After previewing the Wyvern and the Defiance mechanic, yesterday I had the opportunity to sit down with ArenaNet's Jon Peters and Kevin Stocker to talk about both reveals. Speaking to both Jon and Kevin was a pleasure and as always, provided plenty of information to digest. What I wasn't expecting was one particular nugget of information that took me by completely surprise. Here's how we got on.
Ten Ton Hammer:At first glance the Defiance change might strike people as something similar to WildStar’s Interupt Armor. Is it comparable?
Jon: It’s sort of similar but I think, at least for me, why we built it is a little different. They built their system specifically for crowd control where as we built the system specifically the way we did - we had something similar already it just wasn’t very Guild Wars 2 - this new system is about players working together and coordinating. Our new Defiance bar regenerates and generally on the core stuff, it’s going to regenerate pretty quickly. It’s a lot more about working together to time your crowd control skills to create that moment.
The vision is that players will work together to reduce the Defiance bar to break Champions. To use the Wyvern, if you time it right you’ll be able to stop its flight. Will players have to have coordinated usage or can players simply use their crowd control as they see fit?
Jon: In this fight you absolutely have to hold your crowd control skills. I’m going to have Kevin jump to this.
Kevin: The Wyvern fight it’s actually a huge advantage to spike crowd control at the same time because it gives you less area denial from the creature. If you don’t he ends up cutting off more of the battlefield and it becomes incredibly difficult to fight him. If you spike him every time, during his moments of vulnerability, it becomes a lot easier. What’s cool about it, is the fact it’s not the only implementation of the breakbar. It’ll come up during an animation where you have an opportunity to interrupt a big skill that he’s going to do. A more general implementation would be on Champion creatures that you see throughout the world. The bar regenerates pretty quickly so players will have to coordinate and spike-CC all at once to bring him down. We can do all sorts of different stuff with this and that’s cool. We can add conditions when they’re down, we have a guy that has one non-regenerating breakbar that goes down very slowly over a fight and once you break him he loses his armor and goes faster and does more damage. There’s a bunch of different implementations that we can do with it.
Jon: The common case is that you won’t whittle down the bar at all, if you do that it’s going to push back up again. The common case is you’ll need to go: “NOW!”. Colin and I were testing the Wyvern fight yesterday leading up to today and the Wyvern was taking off and I just shouted “NOW!” I was out of crowd control and we threw one more skill at it and it pulled it down. If we didn’t have that, it would have flown back up and we wouldn’t have had a chance to finish it.
Ten Ton Hammer: It’s great to see you’ve added a specific value to crowd control skills instead of them all removing Defiance equally. Can you tell us about that?
Kevin: CC value is actually respected now, where as Skullcrack is worth a 3 second stun and headshot a ¼ daze. We actually represent those values much better now as opposed to the old Defiance system.
Jon: With the old defiance system every CC removed a stack regardless of how powerful it was but now, they are what they are. Every single crowd control ability is now part of the same system. Blind ultimately is a crowd control ability but it’s also a condition so never really worked under the old system. Now Blind is part of the single bar and we’ve had to look at how long blind durations are or stun durations are and how much more powerful is a blind over a stun. A blind is just missing a single attack where as a stun is not doing anything for a while. We’re still massaging those numbers. They use their equivalent duration but there’s certain things that we had to balance.
Ten Ton Hammer: Will players clearly know how much their crowd control skill directly affects a specific portion of the Defiance bar?
Jon: The old system was one of 20 buffs a creature could have whereas the new system is its own thing and is really clear. We’re still working on the user interface and the one people will see at PAX East and Rezzed is not the final one. We’re going to add more clarity to it and you’ll see that in the moment, you cast a Blind spell and you’ll see the bar move. In that way, it becomes really clear to see how much your crowd control is doing. Really visualising how much your crowd control skill is doing against the breakbar was really super important.
Ten Ton Hammer: How do pulsing crowd control skills such as Black Powder work against Defiance?
Every blind will tick it and blind is scaled. Let’s say - blind takes a fifth of its duration. Blind is pulsing for 3 seconds and pulses 3 times. That’s 9 seconds of blind. A fifth of that is around 1.8 seconds - if my maths is right - so that pulsing blind field will do less than a Backbreaker. What’s detrimental to the pulsing skills is that by the time the third one occurs the Breakbar is regenerating so fast that the first pulse is probably gone. It’s good to drop a blind field and let people spike while that’s happening, but there’s less skill needed to time your blind there. Ultimately it’s not going to be helpful for a single player to have lots of crowd control to break this bar. In order to break the new Defiance bar it’s about multiple players doing it at once. One player has time between his attacks and that time essentially allows the bar to regenerate so it becomes difficult for a player to keep up with the regen rate.
Ten Ton Hammer: Does Defiance only affect creatures?
Jon: There are player skills that use this and although I can’t tell you about any of them right now because I don’t want to spoil stuff - specializations, revenant stuff - because the system is straightforward and cool we have the ability to attach it to players too. You’re going to see places where you’ll see more of this happening. We tend to use it on the player skills in more specific than the standard way on Champions. It’s not just limited to specialisations or Revenants but there’s other places where we’re also using this.
Ten Ton Hammer: When you were talking about Defiance being implemented on player classes, are you envisaging a break against players using certain skills?
Jon: I won’t get into details, but there are some places where we’ll use Defiance bar on players. You’ll have to do a bunch of spiking to stun them and you can’t knock them back, just how it works on bosses. There’s also places where we’d like to use the whole “I’m going to stop this skill!” approach against a skill that keeps going or is really powerful, and the nonly way to stop it is to break it. There’s this whole turning on-off method that Kevin was talking about with the boss where this guy has this thing until I break it. That’s the idea. In all the ways the bar is interesting to use on creatures, it’s interesting to use on players as well.
Ten Ton Hammer: Do you think this change to Defiance will encourage players to spread out their utility skills so they aren’t just bringing damage to the table?
Jon: Combat wise, I would say it’s the fundamental thing behind Heart Of Thorns. That’s something we wanted when the game released and it didn’t happen how we wanted it to. A lot of things we’re doing, from the combat bar to how we’re designing specializations and how the Revenant is designed or how we’re designing the creatures for Heart Of Thorns. It’s much more fundamentally about what the game is about.
Kevin: We’re trying to design creatures that are more action combat where positioning is really important and where they interact well with the Guild Wars 2 combat system.
Ten Ton Hammer: It seems as though with the addition of Slow and Taunt and now Defiance that Guild Wars 2 is moving in a direction of control as opposed to always relying on damage to overcome content.
Jon: When we wrote the original combat blog post, a lot of people assumed we didn’t want the trinity. It wasn’t an anti-trinity, it was more of a case of “this is how we want to do this type of combat and we want these roles and we want them to be flexible.” not “Hey, we don’t want people supporting!” and so, we want to design creatures that make you want to use Immobilize or design creatures that make you want to use Portal if we can. We have so many tools in our combat system that we want players to think about when they use them. Part of this is that the creatures have to come after the combat and when we were shipping the game and the combat came in, we really knew what we wanted out of it nearer to the end than we would have liked. This is an opportunity to say, “Ok, we know how the combat works, now. How do we build creatures that actually make you use the stuff that you have on your character and all these interesting tools that we built into the game?”
Ten Ton Hammer: Do you envisage players moving away from pure Berzerker builds thanks to things such as Defiance?
Jon: I think the hope is that the more we can do that - we don’t want to discourage it. There are places where we want you to do that, it’s more about diversity. Undoubtedly it will but when you fight the Wyvern, even if you bring maximum damage you don’t always use your maximum damage skills and will use crowd control instead. When the Wyvern takes off you really want him to get knocked down. Although this isn’t finalised, when you pull him out of the sky you deal triple damage to him until he gets up. It’s way more important in this fight that you deliver on spiking that crowd control when he takes off than consistently dealing damage. You start to create builds that are good at spiking damage - they can do a heavy amount over a few seconds but you then have to wait thirty seconds. Those builds are really good against the Wyvern because when he gets pulled down, they can unload more than anyone else can. When he gets back up it’s not as important to be doing as much damage because he’s really tough.
Ten Ton Hammer: Are there other states during combat against the Wyvern where you can break Defiance?
Jon: There are a few phases. One is him in the air where you’re trying to look where he is so you don’t get caught in a flyby. There’s one where you are on the ground and he’s controlling a bunch of the area that sees you’re trying to reposition yourself. There’s the Wyvern taking off and everyone fighting to use crowd control. Lastly, there’s another where he goes up in the air to flap his wings and knock people back. That’s a moment where you turn to support skills such as the Revenant’s Inspiring Enforcement to setup a Stability area so, that the Wyvern isn’t going to knock back me or my allies. You have these different phases and each phase calls for different types of playstyles.
Ten Ton Hammer: Where would you place the Wyvern, in terms of difficulty, compared to other world bosses already in the game?
Jon: That we don’t really known yet.
Kevin: He’s in a few different places in the expansion and what’s cool about that guy is that he gets exponentially harder the smaller the area he is in, because he cuts so much of the ground. There’s a few different difficulties with the same creature in different areas. We have him on some smaller platforms that are much more difficult to fight him on.
Jon: What makes him significantly different to other world bosses generally is that he’s very active. Tequatl or the Wurm, or Shatterer and Claw of Jormag are more set pieces. They’re visually impressive and they have some interesting elements to their fights. This guy is like an action boss and you have to fight him like you would fight a boss in a console action game.
Kevin: Everybody has to be paying attention to their positions or you won’t succeed.
Ten Ton Hammer: Will we see material replacement begin to be rolled out on other creatures in Tyria or is it something that’s linked only to creatures in Heart Of Thorns?
Kevin: That’s a case by case thing. We look at each ability and what it needs to be telegraphed properly and implement accordingly.
Jon: One thing I will say is that because the Defiance bar is going to be in the core game, we’re not going to keep the old Defiance system on the old bosses. They’re going to use at least the most basic version of - they have a bar that you have to work together to break to stun this creature. That is the most basic version and that is the version that will exist which we retrofit that we don’t have time to do more on. That’s in every part of the game, not just Heart Of Thorns.
Ten Ton Hammer: Have either of you anything else you would like to add on Defiance or the Wyvern?
Jon: Just that people will be able to see it and play it on the demo and that what they see in the demo is not final. This is a system that’s never final in the sense that Heart Of Thorns is looking at everything in Guild Wars 2 and reworking it, Defiance bar is laying the foundation for how we want these types of encounters to work moving forward in the game. As we think of new ways to use it as we think of ways to improve it, this is going to be the system we work off.
Kevin: It’s so flexible that there’s a lot of different things we can do to make cool implementations.
Jon: We probably won’t see all of those in Heart Of Thorns, you’ll see more of them as we continue to improve the game, moving forward after the expansion. That’s a lot of what this expansion is about: stabilizing fundamental systems so that we can continue to improve in the future.
Ten Ton Hammer would like to thank both Jon and Kevin for taking the time out of their very busy schedules to answer our questions.
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