Monday, March 26, 2012

[TSW] Build Customiz-ability

 Dev blog on Character Development.

Points of Interest:
  •  No, I will not make-out with you! Weird way to open the blog - a close-up your hairy viking mug leaning in for a lip-smacking. Get out of here, Sven, I like girls!
  • Builds won't be restricted by your weapon. If you really want a blade ability that bleeds faces open and a finisher that uses a combo-finisher headshot, yes, you can.
I don't have weapon pics from TSW, so I'm just pretending

  • However, you will want to use skills that take advantage of other skill's effects. If you want to use a hammer attack that does double damage to a knocked-down enemy, it's not a bad idea to use a fist attack that knocks a dude flat on his rumpus.
  • Weapons will have skill points to be spent on either of the 2 roles for each weapon. The first role is always 'Damage Dealing'. 
  • Some weapons offer additional Survivability -- Hammers (mitigation, health), Blades (defense rating), and Chaos Magic (evasion). 
  • Some offer types of Healing -- Blood Magic (absorption bubbles) and Assault Rifles (lifedrains). 
  • Some offer forms of Support -- Elementalism (turrets, CC), Shotguns (CC, mitigation boosts) and Pistols (pets, debuffs, cleansing).
  • This skill point system sounds sort-of like traditional talent trees - putting skill points into weapons will unlock procs and bonuses, but the key here is that you can get max level in each branch of all weapon skills.
  • Weapons will have requirements based on this weapon skill level -- you can't just buy that awesome 'Incendiary Rifle of Rupturing' and 'Twangy Sword of Fwhooshing' unless you've invested some points into using rifles and swords.
  • Gear is meant to be flexible - there is no 'damage' value, weapons have inherent amounts of power that applies to both damage and healing, and you can modify and create really build-specific gear through crafting. 


TSW also recently put out this dev diary video on Free-Form Progression explaining a bit more on its classlessness and how you can essentially pick and choose your abilities from a weapons-and-magic-based Wheel O' Skills.

It's a bit much to wrap your head around when so many people are so used to games that easily lay out all your abilities for you and you don't really have to think - ever - about customizing how your character plays.

The devs do mention that players will be able to pick from many 'Deck Templates' if they'd like. These are suggested builds based on popular themes like Witch Hunter and Street Brawler -- so you can easily try out different pseudo-classes if you just want to try a fighting 'type'.

I'm curious to see just how fun and viable it all is. It reminds me a bit of Champions Online and Rift. I really only briefly played Champions and I felt like it was a pretty convoluted, confusing system where you really had to sit down and plot out your build well ahead of time or risk fucking up and making a really gimped character.

(Which, really, is not such a horrible thing, but Champions overall was fairly mediocre and not something I wanted to do a ton of tedious homework for.)

Rift's vaunted build customization was supposed to offer a lot of variety and flexibility with all the different talent trees available to you, but they were all really specialized and situational, with clearly superior and inferior souls and build-types. Which, honestly, made the game feel to me a lot like the kind of variety of flexibility you could find in games like WoW.

When playing Rift, Champs, and so many other games, it wasn't really about me picking the skills / playstyle I wanted and/or experimenting like some mad scientist creating a better Franken-Priest, it was more about every player resorting to [uggh] message boards to copy the one build which most efficiently made use of skills about to be nerfed the next month. And that is sad and wrong.

When I played SWTOR I saw nothing but Sorcerers and Bounty Hunters all essentially using the same exact abilities. And I'm sure GW2 will be painfully high on gimmick builds and forums full of people either asking if you could link the OP Thief build or demanding that the devs nerf that FotM Ranger build. So it goes.

Will TSW suffer the same fate? It's always disappointing when you'd like to play a certain way, perhaps you like the look and feel of fighting with punching fist attacks and channeling blood magic, but that build just can't really pull it's weight in PvP or PvE...

That's an important point, because it doesn't really matter if your game gives players the freedom to create an endless amount of builds if 90% of them make you a little girly-man that gets sand kicked in your eyes with the sting of seeing bandwagon buildclones all mindlessly spamming rifle leech in your face.

"I guess Hornomancing Poo-Charmer is Flavor of the Month now"

This naturally has to deal with that elusive b-word that so many say is a silly pipe dream.

Hi, I'm "Balance" and  LOL I DON'T EXIST IN GAMES

So, I guess ... deal with it?

Well, let's look in the dev diary where Bruusgard specifically mentions that there will be 'hardcore camps*' that ask players to

bring highly specialized sets of abilities in order to be successful. This is the type of content we design to push people horizontally, asking people to maybe take a step outside their comfort zone and think in new ways
So, this shows that, it's not always really about how well your specific build plays, but how you play specific builds.

This rewards skilled players -- I'm talking real, actual skill skills like ingenuity and adaptability, not facerolling press-a-button skills like Tracer Missile or Ravage or something.

 And this tends to penalize one-dimensional players. Which is OK. That's one way to look at success in The Secret World -- the system isn't so much about your a career as Swordsman #4678 nor is it really about your bullshit backstory as some asshole with a vaguely Roman name and a fetish for big swords. No, the game will really shine if and when it lets you use different tools for different jobs, and actively rewards you for doing so.

That (hopefully) should be the true beauty of the classless system and quick-respec aspect of TSW. It's shattering the idea of 'class' and attachments to it. The dungeons and hardcore camps highlight the freedom of access to skills that get the job done, if you have the skills to use them.

As opposed to a class-based game where being a Rogue limits you to Rogue skills, and if a Rogue doesn't have the skill set to perform well in different situations, you pretty much just have to deal with it.

I tend to feel a lack of connection with systems like this; the character I play, and the people around me, lack a sort of core identity that classes provide. There aren't types of Hunter or kinds of Inquisitor, everyone's sort of this drab Swiss Army Knife that pulls random abilities out of its ass.

But if it's done well, you can forge your identity in a game like this. As long as players are defined by real skill and not by usage of whatever ability is imbalanced this week. Then players can be known for what real, actual skill skills they have (or don't have) as a player, not which abilities they use (or can't use) as a class.

(*Also note - my mom mistakenly sent me to a 'Hardcore Camp' when I was a kid and it did teach me how to tie knots and survive bear attacks, but in a really scary, life-scarring manner.)

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