Magicka Dev Diary: Shards, shields, and spam

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Magicka taps into the curiosity in all of us; we can't help but want to know how two elements will react together. But, more importantly, how effective will the result be at killing stuff? Soon, however, enemies won't just include monsters and your "buddy" who always seems to friendly-fire a Meteor Storm right on your head. PvP is finally making its way to Magicka, and the devs from Arrowhead Game Studios want to tell you all about. Come and enjoy a sit-down chat with Arrowhead's Johan Pilestedt. Feel free to brew some tea while you read.

For the benefit of our fantastic player community, we thought we might open our doors a little and show you what we are working on regarding the upcoming PvP patch. The PvP patch will bring official PvP to Magicka, in the way we always wanted, and with some great refinements proposed by the community.

Today's blog post is about the Ice shards, spamming of spells and how resistances will work. I hope you will enjoy a look inside the machinery.

Taking a hard look at PvP—you know, blasting friends to bits—we noticed that spamming ice shards, often with arcane and lightning, was a very good tactic. Further testing confirmed this. Even further testing confirmed this even further. In short, just spamming the same arcane ice shards over and over was an easy way of winning 8/10 competitions. Yeah, fun stuff! But we knew that we had to do something about the balance—the question was what.

We considered several different approaches to modifying ice shards, discussing different ways to balance them out. During this process, we revisited their damage formula, to see how ice shard damage was calculated. We found that the original formula spawned more and more ice shards the more ice you had charged up, and applied the same damage to all of them. For example, using 4x ice and 1x arcane would give you 12 shards, each of which would do the same damage as if you had 1x ice and 1x arcane. Now, this might sound good in theory, but experience showed that these ice shards were a little too powerful.

The solution was to divide the damage based on the number of ice shards—not in a 1:1 way, but gradually, to even out the damage. This lowered the damage somewhat, and eliminated the scaling problem. But it didn't solve the issue of ice spamming. Spamming was still effective, especially in close range, and this compromised the gameplay. After all, we don't want every encounter determined by a competition of which player can spam faster.

Ultimately, we made the physical component in the ice shard damage depend on how much force you charged up, much like the earth element. This leveled the field a bit more, by making it worthwhile to charge your ice shards – if not to full, then at least for a second before releasing them. This promptly stopped spamming, as it was always worth more damage to charge your ice shards.

Meanwhile, the interaction between beams and shields has also changed. It used to be that if you fired a beam at someone, you could strike them even through a personal shield. The beam would detonate at that person, hurling them away and potentially doing huge amounts of damage. We've now changed this so that beams will always explode at the caster, or at the nearest merge. This means that using beams will not be the same no-brainier it used to be. You must take care when casting a beam, lest you put yourself in potentially grave danger!

Finally, resistance auras have been completely reworked. They now offer full protection to any spell containing that element. This means that if I have lightning resistance, then even the almighty QFQFASS beam won't hurt even the slightest bit. It is our hope that this change will force players to think more about what elements they are using, and adapt to different situations. To discourage players from turtling by using a resistance aura, the individual elements for a resistance aura now give a very short period of resistance, which increases with the more elements you have of the same type.

It's no easy task to balance Magicka for PvP, because we can't simply balance spells for their damage. After all, it's a complex, dynamic spell-casting system. Many spells have a lot of utility, and the large amount of combinations available makes it difficult to predict exactly how a small change will affect the overall balance of the game. Alas, that's all for now. Tune in next week, when we talk about water bombing and loss of character control.