Nerfing Starting Packages

Discussions about possible changes and new features that might happen someday.

Nerfing Starting Packages

Postby Ferret » Thu Feb 09, 2017 2:22 am

I've been thinking about nerfing the starting packages Relics offer. Probably by a fair bit, particularly in the area of how many abilities they start with, and how relatively good they are.

There's a couple of things I hope to gain by this:

1) At the moment, I think a number of the interesting/exciting abilities you find in the mid-late game are being ill served by showing up in starting character packages. (Examples: Charm, Paralyze, Haste, spammable AE nukes/debuffs, etc.) Having them all available at the start robs them of a bit of the interest/excitement they would otherwise generate. If you want Paralyze now, you start with Vodun Mask or (probably much more rarely) Orb of Power and pick it up. You don't have to wait until the mid-game to find it, and it doesn't feel particularly noteworthy if you happen to snag it much earlier due to a random modifier. The same argument could apply to everything else I listed, as well as other things.

2) On the flip side, the early game's ability offerings tend to be overshaowed for summoner builds: you usually pick new abilities mostly to support your starting 3. There's not much reason or incentive to experiment: chances are you started with what you wanted, there's no reason to make do with anything else, no sense of growth in starting from unideal circumstances and working your way towards towards a desired build.

3) (minor) Reduce the amount of time/thinking needed up front when starting a new game. Even with only 4 choices (relic, element, element, starting ally), I feel like there would be some benefit to cutting this down: the vast, vast majority of characters die pretty much right out of the gate anyway, encouraging lots of thought about and pondering over options only to kill you in less time than you spent choosing, over and over, seems potentially counterproductive.

TLDR: I want to nerf starting ability sets, probably down to a single relatively mild ability, both to make certain concepts they current give out at the start feel more special/rare when you find them naturally in their mid or late-game levels, and to make what you find and choose to use in the early game more important. (And, to a minor degree, to de-emphasize character creation a bit since for 95% of players you'll be right back there again within several minutes at most anyway.)

Feedback and comments're welcome. :)
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Re: Nerfing Starting Packages

Postby Seth » Thu Feb 09, 2017 7:58 am

Some nerfs would probably be welcome, there are a lot of endgame-tier abilities that you can get in your starting kit, which has a pretty adverse effect on game variety. However, there's also a lot of value in immediately having the basic tools for the archetype you want to pursue due to how basic the earlygame demons are and how random it can be to get certain key utilities. For example, in one of the early builds Ember Burst was a very key skill to have in a Warmth support style build, and to my knowledge it was almost impossible to actually get within the game. You also definitely want to start with a "cannot miss" type skill if you're going for a non-AGI build, as they're extremely hard to find ingame.

Replacing starting skills with statistically weaker versions while preserving desired utilities would probably be a nice middle ground. It would also make the early demons' skills more enticing. Shocking Touch and Fiery Claw are already pretty nice going into 1 1/2, lowering the average starting attack to like 50 power would probably make them a top priority.

The build variety I think is overall an important thing to maintain though. There's just too many things that aren't viable if you weren't able to guarantee a key synergy right out of the gate. Sure dying after spending a while coming with a game plan can be discouraging, but it's not like you have to come up with a brand new game plan every time you die.
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Re: Nerfing Starting Packages

Postby Ferret » Fri Feb 10, 2017 12:38 am

Ember Burst is probably a good example of an ability I don't mind letting stay as a starter. It's interesting, but not particularly powerful. That it does not show up naturally until mid-late game is more of a matter of "no appropriate lower demon to give it to" and less one of intent. That said, the Transpose Soul and Revelation relic upgrades will probably become more important for builds that have "must have" pick ups.

I don't want to go tooooo weak on starter abilities. :D 55 is bump attack Power, after all. I'll post later tonight/this week a bit more detail on what I'm planning in terms of starting abilities, if this plan is enacted, that should make it easier to compare/discuss things like preserving build variety and strength relative to what's available on early demons.
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Re: Nerfing Starting Packages

Postby wizzzargh » Fri Feb 10, 2017 3:12 am

I'd agree with a nerf in general. Since training your summoner is expensive and your starting skills tend to be very good, I know I tend to lean really heavily on starter skills, random corpse skills, and enemy Hero skills most the time, only rarely training certain key things like Tormentor for nukers, souleater and maybe a movement skill for certain links/defense, and often Oppressor and buffs for general utility.

In specifics-
Crown of Glory, Eye of the Dragon, Faithful Heart, and Hand of the Dead all seem to be in the best spot to me. They give you abilities that are exotic but not necessarily absurdly powerful. They're limited by wide stat spread requirements, cooldowns, and other things. There are some standout things like Terrifying, Avalanche, and I'd say Protect and Mending, but mostly I think any issue here might just be starting with too many skills, rather than the specific skills you get?

Orb of Power's gimmick was supposed to be powerful skills early but the skills are so good that you're unlikely to replace them until post tower:15, if at all. I think the secondary abilities are fine (with the very notable exception of Frost Ring) but of the primary abilities, only Body, Electricity, and Debuff seem to be at reasonable places for me.

Rather than the straightforward nerf of just nerfing them down to Darts or weak elemental bumps, cutting Orb of Power down to a single powerful ability could be the way to go. That way they get to keep their cool ability but have no low-mana alternative to fall back on, and don't even have a secondary effect to fall back on. That would also give them more inclination to use Transpose Soul or search for new abilities as they go. Though it might just turn into Big Ability+Tormentor/Tireless every time, which may not be too different from standard Orb operating procedure anyway and would be a failed nerf attempt...
Also Haste is nuts but it's also prohibitively expensive. I think Might is the really problematic buff- it's easy to spam on your entire party and still regen a bit of mana for the ensuing battle. I wouldn't mind seeing Haste go, but I don't think it's safe to keep Might around either.


I think Titan's Fist is OK except for Earth Break. Melee summoners are dangerous to play, after all. But if you do know what you're doing, Earth Break is another always-hitting nuke that quickly overwhelms enemy packs. Not to say they couldn't live without losing a skill or eating a nerf, but they're mostly attractive because Soul Armor is cool, not because their abilities are too dangerous.

Vodun Mask is similar to Orb in many ways, but since it has less direct damage it's not as bad I think.
Dirty needle builds are neat but knocking them down to Dirty Rocks or 55 power needles would probably be reasonable. I feel like the other big one for Mask is Vigor Siphon+Hex- Hex is broadly applicable and Vigor Siphon is an incredible spell.
Alluring Gaze is cool but the long cooldown keeps it in check. If anything, I think if Charm feels a little overexposed it's because of how easy Eloko are to get.
Guilt and the Vodun Debuffs are also great, but as mentioned, they don't work on their own like, say, Mind Scream.
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Re: Nerfing Starting Packages

Postby onget » Sat Feb 11, 2017 4:02 pm

Ferret wrote:1) At the moment, I think a number of the interesting/exciting abilities you find in the mid-late game are being ill served by showing up in starting character packages. (Examples: Charm, Paralyze, Haste, spammable AE nukes/debuffs, etc.) Having them all available at the start robs them of a bit of the interest/excitement they would otherwise generate. If you want Paralyze now, you start with Vodun Mask or (probably much more rarely) Orb of Power and pick it up. You don't have to wait until the mid-game to find it, and it doesn't feel particularly noteworthy if you happen to snag it much earlier due to a random modifier. The same argument could apply to everything else I listed, as well as other things.

The major problem is that the demons/abilities in the mid-late game are too unappealing.

1: Demon link is too hard. And it is lethal.
1a: I want to save offering. It is rare, and it is most powerful attack consumables.
2: The floor left for the game is a little.
solution1:more long game.
solution2:late game will challenge the power of the character.
3: It will not help the most difficult part of the game. Anomary is currently the most difficult part of the game.
solution1:makes late game more harder.
solution2:more easy anomaly.

Ferret wrote:2) On the flip side, the early game's ability offerings tend to be overshaowed for summoner builds: you usually pick new abilities mostly to support your starting 3. There's not much reason or incentive to experiment: chances are you started with what you wanted, there's no reason to make do with anything else, no sense of growth in starting from unideal circumstances and working your way towards towards a desired build.

I do not think that is a problem.
Weak early game character is the most cause of patience test and luck-based bad balance.

Ferret wrote:3) (minor) Reduce the amount of time/thinking needed up front when starting a new game. Even with only 4 choices (relic, element, element, starting ally), I feel like there would be some benefit to cutting this down: the vast, vast majority of characters die pretty much right out of the gate anyway, encouraging lots of thought about and pondering over options only to kill you in less time than you spent choosing, over and over, seems potentially counterproductive.

That is an unsolvable problem. The only solution is to take away all choices.
For beginners, 10 and 100 are the same.
Some enthusiastic players may spend several hours discussing optimal choice.
choice a combo is a fun time!

Other problems
1: gated by luck or early game build is not playable. Winning with jiyva at dcss is more difficult than no god. (Very lucky or must be played very stupid and irrationally.)
2: Balancing for interest/excitement/sense is very dangerous. It is a way to go to a distorted balance in a balance&mechanism game like demon.
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Re: Nerfing Starting Packages

Postby Ferret » Sat Feb 11, 2017 7:50 pm

wizzargh: You pretty much nailed my thoughts on this: 3 abilities is probably too many, and Orb of Power in particular is probably going too crazy on the strength of its starting skills. Frankly, those abilities were given to it pre-Transpose Soul: at this point, Transpose Soul should probably be the main mechanism for how Orb quickly gets powerful abilities, not its starting kits. Only major point I disagree with is leaving Orb with the super powerful nukes: as you suggested, I'm pretty sure this would end up not being enough.. and this isn't a thing I want to adjust often while at a small player base size since it unfortunately means I can't carryover ghosts: the old ones, especially at early levels, will have abilities that are way stronger than what "new start" characters would have. Earth Break's losing cannot miss, so that problem may go away. :) We'll see! Not sure it will stay a starter anyway, but I'm still noodling on exactly what new form starts would take.

Onget: Mid game is getting a small difficulty bump in the next build (I've adjusted the definition of Tier 2 to allow normal demons with 5 abilities and uniques with 7, as well as more normal demons with 4 as opposed to 3. Most of the demons with a 5th ability are using it fix problems like poor SP management, vulnerable to status conditions, or mono-element offense that is easily negated.) Many of these are new abilities that may be more interesting... though, I still hold that part of mid-game's ability problem is that I give them or even more interesting versions away in character creation. I'd be interested in hearing from other players about how they feel about mid-game abilities though, as well more from you about what makes them uninteresting.

Anomaly is supposed to be pretty tough. All of Demon's multi-floor side branches are, once others are in. It is intended to be a real consideration whether or not to even attempt them, and it is expected behavior that players will sometimes have to just bail on them midway.

The game being longer will help, a little... but it still wouldn't fix your starting character abilities in some cases (Orb of Power) dominating the first 50% of the game.

The concern you note about weak early game builds leading to luck-based early game balance issues is definitely valid There's definitely a balance to strike here between where we are now and going way too far in some cases (hi again, Orb of Power) and making starting packages too weak and liable to die if they don't luck into something amazing. My *hope* is that you'd be able to do well with just built in Demon abilities: the early game's demon assortment is designed in part with this in mind. But you have to be strong enough to get the credits and recruit the demons for even that to work.

It's true start up time/difficulty isn't completely solvable. :D Part of why I listed it as minor: I don't want to start making major changes that address just that. But, at the moment, I wouldn't object to reducing it a *little*. I definitely don't want to go so far as taking away all choices during character creation, or anywhere close. This is probably the point I'm most likely to back off entirely. It bothers me to watch a new player spend 20 minutes deciding and die in 30 seconds, but on the other hand, as you say, it isn't really solvable completely other than by removing options completely.

I definitely don't want to create a situation where being able to succeed is luck based. I think Demon does a great job of avoiding that right now, and I hope to keep it that way. :)
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Re: Nerfing Starting Packages

Postby Seth » Sat Feb 11, 2017 8:59 pm

Honestly, you could take away starting abilities entirely and the earlygame would still be entirely beatable on learned skills and demon management alone. (Challenge content like capturing branch uniques would probably involve chasing after certain skills, however.) I really don't think that's the direction your want to take the game though. At the moment, it's so expensive to get any specific skills on your summoner early on (except orb) that taking away any potentially important synergy or utility outright would be a huge setback for character theming. Maybe I'm just spoiled by the old level-up skill days, but the increasing skill scarcity for summoners really rubs me the wrong way; it kills the feeling of character progression (and thus uniqueness) until like floor 5+, which most players don't seem to survive till anyway.
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Re: Nerfing Starting Packages

Postby onget » Sun Feb 12, 2017 4:01 am

Reason why mid-game demons is not attractive
1. Since mid-game feels that my party is refined enough, the mid-game demons is not very attractive.
2. Some demons have only completely useless abilities for my party.
3. There are many same abilities as the previous demons.

There are two reasons that OoP has very high dominance.

Always fighting multiple enemies. That means that AoE has absolute dominance.
Magic is stronger than physical.
That means OoP(magical AoE) is very powerful.

Those that do not have dominance in fact are not attractive.

Since anomary has many light/dark weakness demons, light/dark has dominance in anomary.
light/dark is very attractive in Pre-anomary/anomary .
In a branch where all demons are resistant to light/dark, light/dark has no dominance. Everyone will not choose it.
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Re: Nerfing Starting Packages

Postby Ferret » Mon Feb 13, 2017 12:24 am

Area effects getting toned down a bit should help too: that's one reason this starting package nerfing isn't slated for the next build.

We'll have to see if the mid-game changes in the next build can help with their abilities being too similar/non-attractive... though there will always be demons that have abilities you just aren't interested in for your whatever your current strategy probably.

As for Anomaly's elemental tendencies, eventually, Anomaly will be part of a set with another branch, similar to the Sanctums, and will only appear some games, so those concerns kind of back to the 'need more content' thing.
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Re: Nerfing Starting Packages

Postby Bormoth » Sat Apr 08, 2017 5:46 pm

It is good to see that someone tries more to put level and gauge abilities in general. I hate in games most are blank worseless starter abilities. Especially if they look special and there is no replacement. Take away my shocking stab and I would get angry (pretty fun ability to build around both works with slash triggers and shocking triggers. But othervice dunno if even half of cost of relatively same stated lighiting or slash ability makes it worth, but seems on correct level. Touch abilities seem a bit weaker as you lose best strength bonus for melee for reduced damage and still need to invest in this losing some power, though maybe it is already factored). Though having some late game nice additions, or something to build around can be good too, just don't like design where you have this ability and than it replaced almost instantly.
---
Though main reason to write probably is suguestion. It seems starter pack is not big choice, like you would try to get abilities and relic close to what you plan but it feels bland(even with relic perks). You still not feel special, going to lightning stab and slash over fire one or healing, maybe good buff to weaker starters as well as new balancing parameter would be having something like relic/starter elements trait system.

Like something defining your character early, with evolving(Allowing keep older slightly stronger version, or defining new trait with special bonus for new subset of skills benefactors, or changing focus, or in other words refining the trait in its use in interesting ways) change at higher levels(once or twice per game) to fit possible changes. And if someone decides to go unusual wild build with strange relic, the first evloution option can be some generic bonus based on relic to a bit offset bitterness of loss of character defining trait.

It could be hard to pull of some relics have like 10 main starting sets plus 8 secondary sets, 80 traits(without evolutions it is quite a number already, and with evolutions is huge content) is quite a work, but maybe some sets can have similar or even same trait at first time, slated for change later in new ways as game development goes on, but in my opinion would starting set more than just something to survive early while I make core of my build most the time.(abilities still are somewhat fluent, but you might get other abilities fitting the trait, or next evolution of trait, or just go on with: at first evolution I evolve to generic so lets build my odd build.)

Also traits can be done in trade off scenairo, so taking and refining trait comes with it's ons and offs like certain trait demons unable to join or certain demon family, or you unable to learn some set of abilities or dunno there is good ground to play around. So having no trait is also good as it less limiting. In this case ability can be viewed in context how good it is for this trait and give some buffs to underused abilities.

So to conclude: it is like preset passive based on character starting choice, which can be either refined to fit different builds if need would arise, or replaced with generic relic evolution fitting all things.
Functions: makes starting choice more impactfull on what you would be able or planning to do. Also keeps blank state should you just prefer to try some odd build. Gives another way to modify or target underused skills to make them more enticing.
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