OrbusVR Reborn Spotlight: Critter Capture and Monster AI

With the Reborn Beta test just a few short days away, we've got some fun new things to share with you that we're working on!

Missions and the Overworld

Before we dive into showing off a few new specific activities, I wanted to take a moment to talk a little about how the overworld experience will be changing for the better in Reborn compared to the current game. The overworld is what we call all of the large outdoor areas that are the "core" part of the game and are not instanced.

Currently, the way to level up your character in OrbusVR is basically by doing the long series of quests which comprise the Main Story Quest, along with grinding monster kills in the overworld. Although we really enjoyed putting together the story components and telling our tale in the original game, the structure of having one long MSQ that had to be completed step-by-step led to all kinds of issues that we didn't intend. For example, you couldn't level up via grinding to Level 10 and then decide to just jump into the story. Likewise, if you were an existing Level 10 player and made a new friend who was Level 2, you really didn't have much you could do together in the overworld, both because you would be on different parts of the MSQ, and because the monsters you could fight were either impossible for the low-level player to kill, or worth no XP for the higher level player.

In Reborn, we're fixing these issues with a number of new exciting features. First off, we've got a series of core activities that are all available to do as part of the game, and many of which take place in the overworld, such as Dragon Pet Racing, Critter Capture, Monster Hunting, Salvaging, Dungeons, and Public Events. So rather than just having one MSQ to do as basically your only option for content and leveling up, now you have a range of activities that should provide for a variety of play styles. Some of these activities are more solo oriented, some are group oriented; some are more focused around combat and fighting monsters, while others are more about exploring the world or doing non-combat activities. We really want to provide something that everyone playing the game will enjoy. And thanks to our new dynamic scaling system, a Level 1 and a Level 10 player can do any of these activities together in the game, and both receive appropriate rewards and challenge while doing them.

Each activity has a corresponding NPC in the game which offers weekly missions for the activity. So for example, you can talk to Sicilus each week and receive a couple of missions to go and race your pet dragon on certain courses. For these missions, there are Bronze, Silver, and Gold levels of completion. You can work on the mission throughout the week, first accomplishing the Bronze level of completion, and then attempting to go for Silver and Gold. Once the week is over, or once you feel like you have accomplished all that you can on that mission, you can turn it back in and receive a reward (including XP) for your efforts.

In addition to these weekly missions, you 'll also receive a major XP bonus the first time you do a given task in an activity. So for example, just by completing each Public Event for the first time, you'll get a big XP boost. These XP rewards, paired with your weekly mission XP, are what will comprise the majority of your XP as you level up to max level. Once you are max level, you can continue doing the weekly missions to get rewards that are useful even for veteran players, including potions, ingredients, dyes, and even gear.

And we're not leaving the story behind with this new approach. Instead of one long chain quest, various NPCs throughout the world (including the mission NPCs) will have quests that you can do which reveal some of the lore behind what is going on in the world, and often end with fun rewards such as transmog styles, capes, or pets.

All of these things together should provide a totally new way of playing the game that allows you to choose from a much larger variety of fun things to do that suits your own playstyle, while allowing veterans and new players alike to enjoy the game together, and provide a source of interesting ongoing challenges even at max level. It also allows us to easily add additional missions to each activity type after the original launch of the game, so that we can continue to offer new content for veteran players.

Critter Capture

Critter Capture is one of the new overworld activities that will be making its debut in Reborn. It's sort of a blend of Duck Hunt and Pokemon -- in VR!

Throughout the world, you will now find evidence of small creatures, such as their scat, tracks, or preferred food. When you spot these tell-tale signs, use your new Net Gun to blow a loud blast of your horn and flush out any of these creatures that might be hiding nearby. Once you do, the race is on to capture them by firing nets to bag the critters.

These critters are wanted for research, and as such you are given a list of them as well as a number of each that must be captured and studied before being released back into the wild. At launch, the plan is for this to function as a sort of trophy hunting/collectibles game, where your goal is to capture the rarest type of each creature, unlocking a cool reward.

You're also able to hunt with others, as blowing your horn will flush out creatures not only for you, but your friends as well. Each person sees their own creatures though, so there's no reason to fear competition or not to bring others along with you on your hunts. The challenging part will be tracking down the correct creatures and noticing their signs throughout the world, and it always helps to have an extra pair of eyes along!

Monster AI Improvements

Less of a specific activity and more of a general game improvement, we've spent a lot of time re-working how the monster AI and combat in general works in the game. One major area of improvement is the monster pathfinding, which is now much faster to compute, allowing us to have monsters which keep up much better with frequently-moving players. For example, your Dragon Pet will now actually follow along pretty closely beside you, even if you're running very quickly over a long distance.

Blocking and Casting Interrupts

Some monsters will now block attacks, going into a defensive posture where they take significantly less damage and slowly regenerate their own health. Others will now cast spells such as heals which have a visible casting bar you can see along with a casting animation. For both of these mechanics, it's up to the player to interrupt them by breaking the block or stopping the spell cast by using an ability which stuns the monster. Runemages can use their Pushback spells, Warriors can use their Shield Slam, and Musketeers can use their Gravity Orb. The Ranger Charged Shot also now interrupts these attacks, as well as the Ranger trap, and the new Bard class's Instrument of Justice has a crescendo bolt which will do the same. In group content it will now be crucial to have one or two players who are very focused on interrupt duty if you want to have a chance to defeat your enemies.

Note that all monster charge-up attacks now show a casting bar along with the name of the ability, but only some of these are interruptible -- the ones that aren't are indicated as such via a large shield icon next to the cast bar showing that it is a protected cast.

Ranged Enemies

Another major change to the game is that there will now be significantly more enemies which are ranged as opposed to the nearly-exclusively melee enemies of the original game. These enemies will prefer to stay far away from you, and if you get close to them they will sometimes run away to add distance. Some also have the ability to dodge incoming projectiles, such as Runemage missiles. Finally, all ranged attacks that come from enemies to the player are now done via the same rules that govern player missiles -- meaning they can be dodged. Of course they sometimes don't move in a straight line which can be downright challenging to avoid...

Visible Effects and Red Area Attacks

Another change that we are making is that effects applied to you -- such as when you are poisoned -- are now always accompanied by a visual effect which should strongly indicate to you what is happening (as opposed to a status effect icon just showing up on your bar).

We're also completely discontinuing the use of the red area attacks (such as the boxes and spheres) that we used in the old game. Now, enemy attacks will always take the form of a projectile, ground explosion, explosion around the enemy itself, or some other highly visual indicator (and typically, a cast bar showing it charging up) so you can see exactly what is happening and what needs to be done to avoid it.

All of these changes together should lead to a much more dynamic and active combat experience. Even when fighting enemies one on one, you'll now have to be on your toes. The player also has much more agency now in the form of dodging projectiles and interrupting attacks -- so combat is less about just firing at each other until one of you dies faster, but rather relies on your own skill and how well you play the mechanics to succeed.

Of course, not every enemy in the game will do all of these things. Each race of enemy will have various types of monsters that you encounter with different behaviors. But when we mix and match them together into groups, that's when the real challenge begins! And that's the type of challenge you'll be facing when doing group content such as dungeons, public events, or named monster hunts.

That's all the new stuff we have to share with you for today. Look for a blog post tomorrow with the download launcher for the Beta as well as a brief "getting started guide" with some tips and tricks on what you can do during the Beta and what we're wanting feedback on. Until then!

Riley Dutton

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