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A number of design thoughts and personal peeves

Discussion in 'Project: Gorgon Discussion Hall' started by Avila, Jun 26, 2013.

  1. Avila

    Avila Visitor

    Apr 23, 2013
    Likes Received:
    A number all small issues none of which deserve their own thread but all of which I suspect warrant discussion

    Power as a mechanic
    Currently I'm not 100% sure what power is supposed to achieve as a mechanic since at any point it only has fairly minimal impact on my actual gameplay decisions or when it does they aren't interesting impacts. Currently the power bar is large enough that for most skills killing two or three enemies in a row regardless of how power efficient you're being in the skill isn't a problem on the other hand running out of power when the fourth enemy comes along means either drink a power potion or die. There are currently a few ways to absolutely trivialise power (battle chem golem, psi-power wave, pineal juice, bag full of power potions) all of which remove any element to budgeting for a longer fight, however in combat power regen is so low if you're not using one of them that running out of power is indistinguishable from running out of health (barring some spectacular absurdities with Beast Metabolism regen which I've suffered from before). The only combat interactive element of it is realising you need to drop down to spamming your basic attack early enough that it will actually get you through an unexpectedly long fight.
    Thoughts on how to make power interesting and combat interactive:
    Make it moderately fast regenerating in combat with a smaller pool so you actually have to be concerned about what abilities you're using when more immanently than 3 mobs down the line (similar to rogue's energy in WoW though possibly not that drastic). In such a case foods would probably want to increase your power pool rather than be significant in combat regen.
    Make most of the basic filler attacks either free or power positive, at that point there's no risk of running out of power for the purposes of being totally unable to fight, the decision is then which of your power costing abilities will then best help you win the fight.
    Restore power through being hit, make it a little more like rage and just accept that the limit of your power is the limit of your ability to cleverly stunlock and kite and thus the point at which you actually have to start getting hit in the face.

    Skill Synergy and Gearing for two skills
    Having seen your post on pet classes which included the assumption that players power comes 50-50 from their two active skills I'm a little concerned that that doesn't in the slightest match up with my experience of playing the game. To a certain degree this may be a consequence of the default keybindings and their interaction with the skill bar system (it's fundamentally awkward to try to use any attacks bound to 7-= as actual main rotational attacks without either clicking them or taking your hand off the movement keys completely) meaning that you most definitively have a primary skill (bound 1-6) and a secondary skill (bound 7-=). This tends to mean that even before you start gearing you want to select one skill for its offensive capabilities and a second for a selection of near passives and panic buttons (psychology, mentalism, battlechemistry are the three that fit that bill). A very notable aspect of this is that as soon as you're taking on content that isn't absolutely pushing you to your limits you probably don't need the panic buttons and the passives either can be survived without or just aren't actually that interesting to say that they're half of your skillset. This problem is further compounded when it comes to gearing (in cases where you have sufficient access to gear that you're actually picking affixes you like rather than ones that are better than nothing) since for any given piece of gear the chances of it having affixes for both of the skills you're using that you actually like and find helpful are vanishingly small given chances are low enough that it has the first skill you want at this point thus for every gear slot you are given a choice between an item that boosts your main skill and one that boosts your occasionally used secondary skill. Occasional synergy items exist but the direct synergy ones now in mentalism seem exceptionally awkward due to being single skill pair specific, the staff ones don't seem to have a version that boosts fire magic which is the best skill to pair it with, unarmed almost anti-synergises as a skill with mentalism so the barrage increasing psychic damage affix isn't that useful, finally leaving psychoanalyse boosting psychic damage which I have actually made use of.
    This one as a design issue I have no idea how to fix other than potentially embrace it and accept that main skill/empty slot won't be more than 20% behind having an actively useful second skill.

    Levelling later skills
    Currently once you have one well geared level 50 skill (for example mentalism as it's the worst culprit, though archery would easily take its place for a lot of skills) the best way to level any subsequent skill if the main thing you're interested in is having it at high level rather than the entire levelling experience of it is to use it once per minute whilst almost exclusively using your high level skill to farm tough enemies (Tor-Uraks or the Placeholder Bosses are my current favorites). This method is faster by quite a long way than trying to level a skill the normal way by fighting level appropriate enemies, it may even be faster than trying to level a pair of skills by fighting level appropriate enemies. The major effect of this is to make levelling content obsolete much more so that I think you intend as from design blog posts I've gotten the impression that the games main content should be levelling later skills for synergy levels once that's implemented properly. My main thought for fixing this makes me think of trying to split xp in some way based on active use but on the other hand that probably screws over levelling support skills such as Psychology or Battle Chemistry.

    Kiting and Grace Range
    Currently most mobs completely can't deal with you walking slowly backwards away from them whilst using ranged attacks, partly this is due to melee mobs moving at roughly the same speed as you, but most of the issue is that both players and enemies suffer from lack of grace range and thus will regularly fail to make attacks against moving targets at the edge of their range as the target moves fractionally further away between attempting to execute the attack and the attack actually going off. This problem can probably be reduced in two ways, firstly adding a bit of extra range to player and enemy attacks in which it will still go off (but the attack can't be started unless the target is within the original range), secondly not causing mobs to stand still in order to make their attacks so as you don't naturally make distance on a melee npc whenever it actually gets an attack off on you.

    +loot chance
    This is an affix I wish didn't exist and probably for the sake of the game shouldn't exist. Admittedly it only exists on two item slots so unlike the degenerate example of it I know best (Diablo 3) you can't gear entirely for magic find however here it still has the same issues it has in Diablo in that for the slots with magic find available as soon as you're comfortable killing things without the stats from the gear you're replacing with magic find you should be swapping your gear over to magic find or you're clearly not getting as much loot as you could be (and why are you still farming if it isn't for loot). The degenerate part of it is that you never actually get to use your better gear is you would be losing magic find and there's always potentially better gear to find. Potentially a decent replacement for this if you still want to have loot related affixes is loot affinity, increase the chance that any loot you find has affixes for the skills you are currently using (not increasing the total amount of loot just reducing the amount of trading you need to do after to get the loot you want).

    Mob Pulling Mechanics
    I get the feeling these are really opaque to most people and so I'll put in a little explanation of how they currently work and note that I'm not sure face pulling should be quite so superior to pulling with a ranged attack given how intuitively people seem to be counting a token ranged attack as a major boon for a skill.
    Mobs all have a given agro radius, which varies with the mob, whenever someone walks into that agro radius that individual mob will start charging towards them ready to kill them. In addition to that whenever a mob is damaged it sends a social agro pulse to all similar nearby enemies (goblins call other goblins, undead call other undead, etc.) this agro pulse is centred around the monsters current location and can in some cases be a larger radius than the ordinary face pulling agro radius making shooting a mob with a ranged attack approximately equivalent the briefly running into melee with it and then teleporting back to where you were standing before. This becomes a major issue with ranged attackers who can't be trivially pulled back and subsequently require line of sight pulling on some element of the surroundings (temporarily blocking line of sight by hiding behind a pillar and waiting for them to come to you)
    In this case I would be tempted to either weaken the social agro pulse so ranged pulling is less sub-optimal or make face pulling trigger the social agro pulse to some similar degree (which would need careful balancing to ensure that you didn't end up with cascades of whole corridors).

    Weapon Limits on Viable skill pairs
    Archery has introduced an interesting mechanic, that of swapping between a main hand an off hand weapon. Sadly that mechanic is currently a bit clunky since it swaps back even for things that don't require your main hand weapon such as armour patching or mentalism however the basis of this mechanic could probably be used in a much more interesting way than it's being used now. The idea of swapping between a main hand weapon and off hand weapon with a short switching animation could work well with any weapon pair, the additional cost being that you aren't wielding a shield in your offhand and have a slightly clunky switching animation compared to those who use skills that synergise better. On the complicated side this would require the ability to chose whether to equip weapons in the main hand or off hand slot which is new technology and correctly identify whether an ability requires swapping weapons or is just unusable at the time however this could give a lot more space to actually interestingly select your skill combination.

    High gardening skill currently does very little since the flowers require high foraging to appreciate anyway and if you plant even half of the flowers you pick whilst levelling foraging you will max out gardening trivially. In addition high level gardeners have no advantage over novice gardeners for the purpose of growing vendor purchased things since both can only have 2 in the ground at a time, a mechanic similar to fletching to limit the total number of non-flowers you can be growing at once could be nice. Also fertiliser is annoying for being made 3 at a time when plants are grown 2 at a time with no way of emptying the bottle full of fertiliser you are potentially left with.

    Skill Summary
    It would be nice if the skills page showed the sum total of bonuses you get from your current level in a particular skill. Eg, level 50 fire magic would say at the top +150 health, +100 power, +5 fire mitigation or some such. Otherwise it's easy to forget what bonuses are coming from where, particularly for passive skills you can't deactivate.

    Huge Regen as a Boss Mechanic
    There are currently 3 bosses that have this as a major part of the fight, Placeholder Boss, Omegaspider, Superspiders. As a mechanic it pretty much removes any aspect of fighting defensively as you simply have no effect whatsoever unless you're outpacing their regeneration this means that to kill them at all you need to accrue silly kamikaze levels of +damage for a particular skill and also as a consequence of taking that much damage their rage attacks get silly. Additionally this makes it really hard to work out just how close to dead they are with the regular issues of health bars having lag in updating and flashing back to previous values for no readily explained reason. Best fix for this one is just to give the monsters more health rather than obscene regen.

    Rage for groups
    Rage as a mechanic works fine if you've got one of the rage interactive skills and are solo, it gets silly by instantly filling if two of you are attacking the same target including bosses. I have no idea how to make rage an interesting mechanic when tied to an enormous sack of hitpoints like a boss that's getting hit by multiple players other than potentially making the rage attacks big things that are in some way interactive like patches you need to move out of rather than things that are certain to just hit whoever's tanking.
    #1 Avila, Jun 26, 2013
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2013
  2. Finkum

    Finkum Visitor

    Apr 15, 2013
    Likes Received:
    I agree with a lot of what Avila mentions, my specific thoughts as follows:

    1) Power
    This suffers from the "mana" problem often discussed in WoW. Either you've got enough and everything is fine or you have nothing and all you can do it sit there and twiddle your thumbs. Combat regen is ridiculously low unless you use the Battlechem Golem/Mentalism Power waves/etc. Personally I prefer the "do something rotational to get more power" approach out of the possible fixes suggested, where "something rotational" should be more interactive than "press Power Wave every 20 seconds."

    2) Skill synergy and Gearing
    Some other reasons why you tend to focus on one skill and have the second merely be support:
    - It's a lot harder to build a set of gear that boosts two specific combat skills than it is to build a set that boosts just one
    - As discussed in 1), you will probably be power starved unless you pick Mentalism/Battle Chemistry, and their power regen options are gear-invariant. Moreover Battle Chemistry is a highly suboptimal primary attack skill as its attacks are all AoEs, Fire Magic AoEs are generally stronger, and you can always AoE in a pinch by using Fungus bombs (admittedly with the cost of keeping a stack of bombs in your inventory), AND you have to give up your main weapon slot (IMO Flasks would fit better in the offhand slot).
    - Most popular combat skills are sufficiently self-contained that you don't really want or need to interleave abilities from a second skill. This is doubly true for melee skills where you'd expect a second ranged skill would be vital, because as Avila explains elsewhere the best way to pull is to face-pull! If you absolutely do need to attack from range (like when vs a rhino) I prefer to swap to a different primary skill/gearset rather than use unboosted ranged abilities from my support skill.

    Some random solutions:
    - Tying in with 1, support skills could have interactive ways of regenerating power (and/or armour/health). This forces you to spend more of your "action economy budget" on it.
    - The regen power of Battle Chem/Mentalism could be (severely) nerfed and then brought back up to par through gear affixes (this change would be a pain in isolation, though).
    - Many weapon-specific or animal-form abilities could have the weapon or form requirement removed such that they become useful support skills. I'm thinking of things like sprint boosts, CCs, rage reducers etc. You still need the weapon or form for your main attacks, just not for the support abilities.
    - Buff CCs so that they last a bit longer, reduce the cooldown on CC skills, make targeting a lot more intuitive/controllable, spread CC abilities around a bit and then give groups of mobs stacking debuffs or support auras or what have you such that it's a lot easier and safer to CC one and kill the others than it is to just AoE or eat the attacks (i.e. spend more of your "action economy budget" using the support ability's CCs).
    - Change vulnerabilities to be "clever" - they are a N second debuff on a mob that will match a damage-type used by one or more of your support skill abilities (tricky to balance as a 300% vuln may eventually be superseded by gear-boosted primary skill abilities).

    3) Levelling later [combat] skills
    Not sure how big of a problem this is: as long as the power/hp/whatever bonuses are only present while the new combat skill is active, then the main incentive players have to level it is presumably because they like the archetype behind it (I get to blow things up with fireballs!) or it has some use as a support skill (in which case pairing it with your regular DPS skill is fine), or because you feel like a change (in which case you won't mind using it as your primary DPS skill). If it is an issue you could make having a support skill active so vital to survival that you have to replace your regular DPS skill with it.

    4) Loot chance affix.
    Yup, just kill it. I don't think replacing it with a loot affinity affix is a good idea either, tbh. If you're very attached to it then I'd be inclined to reserve some sort of utility affix slot that can only be filled by things like [+loot chance, +loot affinity, other meta gear effect] or to add a "trinket" slot and make it such that trinkets are the only sort of item with that kind of affix.

    5) Mob-pulling mechanics.
    It is a bit unintuitive that face-pulling is the safest way to collect mobs, but this doesn't really bother me.

    6) Weapon swapping.
    I like Avila's idea here, although you'd need to address problems 1) and 2) before (min-maxing) players will realistically consider pairing e.g. sword and fire magic.

    7) Gardening.
    ROMG the 2 vegetables limit drives me insane. Particularly given the fertiliser issue. The 12 potatoes quest is an exercise in tedium because you have to plant them in pairs 6 times sequentially. The limit is not present at all for flowers, which makes gardening a lot more engaging - plant 10 or 12 of them and you will be busy collecting water/fertilising most of the time instead of standing around waiting. (Even better, make the time to water and time to fertilise semi-random and only have a 10 - 20 second window in which to water/fertilise before the plant withers, although you'd want more obvious visual effects to denote needs water/needs fertiliser compared to now).

    8) Skill summary
    Would indeed be nice to see.

    9) Boss regen
    I get the impression this was added to incentivise grouping, as it's difficult to do so otherwise unless you make the boss attacks so dangerous that you need a specialised skillset to survive (i.e. require tanks and dps or healers and dps etc.) Not sure I agree that replacing it with more HP solves the problem, as then they can be soloed by careful or consumable-chugging individuals. Not sure what changes, if any, are an improvement.

    10) Rage attacks
    I suggested elsewhere that when a monster reaches full rage it emotes/screen flashes/whatever and then you have a small grace period to de-rage it or otherwise GTFO before it performs the attack. This helps ameliorate the many-players random-rage-attack issue somewhat. In general I think that boss rage attacks are currently under-tuned and it would be better if they were more deadly (but not in such a way that a rage-reducing skill like Sword parry is mandatory).

    11) Fire Magic discovery system
    This is a new one, one of my personal beefs. I really hate how you are increasingly likely to waste your Fire Magic reagents the more abilities you've discovered in a tier. I'd be less fussed if there was a constant X% chance for the discovery to fail, or if saltpetre/sulphur weren't such a pain to find, but currently it drives me batty performing the discovery after finally getting some saltpetre only to have the "no discovery!" alert pop up. (If you want to throttle the discovery rate I think there are much less annoying ways to do it, like cool-downs, increased material costs, whatever).
  3. Citan

    Citan Project: Gorgon Developer

    Oct 23, 2012
    Likes Received:
    Wow, great stuff, thanks! I'll be coming back to refer to this over the coming week. I've been focusing on some of the same issues, and some of the changes went live just now which might address some of them. But there's still a lot to do. I'm about to crash for the night (I'm on vampire time) but a few thoughts:

    Power: is definitely a thorn in my side. It's balanced for epic 3-person fights right now, which means for soloing a single creature, it's pretty much a non-issue. Until it comes time to regenerate power, and then you get impatient and then you die. I actually like the idea of making Power come back when you take damage, and lowering the power-cap... that really helps fit with the game's "everybody wades into the skirmish" idea well. Changing that will cascade into a lot of other changes, but now's the time to do big sweeping revamps. So let me think on that one for a bit.

    The cheap repeatable attacks are a real problem, balance-wise, right now, because they should really do less damage, or else cost more Power, because they mathematically outshine a lot of other abilities. But they're intentionally overpowered to make it easier to survive running out of Power. So changing how you get Power back mid-fight will let me re-balance those abilities a bit.

    In the latest update I've tried to address Power regeneration outside of combat, and I did that mostly by just making food and drink way, way more effective. This works pretty well if you stand still for a bit, but lots of players don't realize that they can't regenerate Power while running. So they run off, expecting to get more Power back as they travel, and they never do. (You don't get Power while running because the cost of running is so low... the power-regeneration would effectively make running free. So instead, the cost of running is VERY low, but you don't get Power back at all while you run.) I still need to figure out a fix for that. Might be as simple as better visual cues.

    Skill Synergy: I was just thinking about how to make the two-skills system work today, and remembered Lolin's suggestion to stack the two bars. So that's in-place now. Would love to have you try it out and see if it helps. The reason I didn't try it earlier is that it kinda looks... terrifying... all those little slots stacked on top of each other, it's just a very intimidating new-user experience. But that's a secondary matter, and I'm sure there's a way to fix that if it helps the problem.

    Pulling & Boss Regen: both of these are the way they are because of grouping. Most dungeons are supposed to be for groups of 2-3 people, and I want groups of players to fight groups of monsters. If players can effectively fight solo monsters without ever getting adds, there's literally no reason to ever group up, except for killing bosses. As I said somewhere else on the forum, I haven't actually gotten to try group-combat very much, but that's the intention anyway. Same with regeneration: it's the only way I could find to make those bosses actually require several players of the appropriate level. Hopefully when other combat issues are fixed (e.g. cheap plentiful stun-locking combinations), that won't be as big an issue. I agree it's kind of a cheaty mechanic.

    Okay I gotta crash, but thanks for the feedback! Let me know what you think of the newest update when you have time.

    EDIT: Oh, one more thing: I'm planning to do another PR push, plus another attempt at a Kickstarter soon. So I'm trying to give a little extra attention to things that affect newbies a lot. Which of these issues would you say needs most help, from a newbie point of view?
    #3 Citan, Jun 27, 2013
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2013
  4. Finkum

    Finkum Visitor

    Apr 15, 2013
    Likes Received:
    Newbie issues
    Things I remember being surprised/irritated at when I first logged in (which may be completely out of date - not sure what's changed in the newbie cave):
    1) The skeleton stun attacks. With no gear and very low Skill ranks those first skeleton fights are relatively risky, and being stunned apparently out of the blue was a pain. Not sure how you can intuitively introduce the idea of rage attacks, especially as you don't get an ability that reduces rage until you level up in Sword.
    2) The length of time it took to level pathology to the point where you could autopsy the dead body near the start. I was unsure whether the newbie cave was a "once-only" tutorial experience that couldn't be returned to if you left, so I didn't want to take the exit portal until I'd tried to do everything possible in the cave. Plus I remember being disappointed by whatever happened when you finally did manage to autopsy the body - it wasn't worth grinding the mobs backwards and forwards 4 times :p
    3) No "grey" vendor items. At first I assumed things like femurs were vendor-only, and thus not worth collecting, although as your inventory feels relatively large as a new player I think I collected them just for the few gold pieces I'd receive once I found someone to sell them to. Later on I realised that they (along with everything else that drops ever) are recipe components.
    4) The no-regen-while-running thing. This isn't a big deal in a relatively mob-dense environment like the cave, although as I said I cleared it backwards and forwards a few times to get autopsy XP and was initially puzzled by the fact my power wasn't refilling in those gaps where I was just running and not fighting. More generally I feel like the running system needs tweaking, tying in with the power situation overall.
    5) The funny-weather room. I don't remember precisely but there was some sort of hint that you were supposed to do something in that room that I never figured out.

    On power acting more like rage
    Can drive unfortunate player behaviour, like standing in fire to get more power - especially so if it works off damage taken pre-mitigation as that way, with a little universal or school-appropriate mitigation you can often get power with no penalty. On the other hand if it's post-mitigation then you are punishing players for using tanky items or abilities. I'm still partial to the adding power-positive rotational abilities approach :)

    Also I'm surprised that you feel the basic spammable attacks are too strong - for both Sword and Spider (the only two combat skills I have at 50 with a cheap spammable attack) the cheap attack is just filler when my other abilities are on cooldown or not appropriate for the situation. I guess if power were more of an issue then their efficiency might make them desirable, but you could always just ensure that the effective damage-per-power of the cooldown-based abilities is higher (or that they have some other benefit that ensures their use, like Parry).

    Skills and skill synergy
    Another reason why players may tend to just use one Skill for their main toolkit is that, if WoW is any indication, having 5 - 7 rotational abilities is what players expect and are comfortable with. There are of course a huge number of additional abilities, but these tend to be situational, on long cooldowns, buffs of some sort etc etc. You will use your rotational abilities every 2 - 20 seconds, but your ancillary ones are more likely to be used maybe once or twice in a 5 minute period.

    As such, I think a good way to get players to use abilities from their 2 schools is to make it so that they can put rotational abilities drawn from either Skill on your first bar and auxiliary ones from either Skill on your second (although how you can code that and make it intuitive for players, especially when swapping Skills, I have no idea). Even then, the other synergy issues Avi and I discussed will probably encourage players to focus on using abilities from one skill.
  5. Luka Melehan

    Luka Melehan Certifiable
    Professional Stratics Veteran Alumni Campaign Patron

    May 12, 2008
    Likes Received:
    I feel for the "grey" item issue. Fortunately, cows are hoarders. So far I have 3 mules and need another one this weekend cause I cant throw out stuff I make when leveling cooking or alchemy. Citan apparently felt I needed intervention. The new ability to see what a recipe's result will do means I can choose what to actively collect. As large as our pack is, the more stuff we collect, the less room we have for LOOT. A negative result may be that this cow will be forced to be a litter bug by picking up everything to generate more item spawns and then dropping what I don't want like I do in the snowing room to get bread and cheese.

    Stacked skill bars: so far I like it. It does look bulky and I am trying to think back to other games and how they handled multiple bars and stacked bars to not look bulky and be useful. I wonder if its a resolution issue.

    Back to the hoarding issue...wish I had a way to sell to players. It would give a reason to folks who maybe want to be a crafter persona.

    Preparing for noobs: What is the game about? It seems to be hard to grasp for those who have not done sandbox games before. I also see them freaking about the cow curse. I know we're not ready to have player guilds or NPC driven associations. But perhaps we should recruit a few noob helpers and attempt to have someone around during the day to talk to the new folks and welcome them etc. Something to think about before you do any ongoing PR is to have someone in game with limited moderator abilities. Think about if you want chat behavior and griefing rules and write up a statement. And if you want moderators, decide what thier purpose is, define what is unacceptable behavior and what, if anything should be done about it.

    I am interested in player community. I don't mean player guilds or clubs, at least not completely. I know that having housing is one way to get that feeling, but I would like to see some way form to get that feeling without physical housing. Something to make a player feel a part of something in a personal manner. Events maybe? I know it has to be about the players. I am going to give this some thought too.
    #5 Luka Melehan, Jun 28, 2013
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2013