In a galaxy far far away, a galactic civil war rages on. War is about tactics and in a game about war, combat and tactical game play is vitally important. Over the next couple of months, many major game systems are getting overhauled and combat is right at the top of the list.fficeffice" />
I want to take some time to go over all the upcoming changes and the challenges they are going to bring. Instead of tweaking an obsolete engine for short term gains, we are rebuilding the engine for long term success.
Where we are
As it stands, SWG combat is pretty basic. Get the best pet, the best gun, a healer and go find your target. Pin the target down with your pet, send in the melee artists and start’a shootin’. Spam your best moves and get healers to prevent you from getting incapped as best they can. Players all expect more from MMO combat now the time has come to take things to the next level.
Where we are going
Combat has some problems right now. Creatures are tough to size up in combat, weapon differences are limited, HAM costs are inconsistent, enemy consideration (/con) isn’t always reliable in some cases and the player combat professions need more focus and specialization. Now that Player Cities, Mounts and Vehicles are in the game, we can go back to the combat system for a second pass and all of these changes are going to happen and some of these items are even in-progress.
Stage 1: Creature Balance
Creature armor, resistances, damage and all the things that make creatures and pets “tick” are being revamped from the first to the last so that all creatures have a good relationship from what they are to their level and the types of damage, armor and resistances they have. Everything will “make sense” in the greater scheme of things. The creature catalogue has been totally re-vamped and will be introduced into the game world with the next vehicle publish.
Now, for the next month or two, there are going to be a lot of creatures that are going to seem too easy to defeat and a few that will seem impossible to overcome. This is because that the creature balance is 1 of 4 parts of a larger overall change that’s coming in waves. When the weapon changes go in along with the HAM changes and finally the profession specialization, it will feel like a more logical system and a gameplay environment that will be even more fun to play.
Stage 2: Weapon Balance
The next phase of this massive combat balance is the Weapon Balance. When the game was originally designed, certain aspects of the weapon system like certifications and weapon types were meant to be unlocked as players opened the layers of their skill onions, opening up an interesting variety of weapons and having a good game challenge. What happened is very similar to what happens when you try to level off a wooden kitchen table with a hand saw. You take off a little bit off of this leg and a little bit off of that leg and by the time you get it finished, it looks more like a coffee table instead of a kitchen table. What happened with the combat system is that the certifications were moved, the combat and damage types were shifted and this has left the current system a little wobbly, so we’re getting a new “table”
In very basic terms, rather than making the T-21 and the FWG the end-all, be-all master weapons, we are “buffing” the system and putting in a full range of weapons at all levels. We’re going to be adding power progression levels for each type of weapon, a better damage progression for each specific power level, more weapon scalability and more weapons and certifications. We’re also putting in more swooshes and blaster bolts!
What this means is that there will be novice level T-21’s and master level T-21’s, novice level FWG’s and master level FWG’s. From novice to master, there will be a full range of weapons and certifications for each layer of the skill onions for the various combat professions.
In terms of gameplay, this second stage of over all combat balancing is going to bring with it a new wave of change; damage, to-hit, specials and the full scope of weapon combat will be out of whack for a little bit, but keep in mind, creature changes are in and at this stage, weapons will be falling into place; 2 of the 4 basic subsystems will be trued up with each other.
Stage 3: HAM
The HAM; Health, Action, Mind. This is a great game mechanic and we will stay true to the spirit of HAM! There are a lot of aspects that are challenging and exciting, but some of them are not so good. For example, using special moves to the point of incapacitation is rough on combat gameplay. There are a few of these examples, but the fact remains that the HAM system needs to be polished up a bit.
Some players saw a glimpse of the HAM changes on Test Center this month, but it was just too early to be released onto live servers. Since creatures have been rebalanced in this publish, players were dropping all of the creatures way too easily. It was a game stopper so we pulled it off the docket for this month’s publish with the intention of reintroducing the revised HAM changes after the weapon balance. This gives us more time to fine tune the HAM changes and also balance them against the new weapon tables.
We want to rekindle the exciting strengths of the combat system that were always intened. Some of you may remember Tearforger’s, “Anatomy of a Blaster Fight” posts way back when. That’s where we want to be. Having a focus on a more tactical level in combat, expect to see attacks and counterattacks with back-and-forth rhythms to battles instead of bum rushes and spamming your best move and hoping for the best.
HAM costs and special move costs are going to go up, but in the new system, its not a finite number where you use X number of special moves and then scramble for a heal. The effectiveness of moves are going to go up along with the costs, but the costs won’t be simply based off pool points in a linear fashion ala slug it out/shoot ‘em up until incapacitation. For example: execute a move, HAM will drop, a short time will go by and the HAM element will re-charge. While the HAM dips, a player is vulnerable for a little bit, but if they fall back for a second or two and let it recharge (it happens pretty quickly), they can get back into combat without suffering an illogical permanent penalty as opposed to just spending straight “endurance” points until there are none left with no chance of re-charge without a healer. This essentially makes special moves have a short time delay for each move rather than an attrition effect. As such, this will make combat rely on “turn and timing” and “attack and counterattack” instead of the amount of damage dealt as it was stacked each turn. What this will give us is a true “round combat” with a way to pull back, feign, take a breath and get back into combat. All in all, the HAM will be mighty.
Stage 4: Profession Specialization
Lastly, once the creatures, the weapons and the HAM have all been truly balanced within a larger, single combat design, we can really begin to flesh out the combat professions. Professions will all be adjusted to have stronger combat tactics, each specific to its profession and all fulfilling a unique roll in combat. Combat tactics will expand in new dimensions. Different melee professions such as Fencers, Pikeman and Swordsman will be different kinds of tanks. Some will deal more damage while others absorb more damage. Ranged melee professions such as Pistoleers, Carbineers and Riflemen will all have distinct differences and all will be valuable in different scenarios. Each profession will take on exciting differences and really be what we all want them to be and all part of a larger Galactic Civil War.
When all of this is said and done over the next couple of months, the pain of these changes will subside. At first, creatures will seem weak *cough*ffice:smarttags" />AT ST*cough*, the weapons will seem too powerful in some cases and too weak in others because they will still be dependent on old systems that are still active. After that, the HAM changes and profession specializations will be added and then we will all be playing in a game environment with sensibly balanced combat system that is fun and challenging. One rich with a full range or fierce creatures, a full gamut of weapons available to all players, a dynamic HAM system and a tactically driven combat engagement within the scope of a larger Galactic Civil War.