Well, it's been some time. I haven't been around since shortly after the last patch here and in-game, so I'll have some catching up to do. Expect this to be long. I'll go through specific posts later. If anything gets too rambly or is too unclear or not in-depth enough, just ask.
After reading through the various forum threads, enduring the occasional chatbox heroes' rants and seeing comments in-game, it's becoming increasingly clear that we could have done a better job at explaining the reasoning behind many changes. There's quite a lot of criticism that stems from a lack of understanding of mechanics, awareness of related changes or knowledge of overall goals. So I'm going to take some space here to explain some changes since the 59 cap in more detail and what we're trying to achieve with these, and shed some light on what's still coming.
Likely the biggest issue is us not being clear on the scope and permanence of changes.
Let's talk scope first - for now only the basic class skills were included. We are aware of many ultimates being lackluster and we have some changes to mechs planned as well. Suggestions for those are still welcome, but don't expect any news there until some later, not yet openly announced date - most likely alongside new mechs and such.
Permanence of changes is more tricky, since this is more down to individual skills. It's fair to say that most of the broad changes have been received well and are going to stick, even if some details aren't quite nailed down and some numbers need some tweaking. I'll explain the more experimental or contentious stuff later.
Let's get to some broader goals
Many skills used to be capped at various levels. The effects this had varied from skill to skill, but in almost all cases this was undesirable. The two biggest problems:
Relevance: If the numbers were tuned to be appropriate for their level, it meant that the skill could be good or even OP at that level, but unless the skill's effect is largely unaffected by level (e.g. CC, cleanse), it would drop into uselessness very quickly. A good example would be WH's Demolition - a 135 DEF debuff may be good at level 29 but it sure is irrelevant at level 59.
Frontloading: A skill may be worth using even if it capped dozens of levels earlier. However this usually meant that the investment into that skill is loaded heavily into lower levels and would cost a substantial amount of points at those levels, while being trivial at higher levels. Choosing to max a ME buff at level 39 comes at a hefty price (12-15 points out of 57 total - 25%!), while it doesn't hurt much to pick up 2 or more at higher levels.
Now, almost all skills can be levelled until the level cap is reached, where some skills had new ranks added and some were stretched out.
On the flipside of relevance, we have necessity - we found that a lot of skills had most of their power loaded into the first few ranks, and investing any more points was unnecessary or straight-up wasted. This creates one-point wonders or skills where the power of each point varies wildly. Good examples of this were cleanses, heals and slows. Instead, each invested skill point should be a meaningful choice and feel worthwhile.
In the first iteration, a bunch of skills overshot this mark and landed in the other extreme, where the power was more loaded into the last few ranks - which also has the effect of drowning out choice, but for a different reason: now it wouldn't be worth picking up a skill that you couldn't max out.
Now, I think, most skills have a decent effect relative to the number of points put into them. There are a bunch of situations where this is impossible to achieve, for example offensive skills' base damage, or flat HP/ATK buffs - which are largely informed by the level a rank is unlocked at. There we have to rely on percentage values to matter enough at higher levels.
More class-specific stuff
Detection/Concealment. Numbers have gone down overall to bring them back to more manageable levels and to nerf stacking of buffs. Since there are only detection party buffs and no concealment party buffs, this works out in favor of stealth. Overall interaction between Arkana SE and SW is similar (although both passives are now identical rather than in SW's favor). Kumari passive detection has been nerfed significantly. All skills allow for much more investment if you want your build to focus on them.
Pure aggro skills. Those were often requested to get some effect in PvP. Now it's become clear though that they probably need something other than hard CC.
Due to getting stuns, their CD has mostly gone up as well, which hurts their main purpose of drawing aggro. Raw aggro numbers are a pain to get right, since they need to fight an an exponential increase in raw ATK and roughly linear increase of %ATK, Crit Rate and Crit ATK across levels. We'll have to see about dealing with that, probably need to rely much more an % Aggro to do the lifting. And if we find another good effect to put on those skills, we might be able to leverage CD reduction as well.
Although I think that this problem isn't purely down to aggro skills - partially it's also way too easy for other classes to dish out damage in PvE, due to newer monsters not having as much EVA/CH-EVA as previous caps, players reaching 10k+ Crit Rate, and so on. How that's going to be handled is up in the air at this point, but personally I think this needs addressing.
Previously deemed to not fulfill their role as a main tank. Tankiness was a bit lackluster, AoE CC was terrible, yet 1v1 capabilities and burst potential was excellent against squishy targets, atrocious against other tanks.
So a few main goals were:
increased overall tankiness
keeping DE fairly mobile, especially compared to WH
reduce overall damage against squishy targets, increase it against tanks
move some CC duration to AoE
better peeling ability
Higher tankiness is fairly straightforward.
Protection Mastery had a small amount of Crit Void added.
Chakra Shield has slightly higher stats overall, the bonus HP now scales much better with levels.
Iron Skin had its CD cut drastically, slightly shorter duration to make up for it but overall uptime is higher now (33% → 55%). Bonus HP, DEF and Void scale better. Crit Void and Chakra Resist added. However, it used to be very easy to use Iron Skin as a substitute for tank gear, and would've been even better with these changes, so DE's would be able to nuke squishies during Iron Skin, while taking little damage in return. CH-ATK and Crit Rate debuffs help reduce damage output in that regard. A small amount of aggro added to help keep up aggro despite the damage loss.
Demotivation's %ATK debuff has been increased significantly, and it had %CH-ATK and Crit ATK debuffs added. CD is lower.
Damage against squishy targets has been relaxed with the added debuff on Iron Skin, as well as moving some of Frenzy's damage from chakra to physical (adding a small amount of flat ATK) and from Crit Rate to Crit ATK. That along with an increased Void debuff on Clash of Titans makes them overall deal more damage to other tanks.
While DE had strong single-target CC, in larger fights their AoE CC would be lacking. Some CC duration was moved from Quicklime to Hurricane.
Peeling ability is a bit tricky due to DE's short range in general. While they have decent mobility to help with that, and both Loathing and Steel Impact could be used as long-range stuns, they still have issues getting any actual peeling done. Mobility would largely be used for engaging themselves, and we wouldn't be confident in decreasing Quicklime's CD without dumpstering or removing its CC. Stuns would usually be useless against the one class that most desperately needs to be peeled off, SWs - and one of them is possibly going away anyway.
At the moment, we have one skill planned to deal with both self-peeling and peeling for others.
Particle skills: as other classes. Scale better. Lower Cynosure CD. Wheel Impact has a smaller damage spread, average damage stayed the same.
Initial main goal here: Turn WH into the queen of AoE. Up until this point, most AoE skills have been capped at 6 targets hit. This is still true for almost all skills on other classes except specific "massive" skills (e.g. PU's Atomic Blast), but WH is allowed to break this rule. Most AoE skills can hit well beyond 6 targets, and can potentially be larger than before.
Similar to DE, tankiness has gone up a bit overall.
Armor Mastery now has VOID and DEF scales better.
Defender's Might's VOID scales better and it received ranks past level 40 to scale to end game. The movement speed debuff scales up rather than down (and starts out much lower), bringing this behavior in line with other self-debuffs and making WH more clearly a low mobility close range tank. SP regen debuff removed.
Ultimate Soulshield's DEF and VOID scale better. It also received some Crit EVA for additional damage reduction in synergy with Hardcore Assault.
The latter has been received rather poorly, and I think there is some more clarification needed as to which buff does what. Right now they fulfill similar roles. It's possible that the Crit EVA will change to Crit VOID with Hardcore Assault debuffing a mix of Crit Rate and Crit ATK instead, which is more fitting for a tank. Might even move to Defender's Might.
Plasma skills: Similar to PU. Damage has gone up a bit, but more importantly other stuff has changed.
Flaming Whip: CD 10s → 8s, larger, slightly higher initial damage.
Immolation: CD 30s → 25s, longer duration.
Rising Tempest: CD 70s → 45s, more targets, duration 10s → 20-28s.
Blazing Wounds: New debuff to support a DoT-heavy playstyle. Doesn't do DoT itself but has a decent Plasma Resist and DoT Reduction debuff. Unfortunately, the DoT Reduction debuff only works in PvP, not PvE. That's a bit of a bummer, but doesn't seem to be something we can fix.
Demolition has been extended (previously capped at level 29) and buffed overall.
Hardcore Assault debuff scales better.
Wrecking Ball: Bonus CH-ACC used to have no effect. It now has an equal amount of ACC added and both are working properly. Small amount of Gravity added to the debuff, other Chakra Resist debuff straightened out.
Blinding Tempest: New debuff.
Intuition: Now a short Detection self-buff rather than an AoE reveal.
Pulls: Lost their stun.
So first and foremost, this adds counterplay to already strong skills. A 20+ meter displacement is a powerful form of CC on its own that doesn't need additional CC to function. It instantly turns any engagement into the WH's favor by changing it from the opponent's preferred engagement range to the WH's.
In internal testing this change did not hamper WH's ability to follow up with skills - using Sadist's Choice or Electric Tempest after a pull will always go off before other CC abilities, with the exception of a perfectly timed Kumari's Stunning Beauty and various charge skills that are instant (and could previously either cancel a pull or close the gap and leave both cc'd, depending on timing). The only real changes here are that it must be followed up, and it is no longer possible to solo-chain multiple pulls to pull a target further than intended.
Also something that needs pointing out apparently: Pulls still cancel queued actions, so it's not possible for other players to use a skill from out of range to have it instantly cast while they're being pulled. The queued skill is discarded and has to be cast again after the pull completes.
That said, this testing was done under good ping conditions. It's entirely possible that even proper follow-up doesn't work out if your skills are delayed due to having higher ping than the pulled target(s). That sucks and with only having one server that has to deal with players globally (so ping differences are common), that's something we need to take into account. So if that's the cause, we'll have to incorporate that into skill design since we can't fix it by changing the netcode. Would probably result in something like adding a brief stun for the pulling duration (0.2 seconds or so) to help in those situations.
Removing the stuns came at little compensation (mostly extra stun duration on Sadist's Choice), and with Provocation potentially losing it as well there'll be some needed. However, it also means we're more flexible in what to add. Especially pull CDs are much more open to changes. Where exactly we're going isn't set, but some potential changes are:
Hook and Sinker: extra ACC, longer range
Hook and Sinker II: already received a major buff with the change of targeting style
both pulls: reducing the CD on either/both, adjusting the slow
Sadist's Choice, Electric Tempest: shorter CD to make up for the CC duration loss and to have them more reliably available as follow-up
Hook and Sinker II: The change to it being ground-targeted rather than requiring an enemy makes it so that the maximum pull range can be reduced without nerfing either the range or AoE size into the ground. If we kept the old targeting system while trying to get rid of random 30+ meter pulls, we'd either have to drop the range (making it so you can't pull a single target from very far) or the AoE size (so it's unable to actually pull multiple players at once, defeating the purpose of the skill). So, having this skill ground-targeted lets us reduce those ranges without making it useless. It also makes aiming more precise, letting you choose who to pull and allowing to pull invisible targets and targets on high ground.
Overall, we wanted to push SWs towards playstyle favoring short, bursty 1v1 engagements (that hopefully result in a kill) which they can easily get in and out of. This meant that many skills had their CD reduced and now lie around 30-40 seconds. For focusing more on 1v1 (and partially due to shorter CD on those skills), some CC duration has moved from Twilight Explosion and Flare to Deathblow and Secret Charge.
Ghost Walk has been changed to be a more reliable tool for escape. The added cleanse helps remove slows and DoTs (which would break it instantly), and the extra EVA/CH-EVA help against being revealed by random AoE damage.
Miss Misery is now mainly used as an offense buff for ACC and CH-ACC. While we wanted to move EVA/CH-EVA to Escape Artist to focus that as a short defensive buff, it became clear that that's not enough to survive in PvE. So EVA has partially been moved back here.
Escape Artist now being the main defensive skill has a shorter CD, slightly longer duration, and higher EVA/CH-EVA than before (even with Miss Misery included). The additional Crit-EVA helps with surviving in scenarios where you find yourself in debuff hell or the other team is stacking lots of ACC/CH-ACC.
We're still seeing complaints about the tankiness of SWs, from both sides. Which nicely illustrates that there is a problem inherent to massive EVA/CH-EVA buffs - tuning those numbers is hard. We have something planned that results in potentially higher tankiness without the frustration that simply raising those EVA/CH-EVA numbers would bring.
Shadow Strike - seems to be well-received, although it's hampered by the Fade bug, which we're still trying to find a solution for. Still, we're seeing interesting gameplay around how it's being used.
Calming Essence - despite being turned into a small AoE and coming with a massive healing debuff, it seems to get little use still.
Notes on particle skills: Previously Crippler wasn't useful at higher levels due to reaching max rank at level 39, and simply being outclassed by Resurgent Sting, which had more damage, lower CD, and is ranged. Crippler now has a much shorter CD and scales much better into higher ranks and levels, especially its particle damage. Resurgent Sting first had its CD increased to 12 seconds, which has since been brought back to 10 seconds. Its particle damage is still the same on average, but the damage range has become more narrow (e.g. from 500~2000 + 200~700% to 1000~1500 + 400~500% at rank 1) to make it more consistent. Shadow Dance does more damage overall and has a shorter CD now.
Overall, that skill tree was a mess with large point sinks and weird cross-requirements, effectively leaving the class with much fewer skill points to freely allocate than other classes.
Those cross-requirements have been removed, and Shout trees have been re-organized.
CBs are still left with way more basic attack skills than any other class, so we ended up in a situation where two of them - Razor Slice and Armor Breaker - are completely unused. There are currently no plans for them.
Reckless/Guardian Shout and Still Metabolism were in a weird spot. They were heavily front-loaded, their last rank was at level 48, and the scalings were all over the place. All of this has been straightened out.
Previously, Guardian Shout and Reckless Shout could be used in combination to receive most of both advantages and none of the disadvantages - this wasn't that bad before, after all getting them both was a large point investment, but with both of them moving to the top of their tree this would become more of a problem. Rather than making these skills exclude each other (similar to DE's Frenzy and Iron Skin), we decided to adjust their downsides such that the benefit of using both wouldn't be as large. It might still be a valid choice, but not as commonly or as strong.
In the same vein, Still Metabolism no longer completely removes Reckless Shout's debuff. It heals more and lasts one tick longer, but the defensive buff is lower, making it more clearly a regen buff and Guardian Shout the main defensive buff.
Both "Ice" skills have been somewhat problematic, although Shockwave less so. Both would debuff 10k EVA for a single point, and in Ankle Attack's case this would be unavoidable. While they serve a purpose as a hard check on SW, and to a lesser degree SE and PU, they simply offered too much power for free, in terms of both skill point and build investment - especially Ankle Attack would benefit a full tank build with zero investment in ACC/CH-ACC way too much against a class built primarily to avoid that.
We found the following compromise:
the EVA reduction now scales with skill rank
Ankle Attack now does physical and chakra damage, and the debuff can therefore miss
both skills gain an ACC/CH-ACC extra based on skill rank, making them more likely to hit
Shockwave is AoE, but weaker than Ankle Attack in all regards (damage, bonus effect, EVA debuff)
So with enough skill points and a proper gear build, Ankle Attack is essentially still guaranteed to hit, but it's no longer a one-point EVA deleter in every situation.
Worth noting that in the first iteration we ran into a bug. Both skills used to only have CH-ACC, but we've since discovered that CH-ACC on offensive skills has no effect at all and we'd have to add ACC to fix it. It's essentially the same issue that Crit Rate and Crit ATK on offense skills have.
Heart Piercing received Armor Breaker's DEF debuff, along with a VOID and Resist debuff.
Round Slash is now available at lower levels (35+). It also had its CD switched with Spread Webs, which was deemed to be a strong AoE disable available a bit too often. Both of these result in Round Slash having slightly reduced damage at all ranks. Although it's Crit Rate and Crit ATK now scale too.
Sling Shot and Shock Shot CDs have both gone down. Sling Shot now does more physical damage, Shock Shot more chakra damage.
Skin Repair numbers have gone up, although that's mostly since it's now available from level 25 on, rather than level 5 as before, due to Shout tree changes. It also heals roughly the same amount that it buffs. This isn't really a buff as much as a QoL change. It mostly means that the HP doesn't need to be filled up manually - it's not useful as an in-combat heal, you'd have more HP if you used it before the fight. So a neat usability change without actually adding any significant amount of power.
First big change here is moving healing power from % healing to flat healing. Previously, % healing was responsible for most of the actual healing done, which has notable downsides:
% healing is a toxic stat - not level-bound, consistently effective, zero counters, breaks the game if it gets too high
healing output is essentially identical despite radically different skill builds
We can't add higher ranks to healing skills if they're centered around % healing. Again, sucks for those who really want to invest in them.
Second big change is cutting buff durations. With buffs lasting 10 minutes, this meant that players could bring buffs into BGs without the buffing Medic actually being there - effectively bringing another player, making the fight unfair.
Additionally, the buffs were about to become more level-bound (especially Veil of Offense), so bringing high-level buffs into low-level BGs - or dungeons - is another concern.
With buff durations being short enough to dissipate before a BG or any meaningful fight starts, this problem is solved. Raw buff Medic accounts are hurt by this as well, but the buffs are still long enough that it's not considered an issue.
Related to buffs: CH-EVA has moved from Enchanting Projection to Shadowfoil, and Enchanting Projection received Resists instead. This separates them more clearly, making Shadowfoil an evasion buff and Enchanting Projection a defensive buff
Restoration - oof.
Firstly, any skill that just instantly heals 40% health for a single skill point is beyond broken. So without any major changes, this one would've had to be gutted.
At the same time, this skill used to be of no help when stunlocked until death, the exact situation where it could have been the most useful.
So it turned out to be a one-point "broken or useless" skill. Wildly swingy, but boringly so. Such swingy skills can be interesting if they allow for skill expression, either of the user or the one playing against it, but Restoration never did.
We end up with a skill that from a perspective of raw power would need to be nerfed into the ground, but from a usability standpoint could use a buff. What to do?
We went with a route that can achieve both and is fairer for both sides. Still a strong healing skill, with upsides and downsides. But most importantly, it's interactive and allows both sides to use it or play around it in a skillful manner.
For the user:
the added self-CC means the upside (heal + regen/defense buff) can be much larger, which is handy in situations where the self-CC doesn't matter - i.e. when you're about to be stunlocked anyway
whether you live or die depends on your predictive skill and timing, rather than if your gear is good enough to have survived anyway
Playing against it:
clearly, it's no longer a massive instant heal
since this skill requires prediction, it's possible to bait the player into using it at the wrong time
jumped someone and they use it? Save your CC, use it on someone else or engage someone else entirely - your initial target isn't going anywhere anytime soon
From a gameplay perspective, the skill is in a much better spot than before. Obviously numbers may be a bit off after such a big change, but from what I've seen most of the complaints are down to comparing it to the old, broken version - who knew a more balanced skill would be "worse" than an overpowered one!
Big change here: Many skills received higher or scaling range, making PU overall the most dangerous class at long range, if built that way. Pure mech builds do not get much of that benefit since it requires actual point investment in those skills.
Penetration is now more clearly a tank-buster debuff, reducing more VOID, less Chakra Resist and losing the Crit Rate debuff. Gained a DoT Reduction debuff to help plasma skills.
The Crit Rate loss means this is now strictly a defense debuff, which also leaves them more vulnerable than intended. We've got a replacement skill for increased survivability planned.
Cocoon CDs now all match Firing Squad's CD - buff for Offense and Detection, nerf to Defense Cocoon, which could have 2 instances active at once, covering a massive area. It now covers a larger area especially at lower ranks, but placement now has to be more deliberate.
Offense Cocoon is a bit bigger and some of Firing Squad's Crit Rate has been moved there.
Detection Cocoon now has more ranks, where previously it would grant 90 detection with only 3 points invested. This should be much fairer.
Atomic skills slow slightly more overall. A-Bomb has been split into two skills. It saw no serious use before due to combining a fairly weak slow with a long charge time and tiny AoE. There are clear use cases for both an instant and a charged skill, so rather than turning it into either, we decided to add both and give the choice to the player.
A-Bomb is now a small AoE slow without charge time. Slightly delayed similar to Plasma Bomb.
Atomic Blast is a massive long-range AoE slow with charge time. We're aware that the charge time currently doesn't match the description and will be looking into what's causing this.
Plasma skills are often considered bad, although this is partially due to direct comparisons to other skills' large crits, where they clearly can't compete. While it's true that the DoT numbers were quite low, it's important to note that they serve different purposes - large crits work well against tanks, DoTs work well against squishies. Tuning DoTs to be in line with those crits would instead turn them into squishy deleters.
So, numbers have gone up a bit, but the real changes are in other aspects.
Plasma Bullet has scaling range and a shorter CD.
Plasma Bomb has a larger AoE and scaling range. Duration is higher, level and skill requirement were reduced.
Ultra Plasma Bullet lasts longer and ticks more frequently.
Mind over Body: Saw no use and changing it into a skill that restores both SP and CP was a very straightforward decision. At the same time, a skill that just restores a significant amount of CP would be too strong on a class that loves to rely on their mech this much.
So instead of granting CP instantly, it only restores SP instantly and adds a buff that matches the skill's overall concept - giving a SP and CP regen buff at the cost of defense. It's heavily incentivized to use this skill in combat rather than as an out-of-combat regen buff.
Probably ended up with the fewest drastic changes. A big one, as mentioned, detection - affects the numbers on Inner Sight, Detection Mastery and Kumari Armor.
Slows got some adjustments. Previously there were large jumps in effectiveness per skill point, with multiple ranks giving no increase at all. They're now straightened out.
Atomic Shot is now more clearly a weaker, consistent slow with shorter CD.
Atomic Burst is now a stronger, but shorter AoE slow.
Photon Trap was a problematic skill, having massive burst potential while locking down a large area. Ultimately we decided that this skill should focus and double down on the area denial aspect, and have its burst damage and availability nerfed. So
damage is roughly cut in half, but has more charges → potentially similar/higher damage over the full duration, but drastically reduced burst damage
CD is higher, but so is the duration
slow now lasts only 3 seconds rather than 10
Skirting Disaster is now more focused on EVA and Crit-EVA, increasing survivability against pure tank-buster builds. It has a small amount of DEF added which is only really relevant at lower levels where the increased EVA alone wouldn't make up for the VOID loss in PvE.
Hex used to have a buggy interaction with Vital Enchantment. It used to be blocked completely by a Vital Enchantment rank 3 or higher. Now, they don't interact anymore. Hex is always applied properly.
Eagle-Eye can now buff players outside your own party.
Particle skills: Similar to SW, they now scale better into higher levels. Evaporate CD is lower.
As mentioned before, we'll have some work to do on CC, debuffs and cleanses. Some classes have gotten new debuffs, many underwhelming debuffs have received buffs, but overall they're still struggling to be impactful due to being cleansed easily. This especially hurts DoTs, and WH's which face a lot of unattractive skills rather than the rich and varied set of debuffs they are supposed to have. At the same time, cleanses need to be common enough to break the amount of hard CC currently in the game.
So, what's possibly happening:
overall reduction in hard CC duration - disables, stuns, immobilizes
giving higher ranks of hard CC skills lower duration scaling, or none at all - giving them stronger bonuses to damage, other effects etc instead
nerf to ME cleanses - where this nerf lands is up to debate, we'll have to figure out whether weak low CD cleanses or strong long CD cleanses are healthier
It's very possible that this is delayed until mech changes come around, since some of those CC skills are prime candidates for nerfs. Wouldn't sit well to reduce Arkana form hard CC but keep skills like Stunning Beauty and All Fall Down untouched.
One more thing that was largely unconsidered so far (other than not breaking it) - PvE performance.
I've touched on it very briefly, but it deserves mentioning on its own. Various stats that have counter-stats in PvP don't have them in PvE. This includes:
EVA/CH-EVA: Monsters do not have intrinsic ACC/CH-ACC, so builds reaching 10k+ of either are invincible to almost anything. There are some bosses who buff extra ACC/CH-ACC for themselves, and some boss skills have bonus ACC/CH-ACC as well. But most monsters, especially trash, don't.
Crit Rate: 10k is all you need in PvE, monsters cannot have intrinsic Crit EVA.
ACC/CH-ACC: While monsters can have EVA/CH-EVA, they don't have it at higher levels. This used to scale fairly well (e.g. TA trash had 3.5k and Mega Shadow had 4.5k each, numbers off the top of my head and may be a bit off), but apparently they just have 0 now. Meaning that classes where low ACC/CH-ACC is a balancing factor do much more damage than they should.
VOID/Resist: Monsters cannot have Pierce stats and don't always have appropriate debuffs. 10k+ means being invincible.
That's a tough one to fix. Also not just related to skills, gear plays a big role as well.
Ye that might be enough for now.