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HBS_Kiva

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Developer Diary #1: MechWarrior Ability Revision

Hi everyone! It's yr friendly neighborhood design lead, Kiva, with the first of what will be a regular new feature: Developer Diaries! We're asking members of the BATTLETECH team to write about their ideas, upcoming features, and particularly interesting aspects of their work. For our inaugural Diary, we're talking about some previously-teased revisions to MechWarrior abilities, particularly good old Bulwark.

One of the things we’re always on the lookout for is player consensus on “right” ways to play the game. When we design game systems, one of the first things we ask is “What decisions can the player make in this system?” This is because game systems are superfluous if there’s a single outcome and a single path to that outcome. We may as well just move your playing pieces for you, if there aren’t choices.

When we saw the consensus developing that the MechWarrior ability Bulwark was considered mandatory for all pilots, and its higher-level companion Juggernaut was considered useless, we started paying close attention to conversations about both, and started planning. We’d always expected to tune the MechWarrior abilities post-launch, and here was the first indicator that it was time to do so.

The initial proposal, which we very nearly patched in 1.1, was to simply reverse the positions of Bulwark and Juggernaut. Bulwark would become the higher-end Guts ability, and Juggernaut would become the lower-end one. We kept talking, though, and we decided that the real issue was that Bulwark was, relative to almost every other ability, too effective and useful. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing! But moving it to the high-level ability slot would severely restrict the choice space for MechWarriors. Everyone would have Guts as their primary skill focus, which would be a step backwards -- at least under the original design, pilots would pair Guts with the top-end ability from some other tree.

So we scrapped that plan and went back to the whiteboards. We wanted to make Bulwark a useful ability for tanking damage, but we didn’t want it to lead to stagnant, immobile gameplay. So we did what we always do: prototyped it over and over, playtesting each time and taking notes and getting back together to talk through those notes.

This spread into a complete revision of the whole ability space, because once we start trying to fix something, we can’t help but notice everything else around it that might be broken, as well. For a while, every single ability was drastically different, as we experimented through a variety of possibilities.

Ultimately, however, we ended up leaving most of the abilities alone, or making minor tuning changes to them. Personally, I’m a fan of leaving well enough alone, and for abilities that were essentially working as expected, resisting the urge to tinker with them is a virtue.

So here’s a high-level description of what we did change:

Sensor Lock: it’s a one-trick pony. It’s useful, but nobody’s bringing a sensor lock pilot along because it’s exciting or interesting to use the ability, and after you get within line of sight range, you basically never use it again. To add post-contact utility, we added the same debuff that PPCs give a target. If you sensor lock someone, you place two stacks of Sensors Impaired on them. If you pair that with some PPC fire, you can utterly ruin someone’s shot accuracy for a short period. It’s still not competitive with actually firing your weapons, but it shouldn’t be; and now, at least, you might hesitate a moment and ask ‘what if I sensor locked right now?’

Bulwark: we did so many things to this poor ability, trying every possible combination of movement and positioning and action consumption and effectiveness that we could think of. For a while it was a new ability called “Fortify” that had radically different behavior that promised to fundamentally alter the flow of combat. In the end, though, we realized that the problem was simple: Bulwark encourages stationary firing platforms. So that’s what we tried to fix. Bulwark no longer gives you the Guarded state for free when you don’t move. Instead, it makes the Guarded state far, far more powerful. You still need to Brace (or use Defensive Push) to get Guarded, but once you have it, you’ll be extremely difficult to damage.

We also made Guarded stack with Cover, so that by bracing your Bulwark pilot in a forest, you can almost entirely negate incoming damage. This -- hopefully! -- brings cover back into the tactical space as an option for positioning your ‘Mechs, and makes destroying buildings a more reasonable use of a firing action, to create places to stand that grant the near-invulnerability of Bulwark + Cover.

Coolant Vent: poor Juggernaut. It seems like a good idea on paper, but in practice manipulating a target’s initiative isn’t all that interesting at the high end of gameplay, when many of the targets are Assault-class ‘Mechs with the lowest possible initiative. Combined with the necessity of melee to trigger it -- in a tree whose other ability requires standing still -- it was second or even third tier. So, sadly, we cut it, and mourned its loss.

Coolant Vent replaces it with something more aggressive and exciting. When you trigger this ability, you manually shunt coolant out of your ‘Mech, right through the cockpit, in a way guaranteed to make your MechTechs and MedTechs cringe. Coolant is nasty stuff! By doing this, you increase your heat sinking for that round by +100, effectively guaranteeing you’ll end the round at 0 heat. But, in trade, you take a pilot Injury.

This is the top-end Guts skill, so we know you have plenty of health to spare on these pilots; are you willing to trade infirmary time, and increased vulnerability to being incapacitated, for the ability to Alpha Strike with your Black Knight round after round? We put a safeguard in -- your pilot isn’t willing to vent coolant if it will actually kill her -- but aside from that, you’re able to spend your health to push your damage output to its limits.

Sure Footing: The problem with Evasive Move is that it was so rarely relevant. With a fast ‘Mech, the extra evasion was superfluous; you were typically near the evasion cap already, just from ordinary movement. With a slower ‘Mech, you weren’t ever getting enough evasion out of this for it to feel worthwhile.

We’ve been gradually trying to address the knockdown meta, without pushing too far in the direction of devaluing knockdowns. Sure Footing seemed like an obvious replacement for Evasive Move, in that context. When you move, if it’s an ordinary move -- that is, not a sprint or a jump or a melee charge or a DFA -- you become Entrenched automatically. Sure Footing pilots advancing and shooting are extremely difficult to knock down, and in larger ‘Mechs, it’s nearly impossible without breaking their Entrenched state first.

With all that said, we’re not carving these new abilities in stone. We’re releasing them to you in beta form, because we know that you, collectively, are far better able to find the exploits, weaknesses, and failure states in this kind of design work than we are. We’re going to be monitoring this thread carefully for your feedback, and we want to hear from you. This is a significant enough change that we’re not going to push it to Live without getting your feedback. So please take the new abilities for a test drive and let us know what you think!
 

Havamal

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:) A Dev Diary...




ATTN:
Greetings Mechwarriors,

In case you missed it.
Our friendly Dev Kiva has specifically asked us to test the skills in the game beta and THEN provide detailed AAR feedback.

Uninformed assumptions without having tried it first at this point provide no relevant feedback, are counter to OP request, and thus will be considered off-topic. It makes the Devs job harder to comb through such static in this particular thread for actual beta function feedback. So please post such elsewhere such as here or here for example so we can keep this thread organized.

Beta gameplay testing feedback here please, not theory crafting or opinions or conjecture.


Posts choosing not to take this advice will experience unfortunate Jump Drive malfunctions.




Thank you.
 
Last edited:

WhiteHawke

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Very cool changes! (pun intended)

Coolant Vent feels like it adds a lot to the game.

How many times does Sensors Impaired stack?
 

LemurFromTheId

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I really like that Guarded stacks with Cover. I was actually going to suggest that Bulwark only adds +25% extra resistance but stacks with Cover, which would've made Cover relevant for frontliners again, but your idea is more interesting, and I can't wait to test it out in practice to see how things actually play out.

One thing though: I'm slightly worried that Breaching Shot is now too powerful, being able to get through the 75% resistance (and whatever Bulwark on a forest tile will now give) might be a bit much. Perhaps it should only lower the resistance by 50%, i.e. by ignoring the highest defensive buff.

That said, Guarded + Cover might be a bit frustrating to get through anyway... but we'll see how things are after we've adjusted to the change.
 

Dante di Ravena

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Sounds very promising!

I wouldn't mind Juggernaut making a return as a ranged active "suppression fire" kind of thing, though. A bad accuracy shot for either reducing enemy accuracy or the original initiative bump. Could fit nicely with the "defender" flavor.
 

Ozymandious

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Bye bye Sumo locust. =( some what saddened that the skill changes appear entirely aimed at the single player experience while making a hash of some of the emerging tactics in mp. coolent flush looks almost as broken in mp as called shots are currently.
but I will have to see how that plays out.
 

Shake Appeal

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Interesting choices, excited to play. Can't help but feel the game is going to play quite differently now.
 

Dogfisc

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I like the sound of the changes, and though Coolant Vent sounds good, as someone who loves getting into a ‘Mech slap-fight it’s a little disappointing not to have some kind of melee skill to replace Juggernaught. Maybe something that would give a bit of defensive edge after a melee attack, since the ‘mech is often left in a more vulnerable position. Or the ability to move and choose one’s attack position even when the target starts in melee range.
 

Max_Killjoy

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Developer Diary #1: MechWarrior Ability Revision

Hi everyone! It's yr friendly neighborhood design lead, Kiva, with the first of what will be a regular new feature: Developer Diaries! We're asking members of the BATTLETECH team to write about their ideas, upcoming features, and particularly interesting aspects of their work. For our inaugural Diary, we're talking about some previously-teased revisions to MechWarrior abilities, particularly good old Bulwark.

One of the things we’re always on the lookout for is player consensus on “right” ways to play the game. When we design game systems, one of the first things we ask is “What decisions can the player make in this system?” This is because game systems are superfluous if there’s a single outcome and a single path to that outcome. We may as well just move your playing pieces for you, if there aren’t choices.

When we saw the consensus developing that the MechWarrior ability Bulwark was considered mandatory for all pilots, and its higher-level companion Juggernaut was considered useless, we started paying close attention to conversations about both, and started planning. We’d always expected to tune the MechWarrior abilities post-launch, and here was the first indicator that it was time to do so.

The initial proposal, which we very nearly patched in 1.1, was to simply reverse the positions of Bulwark and Juggernaut. Bulwark would become the higher-end Guts ability, and Juggernaut would become the lower-end one. We kept talking, though, and we decided that the real issue was that Bulwark was, relative to almost every other ability, too effective and useful. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing! But moving it to the high-level ability slot would severely restrict the choice space for MechWarriors. Everyone would have Guts as their primary skill focus, which would be a step backwards -- at least under the original design, pilots would pair Guts with the top-end ability from some other tree.

So we scrapped that plan and went back to the whiteboards. We wanted to make Bulwark a useful ability for tanking damage, but we didn’t want it to lead to stagnant, immobile gameplay. So we did what we always do: prototyped it over and over, playtesting each time and taking notes and getting back together to talk through those notes.

This spread into a complete revision of the whole ability space, because once we start trying to fix something, we can’t help but notice everything else around it that might be broken, as well. For a while, every single ability was drastically different, as we experimented through a variety of possibilities.

Ultimately, however, we ended up leaving most of the abilities alone, or making minor tuning changes to them. Personally, I’m a fan of leaving well enough alone, and for abilities that were essentially working as expected, resisting the urge to tinker with them is a virtue.

So here’s a high-level description of what we did change:

Sensor Lock: it’s a one-trick pony. It’s useful, but nobody’s bringing a sensor lock pilot along because it’s exciting or interesting to use the ability, and after you get within line of sight range, you basically never use it again. To add post-contact utility, we added the same debuff that PPCs give a target. If you sensor lock someone, you place two stacks of Sensors Impaired on them. If you pair that with some PPC fire, you can utterly ruin someone’s shot accuracy for a short period. It’s still not competitive with actually firing your weapons, but it shouldn’t be; and now, at least, you might hesitate a moment and ask ‘what if I sensor locked right now?’

Bulwark: we did so many things to this poor ability, trying every possible combination of movement and positioning and action consumption and effectiveness that we could think of. For a while it was a new ability called “Fortify” that had radically different behavior that promised to fundamentally alter the flow of combat. In the end, though, we realized that the problem was simple: Bulwark encourages stationary firing platforms. So that’s what we tried to fix. Bulwark no longer gives you the Guarded state for free when you don’t move. Instead, it makes the Guarded state far, far more powerful. You still need to Brace (or use Defensive Push) to get Guarded, but once you have it, you’ll be extremely difficult to damage.

We also made Guarded stack with Cover, so that by bracing your Bulwark pilot in a forest, you can almost entirely negate incoming damage. This -- hopefully! -- brings cover back into the tactical space as an option for positioning your ‘Mechs, and makes destroying buildings a more reasonable use of a firing action, to create places to stand that grant the near-invulnerability of Bulwark + Cover.

Coolant Vent: poor Juggernaut. It seems like a good idea on paper, but in practice manipulating a target’s initiative isn’t all that interesting at the high end of gameplay, when many of the targets are Assault-class ‘Mechs with the lowest possible initiative. Combined with the necessity of melee to trigger it -- in a tree whose other ability requires standing still -- it was second or even third tier. So, sadly, we cut it, and mourned its loss.

Coolant Vent replaces it with something more aggressive and exciting. When you trigger this ability, you manually shunt coolant out of your ‘Mech, right through the cockpit, in a way guaranteed to make your MechTechs and MedTechs cringe. Coolant is nasty stuff! By doing this, you increase your heat sinking for that round by +100, effectively guaranteeing you’ll end the round at 0 heat. But, in trade, you take a pilot Injury.

This is the top-end Guts skill, so we know you have plenty of health to spare on these pilots; are you willing to trade infirmary time, and increased vulnerability to being incapacitated, for the ability to Alpha Strike with your Black Knight round after round? We put a safeguard in -- your pilot isn’t willing to vent coolant if it will actually kill her -- but aside from that, you’re able to spend your health to push your damage output to its limits.

Sure Footing: The problem with Evasive Move is that it was so rarely relevant. With a fast ‘Mech, the extra evasion was superfluous; you were typically near the evasion cap already, just from ordinary movement. With a slower ‘Mech, you weren’t ever getting enough evasion out of this for it to feel worthwhile.

We’ve been gradually trying to address the knockdown meta, without pushing too far in the direction of devaluing knockdowns. Sure Footing seemed like an obvious replacement for Evasive Move, in that context. When you move, if it’s an ordinary move -- that is, not a sprint or a jump or a melee charge or a DFA -- you become Entrenched automatically. Sure Footing pilots advancing and shooting are extremely difficult to knock down, and in larger ‘Mechs, it’s nearly impossible without breaking their Entrenched state first.

With all that said, we’re not carving these new abilities in stone. We’re releasing them to you in beta form, because we know that you, collectively, are far better able to find the exploits, weaknesses, and failure states in this kind of design work than we are. We’re going to be monitoring this thread carefully for your feedback, and we want to hear from you. This is a significant enough change that we’re not going to push it to Live without getting your feedback. So please take the new abilities for a test drive and let us know what you think!
Bulwark -- this is already of situational utility. Standing still and "face tanking" fire from the OpFor 4+ units to your 4 is always bad business, and any round in which a mech maneuveres to adjust firing angles and/or cut down the number of enemies that could fire at it was a round in which Bulwark does not apply.

Evasive Movement -- this on the other hand is absolutely one of my go-to Abilities. Losing it will make the game worse for me by a wide margin. Bulwark might reduce damage by 50%, but shots that don't hit are reduced by 100%, and any shot the enemy can't take because they have no line of fire is reduced by 100%. Add in Cover, which I used constantly, and this was how I kept my mechs from ever taking internal damage.

Coolant Vent -- not something I'll ever use, because I will not under any circumstances take damage to give damage, just as I won't overheat a mech to get that one additional weapon in the volley.

Consider me someone who does NOT think of Bulwark as mandatory.


Hopefully someone will find a way to mod the original Abilities back in should these changes go live as described here.
 
Last edited:

Nick_S

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Yay for Dev Diaries!

At a first glance I'm concerned about Coolent Vent creating an even greater difference between missions for which one plans to do additional missions on the same planet / missions in which one plans to travel after completing the mission (because med-bay time isn't very costly if you know that you're going to spend the next 12-20 days in transit). There's something appealing about the idea of an ability which gives you an option for (significantly) increased firepower while reducing the benefit gained from winning the battle, but I worry that, in many cases, that won't actually impede the post-battle situation.

Perhaps I'm wrong. One way to think about the cost of Coolent Vent is, "what's the cost of keeping a pilot on the roster (and getting them enough experience to get a primary skill focus) that you only intend to use in certain situations. But that's an economic cost, not a tactical cost, and generally the economy is such that having an extra pilot around isn't significant.
 

pmaura

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Why not make evasion pips permanent and increase there maximum. This gives sensor lock and evasive manevering more meaning.
 

Nick_S

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Also, it occurs to me, the change in Sensor Lock is going to make opposing turrets really annoying (which is probably good)!

The changes to Bullwark are appealing and, among other things, will make it easier to conduct a fighting retreat/re-position, or to protect a pilot in a badly damaged mech (without ejecting) both of which will be interesting to play around with.
 

SimulatedKnave

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Coolant vent sounds awful. Most of my mechs actually manage heat well, so its very rare I'd want to use it. And if I AM using it, I'll need multiple pilots to rotate through regular action.

I also will miss evasive movement. Also, I rather wonder whether it might be better to add some kind of permanent evasion component to it. Makes sense with how it's described.

I like cover and guarded now stacking, and the changes to Sensor Lock.
 

Max_Killjoy

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The problem with Sensor Lock is that the pilots most likely to have it, those who have invested in Tactics, are also the most likely to need someone else to have it, because indirect fire competence is also found up the progression of that same Tactics Skill.
 

Ganimal

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Firstly I'd like to thank the HBS team for all the awesome awesome work!

I do have some opinions / suggestions in regards to some of the proposed changes. I've been playing Battletech with Mods extensively, and there are some great changes that I think would make pilot abilities significantly more impact full all around.
  1. Bulwark: I like the change proposed, where you have to sacrifice firing to gain defensive bonus as well as stacking with cover. This will make that mech a beastly of a tank, but with the trade off of firing. The original bulwark had the effect of turning your mechs into turrets in this regard.
    • One thing I really enjoyed in the mods I play was changing the skill tree location for bulwark and juggernaut. You would have to take level 5 guts to get juggernaut, and level 8 to get bulwark instead. This makes bulwark significantly harder to attain right off the bat. This in itself makes Bulwark a specialization, that cannot be combined with master tactician and breaching shot and ace pilot. Being able to do that makes that pilot extremely OP.
    • If a pilot has juggernaut and bulwark, not only do they reduce enemy initiative, but they also gain guarded / braced when they melee. This makes juggernaut significantly more useful for close quarter brawlers. They are always likely to get hit, and when in melee, they usually don't get to move as much to gain evasion. The enemy initiative drop is very useful early on to gain an advantage on an already moved enemy, so I can take it out before it gets a chance to move next turn. Late game, ability to brace when in melee due to bulwark combination, makes this useful for my brawlers to reduce damage.
  2. Coolant vent sounds like a great idea, but I'm not so sure about it. I would have to play test to see if it's something I would enjoy using often.
  3. Evasion: The main issue is the effect it confers late game. In my modded game, Evasion is equally as useful as bulwark. My cavalry lance pilots all have evasive movement, and 2 of them are ace pilots. Here's a few things that made evasion very useful:
    • Dial up their effects - Evasion now makes a significant difference in to hit modifier, making higher evasion more powerful, I use it as much as bulwark in my modded games.
    • Semi-permanent evasion: You no longer simply loose chevrons when being fired upon. There's a chance you will retain existing chevrons. Ace pilot ability also further decrease chances of evasion loss. This made a significant difference in late game, I still take my Firestarter out on 5 skull missions, and it is very useful. Without this, it will hardly survive past a few turns.
    • Make # of chevrons gained based on mech speed as well. Higher movement rating, more evasion it gains. This gives Spiders, Cicadas, and Locusts something useful later on.
Just my two cents, thanks for listening!
 

Prussian Havoc

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Excellent inaugural BATTLETECH Dev Diary. Kiva hit this one otta the park! : )
 

HBS_Kiva

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Feb 23, 2018
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Hiya folks! The feedback that will be most useful at this point is if you jump over onto the beta branch and play with the abilities and give AARs of your experiences with them. We've done a huge amount of theorycrafting on this already, and what I really need is some serious hands-on investigation.
 

Max_Killjoy

General
May 1, 2018
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Hiya folks! The feedback that will be most useful at this point is if you jump over onto the beta branch and play with the abilities and give AARs of your experiences with them. We've done a huge amount of theorycrafting on this already, and what I really need is some serious hands-on investigation.
Sadly, the beta branch isn't available for manual download (last I checked), or I would.
 

Camicon Dachass

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Feb 22, 2018
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I'm more than a little worried about how the changes to Bulwark and Evasive Movement will impact the late-game. As it stands, Bulwark and Evasive are the skills that determine how a player engages in combat. Either you focus on avoiding damage in the first place (and Evasive is absolutely key here for 'Mechs in the 4/6 movement range), or you focus on holding a defensible position and spreading damage around your up-armoured 'Mechs.

If the goal is to discourage the "stand-and-deliver" strategies that Bulwark currently encourages, well, I disagree. If a player wants to adopt a more mobile strategy then Evasive Movement (as it currently stands) is perfectly capable of providing them with that option. I think the statistical analysis of the net damage reduction provided by Bulwark and Evasive, conducted by some of our more dedicated community members, actually leans slightly in favour of Evasive. It is, by the numbers, the better defensive strategy.

If you really do think that Bulwark needs to be changed then I'd rather see the current passive, "no-movement" Guarded bonus reduced to 25% (effectively providing you Cover wherever you are), and then stacking with the active "brace-and-don't-shoot" Guarded bonus of 50%.

When we're facing a numerically superior force, Bulwark allows us to fire while also reducing incoming damage in a fairly predictable pattern. The change outlined here would force us to choose between reducing our incoming damage at the cost of no outgoing damage, or not reducing our incoming or outgoing damage. That isn't necessarily a problem when we're facing an OpFor of roughly the same size, but when we're outnumbered 2-1 (or 3-1), that loss will be felt quite keenly.

For me, the proposed changes to Bulwark will turn it into the new Juggernaut, and Coolshot won't be worth the investment when I could instead have Ace Pilot or Master Tactician (both of which are, defensively speaking, far more beneficial for my lance).
 

Prussian Havoc

BATTLETECH Multiplayer Advocate
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May 12, 2017
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You got it HBS_Kiva. :bow:

I'll download the Beta, load one of my post-Restoration Campaigns and have at it for 4-5 hours later tonight. #SoundsFUN!

AAR on the night's findings by 4:00am EST tomorrow. : )