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You've Got the Brawn, I've Got the Brains

It has been a busy month so far for Goblinworks. In addition to moving through our normal work processes for Milestone 4, we also added two new Goblins, Seth Frolich who is our new Technical Artist with responsibilities including managing our pipeline of tools for the art team, and Taylor Hainlen who is a software engineer who will be the newest member of Programistan!

Last week I attended the Game Developers Convention in Los Angeles for business development meetings and to soak up the info from some of the industries luminaries. This was the first year for this event to be in LA; it was formerly in Austin TX. The format also changed this year from a focus on online gaming to a focus on apps in keeping with major trends in the industry. Almost every panel I attended had some touchstones for our development work, from monetization strategies to data analysis to monitoring and understanding feedback and real-world gameplay data. While the industry may be diving headlong in to the "app market", I'm pretty happy to report that all indications I see are that the online business remains a strong and healthy market segment.

Last Friday the team leaders presented their Milestone 4 roadmap and received a strong endorsement from the rest of the team and myself and Lisa. I'll be sharing some of that roadmap with you in future blog posts. It is another step on our never-ending road for transparency to keep the community in the loop on what we're working on and how we are succeeding at hitting our goals.

This week the designers want to focus on a deep dive into the mechanics for how various types of characters will be implemented. We've got the core elements of the Fighter in a playable state and we expect to have Rogue in a similar state by the end of this milestone, so this week Stephen talks more about the mechanics that define each role.

Specialization

To give different kinds of characters distinctive and unique game mechanics, we're introducing the concept of a "role feature". Each character can have one role feature active at any time, and changing role features takes enough time that it usually won't be done in the middle of combat. Role features are exclusive; you won't be able to have a role feature from the Fighter role active at the same time as a role feature from the Rogue role, for example.

The Fighter role feature is Weapon Specialization. Weapon Specializations are initially for a single class of weapon (not a single specific weapon). For example, Heavy Blades Specialization covers longsword and greatsword, Axe Specialization covers battleaxe and greataxe, and Bow Specialization covers shortbow and longbow. These are based on our system for skill-based weapon proficiencies, and grant a little more versatility to a Fighter to encourage weapon swapping. At higher level, once you have more weapon slots to play with, you can purchase a Specialization in 1-Handed Melee, 2-Handed Melee, or Ranged. Finally, a Fighter that really wants to get the Specialization bonus when swapping to a dissimilar weapon can slot the Versatility Utility feat, which allows the character to apply Specialization to any weapon for a short time after activation.

And what is this bonus? A Specialized weapon gains bonus attack, base damage, and crit chance that applies to every attack. These bonuses are smaller than some of the situational bonuses other roles will get, but are applied consistently and should add up to steady and impressive damage and crits in all combat situations.

Opportunity

Of course, steady damage is only useful if you can keep your targets in range. To help with this, Fighters can purchase and slot Master of Opportunity feats. These feats go in a reactive passive feat slot; players can have up to two of those at a time, so might slot up to two Master of Opportunity feats instead of other reactives. Since they're reactive feats, players that are primarily focused on another role could purchase and slot them, but would give up their main role's Dedication bonus.

Most weapons include one or more generic attacks that do something extra against a target with Opportunity. Even a Rogue or Cleric can slot and use these attacks, capitalizing on a target that's run in combat, made a ranged attack in melee, etc. But the Master of Opportunity feats add an additional effect to every attack when made against a target with Opportunity. For example, Master of Opportunity: Suffer adds additional base damage, while Master of Opportunity: Stand Still adds a slow. Fighters will likely make a lot of use of the generic attacks that take advantage of Opportunity, but even if they're just swinging away with other attacks, they'll do something extra on Opportunity.

Sneak Attack

The Rogue role feature is Sneak Attack. Just like Fighters' Weapon Specialization, slotting a Sneak Attack precludes slotting another role feature.

There are multiple different versions of Sneak Attack, depending on the style of fighting you plan to do as a Rogue. Each of them triggers on the Flat-Footed state, which can be applied by feats like Feint (and automatically in other situations if you don't have Uncanny Dodge). The standard version of the feat is currently called "Cut-Throat" and additionally gets Sneak Attack against any target that isn't targeting the Rogue. This essentially represents both flanking and attacking an unaware target from the tabletop: if you don't have the Rogue selected, you're not able to give him enough attention to keep him from poking you in your vulnerables. Additionally, we're looking into alternate versions of the feat like Daredevil and Opportunist that get Sneak Attack in different ways.

Like the generic attacks for Opportunity, many light weapons include attacks with a special effect on any Flat-Footed target, and Rogues will likely be the primary users of these attacks. But when Sneak Attack is available, every attack does additional base damage (making even simple weapons like daggers as good or better than a Fighter's weapons), and has a chance to apply stacks of the Afflicted damage-over-time (DoT) effect. This should mean that, in straight-up combat, a Rogue is a suboptimal damage dealer, but becomes the best source of physical damage in the game when Sneak Attacking.

Rogues have counterparts to the Fighter's Master of Opportunity feats, which are reactive feats that do something extra on any attack if the target is Flat-Footed. For example, Bleeding Attack grants the Bleeding DoT effect and Befuddling Strike grants extra stacks of the Oblivious debuff (a penalty to attack and Perception).

Stealth

One way to get Sneak Attack is to keep targets unaware of you, and the Stealth skill can help with this. Whenever you're in Stealth stance (your typical crouched, sneaky walk), the distance at which other players can see and target you is based on a comparison of your Stealth total and their Perception total. This ratio scales from 90% of the normal distances (for minimum Stealth vs. maximum Perception) to 10% of the normal distances (for maximum Stealth vs. minimum Perception), with equally matched characters resulting in a 50% reduction of sighting and targeting distances.

We expect these distances to be moderated by the server: the system doesn't even inform your client that there's someone around until you can see them, and attacks won't work if the server knows they're too far away for you to target. This means that the system should be resistant to client hacking. On the client side, we do expect to apply a translucency effect to a stealthed character when they're between their visible and targetable ranges, so if you're paying attention you might see the Rogue before flipping through targets happens to select him but it won't be an automatic thing.

Stealth breaks when you begin attacking, and then individuals further away might understand why your target was suddenly freaking out. But by that point, you've likely gotten off a few solid hits and can run away and enter stealth mode again, should you so desire.

Mobility

In order to facilitate getting away, Rogues gain easy access to feats that grant Evades: extremely fast runs or jumps backwards that do not provoke Opportunity. These make it very easy for a Rogue to extricate himself from melee, particularly if he slowed or immobilized the target before leaping away. They also make it much easier for Rogues to get out of area of effect attacks than others.

Conversely, however, Fighters have multiple feats that grant Leap/Charge: an extremely fast run or jump towards the target. They can use these to get into a melee fight quickly, and keep up with a Rogue that's trying to get away. A Rogue on Fighter battle likely becomes a very deadly dance.

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