nonadventurer said: If you were to make an Ars Magica CRPG, how would you approach it? Have you ever given it any thought? Would it be similar to PoE in presentation & general style, or would you need to invent something else (something entirely new) for it?

No, I would do something much, much different for that style of game.  The Ars Magica/Darklands style game I’d like to make (despite being TTRPG and CRPG, they share a lot of similar elements) would be much more abstract in terms of how exploration and travel work.  Darklands covered the entire expanse of “Greater Germany” (the Holy Roman Empire, more or less) which is a huge amount of territory.  To make that work, the focus of exploration was very much on the overland map and the use of those beautiful watercolor-style illustrations and text to describe even huge cities like Nürnberg.  Being able to travel from Danzig to Basel and every city in-between was really cool and very different from most CRPGs (including PoE) that focus on a relatively small area and a small number of communities.

The other big element of Ars Magica and Darklands that I really love are the “offscreen” time-related elements.  Darklands has a Traveller-style lifepath system, seasons that change in the world, and character aging (including death) in-game.  Ars Magica uses downtime very heavily to advance research projects and change characters over long periods of time.  As an example, in the AM game I currently play in, I played a companion who died of old age decades ago.  His 22 year-old daughter is almost ready for me to start playing as a new companion.  Meanwhile our wizards are all in their mid-50s and still look like they are in their early 30s.  The focus on downtime and the relatively rapid passage of time is very cool.

Finally, outside of the magic mechanics, which are set up to be pretty “gamey”, the core systems of Ars Magica and Darklands are both pretty simulationist.  They’re both classless systems without alignment or levels that put a heavy focus on skill (and art, in Ars Magica) progression.  I think if you turn the dial to 11 on a simulationist game, it can be very cool — even if magic is also involved.

melnorme said: So I take it the answer is "no", then? However, if the immunity has a short enough duration - I'm talking seconds, not minutes - isn't it no longer a hard counter? You can always just wait it out. And if it's also resource-limited, you can't repeat it endlessly. Another thing - what if you cast a "Prayer against X" type spell and then apply lots of additional resistance enhancing buffs _in addition to that_, making that resistance SO high you're practically immune? Would that be okay with you?

I think most people generally consider a hard counter to be a single or narrow spectrum of reactive tactics that comprehensively cancel the opponent’s tactic to such an extent that all other choices are rendered obsolete.  Using that definition, I don’t think the scenarios you’re describing involve hard counters because there are a lot of other things you could do (including going heavily on offense) that could bring victory.

You could cast Prayer Against X spells and additional defense spells as a very strong counter, but buff spells in PoE all have an opportunity cost because they must be cast in combat.  In the IE games, because buff spells typically did not have an opportunity cost, the ideal way to play through a fight was to wade in, get murdered, reload, and metagame by layering on tailored buffs before fighting again.  If you didn’t pre-buff, you were fighting at a huge disadvantage.  In PoE, the opportunity cost of buffs means they can’t really be taken for granted in the overall balance of fights.

Winding up with practical immunity to a type of attack (especially if it’s a narrow spectrum) over the course of a battle isn’t really an issue as much as what tactical choices the player made (or skipped over) to get to that point.  The aim of these changes is to create a wider variety of effective party builds instead of requiring the player to always tote around a character of a given class because the game’s content would be enormously difficult to complete without them.

Ideally, I would like players to feel that priests are valuable, but not necessary.  Wizards are valuable, but not necessary.  Fighters are valuable, but not necessary.  Even certain weapon types are valuable, but not necessary.  Some of the creatures in the Backer Beta have very high resistance to one or two type of damage but are much more vulnerable to the other five or six basic types.  I think there’s an important difference between that and saying, “You can only damage this creature with Slash.” or “You can’t hurt this creature until you cast one of these three wizard spells.” The latter prohibitions narrow the player’s viable tactics down to a tiny number.  The former says, “Try something else.” and gives the player more room to find their own way through.

melnorme said: Your opposition to hard counters is well known, but I'm curious. Is there a level of absolute immunity to some spell or status effect that you ARE willing to accept? What if it only protects against a very narrow set of spells/effects? What if it's only temporary?

There are effects on items, racial abilities, talents, and spells that grant high Defensive bonuses against families of effects.  The most notable examples are the priest’s Prayer Against _______ spells.  They aren’t immunity, but they reduce existing durations a lot and they give large defensive bonuses, which tend to result in a lot more Miss or Graze results and few Crits.

melnorme said: Can you auto-attack with the wizard's Blast ability? If so, could there be some way for it to auto-attack NEXT to a target so it hits it?

Blast is automatically applied to any of a wizard’s wand, rod, or sceptre attacks and the AoE is foe-only.  Since it’s effectively just added on top of the standard weapon attack, Blast can’t be targeted on open ground.

dreamcastaway said: Forgive the length. I have just finished my second year working on games, largely in QA. I am now working with a small studio as a designer but my faith in our project leader/studio head is faltering. I wish to keep on a design track but I don't want to be stuck on a project I have no confidence in. Many studios offer QA jobs that I am qualified for but my impression is that is would likely be committing myself to QA and possibly locking myself out of horizontal movement into design. Any advice?

I’m sorry I took a while to respond to this.  It’s a difficult situation to be in.  I would say that if you believe the project will ship in a reasonable amount of time, you should stick it out.  I was extraordinarily lucky when I got into the industry because I landed at a good studio on a good team working on a project I really wanted to work on.  Early on in anyone’s dev career, I think it’s most important that you get experience shipping games.  Working on games is valuable, but shipping them is what it’s all about.

On the other hand, if you don’t believe the project will ship in a reasonable amount or if the environment itself seems poisonous/abusive/generally bad, then get the hell out.

You may already be doing this, but even if you’re a junior designer, it’s important to voice concerns about how the project is going relative to the team’s stated goals for the project.  People can be very passionate about the things they’re making, so it’s wise to focus on the goals of the project, not necessarily individual personal preferences.

nonemoreblank said: what kind of bike helmet are you rocking? (the black one that isn't shaped like the drone ship from flight of the navigator)

The helmet I wear for road biking is a Giro Atmos.

The helmet I wear for commuting is a Bern Brentwood with a bunch of stickers on it.

theovf22stuff said: Hey Josh, just another question. The Backer Beta will give you a clear impression of how players approach the early game content, providing the team with information on what can be modified, removed or introduced. Without that kind of information for the later parts of the game, and only a small team working on PoE, how do you balance it? How do you approach it?

Our Backer Beta actually targets mid/high levels (5th-8th).  Due to testing our E3/press demo and a few hours past that, I think we have a pretty good idea of the strengths and weaknesses of various classes/attributes in the early game.  As an example, I recently re-ordered the rogue’s starting abilities because Finishing Blow and Dirty Fighting, while nice, seemed much less fundamental than the combination of Crippling Strike and Sneak Attack at 1st level.  We also know that there’s currently a bias against Resolve and Perception for characters who aren’t in the front line, so we’re thinking about ways to address that.

The Last Days of Mankind

Der Optimist: Nun, ich kann den Lusitania-Fall nicht sentimental nehmen.

Der Nörgler: Ich auch nicht, nur kriminell.

Der Optimist: Die Leute waren gewarnt worden.

Der Nörgler: Die Warnung vor der Gefahr war die Drohung mit einem Verbrechen, also ging dem Mord eine Erpressung voraus. Der Erpresser kann nie zu seiner Entlastung geltend machen, daß er den Schaden, den er verübt hat, vorher angedroht habe. Wenn ich Ihnen für den Fall, daß Sie eine Leistung oder Unterlassung, auf die ich keinen Anspruch habe, verweigern, den Tod androhe, bin ich ein Erpresser und kein Warner, und hinterher ein Mörder und kein Exekutor… Aber mag lieb Vaterland, wenn es an die Kinderleichen denkt, noch versuchen ruhig zu sein!


The Optimist: Well, the Lusitania case isn’t about sentimentality for me.

The Nagger: Nor for me, only criminality.

The Optimist: The people had been warned.

The Nagger: The warning of the danger was the threat of a crime, so the murder was preceded by blackmail. The blackmailer can never argue in his defense that he had threatened the damage he was about to cause beforehand. If I threaten to murder you if you deny me something that I have no right to, then I am a blackmailer and not a warner and afterward a murderer and not an executor… But may dear fatherland still try to be calm when it thinks of the children’s corpses!

- Karl KrausDie letzten Tage der Menschheit

enverxis said: In the Gameplay Demonstration videos, the implementation of the Godlike race in Character Creation looked unfinished. Previously it was stated we would be able to choose the base race and Godlike type. Is this still the case for PE ?

It is finished.  You pick the “parent” race after you pick the godlike type.

ghoulishvisage said: What made you guys decide to not include the potential extra companions despite the fact that the backers seemed largely for it?

Timeline logistics, mostly.  The writing schedule for additional companions wouldn’t line up well with when all of the other aspects of the game were together and ready to go.