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New Difficulty Mechanic: Advanced Enemies


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So, inspired by a concern expressed in the "merge Bosses" thread ( https://forums.homecomingservers.com/topic/11735-can-we-get-merge-bosses-for-the-other-factions/ ) as well as the numerous posts and threads of various users expressing a desire for increased difficulty, I came to a conclusion.

Improving the AI of the NPCs in this game is exceptionally difficult considering the age of the game, the nature of the code, and the spaghettification of said code.  Increasing the raw number of enemies is less of an increase in difficulty, and more of an increase in rewards for defeating them while also negatively impacting the server's load.

 

So what other solutions are there?  Well, maybe the option to increase the number of Bosses, or even the Damage and Hit Points of those Bosses, but I believe various people expressed an assortment of dissatisfaction with those ideas.

What else?  Welllllll . . . why not Advanced Enemies?

 

See, here's the idea:  A number of suggestions were made for some interesting concepts for enemies which have "surprise mechanics" or other Powers.  People expressed concerns that they would not like to see such content added, particularly at the lower levels, since it would mean an increase in the game's difficulty.  That's a very reasonable concern to have.  But we also have all those other people saying they want the game to be MORE challenging.

Now, we have the existing difficulty menu, and there are options like "Bosses or Lts." and "Elites or Archvillains."  And I get to thinking . . . what if we add another toggle:  "Regular or Advanced Enemies."

 

But, yeah, I get it.  This would be a HUGE undertaking.  Creating entirely new content, even when it reuses existing assets, isn't as easy as some folks seem to imagine.  But in this case; I think it's worthwhile.  I'll even put my mouth where my fingers are!  Devs; tell me what I've got to do, and I'll do the grunt work of making these new enemies a reality to the best of my ability.

 

While we're at it, let's have everyone join in!  What sort of theme appropriate mechanics/Powers could you imagine adding to your (least) favourite Villain Groups?

Here are some of the ideas from that other thread, repeated:

 

- Mekman and Warwolf in same spawn have a chance of merging in to a Cybervvulf when either is low on health.

- New Clockwork Boss which destroyed weakened Minions to heal itself, and get larger and more powerful.

- Face Takers gain the Power to remove a defeated Cadaver corpse to gain a charge of a Revive Eidolon Power.

- Two Winter Horde Minions merge in to one Winter Horde Lt.  Two Winter Horde Lts. merge in to one Winter Horde Boss.  Et cetera, adding Elite Boss and Archvillain versions too. (Hell, I'd recommend we just add that one to the Winter event in general, and make that the way you "summon" the Giant Monster.)

- Similarly for Shivans, Slag Golems, and Hydra.

- Lt. Trolls can take 'Dyne off of defeated Minions for a chance to upgrade to Boss Trolls.

 

And, of course, the magnum opus which dawned on me as I walked home from work today:  Micro-Weavers!
Now, I admit, I haven't seen all the endgame content, particularly that which was added after 2009/2010'ish, so if the Orb Weavers have already made an appearance in the game, I'm interested in seeing them.  But last I checked, they're still a very mysterious subfaction within Arachnos ( https://paragonwiki.com/wiki/Arachnos and https://paragonwiki.com/wiki/Weaver-1 ).

This idea would be quite labour intensive and require entirely new assets, but I feel as though it would need to be something which inspires in the players a feeling of "Thanks.  I hate it," both in appearance/theme and in its application in high-end content for Arachnos.  Basically it would be a room-sized spider-like biomechanical entity, with a nexus of severed human heads like a cluster of eggs dangling from cables which keep the brains alive, attached to a grotesque metallic body with many, many narrow and spindly limbs of various sizes which end in sharp points (like the Tarantulas' legs).  You know . . . the sort of thing which would make Cthulhu say "hey, this is crazy, I just met you, but here's my astral sigil."

But rather than fight directly, this monstrousity would pluck wounded Minions and Lts. from the battlefield, and rapidly convert them in to the various types of Tarantula Bosses (Toxic, Queen, Boss-version of Fire as Inferno Tarantula, maybe a new Cryo Tarantula).

And, as the feather in the cap . . . emphasize in the description of this creature that it is the MICRO-Weaver:  The smallest of the Orb Weavers.  You know . . . just to wet the appetite for what could come along later.

 

 

So, yeah, the standard concerns apply:  It's work, and hard work at that.  It'll take time.  It'll not be universally loved.  It poses potential risks to concepts such as "balance."  But hey . . . nothing ventured, nothing gained.  This sounds like the sort of thing which could breath the kind of life in to content at all level ranges which some players are craving, whether it's for the difficulty or just something new and shiny.

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Not even new creations....on 'advanced enemies' setting the game could turn all trolls into Supa Trolls....an existing game enemy that gets no love and very little playtime (do those troll raids still happen on Skyway?)  Maybe other groups have existing 'alternate enemies' ready for use?

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Along similar lines..just Incarnate up some enemies. Maybe a few per mob or whatever.

It HAS already been doing in DA and the 2nd Sig Arcs (with tsoo and trolls being good examples). These both look awesome (love those tsoo) and are significantly tougher to fight than the 'normal' mob types. It would also make sense Lore wise, with pandora's box.

Incarnate class family (already kinda been done with teh beam rifle ones, much tougher), cot, carnies, councils, MALTA (also make sense, given they hooked up with battle maiden).

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While the new enemy mechanics sound interesting, I'd start with just adding some powers across the board to most enemy factions if the advanced enemy option is toggled:

  • additional offensive powers to reduce the downtime of enemies -> increase in incoming dps 
  • defensive toggles to increase the meaningfulness of control powers to suppress them
  • priority targets with crowd control / debuff abilities

For example, advanced enemies for Council could add stuff like:

  • Warwolves: Savage Melee single target attacks for all, Foot Stomp for bosses
  • Vampyri: Dark Embrace for all, AoE mezzes / Darkest Night type of stuff for bosses
  • Soldiers: Body Armor / basic mez protection (mag 3) for all, Leadership for bosses

And so on. The feel of the faction still stays the same, but most enemies just come with a couple of additional abilities that make them either more resilient or dangerous. Additionally, having the setting on should probably increase rewards from the enemies at least slightly. 

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Torchbearer:

Sunsinger - Fire/Time Corruptor

Cursebreaker - TW/Elec Brute

Coldheart - Ill/Cold Controller

Mythoclast - Rad/SD Scrapper

 

Give a man a build export and you feed him for a day, teach him to build and he's fed for a lifetime.

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So, in private, another concern was expressed to me . . . one which I can't reasonably answer, since it contends with the nebulous prospect of the progression of the community cultural standards.

 

The player didn't like this idea because they feared that, while optional, this more challenging content would become "the norm" for team play, and therefore not /really/ be optional for them personally, as they like to play in teams almost exclusively.  They mentioned that their personal experience presently is already teetering on the edge of unfun since they find that so many other players only want to do +4/x8 missions.  I've not personally had to contend with something that extreme, but I do understand where this player's concerns are coming from.  I'm not a big fan of mucking around with defeating all enemies on an instanced mission after the mission is complete; it feels like a complete waste of time to me.  So, in teams which are determined to pursue that behaviour, I often feel dissatisfied.  

This prompts me to contemplate if we may need to first address this sort of problem with greater quality of life tools to optimize players' chances of landing a team which has similar difficulty and playstyle interests.  Communication is always ideal and great when it happens, but I can say I certainly know a lot of people seem to assume that their way of playing the game is the only way to play the game.

 

It's a dilemma which I feel merits further investigation to see if it can be solved, but it's also a bit tangential to this thread's express purpose.  I just felt it had enough merit to bring up, so that we're not blindsided by those concerns on the chance that the Devs approve this Advanced Enemies idea and begin development of it.

 

 

 

 . . . now then!  Back to our regularly scheduled brainstorming of how to make some new, interesting enemies/powers for existing factions!

 

(Also, DSorrow?  What you propose is what I intended to expressly encourage here.  Not /just/ new enemies, but new powers for existing enemies as well, which could result in new behaviour.)

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I think simply adding in new powers / more powers to existing enemies would be enough of a change. From my own experience in modding games (myself and 2 others created Borderlands 2.5 which revamped tons of enemy encounters) simply making enemies "bigger and badder" is not more difficulty.

 

Changing the behaviors players need to approach content with does. Look at Malta for example. In every group you look out for Sappers specifically which is a player difficulty dynamic not present in most other groups. Adding in special mobs that make players act differently is where the fun comes in.

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Every single suggestion (Other than the "Swap them with Supatrolls!" one) in this thread requires the creation of new NPCs, or an amount of work tantamount to that.

 

NPCs don't have easily swappable powersets like players do. They've got a series of powers baked into a specific AI structure that gives them a priority of use and a priority of tactics before any given power is used. Things like "Before firing off Brawl, get in range to use Brawl". It seems simplistic, but...

 

To add new powers means cracking open that AI and giving it a new priority of which powers to use, when to use them, and how they have to be used. 

 

Thankfully, there exists AI structures regarding Healing which could be co-opted to create a "Target weakened ally and activate power X which kills weakened ally and heals/empowers self". So that kind of thing would be possible? But it would also steal XP from players and if that target were to become confused, could kill player Teammates in order to self-empower. Nifty thought. But the "Get Larger" thing... that doesn't exist as a game-mechanic that can be utilized. They'd just get some buffs unless we created "Larger Models" for them to become, progressively.

 

Things like the "Cyberwulf" have AI present in game to key off of (The Malta Titan Protocols) but no Model appropriate for that use. So that would need to be designed from the ground up, along with the power selection and AI required.

 

All in all, though... This is not "Harder" or "Advanced" NPCs. It's just NPCs with new gimmicks and tricks. They wouldn't make fights any harder, they'd just shift around the target priority a bit, like fighting Nemesis soldiers and killing all the Minions and Bosses before the Lieutenants to avoid Veng-Stacking.

 

In short, I don't think this is a particularly good idea. I would prefer to see this sort of effort moved into creating whole new villaingroups to fight. Perhaps harder "Incarnate" style groups, sure. But just more variety overall rather than a few new gimmicks in the old groups.

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19 hours ago, Razor Cure said:

Along similar lines..just Incarnate up some enemies. Maybe a few per mob or whatever.

It HAS already been doing in DA and the 2nd Sig Arcs (with tsoo and trolls being good examples). These both look awesome (love those tsoo) and are significantly tougher to fight than the 'normal' mob types. It would also make sense Lore wise, with pandora's box.

Incarnate class family (already kinda been done with teh beam rifle ones, much tougher), cot, carnies, councils, MALTA (also make sense, given they hooked up with battle maiden).

I think incarnating existing groups just cheapens incarnacy

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18 hours ago, Steampunkette said:

Every single suggestion (Other than the "Swap them with Supatrolls!" one) in this thread requires the creation of new NPCs, or an amount of work tantamount to that.

 

NPCs don't have easily swappable powersets like players do. They've got a series of powers baked into a specific AI structure that gives them a priority of use and a priority of tactics before any given power is used. Things like "Before firing off Brawl, get in range to use Brawl". It seems simplistic, but...

 

To add new powers means cracking open that AI and giving it a new priority of which powers to use, when to use them, and how they have to be used. 

I'm not quite sure I buy this.  I know the standard code rant always applies, but we as players already have the tools available to us to create new NPCs and whole new villain groups with the Architect system.  It's not especially difficult.  Sure there might be some kinks to work out, but this feels like something where there's at least evidence to back up the idea that it wouldn't be particularly hard to do.  

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One thing I'd like to see done is adding a few new types of enemies to the game utilizing some of the newer powersets.  This has already been done to some extent with the demon-summoning girlfriends from hell and succubi, and the beam rifle wielding Family.  This could be an opportunity to add some additional challenge to the game by selective use of which powers are given to enemies in which groups.  

 

I'm imagining things like trolls wielding Titan Weapons.  Warwolves using Savage Melee attacks.  Rad/Rad paragon protectors.  Carnies with Dark Control or Time Manipulation.

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3 hours ago, molten_dragon said:

I'm not quite sure I buy this.  I know the standard code rant always applies, but we as players already have the tools available to us to create new NPCs and whole new villain groups with the Architect system.  It's not especially difficult.  Sure there might be some kinks to work out, but this feels like something where there's at least evidence to back up the idea that it wouldn't be particularly hard to do.  

Adding new powers to old style mobs involves altering their AI.

 

Using AE Player-Created Mobs in the open world doesn't. Those mobs are based on a Templated AI tied to the powers that are granted to them. Like the powers you select in the AE? It's tied to them. To the magnitudes and recharge times in a priority chain.

 

That said: It won't really increase the difficulty of the game at all. It will just add some new mobs to old villain groups like Arachnos's Praetorian Clockwork.

 

 

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5 hours ago, Steampunkette said:

Adding new powers to old style mobs involves altering their AI.

 

Using AE Player-Created Mobs in the open world doesn't. Those mobs are based on a Templated AI tied to the powers that are granted to them. Like the powers you select in the AE? It's tied to them. To the magnitudes and recharge times in a priority chain.

 

That said: It won't really increase the difficulty of the game at all. It will just add some new mobs to old villain groups like Arachnos's Praetorian Clockwork.

Whats to stop making some AE enemies using the existing enemy models then?

 

Also, I don't see how this wouldn't make the game more difficult if enemies had different strategies. I get its nothing like "You have to defeat this guy in this order because they are casting a shield on the other guys", but at the least anything that makes players think for a second more is instantly more difficult.

 

I wonder if adding more diverse powers could help though. Writing this, for some reason I thought of an enemy with the Super Speed power that would hit you then run around the map... or essentially making "Rogue Supers" that are like player-builds but controlled by the AI. Imagine an AI Stalker, or Tanker that taunts you, etc.

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2 hours ago, Galaxy Brain said:

Whats to stop making some AE enemies using the existing enemy models then?

 

Also, I don't see how this wouldn't make the game more difficult if enemies had different strategies. I get its nothing like "You have to defeat this guy in this order because they are casting a shield on the other guys", but at the least anything that makes players think for a second more is instantly more difficult.

 

I wonder if adding more diverse powers could help though. Writing this, for some reason I thought of an enemy with the Super Speed power that would hit you then run around the map... or essentially making "Rogue Supers" that are like player-builds but controlled by the AI. Imagine an AI Stalker, or Tanker that taunts you, etc.

1) The old NPC models don't exist as a floating-point object that you can attach to a different AI or powerset. That stuff is all baked into one singular entity. If we had Cryptic's Proprietary Model Editor we could maybe make a copy of the model to use elsewhere, but we don't.

 

2) If enemies had different strategies you would make the game harder for approximately the duration of a single mission. After that, players would know the strategies and it wouldn't change anything beyond that. It's not instantly more difficult. It's just pattern recognition. Like a Mega Man boss. You know he jumps over you in these circumstances and fires a weapon in those circumstances, so you recognize his pattern and kill him with whatever weapon.

 

3) Enemies with Superspeed would be absolutely horrendous. Because they would immediately close to melee at super-speeds. Then, if they had their terror-morale-button triggered, they would run away at super-speeds. There would be no "Running around at Superspeed, jousting the players" or anything. It would just run up to you, or run away from you.

 

Making stuff more difficult would largely require increasing NPC Accuracy and Resistances in "IO Content". Because without IOs the game is actually pretty decently balanced.

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8 hours ago, Steampunkette said:

Adding new powers to old style mobs involves altering their AI.

 

Using AE Player-Created Mobs in the open world doesn't. Those mobs are based on a Templated AI tied to the powers that are granted to them. Like the powers you select in the AE? It's tied to them. To the magnitudes and recharge times in a priority chain.

 

That said: It won't really increase the difficulty of the game at all. It will just add some new mobs to old villain groups like Arachnos's Praetorian Clockwork.

 

 

I'm not an AI expert, so I can't really comment on that part.  

 

But I disagree that giving enemies new powers or creating new enemies with new powers won't make the game more difficult.  Some enemy groups already have a reputation for difficulty because of the powers they have.  Carnies are a great example.  The new Family with beam weapons are more difficult than normal family as well.  

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2 hours ago, molten_dragon said:

I'm not an AI expert, so I can't really comment on that part.  

 

But I disagree that giving enemies new powers or creating new enemies with new powers won't make the game more difficult.  Some enemy groups already have a reputation for difficulty because of the powers they have.  Carnies are a great example.  The new Family with beam weapons are more difficult than normal family as well.  

Carnies are "scary" because psi damage holes are a thing, phasing is annoying, and the end drain on death can detoggle melee.

 

Sappers are scary, too, but no one wants to play City of End Drain.

 

Praetorians are harder because they have lots of Acc and ToHit buffs so softcap is less useful against them, until you hit 56% at least. 

 

Adding a few gimmick mobs will "Increase difficulty " for a short time 'til the tactic for killing them is figured out. Then people will just do that tactic. Kill Sappers, Madness Mages first, Stop killing the Nemmy Lt.s!!!

 

It's a speedbump. Not a hill.

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Welp, for some of us the game will never be hard unless we add actual player reaction and thinking hurdles beyond queuing up a sequence of powers and praying they dont hit a 5% miss chance.

 

Having different strategies required will be figured out, but if they are scattered and different with different interactions then that adds to the difficulty, like in Diablo where enemies have crazy random combos of buffs.

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11 minutes ago, Galaxy Brain said:

Welp, for some of us the game will never be hard unless we add actual player reaction and thinking hurdles beyond queuing up a sequence of powers and praying they dont hit a 5% miss chance.

 

Having different strategies required will be figured out, but if they are scattered and different with different interactions then that adds to the difficulty, like in Diablo where enemies have crazy random combos of buffs.

Only it's not random. It's a new specific enemy type that you learn and then conquer and never have to think about them, again.

 

How about, instead, we add in a Difficulty Mode where the game's Spawning Logic adds 1 entity to every enemy spawn that is a Pseudopet. That Pseudopet is drawn at random from a selection of possible Pseudopets. Each one has a single buffing power it immediately casts on the nearest in line of sight 30 NPCs the second it spawns. These powers last for 999 minutes and provide everything from +damage to -Res procs. The Pseudopet takes 1 tick of 200 damage 30 seconds after using the power, and has only 1hp.

 

There. Now the entire mission map is entirely filled with a rainbow assortment of randomly buffed NPCs. You can't predict which ones you'll get, you can only react to what comes out to kick your butt. Oh, and if there's multiple spawns together, they'll probably have multiple buffs on them in a rainbow menagerie of increased difficulty. Some with bigger HP. Others with Absorb Shields, Damage Procs, Hybrid Assault, the whole nine yards.

 

No Speedbump, here. It's a freaking Rollercoaster.

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2 hours ago, Galaxy Brain said:

I think we had the same idea just different ways to communicate it. I wasn't under the impression there'd be +1 war wolf, but rather a bunch of changed entities that when they spawn as a group the random cluster would need different tactics based on composition.

Unless every member of the spawn was from a randomized list of "Special Units" it wouldn't change much of anything 'cause the bulk would still be Cor Leonis Minions and LTs with some Galaxies and stuff.

 

And at that point, you're better off just creating a new villain group 'cause it's not the Council, any more.

 

Random Buffs applied on a per-group basis, though? That's still the Council, but they're stronger in different ways.

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24 minutes ago, Galaxy Brain said:

Porque no Los dos?

'Cause I'd rather have new enemy groups than the Council get another 6 NPCs added to it at 50. Also Arachnos. And Malta. And the Carnies. Etc. Etc. Etc.

 

All that effort could be put towards adding an evil Circus that has Lion Tamers and stuff. Or creating a group of superheroes including a 'Multiple Man' for Villains to beat up Redside.

 

I'd rather get new stuff from the ground up than revamp old stuff with a couple of new units.

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Porque no Los ....tres? 😛

 

 

I think new enemies would be awesome, but there are huge swaths of the game that could use a fresh coat of paint too! Updating existing enemies and adding new ranks is fun. Despite the hate they garner, weren't freakshow more fun when super sappers got mixed in and you had new targets to think about?

 

That on top of brand new enemies and a "Super-hero/villain" difficulty with wild buffs would be sick.

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34 minutes ago, Galaxy Brain said:

Porque no Los ....tres? 😛

 

 

I think new enemies would be awesome, but there are huge swaths of the game that could use a fresh coat of paint too! Updating existing enemies and adding new ranks is fun. Despite the hate they garner, weren't freakshow more fun when super sappers got mixed in and you had new targets to think about?

 

That on top of brand new enemies and a "Super-hero/villain" difficulty with wild buffs would be sick.

Time. There's only so much manpower that can be devoted to the game, currently. And each of these things takes time to implement.

 

One creates completely random difficulty increases, which is good because it's unpredictable and bad because it's unpredictable! The perfect storm of miserable buffs could land to make a given mission essentially impossible to complete.

 

One creates some new enemies for an extant villain group which will be a momentary speed bump that ultimately doesn't change much of anything except make an old group slightly more shiny.

 

One creates a new villaingroup which necessitates new stories and reasons for them to exist, new meta-games of which sets are more or less useful against them, etc etc etc. 

 

All three of these things require time. One is moderately time intensive (Pseudopets don't need models or balancing of their attacks/defenses/etc, just a quick pass over their buff and a modification of the spawning logic to add one to every spawn, or every other spawn, or whatever, based on a difficulty toggle). One is moderately time intensive (Creating new NPCs in a given group takes time and effort, especially on balance passes)

 

And one requires BOATLOADS of time 'cause they've gotta create storylines alongside the NPCs, Balance them, the whole nine yards.

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