Wizard101
Developer Diaries

 

Meta Mayhem Dev Diary

 
 
 
 

Ben "Ratbeard" Durbin
Lead Designer

Meta Mayhem


Test Realm is for Testing

Let’s get that out of the way right up front! Try not to look at Test Realm as a preview of what’s coming, but as a place for us (KingsIsle and you the players) to test the functionality of new systems, to gather feedback, and adjust accordingly before we go Live.

Specific to my (Ratbeard) philosophy on Test Realm, what you see on Day 1 may vary between “best guess” or even “worst case” numbers with an expectation that we’ll dial things in over the course of Test Realm to get the best possible Live release.

(And yes, Test Realm is also about bugs, bugs, bugs! Please report any bugs you find!)

Before diving into meta mayhem, check out the Spring Update Notes.

Damage/Resist Stat Limits


The biggest change in this update from a combat perspective will be the new Damage and Resist stat limits. Rather than continuing on a 1% bonus per 1 stat point linear progression, both Damage and Resist will now follow a stat curve – a limit function – that gives diminishing returns for higher stat values.

First, in keeping with our current design philosophy, we have created this new system such that we can customize the results differently for PvE and PvP. We recognize that these two important communities have different needs, and as designers we also have different needs and expectations of each.

The stat limits work by allowing players to continue to earn 1% per 1 stat point (a linear progression) up to a certain point (which we call the “intersection”) and then transitioning to a curve that approaches a limit.

Affected Stat PvE PvP
Damaqe Intersection 150 100
Damage Limit 200 200
Resist Intersection 100 50
Resist Limit 125 70

Example (PvE Settings)

A player with a Damage stat 150 or below will see no change to their Damage bonus; players with a Damage stat over 150 will see diminishing returns in the amount of bonus Damage he or she receives, with a practical limit of +200%.

A player with a Resist stat of 100 or below will see no change to his Resist values; players with a Resist stat over 100 will see diminishing returns in the amount of Resist he or she receives with a practical limit of 125%.

The Pierce stat is unchanged at this time. It is important to note that Pierce is applied to the Resist stat before the Resist stat is applied via the new limit formulas. Players may find some value in chasing Resist well above the intersection in order to serve as “Pierce insurance.”

We would like to extend a special thank you to Charlie from Final Bastion who provided both guidance and feedback for the limit function formulas. If you would like to know more about how the limit functions work, or other mathematical analyses of systems, you can find Charlie’s writing at https://finalbastion.com.

Spell Audit


Our spell audit continues. The goal with the spell audit is to ensure that all (past) spells adhere to the same design standards, that those standards are documented, and that all future spells can adhere to the same standards. Note that the spell audit is not meant to address how useful a particular spell is. We certainly intend to revisit all spells, with player feedback, to address the overall desirability of each spell– but this is work that must wait until after all spell audits are complete.

The majority of the audits in this update fall on the 0 pip spells for all schools, as these spells are typically the building blocks of higher rank and latter-day spells. This is not inclusive of all audits but there are significant changes we would like to call out.

Core Buff Standardization (Blades, Traps, Spears, and Globals)
  • All school specific blades have been standardized to +35%. School damage differentials are an important part of school identity. Previously, blades circumvented this limitation by offering the most boost to the least damaging schools. Balance blades have remained at +25% as universal damage will stack with any school, and due to the lack of any Balance-specific shield (only the 50% Tower Shield applies).
  • Trap Standardization- Traps have all been buffed to +30%. This helps to “pay back” some of the lost blade damage for certain schools while continuing to maintain school damage consistency when buffing.
  • Spear (aka Pierce Blade) standardization – Pierce blades have been buffed and standardized at +20%
  • Damage Boosting Global Spell Standardization (aka “bubbles”) – All trained damage bubbles have been standardized to one value: +25%; damage bubble TCs remain at their previous values (retaining their use in PvE) but have been marked “No PvP” accordingly
Healing Spells

In our summer 2020 audit, we benchmarked 190 HPP (healing per pip) for Rebirth, and that was our lodestar heading into a wider audit. As part of this audit, we agreed on the following additional principles:
  • HPP should be higher than DPP (damage per pip) so that a solo player can reasonably “keep up” with healing against the expected 2 mobs per combat
  • Minimum HPP will generally be equivalent or higher than the damage output of one Storm Mob: 125
  • Maximum HPP generally should fall between 165 HPP (the damage output of 2 Life or Ice mobs) and 250 HPP (the damage output of 2 Storm mobs)
  • Life should have the highest HPP
  • Storm should have the lowest HPP
  • Other schools should fall somewhere in between relative to their DPP and school identity
  • All heal spells will fall between the minimum and maximum HPP values for that particular school; this range allows us to curate the meta as necessary
  • Try to avoid nerfing any healing spells
As a result of these new guidelines, you may see a boost in some healing spells.

Maycast Audit


In order to limit the scope of our audit and reduce the impact of changes on players, we have begun this audit by identifying key maycasts with an outsized influence on game balance (whether PvP or PvE).

The broad categories of maycasts that have been adjusted in this Round 1 audit are:
  • School Auras (Reliquary, etc.)
  • Other Auras (Brace, Fortify, Infallible, etc.)
  • Manipulations (Remove/Steal Charms/Wards)
  • Healing Spells
Note: Regardless of whether or not a particular maycast has been changed in this audit, we will continue to watch and may audit other (or even the same) maycasts in the future.

Our audit uncovered a number of maycasts with trigger ‘logic’ that was causing these talents to fire much more often than the intended design. Previously, maycasts had a “random trigger” with a chance of turning “on,” at which point a second trigger began listening for further trigger conditions, upon which the maycast spell would cast (or not), and the random trigger would turn “off” again. If the “random trigger” failed to turn off as designed, the maycasts were guaranteed to trigger as soon as the conditions were met. In summary, the intended random chance each round was being “banked” by the trigger and held until the maycast fired, leading to a much higher activation rate. For all such spells identified, we have cleaned up the trigger logic and returned these maycasts to their original, “as designed” trigger rate.

In cleaning up the trigger logic, most maycasts are now designed to activate only in response to the owner casting a spell – not passing, not fizzling, but only after successfully casting a spell. This will help to address “maycast spam” when you are on a full sigil with 4 or more players. When it was deemed appropriate, some maycast trigger logic will continue to cast in response to the actions of other casters besides the owner – but for such maycasts, the random chance has been reduced accordingly.

As part of our audit, we have also identified certain maycasts that have an outsized impact on PvP, but are not unbalanced for PvE. These maycasts have been split into 2 separate triggers, PvP and PvE, so that we can tune the activation rate for PvP without affecting our PvE players.

Finally, a number of maycast auras were incorrectly extending some or all of their effects to 5 rounds (as seen in the combat overhead text) instead of 4 rounds (as designed, and as seen on the card text). These spells have been corrected.

PvP-Specific Meta Curation


General Goals

This update will have some of the most significant changes to the meta that we have seen thus far. The current meta has a slew of problems. On the one hand, the meta is extremely fast paced, requiring very few hits (and total number of rounds) to close out a standard match. This fast pace forces players into a very narrow band of viable strategies, diluting diversity and leading to a “one size fits all” approach to PvP. This pace has also forced PvP into becoming either a shield or hit type meta, where other types of utilities that don’t fit into this playstyle are often not played.

Finally, and perhaps most notably, the speed of the meta also means that any single instance of RNG—one maycast, one fizzle, one fail pip, one “coin flip” — matters a lot more in the outcome of the match.

Despite the outsized influence that RNG has on the arena, simply removing the RNG isn’t a complete solution. We’ve seen this before: as we’ve reduced the RNG with shadow pip gain and critical, other instances of RNG that already existed have risen to the forefront. To be sure, we will be addressing some of the more problematic aspects of RNG, but those expecting a complete removal of RNG are going to be disappointed. Wizard101 is not chess and some instances of RNG will always be present in the game. Our goal as developers is to have just enough RNG to keep matches interesting and variable while reducing the occurrence and impact of RNG that is beyond the control of either player.

Treasure Card Curation

We are exploring the function of the sideboard in Wizard101 PvP. The sideboard is a very unique mechanic that gives players a large degree of control and the ability not only to mitigate RNG but also to pack unique hits and counters. However, as a consequence of the large amount of control that players have over their hand, their draw, and the sideboard, the pace of the meta has sped up in response.

Many TCs have been marked “No PvP” in this next update. TCs so marked typically fall into these broad categories:
  • TCs that replicate the function of trained spells that have been audited (and adjusted down)
  • TCs from untrained spells that have been audited and found to be over-valued
  • TCs that infringe on school identity (especially the proliferation of 0-pip TCs)
Our current long-term view of the sideboard is that it should be the place where your counters live, rather than a place where you go fishing for cards to rapidly advance your own game state.

“Global” (damage bubble) TCs

These TCs have been marked “No PvP”. Bubbles in general are an important part of the current PvP meta. Maintaining “bubble control” is often a key aspect of battles and winning the “bubble war” can often help decide the match in a player's favor. As such, we wish to test the meta where one cannot easily win that war simply by packing more bubbles in the side deck. By allowing only main deck bubbles, we hope to encourage players to make interesting meta-defining strategies regarding deck size, card copies, card cycling, and the tactical value of playing bubbles from a more limited supply.

Blades and Traps

School Blade and Trap Variants have been marked “No PvP.” One variant of each—audited to match the base spell—is still allowed in PvP, but TCs from other sources (and of varying power) are no longer permitted. Blade/trap stacking is a common meta technique in PvP and while blade/trap variants aren't commonly used in that regard, we felt it would be useful to consolidate TC availability.

Black Mantle and Smokescreen

As the meta has sped up, accuracy-reducing cards have become an issue in PvP. In current 1v1 a Mantle can buy you free tempo, a round, and the potential for further maycasts (for example maycast galvanic or maycast brace). It can also lead to your opponent fizzling a game deciding spell, to buy you the time to completely reverse the tempo, or to pull and play your own game-winning card. Since every round has such a huge impact in the current arena, a widely available, RNG-based fizzle card like Mantle has too large an impact on too many matches. The same applies to smokescreen: every team PvPer has horror stories of being smokescreen spammed and locked out of being able to accomplish anything in the match.

Overvalued TCs (Damage and/or Utility)

As stated above, each school’s damage output is an essential defining characteristic and for some schools, the heart of school identity. We have already reduced overall damage output with the removal of pre-enchanted hits and enchants in the main deck. However, some TCs still allowed certain schools to go above and beyond their intended damage. It is true that treasure cards are typically given a free 20% bonus damage (give or take a few percentage points), but many TCs are well past this limit. Those TCs have been identified in our audit and marked NoPvP.

We did allow some slightly out of value TCs to remain as they are important parts of certain meta strategies for which no other alternative yet exists. Such exceptions were few and far between and, of course, will be reconsidered each time we curate the meta.

In a similar vein, some TCs provided too much utility for their cost. An easy example of this is Myth’s “White Rat Magician” card which, for the same cost of time of legend, provided the same bubble and 2 pips of damage. This card accelerates the match’s tempo dramatically by placing a semi-permanent buff and removing a shield. As a result, this and similar cards were made NoPvP. As it happens, we have replaced White Rat Magician with an audited, balanced, and trainable version, and this philosophy of rebalancing and re-releasing spells will continue.

Rank 6+ TC Exceptions

Certain rank 6+ TCs are clearly out of value since they are based on unaudited spells. Since these spells are high cost and typically not meta-defining, they will remain in PvP for now but can and will be made NoPvP on a case-by-case basis until the aforementioned audit is performed and any necessary adjustments are made.

Future Considerations


“No Enchant” to Shadow Enhanced and Scion Spells (PvP Only)

Shadow Enhanced spells and Scions are a massive value in damage and/or utility. As our goal is to slow down the meta in various ways, the massive base damage of these cards leaves the pace of the meta faster than we would like. As we evaluate the effects of the Damage and Resist limits, we may prohibit Shadow-Enhanced and Scion spells from being enchanted in PvP. This will serve to lower their effective damage relative to other spells and encourage the use of more diverse tools.

Shadow Shrike “No PvP”

This is a change that we are considering, but it is one we don’t take lightly. The history of Shadow Shrike is that it was added to the game largely to combat runaway Resist values (in both PvE and PvP). As we are now addressing Resist more directly via the limit functions, it is appropriate to re-evaluate whether Shrike needs a rebalance or indeed if Shrike is even necessary at all. We want to be open with players that this is under consideration and we are definitely interested in your feedback—especially as regards the evolving “Resist meta”, issues of jading/stalling, and how you feel about the future of Shrike.

Please let us know what you think of this update in the Forums!

Thanks,

Ben "Ratbeard" Durbin
Lead Designer

Dated: April 5, 2021