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Dev Notes, October 20

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When is the Update?

The top question on everyone’s mind is probably: When is this update going to happen?

I have good news and bad news on that. Since the last dev note, I've been revising treasure for each skill as fast as humanly possible. And it’s going pretty fast, all things considered! But each skill represents a ton of interlocking changes, and if I don’t want to leave these skills in a worse place then they are now I have to invest the time in doing them right.

I am very sad to report that I can't get the revisions done any faster than one skill per day ... and most take two. This is frustrating because completing all the skills at this pace will take another couple of weeks. But I really need to start fixing bugs, dealing with unexpected side-effects ... and getting your feedback so I can start adjusting anything that’s broken or un-fun. In other words, I need to get the update out the door!

So I've decided to finish the treasure revisions for a couple more skills, then switch to polish-mode on the skills that are already done.

Most animal-form skills, Battle Chemistry, probably Animal Handling, Ice Magic, and a few others won't be revised in this update. They will still be updated to use the new formulas -- the changes to Power cost, reuse timers, and damage that I talked about a few weeks ago -- but they won't have new treasure effects or abilities yet. It’s not ideal, but then alpha is rarely ideal. As soon as this update is pushed out the door (and we deal with any immediate hot-fix bugs), I can start working on these other skills.

 

Notes on Revised Skills

I’ve jotted down some notes about each skill that I've finished revising so far. Keep in mind that my goals and my execution are two different things. I wouldn't be surprised if half of the things I'm excited about in these notes don't pan out as being fun enough or viable enough yet.

But I wanted to share these notes because it gives some insight into my goals, and you can give feedback about how well I met those goals once the update is live.

 

Sword

Sword is the first weapon-skill that players get, and it's supposed to be a solid middle-of-the-pack combat skill with both good damage and good survivability. It's distinguished from other combat skills by having the best Rage-management tools of any skill.

Unfortunately, Sword has also been a testing ground for lots of experiments and changes over the years that I've been developing the game. I've removed a lot of crufty weird treasure effects and cleaned up the abilities too. (There are no new abilities, but the existing abilities' intended uses are more emphasized.)

Now, I'm hopeful that the skill can be geared to emphasize several different things: pure damage, rage management, or survivability. (For example, when paired with Archery or Necromancy, it could serve as the second line of defense when monsters get into melee range.) Its signature debuff is very powerful, especially against elite monsters, and it's just a good general melee skill.

Decapitate is the Swordsman's epic attack. It's much more epic than before, but still as slow as ever. In solo situations it's very useful, but in group situations it can't sustain DPS as well as other abilities. Instead, in a group scenario it's probably best used to deal with "adds" -- monsters that wander into your group's combat while it's already in progress. With a few pieces of gear, Decapitate can insta-kill many weaker non-elite monsters, or send them fleeing in terror.

Rage-depletion effects have been improved across the board (not just for Sword, but most noticeably for Sword). And for swordsmen that want to be able to manage the Rage of boss monsters in group situations, I've made it easier (and more effective) to use both Parry and Riposte together. In solo situations, using both of these abilities at the same time is probably overkill... or not. You can try it and decide for yourself.

Most of the weird target-specific treasure effects have been removed, like goblin-killing and cat-killing and so on, but I tried to salvage a few of them by making them apply to a much broader range of monsters. We'll see how that works out.

 

Mentalism

Mentalism is primarily a support skill that shines in groups, and I wanted to buff that aspect up a bit, but I also wanted to make sure that the offensive aspects are viable. Mentalism isn't supposed to be anywhere as effective as Fire Magic or Hammer for killing things, but it should let you solo well enough if you gear for it. (After all, "pure healers" have to be able to solo somehow, right? A player using Mentalism and, say, Psychology to play support roles will probably need a different suit of gear for soloing and support, but both jobs should be doable.)

On the offensive side, the biggest change was the addition of a new epic attack called Agonize. (It replaces the ability Mind-Armor Wave.) Agonize deals Psychic damage, and it deals a shit-ton of it, so things that give you a percentage boost to Psychic damage are quite impressive with this ability. Mentalism and Psychology have always gone well together for support roles, and with this trick they have a bit more synergy on offense too.

Mentalism also has strong Electric attacks, and I've tried to make sure that they'll work well both stand-alone and in tandem with other Electric-attacking skills (like Hammer, Druid, or eventually Weather Witch).

On the support side, some of the treasure-effects for the Psi-wave abilities were combined into a smaller number of multi-use effects. This makes it more plausible for a mentalist to switch which psi-wave they're using in different circumstances. The most important treasure effect for a psi-wave-using mentalist is the one that boosts the potency of all three recovery waves. Because it's very important, it has a higher chance of showing up than most treasure-effects do.

 

Staff

Staff is the weapon-skill with the most survivability. It can be used by tanks or by "squishy" skill users like fire mages or even archers.

As it was, Staff's treasure was very boring and crappy and it needed a lot of rewriting. It was actually QUITE powerful as a defensive skill already, a bit too much so, but its offensive abilities were unreliable. Staff isn't supposed to be a top-tier DPS skill, but you should be able to gear it up to be a very solid attack skill.

A new Staff ability called Phoenix Strike was added. This is an Epic attack that deals Fire damage and gives you fire-"thorns" -- that is, if melee attackers hit you, they catch fire. While quite useful on its own, it has obvious synergy with Fire Magic. Several new treasure effects can heighten this synergy. There are also treasure effects that synergize with other skills, like Ice Magic and even Unarmed (for that staff/claw build that I'm still trying to make viable).

One of Staff's distinctive flavors is that it can take extreme advantage of Vulnerable targets. I've tried to beef that up and make it possible to build your gear around this idea, with some new ways to trigger monsters' Vulnerability and take advantage of it. But I've also isolated most of the skill's vulnerability-related stuff into a few abilities and treasure effects so that it can be ignored if you want to. (But I do think a carefully-built Vulnerability build is going to be very powerful!)

Also noteworthy: the staff ability Deflective Spin is now an area-effect attack as well as a powerful defensive buff. The defensive aspect is still the main priority, but it helps flesh out Staff's crowd-management options.

 

Werewolf

Werewolves were overpowered in the same way that most of the animal forms suffer from: they have too many treasure effects for too few abilities. When I was fleshing out the animal forms and making sure they each had enough treasure effects, I neglected to make sure they had enough abilities! Werewolf had several abilities with a dozen treasure effects each. This made it pretty easy to do very high damage, but it wasn't very interesting or versatile -- every werewolf ended up playing pretty much the same. I've added two new abilities to finish out the skill's basic toolset, and along with new treasure effects, there should be a bit more diversity to builds.

Werewolf is intended to be a skirmishing combat skill, with lots of quick and dangerous attacks that synergize well with other wolves. While it should (obviously) be great at soloing, it's most impressive in the company of other werewolves, where you can trade off aggro with each other and keep the monsters disoriented. (Or, barring a werewolf friend, pets like bears, cats, or skeleton swordsmen should work well too.) That's the idea, anyway. In this update I've tried to bring some of that flavor out in the treasure, and with the new abilities.

The new ability Skulk lets you become "sneakier" (monsters have to get closer to you in order to see you). It's a tool to help you move around in tight dungeon spaces more safely, and it lets you start combat with a bang. Treasure effects can turn it into a potent pre-combat buffing ability, or alternately it can be turned into a very big mid-combat de-taunt, giving you some healing and a moment's respite from aggro.

The new ability Blood of the Pack heals you and buffs your group's Trauma damage. It can be geared to work as a personal healing tool, or it can be geared to emphasize the group-support aspect.

 

Psychology

Psychology is currently the only combat skill that I don't really expect players to be able to use as their primary damage-dealing skill. (It does have some powerful attacks, but they're intended to accompany the attacks from some other skill.) But Psychology is unparalleled in its versatility. It has taunting, de-taunting, healing, rage-reduction, mezzing, some big-burst damage, unique buffs and debuffs, and survival tools like fire-dispelling. Psychology is supposed to be a big toolbox of tricks to help you build your character the way you want. If none of the other skills seem like a good match for your secondary skill, Psychology should work.

Because it's a very old skill (one of the first I coded), the treasure was pretty bad for many of these "roles". I think the skill will need some more iterations to reach the goal of "universal tool box", but it's definitely getting better. Its offensive abilities have more synergies with other combat skills; when used as a group-support skill, there's some new ways to keep your party alive; and when used by tanks, it can keep you alive as well as help you maintain aggro. There's a new ability, Mock, which helps in the tanking role. It's a basic attack with a small built-in taunt.

Psychology is still missing a core ability -- I haven't decided what it should be yet, but there's a space in the treasure-effects tables for one or two more major abilities.

 

Fire Magic

For a skill that was noticeably overpowered at high level, Fire Magic had some pretty shitty treasure. A few treasure effects were VERY brokenly good, but so many of its treasure effects were crappy. The overpowered treasure effects have been toned down significantly, but other treasure effects help pick up the slack and allow fire mages to try several different builds with different focuses.

I've always thought of fire magic as a "sloppy" kind of offensive skill -- it can deal a lot of damage, both to single targets and to small groups, but it's dangerous to fight with fire -- things can go very wrong very quickly. One way that this has been represented in the game is by Rage build-up -- fire attacks generate twice as much Rage as other damage types. I've also tried to bring some of this "danger" aspect to the treasure effects, with gear that's very powerful but has a small chance of backfiring. I didn't want to go overboard in that direction since some players want to be very precise, but it's there, and it's something I may build on at higher levels.

One particular goal was making it easier for Fire Mages to easily switch to using cold attacks in the field (perhaps with a couple of equipment swaps, but not requiring an entire wardrobe change). There's now more treasure that boosts both fire and ice at the same time. This also opens the door to better fire/ice combo builds, and even using Fire Magic + Ice Magic together, but I haven't spent a ton of thought on that yet. You can experiment and see how well it works for yourself.

 

Unarmed

Originally, Unarmed was a skill with two very different target audiences: martial arts was the main use of the skill, but it was also supposed to be a viable combat skill for players that were turned into animals. Since animals can't do fancy martial-arts-type moves like Barrage, or throw people over their hips with Hip Throw, new abilities were made just for animals -- Bodyslam and Headbutt being the two main animal-centric abilities. These abilities were (and still are!) taught by an NPC that is only friendly to animals, to help reinforce that these are the animal variants. But since anybody can learn the abilities given enough time, it's really just seen as an annoying roadblock to unlocking these abilities.

Since I imagined that you would only be able to use one or the other of each of these abilities, most gear for Barrage and Hip Throw also covers Bodyslam and Headbutt, respectively. But since you CAN use both abilities at once, a few specific gear+ability combinations were a bit too powerful. But nothing too insane, and I liked the general feel of being able to use all the abilities at once. So a few updates back, I made it so that animals can just use the regular abilities like Barrage and Hip Throw. The original problem is gone! There is now only one audience for Unarmed: martial artists, whether they be humanoids or extremely implausible kung fu spiders.

I've revised the treasure effects with the idea that all of its abilities can be used in tandem. There's still a lot of dual-ability-boosting treasure, but it feels a little less "split up". Maybe a bit more organic. And some crappy treasure effects have been replaced.

There is also a new ability, Infuriating Fist, which is intended to make Unarmed a bit more useful to tank builds. (Remember that Unarmed is animal-friendly now, so tanky animals like Cow and Deer can use Infuriating Fist too.) There's also some new aggro-building treasure effects, but I've tried to keep them split up since Unarmed should be useful for a lot of play-styles, not just tanking.

(By the way, I still need to make it easier for non-animal players to unlock the old animal-abilities like Headbutt and Bodyslam, and conversely for animals to learn the human-centric techniques like Knee Kick. I haven't done that yet, but it's on my to-do list.)

 

Necromancy

Necromancy is supposed to be a hands-on pet management skill -- your minions go forth and you use abilities like Provoke Undead and Heal Undead to keep them healthy and working well. Unfortunately due to a huge oversight, these very same hands-on abilities were the most neglected in the treasure system. There was NO treasure for the ability Heal Undead, and very little for Provoke Undead or Rebuild Undead. I didn't realize how bare these abilities were.

How did this happen? Just an alpha mistake -- tech comes online at different speeds, and when I first launched Necromancy, I was missing some tech that would let me isolate the buffs to only your undead allies. So for instance if I had a treasure effect that said "Provoke Undead boosts all skeletons' Slashing Damage", that effect wouldn't just buff your skeletons. It would also buff you, any non-undead pets, and any other allies in your group! So due to code limitations, there wasn't much I could do with those abilities at first.

Well, I fixed that technical limitation, but when It came time to fill out Necromancy's treasure profile, I completely forgot they weren't already represented in treasure. I added extra pet-buffing treasure instead. Way too much pet-buffing treasure.

I've replaced more than half of the pet-buffing treasure effects with new effects -- mostly ones that improve Heal/Rebuild/Provoke Undead, but also more treasure for some other under-served abilities. The remaining pet-buffing treasure is more general, making it a little easier to switch which skeletons you use.

I've also made Heart's Power and Spleen's Power available to be placed on the side-bar, since they don't have any treasure. (As a rule of thumb, if an ability isn't going to have any treasure effects that buff it, it should be a side-bar ability.)

Working on Necromancy caused me some angst because I want to replace the way in which skeletons are summoned. I have a fun new idea I want to try out... but I just don't have time in this update.

 

So When *IS* the Update?

As I write this, I'm partially through with Archery. I may have time to do one or two more significant skill overhauls, but then I need to switch to polishing, sanity-checking, and adding all the missing bits. I'm shooting for the 28th as the big launch day, but even though that's 8 days away, it will require a lot of hours of hard work to hit that deadline... and a bit of luck. So wish me luck!

 

Q&A

This is already a really long dev blog, but I did want to address a couple of questions I saw popping up after the last few dev blogs.

Additive + Multiplicative Effects: Someone asked how additive and multiplicative bonuses stack. This is a meaty topic with lots of special cases, but in general, there are four steps. Let's look at an example using Super Fireball 4. I picked it because it just happens to do 250 base damage, a nice round number. It's also the "Core Attack" for Fire Magic.

  • Buffs that add flat amounts (+5, +10, etc.) are added to your ability's damage first. ("+25 to Super Fireball"= 275. "+25 to Core Attacks" = 300.)
  • Buffs that multiply a particular ability's damage are applied next. ("+20% to Super Fireball" = 360.) Note that the percentage-boost mods also boost the flat amounts.
  • Next your "Base Damage Mod" is added in. This one surprises people: Base Damage Mods ONLY look at the ability's base damage. (Hence the name.) So it's always the same amount of bonus for each ability, regardless of what other treasure is applied. If you have an ability that deals 250 base (un-enhanced) damage and you have a +35% Base Damage mod, it always adds 87 damage to the ability, no more and no less. ("+35% Fire Magic Base Damage" = 447.)
  • Damage-type bonuses and vulnerabilities are applied last. ("+10% to Fire Damage" = 491.) This is why boosts to Fire, Psychic, etc. tend to use much smaller numbers than the other bonuses -- they can get overpowered very quickly!

(edited to fix math!)

 

Organic Combos: I noticed some concerns about the example of "organic combos" in last week’s dev blog. The skill revision details above might give a better overall picture of how I see organic combos working, but let me hit it more directly here.

"Organic combos" aren't real combos -- there's no requirement to use specific abilities in a certain order. Instead, ‘organic combo’ is just a way to think about those treasure buffs that affect several abilities in different skills.

When soloing, equipment with these buffs does make specific ability orderings more beneficial than others -- but that's true in general of all buffs: if you have equipment that buffs an ability, you use the buff before you use the ability.

In groups, things become more chaotic. Other people may have equipment with treasure effects that can bestow these buffs on you at arbitrary times. So who you’re with, what abilities they use, what equipment they’re wearing today, and what role you’re filling will all factor into which organic combos you may choose to use - and which you choose to ignore.

Organic combos are sparse enough that for most combat skills you can completely skip them, replacing them with other kinds of treasure effects. Some skills don't even have any buffs of this variety. It depends on my vague personal interpretation of how the skill should "feel".

Anyway, that’s the idea. Once I get this update out the door, I’ll need your feedback to see if you think I got anywhere close to my goal.

 

Halloween: Lots of people have been asking about this year’s Halloween festivities. It’s going to be tight, but if I get this update out the door on time, you’ll have some Halloween stuff for Halloween. If not, Halloween will come a little late this year. But it will happen.

 

Ability Categories: I've mentioned ability categories like "Core Attack" before. Here are the current set of cross-skill ability tags. Some are old, some are new:

  • Basic Attack: these are fast-reset abilities with no Power cost. There are very few treasure effects that buff Basic Attacks, but there's a couple.
  • Core Attack: every combat skill has at least one medium-speed (8-10 second reuse timer) attack ability. I've chosen one such ability for each skill and called it the Core Attack. It may not be your personal "core", or even be on your ability bar at all. It's just a name so I can break up the abilities.
  • Nice Attack: all combat skills have a larger attack that's slower but more impressive. To give you an example, the Nice Attack for Sword is Finishing Blow.
  • Epic Attack: a few skills have an attack that's on a very long (30+ second) reuse timer and deals a ton of damage. These are tagged as Epic Attacks.
  • Signature Debuff: this is an offensive ability that debuffs the target somehow. Most combat skills have one of these. (In non-debuff-oriented skills, the skills' stun-attack is often their Signature Debuff.)
  • Signature Support: a few support-oriented skills have a slow-reset buff that helps the whole group.
  • Major Heal: these are abilities with a slow reuse time (30 seconds) that target a single person. First Aid is a Major Heal, so everyone has access to at least one of these.
  • Survival Utility: these are slow (20-30 second reuse) abilities designed to help the player stay alive -- usually they're a personal heal, but some skills have an offensive buff here, because sometimes the best defense is a good offense.
  • Minor Heal: a few healing-oriented skills have a targeted healing ability with a faster reuse time. There are only a few Minor Heal abilities in the game.

Despite the names, these tags aren't intended to define how a skill is used -- they're just a way to group different abilities across skills. I made sure that all combat abilities have a Core and Nice attack, and eventually all will have a Basic Attack as well, but other than that, it's up in the air. I didn't feel like these tags were important enough to heavily revise a skill just to make a tag apply. For instance, neither Fire Magic nor Werewolf happen to have long-reset attack abilities, so they have no Epic Attack. Not a big deal.

 

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