Conash here to once again ramble on about mechanical design stuff as I understand it. For those of you who haven’t been keeping a close eye in the BKG discord, the 0.42 release includes a revamp to a lot of Gargan’s skills, and I’m hoping to give Yamamaya a revamp for 0.43, so I thought that I’d take the time to try to dissect the mindset that’s gone into all of this, maybe it’ll be useful for some of you!
So let’s start with Gargan, the intention behind Gargan’s moveset is to mimic that of the Arkham games, aim for trying to manage and switching between enemies but getting in big damage in-between. If you examine Gargan’s original move set you can really see this in play, cape-stun to setup an enemy for a lot of damage, the ability to counter incoming physical attacks, and an ability that has a chance to stun two enemies at once. The problem with these skills however comes down to cost vs pay-off, consider for a moment using cape-stun followed by Stun-break which should be Gargan’s bread and butter at lower levels, originally you had to spend 5 momentum to use cape-stun and then 10 momentum to use stun-break which removes the stun status and does about twice as much damage as a regular attack. This means that you first have to build up 15 momentum with 3 attacks first, then you spend 2 turns to do the same damage as two attacks? From a damage point of view it’s not worth it, now stunning the enemy could be worth it on it’s own but then you have to consider that stun-break ends it at least one turn, if not two, earlier than it would otherwise be so if you just want to stun the enemy you’re better off just using cape-stun. Later on though Gargan gets ‘Throw’ which has a smaller chance of stun but hits two enemies and does 2 attacks worth of damage in one action, even if you don’t get the stuns you it’s worth it to use two attacks instead of one, the 20 momentum cost makes it not that great but as long as you don’t use momentum for 4 cape-stuns you’ll get there. Coup De Grace on the other hand cost 30 momentum, did about as much damage as 2 attacks if the target was knocked over, oh and it also removed stun, when you compare these skills side by side and consider how players can typically rely on 5 momentum per turn and you win battles by doing damage, it’s no wonder that Throw was Gargan’s only offensive move that got used consistently. Cape-stun was nice for stuns but when players could bring Raina to use her knockdowns instead while still doing good damage even if a lower chance of knockdown it’s easy to see why Gargan wasn’t considered as stun king/queen in parties. Counter wasn’t a ton better, as it cost 15 momentum (so 3 turns work to build up to it) and only lasted until Gargan’s next action, which meant that if you didn’t have a good way to guarantee an attack by Gargan’s next action you could easily feel you wasted that momentum, and in many cases you may only get 1 free counter attack from Gargan meaning you spent 15 momentum to negate damage from 1 attack. Back to Back, the unity force skill, was very useful with it’s 5 momentum cost and 3 turn duration on top of hitting both Gargan and Hero, but it required Unity Force so it’s not something players could rely on in battle. You may have noticed that I was trying to compare things to using a regular attack, and that’s important because that’s your bread and butter, if the skills aren’t more valuable than a regular attack or aren’t worth the time it takes to get enough momentum to use them, then there’s no reason for players to think about the skill rather than use an attack, whether players actively think about it or not they notice how these numbers turn out and it impacts their decision making.
So then the question becomes how do you fix these issues if most of Gargan’s skills aren’t worth the time it takes to attack? Well, since it’s important to make sure that you stay creatively in line with what’s intended you want to take your time and examine how to approach things. For Cape Stun, the problem is largely that it’s the first move in one of Gargan’s two combos but it makes the total combo more expensive while not doing damage, not to mention it runs the traditional risks of hit rage, evasion chance, or even enemy counters. To combat the problem of it making combos more expensive I took some inspiration from Raina, players who use her a lot never have a problem with using Phalanx because even though it doesn’t do damage and only lasts one turn, it gives Raina momentum just like if she used guard allowing players to feel comfortable using it as a bread and butter instead of regular attacks, as the utility it brings (not to mention increases damage on some of her skills) outweighs the marginal damage you’d get from a regular attack, so if Cape-stun was set to generate more momentum than it required it would help further set players up for a combo by making it easier to continue the combo afterwards instead of having to work have the entire combo ready up front. On top of that, I remembered that common enemies were basically unable to do anything about your cape stun in the Arkham games, so in addition I gave it some utility that would allow it to be competitive with ‘Throw’ by making it so that enemy evasion, taunts, counters, or reduced player accuracy wouldn’t impact it by turning it instead into a certain hit instead of a physical hit, allowing it to always have a place in the player’s arsenal even if they are able to inflict stun through other means. Stun-break got some changes to the damage formula to make it more rewarding, but the biggest problem it had was that it removed stun, making it so that a lot of times players would rather not use it to keep the enemy stunned, this however was fixed by giving it a base 100% knockdown chance if the enemy you hit was stunned, now you’re just trading Stun for Knockdown while doing better than 2 attacks worth of damage, it still has the 10 momentum cost to it but when combined with Cape Stun giving you more momentum this combo is very easy to pull off, making it worth the net loss of momentum (which prevents you from using other skills). For Coup De Grace I could have done the same thing as Stun Break, but I instead thought to handle one thing that felt kinda funny with Gargan, see Gargan is based largely on inflicting stuns then doing big damage off of stunned enemy, but every other character with similar abilities use knockdown, and well it just feels odd that Gargan can benefit from stunned enemies but not enemies on the ground, this left Gargan feeling like Gargan’s core loop existed on another planet and couldn’t synergize with other party members, so for this I took more inspiration from DnD and Pathfinder, instead making Coup De Grace be based off of ‘helpless’ enemies in the sense that they had the ‘knockdown’ status and gave it a 60% crit chance on top of Gargan’s base crit chance, along with some tweaking of the numbers here and there and now Gargan has a fantastic 1-2-3 combo, it’s hard to maintain the full combo but if you wanted to jump around from enemy to enemy with a 1-2 combo or just cape-stun everyone, well, that bit is very easy. Counter was also retouched to last 2 actions instead of 1, so it’s still not as good as ‘Back to Back’ but many players are reporting that it still lasts long enough to more than justify it especially as it allows Gargan to do some pseudo-tanking.
Well, I probably got a bit ahead of myself there going into the specifics, but general point is that when you want to give players abilities you should try to keep in mind first what is their bread and butter, what does it give them, how does it contribute to the ‘win’ condition, and then any special ability needs to be able to have a reason to use it instead of that bread and butter. If an enemy is knocked down and Gargan has 60 momentum, sure you could use a regular attack, but Coup De Grace will probably do 6-10x the damage so unless you’re saving up momentum to use throw 4 times in a row when some more enemies show up, there’s no reason not to. Sure players could just leave an enemy stunned and go for a regular attack that gives them 5 more momentum, but Stun-break will probably do 2-4x as much damage and set them up for Coup De Grace, that 5 momentum won’t help me win the battle unless I use it to do more damage but that’s exactly what Stun-break is for. Players may not be aware of the the details or heck they may even come to wrong conclusions, but when they’re looking at 400 damage for a regular attack and 800 damage for stun-break, they know which one will win the fight faster.
Yamamaya’s issues however are a bit different, see many players already know how to get damage out of Yamamaya to keep her competitive, and while some of her skills also need to be made worth the cost (like Shockwave) I strongly believe that her biggest problem is that her skills are competing with each other to be the ‘best’ skill instead of working together to give her a good ‘arsenal’. Now, not everyone should be based around setting up a 1-2-3 combo or anything, but with Yamamaya you’re looking at using Strong Attack, Mountain Lion Rage, or Polar Bear rage, not all three. The nature of the rages are going to make them be competing with one another as she won’t ever be able to use more than one at a time just like Diadira with her songs, but well, we’ve got some plans to help her Techniques stand out as a lot more valuable than they currently are so that they don’t need to be better than Yamamaya’s best rage. We’ve also talked with fans some and liked some of the ideas that we got, so do expect to see Yamamaya’s rages changing up once her revamp is done. I can’t promise that Mountain Lion rage is going to be as good as it currently is, but my main intention is to try to make her other rages feel a lot more useful and like there is the right place and time for them, even if it doesn’t come up too often. It may get a bit tricky at times since ‘Mountain Lion Rage’ makes Yama do a lot more damage which contributes directly to winning a fight so other rages like ‘Polar Bear Rage’ may struggle to find as much usage, but we’ve got idea and I trust in the tester’s we have to give me effective feedback on how well we hit things like this! So you have that to look forward to!
I hope that my talk this time was useful to some of you! My intention here was to try to explain the process of how you figure out what to do, identify problems and try to solve them, though looking back I think that’s going to be a bit hard for me since my process is largely finding new ideas and connecting them together, but you never know when talking about your own problems and solutions may end up giving someone else the idea they needed to solve their own! Feel free to ask any questions or share your comments wherever you find me!