Developer Diary: Invention System
Matt Miller, the Lead Designer for City of Heroes / City of Villains drops by to give us an exclusive developer journal about the game's Invention System.
Ever since City of Heroes launched, Jack "Statesman" Emmert has been interested in adding an "out of combat" system to the game...something that gives players gameplay outside of the typical combat scenarios that City of Heroes has to offer. Originally this was going to be a Skill System, where you could train up in various skills and accomplish tasks during missions that would otherwise be unavailable to your character. We went through about six versions of this system, ranging everywhere from a "card game" style where you completed skill objectives using your Skill Deck, to something nearly identical to the combat system with "Skilling" objective objects, to defeat its "Idea Points".
In the end, we were not happy with any of those systems, and shelved them all. Fast forward a few more months and our out-of-combat idea moved towards crafting. With the Base System in City of Villains being implemented we were able to take another look at these things, and the basic system of collecting Salvage to make objects took hold. Instead of creating a base object for your Supergroup's base, however, you'd make Enhancements, temporary powers, etc.
From the outset of creating the Invention System we wanted to make sure that players desired these new, craftable items. If they didn't actually make your character better then the players wouldn't be motivated to use the system. We tried to think of new, exciting things that Enhancements could bring to the game. We determined that adding mini-powers to your existing ones had a lot of potential, as the sky would nearly be the limit on what we could accomplish with these new Enhancements. In addition we wanted Enhancements that never expired, because nothing was worse than leveling up in a mission to a point where the majority of your Enhancements turned red (useless), and instead of that level-up making you more powerful, it actually made you less.
A Salvage item is like an ingredient for a recipe. We wanted Invention Salvage to be "flavored" to the enemy you fight (when you defeat the enemy he or she drops the Salvage). If it's a group that is heavily into magic use like the Circle of Thorns, then the Salvage you would get from them would be magic themed. If they were a more tech or science based group like Freakshow, then you would get science themed Salvage. If the group dabbled in both areas (like say, Arachnos), then they would have a chance of dropping any of the Invention Salvage.
Finally, we wanted to have an awesome aspect to the entire Invention system that would really excite our players, and we think we achieved that with Invention Sets. Sets are themed groups of Enhancements that all slot into a single power, and here we could use the new Enhancement technology we'd created. Individual Enhancements can grant new types of bonuses, such as extra Health or faster Endurance Recovery. On top of that, you can gain additional bonuses by equipping multiple Enhancements from the same set in the same power. The more Enhancements you equip from a set, the more bonuses you get. These bonuses are powerful, they are always active, independent of the power they are slotted into, and encompass your entire character giving them things like Defenses or Resistances, or an overall boost to their Damage.
Below is an example of an Enhancement Set. The first column has the name of the Enhancement Recipe as it appears in the game, and the next has the category of powers that the Enhancement can be slotted into. The third column describes how you get your hands on that Recipe through normal gameplay. Next is the rarity of the Enhancement (used when an Enhancement drops from enemies, rare Recipes drop less often than uncommon ones do). The fifth and sixth columns are the level of the Enhancement and the Salvage you are required to have to invent the Enhancement at that level. Finally, the Set Bonuses column describes the various bonuses your character gets for slotting in each number of pieces of the set. You'll note that the last Enhancement in this list is marked as [Unique]. This means that you can only ever have one of these slotted in for your entire character. Not just one per qualifying power like most other Recipe made Enhancements are.
New Test Method
We first need to make sure that the system is ready for prime-time, and we determined that the best way to accomplish this is with a closed environment server. This means that we will be closing the North American Training Room shortly and using it to test Issue 9 in a more private capacity. Once we get enough feedback and incorporate the necessary changes so that we feel it's ready for public, we'll open the Training Room for all, and the full on testing can begin. We are proud of this new system and not only do we hope that our existing players will love it, but we also think this is a compelling reason for new players to get in and check it out!
- Matt Miller Lead Designer, City of Heroes / Villains