Closed Beta Two Preview Series: Part Two

The second Closed Beta begins in just a few short days! The whole team is working like crazy to get everything ready for you all to enjoy. In the mean time, let's take a look at a few of the new features for the game we've been working on.

Combat Balance

One of the things we've been meaning to do for quite a while now is go back in and balance the combat in the game. Basically what's in now was just a first quick stab at how the balance might work, and it was done before we even knew what abilities there were going to be, what enemies would be like, etc.

The largest change that you're going to notice right off the bat is that the power increase between levels has now been re-done. Previously, a Level 2 monster was twice as powerful than a Level 1; while on the other hand, a Level 16 monster was only about 25% more powerful than a Level 12. What this meant, practically speaking, was that there was a big difficulty curve early on in the game, but people who were Level 8 could easily kill Level 14 monsters in a group. So it was a bit of a joke that the higher you got in the game, the easier it became. Most players haven't progressed past Level 8 anyway at this point, so they were experiencing a closer feel to what we wanted the game to be, but those of you who were able to quickly progress to the current level cap probably thought things were way too easy.

Now, each level is 25% more powerful than the previous level. That means that the leveling curve earlier on in the beginning of the game should be a little gentler, while at the same time when you are Level 8 if you try and take on a Level 14 monster you are in for certain doom, even with a group. This is much closer to how we wanted the game progression to function.

In addition to that, we've made tweaks across a variety of classes. For example, Warriors now have more hitpoints available in their shield, which should result in them being much tankier in most fights as long as they stay out of AoE attacks correctly. Musketeers now do a little less healing overall. We'll cover all of the specifics of these changes in the Patch Notes when we get closer to the test itself.

We've also re-worked some of the group pulls in the game, particularly in dungeons. Now you'll find that there are pulls with more elites in them that must be tanked properly in order to succeed, for example. In general all of the changes we are making are designed to try and bring out the roles that we have designed each class around, so that you should feel like you have a definite job to do during each fight that is important.

Desert Dungeon

We've also been hard at work on our new dungeon located underneath the Obnobi Desert. Enter the long-forgotten workshop of a mad runemage who built a lair to escape the grasp of the Order after the fall of Laegonelle. What experiments still lie in wait in his workshop, and what creatures have moved in, attracted by the power still glowing from his creations?

This dungeon features two boss fights as well as some challenging group content that follows our new design philosophy around multiple-elite groups. It should take around 20-30 minutes to complete for a well-geared group. We won't say much more because we don't want to spoil the surprise, but we're very excited to see you all get in and take on this challenge!

New Itemization

We've also been working hard on getting the remainder of the itemization into the game. You'll now be able to find new weapons for each class, rings, and capes to equip to your player to make them even more powerful.

In addition to that, we are making a major change to the way that loot functions in the game. Previously we had started with a loot system that was very reminscent of early-MMOs, where there were only a few pre-determined pieces of loot available for each class that only dropped in certain places in the world. The problem with this system is that it necessitates having a very low drop rate, because once you get a piece of gear, that's it -- there's no incentive to re-run that content, and you've achieved your max potential in that "slot."

Instead, we are now changing to a system which features a more progressive (rather than "all or nothing") loot system. Here's how it's going to work.

  • First off, the drop rate in general for pieces of gear (armor and weapons) will now be much higher, and no longer restricted in most cases to specific places in the world. That means you are just as likely to get a new piece of shoulder armor from an elite wandering the desert as you are from an elite in a dungeon.
  • The level of the item that drops will be determined by the monster that you killed to get it. So grinding low-level monsters might be okay XP, but you'll find the drops you're getting are not advancing your character's might.
  • The rarity of the item will be determined by the difficulty of the monster. For example, Elite monsters have a small chance to drop Epic-level loot, but will mostly drop Rares. Bosses in dungeons will have a much higher chance to drop Epic loot. You can only get Legendary-level loot off of Bosses that are Level 20+. Etc.
  • When an item drops, based on its rarity level, it will be assigned stats. The primary stats of an item (its Attack or Armor) will always be the same for that level. Secondary stats (including the newly-added +Int and +Str) will be randomly rolled within a range appropriate for that level.
  • So for example there is no difference in the Attack level of a 20 Rare Sword or a 20 Epic Sword. However, the Epic sword will have additional stats, including a powerful affix. Examples of affixes might be getting a guaranteed crit when attacking a full-health monster, or increasing your attacks against slowed enemies. Affixes are meant to be powerful enough that you might adjust your entire playstyle to take advantage of them.

The general goal of this change is to make it easier for us to achieve our oft-stated "90/10" approach. Since the Armor and Attack of items is pre-determined based on their level, and these are the most "powerful" parts of the item overall, we can balance game content assuming that all players will get gear that is appropriate for their level, since even Uncommon and Rare gear (which will drop quite frequently) will suffice. However, those who want to gain that extra 10% of power can go after Epic and Legendary gear, which features additional stats and affixes which can increase your power level beyond the base if taken advantage of correctly.

This also means that you'll be getting gear much more frequently which you may already have a slightly better or worse version of. When you get gear you don't need, you can break that gear down into shards, which will be a primary ingredient for the Runesmithing profession (and therefore can be sold to NPC vendors or other players). More on that in a future post.

In addition to this "globally random" gear, there will be some select items that can only be found on certain bosses, especially capes. Capes don't have stats, but rather are a way for you to show off your progress in the game to other players. For example, you might get a cape for completing a quest, or defeating a world boss. Certain crafting materials will also continue to appear only in certain locations of the world, or drops from certain bosses. So there will still be an incentive to go after specific targets, but at the same time your gear for your combat prowess should advance regardless of what you'redoing in the game world to a certain degree.

Finally, there is a "tier" system at play as well. For example, certain gear (differentiated by name and look as well as combat power) will drop for Level 1 - 15. Other gear will drop from 15-20. Still other gear will drop from 20 when Epic rarity. And then when we get into end-game progression, you'll be able to acquire even more powerful gear once you start doing harder versions of dungeons and charging your affinity stone. We'll get into that in a future blog post. But suffice it to say, you won't just be grinding the same group of elite monsters over and over again if you want to advance your character beyond the gear you get right after finishing the game's story.

Overall State of Game Development

Finally, I wanted to close off this post by looking at the overall development of the game and where we're at in terms of our internal timetable. There are a few things that we were hoping (with our overly-ambitious schedule) to get into this test that unfortunately still aren't done, including the Runesmithing prototype. We also still haven't had a chance to add in some of the new combat mechanics for classes (such as additional Runemage spells, a threat meter for the Warrior, and a few others). That means we are a little behind where I'd like to be right now.

The good news is that on other fronts we're a little ahead. We have all the quest dialogue written for the Main Story, and we've begun working on side quests. We have bosses and elites modeled for most of the content that will be in the game when we enter Early Access. Overall I think we're still pretty much on-target for our Q4 Early Access date, but we should have a good idea of where we stand as we approach the following test after this one.

See you all in-game on Friday!

Riley Dutton

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