We have made some pretty hefty changes to combat in Free Realms and we wanted to take some time and explain to you what is going on. The overall changes include alterations to monster population and mechanics within combat encounters, changes to items and player power. There is a lot to cover so lets get started.
First off, let’s talk about our reasoning for these changes and why the team felt they were needed:
Pacing and Feel
We felt that Free Realms combat wasn’t as exciting and fast paced as we wanted it to be. Combat felt slow and some of the longer encounter took a very long time to beat. We wanted a more arcade game feel, where you get in, engage in some fast paced and visually stimulating combat, get good rewards (more on this later) and get out, catch a breather and dive back into another encounter. Instead it felt like trudging uphill through mud.
Combat Job Balance and Fun Factor
Some jobs felt very underpowered, while other jobs (most notably the Medic) felt overpowered. Most combat abilities felt bland and the benefits to using them over auto attack where marginal. None of the abilities had the visceral flash that we wanted – Nothing made you sit back in your chair and say “Whoa! Did I just do that? Awesome!”
This was a big one. Both combat jobs and items didn’t progress in a meaningful way. There was little difference in a player’s power from items and abilities from level 1 to level 20. This made upgrades as players’ leveled marginal and it also tied our hands when it came to offering players truly awesome items as rewards. This also negated two of the traditional benefits of leveling.
It’s tough to have a level progression and items without having stats on those items – something to quantify the benefit of the item. Unfortunately the stats we had weren’t transparent enough for most of our players. We needed to make stats easy to understand. We also needed to be able to progress them in a way that wouldn’t eventually break the game, while giving the players a tangible increase in power as they leveled and got new items. This isn’t an easy task and most traditional MMOs don’t even try, instead opting for stats that aren’t easy to figure out, but do progress well.
What did we change?
• Larger Groups of Monsters - You will be fighting larger groups of monsters at a time with your new, more powerful abilities.
• Monster Spawners - Most combat encounters now have monster spawners placed at strategic locations. These will continue to spawn monsters until they are destroyed.
• New Improved Powerups - Defeating monsters can cause them to drop powerups, but unlike the old power ups some of the new ones give you powerful one-time-use abilities if you pick them up.
• No more Click to Attack - You no longer click your mouse button to attack. This is a big change, but we get some benefits from it. You can now run and attack without being stopped. You can use click-to-move and not have your movement stopped completely.
• All attacks are Area Effect - All your attacks now affect an area around or in front of you – no more single target attacks. No more beating on one monster while its friends hammer the back of your head.
Combat Jobs, Progression and Stats
• Combat Abilities now tied to weapons – All of the old job abilities (kick, rock toss, etc) are no longer part of the job. Instead all attacks come from the various job specific weapons. Each weapon has two attacks on it:
o A normal attack that can be used as often as you like without consuming energy. These always hit all of the monsters in front of you, if they are in range.
o A super attack. This attack deals an enormous amount of damage and will knockout any normal monster it hits. Super attacks consume all of your energy, but energy comes back pretty fast (instantly if you get an energy powerup!).
• Each combat job now has Traits. These are passive abilities that increase the player’s power. They are unlocked as the player gains levels.
Let me explain this –
When you get a weapon, like the wizard wand above, it will have two attacks on it. If you got a different wand it may have different attacks on it. Compare the above item to this item –
Items are much cooler now and it is very easy to figure out if one item is better than another. Stats are no longer a mystery. It is easy to tell what the weapon does because all stats are explained.
Level Locked Encounters and Encounter Progression
Just as our stats and player power used to be shallow, so was our difficulty progression through encounters. Now that player stats increase greatly over the 20 levels of progression our combat encounters have also increase in difficulty. Because of this higher level encounters will require that all players entering them be of the appropriate level. Encounters are broken down into tiers –
Tier 1 – Levels 1 to 4
Tier 2 – Levels 5 to 8
Tier 3 – Levels 9 to 12
Tier 4 – Levels 13 to 16
Tier 5 – Levels 17 to 20
A player can enter an encounter up to one tier above his current tier. A level 2 player can enter tier 1 and tier 2 encounters, but not tier 3. A level 7 player can enter tier 1, 2 and 3 encounters. Once a player hits 13 they can enter all encounters.
Gear also becomes very important. A player will need the gear from lower tiers to survive in higher tiers. If a level 13 player who has a tier 2 weapon tries to go into a tier 5 encounter they will find it very hard, if not impossible. Luckily, weapon drops are fairly common and shouldn’t be hard to get. You can also buy all the weapons at the coin store.
In summary we think that you will find combat more streamlined and easier to understand. At the same time it should engender the feelings of excitement and anticipation that come with an item and level progression. It will now be worthwhile to seek out those encounters that drop items you want because those items will now make a difference in how you play and what you can do while in combat.
We hope to see you in our groups as we race for level 20! We hope you have fun playing Free Realms Combat!
Senior Game Designer