Working on Invade the Ruins

I’m jumping back into working on my Warcraft 3 mod, Invade the Ruins.  I feel this itch every once in a while and it’s always a lot of fun.  My first order of business (besides looking more at that crash bug) is reconsidering the Heroes and how I could make them more fun.  Since there was a patch since the last release, I fired up a private game to see if anything was clearly broken.  I picked the Howling Druid, and as I did that, I had some realizations about his playstyle.  I got to work right away on capturing that bolt of thought.

(If you haven’t played Invade yet, you will probably get a lot more out of this article if you try it first.)

Quickly, a rundown of his spells:

  • Song of Renewal: A “tranquility”-style healing spell where he stands still for 12 seconds and continuously heals nearby allies.  His “main” spell.
  • Battle Commands: A furious shout that increases the attack damage of all nearby allies for 30 seconds. One of his other two major (6-rank) spells.
  • Thunderous Bellow: A shout that sends a powerful shockwave out, blasting all foes in front of him.  His other major spell.
  • Words of Reassurance: Key words of insight and resolute support, improving an ally’s attack speed and defense.  His “minor” (2-rank) spell.
  • Cry of the Ancients: Terrifying howl which instantly reduces enemy attack power while healing all nearby allies.  His “ultimate” (requires level 8 ) spell.

Words of Reassurance is a spell that, I see now, is fun “in concept” but not as fun “in practice”.  I’ll explain this further in a minute.  Anyhow, for anyone familiar with WC3 mechanics, the numbers on WoR are clearly really solid (10%-20% attack speed boost and 5-10 armor) and definitely worth the skill points.  A lot of players cite it as part of why they like the Howling Druid.  He’s got a lot of good support abilities and timing his Song of Renewal is fun and takes skill.  He makes the party better.

One of my goals for the ItR update is improving choices in terms of character builds.  I want there to be more “flavors” of each hero.  The Earthtalker actually embodies some of this idea currently: he is equally strong as either as a long range caster who times his explosive inscriptions carefully or as a thunderclapping, thick-skinned basher.

In trying to bring these options to the Howling Druid, I’ve targetted Words of Reassurance as a spell that does not add enough flavor to a druid player’s playstyle.  In other words, while it may be a numerically sound buff, its additions are not perceptible: 10% faster attack speed or 15% more damage resistance does not make battles look any different.

One technique I have learned from recent World of Warcraft development is that weak/unfun spells can be “baked in” to other abilities or into the rules of the game.  Rather than having to spec for increased threat generation (something every tank would have to do), extra threat was “baked into” the threat caused by tanking abilities.  In an application of this concept, I’m replacing Words of Reassurance.  I’m “baking in” the bonuses of WoR into the druid in the following ways:

  1. Song of Renewal heals for 20% more but costs 6% more mana – With less armor, the Howling Druid’s allies will be taking more damage and thus need more healing.  So his heal is better.  Also, without having to continuously sustain WoR, he’ll have a bit more mana.
  2. Battle Commands grants slightly more attack power up front and much more attack power at high ranks – BC grants flat attack damage whereas WoR grants percent damage, meaning it takes only a little bonus to compensate at low levels but a larger bonus to compensate at high levels.
  3. Thunderous Bellow and his basic attack deal more damage – Also picking up for the loss of attack damage are his own attack abilities.  TB’s base and scaling damage is changing to make it better at high levels.  His base attack speed is increasing slightly to keep his “get a few swings in between spells” rhythm going.

Gaby is probably my most experienced ItR tester.  One thing she advocates is the “Make skill training affordable!” idea.  By this she means that most players won’t hit rank 5 or 6 of their abilities, so make the effect of each rank noticible.  By removing WoR as a “required buff”, players will have more points to make important training choices.  Which leads into (the first version of) his new ability:

  • Charge Order: Greatly increase the movement speed of nearby allies for 15 seconds.

Simple, huh?  Flavor-wise, he speaks out a few wise and shrewd battlefield commands.  If you’ve played ItR, you can imagine all of the ways the druid will save his allies from trouble.  Which is exactly what a good support character does.  Though simple, I think this inspires a lot of good teamwork for the druid his teammates.  If a druid player wants to play “stand and fight” style, though, he can instead specialize in the other existing spells and have more straightforward but more powerful skills.  I’ve even got a few ideas on how to make sure this doesn’t overlap too much with the “Runes of Speed” in the game!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and I look forward to writing more!