Class Matters: Our Interview With Forge Designer Tim Alvis
GF: I was struck by this description of classes on your site: “Classes in Forge take their roles seriously. We believe that players that choose a “tank” archetype truly intend to be defensive juggernauts, not slightly more resilient melee that hit limply.” Can you explain your philosophy behind your different classes in a bit more detail?
One of the things, in PvP especially, [that we saw] after some significant time spent in World of Warcraft arenas and battlegrounds, until rated battlegrounds really took off where it was fun to actually create a defensive take for example, for the most part in PvP you expect units to be as offensive as possible, removing almost all of their defensive abilities. So they didn’t hit very hard, but they were really difficult to bring down. Though their design was offensive, you were meant to go on the attack. When we were looking at how you pick a class for PvE, our feeling was that if I pick a tank, a dude with a huge shield, my goal isn’t to be an offensive player; I want to be someone who runs around making it difficult to kill my teammates. You’re playing that same role you’d play in PvE, you’re not the one topping the DPS charts, you’re not the one leading in and calling targets to kill, you’re there to keep your team alive.
That feeling from PvE is what we wanted to bring to PvP. You’re actively protecting your team as the majority of your skill set. You have to give some offensive ability if they get attacked by themselves, so they’re not just helplessly running around, but for the most part almost every ability we’ve given to the Warden [The tank unit in Forge] was designed entirely for either disrupting the enemy, or protecting your team. And the same thing is true for the healers. Instead of going the shadow priest route, or a Smite Priest from WoW where they’re really just about as offensive as they are healing, we’ve built all of [our healer's] skill set around escapes, and healing, and otherwise supporting their teammates.
“MMOs have become, I would say, obsessed about balance to the point that even whenever a build feels pretty good, they continue to tweak it needlessly, and that’s not something we want to fall into. We’re very much about making it so that one class is clearly not what everybody gravitates toward, and you probably won’t see an endless stream of patches where we’re constantly tweaking numbers.”
We did give them one offensive attack, and we also didn’t want them to become tanks. What we didn’t like about MMO PvP is that healers generally became the tank. Everybody targets them because they want the heals to stop, so they’re given huge defensive capabilities which allow them to stand there and become the tank, so the tanks are ignored and become useless. What we did with Shamans [healers in Forge] is that we decided we wanted to keep them being the team healer and not the self-healing sort of ‘I can stand there and take anything’ unit. They only have one ability they’re able to heal themselves with, all the rest heal teammates. They can stand under their own dome of protection but it doesn’t offer an infinite amount of defense. They need a Warden, or other teammates to heal for them.
That’s how we approached it: no class is really self sufficient, so all of our support classes do not have strong defenses.
GF: With such specialized classes, have you had any problems balancing the game for players?
One of the things that was kind of key from the start was to make it [balanced], especially for the classes that were not offensive in the first place. Everyone tends to gravitate to one of the three DPS classes. For instance, the Assassin class is one that kind of takes a bit of relearning, I think, from what people expect from the archetype. We didn’t want a burst class, whose opening was so strong that you had to make them weak afterwards. A lot of it, especially during that first week [of the beta] is that people open up and are used to seeing gigantic numbers and the guy nearly dies. In this case, the emphasis isn’t on being able to kill with your open, it’s really a class based on trickery. You end up having to learn when to use smoke cloud and all that. So the balance on those was much easier.
What we did for the other two classes is make it so that they had something interesting about them that went kind of beyond mere balance. There was an ability that was fun to use whether you knew what you were doing or not, like the Warden’s shield storm. So it kind of goes a little bit away from the MMO style. MMOs have become, I would say, obsessed about balance to the point that even whenever a build feels pretty good, they continue to tweak it needlessly, and that’s not something we want to fall into. We’re very much about making it so that one class is clearly not what everybody gravitates toward, and you probably won’t see an endless stream of patches where we’re constantly tweaking numbers.
The way we set it up initially is that we had a formula based on cool-down, energy cost and range. Based on that formula, we were able to come up with what an ability should do as far as damage, or secondary effects. And with that, it’s actually let us keep most of our values intact. The major balance changes we’ve had to make actually were on the assassin side, they had much more to do with their mobility. And one particular ability on the Pyromancer is one we’re still trying to play with.