical.

    While there are a handful of players who have a play style or class in mind and stick with that class, the reality is that most players gravitate towards power. If there is something that is out of balance due to being overly powerful, players will use it. Because of the freedom our game offers to pick up new skills without restarting, this is especially problematic for us. While some will stick to their desired play style and not do the most optimal thing, when things are too far out of balance it makes them feel ineffectual and like they are being punished for their choices.

    Similarly, if there are play spaces that provide significantly better rewards than other scenes, players feel obligated to play in those spaces. If one scene gives 2mln xps per hour and is boring and another one gives 1mln xps per hour and is more fun, most players will still go to the 2mln xps per hour scene. This isn’t just true of hardcore minmax players. Even moderately casual players will feel that way. Even if you’re not competitive, it feels like you’re being asked to pay 1mln xps an hour to have fun.

    So the goal for balance is simple to state and REALLY hard to pull off. Also, this will never be a black and white thing where one day we check a box and announce, “We’re balanced!” The goal is always just to make improvements and hopefully move in the right direction.

    So to put it into simple words, the goal is to make it so players can play how they want to play without them feeling like they are being punished for their choices or that they are useless and ineffectual. For scenes, the goal is to balance the risk vs reward enough so players feel like they can choose where they want to play without being punished for not choosing the scene they enjoy the least.

    All games face these same challenges but due to a number of factors, these challenges are a bit bigger for Shroud. The main factors being our completely open skill system vs tightly restricted classes, the rapid iteration (read, little time for deep, long term testing for balance), and the open system that doesn’t restrict players from gaining benefits from trivial content. There are a dozen smaller factors that contribute as well that I have discussed on streams but the bottom line is balance is both challenging and at the same time, critical.

    The biggest goal for this quarter was to pull off a major band aid that was added many releases ago to compensate for a lack of scene balance. This of course is attenuation, the system that limits xps to a certain number per hour. While this system has some merits, the bottom line is it is frustrating and not fun and purely to compensate for poorly balanced scene content.

    So for this quarter, the goal is to remove the attenuation band aid but to also balance the scenes that currently generate 2-5x more xps per hour than other scenes so that their risk vs reward balance is more in line with other maps. For players it is an attempt to try and bring some skills and play styles into balance and make the currently OP play styles still feel powerful and fun but with some restrictions to bring them more in line.

    For R74, lots of changes are being made to Upper Tears to try and bring it into balance and use it as a model for other scenes. What is on QA is not far off from early testing to our goal of a decent party making roughly 2mln xps/hour. I’ll be releasing an updated QA build later today with some more adjustments to make it more rewarding.

    For those familiar with UT, here are the changes so far:

    • Liches have always been one of the weakest creatures in the entire game for risk vs reward. I improved their stats some and more importantly, gave some of the higher level liches more abilities. Mages can push players away from them and fighters can pull players toward them at high level. Lich melee can also enrage and caster have several new spells in their arsenal for damage.

    • The waves are setup to be a minimum time before the next new type of waves spawns but a while back they were changed to almost instantly respawn if you killed them before that time. This is fun BUT when spawning content that is trivial and respawning almost instantly but still gives modest rewards, it is problematic. I added a timer that we can adjust between these wave respawns. For the early waves it is 8 seconds and increases to 15 seconds for the later waves. This isn’t huge but gives players a moment to breathe and also reduces the slaughterfest that is the early waves.

    • Black power stone spawns in the middle that can be killed but buffs nearby creatures. This is only partially working in the current build and I plan on fixing it for today’s build. In today’s build, it will not be tied to the waves but rather an independent spawn that has a 5 minute respawn timer. That will allow players to plan when they kill it to allow for some waves to be killed with no stone interference

    • Two additional waves have been added onto the end that have more difficult challenges. These will generate less xps per hour BUT will have some more significant loot rewards added onto them.
    The target is a decent group of 8 farming at the UT control point will get roughly 2mln XPs an hour some decent loot. Right now it is around 1.5mln and no loot. I’m going to fix the shard spawn and decrease some wait times and we’ll see where we’re at in this next build.

    Once UT feels good, a similar model will be applied to other control points.

    Player balance work is more extensive. My goal is to try to bring overall power in line with a minimal impact on the feeling of power. The following list is what has been done so far and should be visible on QA already. One of the main themes is managing some of the overall power of players by making Focus something that is actually limiting and must be managed. This also has the side effect of making focus potions and other consumables more meaningful.

    I’ve heard a few players suggest that we should never “nerf” anything but instead just make everything else more powerful. I get it, no one likes their favorite OP thing to get fixed but making everything in the game more powerful is not feasible. The term “nerf” wasn’t invented by Shroud and it happens in EVERY MMO, even WoW, which even now has more than 150 devs and a massive QA team, has to nerf stuff.

    I’ve also heard people say, “Make the creatures smarter/more challenging!” which we will also do but balance between play styles is also critical as well. We are making creatures more challenging and have more variety in attacks. Some suggested fixes, like making creatures move out of fire fields or meteor showers are also valid but can cause their own issues, like letting players continually herd and block the monsters through use of AEs.

    Now for a list of some of the changes for balance for this release:
    • Some earth magic has been increased in effectiveness

    • Ring of Fire, Ice Field and Meteor Shower have had their base focus cost increased by roughly 33% and duration cut by 50% and reagent cost increased

    • Heal, focus, and restoration style potions have had their effectiveness doubled.

    • Creatures that float or fly will be affected by the initial blast from ice field but not the ongoing effects

    • Free attack charge power has had its curve for increased damage per charge turned down to reduce max hits at full charge but with little effect on low charge aspects

    • Added logic so if someone has multiple copies of the client running AND the client is not in the foreground, auto attack won’t trigger. Also, spells or skills with longer cast times won’t trigger if the client loses focus before casting completes.

    • Focus reduction for charged skills/spells has been reduced at higher levels from around 75% reduction to around 40% reduction.

    • Heal spells will no longer cost extra focus based on the skill level of the spell.
    A few more changes will be coming as well to balance a few items like aimed shot (reducing overall max hit) but not too many more for this release. I’m also working on giving tanks so more tools to control agro and be more effective in general. Again, the main focus of the above changes is make it so players can still be just as powerful but make it so they have to actually work a little harder to be as powerful and also possibly worry about managing their focus as well if they want to be that powerful.

    One of the other things we need to address and will be working on for episode 2 is bringing in high end challenges and raid content for players. Step one is getting some balance to the game which is what we’re working on now. I’m expecting to release a very high end raid map for February that will be used to be a proof of concept for our upcoming raid content.

    There are also some other ideas being batted around for the more hard core players. One is the addition or option for hard core scenes. These would either be unique scenes or scenario versions (same scenes but with mods) of other maps with some slightly different rules. Again, just in the batting around the idea stage at this point but an example of some rule changes would be:
    • Reduced or no combat focus/health regen. You would only regen naturally when out of combat.

    • AE’s hit friendly targets as well as enemies. This is both realistic and also an absolute game changer for players. Currently most battles with high creature counts involve half the party standing in fire/meteorshower, icefield beating creatures which are affected while the players ignore it.

    • Creatures are more powerful, far more experience, more loot BUT they mostly do not respawn until the scene reset.
    Just those 3 small changes could completely change the challenge level of the scenes. There are some other ideas as well that we’ll be investigating over the next few months.

    Ok, enough typing and time for me to get back to work on implementing. Most of the balance changes (not the hard core stuff) on QA already. The healing change a few other changes will be in the next build which should be out later today.

    As always, DO NOT JUMP TO CONCLUSIONS AND START NEGATIVELY SPECULATING WITHOUT TRYING THINGS YOURSELF! Seems any time I even mention changes, there are a handful of people who have an overly negative reaction without even trying it and rally people to sharpen their pitchforks. Try it and give feedback so I can adjust and balance. The end goal is to make the game more fun for everyone by allowing different play styles and allowing people to receive fair rewards in all scenes, not just a few. This change is a work in progress and I would love some constructive feedback.

    Thanks for the long read!
    Chris "Atos" Spears
     
  2. Brass Knuckles

    Brass Knuckles Avatar

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    Changes to control points is a much needed thing, if they were intended as they are now you needed mini boss and boss spawns that added additional challenges as the team scales but currently you just have the same content rerolling over and over that was makes it mind numbing and boring as hell.

    it is my opinion as content scales in difficulty it should also scale in reward. Reward should equal better xp and better quality loot. Speak of loot you mention your going to improve loot by making potions better or adding more gems, these are nice rewards for low level and new players I can guarantee you most people over 120 could care less about this type of loot. Give them a rare chance at a cool drop or 2 and they will be much happier.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2020
  3. Brass Knuckles

    Brass Knuckles Avatar

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    Don’t forget banish and multi shot if your adjusting rof and ms in upper tears banish and multi shot are king of the hill. I realize banish is undead only but it’s the most op skill in ut dual ankhs there are players hitting 1800+ aoe crits and if multi shot isn’t on ur list of big aoes you have not been to upper tears.

    I don’t really think the balance changes your making is a huge problem, the problem is this stuff has gone unchecked for 2 years or more amplifying the distrust from players. You all knew UT was way off 2 years ago and it’s just now being fixed.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2020
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  4. Chris

    Chris Tech Lord Moderator SOTA Developer Ambassador

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    Focusing on it for 3 months daily. UT was a problem I tried to fix long ago but it was too contentious with players and the team so instead we put a bandaid on it. Pulling that band aid off now so we can kill the least popular thing in the game that is really just covering up balance issues.
     
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  5. that_shawn_guy

    that_shawn_guy Avatar

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    After watching Phamyns stream last night, I really hope you are taking into account low level player's "feel" with these skill duration, effectiveness, reagent/focus cost, etc changes. Phamyns started a new toon on QA and ran into some concerns. Maybe @Phamyns can add some details.

    I think it's far too easy to compensate for high level player issues and confuse the hell out of new players. A simple example is assuming focus regeneration is part of the player's skillset. I doubt a solo players learn about the usefulness of foods until well after they run into helpful players. which is probably well after they've discovered there's a whole world outside the outskirts. We probably don't want new players spending half their combat time out of focus.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2020
  6. Brass Knuckles

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    *im not hating on what’s being done here just wish it was done a long time ago. I do support your actions here.

    I think lower level players need a zone like ut designed as mid tiered event. Also target smaller group sizes like 2-3 people at say a million xp avg and decent starter loot drops.

    **
    reminds to reminds you mage focus situation and melee focus situations are two diffrent animals. Be careful of blanket adjustments.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2020
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  7. Tailz

    Tailz Avatar

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    So many problems could have been addressed earlier if there was a proper and (non-partisan/preferred portalarium people...) way to get the ear of the devs if even for a few short sessions in discord or some other voice program. Many of us that are outside the box of influence on what decisions you all make and how you implement things into the game have very valid points of view and have been wanting to contribute but that never happened.

    I am very happy to see some admission of problems, UT for example, that we identified right away and even have possible ways of fixing them. Perhaps in the future, some of our ideas can be discussed or at least make some polls/surveys so that everyone can properly voice how things should be in this "community project of yours".

    As far as balance goes... there is only 1 way to have a more solid "fix" most of the time and that is to add a PVP skill tree and separate PvP from PvE.
     
  8. Numa

    Numa Avatar

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    I know this is still under discussion but am very worried what this will mean for summoned elementals and pets with AoE.

    Will we have control on when these will cast AoE's? They could end up VERY unwelcome in groups.
     
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  9. Brass Knuckles

    Brass Knuckles Avatar

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    It’s a good question, I think the only pets that give good aoe damage is the earth elemental and the lich. I saw a vid of fzol EE hitting for 500. I personally have no issue with them since it’s pet controlled and cant be spammed. 500 might be a big number but most people don’t have fzols exp to sink in to it. In a world where banish is a ranged aoe that can hit 4 targets over 1800 it’s meh.
     
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  10. Earl Atogrim von Draken

    Earl Atogrim von Draken Avatar

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    If that would be even remotly true we would have a very very different game. Funny thing is, it would be much more PvP oriented.

    Which brings me to:

    I didn't watch the stream yesterday but from the post I can't read that the issues are connected to PvP.
     
  11. Malimn

    Malimn Avatar

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    @Chris While you are looking into balancing things... Can you look at the heavy armor buffs because those need to be hit every minute or so to keep them active.. Other buffs out there last a LOT longer such as the "Shields, Str buffs, etc" The heavy armor buffs do not last that long. OH and I am spec'ed in Swords and Tactics..
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2020
  12. Tazar

    Tazar Bug Brigade - Bug Hunter

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    It seems to me that balancing issues are ALWAYS connected to PVP - not the Scene Balancing that Chris mentioned first - but the Player Balancing that he mentioned second. Any tweak made to balance PVP always has an effect on PVE and vice versus. And honestly - trying to get both balanced at the same time seems a near impossibility due to conflicting priorities between the two systems. I can't visualize how a separate PVP skill tree would work, but I am open to hearing more on it.
     
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  13. Vladamir Begemot

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    Not only that, unless the new robot in the first scene teaches charging, they NEVER learn about focus management until they google it or a friend teaches them.

    -----

    But I'm glad to see this happening. It was really weird to me that these mostly pointless focus potions existed in the game. And after the UT "stand at the bottom" strategy came out, I basically didn't want to do ANY combat in the game anymore. If the most boring thing in the game is the thing everyone does, I'd prefer to do something else.

    Plus I hate the AoE's. They are such a brain dead mechanic, and put so many visual effects on the scene I just don't even want to watch. Or maybe that's what has started giving me headaches while combatting, I don't know. Hard core team damage mode sounds way more interesting.

    So yeah, good luck, I hope the balance happens. It would be nice to want to get it some fights.
     
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  14. Vladamir Begemot

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    Yes please.
     
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  15. Earl Atogrim von Draken

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    I disagree. If Chris' aim is that everybody can skill everything and in the end everybody is more or less on the same powerlevel there won't be an issue. Beside: there is no PvP in this game worth mentioning. So why waste time on a PvP Skill tree?
     
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  16. Mishikal

    Mishikal Avatar

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    You did read the part where Chris stated this was an idea being kicked around specifically for new special "hard core" mode, right? ;) I.e., this wouldn't be applied to normal gameplay.
     
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  17. Arkah EMPstrike

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    omfg i think im more excited about the potential of this happening than the bard skills o.o omg. Will be able to visit low level scenes in HARDCORE MODE?!
     
  18. Boris Mondragon

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    Hoping for a bone our way too as I am swords tactics specced as well yet from what I see it will cost more focus for my water ellie and ice field and probably for fighting mobs so have lots of pots to chug. Maybe we will get an armor ignore skill to swords like pole arms and ranged before mob defense get boosted again. Let’s see what happens but not holding my breath on swords or heavy armor getting any love soon. R/Boris
     
  19. Tailz

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    You are simply incorrect.

    It has everything to do with PvP.

    Not sure what reality you live in or planet you think you are from. ;)
     
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  20. Tailz

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    Exactly! :)