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Dev Update, September 24

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This week has been a side-track week. As I tested the gear changes, it became very clear that it's much too hard to compare equipment. Part of that is intentional, of course -- each piece of gear can affect lots of different abilities in very different ways, because I *want* gear choices to be difficult! But I want them to be difficult because you can't decide which item you like better, not because you're doing lots of math in your head.

The game needs to automatically tell you how your gear affects your abilities. So I've spent most of the week working on that. This feature was planned for beta, as part of the "polishing phase", but... well, I've come to realize that it's not polish, it's necessary for basic gameplay.

However, it's not easy to implement. I have to break all the treasure effects down in new ways, add a bunch of data to abilities, and then route all this new data through new systems. It's a lot of work, but the results are pretty elegant:

This ability is augmented by several gear effects that raise Sword Base Damage, Wind Strike Damage, and Slashing Damage, and it's all been compiled into one stat. When equipment adds new functionality to the ability, like the +50% projectile evasion mod shown here, that's listed at the bottom.

This info is shown when you hover over abilities on the ability bar AND when you view abilities in the Persona window. That's important, so that you can put on a piece of gear and then see how it affects all your abilities.

These numbers also take into account every buff you have, not just your gear buffs. In the example above, Wind Strike 4 makes your next attack deal +20 damage. So after you use Wind Strike, all your abilities' damage will be displayed as being 20 higher until your next attack. This behavior can be a little surprising sometimes, but once you understand how it works, it really helps you see how buffs and debuffs are affecting you.

This effort is still underway, and I'm working nonstop to try to get it done fast, but it's basically delayed the update by a week. However, I don't think I made a bad call here: this changes how I play in a very positive way, and I think you'll like it also.


Combat Refreshes

Combat Refreshes are a bigger deal after the next update because armor restores more stuff when you use a refresh. So it's more important than ever to be able to tell if your Combat Refresh timer is up! I reimplemented it so that the client can tell when the refresh is ready. Your basic attacks will now flash with an icon (and play a sound) when your refresh is ready, and a little icon in the top-right will also show up in case you missed the blinking. Oh, and combat refreshes no longer activate if you're fully healed up and they wouldn't restore anything.


(In this screenshot, the wing icon is blinking overtop the Fireball and Mindreave basic attacks.)



Loot Profile Changes

I've also tweaked loot so that you find more of the weapons (and off-hand items) you need, and less that you don't. If you're using Unarmed skill, you'll have a much higher chance of finding unarmed weapons, and much lower chance of finding, say, fire orbs.

This wasn't done earlier because the loot system just couldn't do it. But I added the necessary code features in the last update, so this just involved a lot of data-entry. I'm sure the ratios and percentages will need further tweaking, but it feels less frustrating now, especially at low level when you desperately need a damned sword but keep finding other weapons instead.



Monster Changes

After this rebalance update, I want to meet the design goal of you being able to fight two solo monsters at once. In the current game, fighting two monsters at once at level 50+ is unrealistic unless your gear is REALLY good. (Or you have a mesmerize effect or other crowd-control tools.)

But fortunately for players, monster AI has been buggy for a long time now -- monsters that are called for help have a very silly tendency to give up and go home when they're winning! I've intentionally left the AI alone until I could work on monster stats. But since I'm making it more plausible to solo two monsters at once, it's time to make monsters smarter too.

So I've fixed AI bugs, nerfed monsters, buffed ability damage, and increased survivability features, all with the goal of making this fight-two-monsters-at-once thing a reality. I'm also taking into account that players will have a more diverse set of gear after the update because of the enforced two-skill split. And I'm also taking into account that monsters above level 45 or so were just too tough -- they'd gotten too far out of whack. It required way too much gear grinding to even fight solo monsters your level. Which is stupid. So I'll fix it.

(I'm not focusing on group monsters right now... I'll probably make some broad changes to tone them down a bit, but I'm not planning to do much with them in this update. That also means things like taunt management and rage control will probably continue to be out of whack for a while longer... but we'll get there.)



This Involves a LOT of Changes!

If the changes I've described sound self-contained and easy to test, then I haven't done a good job of describing them. I'm even more inundated with spreadsheets than I was last week. But I'm liking where it's headed. I've delayed this humungous rebalancing for a long time for various technical reasons, but now is the time.

I need to set some expectations, though. After this update, the game should be easier for mid- and high-level players to solo, NOT harder, as some forum commenters seem to expect. But due to time constraints, I'm not able to test every ability and treasure effect. I'm making formulaic changes to just about everything, and playtesting several skills at several level ranges, and the rest will be untested.

There will probably be skills that are unplayably weak at certain level ranges, and some treasure will probably be insanely overpowered, and so on. But I've been planning for this update for a long time, and the "hotfix" tech that was added a while back is specifically designed with this problem in mind. I can change just about every ability, treasure, and monster stat without requiring you to download a new client every time, and the server downtime to apply the hotfixes is less than 5 minutes.

So I'll need your help in finding problem areas, but then I'll be able to fix things (or at least, band-aid things) very quickly. I expect there will be several hotfixes the first week or two after the update.



More To Come

I know this dev-post hasn't gone into too many technical details or answered too many questions, but that's sort of a reflection of where my mind is this week: most of the week has been spent feverishly adapting game data so that it displays right in the client. And I'm still working on that right now! I'll have another update for you soon with some more specifics of how these changes work.


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