Let’s talk about combat in Shroud of the Avatar! Before jumping into the deck mechanics of combat (what some may call the really interesting part) I’ll clear up two items people seemed to be confused about. First, players will still have an “auto” attack that just uses their equipped weapon. That equipped weapon can be a sword, axe, shield, wand, etc. For simple encounters, this will be sufficient for most people to achieve victory. Second, when out of combat no bar will be present but the player can press the alt-key at any time and their non-combat toolbar will slide up. We’ll make it an option to leave this up at all times out of combat for those less concerned with immersion. The non-combat toolbar will work just like any other game where you can assign skills to it to use when not engaged in combat. When a player enters into combat is where things get interesting… before diving into specifics, I’m going to define a few items so we’re all on the same page in terms of language: Skill - For simplicity, we’re calling any element that can show up on your toolbar in combat a skill. This can include combat skills, spells, consumables, items, and abilities but we’re going to call them all skills. Deck - This is a set of skills that the player has created or the game has created for the player. There is a minimum number of skills that can go into a deck based on the player’s level. It will start at around 10 skills at level one and rise to around 30 skills at level 20. Players can have multiple decks configured and swap them in and out when not in combat. Players will be able to switch during combat but it will take several seconds of doing nothing. Slug - A slug is a skill that does nothing but takes up a spot in the deck. These can show up in a number of situations for balance, missing skill requirements, or to fill out a deck that is below the minimum size. For instance if you have skills relating to slashing weapons in your deck but have a mace equipped, some of the skills in your deck may become greyed out slugs. Combo - Some skills can be combined with other skills on the fly. This result is a new, likely more powerful skill which can then be used. Noble Skill - A noble skill is a skill which cannot be combined with any other skill. Some skills are always noble but some become noble for various reasons such as a skill being used on you or because the skill is in a locked slot. Noble skills will almost always have a higher cost of some kind. Example costs could be cooldown, reagent use, focus cost, etc. Focus Skills - These are the skills that generally modify deck mechanics. Locked Slot - By default skills are dealt out to the slots periodically, but by training in focus skills some slots can be locked and always contain a specific skill. Skills in locked slots are always noble and cannot be combined with other skills. Now that we have the big combat terms defined, lets jump into how we put it together. Upon entering combat, the combat bar slides up. This has between 6 and 12 buttons on it, depending on player skill selection and level. Skills appear on the buttons at a fairly slow and steady pace and then fade out after a decent amount of time (think 10 - 30 seconds). They can be used by clicking on them and dragging them to a specific target or by pressing the matching hotkey (1-10 key,-,+) and tapping space(by default) to execute. Combos can be created by either dragging one skill onto another one or by pressing the matching hotkey followed by the other skills hotkey. Creating a combo skill makes it behave as if it was a freshly dealt skill, meaning its fade out timer is reset. Skills can be discarded to free up a slot by dragging them off screen if the player has a faster deal speed than fade speed for skills. The speed at which skills appear can be sped up through a learned focus skill and the duration they stay up can also be increased through a different focus skill. If there are no open slots at a given time, then new skills will not deal out until a slot opens up. So players with a slower dealing rate might have to use or discard skill elements just to free up spots for new skills to be dealt out. Each of those two elements has advantages to them, the idea is that players can adjust their deck dealing behavior to match their play style and these values can be tuned on a per deck basis. Through the focus skill tree and leveling, players can gain the option to have 1 or more locked slots. These are slots that aren’t dynamically dealt out but become noble and can’t be combined with any other skills. The recycle time on this slot will vary depending on the skill used in it. Focus skill tree: Instinct - Each level allows for one locked skill slot. How many locked skill slots are used can be configured per deck. Max locked slots is 1/3rd the total available skill slots. Locked skill slots replace a slot and reduces the number of dynamic slots. Epiphany - Each level increases the number of skills that are available at the start of combat by 2. Without this skill players start with zero skills out other than locked slots. Versatility - Each level increases the number of available skill slots by 1. Players start with 6 skills slots available. Players gain 1 additional skill slot at level 10 and another at 20 for free but 4 more can be acquired through skills to bring the total to 12 skill slots. Second Guess- Each level grants a skill that can be used to push an existing skill into a random spot in the top five skills in the player’s deck. Spark of Brilliance - Slugs normally have no purpose other than to take up room. With Spark of Brilliance, slugs can be be combined with other skills to increase their time till they fade. Each level adds 0.2 seconds up to a max of a 1 second extra time. Recollection - Every level increases the fade out timer of skills by .1 seconds. Brainstorm - Every level decreases the time to the next skill by .1 seconds. Concentration - Each level grants a skill that can be combined with another skill and will temporarily extend the fade timer for a skill by 10 seconds. Unlike the permanent lock, this will not make the skill noble and can help capture more difficult combos. Thanks for your input; we know that a system as core to the game as combat is will arouse very strong passions, especially when we reveal some of the risks we're willing to take. We'll continue to review your feedback closely, both now and as the system is introduced! Combat FAQ: If the deck system ends up not being fun, what will you do with combat? If the deck system ends up not being fun because it is too chaotic or stressful, we’ll probably try out new options that are a mix of the deck system and the more traditional combat systems found in RPGs. We’ll probably also allow people to make all skills noble but fixed. If no one likes it still we can just rebalance the spells by making the combo spells more expensive to cast in terms of focus and reagents and fall back to a more traditional system. In other words, we can always just switch to the usual system without much work but we’d rather start off by trying to innovate, rather than copy. Will I be able to build multiple decks? Absolutely. That is part of the beauty of the system. We can allow you to build multiple decks to suit your current play style and switch between one tuned for soloing to one that lets you take on more traditional tank/healer/dps/crowd control roles to one suited for PvP situations. Can I switch decks during combat? Yes but there will be a cost. The most likely option is it will drain a significant chunk of your focus and take a second or two to switch. We have discussed adding a skill to make switching in combat less painful and faster for those who want to set up multiple, very focused decks. When can I try it?!? Release 4, currently planned for release around March should be the first opportunity to try out combat for most people. We have all the framework in place and a fair number of the skills but need lots of visual polish, to flesh out more skills/combos,more interesting opponents, and also a large amount of work left for the UI for deck building and skill advancement. Combat against opponents that aren’t compelling will never be fun and having an easy to use UI for building and skill advancement is also a big part of the equation. We expect to have all of the elements to an Alpha state by release 4. I worry the UI will draw my attention away from combat, what is the plan for that? This is actually our largest concern and we’re working on improving on this. The icons shown in past demos aren’t easily recognizable with peripheral vision and need more work. We’ll be working on making things color coded and easy to recognize. We are also currently experimenting with several on screen options but so far they all feel too immersion breaking and disorienting. Why do some things make skills “Noble” so they can’t be used in combos? This is a balance thing. Having locked skills be usable in combos would make the difficulty in achieving combos trivial. We are intentionally making them tougher to make them more of a skill element. We want combos to be rewarding and something players can pat themselves on the back about when they pull it off! Combos sound cool, is it always just 2 skills or do they go deeper? Combos can go much deeper than 2 skills in practice though usually combos just result in 2 skills turning into 1 skill. This can actually result in much deeper combos though because the result of that combo is actually a new skill and that skill can combine with other skills to make the combo go beyond just a 2 skill combo. So for a fake example, 2 fireballs might combine to create a fire storm. Then a fire storm plus a fireball might create a fire vortex! Can skills be used out of combat? Most skills can be used out of combat. There are a few, like the "Control demon" spell that you cast to try and take control of the demon summoned by the "Summon Demon" spell that is combat only. Of course it is combat only because as soon as you summon the demon, you are in combat and it is trying to kill you. There are some situational combo spells that are combat only as well. How will I set “Locked Slots” and how do they relate to the number of skills in my deck? The locked slots will actually be part of your deck build and change when you change decks. Skills in locked slots count towards the number of min skills in your deck.