Author Topic: Mage Class Design  (Read 5178 times)

Offline abdulmuhsee

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Mage Class Design
« on: June 14, 2013, 03:45:40 PM »
So after getting the tier 5 mage spells for the third time, I can't help but notice that most of them are essentially unusable if you want to stand a chance.

I was excited to finally get the "Beastmaster" class, only to find out the primary attack does a measly 35 damage, with the boomerang utility of it being mostly irrelevant; the secondary charge attack is only a somewhat useful utility to get past blocks, and the special is the single-direction whip, which doesn't cut it at this point in the game since it doesn't reach far enough.  Even the ammo spell is redundant, letting me jump again, since you're supposed to have the triple jump anyways.  It's also strange how Cindermaster and Boltlord can transform into an animal, but Beastmaster cannot.

Especially at tier 5, every class needs at least one consistent, useful, high-damage attack, or it may as well not exist.  The only really useful classes at tier 5 are the shrapnel-producing ones, namely Glacician, Cindermaster, and Mesalord.  Especially Glacician, with "Heave Glacier" doing twice as much damage and being twice as big as "Heave Magma" and the stone one.  Not only are they high-damage and consistent, but multi-directional, thus doubling as utility.

Things like Thicketmaster, with nothing but two straight-shot spells (and the ground-pound utility which I haven't found particularly useful), can't possibly compete with screen-filling shrapnel.  Boltlord is only useful in transforming into a Bat to bypass the citadels and nothing else.  Giving Thicketmaster the bouncing arc utility spell to complement the straight-shot or Beastmaster a slider in his main slot instead of the insanely low-damage boomerang would go a long ways towards making these classes at least somewhat attractive options.

I'm willing to bet that not a single person has used these underpowered classes to beat the game, unless playing on low difficulty I suppose.  Just my two cents.

Offline x4000

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Re: Mage Class Design
« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2013, 03:51:43 PM »
Interestingly, I've never heard this generalized opinion before.  We had a long (something like 3.5 months) beta for the game, and loads and loads of people commented on loads and loads of balance issues, which we tweaked and tuned as we went.  This spell and that spell were too powerful or not enough, etc.  Most of it focused on enemies, but still.

We did have a number of players playing on Master Hero, but I'm not sure how many playing higher than that.  Although I think we had at least one guy playing on the highest one, but I recall that he "went for the throat" early, basically, as his way of surviving to the end.  For myself I mostly play on Hero, and have not found it out of balance.

The power of those spells is per-shrapnel-piece, by the way.  So all those "shattered" spells are super useful in general.  Either you are hitting near an enemy and doing loads of damage from it exploding and hitting them multiple times, or you are hitting an enemy partially from cover because of that ability, or whatnot.  It kind of varies based on the spell in question, and the players' playstyle.

Anyway, I hear what you're saying, but it's interesting because that just hasn't been brought up in that way before.
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Offline abdulmuhsee

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Re: Mage Class Design
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2013, 04:27:11 PM »
As long as you get at least one shrapnel class, it's not a balance issue since you can just choose that class.  It just takes away from character customization when there are only one or two viable options instead of five to choose between.

However, if one were to get, say, Thicketmaster, Boltlord, Beastmaster, Radiantist, and Hydrologist at level 5, then you might have an insanely difficult time beating the game on the highest difficulties.  I can almost guarantee that if you took a survey of those who played the beta on Master Hero or Chosen One of what class they used to beat the game, it would always be Glacician, Cindermaster, or Mesalord without exception (unless there's another shrapnel class I haven't seen).

Classes without shrapnel need decent utilities to back up their straight-shots or short-reaching shotgun patterns, but only get redundant, non-complementary, or generally useless spells in their other two slots, which does not make up for their main spell being inferior.  Homing missiles or bouncing arcs, IMO, are essential for classes that don't have reach or spread to their other attacks.  If I can't hit my opponent with my primary straight-shot spell, then why on earth would a secondary and/or special straight-shot spell help me out? 

I'm super into this game right now and absolutely love it, so I'm not just complaining for no reason; I'm pretty confident these classes need a makeover to be useful, and it would be way more fun unlocking the spell caches if there was the mystery of which classes I would get and which I would choose instead of knowing I would be limited to whichever I got of the useful ones.

Heck, I'm willing to bet hard cash that anyone who ventured into Demonaica's Lair as a Beastmaster would agree with me since there's just no way (Beastmaster has three spells that can only shoot a single projectile in a straight line!  Thicketmaster is essentially just as bad off).  Customizing your character while leveling up is really what sets this above other action platformers, so it's more about the deflation of finding out you don't have as many options as you could have otherwise had.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2013, 04:48:03 PM by abdulmuhsee »

Offline x4000

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Re: Mage Class Design
« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2013, 04:47:13 PM »
Interestingly, the one that was considered most OP in the beta was Boltlord because of the bat thing.

In terms of the rest of what you are saying, I can't really disagree or agree since I don't play on that difficulty.

Completely redesigning the later classes with all-new spells isn't really in the cards at the moment, unfortunately.  I love this game too (and play it regularly with my son, who is almost 3), but between this and Valley 1 we've lost about $200k making them (aka, not made any money but instead lost that amount).  Because of that, we're kind of having to climb out of that hole by focusing on other games that found more popularity in the market.  We're of course still doing support and maintenance on these games, but in terms of what amounts to major content additions that's pretty much out.

If you have suggestions for how various spells might be improved to alter the balance of these classes in a way you'd like, then that's a different story: let me know what you'd like to see, and we can probably make it happen.  It's a matter of stat adjustment on these, though, not wholesale replacement of spells.

Hope that makes sense...
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Offline abdulmuhsee

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Re: Mage Class Design
« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2013, 05:05:26 PM »
Completely redesigning the later classes with all-new spells isn't really in the cards at the moment, unfortunately.  I love this game too (and play it regularly with my son, who is almost 3), but between this and Valley 1 we've lost about $200k making them (aka, not made any money but instead lost that amount).

I totally understand; I'm grateful for the opportunity to speak with you about it at all, since this is the first game I've actually wanted to keep playing in recent years.  I'm happy to have my feedback considered at all.

Quote
If you have suggestions for how various spells might be improved to alter the balance of these classes in a way you'd like, then that's a different story: let me know what you'd like to see, and we can probably make it happen.  It's a matter of stat adjustment on these, though, not wholesale replacement of spells.

So basically, adjustments to damage-per-projectile, speed or cooldown time are easy fixes, but, say, giving Beastmaster the dinosaur transformation and Cindermaster the extra jump for flavor's sake would mean replacing spells entirely.  Do I understand that right?

I'd be happy to look at the different classes and see how the inferior ones could be nudged up to somewhat compete with the dominant classes if, say, damage or speed are a quick fix.

Offline x4000

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Re: Mage Class Design
« Reply #5 on: June 14, 2013, 05:14:26 PM »
Cheers, it's my pleasure.

Well, if we were doing wholesale swaps of one spell in one class for a different class having a spell (in other words, not really changing spells, just rearranging which classes have which spells), that is also easy.  It might not work thematically in all cases, though, and I'd want to avoid giving a red spell to a blue class, etc.

In terms of other things like the damage, speed, caliber, range, and so forth, those would all be easy tweaks.  Technically if we wanted to increase the number of shots for some of them, we could do that; the icon wouldn't be able to change, but that wouldn't be a crisis I don't think.
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Offline abdulmuhsee

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Re: Mage Class Design
« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2013, 05:51:39 PM »
Alright, so basically, for example, the level 4 class "Sunbinder" has a spell called "Solar Sine", which could be swapped with the level 5 class "Beastmaster" spell called "Bone Whip."  However, the actual names of the spells and icons would remain the same, so it wouldn't really make sense for Sunbinder to have a Bone Whip, thematically speaking.

Thematically, even though Beastmaster should have the dinosaur transformation so he at least has something that involves beasts, it wouldn't make sense for the Cindermaster to have a dinosaur icon next to his spell class if he didn't have it, or for Beastmaster to not have that dinosaur icon, so I guess that wouldn't be worth changing.  Trust me, I have no desire to mess up the game any more than you do :-).

Even without doing any specific spell swapping for balancing of the classes (since that could inadvertently mess up the flavor), I think just changing the damage or speed of one of the spells in a few of the classes could make a huge difference in making the class useful without doing anything earth-shattering. 

Off the top of my head, Thicketmaster would be much more useful if the secondary knockback spell was faster at something like 17 m/s so I could actually hit something with it.  Or, instead of speeding it up, give it 3 projectiles instead of 1.  Then it would resemble somewhat of a knockback wave and go along with the name "Thorn Mass."  It already has high cooldown and that could make up for its primary spell being only a straight-shot.

If you'd like, I can suggest a short list of changes.  I think it's really only the level 5 tier that truly needs it; with lower tiers, one always has the next spell cache to look forward to regardless, but once you've reached the final defining moment of what your character is, you need those customization options to be viable.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2013, 08:30:25 PM by abdulmuhsee »

Offline madcow

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Re: Mage Class Design
« Reply #7 on: June 14, 2013, 06:37:14 PM »
It's been awhile since I've played, but I found more or less tier 5 felt well balanced. If anything, it made all the areas seem trivial to spam the "artillery" like spells (the ones that break apart after hitting a target) while running across the levels without much thought (the exception being bosses and the overlord keep). If anything (again going on memory) tier 4 felt on the weak side compared to tier 3, just because of the multishot spells in tier 3 are so amazing. Then tier 5 was for me a cakewalk to the final showdown, which was a decent challenge.

This is all based off memory when I finally beat AVWW2 awhile ago - and certainly RNG in terms of what classes you get might be a factor as well.

Offline abdulmuhsee

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Re: Mage Class Design
« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2013, 07:22:32 PM »
It's been awhile since I've played, but I found more or less tier 5 felt well balanced. If anything, it made all the areas seem trivial to spam the "artillery" like spells (the ones that break apart after hitting a target) while running across the levels without much thought (the exception being bosses and the overlord keep).

This is all based off memory when I finally beat AVWW2 awhile ago - and certainly RNG in terms of what classes you get might be a factor as well.

Those statements are contradictory, since not all tier 5 classes are able to spam artillery spells as you mentioned.  If anything, you're illustrating their lack of balance if the one you were using made the areas seem trivial.

Did you attempt to play with the vastly less powerful classes I mentioned, and what difficulty were you on?  I'm not trying to come off as hostile, but I have way too many recent hours playing multiple times through this game from which I'm drawing my observations, and I have to defend my position from what you remember of the game in passing.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2013, 07:32:43 PM by abdulmuhsee »

Offline madcow

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Re: Mage Class Design
« Reply #9 on: June 14, 2013, 08:02:34 PM »
I just went in to check, I won on skilled and had access to: Megalord, Annihilist, Cindermaster, Radiantist, and Glacician.

I used all of the classes and of them Annihilist felt like the weakest due to its slow shots.  Radiantist I wasn't a huge fan of due to the niche use of the second/third ability, though the triple shot is fantastic - drone shot always annoyed me, and the third spell I never played around with enough to get used to.

Glacian and megalord were definetely my favorite classes, and I would say of those classes I had access to, all of them made most areas really easy (except overlord keep, the deep, and bosses), except maybe the Annihilist which doesn't have much rapid-fire access.

I haven't played as much with the tier 5/4 classes as I have with the others, so I couldn't say what the other classes were like. Restarting every major patch kept me pretty much grounded on tiers 1-3.

Edit: Not to knock on your take on things. But I was throwing out my experience, where the tier 5 classes felt like a fun toy, and a nice reward for clearing out things after going through the game.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2013, 08:23:24 PM by madcow »

Offline abdulmuhsee

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Re: Mage Class Design
« Reply #10 on: June 14, 2013, 08:46:49 PM »
Not to knock on your take on things. But I was throwing out my experience, where the tier 5 classes felt like a fun toy, and a nice reward for clearing out things after going through the game.

That's totally fine; on the default difficulty, the game is essentially over after you get tier 5, since you can just run through spamming the artillery and Demonaica dies handily enough from it as well.  So I would agree that they are just a fun toy at that point.  It doesn't matter too much what you choose.

On Master Hero, I would say the hardest part comes near the end, where an inferior class will leave you dead every time and there's no room to have fun with whatever theme you like best.  Really, I just want all the classes to be viable and that's where I'm coming from.

Glacian and megalord were definetely my favorite classes, and I would say of those classes I had access to, all of them made most areas really easy (except overlord keep, the deep, and bosses), except maybe the Annihilist which doesn't have much rapid-fire access.

Glacician and Mesalord (I'm guessing that's what you mean) being two of the three viable ones I mentioned for higher difficulties, but people will probably always gravitate towards them on any difficulty.  Annihilist does have "Shattered Doom," which I think is equivalent to the primary of Glacician and Mesalord, but lacks the falling shrapnel spell.  Cindermaster is roughly equivalent to Glacician and Mesalord. 

The short triple shot was great on my first playthrough on regular difficulty, but on Master Hero the range is just too short.  It's still not the most in need of an upgrade.

The two tier 5 classes that definitely need a slight upgrade are Beastmaster and Thicketmaster.  Even at level 14 with multiple primary spell upgrades, it takes more than one hit to kill even a bat as Beastmaster with a spell that can only shoot a single projectile in a straight line.  It can only come back and do a second paltry amount of damage if you are both close enough, it doesn't hit a wall, and the creature is in the same spot, which doesn't particularly matter either way.

Now, if you have the choice between spewing shrapnel everywhere for 1,400 damage a chunk or shooting a single projectile in a straight line for 65 damage, which do you always choose?

If no other classes get altered, then I think at least these two are a must if there is to be any chance of anyone picking them:

Beastmaster:

Feathery Rebound:  Increase damage from 35 to at least 99.9 per projectile.

Feathery Charge:  Increase damage from 186 to about 279; if you have to charge it that long to fire the spell, it needs to do a bit more damage.

Thicketmaster

Thorn Mass:  Make it a three shot.

Glacician

Heave Glacier:  Currently does twice as much damage as Heave Magma and Heave Boulder, which makes Glacician hands-down the most powerful class in the game.  I think Heave Glacier needs to be made equivalent damage-wise to its counterparts.

Even though those small changes won't make everything completely balanced, it would at least be a nudge in that direction and make the two most inadequate choices at least slightly more attractive to those who really want to embrace that particular theme for their characters.

Offline x4000

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Re: Mage Class Design
« Reply #11 on: June 17, 2013, 08:18:28 PM »
Things have gotten in the way for me to make these updates today, but I do plan on addressing those three classes tomorrow.  If you have any other thoughts on class balance, feel free!
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Offline x4000

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Re: Mage Class Design
« Reply #12 on: June 18, 2013, 04:34:15 PM »
All righty, I didn't do exactly what you laid out in a couple of cases, and I did a few things based on your comments that were not direct suggestions.  I think this seems pretty solid, though:



* Feathery rebound has had its attack power increased 3x.

* The charge shots now show the power of a fully-charged shot rather than the completely-uncharged shot.  The tooltip also now mentions this.

* The attack power of all the charge shots has gone up by 1.4x the previous values, making them more attractive to use even at lower charge power levels (and way more attractive at the highest level).
** These things just aren't fun when they are too lower-powered, and they also have quite a high opportunity cost if you miss with your high-powered attack.

* Thorn Mass has become Thorn Mass Penta.
** This fires five shots instead of one.
** Ditto with Thorn Burst.

* Heave Glacier has been heavily nerfed, bringing it down to the levels of Heave Boulder and Heave Magma.  Not sure why it was so individually overpowered.

* The attack of all the drone spells have been increased 1.3x, as those were less popular with many players because of the difficulty learning to hit with them.
** This may now be a bit overpowered in the hands of expert players for using these, but hopefully it's actually about right.

* All of the "blast" spells now have 50% more range, making them way more useful.



I went with 5 projectiles for the thorn mass and burst because three was duplicative and less interesting compared to the blast spells.  This also gives it more of an angle on stuff that is farther away (as well as dealing even more crazy damage if you get in close on something).

For the charge shots I think those were substantially more powerful than you realized since it was showing you power charge level 1 rather than 4, so I flipped it to show power level 4.  But even with that, I felt like they did indeed need a boost to be fully useful.  I've been kind of thinking that for a while actually.  Same with the drones in general.

Anyway, should definitely be better, as you say.  Thanks for taking so much time and putting those suggestions together!
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Offline abdulmuhsee

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Re: Mage Class Design
« Reply #13 on: June 18, 2013, 06:39:20 PM »
Seems solid to me too; now I just have to get someone to level 12 to try them out.  I shouldn't have deleted my completed games :-).

- Beastmaster should actually be a viable class now with a good, consistent attack in Feathery Rebound.

- I was going to mention that maybe all the charge shots should be raised for consistency, but you were obviously on top of that; it's fairly easy to miss with those things and leave yourself open like you mentioned, but now it seems more worth the risk and possibly investing in a secondary attack boost with the power upgrade.  Good idea on showing the maximum damage instead of the minimum as well.

- Five shots for both Thorn Mass and Thorn Burst?  Holy Cow!  Will that make it strictly better than the 3 shot spells I wonder?  Thicketmaster may have gone from the weakest to possibly the strongest class with its speedy main attack being quintupled as well, but either way I can't wait to try it out.  Both spells going from single projectile to penta projectile is hardly a minor upgrade!

- I don't think anyone will complain about the drone upgrade.  Even if you know how to use it, moving the drones requires you to move yourself as well and possibly run into hazards/more enemies, and they're slow.  Might make the tier 1 Sleetlock class a bit strong at the beginning with its fast drones that double as its main attack, but not by much.

- Radiantist will be much more viable with the 50% range boost at tier 5 (and drone boost); that would have been the next weakest class, but you were already on top of that.  Lavalock at tier 3 might be too strong to pass up, but I'll have to see how much 50% more range actually gives.

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this!  Spending such a large amount of time planted in front of the computer with this game is my pleasure, made all the better by the game's developer taking my suggestions to heart. 

Now to go and see how ridiculous Thicketmaster has become :-).

Offline x4000

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Re: Mage Class Design
« Reply #14 on: June 18, 2013, 07:32:33 PM »
Awesome! It's my pleasure, and I'm glad the stuff sounds good in theory. :) I felt like the Thicketmaster should have both shots quintupled for the sake of consistency and for making it stand out more. The firing angles are pretty wide, more I think than the three shot ones, so the extra shots help very little in prime damage dealing. As in, multiple shots hitting one foe is a lot less likely than all three of a blast shot hitting one foe. If not, the firing angle of the blast shots might need to be reduced. And anyway the quintuple shots mainly make it easier to hit more things in my view, rather than dealing more damage to the thing you hit.

Still might be some stat nerfs needed in there, but we'll see. I'd kind of like to keep the quintuple shot and possibly tighten the triple shot angles and possibly nerf the triple shot damage. If changes wind up being required to those specific ones.

Anyway, sounds like we are very much on the same page in general, which is good. And thanks again! :)
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