Class Matters: Our Interview With Forge Designer Tim Alvis

GF: What was the problem with that Pyromancer ability?

We originally made him with an ability called ‘Melt Armor’, which was very offensively focused. Assassins would eat them alive, so we wanted to give them something that they could use with a long cool-down, high resource cost that would let them stall, just long enough to get their bearings and react, so to give that ability we swapped out Melt Armor with ‘Molten Armor’. Molten Armor makes a smart assassin stop attacking, or an agressive assassin attack harder, but either way it’s meant to reflect damage and punish bad decision-making on the Assassin’s part.

The problem is that we have the range high, which has allowed some kamakazi tactics by some of our more extreme Pyromancers; they free burst into a group that isn’t expecting it, pop molten armor on, and invariably at least one of those players fails to notice the molten armor is on and starts wailing away on them, which causes the repulse of damage to nearly wipe out a group. So we’re constantly tweaking down the range without interrupting its main effect.

[And as for Assassins], one goal for balance is just to make it so that all of the kiting utilities and mobility utilities given to ranged classes make it so that Assassins, as individuals, have kind of their own zone, so within 5 or 6 meters, assassins are very, very lethal. The whole goal is to get [other units] out of the 5 or 6 meter range to make things more competitive. It’s now to a point where people who aren’t used to assassins being threatening are feeling quite a lot of pressure. We think we’ve got them just about where they’ll be for retail.

GF: On your site, you talk about creating an experience good for both casual players and more hardcore players alike. Can you talk about how you’re approaching that? Is it just in class balance?

Until we finalize a few things, we haven’t been able to spend enough time on the UI, introducing a new player to the game. But outside of introduction, ‘this is how this works, this is what this does’, a lot of the feature stuff to help introduce someone to the game is there. For instance, people from a shooter background, or even an action RPG background, they’re used to using their left mouse button to do their primary attack. So we made sure that every class has a primary attack that never runs out of resources, that does a respectable amount of damage, bound to the left mouse button. So, if you have no idea about what any of your other main abilities do, if you jump in and start left-clicking your mouse on it, you’ll do damage and contribute to your team.

The next step is introducing abilities that are varied in their complexity. Once you kind of master the left mouse button, your very next ability, which is your primary alternate that you can jump into, is always instant-cast, [and] it always applies some kind of over-time effect, but that’s specialized for your role. So in the case of the Shaman, it’s heal. In the case of the Warden, it’s a ‘Vengeance Reflect’, and in the case of the DPS classes it is your most efficient damage-dealing ability, and doesn’t require any thought other than having to manage your resources.

Then the abilities that we put after those first two that we introduce people to, [they're] where you can learn more about the game and appeal to the hard core gamer. These abilities have uses that are sometimes very situational, other times they’re effective chained together either with another ability you have, or an ability your ally has. So a lot of it comes down to keeping the control-scheme simple to start, and letting [the player] discover things as they need to. Somebody just running around firing the left mouse button, they’re not going to be the best player, but they’re going to do some damage, they’re going to do some healing, they’ll definitely do some defending, that kind of thing.

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