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Sword art Poll and Debate

tricolor_mina

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Read the Blog entry First and state your opinion in the comments!  

13 members have voted

  1. 1. Which of these would you guys prefer? (Again, read the blog entry, and form your own opinions first)

    • Proposal A
      0
    • Proposal B
      10
    • Compromise
      2
    • Other (Leave your suggestion below!)
      1

Hello members of the SAO RPG forums! Welcome to a debate topic that the system's dev team put together (along with a few others) to get you guy's opinion! This topic involves the weapons system! The main star of this particular debate topic are sword art cooldowns! essentially, there's a bit of a dilemma that we're currently having in regards to that, which is the type of cooldowns we're going to have for sword arts, and whether or not they should change from sword art to sword art. We also plan to make the amount of sword arts gained by ranking up the skill more uniform, and make sure there isn't such a major discrepancy like there is now. 

We're also throwing around the idea of potential additions to effects and changes in multipliers so that each weapon fits into their respective niches. Our aim with this is to get you guys (the player base) to add strategy to your attacks, instead of just mindlessly going attack this! attack that! etc, etc... BUT! Please bear in mind, this is currently something that we staff members are currently hard at work with, and something that we're hoping for you guys to give us feedback on! Continue down in order to see the next section of the Debate/see the poll options!

NOTE:

Before reading our proposals, we highly urge you take a few moments to think about what solution you would implement for the cooldowns (if any) and write them down you can keep them in mind. This is so that it doesn't seem like a simple vote between either proposal, and rather more of an open discussion where you can pitch your own idea (or dissenting opinion)."

(Seriously though, form your own opinions before you read the rest of this. We want you guys to give us your own suggestions in regard to this!)

Proposal A is that we should have a flat cooldown for all Sword Arts. The idea would be that one-handed weapons would get a 2 turn cooldown, whereas two-handed weapons would get a 3 turn cooldown. The benefit to a system like this is that it is very straightforward and predictable, leaving less for the roleplayer to keep track of and ultimately making the system a bit less confusing. The con to this is that we run into conflicts like Rank 1 2H users having to go a turn without using a Sword Art, and a general lack of a feeling of progression outside of higher multipliers (highest tier Sword Art has identical cooldown to lowest tier Sword Art).

Proposal B is that we should see variety in the Sword Arts with lighter cooldowns, only 1 or 2 turns in general. As a general rule of thumb, one-handed weapons would favor 1 turn cooldowns more, while two-handed weapons would favor 2 turn cooldowns. When approaching Rank 4 we could see these cooldowns ramp up a bit into the 2 or 3 turn territory, with the lower side of these cooldowns favoring one-handed weapons. Once breaking into the Rank 5 Sword Arts, we see another bump into the 3 to 5 cooldown territory, and make the final Sword Art big. The benefit to a system like this is more freedom of control over making every weapon unique, as well as more in-depth control over balancing between one-handed and two-handed weapon types. We also get that sense of progression I mentioned earlier. The obvious drawback is this gives the roleplayer a lot more to keep track of, and can be confusing until you've memorized what your Sword Arts are, what your optimal succession of Sword Arts is for the best damage to cooldown ratio, etc. It also makes the system more complicated for us to manage while deliberating on how to structure each weapon and balance them against one another, which leads to a longer process in getting these Sword Arts fleshed out.

The current Compromise idea would be having a standard cooldown convention like suggested in Proposal A, while each Rank gets a Sword Art with a reduced cooldown to ensure there can be a steady flow of Sword Art use.

Guys, we genuinely want for you to share your opinions, and to encourage debate among yourselves! Give us your opinions, give us your feedback!



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TLDR

Spoiler

Suggested Methods

Method 1: Change attack mechanic to allow for basic attacks to be made at 50% power (rounded down) for no energy cost, and Sword Arts to be used at 50% power (rounded down) for 50% of energy usage.

Method 2: Remove energy usage from basic attacks and boost energy regen rate and energy usage for higher ranked Sword Arts.

Method 3: Switch to a traditional cooldown system like WoW, Overwatch or similar.

Preferred Proposal

Proposal B, but with careful attention to energy usage and with broader differences for each kind of weapon that what is detailed.

 

So before I start spewing out my stream of conscience, I do want to note that I'm really new to SAO (sub one week) but am studying Game Design in college...so honesty, this just seems like a good time to practice what I've learned and apply it, I don't mean to step on any toes.

That being said, in my opinion the issue isn't necessarily with the Sword Arts cooldowns themselves, but rather the energy regeneration system. (Note: I'm not sure if you're talking about conventional cooldowns, wherein you must wait x amount of posts before being able to use a Sword Art again, or the currently in place regeneration system)

Proposal A is right on point in my opinion, that the sense of character progression is integral to gameplay of anything, but its especially important in an RPG setting like SAO-RPG (it's in the name afterall lol). So removing the sense of getting stronger by removing the longer cooldowns feels like a bigger detriment than advantage to me. The longer cooldowns lend the writer/player the sense that they are doing something much more powerful than just your standard attack, with a higher price but bigger pay off.

On the other hand, Proposal B suffers the same problems that the current system does, wherein if the player/writer can run into situations where they have to choose between not attacking at all (or a limited amount of times since energy regen buffs are a thing if I recall correctly), since that still drains energy. Either choice you make ultimately leaves the player/writer feeling helpless (which in some cases may be the goal, but general combat that sounds like a big no-no) as you either are forced to make weak attacks and never (or wait a very long time to...) have the chance to make a worthwhile strike again, or weather someones attacks and hope you survive.

The Compromise ultimately suffers the same issues as Proposal A, so I won't bother rehashing that.

The core problem here, as I see it, is the regeneration of energy, since it's the core resource for combat next to HP. There needs to be a way to regenerate energy, whilst still attacking (albeit weakly). This could be accomplished in a couple ways:

Method 1: Offer the player/writer the opportunity to make a weakened basic attack for a percentage of damage (let's say half rounded down) at no cost. This allows the player the sense of, yes being weaker and backed into a wall since they are not able to use their full strength, but still leaves the opportunity for a full retaliation in the future. This also plays into a sense of 'exhaustion' as the player/writer recuperates and gathers there strength and adds an additional layer of roleplaying into the mechanic. This could even be extended to Sword Arts, in that Sword Arts could be used at half strength for half their energy if the writer/player's current energy is below the normal required energy usage.

Method 2: Remove the cost of basic attacks entirely and boost energy regeneration (but also the cost of Sword Arts as you go up in rank). This works in a similar manner as Method 1, but is just a different way of implementing it. By allowing the players/writers to continue to regenerate their energy and still attack, it mitigates the sense of helplessness and still provides them with the possibility of full retaliation, just without the potentially messy half energy/half damage mechanics.

Method 3: Just get rid of the energy system entirely and opt for a more traditional cooldown system, wherein there is a set number of posts a player must wait before being able to use a particular Sword Art again. Its been tried and tested in hundreds of real world MMORPGS and has stuck around for a reason. It works.

All three of these methods still allow for the complexity and strategizing that comes with the current Sword Art system which in my opinion is what makes part of combat (or at least I assume) on SAO-RPG fun and should be kept. I do think that the specifics cooldowns need to be tweaked so that there is more consistency and leaves no doubt about what the potential of a weapon is. (IE one-handed weapons should always (or at least usually) be faster than 2 handed weapons, but a dagger is also faster than a straight sword). If none of the methods which I detailed appeal to staff or audience, then I'd say Proposal B follows most closely with the idea that each weapon has advantages and disadvantages, and should then be the one used. Even still, I feel like there needs to be larger ranges of energy usage to account for this, and appropriate tweaks to energy pool and regen be made to account for that.

...wow, I just wrote a whole essay pretty much...

In any case, I hope that what I said is helpful, and failing that an enjoyable read. And failing that at least understandable...and failing that still English...thanks for letting me rant for some 800+ words :D

Edited by Koga

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Puts on a Game Design hat

The two proposals so far seem to suggest altering the usage of sword arts so that they feel more varied and used. When I think about it like that, I end up with a few other suggestions as opposed to cooldowns, because it results in extra work for everyone to take them into account. But please feel free to take them with multiple grains of salt; I don't know what the work is like on your side.

also the whole thing sounds like a shill for ff14??? i'm so sorry, i didn't mean it that way i swear

  1. Chaining Sword Arts via Incentives

In FF14 we have chained combos, where using one skill provides a damage boost to another, which incentivizes players to build a rotation around those skills. It also means it's possible to switch out your play style flexibly. Say 3 more creatures join the fight as you're beating one up, you could drop the damage increase for a single target to swap to an AoE sword art instead.

The upside is that players can fight rather flexibly, but also, more statistical-oriented players can follow along an optimal rotation easily. It sounds like it's bound to happen from Proposal B, with players figuring out on how to have an optimal damage to cooldown ratio. The downside is, if the idea of locking a skill down after it's been used is purposeful (ie. hard punishment) then the flexibility would cause an issue. It's also worth noting that you could potentially streamline players to a specific playstyle here with the combos being guided by developers.

1.1 Stances

There's also a unique playstyle in FF14 that belongs to the monk, where you can swap between stances and receive a bonus in damage by using skills buffed by current stance you're in. The idea here is still along the lines of chained combos, but you're categorizing your sword arts under themes and allowing greater chain flexibility.

For example, let's take a dagger user into consideration. With the chain combo mechanic, you could go Round Accel -> Fad Edge -> Tri-Pierce, increasing the multiplier each time you use a successive sword art without deviation. With stances, you could start from Tri-Pierce and chain it up with sword arts that work similarly in flavour, like Infinite or Cross Edge, and keep the three skills on rotation. Or, for another, Sonic Resonance, which uses a reverse-grip, can be grouped up with either Accel Raid or Eternal Cyclone, as they both fall under the same style of fighting.

1.2 Traits as Mods

This is just in case you needed to buff older sword arts that don't get to see much use in end-game; advancing or unlocking a higher tier of sword art could be the answer. Similarly, to unlock or improve on combat styles/variations, chaining combos or unlocking stances could be added in as a mod.

Under chained combos, checking if a skill flows with another simply requires a reference sheet, as opposed to everyone involved having to keep track of when their sword arts starts coming back up. Also, it's possible for a player to be afraid of exerting sword arts more liberally because it could go on cooldown when they'd need it most (although this is a guess, kind of like when someone holds onto items in an RPG and never uses them simply because they're expecting a worse scenario where the items might come in handy).

  1. Increasing specificity of Sword Arts

Other than damage multipliers and stuns, I imagine multiple effects imposed on certain sword sword arts could also result in strategic gameplay. It might make the game a little more padded and awkward to sift through though, so that's a heads up before I go into it.

My initial idea was having sword arts dependant on someone's hate values (eg. I ping-pong between the target I have the most hate on, to the least and back again) or that AoE might not be able to hit every monster (eg. only affecting two enemies as I cut through one and swing it against another), but it can also extend to:

  • Sword Arts that depend on exploiting a vulnerability/opening for attack

  • Sword Arts that puts the player in a vulnerable position for a period of time in exchange for a buff

  • Sword Arts having a less-than-ideal chance of occurrence but having a larger payout for it

While this adds in a lot more flavour for combat options, it also means inflating the number of sword arts, which would take up time for the developers to make and balance, and for the players to sort through and recall which ones might be useful in specific scenarios. It also means considering edge scenarios with multiple sword arts to replace generic scenarios with one current overarching sword art to support them all.

Without knowing the combat philosophy of the game I wouldn't know what to strongly suggest? But the current system to me (as a lowbie) seems quite alright as it is; if anything my biggest gripe is remembering that basic attacks cost 1 EN, and that's about it. I really hope my notes were at least comprehensive, thanks for reading our walls of texts p_p);;

- - -


Notes: I had originally expected to see ideas on how to promote strategic planning for battles? So my brainstorming churned out stuff like 'use the environment to your advantage' or 'each weapon gets a type that may or may not work as well on some enemies than others'...

I also didn't want to link it in with the energy system as I don't have a lot of experience with it just yet; I'm new, and I'll have more trust in feedback from a player who's more familiar with the system, using their playstyle.

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Quote

Increasing specificity of Sword Arts

@NIGHT

I actually hadn't thought of that, and really like it as just a general improvement given the admins had infinite amounts of time to devote to the site but real life is lame Just having more options is always nice, albeit difficult to implement

Edited by Koga

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As the person who designed properly the first Sword Art system (based off suggestions by Daeron IIRC), interesting topic which I remember deliberating myself a lot. My main inspirations at the time of designing the systems were SAO Hollow Fragment and its PS4/PC remaster Re:Hollow Fragment. Let's talk about the distinction between these two games, as this is very relevant to the discussion at hand.
Note a key point here is that both games have an HP and Energy meter.

1. Vita Hollow Fragment. In this system, sword arts have no cooldown per se, but instead cost a certain amount of energy to use. More swanky the skill, the bigger the cost. This comes at the benefit of no tracking, but at the cost of something else. If you buff your energy to max and be consistently high then you can spam skills, but you also may not spend the energy using the "battle skills". For lack of better term, skills like sword arts that are not weapon based, but do buffs, debuffs, healing etc. I believe I stuck with this system as the basis because it led to no tracking, and cooldowns arent really what happens in the book/show. I'll explain this in the second part.
2. Re: Hollow Fragment. In this one, sword arts are on a cooldown. I believe this was done to both encourage energy usage for the other skills, but also to attempt to emulate the show, where bigger sword skills had you literally stuck in place like a doll as a cooldown longer, thus leaving you more open. This made the "Original sword skill" chaining mechanic HF had much stronger, which if you could time it right, basically stole the Kirito principle of skill cancelling by flowing one sword art into the next, effectively cancelling the cooldown of the previous, along with greatly reducing the cooldown to use them again. Problem was in HF this was incredibly difficult and we can't emulate that here without severely breaking balance or making things very confusing IMO.

Energy cost for basic attacks is a weird one, because technically any canonical attack that isn't a "sword art" is basically worth gnats piss. See Kirito slaying a pig with ease using a rock with one over Klein flailing about. So the idea I had in mind with basic attacks was that it was a sword art usage, just so basic it warranted no name. Hollow Fragment somewhat followed this principle with your basic attacks being extremely weak, though they were there.

I will say if a move from Energy to cooldown is planned, I'd stick with proposal B, but with maybe options for fixed routes to chain sword arts into weak ones to reduce the cooldown of the previous used one, to follow the OSS thing mentioned before. So you either spam big skills for long cooldowns, or chain into weaker ones after strong to reduce the cooldown of the strong. I wouldn't use both Energy and cooldown at same time, that'd be horrid. I'd thus consider Proposal B but with the chaining mentioned in this paragraph to incentivise various Art usage.
As for increasing the depth of stuff arts can do, I purposefully somewhat cut down from the original Hollow Fragment ones (and the ones I had to make up or use from other canon) but if users feel confident in the increased depth of skills that inflict self buffs or enemy debuffs I can see there being extra depth, especially for weapons like dagger to debuff for example.

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27 minutes ago, Tristan Delaney said:

My main inspirations at the time of designing the systems were SAO Hollow Fragment and its PS4/PC remaster Re:Hollow Fragment.

Now there's a key piece of the puzzle that's been missing; given this knowledge, it's a lot easier to see what might best fit the current system. The larger skills to weaker ones is a unique flow -- if it fits the theme of the game better, I'm all for it.

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I personally am new here, so I haven't had that much (pretty much none) experience with the Sword Arts, so my opinion is mostly based on video games and D&D. I personally like "Proposal B" more because it seems like a progressive system, because if you're high enough to get to the top of the Sword Arts, you're probably on the front lines fighting gosh knows what, and that means you're already super powerful. Now that might seem unfair to the front-line fighters since this is coming from a new person that basically knows nothing, but that's just the way I see it.

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I have been on site for a while as @Symphony (using my alt account right now), so I have a bit of experience with the sword arts. When it comes down to it, I believe that proposal B sounds nice and more like a proper game mechanic. However, in boss battles and such, I can see both options as becoming a sort of problem. It already takes us months to get through one boss. I believe you should work on fleshing out boss development first or while working on sword art developments. 

Overall, Proposal B sounds like a standard progressive system. As players, we could keep track of cooldowns in our stats area of our posts. Of course, the sword arts section of site would needed to be updated with specific cool down rates for each weapon and sword art, but that shouldn't be the biggest issue. Just please work on the floor bosses and alter their development in some sort of way if you decide to go with either of these proposals or change the sword art system all together. 

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1 hour ago, Joanne said:

I have been on site for a while as @Symphony (using my alt account right now), so I have a bit of experience with the sword arts. When it comes down to it, I believe that proposal B sounds nice and more like a proper game mechanic. However, in boss battles and such, I can see both options as becoming a sort of problem. It already takes us months to get through one boss. I believe you should work on fleshing out boss development first or while working on sword art developments. 

Overall, Proposal B sounds like a standard progressive system. As players, we could keep track of cooldowns in our stats area of our posts. Of course, the sword arts section of site would needed to be updated with specific cool down rates for each weapon and sword art, but that shouldn't be the biggest issue. Just please work on the floor bosses and alter their development in some sort of way if you decide to go with either of these proposals or change the sword art system all together. 

I'm unsure if they use a derivative of the template I made for bosses years back and what changes, but it greatly comes down to player activity. However it would be possible to speed up fights while keeping on your toes by decreasing boss HP but increasing their attack power. But that's diverting from topic here.

2 hours ago, NIGHT said:

Now there's a key piece of the puzzle that's been missing; given this knowledge, it's a lot easier to see what might best fit the current system. The larger skills to weaker ones is a unique flow -- if it fits the theme of the game better, I'm all for it.

Indeed. I still need to get around to playing Hollow Realization to see what they used there, but to my understanding they use a mix of both energy and cooldowns. They can have that complexity due to automation though.

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I like the idea of having different sword arts for 1 hand, reflecting that they're faster, and for 2 hand, reflecting that they're slower, but hit harder. I also am down with different weapons reflecting that differently. Such as perhaps a Katana being a faster two handed weapon than a 2 hand axe, but the axe hits harder.

I also think you can kinda simplify things by saying that Rank 5 attacks have a 3 round cooldown, rank 4 attacks have a 2 round cooldown, etc... as a base and then if it's a particularly stronger attack, you can bump it up a round.

When Tak and I made ours, we basically worked from the idea that Rank 5 2 hand weapons skills had a 3 round cooldown, and Rank 5 one hand weapon skills had a 2 round cooldown, and this meant that 2 hand weapons got their best moves back faster, and made them burstier, but 2 hand weapons hit harder. It gave the combat an ebb and flow. It also gives you a reason to have multiple arts of the same damage. Like if you had 3 round coolodowns, you could have (2) x13 sword arts. That would make that weapon more sustainable, while another could have a single x15, but then the next highest is a x12, which would make it burstier.

You could also give weapons unique effects on critical hits, if you want to make them differentiated, but not dig into cooldowns too much.

The cooldowns shouldn't prevent you from using ANY sword art, just THAT sword art (or any sword art of rank 5 if you wanted).

Anyways, I'm rambling, so I'll stop there. There is one thing to call out though.

Having x1 and x2 and x3 sword arts at the low levels is kinda self defeating. If you're starting out, and you have 3 damage, and you're doing x2 sword arts, and it's eating up 100% of your energy to do so, then we've done something wrong. Drop the energy system in favor of cooldowns, and give new players several sword arts, and make them useful at later levels. If you have a x5 rank 2 sword art, and cool downs, then that sword art may be useful even if you have all 5 ranks. And that low level player is still only going to be doing 15 damage.

Their base damage is so low, you don't ALSO have to couple it with low multipliers. What's the max unbuff damage for a tier 1? Like 10? That's still only 50 damage before mitigation.

Don't forget to look at the system from the perspective of someone who's only got basic equipment and access to the first rank or 2 of sword arts. If we don't make the game fun for new players, they're not gonna stick around to be older ones.

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To begin, we'd like to thank everyone for taking the time to respond and give your feedback. It's actually very much appreciated since it has given us a lot of insight. In this reply, we'll be going down the list and hitting specific points that we were able to discuss about.

@Koga Although it's already been stated, your post wasn't completely on the mark for the discussion but it also let us gain a better insight on whether we want to have both energy and cooldowns applicable or just cooldowns. Even though we have not yet fully discussed and came to a conclusion which one we think would work better for our system, your comment covered a variety of bases that should help improve that discussion. (Also, good luck with the game design!)

@NIGHT Your comment about chaining sword arts together resembled something similar to mechanics that were earlier proposed for 3.0 but were initially scrapped. However, we still gave it a fair shot. The main issue that we encountered while playtesting was that, unless there was an extremely large damage boost, it would remain statistically better to use the highest sword art multiplier if cooldowns did not exist. The comment about increasing specificity to sword arts is a sort of extreme to the new effects that we are adding in, and could possibly make the system feel more clunky since it would be heavily circumstantial. Though it would increase the amount of strategy for the system, it convolutes the system more and may not be as much of a benefit as on paper.

@Tristan Delaney @Baldur Both of your comments (I'll also be looking over the documents you sent that one day Baldur) were really useful since it gave us a better understanding of events which has led the sword art system to its current and development forms. A couple of concerns were brought up such as energy, the types of effects, and also multiplier/damage. Energy is slated to be heavily increased at level 1 and should hopefully fix all issues with energy, the effects we are adding in do not add too much depth and is mainly used to let weapons fit into better niches that would otherwise not exist since single-target damage and AoE damage are the main indicators for the best weapons, and lastly most weapons should see a multiplier increase at nearly all ranks. (As a side note: this was already said Baldur but Takao and your proposal were very similar to Proposal A.)

@Rythose @Joanne There isn't too much to say here other than thank you for your feedback. For the floor boss development comment, there is hopefully a shift away from harder fights being classified as/equivalent to longer fights.

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Just a question on the cool downs, IF, we went with Sword Arts getting separate cool downs. What if a person had the skill Quick Change that lets them change their weapons or armor out in the same post. Could they then use the big attack from the new weapon instead of waiting for a cool down, because that would make that skill kind of cool and would give players a reason to use SP in two weapons? It'd lead to some interesting combos but could also break the game with an overrun in status issues. Such as one weapon having bleed and another having paralyze. And then you have to worry about weapons that can stun ect. 
Then again that could also introduce monsters with the same abilities too which would be cool and scary all at once. 
I could be way off base in thinking that but it's just a thought. 

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On 11/5/2019 at 10:07 AM, Lonzo said:

Just a question on the cool downs, IF, we went with Sword Arts getting separate cool downs. What if a person had the skill Quick Change that lets them change their weapons or armor out in the same post. Could they then use the big attack from the new weapon instead of waiting for a cool down, because that would make that skill kind of cool and would give players a reason to use SP in two weapons? It'd lead to some interesting combos but could also break the game with an overrun in status issues. Such as one weapon having bleed and another having paralyze. And then you have to worry about weapons that can stun ect. 
Then again that could also introduce monsters with the same abilities too which would be cool and scary all at once. 
I could be way off base in thinking that but it's just a thought. 

Thanks for the reply. This was actually something that hadn't occurred to any of us, and yes it actually seems that this would be a great thing to use for getting that extra edge in damage. After talking about it a bit, we decided that if someone wants to go through the cost of having two rank 5 sword arts AND quick change, then we'd allow it. Since quick change is also on a cooldown (even currently), it's not an extremely broken skill since whatever weapon you switch into, you're locked into for a short amount of time.

Thanks for bringing that up and we'll be sure to have that in the back of our minds when we continue developing.

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Okay cool cause I might try a build around it then <3
Even if it takes up silly amounts of SP I think it might be a little fun to try that out if the combat changes or not actually. I'll see what else I can come up and thank you for the compliment. Made my day!

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