Combat Milestone Powers: The Knight

The time has come to start talking about the powers we have been building for the archetypes! As usual the standard caveats apply: We are still building this system, so things are liable to change.  In fact, they are almost guaranteed to change!

Before we start, let’s cover a few of the basics.

Our Approach: Minimum Viable Powers

We have been building each archetype with what we think would be a ‘minimum viable power’ kit for that archetype to be useful and fun in combat. This means that the current list isn’t final, and some of the powers might even jump to other archetypes (or be cut entirely!) as we continue development.

You’ll also notice that this is just our first iteration of the combat user interface (UI). As such, we are also leaving ourselves room on the powers tray for the player to eventually slot additional combat powers (i.e. the ones that the player will acquire via disciplines, advantages, or class promotions). We also assume there will be another non-combat related power bar when we start building those systems.

In other words, don’t freak out about the interface!

The first round of powers was selected for a dual purpose: to build a set of cool, functional powers (obviously) and also to test the limits of the PhysX simulation in Unity. Each power often had a set of new (and different) components that would be useful not only in the construction of that particular power, but would also open up a new area of design discovery.  The goal is to build reusable elements that we can repurpose in other powers.

For example, in order to build the Knight’s Shield Slam power, we defined what we needed first. This power should:

  •          Use a hold-to-charge-up mechanic to activate, 
  •          Deal more damage the longer it is charged,
  •          Allow the player to rotate their facing while charging up,
  •          Display a small screen shake visual effect at each charge level,
  •          Guarantee a critical hit if charged over a threshold value,
  •          Stop charging at some point (a max charge level),
  •          Have a maximum hold time at max charge level and, lastly,
  •          Send an email to any player who gets hit by a fully-charged power to inform them that they are a bad player and need to get better (no, not really). 

That’s a lot of new features needed to make this power work! Rather than hardcode it as a single feature, we want to build it in components so that we can mix them and match them, then reuse them to create other powers (for other archetypes and disciplines).

The payoff for this, eventually, is that our toolbox of features will become bigger and more varied, and it will become easier (and much cheaper) for us to build new powers.

On to the Knight!

Mechanically, the Knight uses mana to fuel any power in the 1-0 position. His left click primary attack not only deals damage, it also restores his mana in large chunks… the further into the combo chain the more mana is restored. The third power in this chain also applies a short duration snare to the target. Periodically, the Knight will have to return to the primary attacks to regain his mana and/or keep his target snared.

His right click active shield block power does a LOT of different things.  It reduces incoming damage for the Knight, and for any friendly players standing behind him. This power is fueled by the stamina bar, which drains slowly over time.  In addition, whenever he is hit, his stamina is reduced in proportion to the hit.

Players who engage a blocking Knight will also have a chance to be knocked down when they hit the Knight with a front-facing melee attack, and ranged magical attacks can reflect instant damage back to the caster.

Finally, blocking increases the Knight’s mass and reduces his drag values, which means he is less likely to be pushed around by impulses and falls quicker when in the air.

(Note that we still have more work to do on block to introduce directionality, projectile reflection and linking shields, but will get to those features as we build more components.)

We are constantly tweaking with this power, as we think of it as a keystone ability for the Knight… we want it to feel somewhat punishing to hit a blocking Knight. To counter this effect, we will at some point build block-breaker powers for some of the other archetypes.

iFrame Powers

This is a term you probably aren’t familiar with, so let’s define it.  iFrame powers, on activation, typically remove the player from the physics simulation and render them invulnerable to damage while performing the power (a very short duration, obviously). This means if you use a physics impulse on a character performing an iFrame power, they won’t get pushed around. We are putting all attacks we designate as aniFrame power on the C key for now.

We generally try to associate powers that use this property with those powers that send a player into the air. We are also limiting both use and availability of these powers, since they step outside the simulation. In other words, we only plan on giving some of the archetypes access to these powers.

In the case of the Knight, his Leap Slam is an iFrame that launches him into the air and creates a physics pull (small pull on large characters, large pull on normal/small characters) on his ascent, pulling nearby players into a sort of ‘localized gravity well’. As he crashes back into the ground, he deals damage within a small radius (i.e. the characters that he pulled).

Passive Powers

Next, we go to his passive powers. Supporting these required our engineering team to build procedural (proc) effects, and the corresponding reactive proc effects, before we could make passives actually do anything. This opens up a HUGE new area of design space.

Each character has an archetype-specific Retaliate passive power that can only be used when they are knocked down. This power, when activated, will leap the character back to their feet from a knocked down state and will then deal damage to everyone in the area.

Retaliate is treated like a hidden combo, so the player never sees it on their bar, it only appears when you are knocked down. This tech is incredibly exciting; it sounds simple but the implications are enormous. The cooldown on Retaliate is lengthy, so you might have to eat a full knockdown in some cases, if crowd control immunity hasn’t kicked in yet on you.

The other passive on the Knight is a hit point buff to his companions. (The functionality isn’t all in yet, so for now it just provides the benefit to the Knight… but that’s fine, for our first combat milestone.)

Sprint is technically a passive, but we don’t display it on the power bar. Depressing the shift key will increase the speed of the character (currently, by 40%) and rapidly drains the stamina bar. Knights have to be careful when using Sprint, as it could potentially leave them unable to use block at a crucial time.

The Powers Bar

Let’s look at the powers bar in detail.

The first power in the active power tray is Shield Lunge, this instant power moves the Knight a large distance over a short time.

Shield Slam, as mentioned before, is a charged power which has the capacity to deal a guaranteed critical hit if charged long enough. The player can spin their camera as they are charging up, we call this turret mode. Charged powers can only be charged for so long before they auto-release.

Shield Spin is a quick one-two punch with a stun component on the number two power in the combo.

The Onslaught combo series is really five powers in one. To build it, we had to support branching Combo Trees. Internally, we call the left side of a combo tree the A-line and the right side the B-line. In the case of Onslaught, the A-line deals damage and ends in a knockdown on the third power. The Onslaught B-line is all about bleeds and the third power has an AoE bleed component.

The next power, Of Noble Blood looks simple on the surface; it’s an AoE shout.  Designing this one has been a bit tricky, however.  It somehow keeps ending up with an AoE debuff on it, but then we play it and remember, “Oh yeah, debuffs are primarily a support role thing.” We pull it off and make it into an AoE buff. Then we go, “Oh yeah, AoE buffs are primarily a support role thing,” and move it back to an AoE debuff.

You can see the loop we are caught in. It did spend some time as a self-attack power buff, with a corresponding self-armor debuff, but we didn’t love that, either.  We aren’t exactly sure where this one will land. We are pretty sure of the name, however, which we took from the original Crowfall class design where characters would promote from Noble to Knight. (Easter egg!)

Chain Attack is the Knight’s Get-Over-Here! power which enables the Knight to pull a player, or any rigid body object like a barrel or a rock, towards them. The power applies a reverse velocity to what is in the direction of the Knight’s crosshairs.  This power is really cool, and fun to use, but early testing told us pretty quickly that it is really hard to use this power to grab a fleeing target in a non-tab target system.  So in the latest iteration, we’ve gone from using a raycast (straight line) from the crosshairs to a larger volume for targeting purposes. It’s a bit more forgiving, and works a lot better as a result.

TL;DR Summary

So, there you have it in a nutshell, the current slate of the Knight’s basic power kit. This initial kit gives him a few physics powers, very useful single opponent control, methods to avoid damage, and some fun combos. Combined with his baseline tank role stats, this should make him quite durable on the battlefield. Our goal is for Knights to use their bodies as obstacles on the battlefield, creating a forward line which you have to get around to deal with the squishy heavy-hitters nuking from behind. Even then, the knight has peeling and lockdown capabilities forcing you to deal with him before swerving around.

We hope this gives the basic Knight a good kit of potentially fun toys to play with and plenty of room left to customize! As always, excited to hear your thoughts and ideas!

Thomas Blair
Design Lead