Honing Our Skills
Hello fellow Rangers!
Chris Keenan here to talk about the most recent progress on Wasteland 2 and what to expect in the upcoming months.
We last spoke about skills in Update #20 in December of last year. Since then, our team has made incredible progress on all fronts. I can say, without a doubt, that we’ve been more efficient as a team than on any project I’ve ever worked on. Much of this has to do with a clarity of vision and getting feedback early and often to make sure we’re focusing on the most important things.
Now is a good time to talk about the core character systems (attributes and skills) since in the very near future, you will be playing with them during the early beta. Some functionality of the attributes and skills have changed during the iterative process and will continue to do so as we get more feedback from you, once the playable is in your hands.
Attributes are the starting values that define your character. You allocate them at character creation and while they can be upgraded during the course of the game, opportunities to do so are sparse. Attributes are key in determining the core characteristics of your ranger. They affect things like how many action points you have, how much movement each action point allows, how many survival points you gain per level, your carry weight, and many other variables. We’ve always said choices and trade-offs are a main design focus and character creation certainly supports this. Attributes have a cap of 10 and you will start with a smaller attribute pool than you may be used to. Each attribute point has a dramatic effect on your ranger, which leads to some very different feeling rangers based on how you distribute them.
If a specific attribute is very low, that may cap the related skill or could mean the character is incapable of using some items with attribute requirements. Of course, we will be balancing attributes and skills throughout beta, so some of these might be modified further. Outside of the core uses, NPCs in the world will react to specific characters based on their attribute make-up.
The attributes are (with some but not all uses listed):
- Coordination (CO): General coordination and ability to operate firearms. Determines action points (AP) and increases your critical hit chance at range.
- Luck (LK): Luck of the roll. Improves crits with weapons, gives you a chance to get an additional AP during your turn and affects many other interactions throughout the wasteland.
- Awareness (AW): Ability to notice events happening around you. Increases initiative in combat (turn order), increases evasion rate.
- Strength (ST): Pure physical strength. Increases your maximum constitution earned per level, increases close combat damage, increases carry weight.
- Speed (SP): Physical speed and movement rate. Increases movement per AP in combat, reduces length of skill usage progress meters.
- Intelligence (IQ): Knowledge, wisdom and general problem-solving. Increases skill points gained per level.
- Charisma (CHR): Charm, personality and swagger. How NPCs perceive your likeability or persuasiveness.
Also making a return from Wasteland 1, but still not exactly an attribute, is maximum constitution (MAXCON), or the maximum number of hit points. MAXCON is derived from strength and upgradeable when you level-up.
After selecting attributes, you will be able to place Survival Points (SPs) into your many skill options. Skills start off at a zero value, meaning they are unusable. After unlocking a skill with SPs, you can place additional SPs into the skill to increase its level and functionality. Skills have a maximum cap of 10 similar to attributes. Skills are upgraded in tiers, with a total of 10 skill levels. Roughly speaking, skill levels 1-3 mean novice, 4-6 mean competent, 7-9 mean proficient and 10 means expert. Each skill level allows you to take on more significant challenges, increasing your chance of success and level of rewards as you use the skill. Skills can also be increased from use. Some skills provide additional bonuses as you reach the various levels of competency.
Increasing skills here will increase your chance to hit with that specific class of weapons. In addition, mastery of those weapons increases with your skill level, allowing you to manipulate and clear it quicker when jams happen.
- Blunt Weapons: Generally have higher damage but a tighter damage range.
- Bladed Weapons: Have lower damage but a greater range and higher crit max.
- Anti-Tank-Weapons: Generally do massive explosive damage but ammo is rare and blast radius makes them hard to use in certain combat situations. Can also be used to get through some pesky doors.
- Submachine Guns: Have a lower range and lower critical chance, for a more hail-of-bullets approach. Ammo tends to be cheaper and more plentiful than for the higher caliber automatics.
- Shotguns: Have shorter range but great stopping power.
- Energy Weapons: Usefulness varies based on your opponent, as energy weapons are less effective against flesh. If your opponent is heavily decked out in metal armor the weapon heats up his gear. The higher the armor of your target, the more damage it will deal. Think pressure cooker. It’s nasty.
- Assault Rifles: Are very versatile and powerful weapons, but ammo is harder to find. Assault rifles use higher caliber rounds with more penetration value than smaller arms.
- Sniper Rifle: Ideal in open fields due to their long range and heavy damage, but not necessarily stellar in cramped corridors. Ammo is very expensive. Make your shots count as the AP cost is very high.
- Handguns: Includes pistols and revolvers. Like SMGs, ammo is common enough to make this the go-to weapon for many rangers, but they are single shot only, trading that for a higher crit value.
Information / Knowledge Skills
Your chance of success with non-combat skills depends on the difference between the challenge and your skill level. For an expert at lock picking facing a door with a very simple lock, there is almost no chance to fail. A novice surgeon may find it very hard to remove the effects of a dangerous strain of toxin or a serious injury that renders your ranger in mortal condition. If the skill difference is too significant, especially for untrained rangers, it may simply not be possible to accomplish the task.
- Picklock: Chance of success and speed at picking conventional locks.
- Safecrack: Chance of success and speed at picking safe locks, including on vault doors.
- Alarm Disarm: Ability to disarm alarms, but also to fix faulty wiring on security doors and open them directly.
- Toaster Repair: Fix broken toasters and who doesn’t need that?
- Computer Tech: Skill at hacking computers, which gives access to a variety of possibilities. You can gain information you couldn’t otherwise, or remotely activate a security system or camera. Some computers may give you the ability to activate or reprogram security doors.
- Synth Tech: With synth tech you can repair and reprogram synthetics and other robots, turning them to your side in combat.
- Demolitions: The ability to use demolitions in and out of combat. Out of combat, its most common use is to break down doors or clear barriers that do not give way to picklock or brute force, but this unsubtle means of entry is sure to be noticed. In combat, lots of destruction.
- Brute Force: Determines your skill at applying your raw strength to break some things. Lacks the subtlety of picklock and the raw force of demolitions.
- Move Silently: The ability to sneak around unnoticed.
- Salvaging: How effective you are at finding usable items in what would normally be considered piles of junk. A ranger who is good at salvaging can find many useful items that might be skipped over by a normal person.
- Kiss Ass: Dialogue skill involving flattery, seduction, and well… ass kissing.
- Hard Ass: Dialogue skill involving intimidation and aggressive speech.
- Smart Ass: Dialogue skill involving persuasion. ***The “Ass Trio” names are placeholders but somehow they’ve taken hold around the office.***
General skills have a variety of uses. Some involve breaking down materials that you find in the Wasteland, while others provide much needed medical care. These tend to be support skills and help you manage and solve problems.
- Barter: Ability to negotiate for better purchase prices and higher sales prices for your goods.
- Outdoorsman: Primarily used on the world map to determine your ability to conserve water as you travel, as well as expand your options for when you spot random encounters.
- Leadership: The ability to lead a team, best used by a single PC who gives a buff in combat to PCs and friendly NPCs around him. Multiple leaders around the same skill level can cause a negative reaction. Also determines how much companion NPCs will listen to you vs. doing their own thing.
- Cliff Clavin Backer Skill: The skill exclusive to the early backers of this project, it adds flavor text to the game world.
- Animal Whisperer: The ability to influence animals into staying passive, running away or following you.
- Field Medic: This skill lets you quickly patch up guys during combat, recovering some CON by using medical equipment.
- Surgeon: Allows you to provide help to rangers who have major status effects or have gone unconscious or worse. Can be used in combat but due to the amount of time it takes, will force you to protect your surgeon from being overly exposed.
- Weaponsmithing: The ability to craft and mod weaponry to increase its performance.
- Field Stripping: The ability to strip weaponry you find into parts to use for improving your own weapons.
- Perception: Can be used actively to notice enemies through thin walls, uncovering them for a short period of time. The skill also shows you the perception cone of enemies to help you sneak or get to a better starting position prior to combat. As a passive, it helps to identify things that might be out of the ordinary, including finding booby traps.
- ?????? - A few other skills that can be unlocked throughout the game.
What may stand out to you is the variation in the perceived level of usefulness of skills; animal whisperer is unlikely to be used as much as handguns. We purposefully designed skills that would not be used universally. Each skill has a variety of uses throughout the game and various levels of rewards. Lockpick might more often used, but you never know when something like Alarm Disarm will give you a huge advantage (or reward) that would be otherwise unobtainable. This level of granularity is an advantage of party-based systems and we fully intend to exploit it. We want you to build a varied, multi-skilled group of rangers who play off each other’s strength to become a kick-ass team.
Here’s a few more screenshots we wanted to share with you. As you can see, there is a wide variety of diversity amongst the environments you will travel through, both in aesthetic and environment design (full size here and here).
It is now October and we are close to getting this game into the hands of our beta-eligible backers. We’re currently cleaning things up, fixing the largest issues and working on a first pass of balance across Arizona. Have we mentioned that this game is massive?
The short-term plan is to continue iterating and fixing bugs found by our internal QA until the game is stable and playable through the sections we are opening up for early beta. This process will take a few more weeks. Once we get there, we will have a very small group jump in to get a feel for if it’s ready to release to our patiently waiting beta backers. The plan is to distribute the beta for Windows PC, as we know we can get standalone builds to work in Windows. We have not forgotten about our Mac and Linux backers and will soon do some tests to try to get a standalone executable for those versions as well. Many months back we tried a Mac test in Unity and it built great with about 30 minutes of clean up. If history repeats itself, those versions will be available as well for the early beta (what’s the worst that can happen, right?).
To prep for early playable, let’s talk a little bit about what we hope to give and get from you. The game will be in an early beta. Much of the systems and content will be in and working but it will be crude in some areas. Some systems won’t be fully polished, there will be weird bugs, and balance will be far from final. We will be fixing these things throughout the beta – we promise the game won’t be released before the game plays beautifully. It’s been difficult for me to get used to personally, but we’ve fully embraced getting screenshots and demo videos out before we feel they are truly ready and polished. I’m much more at peace with it now as this has helped us get great feedback early, and give us time to pivot when necessary. This early beta is no exception.
There are two major goals for us here; bug-hunting and gathering feedback on everything from mechanics to mission design to level design. We’ve enlisted the help of the great people at CenterCode to facilitate this process and make sure that we get the best feedback possible, and are able to effectively cull the large amount of information into an actionable format. It won’t be mandatory for you to opt-in for generating feedback, but we hope that you will participate as it will only improve the final product. More info on that will come as we get closer to the early beta launch.
For us, the most important thing you can do is provide us feedback. What elements do you like? What things need more work or, in your opinion, just aren’t fitting properly? We want to know what you think of our game, the writing, the flow, the mechanics…everything. We will be updating the game on a consistent basis (approximately every 2-3 weeks) and continuing to improve Wasteland 2 throughout this process.
Initially, we will be releasing the first 4 large areas and all associated COPS maps. COPS maps are smaller scenes that can be accessed through the world map and tie into the main areas. We won’t be putting the full game into beta to prevent spoilers that would become widely known before Wasteland 2 is finished. We’ll implement game-wide changes stemming from your feedback from the first areas, and continue our extensive internal bug-testing during this period.
We surveyed all our backers for their addresses soon after the Kickstarter, but a lot of you have moved or are moving since that day. We also received messages through Kickstarter about address changes. Please be aware we do not change our address listings through Kickstarter messages. All backers, whether through the late backer store or Kickstarter, have an account on our Ranger Center pledge management system. You can keep your address updated there, and the address listing on your account at the time of shipping is where we’ll ship to. We’ll send more reminders about this, but please make sure to check your address and make sure it’s up to date as we get closer and closer to release.
If you’ve gotten this far in the update, thanks for giving us your time! We will provide more info on when the early beta will be ready in the near future. The team is excited to get the game in your hands and show off what we’ve been working on!