Developer Diary : Guardian Class Changes in Helm’s Deep
Developer Diary : Guardian Class Changes in Helm’s Deep
Hey all, Verizal here to talk to you about all the fun, new changes coming up with the Guardian. I was pretty pumped when I found out that I was going to have the opportunity to work on this class, given both my experiences in LOTRO, and my inclination towards heavier classes in other MMOs. For whatever reason, the idea of charging headlong into battle, covered in plate, and swinging a giant axe appeals to me much more than hanging out on the outskirts of the fight, plinking away at the enemy and hoping they don’t look my way (sorry Hunters). It was with this sort of mentality that I tried to approach this rather sizeable revamp.
When I started this process, a fair amount of pre-planning had already been done for me. That is, I was able to look at what we currently had in game and say, “Sure. There’s already a DPS tree so I may as well attempt to flesh that out. And they certainly need to keep their tank tree, so I’m gonna work with that as well.” The third tree, however, was the threat tree. As many of you know, threat will be seeing some significant changes in the future, so I needed to build out a new play-style for the Guardian that was unique enough to warrant its own tree, and interesting enough to bring in players that have already become so accustomed to the standard methods of Guardian tanking and dps. Once this was done, I also had to make sure that the other two trees were just as exciting.
The Keen Blade
So for all of you returning players, you probably recognize the name of this tree as being the Guardians’ former DPS trait set. While not necessarily focusing on any specific means of damage dealing, this set offered some forms of skill-specific crit chance and increased damage, as well as some general improvements to survivability. My initial hopes were to somehow combine these bonuses with the essence of the Overpower stance (high base and crit damage) to create a fully functional DPS option for the Guardian. I wanted the Guardian to be able to hold his own when it came to damage numbers and not simply be viewed as a wannabe Champion. My first iteration, however, didn’t really accomplish this goal. I found myself left with a bunch of useful traits that did not really meld together into any singular play-style. The Guardian had high base damage, but that was about it. So I took a step back. I needed to find a feature of this class that I could actually turn into a fully formed play-style, where players would be forced to think through their actions, rather than simply hit the first button that lit up. And that’s when it came to me – bleeds. The Guardian has always had access to them, but I feel has never really utilized them as anything more than a secondary feature. It is from there that I decided on the bleed application/cashout mechanic.
As players progress further and further down this line, they will gain access to more bleeds on skills, as well as the ability to stack more bleeds on a target. Starting out, for instance, a Guardian is only able to maintain a stack of three bleeds on a target and only has one means of applying them. As they begin to invest more points, however, they will eventually gain the ability to stack up to ten bleeds, apply double bleeds on crit, and even occasionally heal through their application. Guardians will also receive an improved version of Overwhelm when spec’ing into this tree that allows them to ‘cash out’ any bleeds that are present on a target. To put it simply, they will remove all bleeds on the target to deal high burst damage that is relevant to the number of bleeds removed. It is up to the player to decide when to best utilize this ability.
The Defender of the Free
Originally the Guardian’s threat tree, the Defender of the Free is now the Guardian’s primary means of tanking. Much like the Guardian’s DPS tree, I originally went into the line hoping to meld together a lot of the pre-existing traits with the Guardian’s defensive stance, but essentially found myself left with a nearly identical, defensive counterpart to the Guardian’s initial Keen Blade line. There were a lot of passive bonuses to give this line a solid ‘mitigation tank’ sort of feel, but nothing that really held the tree together or defined any sort of unique playstyle. As with the Keen Blade line, I did not want tanks to simply be sitting around as they waited for their responses to pop and, given the threat revamp, it was decided that they were certainly going to need more of an active, survivability-based playstyle to compensate for the future ease of threat management.
The main feature of this line is Fortification or, simply put, a stacking buff that the Guardian has a chance to receive through the use of shield skills that will increase their mitigations. While intended to be able to provide a fairly sizeable increase to their tanking capabilities, this buff is able to be cashed out for a fellowship-wide damage buff, providing the Guardian with the choice between lowered defenses and a quick burn, or a longer, more protected fight.
The Fighter of Shadow
As mentioned earlier, this was probably my toughest tree to design as, given the revamp to threat and the transition of tanking to the Defender of the Free, I did not really have a solid starting point. Initially, I had felt that this tree might serve as a decent ‘middle of the line’ tree, focusing equally on offense and defense. After having done my initial implementation, however, I was not pleased with the result, and felt that players would really only dip into this tree to supplement one of the others. The playstyle was not distinct, and Guardian was left feeling like a watered-down version of both other trees combined. So, as was my tendency with the other two lines, I took it in another direction.
The Fighter of Shadow line utilizes a unique marking mechanic never before available to the Guardian. On damage, the Guardian is able to mark targets, which will provide future attacks with the ability to deal additional light damage on hit (this is a separate effect from the base damage on skills). These marks will also be used to supplement pre-existing skills, providing buffs and heals when these skills are used on marked targets. To coincide with this new play-style, I also provided this line with the ability to block with two-handed weapons, and provided a bit more access to AoE attacks, an area where the other two lines are a bit weak. The intent here being a very capable off-tank that can dish out a fair amount of damage.
I’m very excited for you all to be able to try out these new changes and look forward hearing what you have to say.