Thursday, September 24, 2009

Random Shots: Champions Online Dev Chat Transcript for 2009.09.24

  • Summary of General Questions:
    • Stuff is getting worked on.

    • An announcement is forthcoming about improvements to grouping, including improved information and mission sharing as well as better rewards.

    • Cryptic would like to include adjustable difficulties for five-player lairs: from turning them down for fewer players all the way up to epic levels.

  • Daeke: Hello everyone! Thanks so much for joining us today!
    Daeke: We've got a bunch of questions from you, so let's do some quick introductions and then hop right into it.
    Daeke: I'm David Bass, Community Representative.
    Daeke: And apparently I'm the only one here.
    Balseraph: Brian Urbanek, Systems Team
    Chronomancer: Welcome to the chat, everyone! Bill Roper, here - Executive Producer and bender of time.
    Arkayne: Hey folks, I'm Randy Mosiondz, Lead Designer and Keeper of Arcane Lore
    Antiproton: hey all, Cormac Russell, Rewards System Designer and forum junkie
    Daeke: If you have questions to ask during the chat, join #COquestions and submit them in chat. If you want to talk during the chat, go over to #COchat
    Daeke: Okay! Let's get started.

  • [Silatt] What errors in your process have you identified that lead to allowing the September 22 patch to go live despite potentially game-breaking bugs? What steps are you taking to better test future patches and make sure that such an error is not repeated? How will you better involve the public testers that were able to identify issues before this patch went live and were largely ignored? Why was this patch rushed with minimal time to test on the public test server?

    Chronomancer: We've been running at top speed to address the issues and desires that players have expressed. The patch we pushed on the 22nd was intended to explicitly get the economy fixes out to players to address the retcons cost concerns and fix the overall economy model of the game. This happened at the same time, however, we were transitioning to using the new Public Test Shard and the new PTS forums. In our rush to get the economy fixes in, we missed the other issues. The players did a great job of letting us know what was wrong with the build, but we didn't have our devs and testers moved over to looking at overall issues yet - we were really focused on the economy changes. Moving forward, we're not only spending more time on the PTS forums, but we're also going to be slowing down a bit with changes to keep the quality and flow of information to the players high.

  • [WebGuest78] Can we expect to see disadvantages like in the pnp game - ie. take a disadvantage to earn some development points? It'd be nice to see my ice person actually weaker to fire.

    Antiproton: Disadvantages are unlikely, they work MUCH better with a human GM who can tailor threats specifically to their players, as opposed to a computer environment where the players can simply choose to avoid things they are weak to. Also it makes balancing powerful threats harder as something that is meant to be threatening to everybody can become overwhelming for a player who has a weakness to their dangerous powers. A human GM can use the disads to make interesting encounters, because they hand craft everything to their players, and can fudge in their favor as necessary too. In an MMO the encounters are shared across every single player and build. So basically, the end up being either really unfun roadblock character gimping or min/max abusable systems

  • [Shiroi98] Why the decision to cap damage at 32% from superstats? The game is hard as it is already, even if the mob damage was apparently decreased.

    Antiproton: That was what our spreadsheets were built with as the max value for balancing, it was always intended as a soft cap, but due to an error I made with crafting, we needed to put the hardcap in now rather than being able to wait for the tech for doing it as a softcap. Balseraph built the game around certain assumptions as to how high the bonuses from SuperStats could go, the hardcap for now and the softcap later is directly mapped to that intended limit

  • [NightsD] Is there going to be an adjustment of threat generated by healing powers and support and tank roles be rewarded for doing their job in Open Missions in any point in the future?

    Balseraph: Healing Threat - There are several angles to this. First: Right now on live, heals generate threats against EVERY enemy in range. What we're experimenting with internally is this: First, heals only generate threat relative to the threat the person you're healing has. That means that healing the tank only puts threat on enemies that already hate the tank; or, healing doesn't make much threat at all vs. adds or accidental pulls. Next, every enemy attacking a healer reduces that player's healing threat. Here's an example of what we want to happen (please forgive the assumption of "traditional" roles; they make examples easier). The tank has three people beating on her. The healer isn't careful, and does heavy overhealing (which, yes, we WANT to count for your threat! Keeps healers on their toes. =)) and pulls aggro. Rather than all of the enemies running to the healer, only one enemy, starting from the lowest ranked (henchman before villain, etc.) will go after the tank. The healer's threat from healing is reduced as long as that enemy is on the healer. If the healer defeats that enemy, their threat goes back up, and if the tank isn't holding aggro, another enemy may break off at that point. This should make the battlefield feel very fluid, but still be more predictable than it is now. One of the core ideas of Champions is that everyone is a Hero; there are no "pure" support "classes", and that everyone should be able to easily dispatch a stray Henchman, and feel powerful and heroic defending themselves.

  • [Captain_Skyfire] What is Cryptic's stance on group 'roles' such as tanking and support. Do you want these to be pronounced in teams or are they just options that players aren't forced to use?

    Chronomancer: It will depend on the content, and overall the team will be more effective if they can use the roles. If one player is holding the attention of the really dangerous enemies, the team will benefit as a whole if they are in the Protector role (defense) and all the heroes who only have henchmen attacking them are in Avenger (offense) or Sentinal (support). If your team just goes in for mass blasting and every player is expected to take care of themselves, Guardian (balanced) is a reasonable choice, so it basically comes down to playstyles and content. Overall don't be surprised if you find you need to use your roles effectively - they aren't classes and you can switch them as needed during a play session.

  • [GreySky] Will we see a point where using Offensive passives will be possible soloing? I would love to try them, but without defence, it's way to hard.

    Chronomancer: Our examination of our data shows that players can use Offensive Passives successfully while soloing on Live, though many are also using Defensive Passives, or none at all. Having said that, we are definitely looking at the relative powers of all the passives and will be paying special atention to offensive passives.

  • [Ryu_Kitsune] I got a question...are there going to be more quests added at 39-40?

    Arkayne: We are looking at adding more content across the board. On the technical side we've got a bunch of new tools for creating content quickly, especially instanced maps. You can expect to see a constant flow of new missions and story arcs throughout the game, in addition to our larger-scale expansions.

  • [Spitfire5792] Should we expect anything new for supergroups such as a supergroup base? Or friendly sparring between supergroups?

    Chronomancer: We have a long list of desires for supergroups that include things like bases / headquarters. But we first want to develop a system that encourages supergroup play by giving these large groups of heroes goals with rewards. I'd also love to come up with a way for the biggest and best to have persistent bases in the game world that everyone can see.

  • [Dardove] Are there any plans to reward healing and tanking in open missions?

    Arkayne: We'd looking into ways to evaluate healing and tanking in Open Missions so they can be factored into contributions for rewards. It's in the queue for programming but we don't have an ETA for that yet.

  • [IveDefected] Will there ever be a way to sort inventory?

    Antiproton: It is definitely on the list of features we want. UI Guru has a big pile of improvements he is working on, so we'll hopefully get to it soon. UI Guru and his team are great, they are making steady improvements to the UI, and I am always asking them for better features for inventory and crafting. :)

  • [GameTaco] I might as well ask a hybrid Crafting/Unity question: Are the parties involved at work on adding in the Unity HQ crafting tables where we use our Qliphotic essence? For that matter, what can we expect from Unity in the near future, if only once more players have reached the 40 mark?

    Antiproton: Yes, I've got more UNITY Crafting on my list, there will be Blueprints going in to use the Qliphotic Essences. You won't use special crafting stations, it will work at any of the existing ones, though you will need to acquire the Blueprints from the UNITY activities.

  • [neuroid] Will we see any new community tools that support guilds?

    Daeke: We've got some great ideas planned for tools we'd like to provide Supergroups with in the future. Currently, our focus is on stabilizing the game and letting things settle down after launch, but we're always thinking ten steps ahead to determine what tools would be useful to the community. Make sure you keep using the Suggestions Forum, because we're always looking through it for ideas and suggestions from you guys.

  • [Globex] What can we expect on the current status of certain powers that yield little or no benefit and have gone untouched? Such abilities like: The Aspects (Dragon, Inferno, or Celestial), and Cloud of Flies? Will these be buffed and yield more benefits or will they remain unchanged and just be left to incure virtual dust?

    Chronomancer: We have just gained an amazing data tool that allows us to see what powers every single hero in the game is using. This will allow us to very specifically address powers that are below the curve, and those that are will be increased in effectiveness. If they are appropriately powered but nobody is taking them, that gets more complicated. Aspects and Foci are of things that need to be buffed. We want every power to be desirable so that players are at least considering taking it. They may be specialized and only appeal to a small subset of builds, but there needs to be some use for them.

  • [Ardrikk2] When can we buy more character slots?

    Chronomancer: We'll be expanding what players can get through the C-Store next month, and that will include the ability to add more character slots to your account. We're still implementing ways for players to earn them, but I don't have the specifics for you - tech and design haven't synced up yet.

  • [Ashpolt] Why are there no new inventions in crafting after you reach skill level 300? Is this intentional, or just lack of content? Will it be fixed?

    Antiproton: There are crafting Blueprints all the way up to skill level 400 at the moment, you need to go visit your specialty trainer. For that matter, from 200-300 there are some Blueprints that you need to visit the specialty trainer to learn.

  • [WebGuest46] What is the ETA on the Danger Room for the Powerhouse?

    Arkayne: We're working on Powerhouse 2.0 right now. This will include the "no-duel" power selection/retcon area, testing areas, and the "danger-room" style test versus opponents. Barring any complications and feedback from the PTS we're hoping to get it out within the month.

  • [Thewolph] What is the process from start to finish of how a power change comes about? Who initiates the idea? Is it based solely on lots of number crunching? Player "suggestions"? A combination of the two? My assumption would be a combination of the two, but I am not in the business and can't say for sure.

    Chronomancer: Yes, it's definitely a combination of the two. The powers team gets feedback from other designers, reports from CS about issues on the forums and bug reports from players, reads the forums directly and discusses hot issues, and gets lots of detailed bug reports from QA. In short, number crunching plus lots of reading and talking. Every forum thread is useful feedback, and even more important to us is every bug report that gets submitted with /bug.
    Antiproton: The powers team spends a lot of time discussing all those things to decide what we are going to be working on.

  • [IveDefected] Are there plans to expand any of the current power sets (ie additional powers)

    Balseraph: Expanding the power sets: Yes, both in breadth and depth. What we wanted to make sure we had for launch was a wide variety of "bread and butter" powers, with a few flavor powers. Powers going forward for existing sets will generally be one of three types: special purpose powers that accentuate a power set's unique properties, powers that allow two very flavored sets to cross over more effectively, and maybe a few high cooldown, high cost mega attacks. It's important to note, however, that tuning and balancing the EXISTING powers is definitely our primary goal, so extra lower tier power and Tier 4 powers are a bit away. =)

  • [Leatherhead] I know melee is tuned to do higher and more efficient DPS, but melee builds really need to have better burst damage than ranged attacks. This game is extremely dynamic and mobile causing melee up time to be quite low. Charged attacks on a melee character are quite a pain due to dynamic combat, notably the extra long charge on haymaker. Perhaps a different mechanic is in order, such as building up a secondary resource alongside energy in order to power the big attacks?

    Chronomancer: In PVE this is mostly not an issue. While enemies moving to range at just the wrong (or right if you look at it from their point of view) time can be frustrating, overall the higher DPS once you get in close - especially with judicious use of terrain - can be highly effective. For PVP we've tried to address it with abilities to root and control, and we certainly want it to be a viable option. There are some killer Might-based PVP builds, but as with all of the power sets, we'll continue to tune and tweak.

  • [WebGuest50] I like the Grond look, is there any chance you will add a feature for four arms on a hero?

    Chronomancer: We would have create a special and specific animation rig and costume set to be used with a four-armed look, so while it would be VERY cool, we can't put this into the costume creation system without a lot of work.

  • Daeke: We'll be right back after a word from these sponsors. Foxbat TV: Your source for everything Foxbat.

  • [WebGuest85] Any plans to add epic unlockable sets to the game once a player hits 40?

    Antiproton: Yes, we're going to be adding item sets, with possibly some interesting new wrinkles as well. The intention is to make sure there are interesting things to accomplish, as well as enough time to enjoy what you've done to improve your character.

  • [IveDefected] Are World Events a large portion of your planned content, if do they revolve primarily around real world holidays or does the Champions Universe get its own unique Celebrations?

    Arkayne: A lot of the events we'll be having in CO coincide with real-world holidays, but we're also considering events that are not linked to any special holiday but are just cool comic-book events. How cool would it be to have the Lemurians attack Millennium City? That sort of thing.

  • [Fabled] What can we expect from the Celestial power set ? What makes the power set stand out?

    Balseraph: Celestial: The Celestial set is primarily a healing / boosting / support set... with a twist. Basically, every power is dual use depending on ~stuff~, like who you're targeting. It sacrifices some efficiency for its flexibility, but it puts a great breadth of options at your fingers and does amazing things for skilled players. This set is undergoing a lot of testing and review right now, so I really don't want to talk about it much more. (oh, and it looks A - MAZ - ING)
    Antiproton: yeah, those are pretty effects. :)

  • [Rizzon] The Tutorial might be the part of the game least enjoyed by players, will we see an update of the Tutorial?

    Chronomancer: I think the tutorial kicks ass the first time or two you play through it. The issue we see most frequently is that players want to be able to skip it once they've gong through it once. We're currently in process on putting that in place, but of course it's always more complicated than you'd imagine. We have to make your character level 5, create a starter set of equipment for each power set that you can get, and move you to a new map that we have to build which is basically a "starter" powerhouse that then puts you into Desert or Canada. Th
    Antiproton: Yeah, I've had a lot of fun doing the tutorial a number of times on my new characters, but obviously after enough times folks can want to skip it. I definitely wouldn't agree that it is least enjoyed, in general we get good feedback on the tutorial. Aside from the beacons...

  • Daeke: So, we sort of caught up on our backlog so bear with us for a minute. In the meantime, make sure you stick around until the very end of chat, because we have a special prize waiting for one lucky attendee.

  • [WebGuest05] Will there be a visible benifit to teaming over soloing other then just getting crap done faster?

    Chronomancer: We're working on a lot of enhancements to the teaming system, both in how we share information amongst players that are sharing missions, and on actual mission-sharing mechanics. It's *slightly* too early to talk about the big technology change we're working on in the next week or so, but it will greatly increase the fun and benefits to teaming. I know this is a bit of a tease, but it's something we haven't really seen in an MMO before and I want to be sure we have it in and working before I detail out how it works.

  • [Satelite6] 6.5% chance of doing something at the cost of 30 or 70 attribute points is totally not worth it, even with the new 32% cap, will you guys be doing something about the nerfiness of power replacement items soon?

    Balseraph: The softcaps I'm working on (that Antiproton discussed earlier) will address that; my explicit goal and desire for stats is this: Every stat should be good for everyone, period. The choice of which stats you take should depend on your chosen play style, not "what's the most effective build". We'll be dramatically improving the payoff for low and medium values (but applying diminishing return). To give you an idea of where things will end up, whatever stat value gives you +30% damage is the targeted balance point. Stat values lower than that will get more valuable. The payoff for Stat values higher than that will be diminished. Tuning power replaces is (currently) the next major item balance step after that.

  • [--xAJx] Q. Are there any futher plans to make the bank storage bigger? I am taking over the storage in the SG bank atm, and getting hasslehoff for it!

    Chronomancer: Hmmmm... if you can't already exchange resources for more bank slots, I think that's a bug. We'll track that down after the chat.

  • [myronman] Hello, can you give me some sense of what the vision is for linking chains of mobs when I'm in a group of more than 2 heroes. Currently, if I attack a group of 2 mobs with three heroes in an open area, I'll wind up fighting for like 15 minutes the entire zone. Is this the vision of mobs getting backup? Additionally, I hardly see it as reasonable for a powerful villains like Black Mist to run for help. Is that going to be tweaked a bit

    Arkayne: The Reinforcement system is intended to provide a challenge for larger groups in persistent world areas. Just like heroes team up to take on greater threats, so do villains. Usually there's a "tell" associated with Reinforcements, like a guy running off saying, "I'm going to go for help!" If you stop him, he doesn't pull the next group of villains. We're looking at making a few tweaks to Reinforcements, including varying types of Reinforcement backup.

  • [LoupDeFur] Will Foxbat be appearing in any new mission and stuff :3 he is awesome

    Chronomancer: Speaking as the voice of Foxbat, you can damn well bet the greatest and most gastronomically conscious of all villains will be featured in upcoming content. He's the fabulous Foxbat!

    Say it with me, people: FOXBAT! FOXBAT! FOXBAT!

  • [corran|laptop] What is the benefit of purchasing a crystal for the 5man lairs for unity merits? Currently you only get 8 merits if you kill the final boss which is only 2 more then if you sell the key fragments for merits. With the risk of not completing the mission do you not agree you should get a few more merits for the Lair then currently (maybe 4 or 5 for the sub boss you meet half way?)

    Antiproton: Um, yes, you are supposed to be getting 40 for completing it, I'll go and check on that after the chat. In general if you see strange stuff in game where the rewards seem off, /bug it, please!

  • Daeke: Dum dee dum. One moment, please.

  • [Ursan] Are you intending to keep changing skills or do you think adding more skills would be better for maintaining the enjoyment of your customers?

    Chronomancer: We're going to be both looking at existing powers and making new ones. I think to address the needs and desires of the players, we need to get the powers in the game fixed and fun, and then make more!

  • Daeke: Remember, stick around for a chance to win a prize at the end of the chat. 5 minutes left, folks!
    Chronomancer: Ooooo! A prize!

  • [tarjan] how about adding a difficulty selection instances some of us wants to be able to have a bit harder game...

    Arkayne: Yah, we've been talking about Difficulty sliders for instances. Lot's of people have requested "epic" versions of instances for bigger challenges and rewards. We've also been discussing lower-power versions of the 5-man Lairs so smaller teams can take them on.

  • [WebGuest81] Will there ever be improvements to the chat system? For example, making the different channels "sticky" when you type in them, shortening common commands like "/team" to "/t", putting numbers on custom channels like "/1" etc.?

    Chronomancer: Yes. We have along list of things we want to do, but it's all a matter of time and resources. Better in game communication is in the queue, I just don't have a specific time frame.

  • Daeke: We've got time for one more question. Stick around after it for a chance to win a special prize!

  • [Delkas] Is there any plans to rebalance the defensive passives up to an equal level? Anyone with both a regen character and a PFF character will know what I mean.

    Balseraph: Defensive passives - Of *course* we want them all to feel equally desireable. Mathematically, they ARE all balanced... given certain narrow assumptions. In practice and in the real world, those assumptions don't hold up as well as they do in development and practice. I agree with your assessment that, currently, Regeneration is just easier to work with than the others, particularly given how well it works with Block. Assuming we want them to actually FEEL different from each other (and you all do still want that, right?) making different defenses that function differently in different circumstances AND are balanced... well, it's going to take some work, and we'll be asking you to jump on the PTS and help us out in testing them as we iterate on them. I will say, though, that making the Offensive passives (and the Aspects, and the Focuses) more appealing is a much higher priority.

  • Daeke: And with that, we're done! Thanks so much for joining us! Before we go, we're going to ask one trivia question. The first person to answer it will win the Limited Edition Dr. Destroyer action figure in-game. (The one that was given out at PAX)
    Well, first to answer it CORRECTLY.
    Arkayne will be doing the honors :)
    Arkayne: What famous siblings in the Champions Universe were raised in a witch coven?
    ... [Theik] talisman and witchcraft …
    Daeke: Theik wins!
    Chronomancer: Nice job, Theik!
    Daeke: Congratulations! I'll be getting in touch with you in just a minute. Thanks again to everyone for joining us!
    Chronomancer: Thanks for coming out, everyone! See you online!
    Balseraph: Night folks.
    Arkayne: Gonna have to come up with a harder one next time! :-)
    Antiproton: thanks all, good talking with you :)
    Balseraph: toodles
    Arkayne: Later, folks!

© 2009 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.
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  1. Nothing there that sounds very exciting to me. Of course, just getting to play it will be exciting to me when I get my main PC going again :-)

  2. Yeah, not much to summarize either. Oh well, at least the game is still fun. :)