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Post 1.31 RPG design - Heroes without hero skills?

Discussion in 'Idea Factory' started by Cespie, Jul 15, 2019.

  1. Cespie

    Cespie

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    One of the early ideas I had for the new ability changing natives, was the concept of abandoning hero skills completely in RPG maps.

    I often found that RPG maps would end up being focused on 1 or 2 skills, with the rest of the kit being all but ignored, as the most favorable option was always prioritized. This also made it hard to make an entire meaningful skillset, as players would often just focus everything into 1 central spell.
    In addition, it was a consistent and almost impossible challenge to balance skill points against hero stats and items.

    In the past, I'd try to add stat based trigger effects to a few spells to align overall power more with the stats gained through gear and levels, but with the new natives, it's now easier than ever to go all the way and abandon the concept of skill levels completely.

    The premise is simple. The hero spells are shifted into normal spells, which are available at level 1, or added on levelup. An added bonus, is that this frees up an icon slot in the standard unit UI for a 7th skill button.
    The skills scale entirely on stats, meaning that leveling up a caster unit, will empower the skills as the hero gains more intelligence, for example. This makes it much easier for skills to scale consistently with attack based damage sources, and makes it relatively easy to balance different heroes kits.
    Mana costs are increased on levelups, or alternatively, the mana system is reworked entirely around a fixed level, with intelligence offering a different bonus than the mana/regen bonus it usually does, for a 100% consistent experience with mana throughout the map.

    My early playtests of this concept were extremely fun. I was able to use entire spell-kits rather than just focusing on the burstiest spell, items felt meaningful on the caster hero, utility spells weren't an afterthought, and I found myself having a remarkably better time overall. I didn't miss the skill points at all.

    What are your thoughts on this concept? Is it worth considering to you? Do you see any obstacles to overcome, and if so, do you see a way to overcome them?

    I'm interested in hearing your thoughts, as well as possible ways in which you may have already implemented a similar concept.
     
  2. Duke

    Duke

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    I think this is generally a good idea, the only thing that some people might find unappealing is lesser extent to which you can "customize" as you lose the possibility to choose which ability you improve when a new level is reached. But if there are other customization possibilities in your map, such as talent system or something, then this probably won't be an issue.
     
  3. Cespie

    Cespie

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    I get your point, but I honestly never felt that this was ever the case. It'd always be most reliable to go for whatever boosted consistent performance the most. For damage dealers, this usually meant pumping everything into 1-2 spells and neglecting everything else. This isn't really a balance issue, as you can't possibly compare a 4 second cooldown dps skill with a 2 minute cooldown ultimate skill. People are going to want to boost the 4 second spell most of the time, as that is what they rely on for damage.
    Similarly, a healer will always focus on the flat healing numbers over leveling up CC and other support skills, unless these are tuned to be superior, at which point they simply take priority instead.

    I can't for the life of me remember a map in which this felt like a genuine option, and not just a prompt to make an obvious choice.

    In my own map, items are a great source of customization, as there's tons of them, many of which have unique on-use effects that synergize with certain builds.

    What I'd personally consider a better alternative to skill levels in terms of customization, is something akin to how some of the glyphs worked in WoW-WLK, where a skill is changed to perform differently in a way that can be either better or worse in a given scenario. One such example could be Rejuvenation. The skill could be altered to do less healing, but instead grant the target some mana regeneration as well. This would work extremely well in certain teams, while feeling more like a real customization than "pump everything into fireball and brilliance aura for more fireballs" or etc.
     
  4. Tasyen

    Tasyen

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    I like that idea its also good for moba/aos. Here it speed ups the first levels a lot. The player is able to do much more. it removes a problem of heroes with 1 strong spell but 2 weaker spells which are better in that first levels then heroes with 3 average spells.
    One can see that when comparing Heroes of the Storm with DotA or LoL. In Hots your start with 4 abilities Q, W,E and D (can often be passive) while in DotA/LoL one starts with one skill and one has to choose (in LoL you also have this passive from the start still only one active).
    It also solves the trouble of having spells depending on other spells which are weak until you have all of them.

    If you have a full command card directly after you selected your hero and some tooltips beeing wall of texts, it can feel overloaded, alien and difficult to understand at all. But the problem could be bigger, if one would have to choose one of the abilities with wall of texts.

    Spending skillpoints is kinda annoying but it also is a direct feedback of getting stronger as a hero. Hence mobas like smite or hon added the option to define an autospent skillpoints pattern. When one levels up the game autochooses the skill for that level. Thats kinda a middle way allowing both.
     
  5. Cespie

    Cespie

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    I agree with a lot of your points. I was partially inspired by HotS and WoW in terms of abandoning the concept of skill levels.
    I don't think that reading a few basic spells is going to be much of an obstacle to most WC3 players, but that may change when Reforged rolls around and brings in a slew of younger players and newbies, so it's a valid point worth considering.

    As for the feedback to getting stronger, I kinda follow you there. I am wondering how to show this in a nice way. Honestly, what this game needs is a native Scrolling Combat Text function, so I can easily show all of the damage numbers. I definitely felt the impact of stats on my spells. So much so, that I actually overtuned the scaling, expecting the offset to be larger than it ended up being, when the entire kit was nurfed down to compensate for a single overcharged spell no longer being available.
     
  6. Trill

    Trill

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    That's what I was working on, even pre-1.31 (though I thought to use damage system to make scaling damage).
    Now its the way to go, I'd say.
    Customization can be done with dialogs and dummy shops.
     
  7. MoroReturns

    MoroReturns

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    I'm using this in my RPG map. Essentially heroes start with all the spells unlocked at level one but the spells are upgraded by purchasing them from a shop via a currency system.

    To differentiate the gameplay i've made multiple specs for each class which changes the spells depending on the role the spec plays.

    It definitely feels much better whilst retaining the 'levelling up spells' portion of the game.
     
  8. Cespie

    Cespie

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    I'm glad to hear such positive response on this concept.
    I truly think this is going to be prevalent in the RPG maps that will emerge in Reforged.
     
  9. Banelingline

    Banelingline

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    One of the major things with the reason for wanting to do away with Hero skills, the "false choice" caused by the fact players naturally want to double down on their core skills, is that it's a result of keeping too close to the melee design, where each Hero skill acts intependently. If they interlock enough, then you'll get a situation where players will want to spread out their points to cover events properly. For example, a Hero with, say, Carrion Beetle, Vampiric Aura and Healing Spray as the "root" abilities of their kit could be balanced to need all three, needing strong minions to have Vampiric Aura sustain them long enough for the ranked-up Healing Spray to keep them in the fight near-indefinitely.

    The issue of ability focus is one of Hero ability design allowing players to get away with just going all-in on one/two abilities, not one of the basic game mechanic.
     
  10. Cespie

    Cespie

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    I think you're on the right track here. Hero skills were designed to be balanced in melee play, where different army setups would benefit from different skills. It also suffers less from 1 button gameplay since the hero is just 1 of many units that you have to control in melee.

    However, I do not agree with the notion that kits should be balanced around diversity exclusively.
    Nor do I think that this solution actually works.
    For example, how strong are the carrion beetles? If they are very strong, vampiric aura would make them nearly immortal, which means that Healing Spray is useless. If they are very weak, then vampiric aura is useless. If they are very tanky, but hit weak, then vampiric aura is useless, and depending on their cooldown, you may want to simply summon more beetles instead of healing them. And then there's spec breaking aspect... how strong is the hero? If my hero can be stronger than the Beetles, why not just abandon the Beetles and focus on healing myself?

    I have a few examples of kits that were broken. For example, I made an affliction warlock that was able to sacrifice his own hp to turn it into mana, and then use that mana to drain hp and cast damaging spells. On paper, the rotation is awesome. In reality... not so much. You see, either 1 of 2 things would happen:
    1. The warlock abandons the drain completely because the damaging spells will outclass it if focused, so you may as well just unload your mana and then go back to town to heal up instead of trying to micro manage the mana and hp.
    2. The damaging spells are completely disregarded, and the warlock focuses entirely on the drain, while equipping full tank items. Now you have a warlock that basically can't die, because it is sustaining itself with a spell that's designed to sustain a quishy damage dealer who's burning through HP to fuel their spells.

    Either way you push this balance, the core design of the kit falls apart, as players will just take out a part of it and turn it into a specialized 1-2 spell kit instead.

    However, without hero skill levels...
    1. The damaging spells aren't way ahead of the drain, so you benefit much more from using your actual skillset to its fullest, and occasionally switching your playstyle to fit situations rather than always bursting as hard as you can.
    2. Since drain no longer deals damage based on hero skills, a tank geared warlock may be tougher, but will consequently be way less efficient at sustaining himself, due to the drain scaling with damage gear. This makes the whole build far less viable, and encourages to instead use the kit properly or pick an actual tank that is balanced to not be its own infinite healer.

    Even in melee maps, there is a strong tendency to favor direct spell damage to pressure enemy heroes.

    It's very hard to get around a situation where a kit doesn't just boil down to specialization being better than hybrids.
    Either your army is so strong that you wanna heal them because keeping them alive is the best way to win, or your hero can flip the fight by dealing damage instead. Rarely do these 2 strategies meet, and when part of the balance is to choose what to focus, you often end up making a choice, rather than utilizing the full synergy of your kit.

    This boils down to hero skills basically just being the next tier of choice after the hero itself.
    So now, you picked a Paladin... are you going to be a paladin who spams damage spells, or a paladin who spams healing spells?
    Without skill levels, you would be able to do both.
     
  11. apsyll

    apsyll

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    I like the direction of the idea.
    I tried personally to create a system that went even further than this for an aos style map I started way back...
    The 'Hero' is a spirit that can settle in to bodies with same or lower level, available on the map.
    Each body has two skills supporting its type (Centaur can charge, Spider has poisen attack ect.)
    Also every type had a drop table of abilities and soul strength, where soul strength is kind of my replacement of experience and the abilities are bound to the spirit itself.
    So you can consume up to 4 abilities wich are categorised in 5 types, if you have more of the same category you gain passive boni depending of the amount and the type.
    Each ability had 5 variables colour coded in the tooltips like range, coodlown, damage, summon amount ect. that is able to increase separately using soul strength to customize each ability to your need you was limited to max out 3 of the five variables using a system where the stats in a star diagram and tou have just 3 points you can manipulate.

    I really like this concept and still thinking of using it some day the benefits are
    You still have the yes a new ability for me feeling when one drops.
    Plus you have to decide if you use this ability now or wait and hope you get later a better one but also you can easily change each ability to your style with the variables if you want a spam ability you invest in cooldown and manacost if you want a kill in one shot it's damage and range.
    Plus the type specific passive boni coming with each ability in the same type leads you towards a proper path so its less likely to 'skill' in the wrong direction.
     
  12. Banelingline

    Banelingline

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    Highish damage, lowish heath is suspiciously absent, here, and that's where having Vampiric Aura and Healing Spray shines, because they can have enough damage to last a meaningful time under Vampiric Aura, enough for Healing Spray to keep them indefinitely... If you can manage the AoE and cooldown properly.

    Well, for one, the beetles are the only ability that actually generates damage, and Healing Spray, being a channeled ability, shuts off attacks, turning into a stalling button alone and negating any value from Vampiric Aura. The only pair that works is Vampiric Aura+Carrion Beetle, unless playing in multiplayer, in which case Healing Spray/Vampiric Aura is a variety of healer that can't deal damage themselves with much frequency or value.

    Furthermore, one can increase the total number of abilities to five and make the minimum number of abilities three, in my own example adding Unholy Frenzy specifically to enable the Hero-focused playstyle and Parasite for a second summon that ties into the Hero being the overall source of efficacy, allowing for two discrete playstyles that overlap on Vampiric Aura as the source of passive value, but the entire kit can be used all at once for a large mass of hard-to-kill minions that deal a sizable amount of damage.

    A bit of an issue is that you're beginning with a presumption that all abilities must be used, when there's a whole additional mess of balancing cooldowns and mana costs involved in that. By which I mean that you have to have the cooldowns and mana costs permit using all abilities with respectable frequency, otherwise people are going to build with a focus on only some abilities anyways. So what if you can focus on pairs or trios of abilities instead of all four or five, so long as they're keeping pace in effectiveness? Most RPGs have characters with vast lists of options for abilities, without care for ever using them all at once.