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Rand118

Bard Mechanic Theory-crafting - Refined Song Twisting

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Wall of text incoming!
 
Hi there! My name is Rand118 and I wrote this theory-crafting post before I realized I couldn't post on Pantheon's official forums!  So I'll just leave this here...
 
I have loved the Bard class ever since I first played it in the original EQ.  I was a high schooler going into junior college as a music major when I first got into EQ, and now I'm eeking a living in Dallas as a twitch streamer by day and a classically trained singer/music arranger by night, so you can see how the Bard is right up my alley!  Gotta use that Master's in Vocal Performance! I LOVED the mechanics of twisting songs in EQ, so much that I put in the crazy hours of camping/farming/tracking/cajoling high level friends to help me get my Singing Steel Short Sword. To this day, getting my Bard epic is one of my all-time greatest gaming achievements!  I played Bards in Rift, EQ2, and other MMO's, but I've never gotten the satisfaction I had mastering the unique playstyle of the EQ Bard.
 
That being said, I can definitely sympathize with people not wanting to have to experience the same pain of constantly twisting 3,4, maybe even 5 songs constantly to be an effective bard (my carpal tunnels cringes at the thought!). So, I've been theory-crafting about how to keep the good parts of bards from other mmo's (flexibility, buffs, debuffs, quick switching roles, quick travel, increased mana/hp regen) without the pain of constantly twisting songs.  So here's my proposed mechanic of Refined Song Twisting!
 
At its core, this system has two parts: Fanfares/Codas (played at the beginning and end of a song rotation, respectively) and Melodies (or motifs, phrases, lines, whatever you want to call it) which are the actual spells.  The idea behind this system is that there are 4 or 5 different Fanfares/Codas which determine how the Melodies (spells/buffs/etc.) affect your party and enemies.  So, similar to twisting songs in original EQ, you'd play a sequence of songs, but depending on which Fanfares/Codas you played before and after the songs, you'd change what the Melodies would do.  

Here's an example: start the rotation with Fanfare of Inspiration (which causes your songs to buff the party), play Melody of Alacrity (attack speed haste), Melody of Mind (spell dmg buff), Melody of Endurance (Health/armor buff), and Melody of Virtuosity (crit chance buff) and end the rotation with Coda of Intimidation (which causes songs to debuff enemies).  Because you ended the rotation with Coda of Intimidation, every song you play also causes a debuff to enemies surrounding you: Alacrity causes an attack speed slow, Mind causes reduced cast speed/spell dmg debuff, Endurance causes an armor/magic resist debuff, and Virtuosity causes reduced dodge.  You only play the song rotation once (eliminating the need to continuously twist songs), but if you want to change your buffs/debuffs, quickly mez an add, or get some hp/mana regen going, you'll need to start a new rotation.  That's the gist of the system!
 
The result of this system should be a unique mechanic to Bard that is completely different than other spell casters that makes the Bard into an elite buffer, but must be close to his/her party to impart the buffs and can quickly change his song rotation to react to different situations any party needs.  This is similar to the original EQ Bard, but would hopefully alleviate the pain of constantly twisting while still remaining active, fun, and unique.  Let's go into more detail on my ideas for how to flesh out the system!
 
Like the original EQ Bard songs, each Fanfare/Coda/Melody would have a short cast time (maybe 3 or 4 seconds) that would require a bit of a setup to get the entire song rotation going.  This makes sense gameplay-wise so that the Bard can't instantly change buffs/debuffs in a way that would be too overpowered.  It also makes sense logically because playing a song takes time, so 10-15 seconds of casting puts together a cohesive song/piece that has a certain effect on the party and the enemies.  There may be times when the song falters or you need to shorten a song for emergencies (say you need to mezmerize an add, you interrupt your buffs/debuffs to play one fanfare/melody to get a quick mez, then go  back to your complete buff/debuff composition).  It would also require balancing for how many buffs/debuffs you can maintain at a time, so that a Bard can't just play EVERY melody he knows and apply every buff/debuff/DoT/DD/regen spell all at once.  Luckily, I have an idea for this, as well!
 
My idea is to have 4 combat Fanfare/Codas and one Travel Fanfare.  The Bard can only use 2 at a time, a Fanfare at the beginning of the song rotation, and a Coda at the end of the rotation.  These 2 primers, if you'd like to think of it that way, would change how the Melodies affect those around the bard.  Here are my initial Fanfare/Coda ideas:
 
1)Fanfare/Coda of Inspiration - causes songs to buff the Bard's party members
2)Fanfare/Coda of Intimidation - causes songs to debuff the Bard's enemies
3)Fanfare/Coda of Soothing - causes songs to regen and cure debuffs on party members, mesmerize enemies, lowers aggro radius of enemies
4)Fanfare/Coda of Pain - causes songs to damage enemies, root/snare enemies, interrupt spell casting
5)Fanfare/Coda of Travel - causes songs to increase running speed (Selo's!), grant invisibility, track enemies, find corpses
 
We'll get into the actual melodies in a moment, but the idea behind these fanfares is that the Bard has to decide which Fanfares/Codas work for his team composition.  If there are many melee members on the bard's team, he'll want the physical combat buffs of Inspiration and debuffs of Intimidation.  If there are more casters and energy using monks/rogues, he'll want the regen of Soothing and the buffs of Inspiration.  If the Bard is soloing, he'll want the Damage of Pain and the speed of Travel, or possibly the debuffs of Intimidation.  Different enemy types and different party members would require the savy Bard to change his compositions to best take advantage of his circumstances!
 
Now let's look at the actual Melodies which would give us the specific effects of the Bard's songs. This is the most detailed part of the system, so would need some refining based on how Pantheon's stats work and the details of how  Visionary Relms' classes work.  However, my idea is that there is a melody for each different character stat, and depending on which Fanfare/Coda combo surrounds the melodies, the different melodies will cause different effects. I also toyed around with Melodies that were related to elements, like fire, wind, water, etc., but that seemed to Shaman-y.  I thought melodies that were related to emotions and characteristics had a more Bard-y feel!  So, here's my initial list of Melodies:
 
1)Melody of Alacrity - agility/speed manipulation (Inspiration - attack speed haste, Intimidation - attack speed slow, Soothing - remove DoT's, Pain - DoT, Travel - out of combat move speed SELO'S!)
2)Melody of Power - strength manipulation (Inspiration - melee dmg increase, Intimidation - melee dmg reduction, Soothing - remove debuffs, Pain - Direct Damage)
3)Melody of Mind - intelligence manipulation (Inspiration - spell dmg increase/casting speed increase, Intimidation - reduce cast speed/spell power, Soothing - Mezmerize, Pain - Silence/interrupt, Travel - Invis)
4)Melody of Endurance - stamina/health manipulation (Inspiration - health/armor buff, Intimidation - armor/magic resist debuff, Soothing - health regen, Pain - root, Travel - track humans)
5)Melody of Soul - wisdom/perception manipulation (Inspiration - vision buff/night vision/analyze enemy, Intimidation - reduce aggro range, Soothing - party mana regen, Pain - enemy mana drain, Travel - corpse find)
6)Melody of Virtuosity - dexterity manipulation (Inspiration - increased crit chance, Intimidation - reduced dodge/ac, Soothing - energy/stamina regen - Pain - snare, Travel - track animals)
7)Melody of Charm - charisma manipulation (Inspiration - raise charisma/faction/reputation, Intimidation - taunt/aggro increase, Soothing - reduce aggro/fade, Pain - fear, Travel - give sustenance/food/water)
 
Like I said, this is the most complicated, nitty gritty part of the system and would require fine-tuning and in-depth development.  However, the idea is that you have many different melodies to choose from, and you create a song rotation based on what the situation requires.  In my rough theory-crafting, I used 7 common RPG stats (Strength, agility, intelligence, endurance, wisdom, dexterity, and charisma) and used a melody that related to each stat.  With 7 melodies to choose from, I'd say 3 or 4 should be the max the Bard would be allowed to use in a rotation, otherwise the song would be too complex and the composition would fall apart.  This keeps the Bard from using EVERY buff all the time and also makes logical sense.  A composition that has too many melodies/motifs/ideas going on at once just becomes noise and wouldn't inspire anyone! Let's look at an example fight using these Fanfares/codas/melodies!
 
The Bard is in a group with a warrior tank, 2 rogues, a monk, and a cleric.  As the monk goes to pull, the Bard starts his composition: Fanfare of Inspiration, Melody of Alacrity, Melody of Power, Melody of Virtuosity, and closes with a Coda of Intimidation!  This combination of songs gives the group attack speed haste, a melee dmg buff, and increased crit chance while debuffing the enemies' attack speed, melee dmg, and dodge chance.  With such a melee heavy group, the damage of the party should be greatly increased while significantly decreasing the damage taken by the warrior.  After your foes are vanquished and the monk moves on to the next pull, the Bard starts up a Fanfare of Soothing, followed by the Melody of Soul and Melody of Endurance to regenerate health and Mana, ending with a coda of Soothing to increase the effects of the regen!  This system would also allow flexibility by allowing the Bard to choose to use the same Fanfare and Coda to increase the effects of the buff/debuff/regen while reducing the versatility of the song by no longer causing effects to both allies and foes.
 
This may seem like a super complex system, but what this system (or something like this) accomplishes is to create a unique casting system that fits the Bard theme, allows for players to have a high ceiling for perfecting rotations and providing flexible bonuses to their group, while also requiring less key strokes during a battle that can cause finger pain/carpal tunnels/tedium than the old song twisting.  I make no claims to being a game designer or expert on creating game mechanics, but I am very passionate about the Bard class and would love to see a complex, rewarding, unique playstyle that would make Bards challenging and coveted by the groups they join!
 
Please feel free to comment, criticize, give suggestions, or chat about my idea for the Bard.  I stream on twitch as Rand118, so you're also welcome to come by my stream and discuss the Pantheon Bard with me there.  I can't wait to dive into Pantheon, hopefully as a talented, in-demand Bard!
 
Rand118
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I love the concept. Would the bard be capable of illusions type spells? Something like Song of the Wonderer (Create an humanoid illusion to wonder around (useful for lure), Or Song of the Heroic _____  (A summoned assistant for battles) I would like to see if there would be a hangout concept of the bard playing music and/or roleplaying  and tell tales. Make (prep for battles and make socializing a bit more interactive for those who are casual gamers.

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I think it would make sense for the bard to be able to do illusion type songs, I think there was something similar in EQ.  I know for sure there was a song that raised an npc's regard for your character, so it would definitely be fitting to have a similar type of song for the Pantheon bard.

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Thank you for sharing Rand!  Your idea was really well thought-out ... I definitely dig the creativity and would love to see more posts like this!

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Thanks, 1AD7!  My friend I showed this post to said it read like a dissertation, hah!  It does sound complex, but I'm super excited about playing a bard again, so I hope they make a fun, interactive mechanic for Pantheon!

 

Rand.

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Well explained and thought out. While I played EQ for a long time, high end raider yada yada, I never played a bard so pardon my newbie question:

Is the main difference between this process and twisting, as far as the actual keyboard actions/button presses, that there is a maximum amount that can be played for any one song?  It isn't about trying to squeeze the most possible in a given amount of time like EQ twisting?  Is that right?

I guess unless you are an active player who wants to constantly switch songs...that still ends up trying to squeeze as much as possible in a given amount of time.  But at least that is # of songs per set amount of time and not number of abilities per song. If that made sense?

How long would you think a song should last once you get it going before it needs to be refreshed?

 

 

Edited by Philo

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Thanks for the question, Philo!  I would say the main difference between my system and the old EQ bard is that in my suggested systems, the Bard DOESN'T refresh the buff unless he wants to CHANGE the buff or set of buffs.  In EQ, each song only lasted 12 seconds, I believe, so with a 3 second cast time, you could keep up 4 song buffs if you're timing was perfect, and some overachievers like me would twist 5 songs, meaning each buff was down 3 or 4 seconds but was still up for a majority of the time. My idea is that the bard still twists songs to create a set of buffs uniquely tailored to his group makeup, enemy abilities, and utility requirements (mez, haste, etc.) but he only twists the songs ONCE at the start of the fight, then can focus on the combat after the buffs are in place.  I'm not sure what the best number of buffs a bard should be able to sustain would be, that would be up to devs and what they think is appropriate for what the Bard brings to the party, but I would think 4 or 5 would be in keeping with past iterations of bards.

As for how long the buffs would last, my idea is that the entire twisted "song" lasts until the Bard cancels it or changes his song (symphony, composition, whatever you want to call the collection of "twisted" songs).  Similar to EQ, where a bard could just leave one song active (like selo's accelerando when he just wants to run fast), this system would allow the bard to leave one entire "composition" active until he or she wants to change his buffs.  This would allow the Bard to have a "composition" he'd twist and leave up in combat (only changing it if something like a quick mez or charm needs to happen mid-fight), a different composition he'd play between fights (heal song, mana song, stamina song, whatever), a different song he'd play for travelling (run speed, invis, floating, etc.), you get the idea.  The goal of this system being to keep the dynamic, active playstyle of the original EQ bard without quite as many key strokes that led to carpal tunnels, hand pain for bard players in the original EQ (I speak from definite experience on that, hah!).

Hopefully I answered your question, feel free to ask more!  I love talking and theory-crafting if it involves bards, lol!

 

Rand.

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It seems like having the song last inevitably might lead to some issues.  Maybe you have solutions? :)

If it lasts until cancelled, and the bard is only doing one song (that does multiple things), does that end up being fun to play?  Turn on song that is a mana battery+haste and auto attack and do nothing? 

That seems like it would encourage lazy players to do the bare minimum...and also be a multi-boxers best friend...and just be boring gameplay.

Wasn't the reason why the original song in EQ was able to last inevitably, like selos, was because it was just 1 small buff so it wasn't over powered when you turned it on and left it on?  If you add multiple benefits that last inevitably without having to refresh do you think that might be slightly OP ? 

It seems to me like there would have to be a refresh time...but I dunno.  What do you think?  Are there solutions to my concerns that I'm overlooking?

Edit:  I do think having a set limit to the number of "twists" per song would limit a lot of the carpal tunnel syndrome.  So maybe...just spitballing here...lets say the song lasts 20 seconds, and the max amount of pieces to the song you can add is 4.  If the system is similar to EQ but they increase the song length, and cap the total benefits per song instead of having it based on a more twitch based, how many abilities can you have going in a short amount of time, system it might still be fun to play but also allow the player more time for other things (chat/checking inventory etc).   That way the player wouldn't feel like they are required to constantly be pressing buttons in their song chain to be useful?  Maybe a simple tweaking of some of the durations...along with your idea of a cap on the possible outcome of a specific song, is a possible solution?

Edited by Philo
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Sorry about the 2 week delay in responding, Philo! I've been super busy and I didn't get an email after your second reply, doh!

You make a good point that having too many buffs stay up forever could be OP, but let me temper that by reminding folks of some of the limitations of the bard.  For one thing, your party has to be within a certain distance from the bard to receive the buff, so having the buff stay up as long as the bard is playing the buff(s) still means the character receiving the buff must stay close to the bard.  This is quite different from other buffing classes, shamans and enchanters for example, that cast a buff that lasts 30 minutes then go about their business.  I actually had another idea about this mechanic, something along the lines of characters not in the Bard's party receiving a reduced effect version of the Bard's buff if they were in range, since they can still hear the song.  But that's another tangent, hah!

As far as encouraging lazy players, that was the beauty of the EQ bards.  Lazy bards would turn on Haste during battle, then turn on mana regen between battles, rinse and repeat.  The really good bards would be constantly twisting songs no matter what the situation: haste, slows, buffs, mezzes during battle; mana song, heal song, selo's speed for the puller between battles.  My proposed system is meant to be similar in that a lazy bard could play a simple song in battle and have fewer buffs and less impact, not mezzing when needed, not switching to mana/heal/stamina regen between battles.  But an active bard would still have more impact by constantly shifting his songs depending on the situation.  For instance, playing a fanfare, haste song, slow song, str buff for melee, int buff for casters, and a coda as the pull is coming in range.  If a mez is needed, he'd interrupt his buffs to mez an enemy.  As the last enemy tries to run, he interrupts the buffs again to snare the target so no adds are aggro'd.  As the puller goes to pull, he plays fanfare, heal song, mana regen song, stam regen song, coda.  The lazy bard would just turn on combat buffs and auto attack.  Both play styles are valid, but an active bard would be more desirable, and my song twisting system would require less key strokes to maintain whichever playstyle is preferred by the Bard player.

I worry that a system too similar to original EQ, with limited buff times that constantly have to be refreshed, would cause similar hand fatigue issues, even if the buff times were lengthened and required less refreshing.  My goal was to create a similar system with flexibility and a fluid mechanic, but doesn't require CONSTANT keystrokes to optimally function.  You might be right that having constant buffs that you don't have to refresh might be too OP, but my thinking is that the Bard's buff SHOULD be OP but require the bard to choose which buffs he plays, which comes down to tweaking how many buffs the Bard should be allowed to maintain at any one time.  This would definitely require fine-tuning by the devs.  I think 3 or 4 buffs isn't too OP if there's the added requirement that you must be near the Bard to receive the buff and the buff doesn't last an extended amount of time when you leave the radius of the Bard's playing.

Anyway, there's my response to the issues you brought up.  Did I miss anything?  I sometimes get caught up in my own mind when talking about the minutia of bard mechanics, lol!

Rand.

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Hard to say without playing it out.  It would definitely have to be a balancing issue. I do still question about whether it might be dull to play if you were in a group that was going smoothly where you didn't have to switch up what you were doing a lot.  You don't want there ever to be a combat scenario where the optimal songs to be playing are basically autoattack songs (turn on and leave on).  But, again, hard to say how things would pan out without knowing more.

What class are you planning on playing on release while you wait for bards?

Edited by Philo

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I'd probably play a monk, rogue, or wizard.  I've always been partial to DPS classes if I can't play a Bard, and rogues are probably the closest since they often share similar stats like high dexterity, lock picking, stealth abilities.  I'm hopeful Bard and Necro will be added not too long after release, but that's something we can only speculate about, unless they've said something I've missed.  How about you, what class do you usually play in your MMO's?

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Plus, in Pantheon, rogues will have some forms of CC...sap/stun etc.  That seems bard like too.

I always play arcane casters.  Which tend to be DPS usually...but I was thinking about playing an enchanter in Pantheon.

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