By TrailTurtle @ September 17, 2013 at 6:45pm
This week, we’ve got a cool peek behind the curtain at the making of powers, provided by Champions dev Chris Meyer, alias Gentleman_Crush. Find out more about the Telepathy and Laser Sword mini-sets, plus some stories from designing them!
Today I wanted to talk about creating new powers, Telepathy, Laser Sword, and new powers going forward. With these two mini sets now live, I felt it would be a good time to look at how those sets came to be, and how new powers in general tend to come into existence.
The Telepathy mini set began as a pretty simple idea: to bring out a more aggressive side of Telepathy, while still holding some aspects of support and control. This was coupled with the fact that this set that hadn’t really gotten any neat changes or cool new things in a while, and there were some interesting design spaces to explore that fit neatly under Telepathy’s umbrella.
After this first thought came to be, I also decided to explore the idea of having powers that are tightly synergized together and work really well when taken as a group, and the core principle of “Apply DoT effects, Rupture Bonuses” was born. Alongside this was an idea to have a large Buff component represented by the Master of Ego, Master of Id, and Master of Super Ego powers — which had a ton of moving parts and lots of possible synergies, but ultimately proved to be entirely unwieldy and were cut. In addition to these two premises, I wanted the set to have a capstone “unleashed power” button, which finally came to be Master of the Mind.
To elaborate more deeply, the Telepathy mini set was intended to feel much quicker, encourage using more powers in combat, and give players a little more choice to their gameplay. One of the elements that strengthened this was adding interrupts to some of the DoT powers. However, these proved to be too powerful against interruptible foes and could effectively shut down whole encounters, circumventing otherwise normal fight mechanics with relatively little effort. I still wanted to reward players who focused on controlling foes and suppressing enemy powers, the “Mental Weakness” and “Malaise” debuffs came to become a way for two both DPS and Control players to get powerful tools to assist their parties.
Another component of this was looking at how multiple telepaths interacted, and how quickly they could debuff and weaken a foe. With the question of weighing debuff potential and ramp-up speed, I finally settled on shared debuffs across all telepaths and detonations eating all available stacks. This was the best balance between stacking speed, debuff limits, and teamwork that was available, and works quite well in coordinated teams — without sacrificing too much when two telepaths are grouped.
What has emerged is a set that strongly rewards synergy and active play, with a broad and varied mini-set of buffs, debuffs, and damage. It fills all of the original goals, providing new ways to suppress foes and contribute to team encounters, no matter what focus you have.
After Telepathy was finished, Laser Sword began as an idea to flesh out a small quasi-set that already existed, and would tie in nicely with the tech-themed FATAL ERR0R story arc. With that in mind, I wanted again to focus on rewarding taking a group of powers together, with gameplay mechanics of ramping up and proc-friendly play.
With the first implementation of this there were several hiccups: Tracking your rotation felt awkward, fully ramping up just wasn’t satisfying and effective enough, and it made incorporating existing parts of the set too difficult. The powers were tuned to focus less on getting many stacks of certain buffs, and instead on using semi-random procs, and stacking debuffs for a spike of damage at the end of the sequence.
This also allowed players to splice in parts of the existing set to augment their attack rotation, and generally felt pretty good to play with. I experimented with different ways to bring in other Laser Sword powers that already existed, some of which involved heavily reworking Laser Sword (the power), but most of these changes made Laser Sword either way too powerful and valuable, or too prohibitive to use effectively, and ultimately it was left as it was.
However once we reached this point, a glaring issue appeared. There was no passive that really thematically or mechanically meshed well with particle damage, especially in Melee. Given this, I opted to try and explore another new design option which capitalized on the Damage Type more than the range at which it occurred. The passive “Quantum Stabilizer” rewarded anyone using particle powers and allowed players to more flexibly choose what particle powers suited them and their concept, while still providing cool ramping-up procs and thematically-tied bonuses and activations.
It felt fun, and trying to sync all your damage bonuses up for a big Particle Smash spike felt really rewarding. At the time of writing however this passive is not yet released, and still needs more FX and balance time to get it into a place where it is really ready. This passive also helps set a precedent for creating more Damage Type passives, which could open a whole new realm of building for players who want to incorporate more power styles that fit into one damage theme, so getting it just right is really important.
All in all, creating new powers is an exciting experience for everyone involved, and requires a lot of work. From the developers who provide the assets and ideas to bring them to life, to the players who help test them on the PTS, there are a lot of delicate moving parts.
What does this mean for new powers? Creating powers is a very slow and painstaking task, where even a few powers can take many weeks to get just right. However, it also provides lots of opportunities to bring new forms of gameplay and new ways to experience Champions to players, and I feel that is a really important aspect of what makes Champions unique. Creating new powers is a process that involves conceptualizing an idea, discussing it and refining it into a more concrete and playable idea, and then implementing and iterating across those ideas – often with the knowledge that it could end up looking nothing like what it began as.
With that in mind, I want to keep adding new powers and possibly even adding whole new sets; I want them to both explore interesting and new gameplay elements, and be visually and mechanically striking. This is a difficult task that requires support, both from us here at Cryptic, and from you, the players who help us by providing feedback and ideas that often become inspirations for new and fascinating things.
I hope this has been an enlightening and informative look at how two small groups of powers came to be, from their initial inklings to finally going Live.
Chris “Gentleman_Crush” Meyer