Hey there ESO fans, this past Friday we were treated to a wealth of information regarding the new Champion System coming in Update 6, and that has sparked some great discussion already about the big changes that are on the way. The Wednesday prior some folks in Entropy Rising had the opportunity to chat in depth with Eric Wrobel, Systems Designer in charge of gameplay and itemization, about some of the upcoming changes. The following is a transcript of our Q&A session which we are happy to share with the community. I’ve broken the Q&A up into logical segments, but it’s a bit lengthy so buckle in and get your reading glasses on.
This is part two of a lengthy two-part Q&A session, and it covers ability changes, changes to trials, and gameplay systems like Ultimate, Synergies, and AoE caps. In case you missed part one, be sure to check it out for coverage of the implementation of the Champion System in 1.6, Attribute re-scaling, and Champion System progression.
Buffs and Debuffs
So, we know there are major and minor versions of buffs and debuffs now, and that you can’t stack two major versions of the same buff type. This means a Sorcerer couldn’t gain the Weapon Power benefit of both Rally and Surge, but you could still use them together to gain their unique bonuses, correct?
EW: Yeah, for everything there is a Major and Minor version and you can find those two different things, but yeah you can’t stack two Major Weapon Damage buffs. From a balance perspective, you have five abilities and if they all have to be something that buffs your weapon damage you can’t have interesting utility or defensive things, so this helps give players more options. They can choose a Major Buff and pick which ability gives them that buff. Do I want Spiked Armor for the damage return or Immovable for the CC Immunity? We’ve kept the theme of abilities the same while fitting it into the new system.
Are all Major Armor buffs going to have the same value? Do they share the same duration?
EW: Yes. Pick the buff you want, but now you pick the utility instead of the buff. You can use Spiked Armor and Immovable at the same time if you want both utilities at once. Most forms of a Major buff will share the same duration, but some abilities will cost more than others depending on what additional effects they have, so there are reasons for one player to choose one and another to choose another based on their resource pools and how they like to play the game.
Can people stack multiple types of DoTs or Bleeds?
Yeah, you can still do that. As far as buffs and debuffs go, for offense you are looking for Major Weapon Power Buff or Major Damage Buff. Also the magnitude of those effects have been brought into alignment, before Puncture would decrease armor by 40%, which has a very high variability and it made the debuff better than the buff, but now there is a parity. Now you decrease their armor by the same amount of the armor buff it provides.
Have you reevaluated the armor values on bosses since, currently, armor penetration does not seem to do very much? Are we going to start seeing mobs with high armor and low spell resist and mobs with low armor and high spell resist so that certain builds are more effective against certain enemies?
EW: Yes, this has been changed as things with a percentage was useless previously. Now monsters have more armor and now you are decreasing it by a flat value instead of a percentage making those abilities more useful. We’ve kept a parity with what we’ve done to players, but now more heavily armored mobs with shields will be more defensive with higher armor and higher spell resistance.
You mentioned that bonuses from gear are on top of the categories of buffs and debuffs. When you are computing the theoretical caps of something like armor, are those computed with just base item values and buffs or does an armor set proc that provides armor factor in?
EW: Armor is different because of the 50% hardcap, what we wanted to do is allow the maximum a player can get to be higher than 50% so players can customize their character to have different things giving them armor so they can spend the rest of their abilities or enchantments to give utility like movement speed or health. In theory a player could get to 60% and it wouldn’t do anything, but the nice thing about that is if something lowers your armor if you are above 50% you could stay at or above 50% even if you are hit by debuffs.
How are damage shields being affected by these changes? Are the values of damage shields being scaled by a larger factor than health so they are more impactful? Currently the effectiveness of damage shields is really limited because you only get a small fraction of the size of the shield in actual damage mitigation.
You can have as many Damage Shields as you want basically. Health has been increased by a large amount, but we’ve seen that damage shields are extremely useful. For example, as a Templar tank, being able to cast a sun shield before the boss hits you increases your max theoretical health, even if it’s not by the exact value of the damage shield it doesn’t get all the defensive bonuses other things do. Since you can cast shields over and over again, they have proven to be very impactful in our trial and dungeon testing.
Debuffs like Elemental Drain from Destruction Staff; that debuff to spell resist to flame, shock and frost works for everyone, but the magicka return buff only works for the caster and only one person can put that on a mob, are you going to open it up so other people can use the buff portion, or make it so it affects other people in the party attacking the monster as well?
EW: Now it reduces all spell resistances under the Major Spellshatter category, but for the Magicka recovery to caster, I will have to look at it.
What about crowd control. Is that a new type of Debuff? What’s happening with the debuff category for CC and how will they tier with each other?
EW: We’ve left that system as is for crowd control. As a player once you’ve been hit with CC, you get immunity so you can’t get hit over and over with the same CC, and generally that feels like it works pretty good.
In terms of all the ability changes. Can you tell us a little bit about some of the class abilities that will change to have a morph to scale off of Stamina?
EW: The coolest, most interesting one that we’ve been working on this week is the Backlash ability from the Templar. We made so multiple, different casters can cast it. Now there is a Magicka morph and a Stamina morph, so damage scales off casters max Magicka or max Stamina, so it’s useful for melee guys or spell-based guys as well.
Did you keep the effective values of that ability near the same?
EW: There’s been a lot of re-balancing, but since stats have changed so much we’ve sort of based the new damage off the amount of damage that DoT’s could do and then increased it because that ability is harder to get the max value from it since you need other players attacking the target to get a lot from it.
Were ultimates changed to remain powerful? It seems like you will get fewer ultimates with the new changes to Ultimate generation, have you done any adjusting for that?
EW: We balanced the amount of Ultimate generation per second that the buff gives you around someone with 1 ability and 1 light attack weave every second with a 50% critical strike rating. So tanks will gain more ultimate (than they do currently) and people who have a lot of DoTs ticking will have less (compared to where they are now). In addition with ability re-balancing, we picked a better ultimate like Dragonknight Standard as an example of where we want Ultimates to be and worked to push other Ultimates to that level of power instead of bringing things down. So some Ultimates will be more powerful in 1.6.
Certain Ultimates, like Veil of Blades or Standard of Might are essentially required for Nightblades and Dragonknights respectively. Are you improving ultimates like Meteor to make them more viable in a trial setting?
EW: Yep, as one example, Radial Sweep now adds a pulsing damage aura for 6 seconds and has good utility where you take less damage with each extra target hit if you take that morph.
How will abilities like Carve or passives that generate additional Ultimate work in 1.6 given the new changes? Did you change passives with ultimate generation, for example with Werewolf?
EW: We have done a lot of modification to different passives to support the new system. As far as abilities go, that ties in well with our buff and debuff changes we have made. Currently there are some abilities that can give you a similar type of bonus. Like Spiked Armor and Immovable give you Major Armor and Major Spell Resistance, but you can’t stack those if you use two abilities that give you those buffs, it just refreshes the timer. So there is a Minor Ultimate Generation buff that certain abilities will give you and when you use that ability you will gain 1 Ultimate a second for a couple of seconds.
Is there going to be a Major/Minor buff type for percentage damage reduction? So are you are no longer going to stack similar ultimates such as Remembrance and Veil?
EW: There’s a Major Damage Reduction buff that is reserved for ultimates, for example, Consuming Darkness gives that buff. Both the Ultimates you mention will both provide Major Damage Reduction and you can have one or the other but not both at the same time.
Would something like Nova be different since it affects your target, something like a Major Outgoing Damage debuff, which would be different than a defensive Damage Reduction buff?
EW: Exactly, one you are de-buffing an enemy and the other you are buffing yourself.
So Nightblade Shades and Low Slash would both be Minor Debuffs?
EW: Minor Damage Done Debuff. So someone in your raid can either use Low Slash or use the Shades to achieve the same effect.
We heard a rumor that Sorcerer pets were going to be super strong?
EW: Right now, one of the top builds in our DPS test has been the Sorcerer pet build, specifically we made a new morph of Daedric Curse to increase the damage pets do, and then you can also get the shield morph that increases damage that pets do, and those things synergize really well. We’ve also made other general improvements, like they look at your critical attacks. We’ve made some tweaks so that build is effective, but not the king of damage.
Are there going to be changes to the Restoration Staff to help balance it more with the Templar Breath of Life ability? We feel that non-Templar healers have a rough time in many fights, so it will be interesting to see what 1.6 brings in that regard.
EW: The Restoration ability that provides the shield is the ability that supposed to fill that role because it scales up in effectiveness the lower the health the target was. There was a crucial bug that was hurting that where if you recast a damage shield on a target that already had a damage shield, it wouldn’t refresh the value of the damage shield. So if a target had a damage shield value of 200 and it got knocked down to 100, recasting the ability wouldn’t raise it back up to 200. We have gone in and buffed a lot of the weaker used class abilities. For example, the Siphoning Nightblade Ultimate, there is a morph now that heals all your allies when you use it, it also gives them the Major Healing Taken buff, so that’s a really powerful tool that Nightblades have to heal now. We’re looking at having all of the characters fulfill all of the roles.
What are you looking at with Destructive Touch compared to Crushing Shock? Crushing Shock costs less and does more damage than Destructive Touch?
EW: We’ve changed Destructive Touch into a damage over time effect, so now it’s useful to have both going at the same time.
For Templar Dark Flare, have you adjusted the ability so that the spell damage buff doesn’t be immediately removed by a single DOT Tick? What if your next ability is DOT, will it increase the damage of the first tick or every tick?
Yes, so we changed that one a little bit. It gives you the Major Bonus Damage on Next Attack buff, so it gives you a buff on the next attack, so you can do the same ability or any other ability and get that damage, so DoTs will not remove it. It’s only for direct target attacks, so if your next spell is a DoT it will not get increased damage or take up the buff.
Is there anything going to be done with the attack speed to make it more useful, specifically weighted traits or the Haste buff for Nightblades, since attack speed is not really useful to current ESO gameplay?
EW: It’s still being thought about for the future, and it’s something I want to do. It’s a pretty big change as there’s potentially a big impact on animations. When you see the patch notes, you will see why we couldn’t get to that. For the Haste ability, we’ve completely changed it for now as it wasn’t effective with the gameplay style most people are using. The new ability is pretty cool. It gives you a Minor Damage Done buff for 20s, and one morph gives you a stamina regeneration buff like it did before. The other cool part of the ability, once you’ve done a couple of attacks, the ability chains to a new attack you can use where you pull out a spectral bow and do a bunch of damage to a target at range.
Have you done anything with Drain Essence so it’s usable in trials?
EW: Yeah, I don’t know much work we’ve done with that in general, but there are other things I would like to work on with vampires. Like that and the 50% more fire damage is a little too much. In some of our tests, when we fight bosses with fire damage, they generally one-shot people, and so I would like to look at, in general, reducing that vulnerability and then looking at other abilities so that they are not too powerful afterwards.
Have you done any work on the taunt mechanic and how it works? Do some abilities have high threat compared to others?
EW: We have not done a lot of work on that. I would like feedback on that to potentially adjust that, but I do feel that the taunt immunity mechanic is a little too punishing right now. We can add more threat to abilities, in fact that is set up on the Clannfear for example. All the damage it does is multiplied by a certain value, because otherwise it does so little damage and never hold threat, but anything that is taunted has a priority over any damage or threat that’s been caused. There are some weird interactions with other aggro systems where certain types of mobs prefer to attack certain types of players.
Trials and Dungeons
Can you give a brief overview with what’s happening with trials? Specifically what’s happening with hard modes and how they will interact with leaderboards?
EW: We’ve been doing a lot of trial testing and it’s been really good testing to see how all the different systems combine together. For example, with the armor changes that’s where we figured out that tanks were really hard to kill and so we adjusted the single target damage of the bosses were doing. We wanted to keep the balance points pretty close to what they are on live. So it’s not like, oh the Champion System is here and now I’m a lot weaker and I used to be able to do this content and now I can’t do it anymore. You shold be able to do the same content you were able to do previously. Another thing that I think Joe has been working on is to increase the health a little bit, because people were ignoring a lot of the mechanics. Not to make it harder, but make it so people have to do some of the things they are supposed to do in the fight and not just ignore everything.
What is happening with the hard-mode loot out of the current trials, as well as Serpent?
EW: Yes, so we made those new hard-mode style item sets for Mage, Warrior and Serpent, that gave the same bonuses and gave you an additional new thing. You would get that bonus at 5, but now you can use that bonus at 3 pieces from the new hard-mode system and still get the bonus from the old one, so it gives you some more flexibility, but more power to those sets if you are interested in that.
Are you referring to the Serpent sets, the ones that drop off Serpent normal-mode will now drop off Mage and Warrior hard-mode?
EW: Yeah, you should be able to get those from the hard-modes.
Area of Effect Abilities
Could you start off by giving us a brief recap of how the new area-of-effect damage detection and allocation system is going to work in Update 6?
EW: Yeah, so the first six targets will take full damage and be subjected to special effects imposed by the skill like crowd control or debuffs. The next 16 targets, 7-24 will take half damage, and remaining targets up to a maximum of 60 will take 25% of the original damage.
How is the order determined? Is it based on the range from you? So if it’s a ground target, it takes the 6 closest to the center of the ground target?
EW: Yes, it takes the 6 closest, it does a radius check.
Will these changes affect Siege damage, or abilities like Caltrops that have a modified AoE cap?
EW: Siege will remain the same where anyone damaged will take full damage as the point of that is to try and break up targets, but all other AOEs will obey that rule set.
How do abilities like Negate work with the new AoE caps, since it doesn’t have a damage component?
EW: We’ve done some cool stuff with Negate. The morph that gave resources back now gives Major Regeneration to everyone in the area, and in addition, we gave it a new Major Buff or Debuff it didn’t have. It’s really good now, Negate’s solid.
What about synergy abilities? Can you give a little insight on what you are doing with them and maybe give an example of a (currently) bad synergy that you’ve improved?
EW: We’ve improved synergies in three vectors. First, they will scale off the better stats of the person who presses it, either Stamina or Magicka. We’ve buffed a lot of the bad ones. For example, for Inner Fire, Radiate is no longer a channel, it’s an instant with a damage over time. So all synergies are good now, they still use a 1 second GCD, but they are better than any other ability you could use with your GCD. We’ve also decreased the radius that they can be activated.
Tell us, what is your favorite thing about ESO Update 1.6?
EW: I think my favorite thing is all the new builds all the players can get and seeing the build diversity between class abilities and weapon abilities, and synergies. Like, with the Storm Atronach now gives you and the person who activates the synergy and the Storm Atronach a damage buff, so people are now fighting to press that button.
What’s coming up on the horizon for your team now that 1.6 is nearly done?
EW: The biggest thing, I’d like to do is get the Gameplay Team more tightly integrated with the Content Team, so when they come out with new content it has cool, unique gameplay things going on that change the way people play the game. It’s interesting because there’s a cool story and because there’s cool gameplay things happening.
Thanks very much to the extremely gracious Eric Wrobel for the time he took to answer all our questions. I hope you have enjoyed these sets of Q&As and hopefully we can bring more features like this to you in the near future. Happy Holidays!