The Early Wizard Experience

The Early Wizard Experience

One of our design goals for Pantheon is to ensure that every moment in Terminus is meaningful. For us, we do not want the “end game” to be where things start. While many different systems contribute to building a meaningful journey, class play is at the heart of a memorable experience and player growth.

We will be looking at the early experiences of our classes over a series of articles where we will discuss what it means to take on your favorite archetype and how it feels to enter the world as a fledgling, looking to gain insurmountable power. In our first class look, we speak with Senior Designer Adam Mostel to discuss the master of the arcane, The Wizard.

To begin with, tell everyone a bit about the core fundamental vision of the type of class role a Wizard will play and its standing in that role in comparison to other classes at this time.

Without a doubt, Wizards are the masters of direct damage. While we have a variety of classes that fill the damage role in our quaternity, the Wizard is intended to stand out as the most straightforward – and most immediately potent – of all options.

This doesn’t mean that other classes won’t be able to deal damage comparable to a Wizard, or that Wizards won’t be able to flex into other roles or support their parties in other ways. But when it comes to the sheer amount of damage dealt in a singular moment, or being able to burst down an enemy’s health at the cost of sustained damage, Wizards will be the undisputed masters.

Over the course of design, have there been changes to the Wizard’s core philosophy?

I don’t believe the core philosophy behind the Wizard – or any of our classes, really – has changed. Rather, we’ve just taken a step back to ask ourselves whether the class was appropriately delivering on that philosophy.

When I first came onto the team, the Wizard stood out as one of the least satisfying experiences. While it was capable of delivering big numbers, its ability to do so was beholden to a build/spend dynamic that felt very rotational in play, and didn’t allow for the kind of tactical decision-making in combat that Pantheon strives to emphasize. Its toolkit was also fairly straightforward and limited: both fire and ice had spells that mirrored each other in form and function, with the only major difference between them being their secondary effects which compounded into either stronger damage or stronger control, respectively.

The problem with that approach was that unless you needed to respond to specific enemy traits or resistances, there was very little reason not to default to your highest-damaging option in a group setting. This was exacerbated by the fact that you couldn’t cast a spell of another type without losing all the focus you had accrued, which only further funneled Wizards down a singular, optimal path.

One of the biggest changes to the Wizard is revamping their spells to make each line its own distinct and powerful choice. We’ve also done away with the build/spend mechanics, and converted focus into a tool that rewards mana efficiency for staying within a given damage type, while also awarding bonus damage for weaving. The intent is to create a more dynamic playstyle for the Wizard, where their decisions about how and when to use their biggest spells is more about an assessment of their current resources vs. the needs of the fight, and they are free to burn or conserve their mana as suits the situation, rather than anything imposed by a game system.

What will the Wizard’s level 1 starting ability set look like?

All of our class toolkits will continue to see evolutions as more functionality comes online, but at its core the Wizard’s initial kit consists of three direct-damage spells for each of the core damage types, as well as a utility spell that allows the Wizard to sacrifice some of their mana pool in exchange for greater defenses.

That early kit is intended to encourage Wizards to become comfortable with the varying mana-to-damage ratios between the damage types, as well as to build awareness of how incoming damage can cause spell interruptions and how to avoid it.

In the current design of the level 1-10 experience, what are the goals of a Wizard’s growth from a gameplay standpoint, and what will players feel during these levels?

The biggest goal is for players to feel comfortable with managing both mana and threat. Wizard spells are costly, but focus provides Wizards the tool to mitigate that cost. Wizard spells are also very, very threatening, and – in a group setting – attempting to start a fight out of the gate with the biggest spells could end poorly for the Wizard. Understanding what spells to leverage and when, not only to achieve desired outcomes but also to minimize downtime and risk, will be the hallmark of a great Wizard versus a mediocre one.

It has been stated that some classes may be able to solo better than others. Where would you project the Wizard’s ability to solo in early levels of play? How will their available skillset play into soloing, both positively and perhaps as a hindrance?

I think that as long as Wizards keep up on their evocation skill, their early soloing experience should be a relative breeze. Especially at lower levels, the sheer amount of damage a Wizard can dish out compared to an enemy’s health pool means that a Wizard can end a fight well before an enemy ever reaches them, though not without incurring downtime to regain the mana they’d need to spend to accomplish such a feat.

That said, resists are the bane of Wizards, particularly when soloing. When you’re operating with a limited resource like mana, any time your spell gets resisted you’ve lost a fair amount of efficacy in the broader mana-to-damage ratio, and if that happens too many times you may find that you’ve ran out of mana well before your enemy is anywhere close to defeat. At that stage, you have a decision to make whether you try and whittle the enemy down through relatively weak melee skills, or cut and run – and hopefully find a guard to deal with the threat for you!

As Wizards grow in level however, we’ll be providing them with ample tools to help mitigate the potential for resists as well as ways to conserve and regain mana, which will provide them avenues to respond and react to those kinds of problematic scenarios.

Can you give us a glimpse of philosophical design goals for what a player can expect from spellbook growth when comparing 1-10 and the rest of their leveling journey?

1-10 is all about laying the foundation. At the early levels, Wizards are receiving the essential building blocks of their toolkit, with effects that are fairly straightforward and easy-to-grasp. For example: a middle-of-the-road fire spell paired with a much stronger, but much more costly variant that teaches Wizards how to employ focus to make the costlier version more viable. This also includes basic crowd control and movement skills.

At level 10, Wizards will receive the first in a suite of abilities intended to provide players with a little more agency over resource management and expenditure, which acts as something of a capstone to that early, foundational experience.

From there – and this holds true for all of our classes – it becomes a matter of ramping up in both group-oriented abilities (particularly in the 10-20 range when we expect players to really feel the incentivization shift from soloing to grouping) as well as more nuanced abilities that allow for more specific tactics that can help tailor the Limited Action Set to a situation.

Finally, for all the future Wizards of Terminus out there, what exciting or perhaps unknown element of their tool kit can they look forward to which helps further define their class?

It’s tough to narrow it down to one, so I won’t! On the ‘already implemented’ list, Wizards can look forward to at least one new ability that takes advantage of the charged ability mechanic that was introduced for Monks. I haven’t had a chance to start working on new VFX, but I’m really excited to bring this particular ability to life.

As for the things yet to come, we have our sights on giving Wizards access to their own version of traps. And since I love seeing our community unravel the various bean drops… that’s all I’ll say on the matter, for now.

We hope you enjoyed this small look into the early gameplay goals of the Wizard. We are excited to reveal more details about all of your favorite classes in the months to come.

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