Posted Sun, Nov 03, 2013 by gunky
The Epic Battles system uses a different type of threat and aggro calculation than the regular game. The changes made here go hand-in-hand with the changes to threat in other aspects of the game that will go live with Helm's Deep, but the threat system in the Epic Battles is more specific and focused.
"We wrote a brand new target priority system and weighted evaluation," Joe says. "When guys spawn, they look around at who's around them, and they have certain things they want to do. Sappers really want to attack your siege, berserkers really want to attack anyone who's already in combat, enemy commanders really want to square off with your commanders."
This new process uses a point value system for each potential target in the battle, with points adjusted by distance, combat state, target priority and other factors. For the most part, players will be able to run around at their leisure, operating siege equipment and issuing commands, without having to worry about accidentally pulling a bunch of aggro for tossing out a heal. Tank-spec characters will still generate loads of threat and will be able to pull aggro like they are supposed to, but rear-guard support classes will be able to do their jobs without getting pummeled by mobs every two seconds.
"You'll see sappers that come and run right by all the Rohirrim who are stabbing them to go for your catapult," Joe says. "And the player can use the reverse of that, too. The commander has a target profile for his squad. You can tell the squad, 'All things being considered equal, stab a goblin first. If you see a goblin, stab him. No really, I don't care if there are four uruks wailing on you, kill the goblin.' "
Okay, not really. In actuality, the player would use one of the new multi-usage menus in his role as an Officer to issue attack priority commands, and would select goblins. But the NPC soldiers would behave as though the player had said all that, and would break combat with their current opponents to chase down and kill goblins when they appeared.
Of course, eventually the orcs manage to blast their way through the Deeping Wall by the use of black powder. This event cannot be avoided nor postponed. It is a fixed point in time (as a certain Doctor might say...), and if the player is standing in the wrong spot when it happens, he is consumed by the blast.
The point of the epic battles is not preventing these events from happening, but rather making meaningful contributions as the events progress. Random daily quests will be bestowed upon entering the battles, similar to the sub-quests that pop up when entering skirmishes, and completing these quests earns rewards. But it's not a simple matter of filling a counter until the objective is complete. Quests are completed by degrees of success, with a new system called Merit, which is tracked by meters in the quest tracker panel. The more the player manages to meet the requirement of the task, the higher the degree of success and the more Merit earned. Some quests start with full merit meters, which are depleted over time by allowing quest objectives to fail.
In this example, the Securing the Culvert quest has two main objectives - sealing the culvert opening with rocks and protecting the workers from being defeated. The player has dumped most of the rocks into the culvert and protected 3 out of the 5 workers needed, but has allowed 3 workers to die. The player is on track for a Gold or Silver medal, rather than the Platinum, by allowing those 3 workers to fall. The quest above that one, The Deeping Wall, is in worse shape - the player has allowed 6 Banners to burn, and the Merit bar is barely half full. That's looking like a Bronze medal at best. These medals will go towards his Promotions.
Promotions is the "talent tree" of the Epic Battle system. Medals from the quests translate into Promotion points, which are used to make the character better at different aspects of the Epic Battles. Bronze medals are worth 1 point, Silver is worth 2, Gold is 3 and Platinum is 4. Getting the max number of points (currently 216) requires getting Platinum medals for every quest. If you earn a Bronze medal on your first run through a quest, and then later earn a Gold, the point value of the Gold replaces the value of the Bronze, earning you 3 points for that quest instead of 1. The Promotions system only uses the highest value for determining points, so you only have to achieve Platinum once to earn the maximum points for each quest.
Unlike the new class trait tree system, the Promotion system allows for complete hybridization. New tiers of Promotion traits are unlocked across the board as you spend your points, and the cost is the same regardless of which role they are spent on. If a player wants to be the most engineer-y engineer that ever engineered, he can spend all his points on that tree, but if he also wants to grab the top two Vanguard traits once he maxes out Engineer, he can do so without having to first unlock everything on top of it within that tree. Higher-tier traits cost more than lower-tier traits, but the costs are even between the different trees, and hybrid builds are encouraged.
The Engineer Promotion line focuses mostly on what the player can do to and with the catapults and other interactables. Catapults can be repaired, aimed, loaded and cranked faster, and placeable traps can be unlocked. The Officer line focuses on the NPCs, improving healing output from healing orders, reducing cooldowns, increasing damage mitigation from defense orders, and unlocking buffing banners similar to Captain standards that can be placed around the battlefield, improving NPC combat abilities. The Vanguard line improves the kill streak "cash-out" skills, making them hit harder and debuffing opponents, capping out with a ridonculous 20-meter 30-target 13-second stun that reduces all targets' max health by 30%.
The left side of the Promotions window is the Expertise panel. These skills are unlocked by spending points in the trees in the right-hand panel. The deeper you go into a given line, the more Expertise traits are unlocked in that line. Expertise traits are more, better unlocks and buffs that really accentuate their given line - new ammo types for Engineers, more order types for Officers, different kill-streak cash-outs and kill proc effects for Vanguards.
After you've maxed out your promotions points, there's still a reason to run the quests and earn the medals. At the bottom of the Battle History panel, which tracks your Epic Battle achievements and shows the top medals you have earned for each quest, there are four meters showing how many of that type of medal you have won. When these fill up, the medals can be swapped for powerful jewelry. Bronze medals can be exchanged for yellow gear, silver for purple, gold for teal and platinum for teal set pieces. The platinum pieces have a chance to come out gold instead of teal, but the gold-name items count towards the set bonuses.
If you don't want to bother with crappy bronze-medal jewelry but can never seem to earn silver or gold, there's a solution for that, too. When the meter fills up, the player has the option of up-trading bronze to silver and silver to gold. Unlike the promotion points, which don't stack, the medals you earn from each quest do add up. This means you can crank out mediocre performances time after time, rack up tons of bronze medals, and still get the good gear. The exception to this rule is Platinum medals - these cannot be up-cycled from Gold medals, and must be earned.
The Epic Battles system launches with the Helm's Deep expansion on November 18. Let us know what you think about it in our comments!