Systems Design Reddit AMA Summary

Yesterday two devs of the system designs team gathered on Reddit to answers questions of the community. As always we have read through the full session for you, summarized the most important topics and added some minor comments. Have fun with it!

What is a typical day at work like for a Systems Designer?

A typical day depends on the time frame of a schedule.

In the early phases of a module there are a lot of planning meetings and discussions about the features we want to consider for our next release, which ones take priority, and how we want to approach implementing them.

After we get through those meetings and have a plan, the weeks of implementation begins. Through out those weeks it is looking at spreadsheets, unglamorious tools windows, and a lot of iterative work/checks/adjustments and back to more work.

Nearer the end of a module, and at the end of a given feature, we go through reviews to see how the features we worked on feel, what we should adjust and of course bug fixing.

Throughout all of a module there are playtests where we play features in progress or pvp or run dungeons etc. for feedback/testing/and simply keeping up to date with the game changes.

Why can’t all of our powers have different effects in the PvP arena than in the PvE areas?

A large reason is that it can create confusion on what a power actually does. For an example, if Shadow Strike fills your stealth bar in PvE and you go into PvP most people would expect it to work the same. However, if Shadow Strike instead increases Stealth regen for 5 seconds, you’re going to have a moment of confusion as to why your stealth bar didn’t fill.

The main issue is that balancing two separate powersets requires a large amount of work, both to maintain and to set up. We would effectively have to create a new version of a power that was a PvP only power, or add PvP specific effects on normal powers that change the way they work. This also means that tooltips need to be updated, changes need to be made, and interactions between other powers need to be accounted for.

tl;dr: this doesn’t sound like the devs really want to split powers

Why was the +5 gear from Illusionist’s Gambit given one offense and one overload slot?

We are certainly in a situation where we have +4 companion gear that is more highly sought after over the +5 versions due to the overload slots. There have been a few conversations as to the best way to address that. I can’t guarantee what will happen with them, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see that overload slot switch to an offensive slot at some point in the future.

Does control no longer have a place in the game?

There are a couple of major pain points when it comes to allowing CC in dungeons and end-game content. One of the big ones in our game is that CC is almost always readily available for certain builds, Trapper HR and Oppressor CW to name a couple. This allows those builds to infinitely CC lock enemies because either their cooldowns are low enough, or their CC lasts long enough. While there can be some interesting gameplay in having a player dedicated to controlling enemies, in Neverwinter it currently just creates fights that are trivial and you generally don’t even need a build dedicated to controlling for enemies to be locked down.

This leads into another problem which is that control powers are too plentiful and aren’t tuned for control. There are a large amount of powers that are fairly competitive damage-wise (looking at you smoke bomb) that are ALSO incredible control powers. I don’t think we’ve balanced control against power well and that creates situations where you’re getting control “for free.” It also means that taking a control effect over something else, when it is a choice, generally feels like a loss rather than a gain.

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tl;dr: a lot of text, but bottom line: don’t expect control to matter in the near future

Storm Spell Nerf

One of the things we saw requested quite often in our rocktober threads, and on Control Wizard threads in general, was to allow Storm Spell to critically strike (as it did in the past). The problem with this was that Storm Spell would always critically strike if this was enabled. Because of some tweaks, we were able give Storm Spell its own chance to critically strike, which was great, but we did not make any adjustments until later in the development cycle, which is why you’re seeing the damage reduction now.

The 30% damage nerf that we applied to it was compensation for it being allowed to critically strike. While low-end / fresh 70 builds will see a decrease in effectiveness for Storm Spell, mid-high geared players should see an increase.

[…]

The weapon enchantment nerf did hit CW fairly hard, and while we want to compensate them for it, we didn’t want Storm Spell to be the sole taker of what that compensation is.

The nerf is a late compensation to the fact that Storm Spell now critically strikes. Devs are aware that CWs still do less damage overall due to Weapon Enchantment changes, and plan to further adjust in the future.

Will the professions system in Neverwinter see a complete overhaul sometime this year?

We have had several discussions on the need to update professions. That said, I do not have any timeline or a plan to share at this time. It is on our radar.

Hard to read anything into the answer. Most of the times “on our radar” means nothing, but it definitely feels like they really want to tackle professions at some point. But they are not actively working on it.

Are there any plans to change the Bonus RP event?

To start with, Bonus RP is not meant to recreate what the 2x RP event was. Any event that requires playing during the event to gain rewards can not match the level of rewards from an event that allowed months of saving up to double up all bonuses. The changes to the refinement system as a whole were meant to compensate for 2x RP going away.

We have looked at the Bonus RP event and have some improvements we are working on for it, however those won’t go live until M14 due to where our schedules are at which is why we haven’t talked about them yet. In short the rewards will be higher, the rate will be faster, and players will be able to gain bonus RP from more activities. Stay tuned for more information in the future.

Let’s be cautiously optimistic here. We wouldn’t get too hyped, but at least the rewards are getting upped.

How would you summarize the development process of a module?

We usually go into a module with a ton of awesome ideas for what we could add to the game and what would make players happy. After getting all of our ideas out there, we condense them into what’s possible in our time-frame and what has the highest importance.

Other than that, we usually have a list of things that we need to get done, such as the critters in a new zone, or the rewards that come from new content. We generally have a list of things that we try to add in every module (such as a Zone / Campaign / Rewards / Critters) and once we finish those things we can get into the more unique features, such as the refinement changes.

Buffs and DC Meta

We are aware of the high-end playerbase as well as a lot of the support / power share / 2 DC meta groups. We want to move away from having 2 Devoted clerics in a group, and it definitely shouldn’t be a requirement. Unfortunately, DCs grant a huge amount of damage and damage resistance which makes them incredibly powerful in a group setting.

We’re going to be tweaking classes in the future but to really remove the 2DC meta, we’ll have to look at the buffs and debuffs that they apply, as well as the buffs and debuffs that other classes apply. It’s likely going to need a medium-large overhaul, but it’s something that we want to do.

For power creep and the highly geared players, they are getting quite powerful with all of those item level increases, so we’ll be keeping an eye on that and making sure nothing gets too out of hand.

This is a blessing and a curse for DCs. Doesn’t look like they plan to nerf the class, but if they change how buffs work, the reign in 5-toon groups could end nonetheless.

Can you elaborate on how and why the old dungeons can never return?

It is far more than a simple flip of a switch. The critters and bosses need to be reworked to fit into the modern version of the game, as well as the rewards and quest flow. It isn’t that they can never return, it is simply a lot more work than players tend to realize.

This is a very important topic to some and although you might not like it, it doesn’t seem like they’ll focus on bringing old dungeons back. It’s probably as much work as designing a new one, at least not something they can do on the fly.

Why are Ultimate Enchanting Stone so hard to get?

Ultimate Enchanting Stones are intended to be a rare chase item. Rank 14 enchantments are not needed for any of our current content and as such is more of a stretch goal for players when they’ve accomplished everything else. As newer content is released there will be increasingly more ways to gain UES and due to that they will become more available and affordable to more and more players. Already the value of them on the auction house has dropped significantly from where it was at launch.

Anytime we release something new and rare we keep an eye on it. For right now they are going to remain in the end chests of the newest dungeons, but we will keep an eye on it.

Larger Scaled Events and Teamwork

There’s really two factors at play here. The first is that our engine doesn’t handle extremely large encounters well, especially when there are 20+ players on the screen. Even on console, Tiamat can be a struggle to run smoothly if there are tons of effects on the screen.

The other factor is that we don’t really think a larger player count would make our fights that much more interesting. We’ve found that 10 man trials seem to work best for what we want.

Good they know that their engine is bad. Bad that they don’t plan to update it and instead just avoid content that is too resource intensive.

Why can’t Deep Gash (GWF feat) Crit?

This is really due to the back-end of our powers engine. For the most part, powers that proc on critical strikes, such as Storm Spell, Deep Gash, Longshot, and many others, will always critically strike when procced.

Storm Spell was the first one of these powers that we gave the ability to critically strike, we wanted to make sure that it was tested and working well before we touched the others, but it’s possible to see powers, like deep gash, change to this functionality in the future. As for Slam and Pillar of Power, both of those powers just didn’t have the correct flag on them, so they were unable to crit (perhaps intentionally so in the past).

We want to make sure that stats are useful in most situations, like crit, and we understand that it makes crit less valuable if a portion of your powers cannot benefit from it. There are a few exceptions to this, such as Armor Pen and Piercing, but those are more intentional.

This is understandable, but players only get that changing stuff just takes so long in this game. It’s really frustrating, but also nothing that anyone can really change.

Why are you and other devs completely bound by a NDA?

NDAs have a variety of layers to them, typically involving protecting the ownership of technology, ideas, or assets. In the case of Neverwinter, we do not own the IP that our game is based off of so in order to do business with the IP owners (WotC/Hasbro), we have to abide by a certain amount of confidentiality that extends into the development. A secondary aspect that is less tied to NDA and more just a general good rule of development is that, because of the volatile and ever-changing needs in each sprint cycle, committing to a “we are working on X dungeon” could no longer be true a few days later. It would just look bad (and honestly be demoralizing) to have to say yay! and then nay! and then maybe! and then…you get the picture.

While this is true, other studios are much more forthcoming with information. This is not something they couldn’t change, they simply run a very strict policy here.


That’s our summary of the Reddit AMA. Did we miss anything? What’s your opinion on the answers? Share your thoughts on our social channels, in the comments below, or visit the corresponding thread on our message board!

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4 thoughts on “Systems Design Reddit AMA Summary

  • February 21, 2018 at 5:39 pm
    Permalink

    In quote:
    —-
    This is really due to the back-end of our powers engine. For the most part, powers that proc on critical strikes, such as Storm Spell, Deep Gash, Longshot, and many others, will always critically strike when procced.
    —-
    They practically acknowledged that they cache RNG, or it is broken in some ohter way. Someone please ask them to use good RNG at least for refinement and professions.

    Reply
  • February 21, 2018 at 9:36 pm
    Permalink

    Another crock of double-talk and many words saying nothing much of substance?

    Just get rid of overload slots on rings etc. No one wants them, and no one wants BtA gear that can be shared to become BtC due to slotting an overload. Nor do we want BtA weapons becoming BtC if we Transmute them.

    CC can lock down enemies 100%? But that’s only been in PvP for, like, forever. But now it has diminishing returns in PvP.

    In PvE, why should almost everything have 100% CC IMMUNITY? Make it 90% CCR on bosses or something, less on mobs. Causing something to be stunned for even 0.5 sec can help, particularly if it cancels a one-shot attack.

    Remember the Fire Scorpions in eLoL? Using Imprisonment or Geas on one of them was the only way for a lot of Mod 6 parties to kill those Mod 4 mini-Bosses back in the day. Now, most parties can stampede through them anyway, but that is not the point. Mod 12 Uber-BIS Heroes of The Realms SHOULD be able to kill those Mod 4 monsters easily.

    Why do they think they have to annihilate the entire raison d’etre of certain classes and builds just to compensate for the destructive power of a small percentage of the top end players?

    And who coded all the Power Share and Encounter Cool Downs into the game in the first place? My AC DC had ridiculous APG and Recovery, but that’s because I built her that way and her Power, Crit and ArPen was very sub-par. She hit and healed a lot less hard, but could do it twice as fast as my even better geared DO and have AA up 100% without even trying or using the DC Sigil.

    So they nerfed her.

    Three times.

    But who coded all the Power Share and Encounter Cool Downs into the game in the first place?

    In the finale of Game of Thrones, will HBO make the entire Undead Army immune to Dragon Glass and fire, just because most of the known world has united against them?

    >:8o

    Reply
  • February 22, 2018 at 9:25 am
    Permalink

    “Why do they think they have to annihilate the entire raison d’etre of certain classes and builds just to compensate for the destructive power of a small percentage of the top end players?”

    I think it has something to do with the fact that the top 1% are the ones giving 90% of the feedback on the official forums.

    Reply
    • February 22, 2018 at 1:15 pm
      Permalink

      You may well be right.

      I saw the thread asking for the OP Aura of Courage to be fixed, so it worked off the OP’s Max hp as a blanket buff and not individually for each party member based on their own Max hp. I was surprised there was not a huge amount of (nay, overwhelming,) support for the idea. That fix would be advantageous to CWs, TRs etc and GFs and GWFs would not have to stack hp just to take advantage of another class’ Class Feature.

      But any dedicated group of players will stack whatever gives them an advantage in an increasingly less intelligent AI that has bosses with billions of hp and one-shotting attacks. Look at GF’s ITF and the boost they got from DC’s Astral Shield for their Defence and dps. Instead of a reasonable sliding scale, they just nerfed it so that a fresh level 70 of that build in green and blue drops would provide exactly the same buff as a 17k BIS GF. And that is just not right. But if they remove the 2 DC meta, there will be a new meta, anyway.

      Then they screwed with Astral Shield itself, of course; because after the Lostmauth fix, PvP GWFs drowned the forum in their tears because they could no longer one-rotation a 17k Virtuous DC that had stacked nothing but Defence, Deflection, Max hp and Tankiness but could not kill a fly.

      I’ve been playing 2 of my Protection OPs and my Soulbinder Temptation Warlock recently, trying to get their last Boons up to Mod 9. The OPs are ludicrously tanky and can do 420k Crits solo from self-buffed Smite with Sacred Weapon and extra Power from getting hit (no Bondings). That is almost double of what my better booned and geared dps Righteous DO DC can do with a triple-Empowered Daunting Light, and he is nowhere near as tanky. People on MMOMinds talk about Protection OPs getting 1.4 million temp hp from Templar’s Wrath and hitting for over 2 million with Smite. That is just absurd.

      My Soulbinder Temptation does not have the best build. The HB Fury and SB Damnation do much better. I rolled her in Mod 4, abandoned her after the Life Steal changes and choose her Paragon in Mod 5, as she was leveling from Invoking XP. She is just as spongy, laggy and horrible as my HB Fury/Damnation was before Mod 10. I tend to use Encounters that don’t get accidentally cancelled if I cough, just so she can do some damage. Soulbinder still has some good features, like the one that refills Action Points from Soul Sparks, Feats that increase Damage and Lifesteal from Soul Sparks etc. It’s only really Pillar of Power that she lacks, which most people seem to think is essential. So I am looking forward to the new changes that are due and see how she does before I respec. I still have the free respecs from previous nerfs.

      I remember the videos of the original Castle Never, when the boss was an Undead Dracolich or something. The players used voice chat and the CWs announced “Sing” every time they cast Singularity, so the others knew the mobs were getting slightly controlled. That would not work at all now, and has a lower target limit, which is probably why Sharpedge recommends Oppressive Force instead.

      I wish the Devs would read his guides and fix the broken code.

      Reply

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