Windy Work

Today’s update on Invade the Ruins is about the Skyknight.  The SK has long been the “control group” for hero design, having several really basic spells: a direct target heal and a direct target damage.  The trickiness with him is in designing his third spell.  Let’s look at his full spellbook:

  • Lightning Flash: Shocks three targets with lightning.  Efficient damage, great for taking down key targets, scales well.  A really consistent spell that may be simple, but it works.
  • Refreshing Breeze: Heals a friendly target for a large amount.  Can not heal himself.  All of the other heals in the game are group heals, making this heal unique in its ability to pinpoint allies that need saving.
  • Form of Wind: Damages and banishes a group of enemies.  Spreads damage out more than his other spell, but also banishes the targets.  Banished enemies in WC3 take double damage from spells, so there’s a lot of combo potential for this spell.
  • Wind Gate: Teleports the Skyknight a long distance.  As one of only two heroes with a “blink”-style ability, he’s got a lot of mobility and can search out secrets.
  • Maelstrom: Deals heavy damage to an area over 7 seconds.  Ultimate spell, huge damage.

Except for some numbers tweaks, Lightning Flash, Refreshing Breeze, and Wind Gate have stayed the same since his initial design.  Maelstrom has barely changed as well.  The problem child for the Skyknight has always been Form of Wind.  Initially “just” a cheap, fast-castable Banish, it proved to be an unpopular spell, and still wasn’t popular when I made it an area Banish.  Such a spell would be amazingly good in regular WC3, but it just didn’t get any takers in my map.  I improved it to also deal damage, making it deal roughly equal total damage to Lightning Flash, but it is still his least popular spell.

In many ways, Form of Wind is a superior spell to Lightning Flash, yet it’s less popular.  There aren’t enough skill points to invest heavily in both, and players pick Lightning Flash.  It has taught me that balancing numbers isn’t the key factor in making appealing spells.  I want to use some of the techniques I’ve learned since the initial designs to create a new ability.  The revamp of Sarcomancy and its synergies gave me ideas for an active version of that skill.  Also, the name “Form of Wind” made me think about a shape-shift which changes how his spells work.

My first draft of this new Form of Wind is a spell which, when clicked, gives the Skyknight an attack speed boost for 15 seconds.  Additionally, if he casts any other spells during Form of Wind, Form of Wind ends and that spell gains an additional trait:

  • Lightning Flash – A second bolt of lightning, this one a chain lightning, streaks out starting at the main target.  This increases the total damage of the spell by about 60%.
  • Refreshing Breeze – Pulls the healed hero to the Skyknight.  A great way to save an ally from a swarm of enemies.
  • Wind Gate – Banishes all of the enemies near his starting point.  Replicates some of the combo-potential of the old Form of Wind by setting him up for big damage.
  • Maelstrom – Recharges the Skyknight’s health over the 7 seconds of Maelstrom’s channeling.  Lets him survive a bunch of hits as he’s blasting foes with lightning.

There are a lot of things going on here that may not be apparent.  The first is timing.  A saavy player can use the attack buff for 10 seconds or so and then burn the buff at the end.  Someone ready for danger can put up FoW knowing that they’ll soon want to use a pull-heal or a blink-and-banish.

The next level to this spell is mana efficiency.  If you want to turn mana into damage, casting FoW before the Lightning Flash improves your efficiency.  Or, you can banish a bunch of enemies for cheap and then cast either LF or Maelstrom for double damage.

The final level is skill point efficiency.  Say your favorite spell is Lightning Flash.  You can improve your damage equally by either putting points in Lightning Flash or in Form of Wind!  The scaling of FoW enables players to keep improving their damage while also getting additional utility.  Additionally, the extra attack speed helps him get more kills and rounds out his usual weakness (low killing blow count).

I expect to work on one more hero and then release a playable alpha version for testing.    I’m glad you read my article and I hope you stay tuned for more!