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Instability -- or -- Why Mana Failed in D1/D2...

Discussion in 'Wizard' started by Flux, Mar 31, 2010.

  1. Flux

    Flux Administrator

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    Instability -- or -- Why Mana Failed in D1/D2...

    This came up in relation to a bashiok news item, and since it seems like an issue better discussed in this forum, here goes:

    We still don’t feel mana fits the feel of the wizard class, and making the wizard use mana to match some definition a magic wielder from some other game from some other decade would be shoehorning mechanics for the sake of nostalgia.

    We’re using the instability system for the wizard because it makes sense to the style of the class; thematically as well as mechanically. If mana filled those requirements we’d use it, but it doesn’t.

    ...

    I don’t want to sound like we’re being dismissive. As everyone should be aware we work iteratively and the main reason why we haven’t revealed a lot about instability is that it still hasn’t been proven. If it turns out it doesn’t work we’ll try something else. It may be that mana just works the best and we end up going with that, but right now we’re trying something.


    He's not talking about just "mana" as the name for the resource, but about the whole way instability functions. Which has yet to be specified, but Jay Wilson said this previously. Instability:

    ...for the Wizard we want to enforce the fact that she’s a glass cannon. I don’t think it’s fun to ever run out of mana. I’m not really interested in an extended resource for her. For the WD we’re okay with mana, since he’s got some pretty good skills to recover mana that also double as attacks. And he’s not defenseless when he’s out of mana. He’s got pets and ways to attack with them that aren’t mana intensive. For him that makes mana fairly interesting.

    For the wizard, when she’s out of mana she just dies. And that’s not fun. So if anything, we want to encourage how she plays. So she’s the kind of character that blasts first and asks questions later. Very vulnerable. So we want to implement a system that makes her more blasty, but even more vulnerable. We want to make that a choice for the player. "Do I want to make myself more vulnerable in exchange for being more blasty." And that’s a cool gameplay pull there.


    We've talked about instability before, and I don't see what more there is to say until we get some more details about it. So I wanted to veer off from that a bit.

    Why did they have to make this change? Mana did not work as a mage resource in D1/D2; I feel safe saying that. It was merely a "buy more pots" nuisance in D1, where the only game play implication was that heading back to town took a while, and you could therefore sometimes die by getting hit with very low mana, or sometimes you'd cast right down to negative values trying to minimize potion use, and thus lose your mana shield and not notice it until a Fireball came in and did you in with one hit.

    In D2 mana was even less of a factor, past the early levels for an untwinked sorc, especially in D2X when charms came in.

    Now true, mana was irrelevant for every end game build in D2, thanks to high damage and ubiquitous leech properties, but it seems most obvious that mana should have been a factor for the sorc, as well as other mage-style characters. Yet it almost never was. That fact seems the best argument for instability, or something different, in D3. You may disagree.

    My main question though, is why? Why didn't mana work in D1/D2? Does the fast-paced style of Diablo play just make the traditional function of mana pointless? It's a good resource for a mage in some D&D type RPGs, where casting is less frequent and more powerful, but it just doesn't work with Diablo, where players are casting spells ceaselessly?

    Or is there some way mana could have been made more important? Increasing mana costs for higher level spells, proportionally slower regen for larger mana pools, less +mana gear, etc...
     
  2. konfeta

    konfeta IncGamers Member

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    Re: Instability -- or -- Why Mana Failed in D1/D2...

    This. In most games, mana is a resource and/or pacing mechanic to be managed that gives you access to powerful options defined as spells. In Diablo, spells are the lifeblood of the caster - not being able to cast them is to be relegated into being worthless (specialized melee builds, etc. aside). Since a late game pure caster cannot survive without continuously expending mana on spells, it stops being a resource and becomes "pass/fail" bar. You either have sufficient mana restoration to continuous output spells, or you don't, in which case you are a gimp who either outright dies or spends a significant portion of your time on downtime.

    Point is, mana is a design trap when you want to have a character who is exclusively reliant on firing off spells continuously. It creates artificial downtime which is either eliminated through gear/pots/whatever, or persists and limits your killing speed based on your mana bar rather than ability. It's an annoying disparity when some classes have to worry about 1 life bar, while others have to worry about 2. It may work in WoW where downtime and party play are inherent to game design, but not in a fast paced game like Diablo; and especially not with the fast pace they are trying to build up for Diablo 3.

    It's probably possible to make it interesting, but not for a pure non-summoner spellcaster. My favorite class in any RPG are spellcasting cannons, and mana is almost always an early game annoyance that I am more than happy to be rid off late game. I would agree that a summoner would be a more strategic class that would be more interesting to play with multiple options based on mana (debuffs, buffs, nukes, summons, etc.).
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2010
  3. Zygfs

    Zygfs IncGamers Member

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    Re: Instability -- or -- Why Mana Failed in D1/D2...

    Could have had spells cost a percent of your total mana
    Have mana regen not be percent based but a fixed number like health regen.
    Have mana used during the cast of that spell factor into the damage formula.

    So a huge mana pool will bottom out at a faster speed that a tiny one does. The tiny one will have cheaper spells relative to their mana regeneration rate, but much less powerful spells.

    Let it be possible to build so that mana means nothing by having a tiny pool and a huge regen, but your damage will be lower, but consistent. On the other side you could have a gigantic pool and do crazy damage but need to keep drinking potions constantly and even then not be able to keep up enough to constantly spam.

    Then you could have a sort of middle of the road approach where the extra regen of frequent mana pot spam would let you keep spamming, having a higher pseudo-consistant damage.

    The balance of mana stats on the character could totally effect its play style, and become an important aspect of the build.
     
  4. OrcJMR

    OrcJMR IncGamers Member

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    Re: Instability -- or -- Why Mana Failed in D1/D2...

    No one will do that.
    Only viable as a novelty build, not maximally effective, but used to get away from...
    People will just calculate the amount of mana needed to maintain the highest possible DPS with, say, 10 potions per minute or whatever turns out the manageable maximum, and everyone will use that.

    But frankly, being able to scale your spell power by means of amount of mana consumed does intrigue... Even if this is hard to implement in an ARPG, even in a stat-based way you propose :(


     
  5. Flux

    Flux Administrator

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    Re: Instability -- or -- Why Mana Failed in D1/D2...

    A more general question to answer any suggestions with: is there anything that could have been done to how mana worked in D1/D2 that would not have had a single answer: more mana. It solved every magic problem in D1/D2, however you achieved it. And when the solution to a major character need is always MOAR, that's not interesting game design.

    The real failing of mana in D2, that I didn't even mention above, is that there was almost no build that required spending stat points to gain mana. Mana didn't do much in D1, but at least sorcs wanted to put virtually all of their points into magic, since it helped to have more mana in the early/mid/late game. In D2, low level sorcs, untwinked especially, desperately need more mana, but the way to boost that most effectively is with equip, charms, and warmth.

    Spending stat points is a sub-optimal way to add mana in D2, since the gain is small, isn't needed once you have better eq/higher levels, and since the points are more useful in other stats.

    I think that fact speaks to the real failure of mana in D2. Not only isn't mana really needed, or useful as a balance to spell casting, but it's not even what you most want to obtain from your stat points!
     
  6. Zeek

    Zeek IncGamers Member

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    Re: Instability -- or -- Why Mana Failed in D1/D2...

    I think where mana failed was that the sorc's skills didn't require more and more mana to the extent they should have. If we were always in the same boat as early in the game where we could only cast like 8 times before being out of mana then our choices would have been very different. People very well might have spent stat points on energy. We might have kept more mana potions on our belt. Mana regen might have been a very important mod for sorc items.

    The problem was we could max out a lvl 30 spell by level 50 and yet they kept giving us mana for another 49 levels after that. The skills were done and we were just building up mana reserves so we could spam like crazy. Not to mention the items we could wear improved significantly from 50 on.

    I don't see a major problem in D2 if we couldn't just hold down the left mouse button and watch spells get cast over and over again. Add a little strategy to it. Make the sorc retreat to regen some firepower.
     
  7. Bugzy

    Bugzy IncGamers Member

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    Re: Instability -- or -- Why Mana Failed in D1/D2...

    Why not introduce spell power or an equivalent that increases with energy. Or make the access of certain spells dependent on certain 'energy' levels. Then, if we use D2 as an analogy, you'd have glacial spike throwing individuals with high hitpoints and block (aka survivability as the sacrifice of higher level spells) versus frozen orb individuals with low hitpoints and no block.

    Basically - just add something else into the formula so that energy has more than one base purpose.
     
  8. Kurogane

    Kurogane IncGamers Member

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    Re: Instability -- or -- Why Mana Failed in D1/D2...

    I don't see the difference.

    While a Level 1 Mage can only throw 1 Magic Missile per day, his Level 30 counterpart can warp reality 9 times a day, he can wipe out a whole army 9 times a day, create 9 magical servants with game breaking abilities per day, so on and so forth and still be able to chuck 9 Fireballs and 9 Magic Missiles and 9 Mirror Images each day.

    With a little creativity, a Level 30 Mage can demolish an entire kingdom with a fourth or less of his spell book, the only thing stopping him are the 5 Level 30 Mages (or monster equivalent) who don't want him to do that.

    Unless the DM specifically tailors the challenge to drain a high level Wizard's spellbook then the "limited" uses are essentially limit-less.

    Take the Infinity Engine games, "resting for 8 hours" takes only 4 seconds. 2 seconds for the screen to fade to black, 2 to fade back in. It practically takes no time for a Mage to reload his rocket launchers and machine guns and start firing off a stream of Horrid Wiltings under the effect of Time Stop while protected by Mirror Image and Stone Skin and Protection from... Everything.

    And that's not counting what his clone can do. Then uses up one of his 9 Wish Spells to restore all his spell slots. And Baldur's Gate Wizards don't even compare to what the D&D Wizards can accomplish with their entire spell book.

    The same goes for a lot of RPGs, the most powerful spell may drain your caster of all of his mana, but it really doesn't matter. Recovering MP, restoring spell slots only takes a second or an item which you have 999 of, or some easy to lay network of gate spells that take you back to a town where you recover your party's HP and MP then gate back to the dungeon you were in.

    MP, SP, TP, PP, Spellslots or whatever "limits" imposed on spellcasters simply fail once the levels start piling up. Diablo is no special case, all the game did was take away the "fade in fade out" sequence.
     
  9. Grumpy Old Wizard

    Grumpy Old Wizard IncGamers Member

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    Re: Instability -- or -- Why Mana Failed in D1/D2...

    In a game lke D2 the sorceress has to be able to spam her spells over and over because she faces hoards of creatures everwhrere she goes.

    The "Insight" rune word made it less attractive to spend points into energy. Even after the runeword was introduced I continued to spend a few points in energy to help in the early going however.

    Whilrlwind barbas keep on whirling, Fury wolves keep on furying, Zealots keep on zealing, Necro summoners have their persistant army, Trappers have their traps. D2 is a fast paced game. I hope D3 retains the fast-pace.

    In DnD a Wizard may only cast a few spells in a battle but I don't see that being viable in a diablo atmosphere.
     
  10. Kurogane

    Kurogane IncGamers Member

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    Re: Instability -- or -- Why Mana Failed in D1/D2...

    Fighters in D&D can also do Zeal (5 attacks per round) and Whirlwind (Whirlwind Feat = 1 WW per round) spam. It's just that their Wizards break the game world with just a single spell or two.

    If Diablo adopted the overpoweredness of D&D Wizards, all the Sorceress has to do is stand outside the gates of Harrogath then point at everything then they all die.

    Except Sorceress were (more or less) balanced to their counterparts.

    This is why mana is never a good balancing tool, if you increase the cost you increase the power then players find ways to break the game with their 1 per day nuclear bombs. If you reduce the power then you have to reduce the cost, then players find ways to break that mechanic by finding ways to keep a constant supply of mana.

    Even the tiniest mistake in balancing gives creative players a way to have an unlimited amount of nuclear bombs at their disposal.

    Taking out mana from the balancing factors is a good move, Wizards have never been properly balanced by it.
     
  11. Brother Laz

    Brother Laz IncGamers Member

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    Re: Instability -- or -- Why Mana Failed in D1/D2...

    The way to make mana meaningful is by having spells that do more DPS but are less mana efficient and spells that do less DPS but use almost no mana; the more mana you have, the more damage you can do.

    But even then there is an upper limit (100% usage of the expensive spell) beyond which more mana is useless and you wasted your points into the cheap spell.

    ......

    Sorcs before LoD had something like that: their main build used the very expensive FO and the very cheap SF, which however became less and less effective the more the monsters were damaged. Having more mana meant you could switch to FO at higher monster hp, do more damage, chill monsters better etc and helped your energy shield.

    It didn't really work because SF actually did more damage until the monster was already near death so you needed very few FO to maximise your damage potential; and Frostburn took care of that. Actually, when you found Frostburn, you now had too much mana and were forced to reroll and put fewer points into energy. Fail.
     
  12. LucianDK

    LucianDK IncGamers Member

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    Re: Instability -- or -- Why Mana Failed in D1/D2...

    Curiously enough, they seem to be recycling design elements from the earlier builds of the Wizard, for the mage in WoW.

    Namely im talking of the arcane talent that would have made you deal significantly more damage when you had 100% mana.

    And now look at what they announced for the wow mage, that the arcane mage gets mana adept as its third mastery. Where you deal more damage the more mana you have.
     
  13. Brother Laz

    Brother Laz IncGamers Member

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    Re: Instability -- or -- Why Mana Failed in D1/D2...

    I think the point is that you'd do more damage at LOW mana, not high mana.
     
  14. LucianDK

    LucianDK IncGamers Member

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    Re: Instability -- or -- Why Mana Failed in D1/D2...

    Read it closely:

    Mana Adept: Arcane will deal damage based how much mana the mage has. For example, Arcane mages will do much more damage at 100% mana than at 50% mana. If they begin to get low on mana, they will likely want to use an ability or mechanic to bring their mana up to increase their damage.
     
  15. Brother Laz

    Brother Laz IncGamers Member

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    Re: Instability -- or -- Why Mana Failed in D1/D2...

    I was talking about instability actually. :)
     
  16. Sass

    Sass IncGamers Member

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    Re: Instability -- or -- Why Mana Failed in D1/D2...

    Instability would be doing more damage the higher it is.
     
  17. LucianDK

    LucianDK IncGamers Member

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    Re: Instability -- or -- Why Mana Failed in D1/D2...

    Yes, but i thought you were talking of the Mage change because the wizard doesnt use mana more. They are changing it for instability.

    Spells are essentially free to cast now, but the more you chaincast them, the greater the damage buff and vulnerability. So unless you pace yourself, you will take a LOT of damage if you dont have a friend to occupy the attentions of the mobs.
     
  18. Brother Laz

    Brother Laz IncGamers Member

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    Re: Instability -- or -- Why Mana Failed in D1/D2...

    It would be more viable the 'D&D Online' way: have mana fountains and have these be the only way to regenerate mana. Spend all your mana on frozen orb spam in 20 seconds? Too bad, enjoy normal attack for the next minute.
     
  19. GoldenredDragon

    GoldenredDragon IncGamers Member

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    Re: Instability -- or -- Why Mana Failed in D1/D2...

    Well, if "normal attack" happens to be "magic missile" for a sorceress, why not ? I never was happy with the fact that a normal attack from a spell caster is flinging a stick in the opponents face. It's a fireball !! MO4R FIRE ! roar...

    But just stopping the player because he overextends isn't interesting. On the other hand, giving him the chance to overkill on spam/power/spells is nice, but there's a catch. Danger looming, curses coming, enemy buffs/personal debuffs, and there we are, we have instability ! The more you twist the world with abusive magic, the more the world starts fighting back, and in the end, your fighting the very fabric of the world, as all that instability you created starts to backfire.

    There, instead of a simple cap on how much one can do, the cap becomes "how much can you handle ?". I like this idea. When's blizzcon 2010 already ? We'll know for sure then...
     
  20. Kingu

    Kingu IncGamers Member

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    Re: Instability -- or -- Why Mana Failed in D1/D2...

    Great description Dragon.:thumbup:
     

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