View Full Version : Improving issues that crop up over time
04-25-2019, 07:09 PM
I'd love to be able to address the following issues before the game comes out i.e. without a mod:
It's worth noting that Drox didn't suffer from the following issues because it never had the skill system in place. The only balance issue I'm aware of with Drox is the monsters gaining strength faster than the Races, and I'm not sure if that's still a problem.
As far as I can tell, the skill system DL, much like the fantasy games before it, suffers from two main problems. I'm offering 2 ideas which are orthogonal i.e. they can be applied independently of one another.
1. The curse of magic characters. Magic characters have always been at a disadvantage in Soldak games. Not only do they rely on mana heavily (as is to be expected), they also have semi-linear scaling for their magic attacks, which means a player has to constantly invest points in the magic skills to survive against increasingly strong monsters. This is in huge contrast to the fighter/bow characters, who rely on weapons for attack damage and boost it with percentages from only a few necessary skill levels. The latter is a much easier power curve to balance against the monsters, whereas linear damage levels in skills is much harder.
Even though Zombasite seems to add some non-linear damage in an attempt to deal with this problem, this is still very difficult to balance with respect to monster strength.
Additionally, magic characters really don't benefit much from, nor do they care about, items. They get weak armor items such as robes, and weak weapons such as staves. Just the other day I saw another complaint about Zombasite's damage scaling for magicians -- it simply doesn't scale very well, and honestly it's a pain to make sure it scales well.
My recommended solution to this is to add a 'magic damage' or 'magic channeling' stat to every weapon. It will be the opposite of damage, ie. axes and such will have the least magic channeling, and staves will have the most. Then, each magic damage spell will do a percentage of magic damage. AOE spells might do -66% of magic damage, with further investment bringing up the amount. A fiery blast might do regular spell damage by default, since it's got no splash damage. Each spell would translate the magic damage to its own element ie. fire, ice etc.
There. Balance problems should not be an issue for magic users again, and magic users are now interested in items, but in a different way than fighters. Also, a fighting magician may want to switch between swords and clubs, or just use swords, which have less magic damage.
2. Skill points numbers. Over the 100 levels of the game, you get around 1050 skill points. That's a crazy amount! What's more interesting is that by level 50, you only get around 250 skill points! So halfway through the game advancement-wise, you have only a small fraction of the total skill points you'd get.
In general, schemes with heavy number inflation have unexpected consequences. They create weird effects, such as being able to add a ton of low-level skills from the high rewards given at just one high level, instead of needing to save up. Also, the lack of points at the lower levels translates somewhat into the struggle magic users have to just keep their skills competitive (but see section 1 above for what I think is a better solution).
How do we solve this massive skill point inflation? Make skill points per level uniform, or at least capped at a reasonable number. If every level gives you 3 skill points, you still end up with 300 skill points for the game. Alternatively, have the current scheme (of more skill points every 5 levels), but cap it at 4 or 5 skill points per level tops.
(Note that with the suggestion above of changing the way magic works, we no longer need to take 40 levels of a magic skill, eating up all the skill points. Magic users can relax and pick their favorite skills, knowing that they'll scale with equipment too.)
Skill costs can now be adjusted down, either staying at their initial cost for the whole game (which would make cheap skills much cheaper than more expensive ones, and therefore very attractive cost-wise), or increasing slowly, every 5 levels or so, which would not have that same cheap skill boosting effect, but still slow down the price growth of skills.
Tackling these 2 issues I think will make this and future Soldak games well-tuned from the get-go, much as Drox is well-tuned due to its design choices. Though they might need a few tweaks after the initial adjustment, this should make it much easier to get a nice, playable experience from beginning to end, and make magic skills truly competitive with non-magic skills at all levels.
04-26-2019, 02:58 PM
Wands and staves do add to you magic damage btw.
04-26-2019, 04:37 PM
Uh... wait? I just read this and I thoroughly disagree with about everything here on point #1. Saying Magic Casters are at a disadvantage is just false. 100% false.
Earthquake is the de facto best damage ability you can get in the game by miles, and it is a spell. It's cast time is nuts. It's damage is nuts. It's AoE is nuts. And, the cost is easily managable, even at a level 1 base cost of 20. It's so overpowered that I've used it on pretty much every character since the game came out.
I haven't had a chance to test a full explosion radius built yet, but even if Holy Fire/Fireball/etc. are stronger, they would still count as a magic abilities and be #1 in the game. Magic in Din's Legacy is overpowered in it's current iteration. It's not even close.
I think that you have points that would be valid if some of the major other balance issues of the game were addressed, like the lack of level requirements on high-level mail/plate gear and weapons, so you can acquire level 100 gear at as early as level 20. You can even just get a high-leveled piece of gear with like +13 mana regen a second coupled with the in-combat mana regeneration rate passive or a piece of mana gain on hit gear (like +44 at level 100) and boom, who cares about mana anymore? You'll be capped 24/7.
But, since those issues exist, spells are overpowered beyond belief. Hell, even with those big balance issues addressed, they'd probably still be the best because you can use cast speed to speed up spells, but you can't speed up attacks (because weapon speed doesn't effect attack skills cast time).
But, to more specifically address your point on #1, it's already the case that you want to use wands for the best spell damage. They have flat spell damage that is very high, can get cast speed, crushing blow, magic crit and additional spell damage from mods. For example, the wand MageBane (I think) can roll up to 300% spell damage. Good luck getting anything close to that on even a staff!
And, let's not forget that melee fighters have to deal with accuracy and they have an implicit disadvantage for needing to be close to a monster (unless you're using the spell-attack abilities).
Sorry for the rant... but it really needs to be said that spells are anything other than overpowered in the current iteration of the game. I could go on for hours about the balance of melee versus self-cast spells and that's without even getting into summons.
For #2: I actually kind of like the exponential power system that Din's Legacy employs. The difference between a level 90 and level 100 character is great, and that's not something that you see much of in an ARPG. Take Path of Exile for instance. The different between level 90 and 100 in PoE is pretty much negligible aside form a few niche builds. You get a bit more defenses and maybe a couple more minor notables on your tree for 5% damage... No big deal.
In contrast, 90 to 100 in Din's Legacy can effectively triple your damage, move speed, defenses and clear speed simply due to the multiplicative nature of stats. You constantly feel your character power raising in Din's Legacy, until you become obnoxiously powerful in the end game and go around clearing the game at mach speed (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gcgsn7g57W0&t=193s).
I also don't think anybody can realistically have issues with the game as is with how you can now use food to get vitality very reliably, and there are options to make the game easier on the area select screen. Though, it's really hard to gauge the difficulty of the game accurately when it is pretty much a faceroll no matter what you do at the moment.
edit: I really wish somebody would call me wrong and tell me Earthquake isn't overpowered so I can show this video of how bugged and overpowered it really is right now.... if only there were more critics :(
04-29-2019, 12:27 AM
Oh boy. Apparently it's not a game at these levels -- it's just a mess.
Most of my knowledge of the game systems comes from Din's Curse. Even back then, cast time was obnoxiously strong and the only way to run a magic build (if I remember correctly -- it's been a while). It looks like some stuff has changed since then to make magic builds more powerful at higher levels. DL has the added issue of essentially giving you the ability to pick any skill at will (given how many mutation points there are, and with no further limits), thus making every skill compete with every other skill in any tree, so that AOE skills will fully dominate.
I still think the 2 suggestions I made are key to getting any semblance of balance in the late game. There are just too many skill points being handed out, allowing one to reach extremely high levels of any skill. Any effect ramped up to very high levels will be overly strong and too hard to plan for.
At the same time, the magic attack skills require sinking constant points into. In essence, the problem is that there are 2 different skill systems: one percentage based and requiring only few levels, and one direct damage based, requiring a ton of levels just to keep up. Putting those 2 systems on the same plane would make it possible to plan some kind of damage curve. Attack items give a decent damage curve with their stat requirements, and the fact that the player will gradually find better items means the damage curve is smoother than anything you can do with skill-based damage.
like the lack of level requirements on high-level mail/plate gear and weapons, so you can acquire level 100 gear at as early as level 20
I guess this has to do with the fact that there's a shared stash, and that the stat requirements are linear, while as you get good equipment, your stats grow much faster than linearly due to many items contributing to stats, making the higher level requirements meaningless. It needs to be a quadratic stat requirement function instead, or indeed just have level requirements.
In contrast, 90 to 100 in Din's Legacy can effectively triple your damage, move speed, defenses and clear speed simply due to the multiplicative nature of stats.
I consider this a problem. It may be a fun power fantasy, but the game clearly loses most of its challenge, when it's supposed to be at its most challenging at this point. I'm open to more suggestions regarding overpowered aspects and ways to correct them.
04-29-2019, 12:58 AM
Wands and staves do add to you magic damage btw.
That was just a minor part of the suggestion, but good to know :)
Would it be possible to add a Min/MaxSpellDamageBase and Min/MaxSpellDamagePerLevel to put on items? Also, a LevelsBetweenSkillCostRaises to act on BaseSkill's CostIncreasePerLevel (making the cost of spells go up only every few levels) would be great. I'll try to cook up a vision of what I'm describing with those.
Also, I agree with Destro that strong AOE spells like Earthquake and Maelstrom should have a cooldown (ReuseTime) to prevent spamming them at super-fast frequencies with cast time boosts, thus preventing them from completely dominating the game.
And regarding the armor requirements, they should go up faster. As you go up in levels, you find more and more items that supplement your stats, and they eventually exceed your own point investments. However, they're still linear as a function of your level -- they're just a much steeper linear curve. So just modifying the derived items -- SwordTwoHanded2/3 etc to have higher STATsPerLevel could be the best solution.
04-29-2019, 01:03 AM
"I consider this a problem. It may be a fun power fantasy, but the game clearly loses most of its challenge, when it's supposed to be at its most challenging at this point. I'm open to more suggestions regarding overpowered aspects and ways to correct them."
When you have 60k hp in legendary difficulty, and monsters hit a max of 2k, there is no difficulty. It's just easy. The gameplay is watered down to clearspeed only. So, I agree with you. And, the current state of the game is much worse than what I have in that video.
My recommendation is to make the higher difficulties substantially harder. However, difficulty can't be blindly raised. A serious, comprehensive balance overhaul would be necessary to make various builds viable.
In Zombasite, my 'mo mod' was meant to address this. It was a crap-ton of work that I would not easily repeat given my current circumstances. If such balance was applied to the game from the Developer's Perspective, I could see the game having even more replayability due to more build diversity while simultaneously being genuinely challenging.
But, I can understand why Shadow wouldn't want to do such a massive overhaul. It takes a lot of time. And, he might think the game balance is fine enough as is, given the amount of players that the game has. This is why I made my post in the feedback thread for a veteran's mode that has much accelerated scaling, for the people that want a real challenge without being forced to mod the game, and without a huge amount of work being necessary to make difficult gameplay.
04-29-2019, 09:02 AM
But, I can understand why Shadow wouldn't want to do such a massive overhaul. It takes a lot of time. And, he might think the game balance is fine enough as is, given the amount of players that the game has.
I agree, and having made my own balance mod for DC (as you did for Zombasite), I also would prefer not to put in the oodles of time necessary. That's why I think a better route is to try and follow principles that balance fairly naturally, identifying the sources of spiraling over/under-power and reducing them.
Having a ton of skill points, especially in the late game, is one such issue; having cast time bonuses go as high as they do is another; having a *need* for investing in skill levels due to magic skills that do direct damage rather than working in percentages off of a base stat is another issue; and as you mentioned, having irrelevant armor stat requirements due to the explosion in sources for stat boosts in the mid-late game is yet another issue.
04-29-2019, 02:24 PM
I am still planning on lots of balancing changes.
04-30-2019, 10:54 AM
Another place where the linear scaling is a problem is summoning monsters. It's not fun to summon monsters that are far too weak to do anything because they're too low level. That's why in my mod I had MonsterLevelPerUserLevel 1.0 -- this is especially important at higher levels, where the 0.5 factor makes the summoned monsters completely useless, and requires a major investment in the skill for them to be even remotely useful. Instead, I made it so the summoned skeletons/monsters are at the user level - 1. With more flexibility, the monsters could start out at user level - 3 and max out at user level + 2 or some such thing.
It's not fun to gain a level and have your skills be weaker relatively speaking! This is one of the big problems with both linear spells and linear summons. The player expects their skills to keep up with their own level advancement, rather than being forced to invest more because now they're up against higher level monsters.
04-30-2019, 11:13 AM
Contrasting this to Drox also helps make sense of it. It's not a problem that your fighters stay at a given level because they're part of an item. We expect our items not to scale with our level, and that we should look for better ones. We don't expect skills to not scale with us and to require constant investment. This is why making the base spell damage come from the weapon makes sense.
04-30-2019, 01:10 PM
At the same time, the way to balance summoner classes is by demanding that they have high mana. Summoned monsters should eat up a certain amount of mana per second. Therefore, you have to think carefully about summoning too many monsters. The easiest way to do that currently is through auras.
EDIT: Now I remember why I didn't implement this: in multiplayer, all players would lose mana. It needs some wiring to make it so only the owning player loses mana.
04-30-2019, 10:15 PM
I still think that using items for magic damage is the best way to balance the game (and all the fantasy games going forward). I just played a level 9 mage. By investing points into Fiery Blast, I could get it up to level 5. It was doing around 40 dps, when the good swords were doing around 10 dps. It wouldn't be hard to get it further up to 50 dps, etc.
There's just no good way to balance this. I don't have skill points to put in to other things, but I can kill enemies way too easily. You'd have to put in level limits, like I did in the DC mod. That's a huge pain to calculate.
Much easier to put in natural level limits using items and their stat requirements, and to have the spells boost weapon spell damage by certain percentages that grew slowly as you invested in the skill. Increasing things like spell radius would also make more sense then -- it doesn't make sense when you're forced to invest in the skill to keep it up to date anyway -- what does it matter that the radius went up? You had to put points in since that's your main skill. But it does matter when it's a real choice.
05-01-2019, 09:25 AM
One note is that if weapons are used as base spell damage, they must also specify base mana cost, or at least an added mana cost. Otherwise, there's little need to invest in a large mana pool for a wizard, as you could just have one level of e.g. fireball and keep using low mana, just as a warrior could.
05-02-2019, 07:04 PM
Another option, if weapon spell damage is not acceptable, is to have base spell damage and mana use come automatically from level, and have all spell modify that, e.g. Earthquake level 1 could be 20%-40% of base damage, and 150% of base mana usage.
You're basically kinda doing that -- there's an implicit passive percentage that goes up the more spells you buy. Computing what that is though, and balancing it is really difficult.
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