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Combat Mechanics Changes for Early Enrollment v10.1

Early Enrollment 10.1 Feat Changes

In EE10.1 (which we will be deploying as soon as it has passed it's QA certification on our Test Server), we’re making several individually minor changes to feats that add up to some noticeable changes. Below, we explain the reasoning for each of the changes, and an overall picture of what these feats will look like in Early Enrolment 10.1.

The Big Picture

This is a “TL;DR” summary for the pile of information below:

  • Area of effect attacks have been revised to have much more nuanced changes compared to the original quick changes in early 10.1 builds.
  • Attacks in general are now lower stamina cost, and thus individually tend to do less damage than they did previously. However, their damage per point of stamina (and thus DPS) generally went up, particularly for faster weapons.
    • These reduced stamina costs make it much more likely that you can use the attack that’s most appropriate when a situation presents itself, rather than having to wait for stamina regeneration and then missing your moment.
    • These moments will become more common, because many attacks now support new conditional effects designed to create combos within a weapon. You should be able to gain an advantage by slotting a linked set of attacks and using them in a sequence.
    • Passive feats in general are now more powerful and have a smoother progression, though some of the most powerful ones were reduced slightly in effect to the new standard.
    • Expendables are now much faster to activate, and usually significantly more powerful (with considerations for inheriting other effect pricing changes).

Area of Effect (AoE) Feats

First off, the additional time spent on 10.1 (and the inclusion of this combat balancing pass that was originally intended to appear later), has allowed us to create a more nuanced change to AoEs compared to EE10.0 and earlier. While AoEs still have their reduction in power due to the removal of friendly fire, we heard you on the overly long cooldowns. In addition, the wider scope of changes to the combat math means that AoEs are usually more powerful overall than after the initial rebalance, especially when considered against the other changes outlined below. The increase in the power of expendables allows AoE spells to still pack a punch, and the rise of more weapon combos gives AoEs a compounding effect as they trigger bonus effects on subsequent AoEs and single-target attacks. See below for more information about all these features.

Attacks

The first set of changes was to physical attacks, cantrips, orisons, and utilities (i.e., the stuff on the bottom row of your action bar). The tweaks to these feats informed the changes to passives and expendables (discussed in their own sections).

Primary Attacks and Stamina Cost

Prior to EE10.1, most primary attacks were priced so they cost slightly more stamina than you’d recover during the attack animation (e.g., you recover 23 stamina while making a 2.3 second attack, and primary 2.3 second attacks consumed 31 stamina: you’d lose a net of eight stamina per attack if you used it over and over every time it was available). Ultimately, this meant that even just using primary attacks, you’d run out of stamina and your stamina recovery rate would quickly become the dominant combat timing factor, rather than attack speed.

For EE10.1, we’ve changed most* primary attacks so they cost less stamina than you’ll recover while using them (e.g., that same 2.3 second attack now costs 22 stamina, so you net a recovery of one stamina every time you use it). This means that if you just use primary attacks (and aren’t Exhausted) you should stay full of stamina, and if you empty your stamina with secondaries you can switch to primaries for a while and recover stamina without ever ceasing your attacks. Especially with the change to secondary cost (see below), this should mean you’re much more likely to have the stamina to execute an attack with a conditional while that condition is available, rather than having to wait for stamina to recover only to find that the condition has ended. However, keep in mind that stamina is a major factor in an attack’s potency, so cheaper attacks will be individually less potent (though see the other changes below for why most attacks will be better).

* Some attacks, particularly non-general ones, are allowed be a little more expensive and thus more potent, but they still cost less stamina than they previously did.

Secondary Attacks and Stamina Cost

Prior to EE10.1, secondary attacks cost approximately twice as much stamina as primary attacks of the same speed (e.g., a 2.3 second secondary attack cost 62 stamina). This meant that you couldn’t use them very often in a fight at all, they were often individually more potent than Tier 1 spells and maneuvers, and you would have to plan extremely carefully to get their main benefit (conditional effects) to land while a condition was in play (since you might have to wait up to six seconds to have the stamina to use them).

For EE10.1, we’ve changed the stamina multiplier for secondaries to 1.5, and, coupled with the reduction to the cost of primaries, this significantly reduces the stamina cost of secondaries (e.g., that same 2.3 second secondary is now 34 stamina). This means you’re much more likely to be able to use a secondary when you need to (and you actually should use them pretty frequently, because staying full on stamina by using primaries winds up wasting a little stamina) and their individual potency allows spells and maneuvers to be more useful per period of attack in comparison.

Internal Weapon Combos

Prior to EE10.1, only a few weapons (such as greatsword) had a significant degree of internal combos (i.e., effects that one attack on the weapon applies set up a conditional for another attack on the weapon, which itself sets up the conditional for a third attack, etc.). These combo sequences seemed to be a lot of fun, and players have asked for them to be more prevalent.

For EE10.1, every weapon now supports feats with a combo sequence, and most general attacks are designed to be part of one or more combos with other general feats on that weapon. Often, the benefit is minor, such that you’re not losing much by failing to use the combo, but the math of conditionals means that these feats are stronger than they would be if they just applied the effect without a conditional requirement. It also means that most attacks changed somewhat in their effects: an existing effect moved to a stronger version that requires a combo, the attack gained a new effect as part of a combo, or a condition changed to a different condition to make more sense in combo.

We tried very hard to keep the attack as similar as possible to its prior use, so if you bought an attack for a tactical reason it should still meet that need in most cases, but there may be some level of change to get accustomed to (and a new reason to buy feats you may have skipped that now combo with your already known feats). We welcome your feedback on whether there could be further changes to better adjust attacks to meet the community’s needs for them.

Cooldown Changes

Prior to EE10.1, attacks without a deliberate cooldown generally had an “internal cooldown” that was equal to the attack time less the validation. For example, every 2.3 second attack had at least a two-second cooldown (the length of the attack minus the 0.3 validation seconds before the cooldown would start). This meant that you couldn’t initiate the attack again right after being interrupted (because it might still have a second left of cooldown), but it otherwise had no effect other than to be mildly confusing.

For EE10.1, we removed these internal cooldowns. Now if an attack has a cooldown greater than 0, it’s because you cannot immediately reactivate it. This should make it much more clear which attacks are deliberately meant to only be used once every few seconds, and which ones can be used again as soon as they’re done animating. (Note that the cooldown still starts 0.3 seconds after you begin the attack, so a 2.3 second attack with a 6 second cooldown can actually be used again 4 seconds after it finishes.)

Miscellaneous Changes

There were several other miscellaneous changes made as part of the general balance pass. These include:

  • Improved damage for fast attacks, particularly for rogue weapons, so they should be more competitive.
  • Reduced damage factor grants a bigger bonus to effect budget, such that attacks that hit for little or no damage can have even more effects.
  • Most stacking debuffs were reduced slightly in cost, to encourage people to experiment more with them rather than favoring pure damage attacks.
  • Cure was reduced slightly in cost, to keep Minor Cure from diminishing drastically in overall effect (it now cures less, but can be used more often; the amount of healing per point of stamina went up).
  • Opportunity’s value as a conditional was reduced slightly, as players noted that it was very easy to capitalize on.
  • Meanwhile, the conditional value of Dazed, Distressed, and Unbalanced was increased, such that attacks that use those states will be very effective against them. Simultaneously, many attacks for slower weapons that used to apply only one round of these states now apply two, to further make it easier to take advantage of them.
  • The conditional value of Disrupted and Critical Hit also improved greatly, as both these conditions are currently rare (we’re planning a tech feature to change Dispelling so that Disrupted is easier to come by, but it’s not available yet).
  • Due to the changes to armor, there was no longer any practical benefit to having Base Damage as a non-conditional effect. So Penetrating Strike and other feats that just got extra Base Damage had it removed and the budget spent on increased Damage Factor (which should scale better at higher levels).
  • Slightly increased damage factors across the board to keep damage per point of stamina generally as good or better than it was previously for most weapons (even with all the new combos and speed changes).
  • Normalized all ranged weapon attacks with Evade (Parting Shot, Snap Shot, and Windrider) so that the range is equal to attack seconds x10m (i.e., slower attacks gain a little more distance to when they can be activated to escape an approaching melee character, but generally they can’t be used at the same range as other attacks from that weapon to give melee characters some chance of approaching).
  • Changed several mage staff cantrips that were AoEs to be single-target (to better combo with other attacks on that type of mage staff, and because players had asked for single target wizard attack options).
  • Added 19 new cantrips to fill out weapon combo options. These attacks were previously unavailable because they were waiting for unimplemented effects; for the time being we have removed these effects or replaced them with their closest available analog (for example, attacks that were supposed to apply Sleep or Nausea apply Stun). These will likely change to the originally intended effects when those are implemented.
  • Gave cantrips an overall potency increase to make it more attractive to make the tradeoffs necessary to use arcane attacks (i.e., the armor penalty).

Passive Feats

After changing the conditional math for the attacks, it made sense to revisit the balancing of Reactive feats. We developed a better sheet for pricing them, and it then made sense to go ahead and rebalance all the other passive feats to make sure they were in line with the updated Reactives. The upshot of these changes is:

  • Reactives (and Features with a conditional effect) use the new math discussed for attacks. For example, Opportunity no longer gives a much of a cost benefit, while Critical Hit gives much more of one, and the pricing of many effects changed slightly.
  • Defensives, Armor, and Feature feats (with a non-conditional effect) had their pricing aligned better to other areas where we assign a value to a passive bonus.
  • Many passives had been somewhat “front-loaded” with benefit (e.g., sometimes the highest rank was only twice as good as the first rank). Given the ease and cheapness of acquiring low-rank feats, this created an incentive to just buy and slot them low. These have been changed to be less front-loaded (the maximum rank should be much better than the first rank). This did have the effect of reducing the bonus for the lower ranks of the feat in some cases.
  • With the new, more consistent pricing structure, all passive feats were set to be competitive with the strongest feats in each category. This resulted in many passive feats improving significantly (particularly defensives). A few were slightly reduced or changed in effect (generally ones that had several high bonuses, like the Freeholder and Expert feats).
  • We made some tweaks to bonuses from passive feats that seemed so out of line that player feedback indicated they were overpowered. For example, Travel Domain lost some of its speed bonus and was given bonuses to Reflex Defense and Slowed and Exhausted Recovery to compensate.
  • In general, we hope that now there are fewer passive feats that seem to be obvious choices within a category, and players feel more like every passive feat within a category might be useful for a particular build. Even for players that had feats that decreased slightly in power, the increase in power of their other passives should compensate and ultimately lead to a healthier game balance for the long run.

Expendables

Expendables (Spells, Maneuvers, and Consumables) saw a significant increase in power based on player feedback. In addition to inheriting all the pricing changes from attacks, they had the following adjustments:

  • Animation time was previously as major a factor in expendables as it was in attacks. However, feedback indicated that whether or not to use Power/use up a consumable was a much bigger consideration than how long it would take to animate. So the impact of time to activate was reduced (it’s still not zero, as slower expendables have a greater chance of interruption, which is still worth compensating for).
  • This time change meant that it was easy to drop the activation time for all expendables significantly. There are still six major timings (which will eventually map to specific animation types), but they’re now shorter. For example, spells that were previously 3.5 seconds are now 2.3 seconds, down to maneuvers that were previously 2.0 seconds are now 1.3 seconds.
  • In addition, due to player request, we added a “panic button” timing of 1.1 seconds and added it to some spells such as Hydraulic Push that you really want to get off quickly when things are going wrong. It was also applied to spells that are generally unusually fast in tabletop.
  • (Note that, due to the faster timings, if you’re using a slow weapon like a staff, longbow, or greatsword, your expendable may actually be complete before your animation finishes. We hope to eventually get this animation issue fixed, but be aware that you might actually be able to initiate a combat feat faster than it looks like after using an expendable.)
  • Expendables previously included a stamina cost in their budgets, and that vestigial cost wasn’t removed when we changed them to not cost stamina (i.e., all expendables were getting a bonus as if they cost stamina equivalent to a combat feat with their activation speed). For the new pricing, only Power cost is considered (consumables don’t cost power, but are budgeted as if they do). This means that low-level expendables often came down slightly in power (they’re no longer getting a bonus as if they still cost a lot of stamina), but still benefit greatly from increased speed. But expendables of level 3+ increased in power, and high-level expendables are often much more potent than they were previously.
  • We’ve turned on (and begun dropping as loot) a handful of expendables that were previously set to use effects that aren’t implemented yet. That effect has a substituted effect until the original effect is implemented (most commonly, an expendable meant to apply Nausea, Sleep, or Petrify had that control replaced with Stun). We’ll eventually change that feat to use the intended effect, once it’s available.
  • We’re currently working with Paizo to standardize naming of spells across their non-OGL properties. Once that list gets compiled (it’s TBD whether it will be for EE10.1 or soon thereafter), several spells will change name and we’ll introduce a significant number of new spells designed to round out tier progression (many of them reference the new naming scheme, so we don’t want to roll them out then immediately rename them).

Endnotes

Like all changes to Pathfinder Online, these changes are the result of Crowdforging and can be further Crowdforged. We’re doing our best to respond to player feedback, while keeping the systems constrained for the overall health of the game and in preparation for future features. Which is to say: yes, a few things did get nerfed, but a lot of things got improved and hopefully made more fun in general, and everyone should see more things in their builds that were improved than were nerfed. We hope you’ll try out the changes in the larger ecosystem of changes before reaching a verdict on whether you like or hate them.

The overall vision for feats is that your build is a choice, not a calculation. Within a type of feats, there should never be an option that is obviously the best feat or one that is obviously without value. The intent of this wave of changes was to try to compensate for some feats that were obviously better and some that were not being used at all. We’d like everyone to feel that they can take feats that speak to them (or are fun for them in combination with their other choices) without feeling like they’re making a mistake in their build.

This extends to existing builds: if you feel like some of these changes went too far the other way and made new feats that are obvious best choices, let us know. We are absolutely not trying to tell people, “Your build is bad now, start working on a different build.” Instead, we’re trying to reward players that stuck with builds that should have been competitive, but were not, by bringing them up to par, and to give new characters more freedom to build a character without feeling like there’s a best build that they’re missing.