Diminishing returns and their anti-grind impact

Greetings denizen of Agon,

In our last few patches we have implemented diminishing returns on:

  • Vital stats: health, mana, stamina.
  • Attributes: strength, dexterity, vitality, quickness, intelligence, wisdom.
  • Passive bonus skills and sub skills for: damage, duration, mana/stamina costs and casting/activation speed.

We feel this may need some further explanation on what it means and how it greatly reduces the power gap and grind issues of Darkfall.

To put things into perspective:

illustration_diminishing_returnRed is linear, blue is with diminishing returns.

In general, diminishing returns simply means that as you get more advanced in a skill/attribute/currency/etc, you gain less “return” per successive increment.
Early investment has much more returns than later investment.

Vanilla Darkfall uses exponential difficulty scaling, where the further you advance in a skill, the more xp it takes to gain a single point.
This is a form of diminishing returns applied to XP, as the skill increases(returns) provided by an XP point(investment) is reduced over time.

This is what was causing in great part the power gap between a new character and a veteran character, which itself is the source of the perception of grind in the game.
In other words, the lack of power, and the slow rate at which it was gained is what made it feel like a huge mountain to climb until maxing out.

What we have done and how it impacts the power gap and player progression:

What we have added are diminishing returns on the actual level, where the “bonus” obtained by raising a skill or an attribute is much higher for early levels.
When starting out, a character increases in power very fast but the overall maximum attainable power remains mostly unchanged.

We say mostly, because when reaching 100 in a skill or attribute, an extra 5% bonus is applied to the gains it provides.
We chose to go this way to keep long term appeal, motivation and reward player commitment. We do not want to reduce the overall duration of the player progression, just change its perception. And with these change, we can even slow it down and still maintain a feeling of progression.
It is also the first step of removing the “surging” mechanic, by making melee and archery remain at 100.

Combining these features means we can have a low time to viability and a low power gap without compromising long term progression.
New players won’t be crushed for months before being viable, but reaching full strength will be worth investing time in.
Maxing out won’t be as much of a significant advantage as before, but will still be a carrot worth pursuing.

In depth details for curious players:

diminishing_returns_vitalsThe curves for health, stamina and mana. Doted lines are for 2012, plain for New Dawn

In the case of vital stats, we have created their own set of functions and separated them from the diminishing returns applied on attributes.
Compared to Darkfall 2012, a new character starts with a higher stats pool and will gain stats faster up to a max of 400 in each.

For attributes themselves, most used to be linear or have a step based approach to bonuses, most notably quickness. All are now a smooth progressive curve

  • Melee: Melee base skill and Melee masteries are now treated as a single skill going from 1 to 200, spreading smoothly the advantage masteries had.
  • Archery: Archery and sharpshooters work similarly to melee skills and masteries.
  • Archery and melee base skills no longer have the “surging” mechanic of reverting when reaching 100. Instead it gives a permanent +5% effectiveness.
  • Secondary archery skills behave in the same way.

 

  • Magic: School, intensify and archmage are creating a smooth curve from 1 to 300, spreading smoothly the bonus of intensifies and archmage.
  • Non damage skills, like reduced cast time or reduced costs, behave in the same way.
Closing notes:

Note that one interesting aspect of all this is that while low level players are being buffed by these changes, so are low level monsters.
We expect that the game’s PvE will become more challenging than before, and we hope that this will prove enjoyable for most.

We still have to apply similar logic to the individual spells which are for now step based and still have the surging mechanic.
But we’ll be able to take our time to look at each one of them and rebalance them as we go, especially those that had barely no use at all in the old meta-game.

We will review meditation rates and unlock levels too in the short term future, and once we’ve done that, we should have addressed most of the grind issues with Darkfall and we’ll be able to focus on adding content to the game.

We hope you’ve enjoyed the read, and the effects it has on the game. See you next week, and in the meantime, have fun!

Link to discussion thread.