Mastering Your Character - A Primer on Masteries

Beyond your powers, beyond your classification, beyond your archetype, there is some method for defining your character. Often called inherants, talents, or even innate abilities, in many games this is a fixed system while others allow you to improve or alter it as you level up. We call this the Mastery. We have designed five Masteries per classification with the goal to ship with three for launch. Each Mastery enables evolution of your character in a different way.

Masteries are not a single selection, not a single defining attribute. They are themselves a growth path for your character, a three tiered evolution. As you select, and evolve the mastery, it enables the role of your character to subtly shift in various ways.

For launch, the goal is to allow you to have three choices for Mastery evolution before the initial level cap of 30. You can focus on one, or expand to different mastery options - mixing and matching to achieve the particular playstyle you wish.

Here are the current list of Masteries we are working with. Remember, the plan is to launch with three for each of the Classifications, and introduce the rest later on.

Stalwart Masteries:

Living Target: You are best at drawing your enemy's attention away from allies.
Bruiser: Your attacks help debilitate foes over time.
Battle Leader: When your allies focus on you, their attention improves your ability to defend them.
Ruggedness: You can shrug off more damage.
Protector: Your team strengthens your resolve.

Enforcer Masteries:

Rage: The more you fight, the stronger you get.
Surprise Strike: You gain bonuses for attacks against unsuspecting targets.
Inspiration: Your allies are rallied with each foe it defeats.
Predation: You are the single-target master, gaining bonuses the longer you fight the same enemy.
Reinforcement: You have a winning presence for your allies.

Ranger Masteries:

Eliminator: You can quickly eliminate weakened opponents from the fight.
Resolve: Each success in a fight gives you bonuses.
Suppression: Your attacks hinders the enemies ability to fight back.
Striker: Ranged attacks, particularly snipes, are your specialty.
Bombardment: You can front-load attacks for damage.

Guardian Masteries:

Saving Grace: The more your allies need your help, the stronger your help becomes.
Aftermath: Your effects can quickly stack and spread.
Balance: You grant bonuses to your team with your presence.
Sentry: You gain bonuses as you or your team has the tide turn against you.
Vindication: You and your team gain bonuses against more difficult enemies.

Commander Masteries:

Magnitude: Improves the Commander's ability to land critical controls.
Oppression: Foes which are locked down take more damage.
Focus: Attacks by allies on controlled targets gain bonuses.
Restrainment: Your controls gain effectiveness as your target's health is lowered.
Supremacy: Attacks enable you to build up to unlocking your full potential.

With three tiers in each group, and our plan to launch with three from each list, the ultimate goal here is to enable each of you to further refine your gameplay to meet your own preferences. Pick all three from the same Mastery, to get the Tier 3, or to pick the Tier 1 from each, the option is up to you. Some Masteries are more team oriented, some more for solo. But they are designed to enable you the opportunity to further refine your characters to reflect the way you want to play them.

One of the design goals was to prevent the forcing of role, where if you failed to take a particular build your game experience would be hurt. We also aim to enable players to recreate play experiences they enjoyed in the past while opening up new opportunities.

Let us dissect two of these Masteries.

In almost every MMORPG out there you can find a "hide" class, one which is defined by stealth in some manner or another. From the Rogue to the Stalker, we all are familiar with one form of it or another. You know the drill: Sneak in, stand behind biggest target, BACKSTAB, run away, wash, rinse, repeat. But we did not want to just have another "oooo, I'm invisible" class.

So, we analyzed the style, to figure out how we could replicate that playstyle for people who enjoyed it, but also expand it for more options. That is where this Enforcer mastery came from:

Surprise Strike: You gain bonuses for attacks against unsuspecting targets.

Notice, it says nothing about being invisible, hiding. In our study of various MMO's which have such a role, and there are a lot of them, the same thing came up over and over again. The stealth mechanism was used to get that super-strong strike - it was the strike players want. Then we focused on our new perception system, and our new aggro system.

That began the process of turning what was a one-trick-pony into a robust and unique Mastery. While yes, you can select to take a stealth power to gain the bonus, it now is not the only avenue. You can sneak up on people, drop on them from above, use a disguise, or, in a team, rely on your teammates to distract them so you can metaphorically sink that dagger into the enemy's back.

Now, let us take another one for breakdown, this time, let us take a more team-centric Mastery one from the Commander classification:

Focus: Attacks by allies on controlled targets gain bonuses.

One of the staples in comic books is for the figure who can control the enemy to open it up for their allies to attack some weak spot, We built upon this idea, that the players allies get an edge in battle from the Commander locking down the enemy. And not to have it be one-sided, we chose a two way street, with allied attacks improving the ability to hold the opponent down, while simultaneously improving the other players on the team.

To make it work, we broke down the potential bonuses to then build the tiers. The basic Tier 1 for this is built such that each attack adds a small duration buff to the control effect. This means that the Commander gets a buff from its teammates attacks, while the next two tiers will then grant bonuses to the other teammates. Tier 2 adds a short recharge improvement and Tier 3 grants an energy recharge bonus for those who turn their attention on the Commanders opponent. The more enemies are locked down, the greater the bonuses get for allies who attack them.

Some are more straightforward, others more nuanced. But the goal with each is to open up opportunities for players to define who their characters are. Some are more team-centric, others more solo-focused. This even gave the opportunity to help develop methods to improve the soloability of some builds without sacrificing their team play.

After all, what is the point of playing a game if you can't have fun doing it?

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