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Heya Space Cadets,

Okay, now that I’ve finished calling just about every other designer out there integrating a form of persistent progression either stupid, greedy, or old, allow me to welcome you back to discussing where DD2 is going with multiplayer and RPG mechanics.

Let me say, right off, I’m nowhere near sure how to handle the persistency aspect for DD2, and get a headache just thinking about it. I’m juggling a lot of potentials, from something as simple as “Player” rewards and cosmetic upgrades to a full advancement tree for your roster of Dwarfs and the risk of losing a brave hero every time you join a ranked match. It’s a major question, and there’s still people enraged at Guild Wars 2 for adding in Gear Tiers, so I’m not sure what the right answer even looks like.

I can talk about the concepts that are part of this, though, notably classes. We intend the game to ship with about 12 goofy, unique classes, with players using teams of 3 to 7 Dwarfs per game. Those numbers should help give each round a lot of variety, and we will make sure no class becomes must-have.

There should be roughly 3-4 options for each strategic “job” a class can do, such as Unlocking, Healing, Scouting, and so on. The non-combat value of a class is as important as their fighting power, and care is being taken to balance each of them as equally as we can for their value to the team as a whole. When we can’t make them equal, we still have the option of modifying their Deploy cost. We are exploring ways to handle this, along with finding the most fun way to handle death, resurrection, and mid-game roster changeups. If a soldier dies in the line of duty, are you simply down a Dwarf unless you resurrect them, or is it possible to draft a different Hero instead? Do we implement a maximum team size?

This is important to how we handle levels and stats, and somewhat how we handle classes too, since the question of how Dwarfs enter the game defines how we need to balance them. The easiest way to balance it is to have people assemble their team before the match up to a maximum point value, and then when they die mid-match they’re either dead or need to be resurrected. That insures teams balance at a predictable power level, but ditches the idea of mid-game drafting from outside your starting team. There are a few ways to handle someone being “on the bench,” but alternatively we just let people bring any Heroes they can afford at any point in the match. Any cash they spend on added heroes would presumably come from the treasure they have accumulated so far, putting them farther from victory in some modes, and decreasing the amount of capital available for constructing new rooms or getting more laborers.

Assuming we strike the balance well, there will probably be some system for bringing in characters with either higher levels or a non-leveled “rank” system and a gear system atop either of these. Any power boosts, be they levels or ranks or gear, would increase the cost of the unit being deployed. Furthermore, we’d want to include a multiplayer toggle that disables the benefits of out-of-match assets, but we think that the variations in gear and power could make the matches more interesting.

Hopefully the role of passive statistics, even after we take gear into account, will be much more subdued than the impact of Special Abilities and Skills, the latter of which are the triggerable actions your Heroes perform. Special Abilities are more like feats or the class options and give people a bunch more flavor for their characters. The actual implementation is still up in the air, but no matter what, every character will have a special ability and possibly have the change of developing themselves further.

Stats are dull by comparison, but have a few good uses, especially in the Damage and Hitpoints section, where it really helps players understand what is going on. Nobody would be happy if damage is entirely unpredictable, as the strategy aspect is more important than an accurate simulation of subterranean fantasy creature combat. That is the goal for all of this though, never to let a mechanic get in the way of fun, and to make sure that the players feel the Heroes are incredibly valuable but never entirely “safe,” like sitting on a powderkeg. But that’s part of the fun, isn’t it?

Spacelab Signing Out

Heroes need to feel liberating and fun, not restrictive and narrowly defined, and the game needs to treat them as oddball warriors in an otherwise sane mining operation. They are going to be your greatest defense against monsters, but they’re also the guys upsetting the delicate balance or the mountain, causing fights, enraging the lower depths with their trespass, and generally causing everything to unravel in hilarious ways before the entire mountain explodes into flames. That’s why they get paid the big bucks.

Neil Wickman has a +10 against Ogres.

He has been working for Lunar Giant studios since its inception, one of the lead designers and the Creative Director. Listen to his arty nonsense @LunarNeil on Twitter.