Saturday, August 20, 2016

Changes to Past Leagues at Zana

The Forsaken Master Zana allows you to run a map with the rules of an old challenge league in effect. All 13 of the challenge leagues we've run so far were added to Zana as soon as they were introduced. While this is a cool system in principle, our rigid adherence to it was limiting us too much.

With the release of Ascendancy and the Perandus Challenge League, we're changing how this works.

There will now be a total of seven challenge leagues available from Zana, one at each level from level two onwards. The composition, order and price of these challenge leagues will change every three months when we release a new league. Some leagues will be disabled for three months, others for longer. For example, Talisman is not in the roster of seven leagues included with the release of Ascendancy.

We're excited about the possibilities of this system. Choosing which leagues are turned off allows us to keep the game more dynamic. Certain legacy items will be available (or suddenly cheaper) at certain times, and interesting league mods will be more or less attractive depending on their prices. Maybe one league will have people running a lot of cheap Beyond maps, or maybe one day Talismans will return and people will have another chance at a best-in-slot amulet. To us, this is more interesting than having a fixed set of options that never changes.

We have used this opportunity to aggressively reprice the Zana mods so that they're a lot more affordable and attractive for players to choose when running maps.

Here's the new Zana league progression in 2.2.0:
Level 2: Onslaught, 2 Chaos Orbs, 20% Increased Map Item Quantity, monsters receive the same benefits
Level 3: Anarchy, 3 Chaos Orbs, 4 additional Rogue Exiles, 20% Increased Map Item Quantity
Level 4: Torment, 4 Chaos Orbs, 3 additional Tormented Spirits, 20% Increased Map Item Quantity
Level 5: Warbands, 4 Chaos Orbs, 3 additional Warband Packs, 20% Increased Map Item Quantity
Level 6: Beyond, 5 Chaos Orbs, 15% Beyond Chance, 20% Increased Map Item Quantity
Level 7: Ambush, 8 Chaos Orbs, 3 additional Strongboxes
Level 8: Nemesis, 1 Exalted Orb

Upcoming changes to Leech

We, like many gamers, love life leech mechanics. The idea of turning an offensive attack into a defensive form of survivability, by absorbing some measure of that damage as life, is both thematically interesting and adds depth to character and gear choices. But leech has always posed some balance problems.

When we changed the leech system in Sacrifice of the Vaal, we fixed some exploitative problems, but introduced new ones. With an upcoming change to leech, we intend to readdress both the old issues of leech and issues the previous iteration of leech introduced.

The changes we will be making to leech, for testing on Beta will be:
Multiple leech effects will now stack (ie. a single hit against multiple targets will grant multiple effects, as will multiple hits against a single target).
Base leech rate will be substantially reduced for both life and mana, with less of a reduction to mana leech rate, bringing it in-line with life leech rate.
A maximum leech rate will cap the rate at which you can leech.
Methods of improving leech, leech rate and increasing your maximum leech rate will be added to new clusters in the passive tree, primarily in the regions between the Marauder, Duelist and Ranger sections.
Some of the already existing clusters in this region that specialized in specific weapon types will also have leech elements added to them.
All existing values of leech will be substantially reduced, including values on existing items.
Vaal Pact will be adjusted to account for the new values of leech.

The goal is to have leech be as effective as it is on the live servers, if not better, against packs of monsters, while being more difficult to get to the same levels of survivability and sustainability against single powerful monsters such as strong rares or bosses.

Players who specialise in leech (allocating the passives related to improving it) would be substantially better at leeching than they currently are on the live servers against packs of monsters. Leech is not intended to trivialise bosses.

We want the Duelist to receive the most love from these leech passive tree changes, in order to add some flavour, power and more choice to his tree. They will also benefit anyone travelling to that part of the tree.

While most of these changes are focused towards life leech, mana leech is also being altered. The base maximum mana leech rate will be higher than the current rate on the live server, and opportunities to invest and increase the leech rate further will be available.

We're excited to see what players do with these changes in the beta, and will endeavour to keep players up-to-date with any further changes we make to the system.


Due to the changes to leech, one of the compromises we've had to make is that leech will be far less effective early to mid game.
Because of this we have adjusted the levels of the mods for Life Leech on items, these changes will not affect the level requirements on existing items.

The new item levels required for Life Leech Mods are:

Remora's (50)
Lamprey's (60)
Vampire's (70)

And for Mana Leech Mods:

Thirsty (50)
Parched (70)

Corruption Mods for Elemental Life Leech on Amulets now require item level 50.

Vaal Pact no longer penalizes the amount of life Leeched, it will now apply 100% of life leeched instantly, while still not allowing Life Regeneration.

Vaal Pact has also been moved to between the Shadow and Ranger on the passive tree.

All the existing cases of leech on items is now 20% of what it was before, for example an item with 1% Life Leech, will now have 0.2% Life Leech. This has been applied to all existing items.

Some things such as the Support Gems and Warlord's Mark have had their values reduced by 80% and then manually adjusted. The Life and Mana Leech support gems no longer increase in the amount leeched per level, this is because with the new values at 20% of the original values they were very ineffective at level 31, so they now start much higher and only the rate of the leech will increase as they increase in levels.

The new Base Values regarding Leech:

Base Maximum Life Leech Rate is 20% of maximum life per second.
Base Maximum Mana Leech Rate is 20% of maximum mana per second.
Base Life Leech Rate is 2% of maximum life per second.
Base Mana Leech Rate is 2% of maximum mana per second.

Update 2:

Taken from the State of Beta #8, Here are the latest changes to Leech:

We have worked out we need to change leech rate as it currently works. Currently, when you would already be at the Leech Cap, the rate increase does not give you more leech, as you are already at the cap, while it still reduces the time taken to leech. This can make Leech Rate detrimental to a player in fights against large number of targets, or who otherwise reaches the leech cap quickly.

We will be changing increased Leech Rate to increased Life/Mana Leeched per Second. This will be best against single targets, or in times when you do not reach the Leech Cap, but will not be detrimental in situations you are against a large number of targets.

We are also looking at increasing the values of the Leech Cap. We will then have two main bonuses affecting leech gained, with Leech Cap bonuses best against packs, and Increased Leech Per Second bonuses best against bosses. Neither will be detrimental to the player.

Energy Shield Leech was also bugged on the beta, and was not stacking in the way Life and Mana Leech now are. This will be fixed on the next deploy.

Further explanation of the changes from Leech Rate to Increased Leech per Second:

Previously, we had modifiers for "increased (or reduced) Life/Mana Leech rate". These did two things:
They increased value of Life/Mana you're gaining per second for each leech effect.
They reduced the duration of each leech effect, such that the total life/mana gained over the duration remained the same.

All such modifiers have now been changed to "increased (or reduced) Life/Mana Leeched per second". This still increases the value of Life/Mana you're gaining per second for each leech effect, exactly as it did before. It no longer affects duration of the leech effects, meaning you'll gain more total life/mana from each one as a result.

How PvP Tournament Season Two Works

PvP Tournament Season Two starts on February 14 and runs for a month, culminating in an Invitational Event on the weekend of March 21, 2015. This article explains the basic structure of the season and how you can compete to earn an invitation to the Invitational. Points that are significantly different than Season One have been underlined.

American and European Seasons
We are running both American and European Tournament Seasons. Everything in this article can be assumed to run in duplicate across the two seasons/continents, including the final Season Two Invitational Event. Tournaments will run at appropriate times for the timezone of their continents.

Because the two Seasons have separate Season Point totals, it's possible to play on both if you want to try for two sets of Alternate Art Unique Items. Players should expect to win less while playing on servers outside of their continent due to the increased latency. Players will only be eligible for the first invitational event that they qualify for.

Torment and Bloodlines
All events in both American and European seasons are available to characters of either challenge league. Torment and Bloodlines characters fight in the same events and you can enter with a character in either league.

Blitz Events
Blitz tournaments are a series of rapid-fire duels where you're quickly matched against a new opponent as soon as your last round finishes. Your goal is to get as many victories as possible within the time limit.

In addition to 1v1 Blitz events, we support two types of 3v3 Blitz events. In Party Blitz, you bring a specific three-person party that you will play with for the entire tournament. In Non-Party Blitz, which is new this season, you are given a random team each match and are scored as an individual.

We've improved the resistance calculation to take into account all matches rather than just ones that have occurred already.

Blitz events are run as both level 28 and open (no level restriction) events. Blitz has been very popular and there are more Blitz events in this second season.

Free-For-All Events
Free-for-all tournaments take place in the Sarn Arena. They're a massive brawl where you get a point per player kill. If you die, you're sent to a new arena to continue the massacre.

Free-for-all events are run as both level 28 and open (no level restriction) events. We are running fewer Free-for-all events in this season than we did last time.

Capture the Flag Events
We'll be running one 3v3 Capture the Flag event.

Competitive Swiss Events
On the weekends we'll be running the most competitive of the event types - tournaments with Swiss Matchmaking. These run in a regimented series of matches, where victory is about defeating your opponent at any cost rather than winning rapidly.

There are two Swiss tournaments run each weekend - one on America and one on Europe. Like other events, players from Torment and Bloodlines play in the same events.

In Season Two, all of the Swiss events are comprised of a series of level 28 1v1 duels. The winner of each of these Swiss tournaments will be invited to the Invitational at the end of the Season.

There is also one Open (no level restriction) Swiss event that doesn't lead to an invitational.

PvP Points and Prizes
Like our Race events, each of these PvP Events awards you with Season Points for ranking highly.

The Season Points contribute towards a set of Alternate Art Unique Items that are awarded in a similar way to our race rewards. Torment and Bloodlines points contribute to the same pool. Top competitors in the Standard and Hardcore points ladders are awarded an Alternate Art Talisman of the Victor Unique Item (which is like a Demigod item).

Each event awards a Talisman of the Victor to the highest ranked Torment player and the highest ranked Bloodlines player.

Alienware is sponsoring this season and has provided some awesome prizes for winners of the invitationals. We'll post more information on prizes soon.

Ratings for general queues
We've created new ratings queues for this season. We've also combined Torment and Bloodlines together for ratings this season.

These ratings start at 800 and increase/decrease based on your win record and the quality of opponents you face. Beating a better opponent is worth more rating than beating a worse opponent.

Ratings now degrade slightly every day, in order to prevent people from lodging themselves at the top of the ladder and then not playing any more.

Having a very high rating can get you invited to the Season Two Invitational event!

The Invitational
On the weekend of March 21-22, we'll be running special double-elimination tournaments for both America and Europe. Like much of the rest of Season Two, matches in the invitational tournament will also be level 28 1v1 duels.

Each of these invitationals consists of 8 players from the challenge leagues. It doesn't matter whether they were in Torment or Bloodlines.

The 8 slots consist of the following, in this order:
The top player in each of the four weekend Swiss tournaments.
The top two players measured by Season Points.
The top two players measured by level 28 1v1 PvP Rating.

To play in the invitational, the player must be available at the appropriate time. If players are unable to attend or already have an invite from another entrance criterion, then the next player in that group will be invited. For example, if the top PvP Rating player isn't available and the second place one already has an invite from winning a Swiss tournament, then the next two players will be invited from the PvP Rating ladder.

A player will be invited to the first invitational that they qualify for. Being invited to a PvP invitational doesn't exclude you from being invited to the Racing invitational. If you win an invite and don't want to play in that Invitational (so that you can try to win an invite in the other) then contact us immediately to reject the invite. It'll go to the next person on the list.

Note that these invitationals occur on both America and Europe. There are 16 players in total who win invitations.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Development Manifesto: 2.3.0 Balance

This manifesto post outlines the balance changes in 2.3.0. Full patch notes will be released next week, so the changes outlined here are subject to change.

Core Systems Changes

Environmental traps in the labyrinth now calculate a player's effective life differently for determining damage. This was previously the total of a player's maximum life and Energy Shield. Now Energy Shield counts as 60% of its value for this purpose. Only Energy Shield covering life is counted. This was determined to be the best ratio applicable to the wide variety of Energy Shield based builds that exist.

Chaos conversion has been reduced in effectiveness. This only appears on a few items, but is a system change rather than just a change to those items. As such the items affected will not have legacy versions with old values. We have made sure these items display the correct new effective value however. The values of chaos conversion on Voltaxic Rift, Infernal Mantle and Consuming Dark uniques have been reduced to be 60% of their prior value.

Monsters and maps with the Hexproof prefix now grant the Hexproof keyword. Hexproof prevents curses applying to monsters, but can be bypassed under certain conditions. Currently only one unique item being added in 2.3.0 will bypass Hexproof, but this power may show up from other sources in the future. This does not affect curse reduction that unique monsters can have, and allows for Curse Immunity that is absolute and not keyworded as "Hexproof".

We have made changes to how taunts are treated in the game. Taunted targets now have an effect to indicate they are taunted. Enemies you Taunt deal 10% less damage to targets that aren't you (including in PVP). Your Taunt effects can't be overwritten by other taunt effects. You can replace your own taunts. Where multiple players are taunting, the first person to taunt gets the effect.

Item Balance

Unique Jewels now have a separate sequence of rarities within the unique items. Unique jewels will now have three tiers of rarity, all of which are rarer than the normal base rarity tier. Additionally, fourth tier "chase" unique items (like Shavronne's Wrappings) have been made rarer than they were in 2.2.0.

Weapons that can roll both caster and attack mods have been changed in how they determine their mods. When these items only have caster, or attack mods, they are less likely to get mods of the other type. This also affects the items on creation, so they are more likely to have only caster, or only attack mods.

This is a subtle change, so you will still see hybrid items, just fewer than previously.

The implicits on Sceptres and Wands have been increased in value. Sceptres now also follow an increasing sequence of elemental damage similar to what wands have. The highest Wand implicit can go up to 42%, the highest Sceptre implicit can go up to 40%.

As Sceptres previously only had a few possible values, existing sceptres get an implicit on the high end. Legacy items can be updated to new implicit values with a Blessed Orb. This means old Sceptres will be given an implicit band higher than they would get when dropping after 2.3.0.

Skill Changes

Ancestor Totems now emerge 40% faster when first placed, have 50% more totem life, and remain active 40% further away from the owner.

Enfeeble now causes monsters to only lose 21% Critical Multiplier at Level 1 (from 40%), This goes up by 1% every 2 levels of the gem, having -30% at Level 20. A monster's base Critical Multiplier is +30%, so at level 20 this bonus is nullified. This makes it less effective when the monster has additional Critical Multiplier, through map mods or an affix.

Shield Charge is now an Area of Effect skill. It deals damage to enemies you collide with as you charge, then deals a larger aoe at the end of the charge. It no longer always stuns. It gains more damage and stun threshold reduction the further you travel, up to a certain distance.

The cast time for Ice Nova and Vaal Ice Nova has been changed from 900ms to 800ms.

Warlord's Mark now has an additional 10% chance to stun at all levels of the gem, rather than scaling up to 15% by level 20. This was to fix a situation where any hit could stun an enemy

Support Changes

All Support Gems now have Support as part of their name.

Elemental Proliferation Support radius has been increased from 12 units up to 16.

Spell Totem Support now has a smaller damage penalty, at level 1 it has changed from 50% less to 35% less. At level 20 it has changed from 31% less to 26% less.

Monster and Map Balance

Cruel, Merciless and Map content requires various rebalances. Rather than apply arbitrary buffs to life and damage, we have instead added monsters with new skills to higher difficulties, and applied various corrections to specific monster skills.

Cruel and Merciless changes:
Oak's Brute has been added to The Wetlands. This monster uses an Enrage skill periodically.
Cannibal Fire-eater has been added to The Coast. This monster breathes fire.
Kraityn's Sentry has been added to Broken Bridge. This monster uses Blast Rain.
Spectral Swashbuckler has been added to The Ship Graveyard. This monster uses Spectral Throw
Goatman Fire-raiser has been added to The Climb. This monster uses Magma Orb
Each of these monsters has also been added to the pool of random monsters in maps. They usually only spawn alone, or in a pair.

Map-only monster changes:
Goatman Shamans no longer spawn entirely as Shaman packs, they are now combined with regular Goatman monsters as well.
Porcupine Goliaths in Endgame Maps now grant approximately 20% more experience and items.
Croaking Chimerals in Endgame Maps now grant approximately 30% more experience and items.
Packs of Scum Crawlers combined with Soulless Watchers in Endgame Maps now contain 25% more monsters.
Blood Elementals which use Gore Earthquake have been added to end-game Maps, some of the Blood Elementals in Blood Elemental Packs will now use Gore Earthquake
Some of the Water Elemental packs in Maps will now contain ones that use Vortex.
Some of the Sea Witch packs in Maps will now contain ones that use Frostbolt.
Some of the Ghost Pirate packs in Maps will now contain ones that use Blade Vortex. Some of the Demon Packs in Maps will contain ones that use Demonic Blade Vortex.
Some of the Ruined Titan packs in Maps will now contain ones that use Earthquake.
Some of the Goatman Shaman (Lightning) packs in Maps will now contain ones that use Orb of Storms.
Numerical adjustments to several monster skills have been made. These are generally buffs to spells cast by monsters.
Lowered some life monsters which appear solo in the core game, but can appear as packs in maps.
Rebalanced the Graveyard Map Boss (Merveil, the Reflection, who is only present in her first form) to be easier.
Rebalanced the first form of the Necropolis Map Boss (Merveil, the Reflection) to be harder.

Other map changes:
Removed Village Ruin as a possible Map type for Zana Missions.
Added Canyon and Plateau as possible Map types for Zana Missions.
Added Caer Blaidd, Wolfpack's Den as a possible Unique Map type for Zana Missions. This has not reduced the odds of Untainted Paradise being a Zana map.
Added a new end-game Map, "Plaza Map", currently a Tier 14 map with a stand-alone version of the Goddess of Justice as the boss encounter.
The experience penalty has been adjusted further since the changes to equivalent levels of high level areas introduced in 2.1.0. The new values are still being tested, and will be detailed in the patch notes next week.

Other Monster changes and rebalances

Added a new boss, Q'uru, to The Caverns in Act 2. This ancient Vaal Plummeting Ursa horror uses Earthquake and Enrages periodically.

Enrage grants increased attack speed, movement speed and damage for the duration of the enrage.

Cruel Izaro has had his life reduced by 20% and the damage of various of his skills reduced: Leap Slam damage reduced by 12.5%, Shield Charge damage reduced by 12.5%, Ground Slam Damage reduced by 10%, Reave Damage reduced by 10% and Goddess of Justice Spirit Mortar Barrage reduced by 10%.

Passive Tree and Ascendancy Changes

We only have one minor change in the main passive tree, Arcane Vision is now connected to the same attribute node as Pain Attunement. The changes to Ascendancy Trees have been much more extensive.

As well as looking at general inter-Ascendancy class balance, there is a strong focus on "the nodes less taken" within each Ascendancy tree. It is also worth noting that some of the weaker classes can have some strong synergies unlock when eight points are available.

Rather than listing every change here, we have made an updated set of skill tree data available to the community for use in passive skill/build planning tools.

Prophecy as a Core Game Mechanic

Prophecy started in early June 2016 and introduced the new NPC Navali, as well as the Silver Coins she would accept in exchange for quests. These quests introduced new goals and rewards in the world of Wraeclast. Prophecy was released without an accompanying expansion and was the main feature of the 2.3.0 release. Prophecy contained a lot of content, as well as having a fully-voiced NPC with nearly six thousand words of voice acting.

Prophecy worked well as a league, with high player engagement. Players enjoyed having new things to do during the levelling process, as well as some of the new rewards, such as the very popular fated uniques.

When players reached maps, we found the Prophecy content wasn't pitched as well as we would have liked. Players did not like backtracking, and felt compelled to do prophecies in areas they did not want to revisit. We made adjustments as the league went on which improved it for endgame play.

Players were very quick to ask about keeping Prophecy in the main game. The fated uniques were particularly desired items. We were asked if these could be gained in alternative ways in the event that Prophecy as a whole did not carry over.

Several factors - the access to specific uniques and the fated uniques, the levelling benefits, the varied gameplay early, late and for second (and third, etc) character, and the amount of content and effort devoted to making the expansion - all led to the decision to roll Prophecy into the core game.

There are many things we will change when adding Navali and her prophecies into the core game:
You won't see Navali immediately when you get to the first town. Since Navali adds an extra layer of tasks for players to complete, we did not want her competing with (and potentially disrupting) the integral early portions of the questing experience. As well, we need to maintain space for other future leagues to make their marks early. Many of Navali's prophecies are early however, so you will meet Navali in Act 1 of Normal difficulty. There will be a quest to have her go to town.
Silver coins will be rarer. While we are excited to keep the content, it does not need to be as prominent. So it doesn't overshadow the main game, but is still a part of it, the silver coin drop rate will be substantially lower than during the league.
Navali will be able to join your hideout. This was not a problem we were able to solve for the league, but as a core part of the game, players will want access to Navali in a way that suits their normal style of play.
We need to assess the power of the rewards. For example, for Reach of the Council we knew went out with risky balance values. We pushed it a little as we wanted it to be used, but knew if it went out too high it would only be temporary. As part of the core game, this unique heavily distorts bow use. We know we will be changing this item, and we'll need to assess all the Prophecy content for going into the live game.

We are also excited for Prophecy being in the core game for another reason. We want to make more content for it. When you add a new game element, it isn't always clear how much stuff you will get to make for it. We call this design space. Some games elements feel like they should offer a lot, but are limited in what you can make for it, others are deep wells of content. Prophecy had far more designed for it than we could have made in the time we had to make it. It is a deep well of interesting stories, fights and rewards.

Improving Communication: The Development Manifesto

Communication is Important
At Grinding Gear Games, we've always treated communication with the community as a priority. I spend several hours of each day on external communication (that's not counting answering emails), but feel that we can still improve the way that we communicate with you guys. This article explains some of the ways that we're planning on improving communication in the short term:

The Development Manifesto
The purpose of this development manifesto forum is for us to open topics on specific issues that we're working on so that we can explain how they're going to work. It's also a great place to discuss specific design philosophies that we base many of our decisions around. Please note that there are still plenty of topics that will be posted! This initial set are just the ones that we have ready in the first pass. More will be added in the coming days/weeks.

How Manifesto Updates Will Work
Initially, the manifesto will be updated by adding more topics. As they become out of date, we'll update the existing posts to make sure that they always accurately reflect our current line of thinking on those issues. When there's a meaningful update to a manifest post, I'll mention it in the daily news. Keep an eye on both that forum and this one to stay up to date :)

Explanations in Patch Notes
Starting with update 1.1.2b, our patch notes have included much more detailed explanations of changes than before. A lot of thinking goes into any rebalancing that we do, so we're going to be as detailed about this process as possible. In some cases, a rebalance may be foreshadowed by a post in this development manifesto forum, so that people are aware of it in advance.

Daily News
We post an update in the news every New Zealand weekday. Sometimes it's about a new game feature, other times it's about an upcoming patch or microtransaction. I'm very proud that we've kept this routine up for so long, because so much of our feedback comes from news posts. They're a great place for us to reach out with updates about small topics or to call out awesome community efforts. We will continue these daily news posts.

Build of the Week
These are an incredibly powerful marketing tool, so we've resumed releasing one per week.

Note: We love reading your thoughts on our proposed changes or design philosophies. Replies are enabled in the Development Manifesto forum, but please only post constructive on-topic discussion in each of the threads. We may remove posts that are low on content or contain hateful non-constructive sentiment. This forum can be an ideal place for a dialogue about upcoming changes!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Vault Map Reveal

30 new maps are being added with the September 2nd expansion.