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The low cost of freedom

buildshop01Whatever Cryptic does, there will always be Flavor-of-the-Month builds in Champions Online. Even if all powers would be perfectly balanced against each other, there would still be combinations of powers that would have a more than average synergy. That said, the FotM builds need not be that much more powerful than all other ones. To achieve this, three things have to be done: broken mechanics have to be fixed, broken powers have to be fixed and the cost of cherry picking the best powers from every framework needs to be higher. Cost is the main topic of this post, so I’ll keep it brief on the first two points.

Broken Mechanics and Powers

Some mechanics that are said to be implemented simply do not work (well). A good example is the knock up/back/towards mechanic. With enough endurance I can easily uppercut someone, haymaker them away, while throwing some force blasts after them that makes them bounce around as well. The resistance that should be applied is not there or too weak. An often abused power is from the Shadow Framework: Shadow Embrace with Fatal Allure, which can juggle someone for the full duration of the power.

Another is buff/debuff stacking. Types of (de)buffs stack with each other which results in the oneshots by Chest Beam and Force Cascade after some minor setup.

Some powers are broken into themselves. Swallowtail Cut remains the best example. It is the only ability doing percentage based health damage, so it may even be a fundamental problem in the engine. Imbue may be too powerful as well, but it may be brought in line if stacking is fixed.

Freedom should not be free

When building a powerset in Champions, we’re nearly completely free to pick whatever powers we want. That is one of the things that sold me on this game. However, I had not expected that we could do this would any significant cost. If someone wants to have weird combination of powers, say Uppercut, Invulnerability, Freezing Breath and Eye Beams, then he’s basically as powerful as someone who’s going full Might and he even has more versatility. Some powersets already have synergies like the Negative Ions in Electricity and the ability to trigger Id blades in Telekinesis, but after taking a few of these fundamental powers, there are plenty left to pick from. Staying in a tree should reward players without taking away the worth of powers outside the main tree.

There are many ways players could be given the incentive to stay within a tree. I will give two examples below: Bonus stats and Scaling with stats.

Bonus stats

I think that there should be passive bonuses for powers taken from a single framework, for example: five powers from Force would give 5% damage increase on all Force powers. Less than five powers would give no bonus at all and more should perhaps give another bonus, like 10% at 8 powers, These are just numbers I came up with. The bonuses do not have to be damage, there can be a healing increase, endurance cost reduction, increased damage reduction et cetera.

So let’s say player one stays within two frameworks. He gets five powers from Framework A(damage) and gets 5% damage bonus. He gets eight powers from Framework B(healing) and gets 10% healing bonus.

Player two takes powers from all kinds of sets. His A and B powers are less powerful than those from player 1, but he’s more versatile.

Player two has paid for his versatility.

Scaling with stats

Superstats define damage done and I think this is a great example of freedom implemented well. However, that means nearly any power will work well with any superstat. Healing depends on Presence, so a heal ability used by a Dex/Ego character is already weaker than one by a Presence character. There could be more powers that explicitly scale with certain stats. Someone who would cherry pick powers would get the benefit of versatility, but he would have to make stat choices that would leave all his powers weaker than someone who sticks to a focused build.

Example:

player 1 has powers A1 and B which scale with different stats. The powers are very different

player 2 has powers A1 and A2 and they scale with the same stat. A1 and A2 have about the same purpose with a small difference.

Player 2’s A1 is a lot more effective than player 1’s, but player 1 is more versatile, because he can also use B.

Again, player 1 has paid for his versatility.

Summary

Versality has no real price in the current game. This allows cherrypicking which in turn makes FotM builds much more powerful than other builds.

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