Today's update for Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues includes a fistful of new content about the promising RPG, including the first digital installment of the Tracy Hickman- and Richard Garriott-written Blade of the Avatar novel, some interesting details on combat design, information on some of the in-game backer rewards, and more. I just can't pass on the combat design:
Let's talk about combat in Shroud of the Avatar! Before jumping into the deck mechanics of combat (what some may call the really interesting part) I'll clear up two items people seemed to be confused about.
First, players will still have an (auto) attack that just uses their equipped weapon. That equipped weapon can be a sword, axe, shield, wand, etc. For simple encounters, this will be sufficient for most people to achieve victory.
Second, when out of combat no bar will be present but the player can press the alt-key at any time and their non-combat toolbar will slide up. We'll make it an option to leave this up at all times out of combat for those less concerned with immersion. The non-combat toolbar will work just like any other game where you can assign skills to it to use when not engaged in combat.
When a player enters into combat is where things get interesting. before diving into specifics, I'm going to define a few items so we're all on the same page in terms of language:
Skill For simplicity, we're calling any element that can show up on your toolbar in combat a skill. This can include combat skills, spells, consumables, items, and abilities but we're going to call them all skills.
Deck This is a set of skills that the player has created or the game has created for the player. There is a minimum number of skills that can go into a deck based on the player's level. It will start at around 10 skills at level one and rise to around 30 skills at level 20. Players can have multiple decks configured and swap them in and out when not in combat. Players will be able to switch during combat but it will take several seconds of doing nothing.
Slug A slug is a skill that does nothing but takes up a spot in the deck. These can show up in a number of situations for balance, missing skill requirements, or to fill out a deck that is below the minimum size. For instance if you have skills relating to slashing weapons in your deck but have a mace equipped, some of the skills in your deck may become greyed out slugs.
Combo Some skills can be combined with other skills on the fly. This result is a new, likely more powerful skill which can then be used.
Noble Skill A noble skill is a skill which cannot be combined with any other skill. Some skills are always noble but some become noble for various reasons such as a skill being used on you or because the skill is in a locked slot. Noble skills will almost always have a higher cost of some kind. Example costs could be cooldown, reagent use, focus cost, etc.
Focus Skills These are the skills that generally modify deck mechanics.
Locked Slot By default skills are dealt out to the slots periodically, but by training in focus skills some slots can be locked and always contain a specific skill. Skills in locked slots are always noble and cannot be combined with other skills.
Now that we have the big combat terms defined, lets jump into how we put it together.
Upon entering combat, the combat bar slides up. This has between 6 and 12 buttons on it, depending on player skill selection and level. Skills appear on the buttons at a fairly slow and steady pace and then fade out after a decent amount of time (think 10 30 seconds). They can be used by clicking on them and dragging them to a specific target or by pressing the matching hotkey (1-10 key,-,+) and tapping space(by default) to execute. Combos can be created by either dragging one skill onto another one or by pressing the matching hotkey followed by the other skills hotkey. Creating a combo skill makes it behave as if it was a freshly dealt skill, meaning its fade out timer is reset. Skills can be discarded to free up a slot by dragging them off screen if the player has a faster deal speed than fade speed for skills.
The speed at which skills appear can be sped up through a learned focus skill and the duration they stay up can also be increased through a different focus skill. If there are no open slots at a given time, then new skills will not deal out until a slot opens up. So players with a slower dealing rate might have to use or discard skill elements just to free up spots for new skills to be dealt out. Each of those two elements has advantages to them, the idea is that players can adjust their deck dealing behavior to match their play style and these values can be tuned on a per deck basis.
Through the focus skill tree and leveling, players can gain the option to have 1 or more locked slots. These are slots that aren't dynamically dealt out but become noble and can't be combined with any other skills. The recycle time on this slot will vary depending on the skill used in it.
Focus Skill Tree Instinct Each level allows for one locked skill slot. How many locked skill slots are used can be configured per deck. Max locked slots is 1/3rd the total available skill slots. Locked skill slots replace a slot and reduces the number of dynamic slots.
Epiphany Each level increases the number of skills that are available at the start of combat by 2. Without this skill players start with zero skills out other than locked slots.
Versatility Each level increases the number of available skill slots by 1. Players start with 6 skills slots available. Players gain 1 additional skill slot at level 10 and another at 20 for free but 4 more can be acquired through skills to bring the total to 12 skill slots.
Second Guess - Each level grants a skill that can be used to push an existing skill into a random spot in the top five skills in the player's deck.
Spark of Brilliance Slugs normally have no purpose other than to take up room. With Spark of Brilliance, slugs can be be combined with other skills to increase their time till they fade. Each level adds 0.2 seconds up to a max of a 1 second extra time.
Recollection Every level increases the fade out timer of skills by .1 seconds.
Brainstorm Every level decreases the time to the next skill by .1 seconds.
Concentration Each level grants a skill that can be combined with another skill and will temporarily extend the fade timer for a skill by 10 seconds. Unlike the permanent lock, this will not make the skill noble and can help capture more difficult combos.
Thanks for your input; we know that a system as core to the game as combat is will arouse very strong passions, especially when we reveal some of the risks we're willing to take. We'll continue to review your feedback closely, both now and as the system is introduced!