Archive for August, 2010

[WAR] Q&A with C&C Developer Nate Levy

Posted: August 30, 2010 in WAR

In the developer world, you have a wide range of problems to solve.  Some are black and white, such as “My client crashes when I hit the X button” and others are a bit more subjective such as “My God, my Marauder sucks a trailer hitch.”  I’m not envious of those who have to tackle the latter issue, as there are so many variables going around, including the Human Factor which can change on a whim.

One of the guys at Bioware Mythic fighting the good fight in such a fuzzy battle is Nate Levy.  I’m sure everyone knows Nate.  He’s done a few Q&As on Vent recently.  Nate was nice enough to sit down an answer a few question I had about general Combat and Career balancing.  It’s tough to get a good answer to specific questions, such as “Hey, why does my Marauder suck so much” or “Hey, that WH killed me.  Why?” so I kept things broad.  Take a read below to see his responses.

Time to Kill (TtK) overall seems a bit too fast. People die a bit too…quickly.  Is something in motion to help draw out the length of fights, or at least keep healers from pulling their hair out?

We agree that TTK can be too fast in some situations, but it’s a very delicate thing to change.  If taken too far in the other direction, you run the risk of fights which drag on for so long that they become tedious.  Obviously that’s an extreme case, but the issue isn’t as simple as merely “turning all the knobs down.”  To an extent, some of the TTK speed was exacerbated by certain overly-effective AoE strategies, and we hope that our most recent changes in patch 1.3.6 will get AoE back to a more manageable level and help work towards addressing TTK in that manner.  We’ve also made some moves in that direction with the introduction of several defensively-oriented Sovereign armor sets:  using these will greatly increase a character’s survivability, but at the cost of some of their damage output – which will also lower the overall amount of damage flying around the battlefield, helping TTK.

There are two things to keep in mind regarding TTK, however.  First, it’s common that many players find it most satisfying to gear, spec, and play for maximum damage output at all costs.  There’s nothing wrong with that at all, but it’s crucial to keep in mind that if a character has intentionally ignored all of their defensive stats, tactics, masteries, etc., then their lifespan will be proportionately lower when under fire.  Second, don’t overlook the basic reality that if eight people happen to all target and focus on a single enemy…that enemy is pretty much going to explode.  =)

How do you decide on a change?  Such as the new Zealot/Runepriest mechanic.  From your numbers, you can see they’re underplayed, but what then?  And how do you evaluate if the proposed change will tip the scales too far in the other direction?

Once we identify an area that needs a change, we begin coming up with as many ideas as we can for possible ways to address it.  One thing that’s often overlooked about working as a designer is that shooting down an idea is often much more critical than coming up with an idea.  Thinking an possible change through to the nth degree, figuring how it would affect the broader game as a whole, predicting possible interactions with other designs, and so on, all have to be considered.  Once the untenable ideas have been eliminated, we discuss the remainder not only amongst the designers but also with the producer, community team, engineers, QA, and others.  From there, we make our decision and move forward to implementation, internal testing, and then PTS for public feedback.

Many classes have a pretty broad spectrum of tactics available.  Some tactics are fantastic and complement the class well.  Some tactics are largely ignored.  How do you go about fixing these tactics so players have a harder time deciding on which to slot?

Our general goal for tactics is that we want players to agonize over their loadouts and have to make tough choices between several desirable options and end up with a loadout that they’re happy with once the choice has been made.  Additionally, we want players to be using different loadouts for different situations, and tactics to be less “set and forget” – hence the multiple loadout sets built into the basic UI.  It’s pretty common knowledge that there are some tactics which are viewed as “must-haves”, and we see from our metrics that players don’t frequently change tactics.  Broadly speaking, our approach to improving tactics is to take one or two of the least-used and consider what improvements can be made to them; in most cases, we’d rather make bring up under-performing tactic options and make them as desirable as the most-used tactics.

[Rancid Note:  I wonder if making Tactic sets swappable in combat would help alleviate the “Set and Forget” mentality around them.  I could see it becoming quite popular to start a fight with an Anti-CC set, and then switching to a damage set.  Would that imbalance things?  Maybe.  It would add depth to combat though, for sure.

You guys have mentioned that you constantly monitor different metrics such as class population and ability usage.  Aside from raw data like that, how do you gauge the overall effectiveness of a class?

“Effectiveness” can be defined in several different ways, but at a high level, career representation is a useful snapshot as we watch migrations from one “FOTM” build to another – if one specific career is so overrepresented that they’re played massively more than average, then it’s a clear indicator that something about that career is probably too effective.  From that point, we investigate several aspects of that career such as the frequency of abilities used, the amount of time that tactics are slotted, how often morales are used, what masteries are being taken, etc., and determine what needs to be done from there.  By the same token, we follow the same process when we see that a career is drastically underrepresented as well.

Our other primary sources of information when it comes to career effectiveness are our QA and Community teams.  I’m constantly sitting down with Andy and our QA lead to discuss the feedback that they’re seeing and gathering, what it means for the game, and which careers they feel are over- or under-effective based on their information.

Beyond all of that, we also naturally have our own impressions from when we play on our regular Live characters, as well as feedback from everyone else in the office playing their own characters.  After all, no amount of metrics or reports can make up for first-hand involvement in playing the game and being part of the community (even if anonymously!).

It’s no secret Mythic wants to move closer to realm-mirrors.  How close do you think we’ll get to exact clones?  What’s keeping us from true mirrors?

In one sense, “what’s keeping them” is that we’ve learned in the past that we need to be cautious and incremental with our changes when possible, and try to avoid large, sweeping career adjustments.  This is a goal that we’d like to work towards over time, to make sure that we’re doing the right thing at each step.  In a more practical sense, though, while we do have a long-term aim of moving closer to career parity, that doesn’t necessarily mean that careers need to be -exactly- identical; minor differences often enhance the personality and “flavor” of a career.  The delicate part is getting to a point where we have enough differentiation for each career to have an enjoyable identity, while still having the broad strokes play out similarly.

What type of development tools do you use for you job?  Do you actually do real coding?

We have engineers that work very closely with the designers, and designers will often code their own tools on the side to help them analyze specific issues, but designers don’t do a great deal of coding day-to-day.  Instead, much of design work is data-driven, using custom/in-house tools and frameworks created by the engineers in cooperation with the designers.  It’s common for an engineer and a designer to be working together in parallel on the same task, with the engineer creating the code necessary to support a feature while the designer works through the design and data, and either one of them having input into the other’s direction.

Special thanks to Nate for taking the time to answer all these.  As you can see, he’s got a lot to say.  Got a follow-up question for some of these answers?  Post it below.  I’ll pick out some of the good ones to send back and see about getting answered.

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[WAR] RvR Pack Q&A Thread Summary

Posted: August 29, 2010 in WAR

You can read all about the Q&A thread here, but there’s quite a bit of “We can’t talk about it yet” or “No comment right now” stuff in there.  I’ve highlighted a few posts below (quoted, actually) that do have some meat.  If you want to read the answers, skip down.  For the summary, check the bullets.  For the posts, scroll down.

  • Better Keep Battles
  • Paid Server Transfers are coming
  • Continuing the Sovereign mentality going forward
  • They’d rather disperse the zerg, than endorse it.
  • Expansion to the current currency system is incoming
  • They will offer a discount if you buy all three packs
  • They’re looking into solutions for people who don’t want to go into T4 (but no “/xp off” command)
  • Siege will be bettar!
  • There will be a RA system revamp
  • No housing is coming… ever.
  • New crafting is coming!

And the actual answers

TwistedComplex wrote…

Will the RvR pack add more dynamics to keep battles, rather than simply breaking down doors? If so can you go into details?

Yes. No.

Biro wrote…

Will you be opening up server transfers to allow those in non-prime-time timezones stuck on underpopulated servers to move off?

We’ve already discussed that we will be offering paid services such as server transfers in the future, along the same timeline as the RvR Pack.

GoldenTiger wrote…

Finally, will we see the trend of “offensive and defensive versions” continue for weapons/armor/sets in these RVR packs? Again, this is another change in newer content that I felt worked very well.

We’re generally pleased with how the designs for the new Sov sets/RvR weapons worked out, so I can see us continuing in this mindset.

Tellaria wrote…

With the redesign of ORVR, do you have any plans on getting players away from mindless mobs of the “Zerg” and having people focus more on organization with coordination and strategy?

Design decisions being made now are with the mindset of dispersing the zerg. How we’re accomplishing this, we’re not quite ready to discuss.

Dekarr wrote…

Any new currencies? I’d hate to start all over for a brand new elite tier of scenario weapons.

As Nate has said in many Dev Q&A’s, we plan on expanding the current currency systems to offer more things for you to use to spend what you earn on. Whether or not we’ll be adding another tier onto the existing currency is something that we’re not prepared to discuss at this time.

Pelos wrote…

Has a basic pricing model for the rvr packs been determined?

Will there be a discount offered for purchasing all 3 packs?

Pricing is still under discussion and has not been set in stone.

The general sentiment is that yes, players purchasing all 3 parts of the RvR Pack will receive a discount.

Walter Red wrote…

Will there ever be a possibility of turning of the gain of experience as a part of new RVR pack? Alot russian players love t2-t3 segment and dont want to leave it.

We’re not too keen on a “XP” off feature as is implemented in DAOC as we feel it stagnates development. That being said, we’re investigating possible alternative solutions for folks that wish to remain in Tiers 2 and 3. We’re not yet ready to discuss these ideas.

Skaaa wrote…

With these packs have you evaluated or ‘looked into’ Siege weapons in general such as damage, or use?

Most certainly. We want for siege to play a much more important role in ORvR than it currently does.

firengrot wrote…

Hello,

You said you were going to sort of revamp the renow points system. Does the new system will still be based on buying caracteristic points like it is now or will we be able to buy more specials skills like resolute defense? if yes are those new skills be based on archetype?

As we’ve previously stated, we’re seeking to remove the restrictive nature of the current RA system and instead move to something that takes inspiration from the DAOC RA system. Yes we are considering more “active abilities” being part of this redesign, however we’re not quite prepared to discuss what those abilities will be. The one thing I can say about the abilities is that we intend for them to be compelling and unique, much like we want for the new armor set bonuses to be.

keeshan_13 wrote…

hello andy,

do you have plans about housing or new crafts in this pack ?

ty

No to housing. I think I can safely state that housing will never be considered for WAR.

As to the other stuff…

Where the Hell have *I* been? 8/27

Posted: August 27, 2010 in Misc

Oh what a week.  Couple with the wife starting school (teaching) and a hellacious project at work, I’m usually passing the hell out before I even get gaming.  What I’ve lacked this week, will be made up for next week with a fancy Q&A with C&C lead Nate Levy.  Are you excited?  You should be.  This Q&A is over 1,200 words (none of which are “No comment”).  That’s a lot of typing.

I’ve taken a little bit of time to update my WAR RvR Pack Info page here: RvR Pack Info.

So yeah, keep an ear open for next week.  It’ll be fun.  And win.

[id] Ultimate Doom – Run My Way

Posted: August 25, 2010 in id

I snagged the QuakeCon Pack a few weekends ago.  A whopping 27 games for $70, who wouldn’t get this?  Holy crap nostalgia.

There’s something missing though, from Doom. The controls didn’t allow you to configure there. I’m a big MMO player and I use the QWES movement, instead of WASD. Call me funky.

If you want to use this schema, open up your mouse.cfg under C:\Program Files\Steam\steamapps\common\ultimate doom\base

Look toward line 9 and 10. Make them read as such:

key_strafeleft 16
key_straferight 18

Also, there’s one thing that kept bugging the hell out of me. Your mouse would move you forward and back! Ew! Easy enough, I managed to grab a copy of something called “novert” which disables your vertical mouse movement. It only disables it for Doom, so things work normally when you exit.

Grab novert here.

Once you have Novert installed, you can edit the ultimatem.conf in the same folder as above. Check out the end lines of the file.  Notice the bold line inserted below.

[autoexec]

mount c .\base
c:
novert
doom.exe -config MOUSE.CFG
exit

Got any more tips for those going back to classic Doom?  Post em below!

[WAR] Getting off the Negative Bandwagon

Posted: August 24, 2010 in WAR

I purposefully stayed far, far away from the whole Mythic slow-churn info release. There’s a lot of rage going around the community. Part of it may be just the flamers and haters doing what they do best: spread dissent and negativity. That’s what they do, and it shouldn’t be news to anyone that they’re still around. They’ll be here til the game shuts the doors and likely beyond.

There’s another group, though, that is becoming quite vocal.  They’re the lovers.  They’re the people that still play. The people with five alts who are level 40.  They’re the people who come to the PTS events, post on the feedback forums, and are part of the bigger community.  They’re the bloggers, too.

Why are these people so hurt?  Someone set a level of expectation.  There was this preconceived notion that during GamesCom, we’d learn everything.  We’d hear all about this expansion, all the new classes, races, tradeskills, everything.  We’d be in the know, just like every other game out there.  There would be a huge trailer, concept art and booth babes.

Things didn’t quite pan out that way, did they?  The short of it is, expectations might have been built a little too much.  Whether it was Mythic that contributed to it, or the player-base and blogger community… does it matter?  Not as much as you think it does.  In the end, regardless of buildup, we did get some insight into what’s coming down the road, along with a pretty good timeline of when we can expect this content.

We all need to step back a bit, myself included.  Should we be standing outside Mythic HQ with a pitchfork and a torch, or should be sitting back, waiting for more details to surface?  I’m moving from the former camp into the latter camp.  At this point, we have a hazy, ambiguous haze of a future ahead.  Inside that haze, there’s just a little bit of light.  That light will eventually become more clear as time goes on because frankly, it can’t get dimmer?  Nobody realistically thinks that Mythic is going to surface on Christmas Day and say “Hey, here’s stuff. Buy it!”  That’s just silly.  Of course they’ll be bringing more information.  There’s how many producer’s letters between now and then?  While previously a bit light on the content section, they’re perfect staging grounds for the dissemination of details.

It’s easy to jump at Mythic and complain that they’ve not done things the way other companies do.  It’s easy to hate because we can’t see everything all at once.  It’s easy to get angry at what we don’t know, because we’re an information-saturated society.  If we can’t Google something, it doesn’t exist.  Well, we do know the RvR Pack does exist, we just don’t know more about it.  That’s fine.  I’m confident that situation will change.

With all that said, I’m becoming more hopeful for the future of WAR.  I think the game has been headed in the right direction as of late.  The past couple patches have been good news.  Starting with the City and coming around to the Against All Odds mechanic, the population numbers appear to be growing.  They may be holding the same, sure, but the perception is driving reality here, just as it had in previous times.

Here’s to waiting patiently, tongue firmly stuck between the teeth.

Last week I did a whole “Where the Hell have You Been” and babbled on a bit about everything. This week, we’ll spice it up. I’ll sum up each entry with only five words. Since this week was all about GamesCom, I figured that’s as good a place to start as any. Here we go:

Crysis 2 Trailer Revealed: Shiny Rooftop kills my FPS.

Diablo 3 Artisans Revealed: I want one at home!

Mass Effect 2 Comes to PS3: Is the Wii next, Reggie?

Torchlight 2 Trailer Revealed:  Must…finish…first one…first….

XBox Live on Windows 7 Phone: Mobile BSOD comes shortly after.

Dragon Age Origins 2 Trailer: Surgery won’t fix that, bro.

Gran Turismo 5 Demo:  Still better than my Kia.

Bioshock 2 Trailer: Big Daddy still kicks ass.

Portal 2 Gets a Street Date: Cake is still a lie.

Guitar Hero blah blah blah:  Five good songs; rest suck.

Michael Jackson: The Experience:  Dangling baby is not included.

EA Pressconferences: “Title Win” within five words.

WAR RvR Pack: Someone left out the content.

There you have it folks.  That’s the majority of what went on.  Of course there was some WAR drama.  There’s always WAR drama.  Maybe we just care that much.  Or, maybe we’re trollish assholes looking to find bad news.  Either or!

[WAR] Relax Your Anus

Posted: August 19, 2010 in WAR

Joking aside, people need to relax.  There’s more coming down the pipe.  They’ve said as much, multiple times in fact.  Adding to yesterday’s news, Andy put up a forthright post on the forums.  I know not everyone checks these forums, nor do they stalk Andy when they do.  Here’s some juicier tidbits.

I’m confidant that every talking point we currently have planned to discuss (both at GamesCom and Games Day) will be reported by those in attendance at Baltimore.

There will be more info coming.  They are not limiting this to just 20 RRs and some Skaven.

As Carrie has stated, Free to Play is not something currently in consideration. Something that wasn’t mentioned in the article was further explanation on what we mean by the statement “customizing your game experience” (paraphrasing): We currently plan on offering the RvR Pack with multiple purchase options which we’re calling Power, Progression and Personality. I’m not ready to go into details on what exactly that means (yes, evil at work, however I just can’t right now) but the focus is to allow you to purchase what you want and build your own experience with the new content.

They’re going to offer this as a paid Pack.  That’s a good thing if you ask me. People will buy it.  If it was free, I’d have some worries.  People put more stock into paid products, and they tend to deliver more in the end.

There are features that we’re simply not ready to discuss yet, however we made a commitment to the Community to have news about the future of WAR before summer’s end. Over time, the picture of the RvR Pack will become much clearer as we will continue to involve the players in the development process of WAR.

Yes, they still care.  They want to make the game better, obviously.  Part of this statement miffs me a little bit, though.  I understand you may not be ready to announce the whole thing.  That’s fine.  Putting out the blurbs you did yesterday though really polarized the community into two camps.  The ones that were pissed that you didn’t mention anything meaty, and the ones that were pissed you just released a statement saying you had more info to release.  If this was a move to solely garner the backing of the EU community, I don’t know that it helps.  When you tell the world you have a big announcement to make, and that big announcement turns out to be “we have more info coming!” people generally get irked.

At this point in time, you have a general idea of what’s going in the pack.  You know if there’s going to be an expansion, you know if there’s going to be a new race or not.  You obviously know if there’s going to be a third realm (please no!).

Why not spill it at the first chance you have?  Maybe that’s why I’m not in marketing.

You can read all of Andy’s post here.