Should Runic do another ARPG... some thoughts on improvement

squirrelloidsquirrelloid Posts: 61
edited June 2015 in TL2 General Discussions
So, I enjoyed the heck out of Torchlight I (and D1, and D2), but I had a really hard time getting into TL2 (80 hours from off-and-on play across 2 years) until recently. I figured it would be useful to Runic to give them some feedback on what could stand to be improved. I'm primarily a Single Player enthusiast, and prefer game mechanics which are designed around the single player experience. And I feel like that's the niche TL2 should have been serving primarily, because Runic cannot compete with either D3 or PoE on catering to the multiplayer experience, especially PoE. Runic has not demonstrated the interest in continuous involvement with updates that PoE has to do so.

1. A new plot. No seriously, the TL1-2 plot arc is identical to the Diablo 1-2 plot arc. And that's unfortunate, because TL isn't a generic fantasy setting like Diablo. It could have made use of its steampunk setting and atmosphere to generate a plot that couldn't be told in a generic fantasy universe. (Similarly, much of the area design in TL2 seems stuck in generic fantasy rather than exploiting the setting-specific elements which should be setting TL apart. At best the setting is used as occasional window-dressing rather than an essential ingredient.)

2. Some signature skills which modify basic attacks rather than replace them. I've primarily been playing outlanders, and I find myself gravitating to auto-attacks over attack skills because it's more satisfying to unload with two pistols than... throw glaives or whatever. The dearth of skill attacks which make use of life or mana steal is annoying. (Especially when you have to check the forums for documentation on when hitting with a weapon is actually hitting with a weapon). It's also bizarre that the rate at which you can use skills which look like attacks is based on casting speed. Yeah, I know you can the attack speed boost to DPS when it calculates damage, but something like shadowshot relying on casting speed is just weird.

And I know this is doable, because D2 managed to have something like 5 variations on basic attacks as skills for Barbarians, and at least 4 (vaguely) playable variations of basic bow attacks for amazons.

This probably explains a lot of my problems to get into TL2, because none of the attack skills really inspired me for the Outlander (or even the Engineer, who I looked at briefly).

3. More exploration for the sake of exploration

a. Larger levels. Most dungeons are just a couple of set-piece rooms strung together. Not every dungeon needs to be large, but some truly large dungeons which require exploration and not just navigation from point A to point B would be a welcome change of pace. (I also have extensive experience with various rogue-likes, and I miss the potentially quite large and varied layouts).

b. More interactive levels. A lot of the level design in TL2 makes me wish I could do things like bring rope with me and rappel off the side down to a lower level I can see, but not interact with.

4. If difficulty is going to be code for 'how much tweaking / farming do you want to do', say that. Don't describe it based on experience with previous ARPGs. I started with elite because of extensive experience, and found it to be extremely unfun to play because it was impossible to maintain adequate gear for the monster difficulty without long pauses to stop and farm - especially annoying because I don't know how to reset an instance in single player, so I have to start a LAN game and reset the world just to replay zones.

5. Speaking of which, don't just scale monster armor/damage up with difficulty. That's just fake difficulty, and it's the reason people hated D3 so much. TL2 shows some of the same symptoms of red queen gameplay ('you have to run as fast as you can to stay in place'), although not quite as bad, it's still not ideal.

I'm currently in NG++ with an auto-attacking Outlander on Veteran, and there are certain attacks which just one-hit kill me. Yet upgrading gear is this convoluted process of finding base gear worth using, putting two sockets in it (where are you Jorick?), then finding Boris the Stout to get a bunch of attribute bonuses. Without doing that, I can't actually upgrade my gear. (Not helped by affices barely increasing for the last 40 levels of gear - I'm still using the Sentinel set, and after almost 40 item levels of no sets, the level ~90 sets barely have better enchantments, so it's mostly just increased based armor and ilvl for socketing that'll improve). That need to improve gear just for a few base numbers is kind of aggravating, and precisely why I didn't enjoy D3. And these new sets are all sets that are at or above the level of the areas where monsters can one-hit kill me. Needing gear to play an area which you can only farm in that area is another reason people disliked D3. FWIW, weapon damage is not my problem, defenses are. (Especially since some enemies, especially bosses, can be near impossible to dodge. Netherlord has two attacks which *are* impossible to dodge if he's on the same screen as you, at least one of which did one-hit kill me).

Instead, giving monsters new abilities would be a much better way to scale difficulty with difficulty setting. Elemental resistances / immunities, ability to cast spells, etc... This forces players to play better at higher difficulties, not have better gear.

And then how hard monsters hit (and need to be hit) should be scaled off of realistic expectations of gear for the *last* area, so you could reasonably expect to have acquired suitable gear by the time you get to an area.

6. There's something not right about 'edges' on levels. As an Outlander I use a lot of Rune Vault, and there are a number of aggravating little 'holes' in walkable area which just stop you flat from rune vaulting, which is annoying, especially when they're small enough or flat enough you'd think you can just move/hop over them. Then there are a lot of edges where if you rune vault into them or get knocked into them, you get stuck - at least for Rune Vaulting. No matter which direction you rune vault, you stay in place. (You can regular move out of them, but by the time you realize you need to do that, you're probably dead). Many of these look like nice rounded areas which you wouldn't expect to cause such problems with navigation. And the art team apparently delighted in designing boss levels with lots of sharp corners and little outgrowths that make it really hard to navigate around the level rapidly while paying attention to a boss who will kill you in 1-2 hits.

7. Max zoom out should be better calibrated to weapon mechanics. I've got pistols which can shoot farther than I can see - I can't imagine why the increased range on bows / xbows would be at all relevant. And there are a number of ranged monsters (especially casters) which can effectively attack while you can't see them to attack back because of how close the max zoom is, even if you outrange them, especially from off the bottom of the screen.

8. More characterful uniques. A lot of uniques feel like random rares with nonsensical stats. Many of them make me wonder who is supposed to use it. Even if it meant fewer uniques, more tightly designed and iconic uniques would go a long way to making uniques feel special. And more different artwork - especially jewelry. (99% of the unique rings look the same...) A quick way this could be improved? Make the unique weapons that augment off specific monster type kills have some apparent connection to that monster type in their mechanics.

While we're at it, the detachment of rares and uniques from normal item types is frankly a bizarre design decision, and makes the item types non-noteworthy and unrememberable. In D2, anyone who played even moderately could recognize all the item types by sight. In TL2, they might as well just all be 'pistols' or 'swords' and not have specific named types. The treasure table could call them Pistol XI and Sword XXXIV to differentiate mechanics by classes. And with the images not correlating to any piece of information reliably anyway, I don't think anyone would even notice the difference. I'd much rather go back to the way D2 did it, where even rares and uniques were based on normal basic item types (made it much easier to keep track of what things were and what you were looking for).

9. Shared stash needs to be bigger. Don't get me wrong, having *a* shared stash is better than no shared stash, but I still spend a disturbing amount of time creating mules and moving items through the shared stash. PlugY demonstrated that you could have effectively unlimited storage space in D2, and I don't understand why Runic didn't implement something like it. I'd rather use my time playing the game, not re-arranging items I might want to keep on mules so I can store more than a handful of things. (Especially when item design looks tailored specifically for people to hold onto piles of things across large numbers of playthroughs or just for the sake of holding on to them. Many uniques are virtually useless outside the stamp collecting aspect. And unique sets don't drop with sufficient frequency to collect all the parts on one character - you literally need a ton of mules to slowly horde these items to ever hope to complete the sets).

10. Drop frequencies seem too low for single player gameplay on things like uniques. At least in D2 you could go run Mephisto to dramatically increase your odds of getting many sets / uniques. As there is no 'good' boss run in TL2 with markedly higher drop rates, just 'play more areas' really, the base unique drop rate should be higher.

Even sets / rares seem like they could be more frequent. I shouldn't feel like the best way to get gear upgrades is the blacksmith most of the time. I'd estimate 95% of armor I've worn has come from the blacksmith, and 50% of the weapons I've used. (Most of the other weapons came from the gambler...).

For comparison, most roguelikes have the reasonable expectation that you will find the vast majority of endgame uniques you want before the end of the game. Now, ability to mule items and **** other characters means it doesn't have to be that high, but that's more what a single player design philosophy is like. I'd say high value item frequencies (rare, set, unique) could easily double, and it would be vastly more satisfying. In Angband and its variants, people don't talk about *if* they find Rings of Power, they talk about when.

And legendaries were and are a terrible idea. Okay for something you expect to be rampantly multiplayer. Pointless for a primarily single-player game.

11. Fewer mechanical traps.

Some enchantments / affices are just bad (+damage on non-weapons), for example. In that particular case, +damage should be +damage no matter where it is on your gear. Players shouldn't need to wade through ridiculously technical descriptions of how basic things like damage is calculated to make reasonable gearing decisions. (Not necessarily optimal, but reasonable).

Vitality is terribly balanced against +health right now.

Strength controls damage on ranged weapons. This leads to the counter-intuitive situation of Outlanders with 3x as much strength as dex while wielding pistols. The rationale to avoid one-stat ranged characters is pretty weak when they can just go pure focus and throw glaives, and other classes have viable one-stat builds for reasonable primary stats.

Comments

  • ZiddersZidders Posts: 14,347 ✭✭✭
    1. A new plot.
    I'm hoping for more story the next time around, too. I do think it will be different. The story at the end of Torchlight II went in a completely different direction. I hope we get to see a lot of weird and spooky/alien stuff. I'd love to see them do something along the lines of a Cthulhu mythos type deal.

    3. More exploration for the sake of exploration-This I agree with.

    a. Larger levels.-Inside levels, sure. I felt outside levels were a bit too huge at times.

    b. More interactive levels. -Ropes and such? Sure. Puzzles? Ehhhhhhh. I hope not. I was more annoyed than amused with the puzzles in Torchlight II. As long as it's something that doesn't interrupt the flow of the game I'm fine with it. One of my main issues was with fishing. I hated how it stopped you dead. I had some ideas for it but honestly I wouldn't be unhappy to see it go. It just never felt rewarding enough and there was no way to mod it.

    4. I don't know how to reset an instance in single player, so I have to start a LAN game and reset the world just to replay zones.-Actually, that's exactly how you do it.

    7. Max zoom out should be better calibrated to weapon mechanics.-Yeah I think someone had to make a mod to deal with this, even.

    8. More characterful uniques.-I don't think the problem was not enough uniques. TLII handed them out like candy. The problem is the uniques sucked. Fewer uniques with less random/better affixes, please.

    9. Shared stash needs to be bigger.-Agreed

    10. Drop frequencies seem too low for single player gameplay on things like uniques.-? I got so many I filled up a ton of chests i'd modded in. >.>

    And legendaries were and are a terrible idea.-Legendaries are awesome IMO. Just in Torchlight II they weren't really all that legendary. At any rate if you don't like them don't use them. :)

    11. Fewer mechanical traps.-Yeah I agree with this one, too. I'd rather deal with trapped chests than annoying stuff like that one level with the blades and lights. Grrr I hate that level.
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  • SerkevanSerkevan Posts: 1,586
    I hope TL3 consists of a 20-hour long Luminous Arena run. And you can only play ****.

    J/K. I largely agree with what you both said, though I don't dislike traps meself. Makes you be on your toes. As for *mechanical* traps, yeah. There needs to be clarity on what does what and the DR/Armour system has to be completely revamped, for starters.
  • GeistGeist Posts: 128
    Traps are fine as long as someone who's paying attention can spot them. Traps that are hidden behind walls because of the game's perspective? Now that's evil.
  • I didn't mean more (number) uniques, "more" was modifying "characterful" - as in, make them more interesting. Fewer in total number would be fine, so long as each unique feels like it has some character to it and isn't an unuseable combination of random mods. (+20% melee damage on a pistol? wtf.)

    And by mechanical traps I meant game mechanics things that were 'traps' (bad choices that weren't obvious until you bothered to figure out the math), not 'traps' as in things that can damage you if you don't pay attention. (Although some of those saw-blade traps do crazy damage if you do get hit).

    The complaint about legendaries is super-rare ultra-uniques have no business being in a game focused on the single player experience. They make sense when you expect a massive trading environment, because *someone* will find them and they'll go up for trade, and there's value-added by having super-rare things (especially as such games also create kit-prestige for players). But when there's little to no trading, most players will only have what they find themselves, and there's little value-added for super-rare items because most players will never see them. There's little-to-no kit prestige in TL2, because most players will never interact with another player in game, and those who do will primarily interact with friends.
  • D2HansD2Hans Posts: 3,031 ✭✭✭
    I hope the next game will have 64bit support and the game has support for more than one processor.
    "Six... one, six... the nuuuumber ooof the beeeaaast!"
  • ZiddersZidders Posts: 14,347 ✭✭✭
    I don't see how having legendary items in the game for those who enjoy finding and using them hurts you any, though. If you don't want to use them don't pick them up. I happen to think it makes perfect sense to have super rare chrome plated shiny fun loot in a game about hunting super rare chrome plated shiny fun loot.
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  • tcltcl Posts: 28
    Here are the things I would like to see changed:

    - Almost all unique and several legendary items are boring or useless. A unique belt with +120 fire armor or +25 mana? Seriously? Unique items should have something that makes them unique, for example procs or unusual stats (+% strength for example). Several unique weapons have procs, but some are just imbalanced as **** ("hammer of retribution" is a good example - high chance to cast a high damage area of effect freezing spell from target... would even be imbalanced on a level 105 legendary item) so it's pointless to hunt for a better weapon once you got them. Uniques and legendaries having only fixed stats just makes this problem worse. I don't know how many uniques TL2 has, but they are simply too many. It was done in a great way in Diablo 2 - there are terrible uniques, but there are also some that are just awesome (Duriels Shell for example is an awesome unique since it's stats match the name and they are even useful). *

    - The defense system is useless. Get life (its so **** easy, thanks to skull of riechliu), block chance (you can block almost everything, including luminous arena damage - simply spend some gold at Borris, use something with added block chance and easily reach 75% block) and damage reduction (5% on a socketable might be okay, but the socketable does only drop on low levels so you have to farm low level maps to get it...). Why should someone get armor? It doesn't matter on higher levels.

    - Diablo 2 is awesome to mod in some aspects - several tasks can be achieved by simply editing tables. This does not only allow people to mod regardless of their OS, their graphics card or whatever (i'm currently working on a D2 mod, using Linux and a VM with WinXP - GUTS does not run in this environment). However, D2 **** at some modding aspects since several things are hard coded and cannot simply be changed and since some files are extremely limited (main problems are states.txt and levels.txt).

    - Allow players to reset areas without visiting at least 2 other areas. Allow players to go back to a lower NG cycle (similar to the way it was done in D2) in order to farm low level stuff (or simply remove the **** max level for some items that are still good late game).


    *) Here is something that was posted on d2mods.com - it's written for D2, but it perfectly describes the problem of most TL2 unique and legendary items.
    There are several ways to deal with unique items. The first, "usual" way is to make them be special items with funny names, having properties that cannot spawn on magic or rare items. If you are using this approach, you should take some time for doing the uniques. If you have half an hour modding time, and you can either do 15 bad uniques or one good unique, make one good unique.

    Think about a nice name, make stats that fit that name, and make it really a unique item, meaning that there is no other item that is like it. Unique items can be something for very specialized characters (I made a ring that gives +2 to magic skills, +1 to number of necro summons, 50 mana and 10% faster cast rate). Unique items can be something that is just funny. Unique items can be something that is just very extraordinary. Do not hesitate to make special stats and properties for the unique items alone. Make uniques that have properties that look or sound really nice, but dont effectively really do anything. Make uniques that do other things than what you might think they would (Wizardspike, Dreamflange in Diablo1). Make Thundermauls that are the perfect item for an elemental druid. Make Mage Plates that are perfect for melee fighters, but **** for Mages since they got +% requirements. Make a lvl 90 short sword unique that has +2500% enhanced damage and is quite nice for lvl 80 characters. You got the idea.
    Also don't forget to perhaps add negative modifiers to your items (has to be enabled in itemstatcost.txt problably). Good items should perhaps have a drawback. Make a good caster item that has -100 mana or something like that ;). You have definitely won a personal victory if people in your mod start using unique items not because they are the best available items, but because they are just cool in name and stats.
  • ZiddersZidders Posts: 14,347 ✭✭✭
    I just want a game that is easier to mod. GUTS is great if you have an affinity for working with stuff like that but to someone like me who is a beginner it's not very user friendly. That and I'd like to see more documentation. GUTS had bare bones documentation and even with the community helping out there are still a lot of things left out of the wiki that people have to figure out. Mostly I'm still a little let down that I wasn't able to mod the fishing minigame.
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  • gytfunkegytfunke Posts: 571
    The lack of documentation is nigh unforgivable, as once you know what you're doing, the editor is pretty powerful. Still not easy to use, but really, really flexible in certain ways. However, getting to the point where you know what works and what's a non-functional leftover takes a long time. I really wish the level editor were more user-friendly, a la Starcraft II but with the level randomization that TL2 offers. Aside from the level editor being a time-consuming beast to use, GUTS is ripe for someone to do a full conversion mod on this puppy and make their own standalone mod with it.

    And as for the fishing minigame, I'm pretty sure it's hard-coded, Zids. I don't think there's much you could do to change it aside from adjust what you can catch.

    Also, I would wish for better AI and the ability to better modify the AI in GUTS.
  • ZiddersZidders Posts: 14,347 ✭✭✭
    gytfunke wrote:
    I'm pretty sure it's hard-coded, Zids. I don't think there's much you could do to change it aside from adjust what you can catch.
    I just wanted to get rid of the quicktime part and make fishing spots have random locations, with a random number of chances and have the rarity of what you catch depend on the rarity of the fishing spot. This way you're always going to catch something, it doesn't take long and you're not stressed out by it. Fishing should be a short relaxing break from the action and should always be worth taking time away from the loot hunt.
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  • NeantNeant Posts: 152
    tcl wrote:
    - The defense system is useless. Get life (its so **** easy, thanks to skull of riechliu), block chance (you can block almost everything, including luminous arena damage - simply spend some gold at Borris, use something with added block chance and easily reach 75% block) and damage reduction (5% on a socketable might be okay, but the socketable does only drop on low levels so you have to farm low level maps to get it...). Why should someone get armor? It doesn't matter on higher levels.
    Defense system is fine. Just the valuer of Armor drop per level is inadequate. Armor matters at all levels.
  • tcltcl Posts: 28
    Neant wrote:
    tcl wrote:
    - The defense system is useless. Get life (its so **** easy, thanks to skull of riechliu), block chance (you can block almost everything, including luminous arena damage - simply spend some gold at Borris, use something with added block chance and easily reach 75% block) and damage reduction (5% on a socketable might be okay, but the socketable does only drop on low levels so you have to farm low level maps to get it...). Why should someone get armor? It doesn't matter on higher levels.
    Defense system is fine. Just the valuer of Armor drop per level is inadequate. Armor matters at all levels.
    If a monster deals 20000 damage with a single hit on high levels, there is no difference between 1000, 2000 or 3000 defense. You are dead, unless you got several skulls of riechliu or skulls of limoany. This renders most other stats on items useless. If you increase armor, you make low damage enemies do no damage at all.
  • RetsRedsRetsReds Posts: 1,013
    I agree with most of the points except the ones about the droprates of uniques and legendaries (I do think the items themselves should be buffed, I'm running with blues most of the times because they are better, but there are -and should be - plenty of uniques and some legendaries). I also don't agree they should keep it singleplayer-only either - I'm mostly a SP player too, but it's nice to have the option to make a LAN party with a friend/gf from time to time.

    But yeah, I mostly agree with the rest. I really loved TL2, much more then TL1 (much bigger game, more interesting and better balanced - with TL1 I needed 15+ mods just to balance it to make it playable). In fact, I think I clocked more time on TL2 then on WoW (close to 1500 hours now) and I started using mods when I was around 700 hours so I enjoyed even just vanilla. Still, yes - the next ARPG simply needs to be better polished, with less bugs, less unbalanced/weak skills and items, more end-game etc, if it is to reach a wider audience. We, the fans, make up for those things with mods, but we are a minority.

    As for the story - as a writer myself, I actually liked that they decided to ignore the story. It gave me the option to just ignore the story altogether and make my own stories while playing - it's a role-playing game after all. But on the other hand, yes - it's a steampunk game with some great art and it's pity to miss the opportunity for a great and interesting (and big, too) Steampunk story in the game. It would've attracted much more players too.
  • tcltcl Posts: 28
    RetsReds wrote:
    I agree with most of the points except the ones about the droprates of uniques and legendaries (I do think the items themselves should be buffed, I'm running with blues most of the times because they are better, but there are -and should be - plenty of uniques and some legendaries).
    The problem is not only that most uniques have horrible stats - the problem gets worse when you look at the stats blue or even green items can easily get. You can easily get ridiculous amounts of health from blue items. Sure, there are better stats than health but there are only very few uniques with stats better than +800 life (which is very easy to get). Why use an unique item that increases my damage by 5% if I can simply stick to the blue one with +768 life? Balancing this is not easy, but it is doable. I know of a few Diablo 2 modifications that did pretty well here, while Diablo 2 itself is a balance disaster with problems that are similar to TL2 - completely overpowered blocking is just an example.
  • RetsRedsRetsReds Posts: 1,013
    tcl wrote:
    The problem is not only that most uniques have horrible stats - the problem gets worse when you look at the stats blue or even green items can easily get. You can easily get ridiculous amounts of health from blue items. Sure, there are better stats than health but there are only very few uniques with stats better than +800 life (which is very easy to get). Why use an unique item that increases my damage by 5% if I can simply stick to the blue one with +768 life? Balancing this is not easy, but it is doable. I know of a few Diablo 2 modifications that did pretty well here, while Diablo 2 itself is a balance disaster with problems that are similar to TL2 - completely overpowered blocking is just an example.

    Well, to be fair there were some good uniques. The second zerker end-game set (dragonscale?) comes to mind. And the weapons were mostly great. But yes, blues were generally much, much better. I mean, I successfully played Elite end-game with a non-FF engi entirely thanks to the dragon-something blue set (don't remember the name) - with it and with Riechliu skulls I got 35k with no issues, it was insane.
  • tcltcl Posts: 28
    RetsReds wrote:
    Well, to be fair there were some good uniques. The second zerker end-game set (dragonscale?) comes to mind. And the weapons were mostly great. But yes, blues were generally much, much better. I mean, I successfully played Elite end-game with a non-FF engi entirely thanks to the dragon-something blue set (don't remember the name) - with it and with Riechliu skulls I got 35k with no issues, it was insane.
    Right, most weapons were great. And there are some good unique armor items. But most of them have stats like "+137 fire armor". This is simply useless, a blue item with +500 life will work better. Then we have a few socketables that are game breaking (riechliu and limoany, and to a lesser extent some of the eyes with "chance to cast X from target"). Unfortunately you need some of them to survive because some monsters deal enough damage to kill a character with 20000 life with a single hit.
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