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Dev Diary - Dr. Aeon’s Strike Force: Mission Science, Concept to Content!


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5 hours ago, Lazarillo said:

Is "intuitive" the word you were going for there?

"Not hard to figure out"? "Easy to guess what you're doing"...? 'cause that's not a word I'd use to describe the ASF.

 

Of, relating to, or arising from intuition: synonym: instinctive

Different fields use the word "intuition" in very different ways, including but not limited to: direct access to unconscious knowledge; unconscious cognition; inner sensing; inner insight to unconscious pattern-recognition; and the ability to understand something instinctively, without any need for conscious reasoning.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intuition

 

 

This forces you to play cognizant of your surroundings, not just button mashing.   You need to be aware of the Brickernaut areas of explosions, the patches of debuffs under your feet, the rifter gravity pull, lots of things you can avoid by recognizing it and moving away.  Seems like as you're recognizing these things you're applying learned intuition to me, but sure what would you call it?

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12 hours ago, Mezmera said:

Seems like as you're recognizing these things you're applying learned intuition to me, but sure what would you call it?

Dense?  Unclear?  At any given time, it's extremely difficult to figure out what's going on or why, not just in gameplay but also in story, and particularly on the gameplay side, there's very little idea of what is being done to you or how you avoid things.  For one example, the one run I did (not likely to do it again until it becomes soloable and I can learn the story) I was constantly getting spammed about "DIMENSIONAL INVERSION" or some such on the screen. There's no real instinctive response to whatever the hell that means.  It's not the only such mechanic, either.

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1 hour ago, Lazarillo said:

Dense?  Unclear?  At any given time, it's extremely difficult to figure out what's going on or why, not just in gameplay but also in story, and particularly on the gameplay side, there's very little idea of what is being done to you or how you avoid things.  For one example, the one run I did (not likely to do it again until it becomes soloable and I can learn the story) I was constantly getting spammed about "DIMENSIONAL INVERSION" or some such on the screen. There's no real instinctive response to whatever the hell that means.  It's not the only such mechanic, either.

 

Well maybe you should play it more to build up that intuition of yours.  

 

The guys that appear on screen with the pinkish pillar that flashes the "dimensional inversion or some such" with the pink lettering means there's a rifter guy present which he will be activating a pbaoe gravity pull mechanic.  Either kill him quick or get away from the rifter guy.  

 

I understand its not your typical ITF smash, smash, smash, but if you played it a wee bit more and went outside your comfort zone maybe it'll improve your overall play in game.

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2 minutes ago, Mezmera said:

Well maybe you should play it more

Then that's not intuitive.  "Intuitive" means you can figure things out just by seeing it right away.

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Just now, Lazarillo said:

Then that's not intuitive.  "Intuitive" means you can figure things out just by seeing it right away.

 

We all have to learn some time.  You don't go in recognizing a pattern without experiencing it first no matter how you want to define intuition.  The gold and pink pillar guys should clue you into the fact there's some unique thing going to happen so pay attention.  

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On 1/14/2022 at 4:50 PM, Lazarillo said:

Then that's not intuitive.  "Intuitive" means you can figure things out just by seeing it right away.

I have to be the first to admit I didn't know what the SF leader meant when he yelled 'run from yellow beam', but after that death. I never died again. Some things are hard to explain and easier to experience. Since dying doesn't ruining getting the MoASF badge, I am perfectly fine with the way it is.

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On 1/12/2022 at 7:40 AM, Cobalt Arachne said:

For those who have enjoyed the ASF in its higher-difficulty incarnations and want to see options like it on other content, stay tuned!

 

Gonna be honest, this is really discouraging to hear.  I have given this SF several attempts, only one of which I think has been successful?  It seems to demand something which is apparently very fragile and highly susceptible to breaking.  To say nothing of the badges -- it's fine if you want to give players options if they want more of a challenge, but the second you start attaching badges to things you have crossed the threshold where you need to start considering accessibility again.  (They probably wouldn't be as bad if they didn't require Malicious difficulty, but...)  The set of players who collect badges and the set of players who want more challenges might intersect, but not by so much that you can just toss accessibility out the window.  What's next, badges for soloing missions on +4x8?  No thanks.  Master badges are bad enough (and now in I27P3, worse).

 

I'm sorry, but this SF is just a miserable slog to me.  It's got a lot of really cool set pieces, unfortunately it's really hard to engage with most of them in the team setting, which is unfortunate because it feels like wasted dev effort on things that most players will never see.  It's got some interesting mechanics, unfortunately they just don't do a lot to explain themselves.  A prime example is the AU Rifters.  You learn pretty quickly that the Brickernaut beam = very bad.  Okay, so the AU Rifter has a similar beam, which does...????  I still don't know.  It even has additional text that pops up on screen (which explains nothing), but I have never been able to tell what actually happens when they go off, compared with the Brickernauts where it is very painfully obvious.  Even worse, no one else seems to know either -- nobody has ever answered this question on any team where I've asked it.  The SF is not really that long, but my god it sure feels long because there's just so much stuff happening.

 

When I run this SF, it's one of two scenarios -- either the rest of the team are all experts and are speedrunning through it with me trying in vain to follow along, or nobody knows what they're doing and it's a complete trainwreck.  I've been trying to find a comprehensive guide on it (or hell, any guide) and so far I'm not coming up with anything, which doesn't bode well -- because it needs it, very very badly.  It demands understanding to do well, but apparently nobody cares to explain it.  As a badger, it's really frustrating to think that the Master badges might very well just be badges that are permanently out of reach for me, unless I happen to luck myself into a group that deigns to drag my worthless ass along for the ride.

 

I understand you can't make everybody happy all of the time, but just please try to not lock people out of the game.  It sucks.

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@darkgob, I always read through all feedback (even if I can't respond to everyone individually), while considering the context, but I feel like what I'm reading is based a few misconceptions...
 

 

On 1/16/2022 at 8:09 PM, darkgob said:

To say nothing of the badges -- it's fine if you want to give players options if they want more of a challenge, but the second you start attaching badges to things you have crossed the threshold where you need to start considering accessibility again.  (They probably wouldn't be as bad if they didn't require Malicious difficulty, but...)  The set of players who collect badges and the set of players who want more challenges might intersect, but not by so much that you can just toss accessibility out the window.  What's next, badges for soloing missions on +4x8?

Badges in this game are always optional, existing primarily as little stickers of merit for doing specific things (with the exception of accolade powers that increase your character's strength, which are all set to be very reasonably accessible by everyone).

If a player wants to get every single badge in the game, they should expect to have to do everything the game has to offer. This may include things they do not normally enjoy doing like PvP, challenge modes, or content that requires team coordination.

100% badge completion is a challenge involving an extremely diverse and time consuming list of things that have to be done to reach it, it is not something anybody should see as the 'baseline floor of accessibility'.

That being said, we do always keep these things in mind. For instance, we very intentionally did not attach **any** badges to the highest difficulty modes in the Dr. Aeon Strike Force. Malicious adds the minimum mechanics needed to get the badges in the first place (one of the Master of badges does not even require Malicious and can be earned on all difficulties), but does not add any of the grueling difficulty bumps seen in the higher difficulties beyond it.

We very intentionally held back the ASF's badges from being as hard as they could've been, that they require the team to be coordinated and approach the challenges with awareness is not really any sort of exclusion, unless you mean to suggest that all badges requiring a team to work together are inherently exclusive?
 

 

On 1/16/2022 at 8:09 PM, darkgob said:

It's got a lot of really cool set pieces, unfortunately it's really hard to engage with most of them in the team setting, which is unfortunate because it feels like wasted dev effort on things that most players will never see.

Our group content data shows this is absolutely not the case. The Dr. Aeon Strike Force has been fairly popular since it launched and I'm told the GM ticket count on issues regarding it has been low relative to other content. Players who want to see it have been.

Most players should be able to play the ASF and complete it without any problems. I've joined a lot of ASFs anonymously on my player account since it launched and merely hung along for the ride without adding any input to the team and have finished every one I joined. Granted, it is anecdotal and none of these were on anything above Malicious, but there should not be any hard stop obstacles as long as a team doesn't overshoot their capabilities on the advanced difficulty modes.

That being said, I'm not sure where your statement is coming from, but feel free to elaborate on what teams seem to be finding impossible to complete. The only places I could see this happening is if players ignore the summons that Ripplesurge creates to heal himself or if they don't drag King Midas into a cauldron to make him vulnerable to damage. Both were made to be as intuitive as possible and neither are mechanics that kill/punish players.

As mentioned, severely under prepared teams having problems on Relentless difficulty is not unexpected, as the difficulty was tuned/balanced around tier 4 Incarnates using full set IOs. However, that difficulty mode is entirely optional and again, has no badges tied to it, it's there for players who enjoy that kind of gameplay experience.

 

There will be a bit of a learning curve regarding the advanced difficulty modes and team leaders abilities to gauge the capabilities of their group to decide what mode they should choose to play the content on.


 

On 1/16/2022 at 8:09 PM, darkgob said:

It's got some interesting mechanics, unfortunately they just don't do a lot to explain themselves.  A prime example is the AU Rifters.  You learn pretty quickly that the Brickernaut beam = very bad.  Okay, so the AU Rifter has a similar beam, which does...????

Majority of the existing content that featured advanced mechanics did not explain themselves transparently, and current player familiarity with them is only due to their existing for so long and people having learned/documented them over time.

Apex/Tin Mage/Incarnate Trial mechanics were much the same way as the ASF on launch. What they did and how they were dealt with was not immediately apparent when the very first group entered them for the first time ever.

That being said, for those who wanted to know, the AU-Rifters Dimensional Distortion produces a purple effect near them in addition to the beam, anyone close enough when their power fires is pulled closer to them and then hit with a mag 50 Immobilize.

Similar to the War Walker's Orbital Lance, they fire this independent of player interaction so a warning pop-up was warranted vs. the Brickernauts who blow up only when players drop their health to 25% and are thus triggered by player interaction.
 

 

On 1/16/2022 at 8:09 PM, darkgob said:

I understand you can't make everybody happy all of the time, but just please try to not lock people out of the game.  It sucks.

To the contrary, all the decision making with the ASF was done to be as inclusive as possible, not exclusive. That these new options exist in content that some players would rather opt out of does not exclude anybody unless it's a self-made decision to be entirely excluded. 

I've seen ASFs recruiting in LFG for all styles of play... Some running badges, some running on higher difficulties, some running sub-50 for experience gain. There are more ways to play and enjoy the ASF than any other existing content in terms of variety of options and modes.

Inclusive works in both directions, some players like the game easy, some like it hard. If there are no hard options, then those players are excluded just as much as the reverse scenario.
The badge requirements were set at the lowest they could be, where the mechanics to earn them are present but the higher difficulty challenges are not.

If any of the badges were locked to Relentless, I feel like this statement would have more weight, but this is not the case (by design).

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4 hours ago, Cobalt Arachne said:

*a bunch of awesome, well-elaborated and kick-ass stuff*

 

Cobalt, you know I'm a huge fan (because I was the first ever to know about the Double Secret Fight and shut up yes I was yes I was shut up yes I was SHUT UP), I did just have to bring one thing up; when you asked if ol' Gobby meant: "unless you mean to suggest that all badges requiring a team to work together are inherently exclusive?"

I believe that yes, they did in fact mean that. There are some folks in our very diverse (play-style wise) community who believe that other human beings are akin to having an enflamed genital infection, and avoid them as such at all costs. That *any* sort of accomplishment that would require even the smallest input or interaction with a living, breathing, emotion-having homo sapien would end existence as they know it. With that in mind, those types of folks would absolutely despise and consider exclusive anything (whether it's a zone, a costume piece or a badge) that required human input other than their own.

Which, I mean, is a shame, because algorithms don't work (entirely for free, remember) painstakingly long to create obviously passionate and involved content for us, people do. 

Gimme MOAR!

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1 hour ago, Aurora_Girl said:

There are some folks in our very diverse (play-style wise) community who [do not like playing with other people]

There's absolutely nothing wrong with those who prefer to play MMO's alone, in-fact, I was one such player myself in the past. 😄
There was a really great GDC panel about the 'lone wolf' type of online player in the MMO space that I often think back on, so I do always keep stuff like that in my mind.

That being said, this is an MMO, and there is going to be some content that was designed for teams. If somebody wants to collect 100% of the badges, it will require going outside their comfort zone sometimes and looking for some help to get these badges.

There's a really great group on Everlasting who run open-invite nightly Incarnate Trial badge runs and Master Of's from their [Everlasting TFs] global chat/Discord/LFG channel that I was able to join with minimal interaction and got most of the game's group-oriented badges with them. Given server transfers are free, there is always the option to move to where players are who can help. (I'm sure other communities of this type exist on other servers as well, but I'm only familiar with the server I play on myself.)

Mostly, it's about finding the helpful folk in the community. They are certainly out there, and more than happy to lend a hand if you are friendly and ask. 🙂

 

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@Cobalt Arachne

 

A few questions for you!:

 

  1. How long in hours would you say it took to complete this SF from the point of March when you joined the team?
  2. Would you say that creating this was significantly more or less difficult than you expected? Or just about what it seemed like?
  3. Related to questions (1) and (2): Now that you've got the skills and know the tools,  would you say that creating additional new TF/SF is an endeavor that you could routinely do, or was the time/effort significant enough to prevent that? I could easily see those custom maps as being really hard and time consuming.  
  4. Was there anything crazy you wanted to do, but couldn't because the game limitations/time investments just made it unfeasible?

(I apologize in advance if I somehow have missed where some of these questions were already answered!)

 

Some comments on the SF itself:

  1. It was pretty cool to see Professor Echo and Becky used!
  2. All the maps were fantastic. My favorites were the extradimensional maps and the Devouring Earth dimension.
  3. The story felt right in line what could have been released on live. It didn't feel out of place.
  4. Loved the exploding Brickernauts. (Actually makes things like Gravity's Dimension Shift useful!)
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11 hours ago, MidnighterClubPatron said:

1. How long in hours would you say it took to complete this SF from the point of March when you joined the team?

Oh geez, haha, probably 1000+ hours or more easily? I didn't keep track. 😅 I spent most of my free time last year working on it (as I was able to without compromising on any real life responsibilities). As a result, it's kind of surreal that we're already in 2022, time seems to have evaporated so quickly...
 

 

11 hours ago, MidnighterClubPatron said:

2. Would you say that creating this was significantly more or less difficult than you expected? Or just about what it seemed like?

When I started out I kept things simple and realistic, as I didn't want to expand the workload of anyone else on the dev team due to my own inexperience.

As things progressed however, and I learned what was possible with the system, there were moments of "Ooh, I could totally add this" or "We gotta do that". This became a bit of a double-edged sword, since it did introduce a fair bit of feature creep, but fortunately we stuck the landing and everything came out and at a high quality standard.

I'll expand more on these under Question #4.

 

11 hours ago, MidnighterClubPatron said:

3. Related to questions (1) and (2): Now that you've got the skills and know the tools,  would you say that creating additional new TF/SF is an endeavor that you could routinely do, or was the time/effort significant enough to prevent that? I could easily see those custom maps as being really hard and time consuming.  

In terms of being able to script the missions and assembling the working parts, I could do that far quicker now than I did originally. If we were to tackle another piece of ambitious group content I think with the lessons learned from the ASF, we could do so in less time, but as you guessed the map creation is something that would be difficult to speed up without sacrificing quality.

Map creation was the one area that I was actually somewhat familiar with before joining the developer team. The City of Heroes map editor conventions and functionality are not too dissimilar from other map editor standards of the same time period, so I was able to adjust quickly to the quirks/nuances.

As mentioned, high-quality map creation takes a lot of time, even with experience, and it easily took up a hearty chunk of the ASF's development cycle. 😄 I'm happy when I see people mention that the maps are one of the highlights of the content for them, they were a labor of love!

 

 

11 hours ago, MidnighterClubPatron said:

4. Was there anything crazy you wanted to do, but couldn't because the game limitations/time investments just made it unfeasible?

Surprisingly, no there actually weren't!

The most ambitious things on the original outline were the final mission's map and use of geometry phasing (seeing a player's first reaction to that map has been one of my favorite things) and the smelting cauldron mechanics for the fight with King Midas. Those big ticket items were included fully as originally envisioned and we ended up expanding numerous elements far beyond the original scope more than a few times. 😲

All these were features that were added during development:
-Becky's appearances on the first and last missions
-The entirety of the Smelting Cauldron Arena encounter, map, and mission
-The Crey map and mission
-The Golden Brickernauts and their self-destruct
-Everything included by Golden Roller's ripple dimensions
-The Ripplesurge encounter
-The upside-down sections of the King Midas' fight
-The D-Sync Enhancements

-The Advanced Difficulty Options

While that list looks great and things did turn out well, we learned as a team that feature creep made it difficult to coordinate tasks and delegate work equally. This is something we'll be sure and keep in mind for the next project we undertake.

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8 hours ago, Cobalt Arachne said:

Oh geez, haha, probably 1000+ hours or more easily? I didn't keep track. 😅 I spent most of my free time last year working on it (as I was able to without compromising on any real life responsibilities). As a result, it's kind of surreal that we're already in 2022, time seems to have evaporated so quickly...
 

 

When I started out I kept things simple and realistic, as I didn't want to expand the workload of anyone else on the dev team due to my own inexperience.

As things progressed however, and I learned what was possible with the system, there were moments of "Ooh, I could totally add this" or "We gotta do that". This became a bit of a double-edged sword, since it did introduce a fair bit of feature creep, but fortunately we stuck the landing and everything came out and at a high quality standard.

I'll expand more on these under Question #4.

 

In terms of being able to script the missions and assembling the working parts, I could do that far quicker now than I did originally. If we were to tackle another piece of ambitious group content I think with the lessons learned from the ASF, we could do so in less time, but as you guessed the map creation is something that would be difficult to speed up without sacrificing quality.

Map creation was the one area that I was actually somewhat familiar with before joining the developer team. The City of Heroes map editor conventions and functionality are not too dissimilar from other map editor standards of the same time period, so I was able to adjust quickly to the quirks/nuances.

As mentioned, high-quality map creation takes a lot of time, even with experience, and it easily took up a hearty chunk of the ASF's development cycle. 😄 I'm happy when I see people mention that the maps are one of the highlights of the content for them, they were a labor of love!

 

 

Surprisingly, no there actually weren't!

The most ambitious things on the original outline were the final mission's map and use of geometry phasing (seeing a player's first reaction to that map has been one of my favorite things) and the smelting cauldron mechanics for the fight with King Midas. Those big ticket items were included fully as originally envisioned and we ended up expanding numerous elements far beyond the original scope more than a few times. 😲

All these were features that were added during development:
-Becky's appearances on the first and last missions
-The entirety of the Smelting Cauldron Arena encounter, map, and mission
-The Crey map and mission
-The Golden Brickernauts and their self-destruct
-Everything included by Golden Roller's ripple dimensions
-The Ripplesurge encounter
-The upside-down sections of the King Midas' fight
-The D-Sync Enhancements

-The Advanced Difficulty Options

While that list looks great and things did turn out well, we learned as a team that feature creep made it difficult to coordinate tasks and delegate work equally. This is something we'll be sure and keep in mind for the next project we undertake.

This is really cool of you. I was also wondering a few things.

 

1) Has the Dev team considered making most of the new TF/SF etc in a co-op zone so there isn't any preference for any of the sides AND it would make for less work for the Devs (Ouros, K. Wharf, Cim., Pocket D etc)?

 

2) It seems like the Death From Below type TFs are quite popular. Any thought on adding more along those lines?

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