Welcome back to the second part of my interview with Chris Lynch, Lead Combat Designer on WildStar, where we discuss Crowd Control, Hybrid play and more!
I'm reminded of one of the encounters in Stormtalon's Lair, where you're disoriented and have your controls switched around and you have telegraphs thrown down to deal with at the same time, very difficult!
Ah yeah, that right there, that confuse or disorient is probably the most punishing form of Crowd Control we have in the game right now and I'm probably gonna have to get in there and look at it a little more, I've seen some good uses of it, and some uses where really it feels a little punishing to me right now.
We have a philosophy on the combat team, it's going to sound a little corny but it's the Three R's; Recognise, React, Reward and with the way that we've been using the Disorient in some of these dungeons there is no time to Recognise so you don't get to React. Due to that I don't enjoy it as much because for me as a player, I want time to recognise what is happening to me, formulate a plan in my head on how to deal with it and then react to it whereas what is happening in that encounter he's like “DISORIENT! TELEGRAPHS!” and you're like “Ohmygodwhat” and then usually someone dies.
There is a good example of using it where in one of our mid level zones you get a quest where this little Squirg (adorable little land-squid) gets put on your head and you're Disoriented and the only thing you have to worry about is getting back to the quest hub so you have time to get used to the idea of “Oh, I'm Disoriented and I need to get back to the Hub” so you have time to Recognise and React and by getting back to the hub you get your Reward.
In the case of the Stormtalon boss it's like, YOU'RE DISORIENTED! REACT! REACT! C'MON! C'MON! TELEGRAPH! TELEGRAPH!
YOUR REWARD IS DEATH!
Yeah, and you're dead.
It happens to me too and I'm a very good player at our game and I'm like “Nah, we're not gonna be doing this, please lets tone down the use of disorient and make sure we're finding the appropriate uses for it”.
In fact, now I'm not saying that this will happen, but I've been thinking about Disorient on the trip out here and maybe instead of disorienting your movement controls we could disorient your ability hotkeys, something that’s a little less jarring and less punishing.
Were there any other challenges you faced developing your Crowd Control Systems?
Well, there's another one that I know a lot of people are talking about right now.
When you're stunned? Rapid-tap F right? I have a macro keys on my keyboard right? Stunned? Ohh not any more!
We do gate that on the server side, there's a maximum number of inputs per 250ms and it isn't much more than I can do manually, it's still more efficient to macro but it doesn't mean that you instantly get out, the most you can ever reduce your stun to is by half but the nice thing about a macro is that it makes sure that it keeps up that tempo, and I can actually have it running on the back-end before the stun even happens.
We're mostly looking to fix that, it's good for right now but by the time launch comes around I don't know if I would expect Stun to be the same breakout gameplay. In fact, we had some other ideas for other CC that may or may not make it into the game that we may make use of.
Imagine that these represent your player, sorry your recorder can't see this (Chris stacks one water bottle atop another), imagine that these are inside each other and you get stunned. You, or the part that you control gets knocked over here (moves one of the bottles across the table) but your actual body that people see in game remains here (indicates the remaining bottle) so you're like a ghost now that nobody can see and you're travelling back, trying to get back to your stunned body and when you get back you regain control.
That would be another way I would look at handling Stun, that way isn't macro-able but it still has the same Recognise, React, Reward mechanic and then you have a gameplay that you're trying to do because you can see your body getting beat up and you need to get back and tell it to get away. So yeah, there are things that we could do.
Were there any PVP concerns surrounding the new CC mechanics?
Our breakout gameplay has helped a lot in PVP, it was actually designed specifically for PVP to prevent player on player frustration with stun locks and stuff like that. it's working very well in PvP but we're probably going to add some protection on top of that, making sure that you can get stunned too many times in a row etcetera through Interrupt Armour.
All of the healing classes and some others have access to Interrupt Armour, what this does is that if you get hit with a CC whilst you have units of interrupt armour, lets say 2, it doesn't do anything but it decrements your Interrupt Armour down to 1, if someone else hits you with CC it will decrement to 0 but the effects will still be absorbed and then any type of CC after that will go through but it will protect you from interrupts or CC during that time.
Moving on from Crowd Control, a lot of MMOs recently have been favouring specialisation at the expense of everything else in terms of combat and ability design. This has left little room for fans of hybrid play, is there anything your team is doing to combat that?
There is absolutely room for hybrid play in our game, for example we've had feedback surrounding some Esper abilities in that they make the class feel too much like a caster/melee hybrid and we've responded by adding some new abilities to get them back to a ranged feel but we're keeping those short range abilities on there because since they require the light armoured Esper to be up-close, they will actually improve due to how we balance skills.
The way we balance our abilities is that we have so many points per ability, (this is all internal speak by the way, players will never see this stuff) essentially we start off with say 100 points per ability which can be spent on functionality or damage, it might cost 50 points for a stun and we could use the other 50 points to see how much damage it will do or another ability could have all 100 points go towards damage.
One of the key things is, there are a while bunch of modifiers that determine how many points an ability really gets. Is it a stationary ability? It might get an additional 20pts because I have to stand still to cast it. Is it a 3sec cast time or 2 sec cast time? If it takes a long time to cast, more points.
So one of things we will probably end up doing with Spectral Frenzy for the Esper is we will actually increase the number of points that it gets because you're a squishy class, and to cast it you have to get up really close so it might get some extra points that might be used for extra damage or extra effects.
So in terms of hybrid play, I can be an Esper that like to get up close and even hybrid on the other side, so all classes have access to two roles, every single class has a DPS role and a secondary role of either tank or healer. In the case of the Esper it's a healing role, if I want to I can put some healing abilities on my bar and some DPS abilities and hybrid that way. I can also be different types of DPS like we were talking about just now, I can be ranged DPS or I can get up close, if I'm getting up close I have a lot of risk because I'm squishy but I'm going to get a lot of reward because I'm doing lots more damage.
We haven't heard a great deal about Game Content yet, what can you tell us about the current state of end-game activity?
I can give you a brief synopsis of where we're at right now, a lot of this information is getting released very, very soon, we're wrapping up some of our raids, so we're going to be pushing that into beta very soon.
If I were to draw up a chart, there is a lot of end-game content depending upon your play-style.
If you're a PVEer you're going to have solo content, you're going to have solo end-game storylines in personal instances where you go to experience the story of nexus. If you're a group, you can go into dungeons and eventually 20man and 40man raids.
Now on the PVP spectrum you're going to have arenas, you're going to have battlegrounds. Battlegrounds are more for groups, Arena can be solo or small group and then eventually Warplots which is our PVP version of raids, 40 players on each side.
If you're a social player, we're going to have something for you, you've got your housing, that’s your solo thing. You can play with your own house or your friends houses and you can invite your friends to do Adventure instances on your plot.
And then on the ..wait, I can't talk about that yet because it because it's not going to be launch.
Ah go on, you can say it. I promise I won't publish it.
I won't say, but eventually there will be a social thing for ..raids, social raids.
Not social raids, but imagine like, groups of people larger than just a single group getting together to enjoy social content. Yeah.
Last one is a freebie!
What one thing are you most excited about for release?
I really enjoy dungeons, I'm looking forward to getting back to work next week and we're going to finish polishing off all of the dungeons and raids and we're going to get those out to our testers.
Other than the combat, one of the things I really enjoy about working on WildStar is that I love watching players reactions to what we do, I like watching people enjoy our game . it's been that way for any game I've ever worked on seeing people enjoying the stuff that you make is amazing.
Thanks for your time Chris, looking forward to the WildStar party this evening!
Thanks, I'll see you there!
Thanks for reading!