Infernal Research

I worked on the Feral Diabolist today as part of working on my Warcraft 3 map, Invade the Ruins.  The Diabolist already has a few interesting things going on with his development and I felt like he could be a good next step in figuring out my vision with this new version.  He’s a melee hero that relies on spell casting to deal damage.  Let’s break down what his current spells do:

  • Rippling Sinew: Greatly increases his damage and armor and grants him spell immunity for 8 seconds.  One of his two 6 rank attack spells.  Good for making a big dent in a boss, cracking open a spawner building, or helping him escape from trouble.
  • Bloodbath: Summons and immediately explodes a demon, covering foes in acidic blood and bile.  His other 6 rank attack spell, this one is a mob killer.  It’s cheap to cast and hits a big area.
  • Sarcomancy: Alters all of his other spells, improving them in some way.  Longer duration on Rippling Sinew, lower cooldown on Bloodbath, lower mana cost for Havoc, and a special spiked carapace for Cursed Carrion.  Also a passive boost to his attack damage.  His final 6 rank spell.
  • Havoc: Drains a quarter of the health of all nearby enemies and heals him and his allies for 5% of their health for each opponent drained.  His 2-point spell and a strong one, useful in emergencies against the largest hordes of enemies.  Costs a big chunk of mana.
  • Cursed Carrion: Summons a large, powerful insect that accompanies and fights for the Diabolist.  Can also carry items.

Sarcomancy intends to enable a “jack-of-all-trades” style by providing mini-skill points to a variety of abilities.  This doesn’t quite happen as his spells are mana intensive and he isn’t an Intelligence-based hero with high mana regeneration.  His cooldowns also tend to be pretty long, making him a hot-or-not damage dealer.  By working on him, I hope to improve the synergy between his abilities and give him a more exciting playstyle.

As you might remember from the previous article, powers that have great numbers can be mistaken for powers that are fun to use.   Initially, I wanted to simply pump each bonus Sarcomancy grants so its effects were more noticeable on screen.  I ran into problems with this avenue, though, as the max ranks of Sarcomancy reach really high (or low) numbers.  Improving Sarcomancy-as-designed any further isn’t possible.  “Sarcomancy spec” isn’t viable.

While testing out various Sarcomancy settings with Rippling Sinew, I had a different idea.  Rather than trying to strengthen Sarcomancy’s direct tie to other spells, I could improve synergy between the other spells to the point that Sarcomancy would enable special combos.  The first change causes any spells cast during Rippling Sinew restore 20 mana.  This reduces the effective cost of Bloodbath from 55 to 35 while in Sinew. Also, since Sarcomancy reduces Havoc’s mana cost, Havoc can become quite inexpensive with a few points in Sarcomancy.

The real synergy here emerges when the player has invested those points in Sarcomancy.  Rippling Sinew normally lasts 8 seconds and Bloodbath has a 12 second cooldown, so you can’t cast Bloodbath twice during Rippling Sinew.  After one point, RS goes to 10 and BB 10, which is just barely too slow to get off two BBs.  Once you spend 2 or more points in Sarcomancy, it becomes possible to cast 2 or more discounted BBs in a row.  In this way, a player can heavily invest in Sarcomancy and, without many other points, can harness a flexible and potent playstyle.

I also wanted to tie Havoc and Cursed Carrion into Sarcomancy using this kind of indirect synergy.  I felt like his carrion creature would be the sort of thing he’d sacrifice at a moment’s notice, if it suited him.  So, when the Diabolist casts Havoc with a Carrion Beast out, the Beast will be sacrificed and the power of Havoc amped up significantly.  Going from dealing 25% (of each creatures health) to 35% damage is a huge amount when multiplied by the 5-10 creatures hit by the spell.  Making the “OH SHI-” button, your emergency button, more powerful is a lot of fun.  If the player has conserved mana using Sarcomancy-related combos, this combo can be used frequently and to big effect.  By putting the “mana game” in players’ hands, the Diabolist gains a great deal of interactivity and I expect him to be a lot more fun going forward.

Stay tuned for more articles and for an alpha version of the map!