Friday, November 23, 2007

Warhammer's Beta Update Number 4

Over at the War-Europe site, the developers of Warhammer Online have let us prospective players in on what's been going on as we near the re-opening of the beta. Here's some bullet points...
- City Team is fleshing out the cities with explorable landmarks and whatnot. WAR's version of Big Ben, etc.

- Items Team is fleshing out the dying system. The trophy system was talked about last week, too. Both further extend the ability to visually differ your characters. Dying by, well, dying your armor, and the trophies act as little doodads and pieces of flare one can add to their avatar after earning them in-game through various means.

- Animation Team is working on the Elves, yada yada yada. Nothing too exciting here.

- UI Team is in the process of COMPLETELY overhauling the UI to be more interesting aesthetically and generally more pleasing.
But now, the meaty stuff. The Careers and Combat Team let loose a lot of information on how the classes in WAR will be able to distinguish themselves from each other, namely how one Orc Choppa will make himself stand out from another. Here's the full write up on that:
Career Mastery will allow players focus on different facets of their career giving them the opportunity to differentiate themselves from others, while still making sure that every character, no matter how they're specialized, can still perform the basic and fundamental purpose of their career. For example, every Sword Master will be an able tank, capable of absorbing much more damage then a lighter fighter. However someone who specializes in the Sword Master’s defensive path will find that they are generally more durable, able to hold aggro better in PvE and able to defend their friends more efficiently in an RvR scenario. Meanwhile a Sword Master who chooses to go a more offensive route will still be able to take a hit, but may find themselves hard pressed to defend & protect as well as their counterpart, admittedly they will be hitting quite a bit harder as a trade off.

To begin at the most basic layer, every player will have four grouping of skills: Core skills and skills that fall under one of three different Paths of Mastery. The Core skills include a small handful of abilities which are simply critical to the career (to continue the example above, a Swordmaster would find that their Taunt and Guard abilities are Core). These Core skills automatically improve as you gain ranks; once you learn them, they won't require any further investments. Moving beyond that, each career will have three paths available to Master, each of which emphasizes one specific facet of the career's abilities. While the Core skills represent a more automatic progress, the pathed skills are heavily player-controlled.

Each Mastery contains Base skills, Supplemental skills, and also has its own Mastery level. Base skills are the Actions, Tactics & Morale a player is granted as a reward for achieving a specific level, every character of that Career will always be able to purchase these skills, however their total effectiveness is intimately tied to the player’s level of Mastery. Supplemental Skills are the Actions, Tactics, and Morale that a player can only unlock by increasing their Mastery of a given path, like Base skills Supplemental skills continue to increase in effectiveness as you’re Mastery level increases. The Mastery level itself is the current amount of Mastery a player has in a particular path, players will be able to choose just how much Mastery they desire in each of the three paths available to them.

Earning Skills & Increasing Mastery

Skills can be earned in one of two ways Base skills are unlocked when you achieve a specific rank then purchased at you’re trainer, players can choose to skip a Base skill if they desire but there is no good reason not to. Supplemental skills however are only unlocked once you reach a certain Mastery level, once unlocked a player has to choose to spend points to purchase these skills. This is a difficult choice b/c the same points used to purchase Supplemental skills are used to increase Mastery level. These points are referred to as specialization points, and are earned every rank, a player will never have enough Specialization points to completely Master multiple paths while purchasing Supplemental skills. It is a tough choice b/c every point of Mastery earned improves EVERY action in that mastery line by a small amount this includes the Base Skills you automatically get. One level of Mastery can seem trivial however they add up and 5 or 10 points of Mastery makes a significant difference!

There is some amount of automatic leveling of power for skills in the paths outside of their Mastery. This is done to make sure the ability is not completely useless to the player, in fact many abilities may still be useful for secondary effects such as Stun even if they have horrible damage/healing values b/c their Mastery level is lower. When comparing the general power of an ability of a path with 100% Mastery and one with 0% Mastery you will see around a 30 – 35% difference in power. Remember this number can be improved (or widened) further depending on which Tactics and Stats you focus on as well.

Simple Examples

Example #1 - How a Base Ability improves with Mastery

Graceful Strike, a melee attack which causes monsters to hate you more than normal would be a base ability that falls into the Path of Vaul, which is the Sword Master's defensive-oriented Mastery. Every Swordmaster, whether or not they've specialized in that path, would have access to that ability. However, after a certain point, the damage and additional hatred will have reached their full potential, and will stop increasing. If the player then decides to use part of their specialization to increase their Mastery in the Path of Vaul the damage and extra hate will increase above that cap - and the further they specialize into that Mastery, the greater and greater the effectiveness becomes, however this ability still retains some use to players of other Paths who will find it useful for it’s additional Hatred generated since it is still better then many of the standard Melee attacks.

Example #2 - Purchasing additional Supplemental Skills

To stick with our hypothetical Swordmaster, for example, let's rejoin him after he's spent several of his specialization points to gain further Mastery of his defensive path (Path of Vaul). Once his Mastery increases sufficiently, he'll see that a new attack has become unlocked called Crushing Advance. This ability is a shield slam that not only does damage and interrupts casting but also briefly increases his chance to block attacks further bolstering his defense. In order to purchase it, he'll need to divert his next point away from increasing his Mastery further, and spend it to gain the attack instead. This is only one such example of an additional supplemential Skill, players will also have access to improved tactics and a powerful Level 4 Morale in their Mastery

For the astute you’ll have also noticed that the Path of Vaul seems to have a focus on using a “Sheild” instead of a “Greatsword” tricky eh?


In the end every player can decide not only how deeply to Master each path, but also which additional skills they might want to purchase from that specialization choice. You may choose to go full-bore down one path, max out its Mastery and purchase every supplemental skill, making your character outstandingly good at that aspect...but you'll only have enough points remaining to Master another path halfway at the most. Do you go as far as you can in a second path? or do you split your other points between multiple paths? Do you purchase the supplemental skills in those other paths, or do you decide to push your Mastery as high as you can? Maybe you decide not to push one path to its limit, and instead purchase several supplemental skills from multiple paths - but remember, you need Masteries to make those skills more powerful, too! Our specialization system will be a rich and flexible tool to customize your character exactly the way you want them!

We hope you enjoyed the sneak preview of the Career Mastery system, we have high hopes that these improvements will further enrich our character systems. We’ll be listening closely for additional questions and feedback and answering them as we can over the next couple of Beta update letters.

-Combat & Career Team
And lastly, the devs finally let loose on some details as to how they're refocusing on the RVR Open World portion of PVP...
The first stage of changes and additions to open world RvR is under way and I’ve been cleared to share with you a glimpse of the details. We received a lot of feedback regarding warcamp camping, the battlefield objectives, and the feeling of the RvR area as a whole and we have been listening. We have begun making changes to the battlefield objectives to provide more incentives to players to capture them, as well as making them more dynamic and interesting.

Now for the part that has been the top-secret project the RvR team has been hard at work on: Keeps. Yes, you read that right – we are adding Keeps. Keep warfare, namely protecting your keep and capturing your enemy’s, will play a significant role in open world RvR and the campaign.

The first pairing to have keeps on Beta will be Empire and Chaos. The art for the keeps will not be polished when Beta reopens, but this is very intentional. Our primary goal at this stage is to make sure the game play and functionality of the keeps are very solid and you can expect to see a lot of “focus discussion” posts from members of the RvR Team as we request targeted feedback.

What about Siege? There will indeed be siege in WAR. However, siege will not be ready when Beta reopens. I will have more information for you as we get closer to having it ready for release to Beta.
I was kind of expecting Keeps, but still, I'm very excited to hear that they're back to focusing on open-world PvP instead of so heavily on the BGs, er, I mean Scenarios. Open World PvP, while harder to balance is always much more interesting.

Here's hoping I get myself an invite when beta re-opens in December. I'd really like to see this game for myself, as I'm sure many of us would. Been a long time coming, and there's lots of hype, but I wonder how it stacks up to it all. I pray it manages to hold its head high. Because the ideas are solid.

Cheers again!

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