Thursday, September 10, 2009

Random Shots: Champions Online Dev Chat Transcript for 2009.09.10

  • Summary of General Questions:

    • Champions is not supposed to be easy and will be balanced so that content is a challenge to players. If any particular enemies are too powerful, submit a bug report.

    • Cryptic is looking for alternate ways to provide Nemesis clues to high level players.

    • Viewing weapon models in the character creator is on the developer's to-do list.

    • Additional costume pieces are coming with the Blood Moon event, both character-specific and account wide. They also want to reward participation on the Public Test Server with costume pieces. Character specific costumer pieces are intended to

    • Additional content will be rolled out over the next several weeks to plug leveling gaps.

    • Cryptic wants to add additional functionality to the Powerhouse to allow better testing of powers. As well, they want to create "duel-free areas" to keep duelists from interrupting other players, such as in Powerhouse's trainer room and Club Caprice.

    • Blood Moon will take place in all post-crisis zone except Lemuria. (No underwater zombies, I guess.)

    • Retconning specific powers would be nice, but is not currently feasible from a technological perspective. They are balancing the economy in relation to retconning, but the balance is not yet correct.

    • They are still building an inventory for the C Store and won't open it until there is enough. The bean-counters haven't gone over pricing yet, so there's in nothing to report.

    • The next zones released will be urban based as they were the most requested during beta.

    • They are investigating changing tint values of powers (to get darker and lighter colors) as well as the current hue shifting.

  • Summary of Power-Specific Questions:

    • Any problems you have with Melee powers (damage or roots) are your own. Or maybe a bug. Report as necessary.

    • Viewing weapon models in the character creator is on the developer's to-do list.

    • Sorcery is getting a major overhaul to make it more fun and less of a hassle.

    • Cryptic would like to add a Two-Handed Weapon power set. And they're going to be big.

    • Celestial is intended as a support power set, but is designed to not require other powers to make the theme work.

    • RE: the Containment Bubble power: You're doing it wrong. However, they may reconsider the power if players don't figure out how the designers intended it to be used.

    • The Claws melee power set is intended to be highly efficient and includes debuff (Shredded) to improve DPS for the whole group. Also, evidently you should stack Dex.

  • Daeke: Thanks for joining us today.
    Daeke: We've got a ton of questions to get through, so let's do some quick introductions.
    Daeke: I'm David "Daeke" Bass, Online Community Representative for Champions Online
    Chronomancer: Hey, everyone! Bill here - looking forward to answering your questions today.
    Ignoble: Hey everyone, I'm Ian one of the producers who works closely with the powers team
    Balseraph: Greetings; Brian Urbanek aka "Balseraph", Systems design
    AntiProton: Cormac "AntiProton" Russell, Systems design as well (specifically all that reward system stuff)
    Daeke: Rekhan's here too, but he's shy.
    Daeke: Alright, let's get this party started.

  • [Editor's Note: Arkanye is Randy Mosiondz, Lead Designer for Champions Online.]

  • [Doomaflatchi] What would you say is your mission statement in regards to game balance? I think it would benefit the player community to get some kind of understanding of where you want this to go. Do you plan on focusing the game's balance more towards the needs of PVP, or PVE? Do you plan on making balance support specialization, or taking powers from multiple trees? Will your general strategy be to greatly lower the strength of overused powers and slowly work them back up, or decrease their strength slowly over several updates?

    Chronomancer: The goal is to have you feel challenged enough that being a hero means something without being frustrated or feeling overwhelmed. As you can expect, it isn’t easy, and no MMO comes out perfectly balanced. But we’re dedicated to getting there. PVE is the main focus of the game, but we’ve found that our PVP system is fun and popular.

    As for a focus on balance, the game should be fun for both styles of play. We’ll continue to create new content for both PVE and PVP. As for support, there are powersets already that are more geared towards this. Sorcery is a good example. The upcoming Celestial set is going to be great for players that want to focus on support powers, as well.

    As for balancing, our goal is to only decrease the effectiveness of powers if they are honestly broken (doing multiples of expected damage, for example). It’s better for us focus on fixing broken powers that aren’t effective enough before we lower the effectiveness of powers.

    Basically, we’re thinking more surgically moving forward in regards to how we address balance as opposed to dropping huge bombs

  • [Thrusty] What is the current vision for the game? Has it changed since the headstart? If so, how? What are your top concerns as the game stands now?

    Chronomancer: Our top concerns are what are concerning you as players. We’re running as fast as we can to address issues, work on the overall balance of the game, and be as responsive to possible. There wasn’t a vision change that happened from head start to live – what you saw was us working to put the game on the right pace and balance. We’re continuously pulling data, talking to players, playing the game ourselves, and looking at how to make this the best experience possible.

  • [Fives] Question: I know the launch day patch will be covered, however I wanted to know specifically about the damage and health of Villian level mobs. The game seems nicely challenging outside Villians, which are brutal ESPECIALLY in pairs.

    AntiProton: Two villains is meant to be a challenging normal pull. You'll definitely want to be blocking, or using LOS, or using a hold power, or all of those tricks at once. Using a consumable device, either one of the healing things crafters make, the ones the stores sell, or one of the rare critter drops would also help. So when you are doing a mission and you come across one of those, it is meant to be challenging. A two villain, 1 henchman pull is a bit harder, etc. different builds will scale up differently. :) The top end will vary depending on what your build is designed to be good at

  • [SilverChaos] What is the reasoning behind the "Overturn and then slowly readjust the course" method of balancing that Cryptic has been using? I think it's clear that almost every one of your customers would prefer if you applied a %30 nerf to damage in 10% intervals over 3 patches, rather than 50% in one patch and then toning it down several patches later.

    Chronomancer: The large changes we made to the game recently were made to help bring the difficulty of the game into line. There was very little to no challenge to the game, so we had to make a major adjustment for day one. Let’s be honest – we never intended for heroes to solo content that was meant for groups of heroes, and we had address it with a major move. We know this came as a shock to our early start players, and we’ve taken (and continue to take) steps to improve our communication with the players. We’re also working hard to avoid large changes like these in the future and you will hopefully see a more gradual approach going forward.

  • [Theik] My question: Will we ever see any indoor nemesis minion ambushes? For a level 40, only getting ambushed outside is a pain, as it pretty much forces you to go grind mobs trying to get ambushed for nemesis clues.

    Arkayne: Currently, we're looking at different ways to deliver Nemesis content to the players. We started with persistent world clue drops, but are looking at incorporating them into instanced maps, from contacts, or possibly even through the mail system. We'll test to see what works well.

  • [Halorin] Can we expect any change to the Respec system (categorized power retcons, lower costs for respec and taking a different power in the same framework, etc.)

    Ignoble: We are still working on the pricing of the retcon system and will make changes as needed. We are actively working on additional functionality for the retcon system, as well. Some of the changes that have been requested are more complicated than others and so they'll require time from the technology team. Our goal with the retcon system is to provide targeted retcons for characters that are specifically affected by changes. For example, if we made a significant change to a powerset - or even a single power - we could issue a retcon to just the heroes affected by that change.

  • [Afoaa] Why did you make such a freeform character build system when you also made the world so harsh that most "for fun" builds are unplayable?

    Ignoble: While it is possible to build characters of widely varying power levels, we don't believe the fun builds are unplayable. Some builds need different play styles than others. A "glass cannon" has to play differently than a "tank" for example. That being said, we're also constantly evaluating the powers and will be making changes to fix ones that are broken or underpowered. We don't want you to be able to make "broken" heroes. If there are specific powers, areas, groups, or villains that you feel are disproportionately out of balance please let us know and we'll look into them.

  • [Revik] Q: Why do meleer's get the weakest roots when we need it the most due to Charge skills being rendered useless if they just back away.

    Balseraph: Roots and melee: yes, if your target backs away from your charge, well, there will be a bit of distance between you. However, the root that's built into Mighty Leap should affect them regardless. If it isn't, that's a bug, and we'll fix it. In practical terms, I melee roots should fee powerful, because they can be applied very quickly. That being said if you really want to be a melee character that can take on ranged people, you need to either have a charge or a "yoink" (our name for Shuriken advantage "Chained Kunai" or Iron Lariat)

  • [Shiroi98] question 2: when will melee powers supposedly do more dmg than ranged? it was suppose to be initially.

    Balseraph: Melee powers, based on how you're stated, do between 30% more damage than ranged powers over the same period of time, for the same cost. Some players have the impression that melee attacks are weaker than some ranged powers, because some fully charged melee attacks don't do as much damage as some fully charged ranged attacks. Well, that's true, until you look at the time it took to make the attack. Most melee attacks get fully charged in just 1 second or less, compared to a 2.5 to 3 seconds for some ranged attacks. Melee attacks can get up to an additional 20% bonus to their damage from your strength score. This bonus is completely separate and distinct from you Characteristic Focus bonus; it's in addition to that. We just put a change in where you need much less strength to get to that 20% bonus. The intent of this change was to allow melee builds that didn't focus on strength to be more viable. You still need to pay attention to it with your gear, but its no longer required that it be your Characteristic Focus (i.e. Super Strength) to get the full benefit.

  • [NeoWolf] Question: will we EVER be able to see weapons in the costume creator/tailor screen before we have to pay to add or recolor them?

    AntiProton: We totally want to get that working eventually, yes. What just got in with being able to select them in character creator (though not see them) was ahead of schedule, which is awesome. The artist that did the setup work for the weapon geos to even be able to be swapable and I both really want to see it fully working in both the tailor and the character creator. Like a lot of features we had to put it on hold for launch, but now that we are released it is on the list of things to get done.

  • [Dawnfire] Question: When will some more costume pieces be added? Will any of them be free or will all new pieces be only from the shop? Also will we ever get halfskirts? Skirts that only drape down in the back that is.

    Chronomancer: We're adding more costume pieces for everyone in the Bloodmoon event! These will be both character and account-wide grants. We're also working on some account-wide costuming choices that will be earned by jumping onto the Public Test Server and helping us get patches tested and ready for the live server. I'm not sure about the plans for half-skirts, but I know that the character team really wants to add more and more diversity to the costume system.

  • [Antis3al] What are your plans to fix the leveling gaps? A player can still level if they dig for every single quest out there, but currently they don't connect in any logical way; and the content is still spread thin, sometimes requiring a player to do quests several levels above their own. Is there a coming solution or even awareness of the problem?

    Ignoble: We are currently working to add a number of additional missions and instanced content to help fill several content gaps we have identified. These will begin making their way out to the server over the next few weeks and will hopefully integrate seamlessly with the content that already exists.

  • [Azrael_9] Which 'problem' areas are Cryptic going to address and fix first? Any in particular?

    Chronomancer: Currently we are focusing primarily on the balance of the game, such as powers issues and critter difficulty, along with content gaps that have been found. While doing this we’re keeping an eye out for any game breaking problems and will give priority to issues that need to be fixed immediately. The community team is also tracking all of the top issues through the forums and getting those in front of the development team.

  • [Fives] Question: Danger room style add-on for the Power House where you can test powers on spawned mob waves. Probably instanced. Right now it's hard to test CC in there especially. Feasable?

    Related: [DarkShrike] Question: Are there any plans to add a 'power free' area to the power house so we can work on our builds without constant dueling going on around us?

    Arkayne: The Powerhouse has been received very well by the community and we'd like to add more functionality to it. We're looking into tech now which will allow us to create "duel-free" areas so people doing power selection won't be interrupted by overzealous duellers, and possibly an instanced test area where you can test your powers versus different opponents. This would also allow us to define duel-free areas in areas commonly requested like Club Caprice.

  • [ian33w] Is it possible to increase the range of Sorcery's Auras as most powers are 50 to 100 feet?

    Balseraph: Sorcery: Sorcery is, right now, getting a major "quality of life" overhaul. some bits (like the sigils) are being made stronger. Other parts are just being made less difficult to use. One big thing, Circles of Summoning are now being flagged as "Rituals of Summoning". They look exactly the same, and work exactly the same, but now are cumulative (stack with) Circles of Power. Additionally, we're elminating the property where they eat ALL your energy, so you can get back into the fight more quickly with them. And, yes, we'll be increasing the range of the auras. =)

  • [Erebuss] Why was the decision made to completely change the game on Launch day after thousands of people had gotten used to a completely different game during early access? When do you plan to make it fun again?

    Chronomancer: We’re always going to be looking at balance and working to make the game a fun challenge. But the key there is that the game has to have SOME challenge to it. While it’s great to just mow down groups of 5 enemies that are 4 levels above you, gamers get tired of it pretty quickly when there’s never a risk of being defeated. No one wants the game to feel trivial because you don’t feel like a hero if you’re never challenged. That also doesn’t mean as a hero you should be defeated by a single guy with a baseball bat. We’re looking at all the enemies in the game and seeing where the aberrations in the overall power curve happens. And we’ll continue to smooth out the rough patches while finding the right balance.

  • [Wraithed] Did you learn anything about player reaction from your post-launch patch? If so, what?

    Chronomancer: We know that our community is passionate and vocal, and that’s what helps us make a better game. We saw all of this in the beta, and honestly it’s good to see that our live players have the same excitement and hopes for the game. The only thing that is disappointing is when players make the assumption that the developers are doing things to “screw them.” We’re making a game that has to appeal to a massively diverse audience, and it is impossible that everyone will be happy with any change, no matter how positive. We’ll always be looking to refine the game, be responsive to the community, and make this something we’ll ALL be playing for years to come.

  • [Vahn] Q: in single blade powerset, why theres no love for two handed weapons?

    Balseraph: Single Blade: We're going to give BIG GIANT two handed weapons so much love, they're going to get their own set. Eventually. =)

  • [Junkbox] Are all power trees going to be given the necessity skills to be able to function within themselves? I understand you want people to mix and match powers, but I think a large part of the outcry besides the turtle-play style of the game is that most power sets can't function that well within themselves.

    Ignoble: We're going to keep evaluating sets and add in powers as they make sense. Some of the sets are designed to cross-over (the martial arts groups, for example) but we'll also do everything possible to make sure that you don't get "shut out" by staying thematic. The upcoming Celestial set that will release with Blood Moon is designed with this in mind.

  • [Dawnfire] Question: What kind of set will Celestial be? What will it's passive be?

    Balseraph: Celestial - A support set that really pushes flexibility over raw power, every power will have at least two distinct uses depending on [secret sauce]. The passive for the set emphasizes this. We're building this set this way because we love you, and we hate sleeping or ever going home.

  • [TheHeroFactory] What is the business/dev teams using as a benchmark to determine the "balance" of the game? Is it solely community outcry or a more objective measurement scale?

    Ignoble: We use both the feedback from the community and an objective measuring scale when working on game balance. There are times when we may think we have things dialed in from our scale, but when the community gets to it things our scale could never account for come into play and so we'll need to revisit content based on that feedback. For the objective scale we take things into account such as the damage the encounter in question does to the hero, how long on average a fight is intended to last, how many of a specific type of this enemy is a hero supposed to be able to take on at once, etc. and then the scale also changes based on if the content is intended to be solo or group oriented.

  • [ian33w] question: What are your expected level ranges for the Bloodmoon event to complete all of the event content?

    Arkayne: Blood Moon is designed to be playable in all post-crisis areas except Lemuria (sorry, fish-men! we'll have something special for you later!).

  • [WebGuest69] What are the end game plans for champions online? What reasons are there to continue to keep playing a character after you hit the level cap?

    Chronomancer: We have end game content in several areas of the game: PVP, Crafting, Missions, Perks, and Nemesis. All of these systems have content that you can only accomplish after reaching level 40. The Stronghold Apocalypse opens in PVP. There are crafting components that can only be gained in level 40+ maps and the blueprints to use those are going in soon. The daily UNITY hot-spots and repeatable high-end lairs are in for mission-fiends There are very long-term perks that will require lots of play to accomplish. And you can build and defeat up to 18 different Nemesis. The best part is we're going to build on all of these systems moving forward as well as creating new end-game things for heroes to do.

  • [Cartigan] Do you guys, the people actually developing, spend any time playing this game on the public server?

    Chronomancer: Most of us here at Cryptic play on the live servers (as well as the public test shard) and many of us are playing through and leveling up right alongside all of you. As would be expected this helps us see your point of view better and even allows us to catch issues that may not have been found otherwise. Playing the game you’re working on is essential.

    AntiProton: I'm over 31 hours /played on my main, my alts have several hours as well

    Chronomancer: My main is a TK-user and I'm not only playing, I'm also working on my first machinima music video starring his awesomeness.

    Arkayne: Heck yah! I've got some pure framework builds, plus trying out a number of cross-framework builds to see what plays well. I'll be busy playing for years. Years!

    AntiProton: I really enjoy playing the game, it is fun talking about our play experiences at work

  • [CapnGeiger] Question: Is Hellgate: London openly discussed around the office? Or do you guys awkwardly go silent whenever Roeper walks in a room?

    Chronomancer: First of all, you can at LEAST spell my name right. I mean - come on! Secondly, everyone here has successes and failures in their background, and we learn a lot from all of it. I love working with this team, and I'm looking forward to doing so for a long time.

    AntiProton: Hellgate London was an interesting game, it definitely had some stuff we could learn from. Also, we love making fun of Bill.

    Chronomancer: Especially my shoes.

  • [Kahleek] Will we ever be able to cherry pick which powers to retcon?

    Chronomancer: While this seems like it would be simple, it actually isn’t. With all of the associated characteristics, talents, advantages, tier requirements and so on, it is difficult to just pull out a power in the middle of the stack, as it were. Making a change like this will require a lot of work on the technology side, so unfortunately while we’re looking into it, it won’t be any time soon.

  • [Per_Ignim] Question: Is it intended that a full retcon cost more than 50 times as much as it is reasonable to expect a character to have at any given level?

    Balseraph: Retconning and the Economy: First, there isn't enough money flowing into the game right now. This is a completely known issue, and we have several different options that we're testing. Basically, yes, we knowingly erred on the side of a too restrictive money supply to see what trends happened, and be able to catch issues (like dupe bugs) very quickly. Now we're getting ready to make some significant changes to drop rates of items and resources from critters... and all of them are basically going to be "more". =) The question, of course, is how much more; since neither we nor you wants the economy to be something that changes several times. For retcons in specific, I think that the cost scaling when you go deep might be found to be too high even after we've inflated the economy to where we want it to be. If so, well, we'll change it. Easy. The current balance goal is that all of the money you earn in a SINGLE level should allow you to retcon back FIVE steps.

  • [Vapur] Will we ever be able to have costume pieces unlocked and made account wide? Restricting them to one character is silly as when you goto make alts you don't have them lovely costume options available to you to help create new concept chars.

    Ignoble: There are going to be costume pieces that can be unlocked at an account level, and others that are only for the characters that earned them. The ones for individual characters are a way to show off your status, to show that you accomplished a certain feat. That's one of the reasons we give you extra costume slots - so you can change your look to show those things off if you want to. Other costume pieces will be unlocked at an account level so all of your characters can get them.

  • [NeoWolf] Question: When will the C Store be fully up and running and how much will extra slots cost?

    Chronomancer: We're building a lot of fun stuff for the C Store right now and when we have a real inventory for people to choose from, we'll open the doors! We don't have final pricing set for individual items or on what I think of account-management tools (like adding character slots). I expect we'll have this run through the money-minders in the next couple of weeks and when we know, we'll make pages on the website showing off all the goodies to come along with pricing.

  • [draulfox] Question: How often do you guys visit the suggestion forums ? When you do, do you go back many pages and read every thread? How do you select what you read?

    Daeke: Every day. A ton of the higher-ups here are always asking us what players want to see most in the game (aside from the constant balancing and fixes that may be needed). I go through and collect a bunch of the most popular ideas and pass them on. We also grab ones that we happen to think are really cool ideas as well. In fact, earlier in the chat we took a question about adding a "Danger Room" to the Power House, and I definitely remember seeing that in the Suggestions forum. So, even though we don't respond to the Suggestions forum very often, we're definitely following it very closely.

  • [Dawnfire] Question: Will Containment Bubble's have their shield reconsidered? Right now it's far weaker then just about any other hold since it makes the target near invincible for the duration.

    Balseraph: Containment Bubble: Compare the cost of Containment Bubble to any of the other holds that can affect Master Villains or players with full energy; it's significantly cheaper to use. Containment Field represents a very specific tactical choice; When used against a single member of a *group* of enemies, it leaves you with much more energy to deal with the other enemies. This behavior is accentuated by the advantages for Force Blast and Force Detonation that cause it to erupt into a huge AoE explosion. To be honest, if not for PvP considerations, I'd be inclined to make those powers strengthen and prolong the hold / shield rather than consume it. That being said, a lot of people misunderstand the benefits / optimal use of this power, I'll be watching feedback, and I'm open to changing it in the future if most players don't get / don't like it. And yes, having Detonation's advantage consume it isn't a bad idea at all as a potential "best of both worlds" option.

  • [freakigod] QUESTION: Do the develeopers play in groups to test the lairs and how agro works, or is that not important to the development of the game?

    AntiProton: We do play in groups, and we do test the lairs. We've been in a bit of a moving target situation with the march up to release, and now that things are mostly settled (inasmuch as anything in an MMO ever is), we can fine tune it. Aggro was intended to create the frenetic feel of how comic book combat feels not allow a traditional MMO tank to hold all the aggro. The current issue with the improper critter aggro is totally not the intended dynamic and we are working on some solutions to that. It may be through further work on the powers and advantages that are intended to have aggro effects, or it may be through AI changes, adding some values to the roles, or some combination of all three. I personally definitely have had some frustrating aggro experiences while grouping on Fight Club, and we are discussing it and working on it. Group play needs to be fun, we like playing that way!

  • [WebGuest99] Will there be a Moon/Space Zone in the future? And what other new Zones can we expect to see in the future?

    Chronomancer: The biggest feedback that we received from players in the beta was requesting more city-based content. The first new zones we'd be looking to create would take that firmly into account. Of course, we're going to continue to create various places in - and outside - our world to explore.

  • [Shiroi98] question: when will claw powers be revisited? right now its damage is really horrible compared to the other martial arts

    Balseraph: Claws powers: Claws powers are intended to inflict excellent damage over time for their energy cost. If it isn't, we'll look at it. Additionally, the "Shredded" debuff that they can inflict raises not only your own dps, but that of every team mate with you. That being said, Claws is a crit - happy set, and you should really spec for a high crit rate to get the most out of it.

  • [Feigr] Question: Are there any plans to add a gray scale the palette for powers?

    Chronomancer: We're looking into the potential technical issue behind this (hues vs tints) but we have heard your desires and are working to make it happen! I know I'd use it to make a noir munitions character.

  • Daeke: And with that, our time is up!
    Daeke: Thank you to everyone for joining us. I'm sure someone's going to post a transcript to this on the forums, so we'll make sure to call it out on our website.
    Chronomancer: Thanks for coming out, everyone! It was great to be able to answer your questions!
    Arkayne: So long from the Stridex medicated band hour...
    AntiProton: Ok, talk to you all later, it was fun. :) See you on the forums.
    Chronomancer: Curds, curds, and a whey! *flys off*

© 2009 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.
If you're reading this on a site other than Bullet Points, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. Good job, I know that took some work to format well. Great read.

    It's starting to look like my PC committing suicide had one major advantage. I have been forced to wait for the dust to settle from the launch changes before getting serious about the game.

  2. @ Yeebo - Thanks. Sometimes I'll download something from the internet so I can print and read it. I actually enjoy formatting the text more than reading it.

    I'm a very strange person.