Wizard101
Developer Diaries

 

November 2021 Dev Notes - Choices

 
 
 
 
Greetings Adventurers!

Artie "GraniteHeart" Rogers
Lead Designer


There’s been plenty of talk about Player vs Player spells and balance, system structure, and gameplay, so as a change, we want to start a conversation with those of you who enjoy more Player v Environment centric questing, adventuring, and exploring the Spiral.

Before we dive into the details, a reminder to join us today at 4pm CT for a PvE and Adventure Roundtable hosted by WhiteTiger93!

Recent Changes


Over the past year, we made several changes to make it easier to meet up with Wizards, to coordinate adventuring with friends and family, and to improve the overall adventuring experience. Our driving goal was that playing with other Wizards should be fun!
  • We first made changes to the Combat Sigil to make it easier to join existing combats and to give benefits sharing them with others. This includes health and mana wisps to guaranteed first-turn advantage in combat.
  • We improved the Grouping System to make it easier to manage and invite others to a group.
  • We added Friendly Flag, which a Wizard can activate if they want to share their adventures. You can also search the world for other Friendly Wizards.
  • We created Volunteers, which allows Wizards who want to help with dungeons or boss battles to be at the ready when another Wizard issues a Team-up Call!
  • We introduced Adventure Parties, where Wizards can create a permanent party with other Wizards and use the message board to coordinate adventures. We added new party features such as allowing Wizards to reserve Sigil Slots for themselves when in a group with their party members and allowing everyone in the group to follow the group leader’s quest arrow.
  • We improved the Quest Journal to make it easier for Wizards to manage their quests by type, see which quests can be turned in, and to see how many quests remain active per World or Type.

What's Next



Much of our existing effort has been dedicated to the more social aspects of adventuring, and we will continue working on that front with other future group related systems. This includes how to find Wizards that may be worlds apart and how coordinate play with them, and in finding ways to improve aspects of group combat to make the adventuring experience more rewarding.

Getting people together and making adventuring more fun is great, but we also need to look closely at the core adventuring mechanics, such as moment-to-moment combat, the questing experience, and various aspects of progression.

We have a couple of guiding principles to light the way:
  • Create an environment where players make compelling choices
    • - If the choices aren’t meaningful, then are they really choices?
    • - If there are no real choices, then what is meaningful in the gameplay
  • Don’t fix it if it’s not broken!

Compelling Choices



Compelling gameplay revolves around giving the player choices. These choices must be informed and meaningful. We went through similar thought exercises when looking at PvP combat, which led to the introduction of Rhoshambo. For more on Rhoshambo, check out Ratbeard’s Rhoshambo Dev Diary.

As we dive deep into Adventuring, we start at the beginning by outlining the choices that a Wizard must make, which includes:
  • Which school should I choose?
  • Which spells of my school should I use?
  • Which spells from other schools should I use?
  • Of those spells, which should I advance with Spellements – and how?
  • What gear should I wear and how do I get it?
  • Are the monsters I fight challenging enough for my choices?
Schools

The career of every Wizard starts with choosing a school. Is it a meaningful choice? If we have 7 choices, but 3 are clearly better at adventuring than others, then realistically there are only 3 choices, not 7.

To make the choice meaningful, each school must have its own identity, play style, and be balanced to be viable when adventuring. This doesn’t mean all Schools are equally viable in all circumstances, but just that there are no schools considered noticeably weak when adventuring.

The Early Spells

Early in a Wizard’s career, you make choices about which spells to use. Again, are there real choices here? Is there room for improvement? If I have 25 Spells that I can use, but only 3 are usable, then I don’t have 25 choices, I only have 3.

Examining available spell choices is an interplay between Wizard progression and combat. Does the Wizard have compelling choices at different points in their level progression? And does combat make these choices meaningful?

Advanced Spell Selection

Once a Wizard understands the strengths and weaknesses of their primary school, and what it can and cannot do, then they may decide to pick up some spells from another school.

You have to look at the spells available and which may shore up a school’s weaknesses or build up its strengths. This clearly identifiable array of strengths and weaknesses is what Rhoshambo establishes in PvP, and it may provide similar advantages in PvE.

There is a limit to how many choices can be presented before it becomes unmanageable. The Rhoshambo provides you direction as to which Schools to look at first when, so that you don’t have to examine all Spells when deciding what Spells to add. We want to support a variety of moment-to-moment gameplay as a Wizard progresses through the Spiral, which means that some spells need to be retired to give way to the new ones which can alter the combat experience.

Spellements


For those who don’t know, Spellements provide spell progression for those spells which have them. As you accumulate Spellements, you can increase the functionality of the spell and occasionally be presented with a choice to determine the way you’d like your spell to progress.

There are aspects of Spellements which provide the power of forging a unique path:
  • Which Spells should I improve? This progression must be meaningful as well as any choices within that progression. This means building synergy between spells from different schools to make the choices meaningful.
  • Where do I get this spell’s Spellements? Wizards should have choices about where and how to acquire the Spellements they want.
  • How do I want to modify the spell I chose to improve? At different points in a spell’s progression, you should encounter a meaningful choice in how a spell is improved, which could include increasing its power, decreasing its pips, enhancing its synergy with or its ability to counter other spells.
Gear

You’ve decided on a primary school and the spells you wanted to use. You then picked other school spells to use, which contribute to your overall strategy, and so finally, you’ll choose gear with the properties which enhances the choices you made before.

There are a few different choices a Wizard has to make when considering gear:
  • What properties or stats do I need? Are there interesting choices about what gear to use when considering the spells you’re using?
  • When do I need to upgrade my gear? Gear acquisition is part of a power progression, so do you know when you should get more gear?
  • Where do I get the gear I want? As with Spellements, Wizards should have choices about where and how to acquire the gear they want.
Smart Monsters

All these choices should influence your chance of success in combat, but this also creates the potential for overly easy combat for experienced players. Some of the current encounters may not be up to the task for creating compelling combat for well readied Wizards, so we’re considering ways to add new encounters that are smarter and identifiable in their difficulty.

Our idea for smart monsters is to have them make more intelligent combat decisions which then gives the Wizard’s corresponding choices more meaning. Once in combat, you make choices leveraging the initial decisions you made in terms of school, spells, spell progression, and gear. The smarter monsters then react accordingly. Choose your tactics wisely and be rewarded. Choose poorly and accept the consequences!

What if it isn't Broken?



Looking at the second of our guiding principles, we know many Wizards enjoy the adventuring experience with its captivating and funny storylines and the exploration of new and exciting worlds. For those who fall into this category, fear not, your playstyle and enjoyment of the game will be preserved.

You have the choice to engage in new and more textured adventuring experiences or stick with the experience you know and enjoy!

Just the Beginning


That about covers it for this overview series of choices a Wizard makes while adventuring, and how we can make these choices more interesting and meaningful. We are continuing to explore new design opportunities and this letter is just the beginning of that conversation with the community. Expect future dev diaries to cover these topics and more in detail. We'll also narrow in on specific ones you all want to hear more about.

Let me know what you think of these dev notes in the Forums!

Thanks,

Artie "GraniteHeart" Rogers
Lead Designer

Dated: November 17, 2021