Progression in Forge

A great deal of time has been spent looking at how to offer meaningful progression in Forge without breaking any of the principles on which the game is built, namely: No power gap based on time spent in the game. We tried many systems, scrapping all that either failed to satisfy the goal of meaningful progression or those that offered too clear a path which resulted in, however diminished, some power advantage for a majority of players. If you read an old interview, and find the announced version here does not line up, this is the cause.

Before we begin, we want to again define for everyone what we mean (and don’t mean) when we say grind. Grind does not mean anything that requires a significant amount of time to achieve. Grind does mean placing items you need to reach your full power potential at the end of a long, tedious process. It also means the design of ever increasing time required to move from achievement to achievement. An example of a grind: It requires 30 days of playtime to achieve the highest damage possible in the game. An example of no grind, but still requires significant time to unlock: It requires 30 days of playtime to unlock the most advanced player skin in the game.

Why the distinction? Because we recognize clearly that people do want something to work towards beyond just heightening their reflexes. They want rewards for their time spent that are tangible, visible to others and even modify their gameplay. It’s a necessity for any game that hopes to have as long a lifetime as we hope for Forge. We also found it just as important to not fall into the trap many do to solve this, namely, providing some gameplay benefit at the end of a long, tedious process. A gameplay option is acceptable, a gameplay benefit is not.

Some will see ways they would modify their character using this progression system and declare it a benefit, and for them and their playstyle it may be true. But, it would not be a benefit for others. In fact, the more options you select in this system, the less obvious the other choices become. Increasing your maximum resources for instance makes energy saving focuses less valuable, while decreasing your maximum resources greatly increases the value of those focuses. This is a type of benefit we’re comfortable with, as the whole goal of customization and progression is to allow you to make the character your own, and because we’ve asked you to sacrifice something in return, balance is maintained such that you have no inherent advantage over anyone else.

Onto the system

Leveling

Every time you earn a medal in Forge, you earn experience points. There are four tiers of medals. We’ve described this in some limited detail in the Beta A patch notes, so we won’t repeat it here. The summary is, the best way to level up is to play very well and have your team win the game as a result. Winning has a greater impact on the speed of leveling than any personal factor.

There are 99 levels to unlock in Forge. Each level grants you one of five (Armor Points, Customization Points, Ability Focus, Title, and Skin, with one exception which is an emote you unlock at level 92) possible rewards. The rewards are set per level and given out at a predictable pace. For instance, you gain a focus every 4th level until there are no focuses that remain to unlock. You unlock a Customization Point every 8 levels. You unlock an Armor Point very frequently, sometimes two levels in a row with only a few level gaps. The pattern will become quite clear (and we’ll release the table soon) as you increase in level, though you’re welcome to look through the rewards on your experience screen to get an exact set of information.

To unlock these levels, you will spend experience points that you earn on your account. This allows you to play with any character you wish and level up that character or any other with the experience points you earn. You must save up enough experience points to purchase a level for that class. Very straightforward, and the work-in-progress (some statistics areas are not yet fully mocked up) UI for this is shown below.

Click to see the full resolution version.
Experience Screen

Ability Focus

We knew going in that we had a few conflicting goals with the concept of modifying your abilities as a part of the customization of Forge. On the one hand, we wanted you to be able to tailor the class to your playstyle. On the other hand, we didn’t want abilities to begin to poach abilities from other classes, leading to very blurred and muddy concentric circles where two classes have such overlapping potential ability sets that they become glorified skins. We also didn’t want to change the balance of how much control versus damage versus support a class has at its disposal.

The solution became clear quickly. Rather than abilities that were thematically different, every ability needed to stay very close to its original intent. We would then look at that ability and make use of other options of implementation we could have gone with instead to accomplish a very similar goal. An example is below:

Camouflage:
- No focus
- Crow – Lose the ability to swap locations and do 50% less damage while attacking during camouflage, but can move while in camouflage
- Panther – Lose the ability to attack while camo’d, but after 5 seconds without movement pathfinder goes into stealth (any movement breaks both stealth and camouflage)
- Wolf – Camo only lasts for 10 seconds, cannot attack or lay traps while camo’d, but next incoming attack from an enemy triggers location swap

Each focus is named roughly in line with the mental concept we have of each of the animal deities that make up the overarching pantheon of Forge. Don’t take them as a sign that you should choose all Crow to be more Crow like however, as they are there to make it easier to communicate with one another about the options you’ve selected, not to guide you to a choice.

These types of changes allow you to choose a version of the ability that fits better with the way you would like to play the class, but does not fundamentally modify the ability.

There are four options, including the default behavior, for seven of your nine abilities. Your companion ability is being replaced by a toggle on/off set of Passive ability options. These will not be attacks, but instead will offer both a buff and debuff that you can keep active or toggle as often as you like within the bounds of the cooldown for doing so. You unlock a focus every 4 levels. We first give you one focus per ability, then a second focus per ability, then finally a third focus per ability. To unlock all focus options requires you to reach level 84.

Some focus options change cooldowns or resource costs, others change for how much and when the damage is done. In the end however, the ability still fits within the name and theme of the original.

Click to see the full resolution version.
Experience Screen

Customization Points

Customization points present you with the ability to take away stats from one area of your character to increase another. You can only move stats when you have points available to spend.

The options are in a triangle between; Armor, Speed and Max Resources (Energy/Mana). Every Customization Point represents 40 armor, 1.5% base speed, or 5 maximum resources. So to gain 80 armor, you would need to give up 0%-3.0% Speed and/or 0-10 Maximum Resources.

When you choose Armor as the stat to increase, you are able to place the 40 points into one category (Physical, Nature, Spiritual or Magic) only. There are diminishing returns on Armor, so you’re wise to spread it out a little. While 1.5% speed does not sound like much on its own, remember that the classes all have speeds with less than 15% difference between them to start, and that because Sprint is a multiplier, you gain even more benefit from Sprint than you did previously as well.

You gain 14 of these points over 99 levels.

Click to see the full resolution version.
Experience Screen

Armor Points

Armor Points are given more frequently than customization points. These allow you to shift points around to modify your strength defensively outside of how we have it configured by default. Every Armor Point allows you to shift 3 points in armor from one category to another.

You are given 45 of these points over 99 levels, allowing you to shift 135 armor from one category to another.

Click to see the full resolution version.
Experience Screen

Equipment

We have not yet fleshed out the UI and some specifics for the storage and equipping of gear, but we did want to share a few things with you in this update that we’ve settled on.

First, the look of your character is determined by a skin gear slot. This has no impact on stats in any way. It’s fully cosmetic. These are the skins frequently discussed as being unlocked or purchasable. They have no stats attached.

The equipment that does have stats attached will drop from regular play, be available to purchase from experience points, or be earned by reaching a particular rating. It will come in three quality levels, Common, Rare and Relic.

Common items will always have a preset armor shift built into them equivalent to a small number of armor points. As an example, it may shift your armor down by 15 Physical but up by 9 Nature. This cannot be changed.

Rare items will offer you a limited number of Armor Points to spend on the item itself. This means while that item is equipped (Once you’ve chosen how to spend the points on the item), it will modify your armor stats as though you had earned those points through leveling and chose them. Once selected for the item, the choice is permanent and the item must be reclaimed (by spending experience points) or traded for something that does not have them yet set.

Relic items will offer you a limited number of Armor Points, though more than a Rare item, and a Customization Point to spend on the item itself. This means while that item is equipped (Once you’ve chosen how to spend the points on the item), it will modify your armor stats as though you had earned those points through leveling and chose them. Once selected for the item, the choice is permanent. Relic items cannot be reclaimed or traded.

Time Required

You must level up each class individually. Don’t panic at the Beta pace of progress. We’re likely to shift it dramatically from its start which is more or less intended to test whether or not our predictions on the amount of experience you’ll earn per match on average is accurate. From there, we are likely to make it far far faster for a period to test the effects of higher level rewards on gameplay.

The time to progress will be somewhere in the middle. In the end though, because the system is designed to not interrupt the balance of the game, we’re comfortable with it being a time investment to reach level 99 with each class. The amount of time required to level stops increasing at level 8. We only speed it up initially to help introduce new players to the process.

Thanks for reading, and while only the leveling aspect of the system is available at the start of Beta, we hope it will have a very positive impact on your play experience.