Hellgate and Balance: The Future?

So I am aware that there’s basically not going to be work on balancing the game until such time as the beta (at least I remember reading that) but I do think that this game needs some serious balance to make it better for new players and to tweak endgame so it’s less janky. A lot of the game is great and I highly enjoy it but certain skills are just dead beyond a certain point and either need changed to make them viable or removed entirely. If I was any good at coding I would apply to work on the game now, but as it stands I don’t have code knowledge to do so.

Is there going to be a set balance team in the future, and will there be applications for it should it exist because I’d be super interested in helping get those numbers and skill right.

I should mention that creating a class with skills that are irrelevant at late game are traps for new players, so a skill that you need to survive early on, but that are outclassed by higher level skills or such can really hamper progress and can turn invested players off when they realize that they can’t progress without retraining their entire build meaning they have to stop playing the original hellgate story and have to go off to Stonehenge to grind a boss there. Yes there are purchasable re-trainers but frequently they are quite expensive for non-endgame players leading to more grind and again a player grinding on a character that is less effective due to trap skills.

Stuff like this doesn’t bother me so much, but I have friends who play and they feel trapped when they can’t afford the re-trainers and have issues finding people to fight Moloch with, when essentially they have been punished for picking skills they find fun.

Hello there. I can’t address the entirety of the subject, but I’ll chime in with what I know - and a few subjective notes.

That’s indeed the priority, but it’s not absolute. The last few patches did include balance changes, and a few will also exist before Beta. Some will just be improvements practically (ie repairing skills such as Tactical Mode) and others will be balance changes based on feedback; it’s just that Beta will be much more dedicated to balance, since there won’t be game-breaking bugs to take priority.

That’s a frequent argument, and I don’t find it to be ill-founded. What I’d still like to argue in such discussions is to also examine other factors when suggesting skill-specific changes;

  • Does the skill in question underperform because no build can use it, or because there are no viable builds around its mechanic? If so, what causes this?
  • Does the skill in question simply fail to scale properly? If so, what should its scaling be measured against?
  • Is said skill solo-oriented or party-oriented? Is either not preferable, making the skill lose value, and, if so, why?
  • Does modifying said skill in any way have a domino effect on other values or systems? If so, what are such effects?

This is a general mindset I like to adopt when approaching skills, because I often find that objections to skills stem from multiple factors, and tweaks also have multiple effects. Many such objections also stem from a heavy emphasis on either solo play or party play (usually the former), while not all skills themselves were designed to cater to both - and I’d argue that they shouldn’t.
That is not directed at the arguments you made, since you didn’t delve into specifics. I only mean to share the analytic process I find to be beneficial in advance.

While I definitely understand the sentiment, it should be noted that this was arguably the case for many games of Hellgate’s time. I don’t believe it’s design-wise possible to avoid “trap” skills in many ways, but it’s true that not all effects and mechanics scale equally well into the endgame.
That said, I don’t believe that’s due to skills themselves as much as due to the changing endgame landscape; crit transforms how damage is achieved, armor and weapon assets frame builds differently, and encounters require different mechanics. As an example, if sfx remained viable or comparable to crit, we’d have far fewer Evokers feeling “trapped” over building around skill sfx multipliers, and skills’ value would be judged based on their sfx effect’s efficiency rather than on how optimal crit “shapes” they become.

I’m inclined to disagree on suboptimal builds preventing “progress”, though that’s likely semantics; I don’t believe most builds can’t progress to the endgame (especially with parties assisting said players), but I’ll agree that progress is slower with such builds.
That said, I’d note that Hellgate’s true endgame has always been Stonehenge and Abyss, so leaving the storyline is inevitable. Sharing resources among characters should make a Retrainer affordable as well, so I don’t view the sudden need for one as a grave issue. Still, I’ll agree Retrainer options could be expanded; we’ve gotten feedback on this before, and such options as Retrainer NPCs and quest/progress rewards are on the table.

This I don’t know. I know there will be increased efforts towards collecting feedback, and that there might be a need for such a team - if closed testing with select players becomes the norm. If that becomes the case, such players will most likely be picked through applications, yes.

Thank you for responding. Sometimes a specific question or line of reasoning can be a but difficult to get across over Discord. I don’t get the hard side of coding so I can’t possibly thank you enough for your work on the game as a whole. I would like to talk about the mechanics issue. So here’s what you said.

While I understand that for many skills, there might well be a build to suit it, some skills are just straight out traps. Like the Blademaster skill of Thorns. For one the effect is emulated better by armour, and for two returning a flat amount of damage doesn’t cut it, especially when finishing your first playthrough. That is a specific example but it’s not alone in skills that either don’t scale well or simply don’t remain relevant at higher level. The skill system is relatively complex in Hellgate, as some classes share skills within their own faction, and some don’t. Other than Sprint, but as it’s non-offensive and a purely mobility move.

The only thing I can say there is that as there’s a hard cap on the level of players and the level of monsters out there is to find a proportional or equal relationship. I can’t the the hard numbers so I can’t comment on that. Best of luck on that.

For the most part as I’ve experienced it, most party orientated skills are also fantastic in solo play. Rarely is the same true the other way. The best experience of specifically party based skills I can find are the heal skill from Engineer’s robot, the healing from Guardian, and the armour and health regen buff from Guardian. The game feels designed for solo play, but with the option to have party members. If you look at Guild Wars 2, they design every class to work as a solo and in groups, and as such every class can heal. The same is not true of Hellgate, and if you want to help the game’s overall balance allowing people to choose to play as a full blown support would be great, but currently that doesn’t seem to be the case as.

Again, I can’t see the hard numbers, so I hope the relationship you design works out.

Thanks for the thorough reply, I do appreciate that you took it point by point. Also thanks for the kind words - I can’t take much credit, not being a dev and all, but I do like to see our collective efforts are well-received.

Now, I didn’t mean to use those to reject your suggestions or argue against them - it’s more of a general mindset I like to adopt. It would likely be of use if we delve deeper into specifics, as you’ve done here, so;

Absolutely agreed, Thorns specifically is mind-bogglingly bad. It didn’t cross my mind because such low-value skills tend to be very rare, but it’s true regardless.
Here I believe we agree that the main issue seems to be improper scaling, as you mention, so I’d definitely agree with a suggestion to, say, buff its values by x%. But if the suggestion was to, say, replace it with something entirely different, I’d run it through those same questions.

That’s exactly the problem there, sadly; hard numbers, and what fits where. Especially when players have vastly different criteria (as with the next argument) it’s a monumental task to get things just right.
We barely get any downtime between patches, if that’s any indication. It’s a constant quest for the fabled middle ground that does it all.

Here I’ll have to disagree, for a few reasons. I still agree on this front;

But I don’t believe that Hellgate was intentionally, consciously designed as a single-player game. I’m more inclined to believe that SP and MP were trying to split from each other between the vanilla SP game and the MP servers, with MP still carrying SP’s legacy, but never fully pulled it off in time. Coupled with very clear class shortcomings (ie Marksmen being glass cannons and Guardians being low-damage tanks) I do believe Hellgate has very clear MMO roots that it didn’t pronounce enough in time. For the sake of text economy, I’ve covered my thoughts on this here, if that argument interests you.

Regardless, for the sake of discussion, I’ve gathered the skills that can interact with parties in meaningful ways.

Blademaster:
Hamper - 2 single-target debuffs
Call of the Chosen - crowd control
Angelic Orator - single-target debuff and offtank utility
Templar Restoration - AoE heal
Aura of Deflection/Vengeance - projectile protection for allies (not sure if this currently works in 2038 mechanics-wise)

Guardian:
Prayer of Healing - AoE heal
Great Defender - AoE buff and regeneration
Aura of Deflection/Vengeance - same as above
Hamper - same as above
Challenge and Denounce - crowd control
Heavenly Condemnation - single-target debuff

Marksman:
Concussion Rounds - single-target stun or crowd control
Beacon, Elemental Beacon - single-target debuffs
Multi Beacon - AoE debuff
EMP blast - AoE debuff
White-Out/Flashcrasher Grenade - crowd control
Toxic/Phase Grenade, Smackdown/Shock and Awe - AoE debuffs

Engineer:
Inhibitor Bots/Concussive Crash - crowd control
Haste Bot - AoE buff
Bomber Bot/Ghostly Strike - AoE debuff
Construct Drone - offtank
Medpak/Shield Generator Retrofit - AoE heal/buff respectively (now fused)
Beacon - as above
Phase Grenade - as above
Smackdown/Shock and Awe - as above

Summoner:
Elementals - offtanks, AoE/single-target debuffs
Carnagor/Meatshield - tank
Witch Doctor/Hand of Nostrum - AoE heal
Dominate - crowd control
Warper/Spellstorm - AoE debuff
Word of Fear - crowd control
Brom’s Curse - AoE heal
Elemental Drain - single-target debuff

Evoker:
Demonspine/Boneshards/Wall of Bone - crowd control
Venomous Spirit - crowd control
Swarm - AoE debuff
Spectral Bolt/Lash/Mastery - single-target or AoE debuffs
Spectral Curse - AoE debuff, crowd control
Ember - offtank
Word of Fear - same as above
Brom’s Curse - same as above
Elemental Drain - same as above

Now, that’s not to say that all of those skills were specifically intended to work only for parties, or even to be better for parties than for solo play. The debuffs I’ve listed, for example, seem to mostly lend themselves to parties but are perfectly serviceable in solo play - and sfx barely matter by the endgame anyway.
But many of those skills make it a point to explicitly mention “allies” - becoming incredibly more valuable in party play than solo play, by extending their benefits to others (say, Prayer of Healing/Surge of Restoration). There are many, many possible interactions there, that could make lackluster solo skills extremely valuable for parties (say, Medpak Retrofit), but as you say

That’s not to say that I believe things are fine as they are, or that the game should steer sharply towards full-blown MP, or that skills should just be seen as valuable because they might have more value in parties than they do for solo play.

But I do believe that many skills are underwhelming not because of what they are, but because of how the game frames them. If support was more valuable then support skills would be more valuable; if sfx debuffs were more useful the skills’ inherent sfx multipliers would be more useful; if gear returns didn’t far surpass skill returns then some skills would remain valuable, the way skills like Dual Focus or Matched Blades are but skills like Thorns and Weapon Master (arguably) aren’t.
And so on and so on. But I believe we likely agree there, so don’t let me drag that point on for too long.

So I had a wee look at your video, subbed as well because why not.

I think a lot of problems around balance you cover in your video actually, about the balance of the game being end pointed at 30 and such. I think that it would take a bit of time but a mass rebalancing of skills so that post 30 there’s a bit more to go for might help, especially things like skill trap skills (Thorns, and those like it) and perhaps there’s another thing to be looked at from a Class Identity perspective.

Finding skills that don’t truly fit, or making new ones that do fit. This could also help by say lowering the over ranks a skill can have, because another skill buffs it later, like the marksman rapid fire ability.

Thank you for your reply and please keep up the good work you and the devs do. I look forward to future patches!

2 Likes