Gaarawarr Gabs with Nate Levy – Part 2
In Part 1 of this interview, I rambled on about my viewpoint of combat and career changes and started into the discussion I had with Nate about WAR. In Part 2, we jump right back into the action and discuss things like bomb groups, mastery paths, and more.
GG: We have kind of seen what’s on the hotplate, obviously, for C&C. We know that there are a lot of major issues off those plates that everyone is talking about. Is there anything that you guys are looking at adjusting, or adding, that’s going to create a little more flavor and entertainment as opposed to just bringing balance? That’s what everyone wants, but are we ever gonna see more of mechanics being maybe a little more fun in the future? Like with the fix to White Lions with the pets working a little better, obviously that made it heck of a lot more enjoyable, but are we going to see more things where mechanics are going to be balanced around, not just doing great things, but having fun while you’re doing it, beyond the damage output?
Nate: Absolutely. That level of polish and things that work, making them work better, is kind of a rolling, ongoing, permanent goal. There is always going to be something that we can make better. A lot of times, like now in particular with things like the AE and CC, we hit a point that these are significant balance issues that are overshadowing the fun of the game. Those take center plate and have to be taken care of first. But there are always things we are trying to do, just iteratively, to make the careers a little smoother, a little more polished, a little more fun in every path as we go.
Certainly a lot of the bigger patches are much heavier on the balance changes because that is kind of the 800 lb gorilla stomping all over the game. If it is not balanced, then that is the end. We certainly are looking to keep making the careers a little more polished as much as we can, as quickly as we can, with each pass. Things like the pet stick on the White Lion was one of the things we were working on for quite a while just to get the silly pet to stay on the target.
GG: The issues with the pet are why I deleted mine when I hit Rank 19, lol. So now I have a reason, maybe in the future, to go back and try it again…
There was a post on the forums that discussed group makeup and the synergies between careers, three in particular. Are aspects like that taken into consideration where when those classes do come together, they tend to create a pretty awesome group synergy?
Nate: Obviously right now, the big strategy is bomb groups. Everyone makes a group to do PBAoE bomb runs. They get several healers all focused on a PBAoE career, get a tank to guard them, and send that one person in and effectively funnel everybody’s output through that one person and have that one person just try to AoE-destroy everybody around them.
There is always going to be something like that, strategies and tactics always rise and fall as they are found and then defeated and then a new one is found and then defeated. Part of that does play into our balancing as well though, because some of those things point out problems in the abilities and careers that lead to egregious examples like the bomb groups as they are currently.
Because of the bomb groups, we looked at all the factors that went into that and what made them so very powerful. One of the things that really stands out in how effective they are is Chaotic Rift/Electromagnet. If you have an entire group completely built around getting everybody in one point and then AoE’ing them down, then an ability that lets you force them all to that one point is the cornerstone of your whole group. So one of the changes you will see to Chaotic Rift and Electromagnet coming to PTS is that when they pull enemies in, they are going to be scatter-shotted around more. So they are not all going to come right down onto your head. Some will come near you, some will be further away, some will kind of be in the middle, some will be scattered off to the side.
GG: So it creates a spread-load?
Nate: Right. And the abilities will still serve what we hope is their more primary purpose as kind of a stand-off breaker. Cuz we don’t want it to be two lines just staring at each other shooting back and forth. We still want someone to be able to run up and drop a rift and yank the other guys’ line apart and then have it kind of devolve into a big furball because that is a lot of the fun for the melee guys.
So we are still going to have them pull enemies in so you can, kind of, disrupt the enemy line, get your group going that way, but we don’t want it to feed quite as much into the PBAoE bomb groups. So they are going to scatter around a bit so that if you drop a rift, maybe not everybody lands right on your Sorc’s head. Maybe one or two do, but the rest land out of range and so the first thing that happens is someone who’s out of range says “Oh crap!” and does a knockback because they weren’t stunned because they weren’t close enough. Hopefully that will defuse the bomb groups to a point that it is still a perfectly viable strategy and can be effective in the right hands, but isn’t overall the only way to play the game.
GG: Some issues that I notice with a lot of the Mastery Trees that some of the careers have… I’ll use Swordmaster as an example. Khaine is supposed to be the DPS tree, but if you look at it, if someone does go into the Khaine tree, they go into it for roughly three possible abilities: Great-weapon Mastery, Balanced Accuracy and/or Deep Incision. And it’s generally if they want to run a DoT spec or they want the extra parry for possible tanking or the 10% extra damage or Balanced Accuracy just for crit. It seems like some of these combinations destroy the damage output of other things without even being fully trained in it.
It seems the effectiveness or utility in some of the trees does not seem to be where it could be. For instance, you know an Engineer will be Napalm spec, toss the Napalm, kill whatever it is and move from point A to point B, and when players see that, they go “Well, these other trees aren’t going to help. We need to utilize this in order to make it through.” Are there plans to look at the Mastery Trees to address some of these kinds of issues?
Nate: To a degree, yes. There are certainly some careers whose Mastery Trees we feel worked out better than others. Some of the Mastery Trees make their careers much more clearly delineated. Like you’re saying with the Engineer, it’s pretty obvious that you are either a Napalm Engineer, a Snipe Engineer, or an EMag Engineer. They are very different paths. For things like the Swordmaster, there is a lot more blurring of the lines and not necessarily as discrete a “What’s my identity here?” vs. “What’s my identity there?”
We certainly want to put more unique identities into all the paths for all the careers and make them feel different, feel special. At the same time, we can’t do too much because a lot of people who are accustomed to how it is and happy with how it is will then become upset and you kind of get into the rolling cycle of: Now we’ve made them upset… Now we have to fix that… Which makes other people upset… back and forth and back and forth. So there is kind of a real-world limit to the scope and the sweep of changes we can make to things like Mastery Trees and career layouts, but we are certainly aware of some of the identity issues that a few careers have where it is a little muddy between one or the other.
We want to enhance those and make each one have its own very particular role. Those are kind of risky changes because it involves fundamental changes to the careers, which are obviously the ones most likely to cause concern. But it’s something we are pushing towards as a long term project, certainly.
GG: Softcaps. Are they currently being looked at? I understand that a lot of the stats need the softcap, but some, like Wounds, seem to be ones where it can be the exception to the rule, especially with tanking. And the whole aspect of the more content we go into and the more we develop, that softcap will always be a hindrance in that one specific aspect. Are aspects like that being looked at with the implementation of the softcaps, especially in regard to stat lines, armor, and resistances?
Nate: We are not looking at doing any changes to the stat cap system at the moment. We have seen a lot of the concerns, players saying things like perhaps tanks should have a higher softcap in Wounds than other careers, and things like that, and spread it up a bit. Keep in mind that the goal of the softcap, and our intention behind doing that, was we don’t necessarily want people to go very super crazy tightly focused on one stat and be able to push that stat to astronomical levels. We want people to have to diversify a little bit and certainly be able to emphasize one stat to a higher degree than the others, but have at least some interest in going after the others, too.
So, there are definitely some arguments and consideration to be made there but it’s not something we have on our plate immediately. One thing to keep in mind for things like that though, certainly everybody has the same 1,050 softcap on their Wounds but, at the same time, it’s drastically easier for a tank to get there without as great a sacrifice as is needed for others. You could certainly get a 1,050 Wounds Bright Wizard. I shudder to think what your Intelligence might be at that point…
In game or out… 😉
Nate: So it’s to an extent that it’s a little easier for some careers inherently to hit those stats than it is for others. We’ve seen a lot of these discussions going around and a lot of people have some good ideas — we’ve certainly made note.
GG: I get in trouble all the time because a lot of people like to maximize their power stats and not necessarily put any balance in them, yet I am always more into balancing out things and kind of looking at it from a whackier perspective of “Hey, I want to actually stay alive, even on my DPS characters.” Is there any chance, maybe, to get people to think a little more outside the box? Maybe something where certain combinations of stats, when you’re hitting a minimum level here, here and here, there is more effectiveness that comes out somewhere else? Maybe generated by making sure that you’re balancing your character and not necessarily pigeon-holing yourself.
Like, you know, the Nuclear War build that does outrageous amounts of damage but can’t take any, and yet everybody complains that time-to-kill is too quick. It’s a play-style choice, but is there any way to encourage a healthier play-style choice?
Nate: That is something of the direction we went in for one of the earlier PTS test runs where we shuffled around the secondary effects on stats very specifically to make it more appealing to diversify. To look at it and think “Wow, I really want to put more into this stat even though it is not necessarily straight DPS. It’s going to increase my damage in another roundabout way.” As everybody saw on the PTS run, there was a lot of negative feedback for that. People weren’t very happy with the basic change of “The game played this way and not it plays this way” with the change in how the game works.
Part of that is just the nature of working on an MMO product. Sweeping changes to fundamental game systems are always going to be very, very touchy. If we had it to do all over, certainly we would have made a much, much stronger emphasis on diversifying than focusing, with it being an equal choice. Sort of “Do you want to diversify or do you want to focus?” And diversification, we would love to have it be just as effective as going crazy focused on one stat. Obviously, it did not work out entirely that way. We wish it were otherwise, but to an extent, that is what we have now.
We did have the experiment on a previous PTS run. It is still something that we are kind of keeping in our back pocket as, going forward, when the game is in a different place, we will have a little better feedback, better response, better reaction, a little more leverage to approach the stats from a different angle. It’s definitely something we want to try to tackle again later down the line.
GG: Lots of good info. One last question: Where’s the altar to the Bright Wizard?
Thanks again Nate for allowing me to spend the time with you talking WAR and C&C.
I very much enjoyed hearing about what affects some of Mythic’s design decisions and what we have in store in the future. Again, C&C is a very hot-button topic and I’m sure there’s a lot more we’d all like to know about what is going to happen in regards to it in the coming months. All I can say is, for me personally, it was good to hear that they have some solid, coherent plans/designs on how they want the game to work. I look forward to seeing the details of more of their future changes as they are released on the Herald.