Monday, December 12, 2011

AVWW Beta 0.549, "Power Coding Round 3: Continents, New Mana Subsystem," Released!

This one is actually two huge changes to the game.

Previously, the world was just one big landmass, with smaller pieces of ocean stuck here and there.  It was consistent with the story mythos about a 4D-scrambled world, but it was only so interesting.  And worst of all, it made the dividing lines for where overlords were actively oppressing land, etc, really unclear.  This was another thing discussed in the brainstorming subforum.

Pre-existing worlds are handled gracefully into the new system, basically taking whatever land they had and treating that as the first continent (and adding to it if it would be too small).  With new worlds, you'll see the entire first continent as soon as you start up the world.  Then when you reach civ level 20, a new continent will be discovered and you'll start being able to use the seaports to sail the seas!

There's actually still a fair bit more we'll need to do long-term with continents, such as names for continents and some other things of that nature, but for now the basics are really solid and are a definite improvement over the past way of doing things.  It still fits with the mythos about a 4D-scrambled world, but each continent already feels so much more unique and interesting than the one big blob of landmass previously was.

New Mana Subsystem
This one was heavily discussed along with the health subsystem from the last release.  There were a lot of varying opinions, but overall there were a lot of trends in player tastes that we managed to meet in most cases, I think.

The general idea of the new mana system is somewhat related to what we did with the health system: finding mana potions periodically was kind of a lame chore, and essentially your only limiter to mana was how much time you wanted to spend grinding these sorts of potions.

We considered some ammo-style subsystems, and while those were an improvement they were ultimately prey to the same sort of problems: they added some "running around and collecting stuff repeatedly" time without adding any actual fun.  Even for really rare and powerful spells, having mana would be bad because players would tend to want to hoard that.  Plus, making something tedious to get doesn't mean that players won't get it -- it means that they'll get it and complain about how tedious it was.  We learned a lot about that from Knowledge Raiding in AI War.

So, the system we wound up going with treats mana as a tactical resource, while health is your "how far can I journey?" resource.  Thus mana is now regenerating, and you never need to go out of your way to get more of it.  Spell scrolls have mostly been removed (and the ability to craft them has been completely removed), and the spell scrolls we took away are now available as spellgems instead.

For most of the lower-power spells in the game, which is most of the spells in general that exist right now, this system plus cooldowns is all that is really needed.  For the ultra-spells that we'll add later, they'd have additional tactical or strategic penalties for use, such as blighting the land or giving new buffs to the enemies they are used upon, etc.  There's a lot of flexibility in what we can do, on a per-spell basis, to make them interesting and balanced.

THAT said, the spell balance as it is currently implemented is surely not perfect.  This is something we will be wanting feedback on, particularly later in the week as we get through our power-coding phase.  You'll notice that as part of this changeup, ride the lightning and storm dash have actually been nerfed a bit, now costing a lot more mana -- so you can use them perfectly well for navigating around many hazards, but using them during battle when you want your mana for offensive spells is going to be properly challenging to do.

Down To One Kind Of Crafting
So, as mentioned above, spellscroll crafting is gone -- though from time to time you'll still find spell scrolls like elusion or glpyh transfer, etc, in stash rooms.

The outfitter crafting is also now gone, and so when you need a snowsuit or heatsuit or wooden platforms, you'll actually need to go to the stash rooms and scavenge for them, as well.  Similarly, the upcoming crests and spellshaping gems (that go with crests) will no longer be craftable either, but will instead be exploration rewards.

We basically realized that if we were going to have loot drops and exploration rewards that were notable, that we needed to make those things not just be craftable.  Otherwise they're kind of lame as something to find!  And at the same time, it was a great chance to simplify down to one kind of crafting instead of 5-7 kinds of crafting.  Less overwhelming for new players, while not actually not removing any content -- just shifting around how and when you gain access to that content.

Still Powercoding, Balance Still Might Be Wonky In The Short Term

As noted last week, Keith and I have both entered a power coding phase to follow the recent brainstorming/design phase, so there are a few metric tons of changes coming through last week and this week.  Given the scope of the changes, this means that the game is going to be in a moderate state of disarray during that time, in terms of general balance and such.  We're doing our best to keep things as clean as possible, but the difficulty in particular might swing up and down some substantially during this time.  The end result is going to be pretty darn cool by this Wednesday or Thursday, though.

More to come soon.  Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have 0.500 or later. When you launch the game, you'll see the notice of the update having been found if you're connected to the Internet at the time. If you don't have 0.500 or later, you can download that here.

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