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How it Works: Control Mechanics

One of the most prominent features that will make City of Titans what it is will be the importance and prevalence of controls. In fact, we will have one archetype, the Operator, dedicated to controls as its primary power set and a number of other archetypes with controls as their secondary power set. And unlike other MMOs in which controls have a very short duration or can be dispelled with damage, in City of Titans controls are more persistent and have a more noteworthy duration. The strength and duration of controls, and even whether or not they affect the target at all, will fluctuate based upon many factors that this update will explain.

Since controls are going to be such a significant part of the game, our staff had to design them with great rigor to achieve a desirable game play experience. We also had to balance the mechanics for both PvE and PvP. Our goal for this and all of our mechanics is to make using them between the two types of play as seamless as possible .

For example, one of the major complaints about controls in PvP is being “mezzed to death.” This is when a character is hit with a single control and can do nothing but get pummelled. We understand it is not entertaining gameplay to be on the receiving end of this. On the PvE side of the game, while players certainly enjoy dominating NPCs, it is our job to keep the game active and engaging, rather than an exercise in demolishing helpless dummies. We needed to strike a balance while still maintaining controls as a prominent and useful feature.

To achieve this, we did something very unusual: we made control mechanics non-binary. This means that whether a control works or not and its resultant strength and duration are not a simple yes and no, on or off. They will have gradations of effect depending on the powers used and the targets’ strengths. While the goal is to make them feel intuitive and easy to understand in game, the mechanics behind it are complex.

What Controls are There?

First, here is a list of the names and descriptions of the various control effects we will have in the game:

Hold: slows movement and impedes power function, potentially preventing all power use
Sleep: works just like Hold, but can be interrupted if the target is attacked. Sleep is usually designed with an effect over time that reapplies within the duration
Disorient: affects directional movement and impedes power function, potentially preventing all power use
Charm: affected powers can only target those hostile to the charmer
Fear: affected powers can not be used near the source of fear
Aversion: powers can not target the controller, usually designed with an additional threat reducing effect
Taunt: forces affected powers to only attack the taunter
Movement Reduction: when Movement is reduced to zero the target is Immobilized

Notice that we use the words “affected powers.” This is because each power your character has could be affected to a different extent by controls, or not at all. This is going to be very different than what you are used to seeing in an MMORPG. We will explain this further.

When, Why, and How do They Work?

We start with determining whether or not a control will even affect a power.

Every character in the game is designed with 4 separate defensive control stats. Think of them like hit points for their own individual control category. You won’t see them listed on your UI, but they are there in the background and a part of your character.

Even NPC have control stats. Among other things, their control stats are determined by their target rank, such as mook, agent and boss. The higher the rank, the higher the control stat.

The control stats are:

  • Concentration: A measure of your ability to activate your powers.
    • Concentration is affected by Hold, Sleep, and Disorient.
    • When affected, powers can not activate
  • Volition: A measure of your ability to target whomever you wish.
    • Volition is affected by Charm, Fear, and Aversion
    • When affected, powers can not target the controller.
  • Calm: A measure of your ability to shrug off provocations
    • Calm is affected by Taunt
    • When affected, powers can only target the originator
  • Movement: A measure of agility and overall resistance to snaring
    • Movement is affected by Movement Reduction
    • When affected, movement aspects are reduced
  • Every control power has an assigned control effect value, which is a basic measure of how strong it is. Critical hits will improve the control effect value of an attack and control effect values can also be improved with Augments. When a control power hits a target, it reduces the target’s corresponding control stat by the amount of the control effect value for the duration of the control effect. This means that with enough attempts, even weak control powers can wear down highly resistant targets’ control stats. So be careful when attacking large masses of enemies! Conversely, make sure you can stack plenty of controls if you want to mezz that big boss.

    Every power in the game also has a Willpower value. Willpower is basically a measure of how much effort it takes your character to activate it. As a general rule, the higher the power tier of the power, the more Willpower is required.

    As long as a power’s Willpower requirement is below your current control stat value, the power is unaffected. But if attacks reduce your control stat below a power’s Willpower requirement, that power will suffer the control effects of the attack. Thus your highest tier powers will generally be affected by controls before your lower tier powers. This top down cascading effect means that you will rarely be without some recourse as controls start to have their effects, making true helplessness unlikely.

    If the reduction of more than one control stat affects a power, the order of precedence is as listed above. Each control stat supersedes the next stat in the list, so a loss of concentration supersedes a loss of volition which in turn supersedes a loss of calm. If a power is affected by both a hold and a charm, for example, the hold effect would also prevent the charmed powers from activating.

    Furthermore, each control effect associated with a control stat has a hierarchy. For concentration effects it is hold over sleep over disorient. For volition it is charm over fear over aversion. And if multiple effects target the same control stat, they combine. For example, if concentration is reduced by a hold attack and a disorient attack lands, the concentration remaining after the hold attack is further reduced by the disorient

    Gameplay wrote:

    There are a few reasons why we have chosen not to display control stat values.

    One reason is to simplify the user interface. There would be far too much clutter and information to track between these and your own Health, Power and Momentum stats, your Reserves as well target’s Health and Power. Add in group members’ Health and Power and you already have a lot of information to track. Then take into account that every power you have will have a different Willpower value and so will be affected by the control stats at different levels and it would be extremely unwieldy to portray.

    Another reason is because we are taking advantage of a UI element that is already present. As your control stats fall below each power’s Willpower requirement, the power will be grayed out in your power tray and become unavailable. In the case of powers affected by the Fear effect there will also be a UI indicator so you know of whom you are “afraid” and must avoid.

    Unlike powers affected by Fear, powers affected by Charm and Taunt will have no UI indicator. We are doing this for game play reasons. You will still have an indicator to show you are affected by Charm or Taunt, but you will not be able to tell which powers can still be used on which targets. You can guess that your lower tier powers might still be available and rely on those. You could maybe take the risk of trying your mid-to-high tier powers to see if they activate to gauge how much you have been affected. We want Control effects to actually have an effect on the way a player plays their character when a non-binary effect occurs.

    How Effective is it?

    Now that we have explained how we determine whether or not a control effect hits, the next thing to accomplish is to determine the strength and duration of the effect.

    Control effects that last too long can be overbearing. But if they are too short they feel almost worthless to anyone but those with the best reaction speeds. With our Controls power sets, we need to balance durations for PvE and PvP to make them feel impactful without being overbearing.

    We do this by providing each Control with a base duration. This duration is then modified by a formula which checks the control effect value of the attack against the associated maximum defensive control stat value, no matter how depleted the target’s current control stat may be. This way the duration of the control effect is dependant upon the overall strength of the target. So in general, higher level players and higher ranked NPC will enjoy shorter duration controls.

    In addition to controls which affect powers as we have discussed so far, there are other Control effects such as Displacement (Knocks, Repels and Reel-ins). These do not affect the target’s powers and so control stats and Willpower ratings do not apply. Instead, their non-binary status is determined by their own values being affected directly by the target’s defense and resistance values. For example, a certain knock back attack is a physical melee attack. It has a defined knock back distance value (as adjusted by critical hits and augments). If the target happens to have both melee defense and physical resistance, the distance the target is knocked back is reduced by its defence and then further reduced by its resistance. If the distance is reduced below a certain threshold, the knock back does not occur.

    It has taken us quite some effort to take the idea of non-binary controls and make it work with the sense that control effects have real impact in combat. This is particularly important for the Operator archetype. The design provides various controls with their own unique and immersive effects, permits controls to partially work yet still impact others’ capabilities; and finally it grants that satisfying moment when with enough applied force, your target is well under your control.

    Written by Spiro “Tannim222” Raxiotis

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