Mounted Combat 2.0: A Tale of Problems & Solutions

A few months back, a small group of us started to meet and discuss what we would like to build for Mounted Combat 2.0. We started by looking at your feedback from the first implementation of the feature that went live with Riders of Rohan. By far, the biggest complaint was that people were having trouble with the War-Steed movement. A common sentiment was that movement was “clunky to start” but improved after spending points to trait your turn rate and Agility. Players felt handcuffed, expressing the sentiment that they had to spend points in their Yellow Movement line in order for their steed to be playable. Aside from movement, there were complaints that the classes just didn’t feel the same when they were mounted up compared to when they were on foot and there was some loss of identity. We started our design with two bullet-point problems and forged ahead on how to fix them:

  • Problem #1: Players have to spend trait points in the movement tree in order for their steed to move in an acceptable manner
  • Problem #2: Players feel a distinct disconnect when their class mounts a War-Steed. Skills and traits don’t do enough to reinforce the identity of the class.

What to do with the Movement Branch?
While these two problems are very different, we found that the solution was actually deeply intertwined. Problem #1 was a bit of a no-brainer:

  • Solution to Problem #1: Remove all movement based traits (Max Speed, Acceleration, Turn Rate) from the trees and build them into the base functionality of the War-Steed

Our solution to Problem #1 left us wondering what would replace the former movement traits, and to answer that question, we looked at Problem #2.

  • Solution to Problem #2: Replace the removed movement branch with a new branch that is class specific. Ensure this new branch reinforces the identity of each class through skills and traits.

Our plan was to create 8-10 new traits for each of the 9 classes for a total of 80+ traits. To put this into perspective, our initial implementation of mounted combat featured 90+ traits, so it was clear from the start that this would be a huge undertaking. The design per class was split between a few of us but conventions were established to keep the design consistent:

  • 1 Forced Movement Trait: The Yellow Branch featured 3 forced movement skills that were broken up by Steed type: Coax pulls enemies close, Caution keeps them at range, and Intimidate forces them to flee. We decided to incorporate the forced movement, where appropriate, based on class. It made sense for melee classes to get Coax to draw enemies close and for ranged classes to have Caution to keep their target at a distance. Intimidate was used for classes trying to maximize positional damage or squishier classes that may need to escape from combat.
  • 1 Group Buff: The group buff should enhance the stats of you and your allies based on your class. For example, the Minstrel is primarily a healer, so their buff will increase Outgoing Healing and Incoming Healing for you and your allies. We also made the decision to utilize area effects rather than “fellowship” effects. With open-tapping and remote looting, we’ve found that most people don’t need to join a fellowship to enjoy group content in Rohan. With that in mind, we didn’t want to restrict these effects to “fellowship only.”
  • 1 Discipline Buff: A trait that will increase the potency of your 3 disciplines.
  • At least 1 New Class Skill: Every class will have at least 1 completely new mounted skill that will better help define their class. Once again, class identity really drove the creation of these new skills. The Minstrel will inherit their Hammerhand Bubble in Mounted Combat, while the Burglar will earn a new trick, Impugn Character, that will cause enemies to turn on each other.
  • 3-4 Skill Enhancements: Traits that either buff a specific skill, add a new effect or increase your DPS in one way or another.
  • 1 Riddermark Capstone: We toyed with the idea of overhauling all of the capstone traits, but in the end we decided to maintain the current capstones in their original state.
  • Holdover Traits: Dash was maintained and placed at the top of the tree, including the Light-Steed version of Dash which is a toggle. Trample was moved from the Yellow Branch to the bottom of the Red Branch on Heavy Steeds.

We Want More, We Want More

With a new suite of traits in, we turned our attention towards balance and polish. With no movement branch, I wanted to make sure that each War-Steed still felt distinct, so you may notice some changes in your base steeds. Heavy-Steeds lost 0.5 meter per second off their max speed but gained increased Armour and Endurance to help reinforce their role as a tank. The light steed was given boosts to their max power and power regeneration to help them support our support classes more efficiently. In turn, the medium steed was tuned to provide a good balance of both.

On the class level, the plan called for heavy iteration. Step 1 was for each of us to take a look at our classes and make improvements wherever we saw a clear hole. The result was several skills getting improved or altered without forcing you to have to spend a trait point. This went along with our philosophy of not asking you, the player, to spend your trait points just to make a skill usable. All of our skills should be useful and potent from the start, with traits taking them to another level.

With several improvements in place (without even spending a trait point), we took a long look at DPS and power usage to ensure things were balanced across the board. People were generally very pleased with the Captain and Minstrel (probably because the Captain was a destructive force capable of outputting as much as 25k damage in a single hit) but unhappy with the damage output of some of the other classes. Our intent with Mounted Combat has always been to make you feel powerful, but the Captain numbers were insane, so they were tuned down just a bit. Before you panic, let me reassure you, the Captain is still a beast out there. My approach for tuning the numbers was much less about nerfing classes and much more about bringing up DPS numbers for everyone else. Almost every class had a handful of skills tuned up to deal more damage, in particular the Runekeeper and Burglar who were simply not up to snuff with some of their skill damage. After several rounds of testing, I believe we reached a very nice place for damage with all of the classes. This is by no means the end of our tuning as we’ll continue listening to your feedback and addressing areas of need when necessary.

Epic Conclusion
I am very excited to be handing Mounted Combat 2.0 off to all of you and I hope you enjoy playing it as much as we enjoyed building it. The feature has evolved thanks to your response and it will continue to do so as long as there is a desire. So Arise fellow Rohirrim and enjoy all that Mounted Combat 2.0 has to offer.

-Doc