PCG: I've heard complaints about the number of skills you can use at once. Like, WoW lets you turn your screen into a patchwork quilt of abilities, but TSW stops you at seven. Are you hoping, though, to foster teamwork with that decision? To force players to stick together to make up for their glaring individual weaknesses?
JB : I think you saw today, in the match we just played, the team that I was on, the Illuminati, I had a couple of marketing guys who didn't know how to play. We were a team, but we weren't playing as a team. People were running off in every direction. If I was playing the hammer guy, had the knockdowns, had CCs, and my healer had followed me and kept me up, it would have been a much different match for our side. I would have been able to clear space, let the DPSes get some time with the guys who I knocked down.
I think it is about team synergies. Absolutely, it's a part of that. The seven abilities thing, that's also something we can change if we want to - if we feel it's too restrictive. But for now it's the baseline, and it really is good to encourage that group synergy and not be just solo players.
I do imagine that the flavor-of-the-month builds - which are going to happen - people are going to say that this is the best build. I think that the cool thing is, people will be building counters to that really quickly. The whole dynamic can shift between one match and the next. You can imagine that one team dominates because they have a lot of stuns, and then the next PvP match everyone brings stuns because one team was dominating with that. But then the match after that, everyone brings anti-stuns, and suddenly the whole tide is shifting as far as how the combat works. I think it'll be really cool.
PCG: What are you planning in terms of the future of the game? Do you already have plans for what sort of model you're going to have for the game after launch? What sort of endgame are you going for? Just raiding and things like that, or are you going to focus on PvP stuff? What are you offering for players who've unlocked all the skills and such?
MB : It's both. First of all, unlocking all the skills will take you a good amount of time. But yeah, we have heroic dungeons, they'll be available in heroic mode, we have the token reward system. We'll have raids. We think that PvP will be an important part of the endgame, especially with the war zones that are open 24/7. We hope all that animosity can come out there and really kick everyone's ass.
Also, when you have three sides in PvP, it's perfect for that. You can, if you're Illuminati and you're controlling a zone, you're providing bonuses to your entire secret society. Even the ones who aren't PvP. Which means that Dragon and Templar can kick you out because they're tired of you, they want to throw you out. I think a lot of the meta-game around that will be really interesting. The crafting system, we haven't really talked about it much yet. But we think, at least, it'll be cool.
JB : It'll be almost as interesting as building decks in some ways.
MB : Achievements, lore. Lore is built into the system. You run around and pick up these lore pieces to get the whole picture of the...
JB : The exploration mechanic, yeah.
MB : And we'll also have, Joel mentioned the lairs, the group areas that we put into the game. In the lairs you can pick up different items that you can combine to spawn your own boss that's yours to kill and loot, and in order to do that you need to travel around the world. I think that'll be interesting as well.
PCG: Do you have any ideas for endgame stuff that's totally out of left field - that doesn't really fit the mold of "You're gonna raid or you're gonna do PvP"?
JB : Ragnar loves it when we talk about these. What we call puzzle raids, which is like an investigation-style thing, but you require multiple people to solve it. It's for people who aren't into the [raiding combat]. It gives these people these puzzles to solve in the world, big conspiracies to unravel. Things like that. The way that they solve them requires groups. [For example], there's a big sundial hidden in London, and everybody has to stand at different points on the sundial to create this shadow that touches at the right moment. That sort of thing.
Avoiding Combat Entirely
PCG: Would you like to eventually reach a point where people could theoretically do everything - see the whole game world - without combat? Like they could just solve puzzles and complete investigation missions all the way through?
JB : I'd love to be able to do that. The sabotage missions and investigation missions really give you XP for not fighting stuff. So there's some encouragement on that level. I'm not sure the game will really work that well with that outlook right at the start. But it will pick up. And we want to keep adding investigations, to keep the puzzles fresh as well. They're pretty cheap to do on our end. The one you saw today was a bit more expensive because it has a bit more animation work and stuff done on it. But generally they're fairly cheap to do, they don't cost a lot. It's nice, the media pop-up thing you saw with the pitches? Re-using concept art.
But I don't know if the focus [could move away from combat entirely]. The idea is also to lead people into the skill system eventually. But I guess for me it's more... People who come for the story play the content, hopefully start to get a feel for the combat, and eventually stay for the combat. People who come for the combat actually start to have the story seep into them for a bit, and by the end they also care about the story. They feed into each other.
PCG: The Magic: the Gathering comparison comes up a lot for the skill system. Would you consider expanding the skill system in a Magic-style manner?
MB : Yeah. Or even a new weapon, new weapon types.
JB : Here's machineguns. We have assault rifles, so here's dual machineguns. You've been using dual pistols, so here's... I dunno, death magic. It's something different.
MB : There are trigger mechanics right now, in the combat department that are used like any other triggers. When I say "triggers," I mean things like critical hit, evade, and block. They trigger other effects. There are more effects than what we saw in the game, that we can enable at a later point if we want to make this even deeper. We're waiting to see how this resonates. We've picked out the ones that we think make sense and feel good. There are definitely more aspects to the combat that we can enable. But as I said, we'll see how this goes first. We'll definitely be giving out content updates with new weapons and new skills. We absolutely plan on that.