GWI: I know a lot of people feel that the Elementalist’s “Tornado” skill might be a little overpowered and may need to be tuned down a bit. Has there been any kind of adjustments made from feedback that you’ve got at conventions?
Matt: Oh yeah. We get a lot of feedback and we really make sure to listen to it. We’ve got to take it with a grain of salt, obviously, since it’s hard to distinguish between people that might be angry because they lost or people that really think that it’s overpowered.
Mike: You also have to think that is the Elementalist’s elite skill. So it is supposed to be a little bit stronger than everything else. So it’s just trying to find that balance point and that’s something we’re always working on.
Jonathan: It’s also one of those things you don’t want to say ‘learn to play’, but like let’s say that like in Starcraft 2, Street Fighter 2, League of Legends, or even Counter Strike; I can think people can find OP stuff in all of these games. As you become a much better player you learn how to negate them and control them; I think that the Tornado is another example of that. If you see this awesome tornado across the screen and you’re a Ranger, you switch over to a longbow he’s not so scary anymore.
Matt: I find that I die during Tornado more often than anything else
Jonathan: He has no ranged defense whatsoever. Players learn how to deal with it, they learn to switch over to a weapon set for ranged and you just spike them down.
Mike: That’s exactly how it worked out in our internal play tests too. I like used to play Ele quite a bit, and you know when that Kylo tower went in, I was like, ‘All right! Tornado! Yeah! Let’s go!’
After about the first match Izzy and Chap were like “Okay, we know how to deal with this. He’s dead.”
Matt: Switch to range and burn him down.
GWI: Can you basically cast on the tower and then take off and go and does it still continue there?
Mike: No, you are the tornado. That is an actual Elementalist fighting you.
GWI: Oh yeah, never realized during all the chaos that “oh, actually he disappeared.”
Jonathan: That’s just one of the things that as a player you learn over time. Right? It’s chaos at first and you start to understand it. The game “slows down’” for you the better you get. You can decipher a lot more stuff the more experienced you are. Our players will learn that I’m sure.
Mike: The one thing that we’ve noticed over and over with each new PvP map is, the first couple of matches is where you’re just starting to get the feel for it, the sense of things. After you’ve played probably five or ten times, then you actually really start to understand how to play it. You begin to understand the map’s features, you understand how to deal with things thrown your way.
Jonathan: To speak to that, for other games and MMOs I’ve played, the RTS games, the FPS games, it takes a long time to learn all the nuances. We’re really excited to see brand new players, at PAX and Cologne, jumping in because the game is so visual. We try to make things very simple. It’s not “I have to learn two thousand different debuffs that can be on me”, we have a very small set of things that can be on you. Once you start to learn all those things visually, you learn the conditions, you learn the boons, you very quickly get a sense of what the classes can do.
We’d see new players go, “Oh! That guy’s got burning on me, let me just jump out of the way and use my condition removal”. They were doing that after a day; we were amazed by it. They would play in line, then they would come back in line again after one or two hours and they come again. By the third or fourth time on the course of the day, these players were already picking things up. We were stunned, “How are they doing this? This is amazing”.
Mike: Well, they were watching the games on the big screen.
Matt: Yeah, they’d be in line watching the matches.
Jonathan: It just amazes us how fast players were able to pick it up, we were really impressed.
Matt: Three or four times is kind of an understatement. We had two people that played close to 40 times, I’d have to say. They were there every day.
Jonathan: Yeah, we had some people in Cologne who literally just kept coming back.
Matt: One guy took pictures of the skills on his phone, and then while he was in line he was looking at the skills, figuring out what his build was going to be in the next game. It was absolutely insane.
Jonathan: Players in Cologne, they would continuously play and then jump back in line. By the end of day three, they was a subset of maybe twenty or thirty people that we just kept seeing over and over. They were really good already, it was really awesome.
Matt: I felt bad for the team that had to fight them.
Jonathan: We had to start splitting them up. We recognized them as “the usuals.”
Matt: We put them on the TV displays we had facing the lines so that people in line, so they could at least see what they’re about to get themselves into. We had the two most experienced players on those, so the crowd would start to get into it, like “YEAH!” whenever the tornado comes out, people start cheering! It was awesome.
GWI: I was never really big into PvP in other MMOs, but I liked the strategy behind RTSs and things like Team Fortress.
Jonathan: So do we.
GWI: One thing I noticed after I jumped into a PvP match at PAX was that combat seemed natural, and not too difficult to grasp. Like you said, it wasn’t too chaotic.
Matt: It’s fast.
GWI: But again, by like the second time I jumped in, I started realizing “Okay, this is when I dodge the trebuchet shot coming”, and “these are like choke points,” “I can really annoy people by fighting from here.” So it’s cool that it does have the quick pick up to it, but it’s not like all about “okay, which exacts skills do I take?”. There’s a lot of other variables.
Mike: The game is very very fluid between the weapon swapping, the utility skills, and the environmental effects in combat. You have to, and easily can be, constantly be aware of whats going on around you. That’s a big part of what our PvP is about.
Jonathan: We wanted to have the visceral and visual awareness of a shooter, like that you mentioned a few. We wanted you to be able to look at the screen and tell what’s going on; not play a spreadsheet that you have on a different monitor so you can reference skills and what they do. We want you to see that “I have burning on me. I need to deal with burning.” Or “I have poison,” etc, etc. So we wanted to have that part of the first person shooter.
As these guys talked about, we also wanted to have the building of an MMO, of an RPG, which we achieve by the traits, the skills, the utilities, and what weapon sets that you bring. The elite that Mike talked about earlier, that’s a very set build for the Elementalist to play when he has that Tornado.
So we wanted you to have the building of the RPG, but we also wanted you to have the tactical and strategic aspects of the RTS; moving around the field controlling different places in the field, controlling choke points, even playing all three of the cap points as well as the secondary objective of the map. We try to incorporate what we felt were the best aspects of those three genres and the coalesce them together into what we thought would be fun for people to watch.
GWI: In maps like Kylo, the environment plays a big part of it. Anything else from a WvW standpoint where you can just knock something down, take out a bridge even?
Mike: All the keeps and towers, we talked about, have walls that can get treb’ed down or you can break those down. You’re bashing through doors all the time. We’ll try to add more of that stuff but we definitely want to have the environment play a big part.
Matt: We’ve seen it a lot too. In closed beta there’s been countless times where keeps are getting attacked and you roll up on this keep that you anticipate that’s going to be this awesome epic defense, but your just a little too late. Now you have your keep’s gate down, you pushed them back, but then they get on the Trebuchets. Now there’s holes in every wall and they are just pouring in in.
It gets to the point where you slowly go “Ok, what are we really defending here?” At this point its completely destroyed. So, things can break down fast and change the course of action.
Thanks again for checking out our PvP Roundtable event with ArenaNet’s Systems Designers Matt Witter, Mike Ferguson, and Jonathan “Chapman” Sharp. Be sure to check in Friday for a set of all new screenshots!