I'd like to take a moment to talk about some recent changes in an effort to try and get some more transparency when Stuff Hits The Fan™ like it did in the latest patch.
I have two statements for you today, one from myself, and one from Wargrimnir regarding the Knight/Chosen changes we made in the latest patch that resulted in a huge amount of outcry on the forums, and we agree with your outcry - and wanted to share what we are doing about it.
A hotfix is scheduled for later today with adjustments to recent changes, and we'd like to provide some background for the reason for the changes contained within.
Here's my statement regarding the matter:
Hi folks, Secrets here.
We're getting ready to patch in a hotfix on a controversial patch - namely, the Chosen and Knight changes that went in yesterday.
Your voices have been loud and clear, and we would like to give some background on the process behind making those changes, why we don't test things internally like this, and why we need to go to extremes to test the waters regarding changes.
Let's start by addressing your voices here on the forums.
In post-production game design, designers look at three sources for dedicing on balancing changes. Often times I have stated, privately on guild discords or otherwise publicly, that we listen to three sources of feedback, and if two or more of them align, we make a change.
Those three are:
- Player feedback. There's a large, silent majority that often disagrees, and this is why this cannot be relied on solely.
- Developer / Internal feedback. Developers are inheritly biased about their changes; we make the changes, so we feel ownership or responsibility to make them work. Thus, this cannot be solely relied on alone, as cognitive biases take over due to pride in your work.
- Data. While great on its own merit, math alone cannot account for players being creative. There are more variables than just numbers that go into making balance decisions. Players are unpredictable, and 'clever use of game mechanics' is one of the oldest terms in the book to refer to mechanics that were not intentional, but side effects of player creativity.
When we factor in all of those considerations, the changes we made to Chosen to give them a flat 25%, proccable on being crit debuff on enemies flies in the face of all of those factors.
The change was done with math in mind, and partial data was the sole determining factor here.
Uptime of the ability was assumed to be short - you cleanse the ability, and it would stay off. Unfortunately, what was not considered is the amount of critical hits under mass quantities of players attacking someone. The debuff would apply repeatedly, and the debuff itself was too powerful.
In tests following the patch, we did see the uptime on the buff we were expecting. Unfortunately, the buff itself was too powerful, and affected far too many players, especially those classes like White Lion or Slayer who do not have high critical hit chances to begin with, let alone tanks which suffer in the same way.
Due to order of messages received in the developer's balance channel, it was assumed that this would be okay to push live. The data added up to the developer who implemented it, and it was pushed live without it being truly signed off.
This means that we only listened to one source of feedback - our own data we collected. When balance changes go wrong, we see where the cognitive bias lies first. We never blame the players first, contrary to popular opinion on these forums.
We defend our team's changes in public. The vitriol we see on the forums that leads to forum suspensions are normally in the extremes that go beyond providing useful information. The best way to provide your feedback is by being constructive, using the two sources you are able to provide: Your unbiased, politely worded opinion, and data to support your claim. You have freedom of choice as a human being, exercise it well, or your demons may be exorcised.
The change in question, however, is a miscommunication on our part, and we own up to it collectively and do not place the blame on a sole developer. Everyone on the team is free to experiment, as we don't have the numbers internally to playtest. Everyone who works on this project is unpaid, if anything, we are bleeding money by keeping this project alive because we love the game.
As a result, we don't get the freedom to tell people they need to be on at x hour for a playtest. We work across multiple timezones, and people have lives and responsibilities. Even in industry, there are crusades against crunch or developers getting sick over extra hours worked. No one wants to do extra work that will ruin their sleep or health, paid or not.
I'd like to address some methods of feedback, however, namely on the forums. Players often assume that any change we make is permanent; quite the contrary, we make experimental changes to test the waters, we also make changes with the intention of reverting them if they are unwanted quite often. Changes are made not only for players, but also for ourselves. We want to make improvements to everyone's gameplay experience, and that's not always easy when you spend half of your free time working on the game, and the other half playing it.
In some cases, developers or GMs do not get to play the game at all due to their volunteer workload on the project. They hide in the shadows and play in private with their friends and no one knows who they are, and they prefer to keep it that way to remain unbiased. That is their personal choice and we respect that, as they are volunteering their free time for us all to enjoy a game we once loved.
So you may be wondering, what is our next step following this assessment?
We are going to make the following changes:
-Corruptive Power: Reverted, changed to "Any time you critically hit an enemy, all members of your group within 100 feet, except you, will gain a blessing that reduces their chance to be critically hit by 10% for 5 seconds." This ability can be refreshed by re-activating it, similar to Knight's Dirty Tricks. This ability can be severed from any group members it is applied to.
-Mixed Defenses: Now exists as the 11 point tactic in the Corruption tree.
-Corruptive Power: Now exists as the 7 point tactic in the Corruption tree.
-Oppression: Now requires a shield to use.
-Vigilance: Now requires a shield to use.
Let's go in with a explanation for each of the changes.
-Corruptive Power - This was changed to effectively mirror Dirty Tricks. 5% Critical Hit Chance has the same renown rank cost as 8% Reduced Chance to be Critically Hit. We weigh tactics the same as renown investment, as they are all specialization related. When we factor in that a Chosen must do an offensive attack to proc this tactic on the group, we add about 2% extra bonus to offset the fact that it may not be always up, depending on the Chosen's critical hit chance.
This gives Chosen a very viable 2h build as well as a defensive build, similar to what the Knight has with Dirty Tricks, but on an offensive action to fit the Chosen's offensive class identity. It also ensures you are rewarded for staying near melee range, which also fits the Chosen's class identity. Keep in mind, too, that it may be severed by an enemy team, so that is an extra reason that it has a slight leg-up over Dirty Tricks.
-Mixed Defenses / Corruptive Power position changes - This is done solely for build purposes. We don't want the Knight and Chosen to be exact mirrors, and ultimately this fits two builds that a Chosen can take.
-Oppression/Vigilance: This is done to mirror the defensive abilities. If you're speccing a 13 point ability, you're pretty much committed to the role in that tree. This change will reflect that Chosen is a more offensive tank by nature, but if you want to go defensive, the option is available, but more forced. As such, a great weapon cannot be used for such a powerful defensive ability.
Plus, Chosen's ability states in the description that it is a Shield Slam - kind of hard to do that with a great weapon!
Going forward, we hope to avoid mistakes like this in the future. We're not perfect, however, I hope we can restore a level of trust in the team. We have very talented folks, and our developers have been a godsend in getting work done across multiple disciplines to provide content that never existed in Age of Reckoning. We want to be able to give the game new life in addition to its nostalgic feeling, and we do this unpaid because we're passionate about making sure the game continues on in the best form it can be.
Clearly, we have a lot of work to do with communication. As always has been the case. But admitting our faults and making things right here is our priority right now, and that is exactly what we're doing.
tl;dr whirly axe goes weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
Wargrimnir had this to add as well:
Wargrimnir here. First off, thanks for all the patience and kind words, if you didn't have patience or kind words then you just make this job harder and I don't care much for you. The first version of this tactic getting pushed was simply a mistake. It was my responsibility to catch which I failed at doing. Part of this was miscommunication. There were a couple simultaneous discussions going on, what appeared to be explicit approval on this tactic was actually intended for exploring options to replace the existing -AP tactics. When I went back and looked at the conversation, it sure looks like I rubberstamp approved of the -25% crit tactic and no further discussion was had, then it was quickly buried. The other part was real life getting in the way of providing a backstop to ideas and proposals in balance. I had worked 12 hours the day before the patch, and in the morning got pulled into high priority items (when I would otherwise dink around on the forums looking for troublemakers). I saw the patch notes at least an hour after they went up and had the same reaction as everyone else, except I was kicking myself for it. Normally we post them internally at least the day before, but I just didn't see this one among everything else.
I'm not going to promise any of us are going to do a better job. This is the level of job we do here, sometimes you get a bad patch every couple of months because one of the many people around here missed something or glazed over what is otherwise obvious. We have a lot of people that can see these things, they're all free to chirp when something doesn't look right, and the majority of the time we run patches as intended. However, I do offer an apology on behalf of my own failure.
This thread is open for discussion. Feel free to provide constructive feedback regarding the second round of changes. These will be going live later today in a hotfix.
No, there's not going to be a second tl;dr. Go and read the post. You already got one from me, darn it!