Monthly Development Update – April 2012

Monthly Development Update – April 2012

For this month's letter we are, as promised, diving into some of the details of the system updates that are currently in motion, and that will appear over the summer updates. With more class changes, a new sprint system, and the long awaited multi-feat spec system on their way, we wanted to take some time to explain how some of these features are shaping up.

There is also the small matter of the game's fourth anniversary incoming, but more on that later, let's get down to the system details first.

It's all about speed...

The way that stamina has been used in the game has long been a major balance issue. We have had to use various methods down the years to try and balance it, some of them messier than we would have liked, and much of the problem was linked to the original implementation of the way sprinting works in the game.

Systems Lead Einar Forselv explains in more detail:

"The stamina drain system did a percentage stamina drain on your total stamina pool amount. This meant that having high amounts of stamina had a huge penalty. This is of course more than a little counter-intuitive.  Then you had the fact that stamina based classes using the same resource for sprinting and damage/utility makes situations where you are in combat over several minutes hard to handle since the amount of stamina regeneration in many cases simply cannot keep up. This was again magnified by the increasing costs for sprinting because of the percentage drain. Lastly, from a balance perspective, Casters also suffer during long fights since they have no means to regenerate stamina while in combat. When they had access to potions, it was too powerful of an advantage, but then when we locked them out in the previous balance changes, it definitely put them at a disadvantage in a drawn out fight. It was the lesser of two evils, but that doesn't mean we didn't want to address it."

So what about the new system? What will change exactly? Einar elaborated for us, and explained what will be changing with the new system:

"In the new system, we will introduce a new personal resource that will be used just for sprinting. It is also not observable by other players. This resource represents your sprinting capacity and is measured in seconds. This new sprint resource will also be drained when using the double tapping avoidance techniques.

Regeneration is represented over N seconds. The same rate applies in and out of combat. For some players this will mean lower regeneration rates out of combat when compared to the current system when using stamina, but offers a system that is way more consistent, flexible and understandable for everyone. However, remember that this will be completely independent of stamina regeneration, so everyone will have a greater tactical choice with this ability as they will no longer need to choose between sprinting or combo execution. This will be a timed resource that players can manage to their maximum advantage, and will make timing of its use vital, in particular in PvP."

This also means, systems wise, that these sprinting changes have a knock-on effect on a few others areas.

Firstly, the most obvious implication is that stamina as a resource is now used exclusively for combos. Casters will no longer have a stamina resource at all. (On a side note, the cost of spellweaving for casters is being reworked accordingly.)

This Sprinting ability can still be upgraded in the AA system.

The Endurance skill will be changed to reduce the amount of stamina used when executing combos. The stamina cost formula will be completely reworked.  Also, some abilities, spells and feats will be redesigned to fit the changes, and the new shape and use of stamina.

Lastly, the way that Mounts work has been adapted to fit with the new system. Mounts will now also use the new sprint system. However, the mount itself will have a separate sprint pool size and regeneration independent of the player. This means that the performance of a mount is much more consistent across classes.

Overall the intention here is that sprinting will again become a tactical, and more importantly balanced, resource in combat. The playing field will be level, and any advantages earned will be based solely on your skill and judgement as to when you decide to use your sprint resource.

Multi Feat Specifications

This feature is one that many players have been requesting for quite a while, so it's great to finally be able to address it. The idea here is to make it easier for players to participate in different activities in the game, so they don't have to feel that they need to maintain a weaker hybrid set-up just because they like playing both PvE and PvP content, or don't have to sacrifice in order to provide a certain role in raid game-play.

The first point has already been given away in the title of this section. It will ultimately be a multi-spec system, and not just a dual-spec. While players can initially switch between two specs, we will have a third slot as well (and possibly more in the future). Free players will have to purchase access to any additional slots. Premium players will have access to two feat builds, with the third available from the in-game store.

Switching specs can be done almost anywhere in the game. Exceptions are for example inside raid and group instances. A limited amount of the shortcut bar slots will be saved for a feat spec. Half the battle is often setting up your shortcut bars when switching specs.

You will be able to give your specifications custom names so that they are easily identifiable, and you will be able to see all your feat specs at any time.

You will be able to allocate feat points to your builds without switching between them, but resetting your active specification still requires a visit to the trainer.

We are really looking forward to seeing this functionality on the live servers later in the summer.

Class Updates

We are currently working on the updates for the Tempest of Set class. The scope of the changes will probably be roughly similar to that which you recently saw for the Priest of Mitra. We have been collecting a lot of player feedback for this one (and still are!) so we feel we will have a good set of changes that should please fans of the Tempest. Mainly we are aiming to make the trees more consistent, providing good end lines for each tree and redesigning the currently  weaker feats.

After the Tempest we will be giving a short look at the Bear Shaman to round out the Priest archetype, but this has far lower priority, and will be on a smaller scale. We feel that the Bear Shaman is already a pretty solid class, but their end feats probably deserve a second look.

Then we will be moving on to the Mage classes, with the Herald of Xotli and the Necromancer as our first priorities. Note that that doesn't mean the other classes might not get a few tweaks and pokes, but the above is the focus for the team at the moment.

Faction Vendor Changes

The systems team have also been working away on some changes for the reward vendors in Khitai. There are quite a few changes incoming, so Systems Designer Knut Jagels gave us a run-down of what is in store.

"We have added a great new accessory item to the Jiang Shi that I think most classes will want to take a serious look at, and we have significantly reduced the cost of the Jiang Shi's Body Bag item, given the other recent inventory additions. We have also added the epic level leg slot items that previously only dropped in the Enigmata and Ai hardmode to the vendors for those who want another option for attaining them. We have also reduced the price of the various Alternate Advancement containers in the faction vendors so that they provide a better priced option for those who may wish to boost their advancement there. Lastly, we have also added to the loot tables so that all the Expansion group dungeons now grant at least one Rare Trophy .

A little further out we are also looking at some quest changes in Khitai to add some additional new rewards and provide some additional goals for longer term players."

Birthday Celebrations

Next month will mark the fourth anniversary for Age of Conan! To mark the anniversary, we will have a special gift for all our loyal players, among which you will find a very special new cloak that the King himself has commissioned for his loyal followers. Keep your eyes out for more details as we approach the special day!

A sign of things to come ...

Lastly, some of our adventurers have been venturing further afield than ever before, and are returning word of a ruined city to the south ... we sense there may be more there to explore ...

Until next month, barbarians. We shall see you on the battlefield!