I am still going to try to launch the PC client by the end of the year. That’s going to bring a large influx of players, and we’re already growing.
I’ve been making gradual game-balance changes over the past few months. But it’s time to make some more serious ones now, because they get more painful as the player base grows.
Some of the changes are going to be HUGE buffs, and some are going to be HUGE nerfs. No other way to put it. The game is in a serious state of imbalance right now, and the only way to address it is by tearing off the band-aid.
One of the huge buffs has already gone in, a few days ago. Based on some feedback from high-level players, I introduced an invisible racial multiplier on weapon (or unarmed) skill damage. It’s unfortunately a bit Affirmative Action-y, but it was going to take a lot longer to address racial imbalances via skill and loot adjustments, and this approach lets me take a more direct approach.
The first buff was to humans, halflings and dwarves. Humans and halflings got a massive boost to the damage from their weapon skills (any melee weapon skill), and dwarves got a boost to their axe skill. This was to bring them closer to the DPS numbers for some faster races.
It’s a delicate thing to balance, because many races have strong abilities (e.g., high survivability, or extra skill points), and those races should not have the same DPS as races with lower survivability. But we were talking about DPS differences of 3x to 5x, and now they’re all a lot closer.
I will continue to tweak the multiplier numbers, and adjust all the races until we have a much fairer distribution. But it’s mostly going to be buffs. Almost nothing needed nerfing. I shaved 20% off the top end for kalidemons a week ago, but that’s it.
The first big nerf is aimed at getting maximum XP-per-hour rates in line with where I expect them to be. The game was originally balanced for 1M/hour, for a max-level, fully-equipped player. Over time, it crept up and up, but in an extremely unbalanced way. At one point, demigod kalidemons could easily make 3.5M or 4M per hour, but pre-buff demigod human paladins could only around 900k per hour — a 400% difference.
I nerfed kalidemons several times, but attack speed is king, or at least it was until I introduced the invisible multiplier. As it happens, they can still make up to 4M per hour, by taking advantage of the biggest offender, which is wall-less RDs.
I introduced wall-less RDs due to heavy pressure and lobbying from players — I can’t begin to count how many people have asked me for them. There is one in the VIP upstairs lounge without any obstructions at all, and there are several other RDs around the game that for one reason or another do not have the normal obstructions.
Over time it has become apparent that wall-less RDs, as fun as they may be, are problematic to game balance. The old wizards hated RDs in general, and for a pretty good reason: Nobody ever went to the handcrafted areas, because RDs provided an endless stream of monsters and treasure. They’re basically zoos, which is almost universally considered bad for game design.
Wall-less RDs are also a bit counterintuitive in that rather than making RDs harder (by throwing more monsters at you), they are actually a lot easier. You can just run by anything you don’t feel like dealing with: trap rooms, particular monsters, maze dead-ends. You can even just run and kill only one type of monster, which means you don’t need to be selective about what gear you are currently using. You pick one set and only focus on monsters for which your set is optimized. It takes all the complexity and strategy out of the game.
So wall-less RDs they discourage exploration, and they encourage mindless grinding. They also wind up consuming a lot of resources — CPU and memory, that is — because of all the monsters, AIs, spells and so on. Makes it more expensive per server, etc.
They also get in the way of gradually enhancing RDs to be a more roguelike-like: Adding features similar to classic greats like Nethack and Dwarf Fortress.
However, RDs do have a very important role in Wyvern today, which is that they serve as a more or less infinite source of content. Down the road, once we have tons of world-builders creating handcrafted content, RDs can go back to evolving into something like a multiplayer Nethack — an awesome game in its own right. But for now, we need them to keep people busy.
The solution, then, is to keep RDs, but remove the ones without walls. There’s going to be one exception, which is the VIP RD. I will make that one work like the Fairy Fountain does today — not exactly wall-less, but definitely significantly easier than regular RDs.
I am aiming for a max high-end progression of 2M/hour at level 50. That’s the magic number that everything is going to be balanced around for the forseeable future. I have XP/hour counters on players now, and will start paying attention to builds and areas where it goes above the target. (It’s not illegal to make more than that, but I will try to tweak things so that it goes down to that number.)
Balancing a game as complicated as Wyvern is no easy task. Some races are always going to be easier than others, and that’s not a bad thing. Some races have huge benefits in carry capacity, survivability, movement speed, or other important gameplay mechanics that aren’t directly related to DPS. However, they do tend to correlate to overall XP/hour, which is why I’m trying to balance to XP/hour and not DPS. Some races might be very high DPS, but they die a lot too, so if you factor in lost XP, their average XP/hour is closer to the average.
And sometimes races see nonlinear jumps in difficulty. A pixie might suddenly see a jump when they get access to a high-level spell. A giant might see a jump when they can finally wield bonecrusher. A naga sees jumps every 4 levels with a new form. It’s not practical or feasible to try to balance the races at every single level, so I’m mostly focused on the endgame right now.
Almost every major change I make to the game mechanics affects balance. It’s easy for an innocuous change (for instance, yesterday’s change to move queues) to make one build suddenly become OP and require tweaking. I work all the time, so I have to rely on player feedback (supplemented with internal game metrics) to suggest where the balance tweaks need to happen.
As players, most of you are constantly trying to find optimal progression routes — the best races, builds, areas and strategies for maximizing xp/hour or gold/hour. There’s nothing wrong with that, but be aware that since I’m forced to constantly tweak the game balance parameters, it means that any particular strategy you find may not stay the same for very long.
As a general rule, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. I give large crown bonuses for reporting exploits, abuses and major imbalances, so it’s in your best interest to let me know when you fimd them.
That’s it for now. To summarize:
- Most races are going to get invisible buffs soon (and some already have). Just keep doing what you’re doing — train your weapon or unarmed skill to max.
- Wall-less RDs are going away. I will, however, add a lot more RDs that start at deeper levels.
- I am aiming for max progression rates to be around 2M xp/hour for well-equipped, experienced players. I don’t know how long it will take to get there — could be a few months.
- Not all races will be equal even after balancing, and DPS will still vary significantly to account for other factors.
I haven’t talked much about mages, but they’ll be getting some buffs as well. It just takes a little longer because the pendulum can swing even further from small changes.
That’s it! This is quite the adventure, and tons of work, but hopefully I can get things reasonably well-balanced before the Steam client launches.