So, this has been one productive week. Vacations do help, hm. There’s also a few open fronts since last time, so let’s address things one by one.
Divide and conquer
First and foremost, I’ve received this reasonable, from an outside perspective, question; to paraphrase, “do devs delve into content creation all the time?”.
Well, there’s a few layers to this one. But it’s a reasonable question, so it gives me an opportunity to explain.
The short answer is no. Content creation is handled by the team as a whole, while devs also delve into the Dark Arts. Some of us non-purple people help where we can, of course; a little helping hand here, some testing there. But it’s a “divide and conquer” situation, where everyone focuses on what they can.
In my case, for example, I’m not a dev. Can’t stress this hard enough. So I can neither relay exactly what they’re doing, nor help in meaningful, hands-on ways. So I delve more into content creation and field work; items, quests, bughunts, and so on. That’s how the team operates as a whole; it’s not that content creation signals an end to development in any way. Rather, it’s that the non-dev-inclined need to spend our time creatively too, and our paths cross and inform one another along the way.
The Shady Ones are approaching
Speaking of teams, then, I’d like to briefly bring up our Shady Ones recruitment drive. The results will be announced soon, and I’ll be personally reaching out to those who are chosen.
First and foremost, thank you all kindly for your interest. We received more applications than we expected, which only makes our job of picking just a few all the more difficult.
Having mentioned “just a few” then. For this round of recruitment we’ll need to err on the side of caution, and only recruit 3-4 people to start with. This will ensure that onboarding is easier and communication is more streamlined – which is a boon when everyone’s schedules are as they are.
With this in mind, please know that we won’t reject any applications outright. The vast majority of them were impressive, so it couldn’t boil down to experience alone. The ones we choose will be those who offer something unique, or have an interest the team deems useful, at this moment in time. We will, however, recruit again in due time – and when we do, our first considerations will be those who applied this time, should their interest still stand.
Work lies ahead
Now, a brief glimpse into our current work, before I examine our past work as another window into our creative process.
Some of us had some time off this past week, so we continued to work on new frontiers for you to explore. I’ve personally refined some 2-year-old material, again, and now comes implementation. I’ve teased what this material will be before, however, so let me spare you the redundant textwalls and resort to a condensed quote.
A shady bunch, much like our own, will shortly find its way to London. These mysterious benefactors will meet you in Holborn, and follow your progress to St. Paul’s. They will change your future, but perhaps not without strings attached.
A portal to distant lands
An equally conspicuous person will find their way to the players’ path. This one seems eager to unintentionally push greenhorn survivors into harm’s way, but also promises new frontiers with unseen dangers and new unearthed relics.
It’s not a moon, it’s a station
Finally, a station long since conquered is being reclaimed by Alternalo’s forces as we speak. Jokes aside, this new frontier will be our first expansion-sized addition, complete with mechanics to flex your brains on, new items to collect, and a whole new chapter to the story – much to my personal delight. If you’re brave enough to visit, bring company.
Designing Savile Row’s Named Legendaries
Finally, let me conclude by examining the Named Legendaries we introduced with patch 1.5.3. This was a very unique batch, so I feel it warrants its own section here.
So, these items all followed the same design philosophy. First, as early-game items, they all intended to tick as many of the following boxes at once as possible:
- Provide something useful for their level
- Address potential class/build shortcomings
- Hint at potential builds they can be used in
- Allow for room to grow with the character
- Leave room for augments and mods to shape them
Moreover, touching on the two final points, they intended to retain their value as they were being upgraded. Still, they were not designed to be the next Reaper’s Hell Rails, so they needed to provide something worth keeping, while remaining an option instead of a best-in-slot. In turn, all of these items really need augments to shine, instead of working out of the box.
So, let’s take them one by one to explain how they followed this philosophy.
Probably among the most curious items we’ve ever designed was this oddball. It’s also the only one on this list that’s not a namesake item, notably. So, for text economy, I’ll be abbreviating this one as LS from this point on.
LS then, is a clearly defensive sword. 3 out of its 4 properties are defensive by nature:
- Aura of Deflection
- Health regeneration
Sprint is also a mobility asset, so that seals the deal; LS is a Guardian sword. Or is it?
Due to its base type, it actually offers great max damage – at the cost of very wide damage margins, direct-only damage, and a depleting energy bar. Still, it can see +damage and +electric damage augments and similar mods bump its damage to respectable levels once fully forged. 42-256 is by no means a slouch for such an early sword. It’s not the best sword by any stretch of the imagination, but it can be used offensively – all while retaining its character as its energy depletes, forcing the player to think about their skill use.
Still, it’s a defensive sword by nature. With this selection of affixes, it can likely be used as the following:
- A Sprint set/sword
- An Aura of Deflection set/sword
- A source of +skill augments with low feeds
- A near-unique source of TAV for the slot, coupled with 3 battery slots
So, it starts as a sword that adds defense and mobility, and can end up seeing use across the midgame. When it drops, it provides mobility to speed up gameplay (while not surpassing Alt’s Hack for the role since this one can be used offensively too) and respectable hp regeneration for these levels, but little else. As it’s forged, however, its damage scales decently, and TAV becomes more useful as the player’s armor value increases. In turn, its flat hp regen loses value as both Surge of Restoration and Aura of Renewal improve with player hp, and its Aura of Deflection bonuses are overshadowed by other swords.
Finally, players may leave it clean for lower feeds, or augment +damage, -energy depletion, or even onhit novas to build it to their liking. It’s thus an item players can stick to and customize… or laugh at its absurdity and dismantle it. Either or.
Sticking to swords (pun not intended), this is the other sword in this batch. Daybreak is, of course, our local Daybreaker’s namesake… and oh does it hide its merits in plain sight.
First and foremost, what does this one do for the early game? Well, let’s take things one by one.
It’s a spectral direct, fire splash sword. Flavor aside, it gives access to two very useful sfx statuses – with ignite being splash to boot, when dealing with crowds does require some splash. But Baldree’s Burning Blade and the Eradicator are also within these level brackets, and they seem to provide better damage at that. So why pick this one, potential phase aside?
For one, it provides more (potential) points into Sweeping Strike than the latter; 6 points into it that early in the game can be useful, as they nudge toward an sfx build. Then there’s Heaven’s Arc over the former’s Crosscutter, which Guardians normally get at lv25, just for those pesky flying enemies across the game.
But, there’s more. Building on the theme of needing (or welcoming) augments, Daybreak is the only sword in the game with a unique Swordsmanship cost reduction. This means one can also augment the “miserly” affix on it, and the two cost reductions will stack. That’s 31-33% per sword, or 62-66% from a set – before mods, which it just so happens to support too. That’s another 24-28%, so 86-94%… which is plain nuts. That’s the kind of benefit that can carry one to the midgame, at the very least.
Finally, its damage isn’t stellar because, frankly, it both doesn’t mean to be the new Hikida’s, and its unique benefit needs to be counter-balanced by something. So, much like LS, its use changes as it’s upgraded; its damage scales better than its sfx do, but it doesn’t become good enough to overshadow truly endgame swords, and its cost reduction becomes increasingly valuable as the player levels up. Thus, one may fully push it toward damage, or make use of its power consumption benefit to push either of its sfx, or a bit of both. And that’s what early Templars may need most; the hope for better days, full of options.
Another very unique design, this one’s Savile Row’s gift to Cabalists. Also a namesake, to our local Korosukuma, this Darkclaw intends to be an enabler with, luckily, some fierce competition to keep an eye on.
So the Claw was obviously meant to be an enabler; anyone who’s picked up Darkform knows how dreadfully slow it is at first, so +melee speed makes sense. Both Cabalists may also have unpleasant run-ins with Regenerating Champions by that point, so that explains a uniquely early Swarm. Early characters are usually slow, so that’s +movement speed on there. Finally there’s +minion damage, giving Evokers a subtle nudge that the Ember is coming up – and maybe giving them ideas about Serpents. Summoners of course rejoice, as that’s free damage for their demonic entourage.
But what else is there?
This thing is an enabler, alright, and it does offer room for augments next to 3 slots. Yikes. So why would one ever leave this? That’s what the challenge with this item really was, and that’s why it became a Darkclaw.
Darkclaws offer lower base damage, with the perk of higher sfx strengths. So immediately, the item begins to box itself into a specific role. What’s more, Darkclaws don’t scale terrifically; they remain behind other foci damage-wise, which counters their many slots, and sfx doesn’t keep up. For reference, this Claw offers 150 to all sfx when maxed, while Mortal Domain offers 360, and 150 ignite. Ouch.
Finally, Darkform builds have Bloodshards as an option for +armor – which also happen to be terrific poisoners. What’s more, they specifically have Tuskull for +armor, unique phase, and skills, and Abandoned Fist for armor, +melee speed, and a bunch of other goodies. As if that’s not enough, Harlequin Ablaze also overshadows it as a Swarm-and-minion-damage provider.
So, is it to be thrown away later? Well no, it’s still a good foci for what it is. It’s a speed set at worst, and a 3-slot DF foci with Swarm at best. It’s one of very few foci that have +minion damage too, the others being Remnants of Grregas and Harlequin Ablaze, while being far more accessible than them. Still, its high +melee speed is countered by the lack of armor, and its many slots are countered by it being a modest foci overall.
But it’s more of an enabler than a midgame+ contender, at the end of the day. And with that kind of competition, it would need to struggle hard to succeed in both roles.
#4 Blackheart and Rebellion
Finally, this unique set of XM333 Bladesaws is a doozy. A pair of namesakes for our DeusBlackheart and BalefulRebellion respectively, these saws are as absurd and niche as they come.
But what do they do, exactly? XM666s exist, and they provide massive armor. So even for those niche builds, XM333s are likely inferior.
Well no, they’re not. Not strictly so anyway.
Initially, let’s examine what these do for early players. Yes, them being niche melee weapons does them no favors, but they’re incredible defense assets for their slots; Overshield turns Tactical Stance into a pseudo-Arcane Shield, and Escape provides an excellent panic button that Artist buffs further. On the former, players already have Tactical Stance by default, and Rebellion will still provide it when the initial skillpoint becomes refundable. Finally, they come with shields and evasion, which make up for the comparative loss in armor. For reference, Evasion seems to provide ~0,4% evasion rate per point, so their total of 50 makes for a ~20% chance to evade melee attacks.
But it doesn’t end there. Even if they’re worth using in passing, or as a defense set, how would they scale? How would they kill? Also, why these specific skills?
So scaling is where these items become interesting. They come with +Strength, making them accessible stat-wise at first – but if one chooses to build them, Strength will become an investment. Next, +shields increase as they’re forged, as they’re an inherent affix, providing some value there. But damage isn’t stellar, even when maxed, so them being constant-fire weapons with these damage types opens up options; onhit novas, phase/ignite, +damage, you name it. Which, again, was one of the design goals for this whole batch.
But such weapons are only as good as the build that frames them. The thing is, the Hunter skillset doesn’t frame them excellently – so their +skills hint at which assets do. Specifically, the Tactical Stance tree does; TS provides more damage, Overshield provides shields, and Elemental Vision promotes sfx builds. Finally, Overshield specifically provides shield regeneration now, as long as one isn’t receiving hits. Hunter melee builds are not excellent at this… Unless they have evasion, which these little beauties just so happen to provide.
Finally, when the player outgrows the need to pair them for their skill synergies, they can decide which sfx to focus on. Dual-wield Blackhearts for phase to help parties and survive, as phase reduces damage received when evasion fails, or dual-wield Rebellions to ignite that pesky boss and take it down.
…or use guns, yes.
…I must bid you farewell. This turned out to be quite a long entry, but hopefully it too served its purpose. Until next time, please remember to share any and all feedback here, or anywhere else where we can read it. It’s the lifeblood of this project, and it’s always appreciated.
All the best, and happy hunting