Evening Update April 25, 2013
Okay, it's time to take a ride on the BSC train but before we do that, a couple of quick bits. First, another great day for our Kickstarter! We're on track to one of our highest daily number of pledges and pledge totals! If we can keep this up, we'll be in good shape for our final few days. Second, there was an amazing piece by Robert Purchese over at Eurogamer here.
Stealthers and I have a long and interesting history, dating back to Dark Age of Camelot, which had the most robust and interesting implementation of stealth in any MMORPG to date. Unfortunately, it also had some serious bugs, and yes, some design errors. Over the years at Mythic, we balanced/nerfed/changed/added elements in an attempt to improve the overall system.
Since then, many other studios have tried to create a “better” stealth system. Most of these attempts resulted in “dumbed down” implementations. Speaking solely as a player, I love stealth and have played numerous stealth-based characters in MMORPGs. OTOH, speaking as a designer, especially of an RvR-focused MMORPG such as Camelot Unchained, I’m deeply concerned about them and their effect on the game.
I don’t want to add a class that drives away as many people as it attracts whether due to the real or simply perceived power of stealthers. Nor do I want one that has to be continually nerfed to try to find just the right balance and to stave off the anger of non-stealthers.
While in an RvR game, while we will always be balancing classes, being killed by a stealther seems to generate more angry comments and e-mails than other classes. When the discussions here at CSE began to coalesce around an MMORPG, I did not want to repeat those bad old days of constant complaints (some valid, some not) and angry forums due to stealthers and the changes that we made to them. I did, however, want to find a way we might possibly bring them into Camelot Unchained because if we can do so in an innovative and fun way, we could add another interesting dynamic to the game.
IMO, some of the problems with stealth, from both a designer's and a player’s perspective are:
- 1) A lot of potential stealthers, most likely the vast majority, want long duration stealth, but most victims hate it.
- 2) Most stealthers hate moving slowly in stealth mode, while the victims love it.
- 3) Some stealthers, like any other class, do want to be OP, but many welcome the challenge of a more difficult system that rewards smart play and skill, not just patience and stunlock (which is hated by the majority of victims because it removes their ability to actually fight back) and/or extremely powerful opening attacks.
- 4) Some stealthers don’t want to be part of keep sieges or mass RvR, but others really want to be involved and help out in more ways than simply picking off lone players (wounded or not).
- 5) Most people dislike being killed by a stealther, but almost everyone hates being killed by multiple stealthers acting in concert.
- 6) “Easy on” stealth is widely despised by the victims and laughed at by some stealthers, and is usually a bit of a disconnect from most games' physical laws.
- 7) Some stealthers really want to play the role of a scout, while for others, the role of an assassin fits them best.
The problem was and is how to resolve these and other issues and make this fit together nicely. I don’t want to simply implement Dark Age of Camelot’s system even if I could. Too many other developers have tried, and frankly, this game is about taking risk. It’s about making choices matter, it’s about this world and this lore, but most importantly, it’s about RvR and the Veil.
The Veil, the term that plays such an important part in CU lure and to which some people’s early reaction to was to see it as “fluff” or even trite, is so much more than just a bit of inter-dimensional detritus. As I discussed in my lore update, it is a living and sentient being that exists in the space between this world and that of the Emissaries. What if we could tie the Veil into the game at an even deeper level and make that a core mechanism for a stealth system? It’s light bulb over the head time, Wart. For weeks I’ve been talking about a BSC (Bat S**t Crazy) idea for stealth, and here it is, in all its glory or folly.
What if we used the Veil as almost a different world for stealthers? What if being in it allows them to move normally through it, but also comes with some significant downsides? After all, the Veil is alive and sentient, and it’s in a real pissed-off mood these days. How could we implement a system utilizing the Veil that both makes playing solo stealthers feasible and allows them to contribute to RvR, but can also act as a shadow world? For the consideration of our backers and comments from those waiting in the wings, I present my concept for VeilWalkers and VeilStalkers.
A VeilWalker is a being that can, as the name suggests, move through the Veil in much the same manner as we move through our world. They do pierce it, but not in the same manner as the apocalyptic event, and they do so almost undetected by it. The world around them shifts as if they were seeing it through gauze.
While within its “body”, they can move at normal and sometimes heightened speed.
Like our bodies, however, it also has its own defenses, so VeilWalkers must always be on guard. Think of the scene in the movie Fantastic Voyage when the anti-bodies attack both the sub and anyone outside it. That’s only one of the ways the Veil fights back against invaders, and it can also throw other challenges at a VeilWalker plying his/her craft. For example, there are also the spirits of dead VeilWalkers who seek to consume their living counterparts' souls to ease their painful existence.
Speaking of pain, walking through the Veil hurts VeilWalkers and can change them over time. This pain is also greater the more stealthers are in proximity to you and the longer you stay close to each other. In addition, the Veil can send out illusions to confuse VeilWalkers, especially less experienced ones.
Now, what do you get for all this risk? Power, movement speed, a game within a game and a challenge like no other. VeilWalkers won’t make great scouts (our archers would be a better choice) and they aren’t great at sneaking up and going all stunlock or stabby/stabby, but they can move through unprotected walls, levitate over objects, learn to control aspects of the Veil’s defenses and use them to their advantage, and so much more.
There is no easy on button for entering the Veil so it can’t be used as an escape valve. Also, the more stealthers that are together in an area, the more that the Veil fights back, especially when they are all from the same realm. Forming and maintaining a “gank squad” in the Veil will not be an easy task, and frankly, it will be less rewarding for stealthers than soloing.
The BSC train still hasn’t stopped. To make it even more interesting for stealthers, I added the concept of a VeilStalker. This class cannot move within the Veil, but its powers are geared to hunting VeilWalkers from outside. They can detect them, lay down traps and prepare other defenses. They are best at dealing with VeilWalkers and protecting other players/areas from them. Walkers/stalkers are two sides of the same coin.
But wait, there’s more! Remember when I said that VeilWalkers' best abilities are useful within the Veil? Well, there are a couple exceptions. One is being attacked by a VeilStalker. When a stalker reaches into the Veil to attack a walker, you guessed it, the walker can fight back, and when he does, his powers can extend into the world. Think of it as a perpetual feedback loop. They can also attack outside the Veil but they are at their best within it.
The Veil holds mysteries and power, but it comes with a price. Within it,the walkers are deadly, with special abilities and powers that cannot be used outside. An “easy on” stealth button so you can hunt down single players? Meh. Hunting other hunters within a sentient body that wants you dead while stalkers on the outside are looking for any signs of your presence... now there’s a challenge worthy of a great player. So what do you say people, BSC or not? Fun or not?