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Old February 23, 2020, 02:52   #1
Nick
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Preparation for Angband 4.2.1: classes

With the number of outstanding bugs down into the low 30s, and the series of class competitions just about done, a release of version 4.2.1 is starting to look not too far away (still weeks or months ).

Apart from bug-fixing, the big thing that needs doing is reflection on what was learnt from the competitions, and what needs to be done to each of the classes. I'm looking for "balance", but only in the weak sense that I don't want any class to be clearly easier or harder than any other; in fact, I'm more concerned with making each class feel distinct.

So here's a quick rundown of what I feel I've learned from the competitions (both my play and others' experiences):

Warrior: Two week competition, only one winner, my feeling is that was mainly people running out of time. Very few comments about the class - only real change was introduction of shield bashes - looks like nothing to do here.

Priest: Again, short competition, two winners, very few comments on the class. Priests have probably changed next least of the classes after warriors, so again looks like not much to do.

Mage: Short competition, 5 winners, lots of comments to the effect of mages having got too powerful - especially good recharge, device skill boost, fast casting, dimension door.
There have been some adjustments since 4.2.0 was released: the device damage boost has been removed; the power of mages' recharge spell has been reduced; and the recharge-tap-fastcast cycle has been broken with Tap Magical Device now stunning the player briefly, and stunning killing fastcast so it has to be re-cast. Discussion of these changes seems to suggest they don't quite hit the mark. I'm thinking maybe make fastcast much shorter duration (say 5+d5) and the same or more mana, and/or making fastcast spells come at 1.5 or 1.33 per turn instead of 2; also maybe restoring the device boost, but about half as strong as it was.

Rogue: Short competition, 5 winners (and one who came really close ). Not too much commentary about these; my general impression is that the device boost and stealth are both really powerful and rogues do well out of them. Probably not much needs doing, especially with a nerf to the device boost.

Necromancer: 4-week competition, 5 winners. Lots and lots of commentary about the first of the new classes to get a competition. Mostly I regard this class as a success because it has introduced a significantly different play-style (preferring darkness to light) while being more or less balanced. I think the spells mostly held up pretty well; several got described as useless, but I'm optimistic that that's largely because it will take a while to see the benefits of them. One change has been made to this class - they now get innate RNether, but vulnerability to holy damage (orb of draining, which some monsters now cast). No plans for further changes at this point, but interested to hear continued discussion.

Paladin: 3-week competition, 2 winners, lots of entries, probably the main problem was that it was a human rather than the class. As with priests, there are relatively few changes to paladins - the big exception being the Single Combat spell. This has caused some issues (the main one being getting it to not crash the game), but overall I'm happy with how it works. No changes needed.

Druid: 3-week competition, 4 winners. The second of the new classes, it seems like mostly people were pretty happy with it. The shapechanges all seem to have some advantages, with fox form being particularly (too?) good. Not seeing much reason to change stuff here.

Blackguard: 3-week competition, 2 winners out of 30 attempts with a strong race (Dunadan). The final new class is looking like it's missed the mark. The concept is supposed to be of a big evil thing which just beats everything around it into submission, and it feels like it gets close to that in the late game, but a bit too late.
What worked:
  • Thirst for Blood
  • Throw Monster
  • Shield bashing
What didn't:
  • Forceful Blow
  • Impaired HP regen with no counter-balance
  • High effective minimum weapon weight
So I have come up with some ideas for a pretty big revamp of the class, which should give a distinctive play-style but may take some balancing. The basic ideas is that this class should seek out monsters to fight, and the more the better. Specifically:
  1. Keep the HP impairment, but give a bonus to HP regen based on number and power of monsters who have LoS of the character;
  2. Also have a percentage reduction in damage based on monsters in LoS;
  3. Replace Powerful Blow with area of effect melee - monsters adjacent to the monster you are hitting also take damage, more the heavier your weapon;
  4. Permanent aggravation;
  5. Reduce minimum weapon weight by half.
This is a big series of changes, but I think capable of being balanced and likely to be fun, again opinions solicited.

Ranger: 4-week competition, three winners so far with a week to go. The original class with the biggest changes, in particular a different spell realm and almost complete change of spell list. It seems like this has actually gone OK, probably because rangers kept (mostly) their l33t shooting skillz. As far as spells go, Cover Tracks looks like it has fallen short and could do with some improvements, but I think the others are probably OK.

So the overall plan is to try and get these changes into the nightlies as quickly as possible, so they have a chance to be tested. I'm very interested to hear opinions about what I've outlined above, and on how the changes already in the nightlies are playing out. Let me know what you think, don't be shy
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Old February 23, 2020, 03:03   #2
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Permanent aggro and impaired HP is a nightmarish combo. No-one will want to play that.
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Old February 23, 2020, 03:11   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete Mack View Post
Permanent aggro and impaired HP is a nightmarish combo. No-one will want to play that.
Depends how good the counter-balancing bonuses are.
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Old February 23, 2020, 03:42   #4
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My intuition is that having aggro and impaired HP regen at level 1 will make the early game awful unless the character is so powerful that they can trivially stomp early-game enemies. Getting early-game balance right will be tricky, in other words. You might consider introducing them, and other class traits, as the character levels up.

Boosting HP regen based on number of enemies in LOS doesn't feel likely to me to make actually keeping multiple enemies in LOS worthwhile. You could maybe have some form of vampirism (regain HP for damaging enemies in melee) but IME that's also very tricky to balance.

I do like the splash damage concept though.
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Old February 23, 2020, 04:28   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Derakon View Post
My intuition is that having aggro and impaired HP regen at level 1 will make the early game awful unless the character is so powerful that they can trivially stomp early-game enemies. Getting early-game balance right will be tricky, in other words. You might consider introducing them, and other class traits, as the character levels up.

Boosting HP regen based on number of enemies in LOS doesn't feel likely to me to make actually keeping multiple enemies in LOS worthwhile. You could maybe have some form of vampirism (regain HP for damaging enemies in melee) but IME that's also very tricky to balance..
Yes, the devil will be in the detail of the implementation, and I can see having to tweak when the various bits of this kick in. What I'm kind of hoping is that this play-style will also be a tricky balancing act for the player, so the art is getting in nearly but not quite too deep
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Old February 23, 2020, 04:48   #6
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I could live with reduced stealth for a blackguard because there would at least be something to do about it. Perma-aggro just sounds horrible. I don't think even innate ESP would balance it out. More attack power ofc is needed but isn't gonna help with the fact that majority of the new blackguards, who manage to bash through the early game, will be killed by drolems.
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Old February 23, 2020, 06:27   #7
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If people win Sexy characters in poscheng, I'm pretty sure it will be doable in vanilla.

Other potential ideas: dunno if blackguard currently has anything like song of slaying or situational vampirism, but either/both of those might be helpful and "in-character" to the current class without maybe needing such a powerful counterbalance.

I think I would like playing a vanilla character that gets rewarded for killstreaks, what with all the summons. Usually you just try to avoid the summons, but using them as a damage boost to kill the unique and/or heal yourself could be fun.
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Old February 23, 2020, 11:50   #8
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4.2.1 will break savefile compat? I have to think how to implement that on Android. Perhaps making a different app for each major version change.
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Old February 23, 2020, 11:53   #9
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4.2.1 will break savefile compat? I have to think how to implement that on Android. Perhaps making a different app for each major version change.
No, it should keep compatibility - the current system is savefiles only break at x.y.0, and then all x.y.z keep compatibility.
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Old February 23, 2020, 11:55   #10
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Another thing... The command spell, I couldn't figure out how to use it to my advantage. Someone has tips about this spell?
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