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Rewarding Player Skill

  • Red_Nova
  • 05/15/2018 04:30 PM
I feel like I should save this for the monthly update, but I'm too excited about this to keep it to myself.

After countless hours of testing and watching other people play the game, I noticed a disturbing trend for Mia's party: there is an optimal flowchart of skills you can choose that lets you get through battles without much thought. For example: When an enemy uses Miasma Charge, always have Amalie use Piercing Light to cancel it, regardless of what other skills players have that grant various bonuses against charged enemies.

More disheartening, no one ever uses Mia's Rush stance. Ever. It is this problem that I will be addressing with this blog.

As an iaido style sword fighter, Mia can switch between a drawn and sheathed sword stance to change her role in combat. In sheathed stance (dubbed Saboteur), Mia could inflict debuffs and guard break attacks as well as steal buffs from foes. After enough penalties have been applied, players could optimize damage output by switching Mia to a drawn stance (called Rush) and using her enhanced critical rate combined with the rest of the party's attacks to unleash an explosive flurry of attacks. When she runs low on SP, Mia could then return to Saboteur stance by using a final attack to inflict massive damage or to calmly sheathe her sword to recover high SP, leaving her less vulnerable to attacks.

Here's how players use her: Use Lightning Draw to damage enemies, then immediately sheathe and recover SP. Don't bother with Rush stance. Just keep debuffing in Saboteur stance.

Debuff, then damage. Debuff, then damage. Focus, debuff, then damage. The same flowchart strategy that Prayer of the Faithless was supposed to discourage was now the optimal strategy. This had to change. Mia needed more than a tweak to her stats or even her skills. She needed a system-level mechanic that makes her unique as a fighter on a fundamental level.

After a while of searching and testing, I figured out the problem: Most of Mia's Burst Drives are too static. Too situational. The intent was to give the characters a variety of tools to make them more useful in different situations. Instead, the hard damage and conditional critical attacks were so restrictive that players would naturally gravitate towards the default skills and ignore any potential strategy the later skills would offer.

Now, though, I believe I have found the solution. I present Mia's Brand abilities.

Here is Mia's familiar Burst Drive: Lightning Draw. For those that have played the demo, you'll notice that there is a new state that Lightning Draw can now apply. This state is the core of Mia's new strategy, as most of Mia's Burst Drives now incorporate Brand in some way.

Branded enemies gain a slight weakness to all physical damage types, so the entire party can benefit from a branded target. However, the real meat of the Brand state is thus: When a party member (including Mia), performs a basic attack on a target, Mia will immediately follow up with a basic attack on ALL branded enemies at the cost of some SP without using one of your precious three actions during a turn.

The key term when designing Mia's Rush stance is "Burst Offence." With her sword out, Mia's primary role is inflicting physical damage. In this regard, she should have no equal. Not even Aeyr with his aggressive style of play and multitude of offensive options can match Mia's Rush stance. With the brand state, now I feel she can finally apply that key term in battle.

"But Nova, you said you wanted to discourage mindless button mashing. Won't this mechanic encourage spamming basic attacks?"

Good question. And one that inspired the title of this blog.

Simply mashing basic attack is a very bad idea with Mia in this state. Since each follow up attack costs SP, Mia becomes more and more vulnerable to damage as you lay down the offense. If you happen to brand a large group of enemies, Mia will run out of SP very quickly.

If you happen to drain Mia's SP to the point where she can't perform any more follow up attacks, she will incur a penalty:

I should probably remove the sword twirl before the sheathe to represent her exhausion, though. I just used her basic Sheathe animation as a placeholder.

Mia will automatically return to Saboteur stance, and you won't get to benefit from any kind of bonus had you switched back using a Burst Drive. This means you have to plan out how many follow up attacks she will do and act accordingly.

Now, let's examine the change to her overpowered Sheathe Drive:

Before, Sheathe would restore a static 40% SP (more than the standard Focus), as well as clear Mia of all emotional ailments. The ailment clearing was fine, but the SP regen was far too much. All players wanted to do was go immediately to Sheathe and not make use of Mia's damage potential in Rush stance at all. Now, the base amount has been greatly lowered, but the potential of restoration grows if you're successful in applying brands on enemies (which you have multiple options to do so, even after changing to Rush stance).

Regardless of the reason, reverting to Saboteur stance clears all brands from enemies. In addition, brands will automatically fade away after a turn or two. It'll be up to you, the player, to decide when to end your offense and return Mia to Saboteur stance.

This new brand system means that Mia's style better rewards skillful setups and environmental awareness. Players will have to think more about their actions, and can't rely on the same flowchart battle plan for every encounter. When you play the full game, you'll see how Mia's abilities give her more options against branded enemies.

I haven't tried adding these tweaks to the demo, yet. If I can apply these new changes to the demo without breaking anything, I'll certainly update the public build so you all can check it out for yourself.


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You're magical to me.
Very interesting! Sounds like you found a good solution! I must have been one of the few people who used Rush stance, but this sounds like it will liven up her moves even more, so congrats! ^_^
The all around prick
Thanks! I'm pretty happy with how this turned out. And yeah, out of the fifteen or so people I've seen test and play, you and two other people spent more than five minutes in Rush stance. Testing it myself, I found myself unconsciously switching back and forth between the stances when running through sections, so I think this feels a lot more natural.
Got any Dexreth amulets?
Guilty as charged. The skills Mia uses to switch between stances themselves are just so useful that there wasn't really much incentive to take the risk of staying in Rush mode any longer than absolutely necessary. This change sounds really exciting and clever, though, so I hope it'll work as intended. Thanks for the update!
Wow! This changes so much, especially given how it can activate even when she's alone!
(wow, I remembered to read this blog)
The changes are really promising.
Tbh, they give Mia a more unique feel, while it also improves the strategy feeling.
(I don't know how much you can call smashing buttons a strategy, anyway)
But yes, those extra basic attacks on enemies with the brand debuff say a lot about her agility and reflexes.

What looks EVEN COOLER is the 9999999 HP mobs which seem to be from an end-end-game extra extra dungeon.
maybe i should stop making unfunny jokes

Leaving weird humor aside, I wonder how Mia's story in the prologue will be combat wise.
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