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Ask Cryptic

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Ask Cryptic

On Friday, Cryptic Studios posted another edition of Ask Cryptic, where they answered fan questions about instances, custom powers, and various other Champions Online topics. Today we're pleased to reproduce those questions and answers here.

Jackalope, Arkayne and Heretic are back and answering more player questions on everything from upgrades to balance issues in Champions Online:  

For those unfamiliar with Champions PnP, will the game interface be one that is intuitive and easily understood, or will we need to read through all sorts of source material to understand how to make a character effective? (French)

Jackalope: We definitely want people to make a hero and play without any prior knowledge of the Champions RPG or the HERO System. We have a saying (well, I keep saying it) – "zero to hero in no time flat." I want people to be able to get into the game and have fun as quickly as possible.

However, we are adding lots more knobs for people to play with, as opposed to our previous titles. We do adopt a lot of the Hero Games elements in character creation, but players don't need to crunch numbers in order to make their character.

I'll elaborate a little here. In the Champions pen-and-paper RPG, one doesn't create a Fire Blast. A player instead starts with the generic Energy Blast power and then adds Power Advantages and Limitations to it. There's a ton of tweaking that could be done during this step to get a power "just right." In Champions Online, a player selects a Fire Blast with some predetermined effects. Following the familiar theme, fire has an additional DoT (damage over time) component. In the pen-and-paper RPG, a player would need to calculate that effect separately as an advantage and then calculate the new cost of the "Energy Blast." In the computer game, a player takes Fire Blast. When a player wants a more powerful Fire Blast, he'll take the next rank up in it.

But Champions Online is all about customization. So a player can take that Fire Blast and, over time, add Advantages and Limitations to it. These aren't necessarily going to be identical to the ones in the HERO System, but they'll be familiar. Some Advantages can add new damage types, increase the chance of a critical, or perhaps add some new wrinkle under particular conditions (imagine a power that does something extra but only at night …)

When I say "over time," I mean that as a character gains levels, the player will have the option to add these advantages onto his or her powers (as well as be required to add some disadvantages, too). In the Champions RPG, a player does the vast majority of this work at character creation; later changes are somewhat smaller. But in Champions Online, a character can evolve greatly over time.

But what if you're a hard core Champions RPG or Hero Games fan, or maybe just a number cruncher. Is there ever going to be an option to open up the hood and fiddle with the engine? Let's just say we totally know that some people would love to have this and we're keeping our options open. No timeline, no promises. Just keeping our options open.

I believe I read somewhere that you guys are, in fact, going to use instances and stuff. So how often will there be huge, epic battles like Giant Monsters outside of instances? (MeSoSollyWan)

Arkayne: We're putting a lot of work into our persistent environments. There are going to be large-scale threats in almost every world location that players will need to team up to take down, ranging from giant monsters to alien invaders and super-powerful villains. Monster Island is a great example of this with a number of nasty creatures ready to challenge brave teams of heroes!

What kind of visual change do upgrades bring? Are they simply armor pieces or do they include things like auras, glows, and graphic effects? (JP1083)

Arkayne: Upgrades come in a multitude of forms. Some are external (i.e. pieces of power armor) and others are internal (i.e. mutagen serums). The visuals vary from costume pieces to different glows, FX, etc. As players advance their heroes they can acquire upgrades with amazing new visual components to customize their hero.

Please keep in mind that these visual changes are optional, and that players can simply turn them off if they think it doesn’t suit their characters. We understand that most players want to define a unique "look" for their heroes and we want to give them as many customization options as we can.

The "game features" section on the main site that talks about custom powers lists several examples of players changing the color of power animations. It stops short, however, of explicitly saying that players will be able to choose custom "animations" to represent their powers. Are you in the position to say whether, in fact, we will be able to choose from entirely different animations to represent the same power, or expand on how this will work a little more? (Cyjack)

Arkayne: While you can change the color of your powers you won't be able to choose entirely different animations – that would have a huge impact on the Animation and FX team without yielding a lot of new gameplay options for the players. Currently, we would rather have more unique powers for players to choose from than to have fewer powers with different animations.

However, there will be other ways for players to customize their hero's animations including Stances and Facial Expressions. More on this in a future dev blog!

Will the dual glowing swords that were seen in the screenshots be a player power or one that is restricted to Special/NPC's? (GiGaByTe)

Heretic: The glowing blades are, in fact, part of a player power framework I am just finishing work on now.

I imagine it is very hard to prevent people from being overpowered with an open system such as this. What is being done in the way of balance to make sure that every class (not necessarily every power combination) has a viable purpose and role in PvE and PvP? (Dantetheinfrno)

Heretic: Part of the problem with striving for balance in a game like this is the fact that balance means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Add to this Cryptic's commitment to customization and options for player development, and it becomes a very tangled problem.

First, we are being as systematic as possible in our design approach. For powers, what this means is that the numbers and values we assign are not by whim, but are instead part of an entire system.

Second, when considering how major aspects of combat gameplay work – things like crowd control abilities, PvP, travel powers, buffs and debuffs – we check against a set of core principles. Some of these core principles include: maximizing player choice and customization, making powers equally useful in PvE and PvP, always keeping the player active and not waiting for things to happen, encouraging tactically reactive gameplay in combat, and quite a number of others.

Third, because we know from the start that players have all of these options and will do their best to maximize their effectiveness, we have a pretty good idea of how high the values can get and what will the impact of those values be on other parts of the combat system. We will still have a risk of unexpected synergies, but we have some failsafes that should catch most of these. (No, I am not so naive as to think we will be able to catch absolutely all of them, but that is the peril of MMORPG development.)

There are, however, some accidental benefits to an open system such as this. While players can certainly try to specialize in various areas, characters are not locked in to a particular role to the point that outside of that role they cannot function in a meaningful way. Want some more crowd control? Go ahead and grab some. Not happy with your defenses? Invest more in defensive powers.


Guest Writer