Venerated Dark Age of Camelot just keeps chugging away with new updates, new everything. Loyal players are often treated to new ways to play the game including the recent announcement that big changes are in store for all character classes. We chatted with Producer John Thornhill about exactly that. See what he had to say in this exclusive interview.
MMORPG: Dark Age of Camelot is making some big class changes in the coming weeks. Many players are excited for the update. Can you tell us the story behind the new updates?
John Thornhill: Certainly! We’ve been focused over the past few years on some major updates including a new RvR frontier layout, the new RvR zone Ellan Vannin, the Darkness Falls RvR dungeon revamp, Champion Level 15, and the Otherworlds Campaign. Since a lot of those changes revolved around core end-game systems, we didn’t want to also change much with class balance until the players had had time to settle into those new systems.
That said, while doing those previous updates we’ve been laying the ground-work for a class balance-focused patch and after lots of clamoring for one from our player-base, felt like this development-cycle was the perfect time for it.
We had a few goals with 1.121:
-Address some long-standing issues preventing certain classes and class-archetypes from being included in group-play
-Introduce more active/counter gameplay mechanics
-Keep all three realms unique and make them more unique where possible
This past January we kicked off player-run ‘Class Podcasts’ on our official Twitch channel to gather feedback from players on what sort of changes they’d like to see. We took their feedback, iterated on what we were already planning, aligned everything with our goals… and that’s how we arrived at Patch 1.121!
MMORPG: PvP has always been a mainstay in DAOC, what are the checks and balances you use when making adjustments to class abilities and skills?
JT: First, we have some excellent team members who know the ins and outs of DAoC combat, classes, and gameplay while also being very experienced developers. It’s a must-have for tackling something as extensive as this update.
There are too many checks and balances to list them all here but just generally we try work with what’s already there: things like costs (health, power, endurance), cast-times, re-use timers, and of course the damage values themselves are all great for the nitty-gritty balancing act of individual abilities.
One of the best overall checks we have is the mutual-exclusiveness of our specialization lines. If we really like the idea of introducing a powerful ability to a class, that we think would really benefit them, we can balance that by putting it in a place that makes the class have to choose that ability while giving up others.
A good example of that is the new Bone Captain for Bonedancers in their Bone Army line; it can control up to 6 sub-pets instead of the other 2 specialization line’s commanders that can only control 4. However, the Bone Army specialization is missing the damage and utility of those other 2 lines and so you have to give up a lot to get 2 extra sub-pets. These sorts of hard-choices add even more depth to the combat system.
Finally, we always make sure to test, test, test both internally and on our public test server so that we can be as sure as possible that what we’re releasing is not only balanced but also fun!
MMORPG: How will these changes impact each realm? Midgard, Hibernia, and Albion offer a huge amount of class options and even the smallest changes can give one side an advantage.
JT: That’s right! With 45 classes across all 3 realms, there is a ton of variance. It’s what makes the game so great!
With our stated goals of getting some under-used classes into more groups as well as maintaining realm uniqueness, keeping all 3 realms balanced on the large-scale was definitely a challenge. On top of that, there were some broad, built-in advantages and disadvantages of each that we wanted to address and alleviate, but not eliminate.
With 1.121, we’ve focused on helping realms shift the battle towards their strengths when possible and on giving them some more tools to better counter their weaknesses. For instance:
-Albion received a few more area-of-effect abilities to address their weakness in keep defense and close-quarter combat as well as some new long-range abilities that play to their existing strengths as a realm.
-Midgard received some unique support, anti-pet, and damage-over-time abilities that address their weaknesses in ranged standoffs and attacking entrenched positions as well as some new close range area-of-effect abilities and melee improvements to help them maintain their realm flavor and strengths.
-Hibernia received some new utility-based and melee abilities to address their weaknesses in open-field fights while also getting some new pet-abilities that should play into their defensive strengths as a realm.
MMORPG: There are a lot of updates to the classes. Some classes got a great boost, can you give us three examples of where you see the biggest change? (Maybe something like in the Bonedancer class we did…)
JT: 1) Support classes (specifically Clerics, Friars, Healers, Shaman, Druids, and Warden) all received some major improvements that will keep them as mainstays in groups. With the advent of buff-potions greatly reducing the need for buffbots (yay!) these classes needed more active roles in their groups. This is especially seen with the Shaman, who doesn’t heal as much as other support classes, receiving several short-duration buffs that range from ally damage boosts to powerful protective abilities. Generally, all of the support classes received improved cure spells, some new cure types, and a myriad of other abilities that were specific to their individual roles. Overall, support classes in 1.121 are much more active and engaging than they’ve ever been!
2) The Assassin and Archer archetypes are the ‘stealth’ archetypes in DAOC. We’ve spent a lot of time working with their communities to re-define their roles this patch. Assassins are now, once again, alpha-strike masters that are great at surprising other players and finishing fights quickly – but can’t take a lot of hits either. Archer’s are kind of the anti-stealth class that can track other stealth classes down, avoid any surprises, and keep their foes at a distance in order to dispatch them; while now offering some great new synergy with the rest of the game’s classes. We’re very excited about these 2 archetypes because we feel that they are finally at a point where they’ll both have the potential to impact normal and large-scale group-play along with their usual “solo” and small-scale style of play!
3) The ‘music’ archetype is another archetype that we think will have a major impact on gameplay after 1.121. One of the main reasons for inviting these classes historically has been to grant their group enhanced movement speed when out of combat. This bonus is quite useful but is a passive bonus rather than active. The new short-duration, in-combat movement boosts Bards, Minstrels, and Skalds get continue our goal of making the game more about active gameplay. These boosts work slightly differently for each class, as appropriate, but make each extremely valuable to their groups while also changing combat overall in some exciting new ways!
MMORPG: You are also adding a bunch of changes to the interface and Realm vs. Realm areas. Tell us what is in store for everyone.
JT: 1) We’re introducing a new individually-based contribution system to keep-sieges where on the successful capture or defense of a keep, both sides of the battle will receive a bonus of realm points that is dependent on how active they (and their group) were in the battle. This is a departure from the flat-reward system that rewarded all players the same regardless of their contribution or impact on the battle.
I’ll save the nitty-gritty details of the mechanics for the patch notes but generally this will result in larger realm point rewards for the players and groups that earned kills during the battle and lesser realm point rewards for players that show up at the end of the siege or didn’t participate as much in the battle.
We really can’t wait to see how this impacts behavior because this new system really incentivizes conflict – which is what the game is all about!
2) We’re also introducing a new ‘Resource Crate’ system coming to each of the ‘coastal’ keeps that is designed to encourage individual or small groups of players to collect them for rewards. The rewards include materials for making the new full-buff potions, so they are quite powerful!
3) We have a multitude of siege-crafting changes that should simplify the system for everyone as well as make the various types of siege weapons and ammunitions a bit more differentiated. Overall, we’ve also reduced the damage from siege to help make keep-sieges last longer and give keep-defenders more of a chance to get inside and defend!
We have several other RvR-related improvements planned for the next few patches too!
MMORPG: People always think of RvR when you talk DAOC, but crafting had a huge impact on the game. You are speeding up crafting for players this time, what made you add this boost?
JT: Crafting is still an extremely important aspect of the game. We’ve wanted to make the boring-bits of the system less onerous on players for quite some time while making the system itself more involved with the gameplay. These changes are the first step towards adding in new rare materials and recipes that involve the more active gameplay of gathering than the passive gameplay of creating the items.
MMORPG: This is a great update, can we expect more in the future before the end of the year?
We have our 15-year anniversary coming up this October!!! We’ll be celebrating with an excellent update to the Housing art and system (with a new house tier!), some more class balance changes, and some much-requested RvR improvements!
In addition to those game updates, we also hope to launch our new website to cap off the anniversary celebration! Complete with a brand new layout and skin as well as some much-missed features like leaderboards, the realmwar status page, and an item database!
Beyond that, we are still continuing our major development goals of improving the UI/UX, implementing a new Realm-Loyalty system, and continuing to implement great PvE and RvR content!