The Grab Bag of Questions #21

Welcome to the Warhammer Online Grab Bag, where your friendly neighborhood community manager will answer the most popular, and most interesting, questions in a new regular feature. Many things aren't yet certain, so try to be patient with us. Trust me - we're as eager as you are to see the features finalized, so that we can hear what you've got to say.

Q: Are there any plans for abilities (either core or purchased) to impact non-combat game play? Abilities such as: (non-combat) travel enhancements, group assembly abilities, downtime reduction abilities, and other beneficial abilities to make the out-of-combat experience more fun?

A: We've absolutely discussed and looked at non-combat abilities, but combat-based abilities are a notably higher priority. We'd certainly like to flesh out ability lists with non-combat / utility / "flavor" items, but in a world at war, keeping the player alive and taking down some other poor sod have to be our primary focuses for now.

Q: 20+ abilities per career is a little low for a game of this size, but as long as there are 20+ different abilities, I guess I would be happy. I hope there's no fire1, fire2, fire3 type thing going on here…If the number is in fact 20 (not saying it is), that's only 5 base/core ability's and 15 ability's gained from spec? Or from spec, morale, and tactics combined?

A: Players will NOT be purchasing the same ability over and over and only getting rank 1, 2 and 3 versions of it. Each career will end up with around ~20 guaranteed unique actions between core and base abilities. After that, they can purchase additional supplemental abilities which will increase the player's total number of abilities by about 10-25%, depending on how you choose to spend your mastery points. Overall we expect most players to have somewhere in the mid to high 20's of action activates (this does not include Morale).

Q: You mention a cost to respec. Will this be the only method of respec'ing? Is there any chance of buying it from a trainer? Is there any chance dungeon mobs will drop them?

A: Don't take "cost" too literally - spending coin, investing time, and performing tasks are all "costs" of one type or another. As was mentioned previously, we have yet to determine the cost of re-specialization. For now, it's free in the beta so that we can get the basics of specialization smoothed out first.

Q: Going by DAoC's specing rules (and it seems that this is the way you guys are describing it) the more we spec in X line, the base spells of X line get better. If X line has a CC spell, by increasing the spec of X, will it make the duration of the CC last longer like it does in DAoC?

A: When you increase your mastery, you'll “generally” see values increase, not time factors. In other words, the amount of hit points returned by a heal-over-time would increase, but the duration would likely remain the same. For effects like CC, it's not likely that you'll see direct increases to the time, but other aspects may increase (for example, a melee attack which stuns would keep the same stun duration, but the damage from the melee hit would keep on increasing). This is not to say we won't consider increasing duration values, but we are starting with other aspects of the abilities first.

Q: I can understand how hard it would be to create several hundred skills and make them at least semi-original, but is there any fear of funneling people into taking those "cookie cutter" tree specs?

A: Well, here's the thing: we're fully aware that someone, somewhere, will sit down and write up a multi-page dissertation with graphs and numbers to "prove" that one specific mastery layout is "the best", and word-of-mouth will result in lots of people using that layout (for a few weeks, anyway, until the process repeats again). It's simply human nature, and that's fine. The Careers and Combat team's goal, however, is to ensure that every mastery layout is viable and functional, and suited to someone's play style. Trying to fight against the players who are going to actively go looking for "cookie cutter" layouts is fruitless (and as vocal as they may be on forums, they're honestly the minority). Instead, we're simply making sure that every decision is usable, even if it's not optimal. We'll constantly be adjusting each of the lines from Beta until the game shuts down in 3011. Also, depending on the type of situation and the current stage of balance, different builds will be considered “cookie cutter” for min/max players. There is very little we can do about that; it's the inherit flaw in having specialization systems in general, and the primary reason we allow for respec.

Q: Does that mean we will get specific tactics/morale at specific levels (like core abilities) or will we still be able to choose which one we want to pick first?

A: You'll be getting base tactics and base morale abilities at specific ranks, along with your base actions. Those tactics and morale abilities will be given to everyone of each career, and your decision will be more based on which to use. Then, above and beyond those, there will also be supplemental tactics and morale abilities available from masteries, and you'll have to invest in the given mastery before they can be picked up. Also keep in mind the RvR tactics and Tome tactics are optional, so you get further choice with those as well.

Q: Will there be any significant variation in ability number between archetypes or even the classes within each archetype? For instance, in beta there were some classes with 9 or so more abilities than other classes. I know that was a product of some classes being more 'finished' than others, but is there any real variation between the above with mastery abilities? For example, do healers get say 2 mastery abilities per line, because they have more baseline abilities?

A: Base abilities will be roughly the same for each career - around 20. We will add additional actions to the base if we feel it's necessary to make the class play well, but that is our starting number. Beyond those, every career will have the exact same amount of mastery and supplemental options available. After a career gets redesigned for specialization you should see 90% of the careers having a similar number of total abilities.

Q: Will there be a situation where a gained Mastery ability is clearly superior to a baseline ability, be it through more damage or the same damage with added effects, or same damage with less energy, and so forth. Basically will (certain) mastery abilities replace the existing baseline abilities, or are they intended to be supplementary abilities?

A: The supplemental abilities are exactly that, they supplement the core and base ability set, and are not meant as replacements for those abilities. If they were simply replacements, then they'd essentially be "Smash Rank 2", and that's no fun. =) The supplemental abilities from any given mastery will generally be things that help focus the career more towards the theme of that mastery, provide new tools relating to that mastery, or open up more options for the player. One thing to note is that you might get, say, a heal or a nuke that is a lot better then your base one. However, it may have a longer cool down timer, or require the target to be below 50% health, etc., so it doesn't just replace your defaults.

Q: Will there be any ways to get mastery points besides leveling up? Maybe add in a few quests throughout the world that let you get extra mastery points or for some other achievements, as well?

A: For now, you'll only gain them via increasing your rank. More than likely, you'll never get additional mastery points outside of leveling. RvR and Tome rewards have their own ways of increasing player power beyond masteries.

Q: Will there be gear with + to masteries? Will masteries be able to go over level (or whatever they are capped at if it's not equal to level), with appropriate scaling in the power of skills?

A: The system has been designed to allow for flat bonuses to mastery level or bonuses to individual ability levels via items and item set bonuses. How far we take this has yet to be determined.

Q: Will players be able to access individual skills that must usually be purchased within masteries without investing points in that skill, such as through the use of items that have a + to that skill (similar to Diablo)?

A: No. If we hypothetically grant that you'd be able to increase your mastery level without investing points, you wouldn't gain access to supplemental abilities which would otherwise still be locked.

Q: Will all masteries for all classes be meaningful choices, or will there be some classes where the choices between masteries are along the lines of "sword, axe, or hammer", with just marginally different style effects?

A: The masteries all focus around the question of, "how do you want to play this character?", and are meaningful and impactful decisions. The difference between using a sword, axe, or hammer is fairly cosmetic. An example in terms of masteries might be closer to "defensive abilities with a one-handed axe and a shield, versus offensive abilities with a great sword, versus positional attacks and debuffs with hammers".

Q: Do individual skills within each mastery have multiple tiers as well? For example, if under "fire mastery" you have a supplementary skill called "fireball", could you put multiple points in this skill to make it more powerful, or do you just put a maximum of one point into any given skill, and then boost its power through raising the mastery?

A: The latter. You only need a single point to unlock an ability, and then it scales along with your rank and mastery.

Q: Do skills have a requirement on the level of mastery that you must have before you can purchase them? If you're character is max level, but has 0 points in fire mastery, could you purchase any ability in fire mastery, or would you need to first put a certain amount of points into fire mastery to unlock certain higher level fire mastery skills?

A: The base abilities in a mastery are granted to you as your rank increases. The supplemental abilities that are available to you are based on your mastery level.

Q: Along the lines of the previous question, do individual skills within masteries have other skills as prerequisites, creating an overall skill tree structure, or is each skill individual and separate within a mastery, without having any other skills as prereqs?

A: We're currently looking at not having any prerequisites other than the appropriate mastery level, but a cascading tree is always a possibility for the future. We want to see how players respond to these changes before developing any further adjustments to the system.

Q: Will all classes get exactly the same number of mastery points? Or will some classes that are deemed to require a greater number of abilities be given more points (similar to the DAoC system with 1.0x, 2.0x, etc, classes)?

A: Every career has the exact same amount of mastery points (and similar amounts of abilities).

Q: Will masteries contain anything besides actions, tactics, and morale? For example, any background/passive boost effects?

A: The supplemental abilities are currently a mix of actions, tactics, and morale. Remember tactics really are the major passive boosts in the game; you have the flexibility to adjust them on the fly instead of having to go respec your character to change them.

Q: Will certain masteries or certain skills within masteries allow you to unlock access to additional types of equipment? For example, would you ever need to invest a point in say "dual wield" under "weapons mastery" to be able to wield two weapons at once, or anything along those lines?

A: No; neither masteries nor supplemental abilities will fundamentally change your character's equipment options.

-Combat & Careers Team

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