With the Rise of Tiamat coming, it isn’t all about content updates for Neverwinter. Class balancing changes are also coming for both Clerics and Rogues. Is your favorite class getting a nerf? Recently, I had the chance to chat with Systems Designer Chris “Gentleman Crush” Meyer to peek at the changes.
Magicman (MM): Before we get into the “what,” can you explain some of the “Why” that led to the team deciding some class balancing was in order?
Chris Meyer (CM): After our initial launch we have long looked at how we can make classes feel a little more coherent and directed, as well as diverse across their Paragon Feats. In recent modules we have felt that to continue moving forward and making interesting group and solo content we needed to revisit some core issues with how classes interact, and given that this required some pretty big changes in some cases we opted to give all the classes a solid look over the course of several months. And with the conclusion of the Cleric and Trickster Rogue changes we will have made most of the major changes we were aiming for, letting us focus content and gameplay around class interactions and behaviors.
MM: Balancing in a game that allows a fair amount of ability flexibility must be pretty challenging. How does the team decide that balancing is actually needed as opposed to players just always feeling like some class other than theirs is over powered?
CM: This is a tough thing to decide. With the skill of a player providing a fairly large gradient we have to be really careful when we make changes to try not to alienate groups of players, so we often read all of the player feedback and then play in our own internal playtests. We also weigh player feedback surrounding extreme cases of things before making changes.
MM: So the Devoted Cleric is up first on the balancing board. What can we expect to change and how do the changes impact not only that one player, but also the player’s group or party?
CM: We wanted to look at two major things with Clerics. Firstly, their ability to be a powerful force multiplier for a party. Secondly is the ability for a Cleric to bring powerful damage and utility spells to bear. Related to these things was how Divine mode interacts with your powers. We generally felt that the play was too binary in that you either had Divine Power to cast your core encounter or you were just spamming spells to get that divine power back, and that flow can feel really frustrating and beyond your control in clutch moments. So we made a major overhaul to Divinity and added a new class mechanic tied into it: Empowered. Divine Mode spells no longer have a long cooldown, nor do they trigger their non-Divine cooldowns. Additionally, casting a divine spell grants you a stack of Empowered for the spell you case (like Empowered Healing Word). Your non-divine spells consume these Empowerment stacks to amplify their effects and make them substantially more potent. This creates a decision point around “how do I spend my Divine Power this moment” and “What spell do I want to empower”. To better facilitate this we have adjusted how Divine power is generated as well. Your At-Will powers now are your sole Divine Power generators, but this is normalized so each At-Will generates divine power roughly at the same speed. The feat reworks tie heavily into this. There are now 3 fairly different Paragon Feat trees that facilitate Direct Healing, Healing over Time, and Damage Dealing. This lets clerics specialize in several different methodologies for how they provide benefits to their allies or rain divine fury on their foes. All of these trees include various buffs and debuffs that help allies respond to various threats in new and unique ways as well.
MM: What about the changes coming to the Trickster Rogue? I’m just letting you know now that if I get nerfed I’ll be yelling on the forums!
CM: There are some pretty large changes coming to rogues as well, although nothing quite as large as the cleric is getting. The first and foremost thing we are changing is making the feats cohesive towards specific goals in each tree. Saboteurs will be focused on entering and leaving stealth rapidly to get the most of out of sustained big strikes and harassing attacks. Scoundrels will be brawlers who can disrupt foes and lock down a target with controls and dazes. Executioners will be focused on dealing a singular massive amount of damage. What this does mean is that Perma-Stealth rogues are going to be far more difficult to use because we are implementing a penalty to using At-Will powers while stealthed, but in exchange for this we are also giving players 100% critical chance while stealthed. This means that while you can land less attacks while stealthed, they will be much more meaningful. In addition to all of this rogues will have to worry about their personal positioning much more strongly as many of their new feats trigger only when they are behind their target. Cooperating with allies will make rogues much stronger presences in all styles of play.
MM: Are these changes global or are they PvP or PvE focused?
CM: These changes are global, but they are trying to combat several major issues in both PVE and PVP. Clerics currently just don’t feel interesting enough as healers in PVE, and they lack a lot of the tools required to make those big clutch saves that people often associate with healing. On top of this, we wanted their gameplay to involve much more moment to moment decision making, so we decided that giving them more buttons to push would let them have more moment to moment presence in PVE and PVP as well as making them more flexible. Rogues on the other hand don’t have enough options that are really viable in both PVP and PVE, especially given on frustrating Perma-Stealth is to fight against for most players. Given this we wanted to bring rogues back to being strong burst classes while giving them several interesting ways to accomplish this. We feel that these changes will drastically change the meta in both PVE and PVP, allowing far more party compositions and interesting choices.
MM: Does gear and item balancing become part of this equation as well or are we just talking class specific changes for now?
CM: These changes are primarily class specific.
MM: With a game like NeverWinter, a game that intends to add new classes in the future, how often does the balancing discussion take place? I’m sure you talk about it all the time, but I mean, how often does the serious “We need to make changes” discussion occur?
CM: While we are constantly considering smaller and more incremental changes, something on this scale is something that doesn’t come up frequently. It most often comes up when we notice there is a problem with how we want to present content or gameplay going forward which is best solved by improving the classes in specific ways. Good luck and Godspeed Adventurers!
Our thanks to Chris for stopping by and giving us the scoop. Be sure to stay tuned to the dev tracker regarding these changes for any last minute updates!