Broken Spirit: Templar Changes in TESO

There’s been plenty of discussion in the TESO community discussing recent changes made to Restoring Spirit, a core Templar class mechanic for magicka sustainability. As a veteran rank Templar player in the PTS closed beta test, I wanted to try to shed some light on the issue by sharing my experience with the class and the drastic change it has underwent following the nerf. I made my way to Reddit and shared the following:

It’s hard to explain to people who don’t have experience in 50+ content, but I’ll give it a go anyway. The Templar is by far the most magicka dependent class, due primarily to it being balanced around its ability to constantly heal itself. Where the Dragonknight, Sorcerer, and Nightblade all have tools that give them tankiness, AoE CC, or long-duration buffs that aren’t magicka intensive to help them survive. The Templar is pretty much forced to heal constantly to stay alive, and this has lead to them having magicka consumption miles beyond that of the other classes.

Restoring Spirit was the only source of magicka management for the class (for those that don’t know, it was changed from restoring 4% of maximum magicka on cast to a 4% reduction to all ability costs – effectively a 90-95% nerf to its power), and without it, the most magicka intensive class in the game is the only one left without any way to regenerate magicka.

As it stands, it is near impossible to even do solo quests on a Templar in 50+ content. I have died to a pack of three mobs even after using Nova on them (though this was a particularly hard pull with some user error involved).

So the logical question at this point is was the passive OP to begin with? I don’t think it was, but I’m also a heavy armor Templar (though I have pushed magicka regen beyond overcharge after the most recent patch to no avail). Given that Restoring Spirit was a scaling % based on maximum magicka, it seems logical that at some point, it would become overpowered, and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that that point had been reached by full light armor Breton/Altmer VR10 Templars stacking magicka well beyond the overcharge point.

The change to fix this would have been simple though – to make it a flat amount of magicka restored that scaled with level. In this way, magicka gained through Restoring Spirit would have always been exactly what the developers wanted it to be, and not subject to exploit by players. This knee-jerk and poorly thought out balance change has completely ruined the class.

You may think this is hyperbole, but well, it isn’t (I have provided a few screenshots of feedback from the PTS forums that the OP has edited into this thread on Tamriel Foundry. It’s important to keep in mind that in 50+/++ content, combat is much harder than it is in the leveling experience, especially when compared to what people have experienced in the weekend betas. Personally, I love this and I think that it’s great, but this is the reason that Templars are having to spam heals to begin with.

One final note is that some players have taken issue with the fact that Templars could use Restoring Spirit to recharge magicka by using stamina abilities. I would like to point out that this is something Sorcerers can already do with Dark Exchange, and that this was basically the only reason a Templar ever had to equip a stamina weapon, due to the lack of any abilities like Surge/Haste/Molten Weapons.

The strangest part is that no one in the PTS has ever thought this needed to be nerfed in the first place. I’ve never heard anyone say that Templars were overpowered, and the class has always been greatly overshadowed by the godlike Dragonknights and more than competent Sorcerers.

Many Templar players, particularly those not using light armor builds, have declared that the sky is falling and the class is ruined. While hyperbolic, it’s also not completely off the mark, either. Balance changes are a regular part of every MMO, especially during the closed beta; while the changes made are drastic and horrible, I find it hard to believe that we won’t see them addressed in some form before the game goes live. Don’t panic. If you want to play a Templar, I’m sure the class will soon be returned to an enjoyable and pleasurable balanced state.


Social Features and the Future of Landmark

Having finally gotten some experience with Landmark, I have to say I’m quite impressed with how much fun I’ve been having while playing it. I’m not even particularly interested in building games; in fact, this is my first foray into one. I’m one of the many MMO players who ventured into Landmark looking for a taste of Everquest: Next, only to be unwittingly tricked into enjoying myself along the way. It’s not that surprising in a way. Landmark isn’t just a building game, after all; it’s an MMO as well. However, it does have a long way to go on that front.

It’s no surprise that the MMO features in Landmark are currently lacking, and this is by no means meant to be taken as a criticism; it would make no sense for them to have developed those features first without the game’s core building mechanics in place. That said, the building aspects of the game are starting to look pretty good, so at this point, I’d like to take a look at what the future may hold for Landmark‘s guild and social features – these are the parts that will really bring it into its own as an MMO, and take it to a level beyond that of an overcrowded building game.

The above is the opening of an article I just published at EQNexus. Continue on if it interests you! As usual, writing I do on other sites is cataloged on the Outside Writings page if you ever need to find it again.


Crafting with Variable Stat Materials

 

After the widespread popularity of my Crowfall overview, I thought the natural thing to do would be to follow-up with something niche and wonkish that only like, three people will care about – so let’s get to it!

As you are all likely already aware, back in 2003, Star Wars Galaxies set the bar for what an MMO crafting system could do, and that bar hasn’t really been raised since then. Today’s topic is just one of the many crafting mechanics that made the game’s system great that I’d like to see reborn in Crowfall – variable stat material use.

To really explain why this system worked so well, I’ll need to provide a little background on a few of the relevant facets of Star Wars Galaxies‘ crafting system. Here’s a quick TL;DR on the the important details:

Basically every item in the game was crafted, would eventually need to be repaired, and, after several repairs, replaced (decay in SWG is a whole beast on its own – here’s a quick run down if you’re curious).
Much like Crowfall‘s one character per campaign rule, you were limited to one character per server – crafters were doing it as their full-time profession, not as a side-profession on an alt.
Crafters could mark crafted items with their name, and would sell items using searchable NPC vendors placed in the game’s extensive open-world player housing.
Crafting materials were found by exploring with a surveying tool looking for procedurally generated resource spawns. The locations and concentrations of those resources changed with time, so you would have to look for new spots once your old one ran dry.
Item crafting included very flexible recipes, as each required only a certain resource type for each required material. Several individual resources would meet this type requirement and each of these would provide different pros and cons for the stats on the final item (variations in damage, range, attack speed, decay rate, etc…).
In addition to the above, Star Wars Galaxies also included the topical system – variable stat materials:

Raw materials had stats – so, for a Crowfall example, iron ore that you mine might have statistical ratings for its toughness, malleability, maybe a magical property or two – I’m not sure (full disclosure – I am not a blacksmith IRL). This is the underlying reason for the varying effect of different materials on the final item’s stats.
Those stats could differ between materials of the same type. In other words, not every iron ore was the same.
All resources harvested from the same spawn would have the same stats (disclaimer – I could actually be wrong on this, but as differing stats prevented stacking, this would have been wildly inconvenient).
Resource stacks of differing stats could be blended at a crafting station to average out the resource’s stats, making it usable for crafting if you didn’t have enough of a matching stack to meet the recipe’s requirements.

As you can see, each specific resource type has quite the range of variation. On top of that, the recipes were often not very specific. Some recipes would call for siliclastic ore, but others would only require sedimentary ore, which included siliclastic and carbonate ores. Other, broader recipes might even only require low grade ore, which included sedimentary, carbonate, and igneous ores, all with their own sub-categories of ores. If you haven’t gotten it yet – Star Wars Galaxies had an extremely deep crafting system.

Perfectly rolled resources were incredibly rare and equally valuable, creating a system where it wasn’t just about finding the right type of material, but which specific material of that type was right for the item you wanted. There were a lot of options when you wanted something crafted, and it rarely boiled down to one clear choice.

There were a few great benefits to all of this. Primarily, because of the many combinations of materials going into creating a finished piece of gear, the odds of two crafters creating the exact same item was very low, creating a market environment where every item being sold was just a little bit different. In a system where every item is unique, not only is it possible for a crafter to really make a name for themselves, but it’s almost necessary to keep track of them so you can go back when you need another – and with the decay system, you would need another.

On top of this, gathering and supply chain procurement became a game all on its own, as all of the depth added to item creation affected them as well. If they couldn’t gain access to those nodes themselves, crafters looking to create items with specific stats would want to seek out other players with harvesters on the right resource nodes to negotiate an agreement for those materials.

Why we might not get it

I’m no programming expert (or even a programming novice, for that matter), but if I’ve ever heard of anything that I think would create a lot of work in database design and administration, a system wherein every resource and every item is basically unique takes the cake. While this likely wouldn’t be much of a strain on server load (due to it, by my wild guess, not having too much of an effect on the number of database calls that would need to be performed, as it wouldn’t have to be referenced regularly in combat), it does have the potential to be a lot of work to both implement and keep running.

That said, if Star Wars Galaxies could pull it off in 2003, I have a hard time believing that Crowfall can’t pull it off a decade and a half later. Plus, procedural generation of resource spawns is a good and natural fit for Crowfall‘s already procedurally generated campaign worlds. Here’s hoping!

Update:

Reddit user /u/Ceridith made an excellent post on /r/MMORPG detailing one of the potential downsides of a variable stat material based crafting system that I neglected to address. The post is worth reading in its entirety, but here’s a quick excerpt:

Variable stat crafting means that the crafting system is much more complex. Not only in the actual design, but in the amount of effort players need to put into crafting to make worthwhile items.

Then of course there’s the balancing aspect of it all. How much effort should be expected of players to invest into making decent items? Once they can make those items, how powerful are they against the rest of the game?

If you have a steep enough difficulty curve with a payoff in line with that, you can get into severe power scaling issues. Which, as cool as SWG’s crafting system was, it was incredibly broken in this respect. Composite armor sets with 90%+ damage reduction existed in SWG. Which while yes, the best armor sets were ridiculously expensive and rare, they were also incredibly unbalancing in both PvE and PvP. And then of course let’s not forget doctor buffs, which the top tier buffs could more than quadruple player’s stat pools and regeneration rates.

As gear power rises in an MMORPG, increased potential for extreme customization can greatly exacerbate the balance disparity between varying gear setups. This is something that the balance team would have to spend time working to address, and is another way in which the implementation of such a system would lead to increased development costs. Is it still worth it? In the right game, I believe so.

With regard to Crowfall specifically, the team has marketed the game as having a flatter gear curve than what players are used to in most games. Ideally, this would be a significant mitigating factor that would help to stave off any balance issues that a variable stat material crafting system could introduce. Thanks again to /u/Ceridith for contributing to the discussion.

Check out Crafting with Variable Stat Materials, Part II: Community Roundup Edition for more discussion on how a variable stat crafting material system could be implemented within Crowfall.

 


Rant: Crowfalling with Style

It will likely surprise none of you to learn that I am a well known hater of fun. Wherever cat videos, bouncy castles, or Korean boob physics are enjoyed, I am there – and I am not amused. Today, I add really big jumps to the list of fun things I hate.

Rant warning: the following post features rambling and a lot of hyperbole that is intended to be humorous. Please don’t take it too seriously, even though I’m not funny – like I said, I hate fun, and it’s right there in the word.

A Time and a Place

Okay, it’s not that I hate really big jumps – it’s more that there’s a time and place where they makes sense. Take Wildstar, for example. It’s a bright, flamboyant, and cartoony game with a heavy emphasis on platforming elements that makes massive jumps – and even double jumping – a fantastic addition to the game’s world. Now take Crowfall, which is said to be emulating Wildstar‘s movement system. Ugh.

Obligatory Alpha Disclaimer

I’ll admit, the footage above is extremely early pre-alpha material, but still – we’re seeing such accomplished jumping here that Neil Armstrong would be jealous if he saw it on the moon. Hell, it would probably make the space shuttle a little insecure about its launching capabilities, too. Will this be tuned before the game’s release? Almost certainly, but it’ll be way more fun to whine about it first.

Setting and Tone

Marketing itself as being inspired by Game of Thrones, Crowfall‘s dying worlds feature a dark and gritty palette perfectly suited to both the tone of Westeros and my strict anti-fun platform. Although art and animations are clearly in an early state – and are admittedly somewhat cartoony -, what I can see of the game’s visual direction looks great to me – or at least it did, right up until the heavily armored knight started jumping around like he was Batman gliding on a parachute cape. Granted, that would be awesome if it were supported by the setting at all – but it’s not!

Double Jump and Combat Concerns

Worse yet is the confirmed fact that Crowfall will also include double jumping, a feature so ludicrously over the top it’s basically the will.i.am of movement. Beyond the playability concerns that arise from having to see your monitor through eyes bleeding at the altar of artistic taste, double-jumping itself introduces serious concerns over the effectiveness of body-blocking in a game said to include collision detection for tactical purposes. Given that normal jumping already seems to enable characters to leap tall buildings in a single bound, it’s hard to imagine where double jumps could take us, but I’m optimistic that we’ll at least be able to create a great machinima remake of Space Jam.

Archetype or Discipline Based Movement Skills

Which leads us to an obvious solution. If double-jumping is going to be in the game, given that it will have a noticeable impact on combat gameplay, it should probably be limited to archetypes where it makes sense, perhaps in the form of a combat acrobatics discipline. If a Guinecean Duelist or otherwise acrobatically inclined archetype can double jump, that’s completely acceptable – especially if it requires specialization to unlock. If a Minotaur Myrmidon does it, which, granted, would be hilarious, it’s not something I’m going enjoy seeing after the second or third time. This type of combat movement exclusivity should probably be extended to other movement types as well, no matter how awesome the mental image of a Centaur Legionnaire dodge rolling in heavy armor is.

This is Probably Already the Plan

Given that the Fae Assassin is already confirmed to have the exclusive ability to glide, the fact is that certain movement types being unique to archetypes is probably already what they’re going to do. I mean, as much as I’d love to see either of them – once -, I don’t think anyone at ArtCraft is planning to give us an all Minotaur production of Cirque du Soleil or Centaurs doing barrel rolls.

Heroic Captain of the Obvious

So why write out this rant? If we complain about the current state of jumping, even if we strongly suspect they’re going to change it later, we can take credit for it when they do. That’s right guys – in a few months, you can all personally thank me as the guy who fixed jumping. As an added bonus, we also get to tell everyone how great ArtCraft is for being so in touch with the community. What a great company, listening to us telling them to do things that they already knew needed to be done.