Of course, that means there are all sorts of new issues for the Paragon Studios team to deal with as the powers go through the phases of design. In this exclusive developer diary, Tim Sweeney, system designer on City of Heroes, has given us the lowdown on how the new endgame slots were conceived and designed. Jump on past the cut to see how the four newest slots were put together for the upcoming patch, from concept to balancing issues.
Hey all, Systems Designer Tim "Black Scorpion" Sweeney here with a little look into our powers design process, specifically when it comes to the Incarnate abilities.
Here at Paragon Studios, we've always known that that one day players would be able to tap into the "lost origin of power" and transform their characters into Incarnates. When I joined the development team in 2009, one of my first projects was to work with Lead Designer Matt "Positron" Miller on what would eventually become known as the Incarnate Trials and the Incarnate Powers. We started with the idea that players would be able to increase their powers by picking up new Incarnate abilities along the cosmic path that lay ahead. As they increased in power, they could tackle tougher challenges ahead and also help their friends with gaining their own new powers. The new abilities could not be a requirement to complete the Trials (how could you prove yourself worthy of Incarnate power if you already had it?) but rather the unique and valuable reward for engaging in this tougher and more demanding content.
With the slot and tree structure, we want to encourage players who might otherwise be intimidated by the system and allow all players to try out multiple types of powers. At the same time, we wanted to reward those players who exhibited significant dedication and effort. Very quickly, a player could see immediate results via the new initial abilities, but it would still be worth building on those powers if they wanted to keep going. I've never been a tremendous fan of systems that require you to delay gratification indefinitely before handing you the prize (and I tend to believe most players aren't that way either), which is one of the reasons our Incarnate reward systems are set up to make each reward incremental and immediately useful, as they are all usable stepping stones to the pinnacle.
Incarnate powers also need to be more flexible and dynamically adjustable than the standard primary and secondary Power Sets selection or even the ancillary or patron pool selection. If your league came up short on something you wanted, like a particular buff or debuff, we wanted you to be able to cover that by reslotting your Incarnate powers to adjust. If you did have everything covered, then you could reslot whatever Incarnate powers were most beneficial to your playstyle instead. We definitely didn't want people to have to respec every time they got a new reward. Thus we completely separated the acquisition of new Incarnate abilities from choosing which ones to equip in a particular battle. This gave us maximum flexibility and encouraged experimenting without requiring a lengthy respec process.
Each slot itself is built around a particular theme, and each tree within that slot is a variation on that theme. For example, let's talk about the Interface slot. The high story concept behind the Interface slot was a science/technology-themed slot, but specifically affecting the contact point between you and your foes: the "Interface." Thematically speaking, this has as many forms as there are characters in the game (the relics of a Magic user, the hands of a Natural, etc.) -- but the essence was a slot that made existing powers stronger, instead of giving you brand-new powers. But we had several ideas that improved existing powers; in what cool and unique way would Interface do this? We came up with the idea that the Interface slot should be themed around adding secondary effects to your existing powers -- a way to diversify and add utility without being restricted by your Power Sets choices.
Each tree in the Interface slot starts at the Common level with a basic debuff. When you have the Interface power equipped, almost all of your damaging attacks will have a chance to trigger that debuff on your foes. For instance, the Gravitic Interface (Common) has a chance to debuff recharge rate. As you progress up the tree to the Uncommon rank, you then have a choice, which tends to be between improving the base debuff's chance or adding a new type of debuff into the mix. If your Interface can trigger multiple debuffs, each will randomly occur independently; you won't always get all or nothing. In general, you can choose which debuffs you want to have happen more reliably as you progress up the tree, until at Very Rare level your most frequent debuff will almost always trigger, essentially adding a new secondary effect to both your Power Sets.
As we continue toward launch, I'll provide you more information about the other Incarnate Powers you'll see in Issue 20. Keep an eye out on our website and Facebook. I can't wait for you all to get your hands on Issue 20 and start experiencing the Incarnate abilities and trials!