Published: 01 June, 2023

Developer Q&A: Update 1.0.4: New Vessel Selection Screen, and Exploration Cards

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In the fifth edition of the Ravenbound Q&A, we welcomed CM Althalus, Steacy (Product Owner) and Simon (Lead Designer). We recorded this session on the lead-up of Patch 1.0.4, which is now live and ready to play. 

Do join us on Discord if you have any questions you’d like answered or if you want notifications for future events!

If you'd like to listen to the full recording instead, check it out here.

What are the main changes that we're bringing in for Patch 1.0.4?

Simon: We're looking at some of the feedback regarding things posted in the text channel here, like rerolling characters and making sure that you get to play the Vessel you want to play. That has been a big thing that people have asked about, and it's the main thing coming in 1.0.4.

Once that's rolled out, you should be able to pick whatever Folk you have unlocked for your character, and you can pick whatever weapon Traits you'll unlock for your character, and whatever unique Traits you want, so you can compose whatever character you want from the available options you have.

You won't have to worry about needing to reroll your character if you don't like an unlocked Trait. You can decide in the Vessel Select what you want to play.

Sometimes when I jump in, I just want to see what I get, so there should be an option for people like me who want something random. You can do that as well; you can just press a button and get a random collection of all the core Traits and weapons.

On top of that, you can also randomise the visuals amongst the set we have. You can pick the specific colour or the specific antlers, or you can randomise between the existing options.

That's going to be quite a big thing for anyone who has a strategy that they want to test that requires certain Traits. Hopefully, they'll be quite excited about this, as you'll spend a lot less time rerolling.

How did we arrive at the decision to change Vessel Select? Was it mainly community feedback, or internal feedback or was it a combination of both?

Simon: I would say that it's a combination. A lot of us on the team would just randomly roll characters to play unless we needed to debug or test something specifically to see if it was working.

Even though we've talked about it internally, it was clearly an issue when people started playing and discovering. I saw someone commenting that they were out of Legacy, so they just flew out and ended the run over and over again. Reading that made me realise that we need to help so that people don't have to do this.

The time spent in the game should be playing the game and having fun with it. We've talked about it before, but seeing the community's reaction, it becomes a no-brainer that we need to make sure that that's a better experience for everyone.

Steacy: That was something that was requested by the community a lot. It's a nice touch to be able to play the way you want with your Vessel each run, and for the people who want the pure Vessel experience, you can still randomise.

Simon: Depending on what people want more of, such as rewards for randomising, that's something we can look into. Right now you get to choose. There's nothing pulling you to either.

One thing that we’ve seen in both the community and the team is that when we talk about what difficulty we're playing the game at or how far into the game we are, it can become a little bit muddy. So we're actually changing how we talk about difficulty.

When you're in the Vessel Selection screen, changing difficulty is now going to look a little bit different. Difficulties have their own names like Normal, Hard and Nightmare. It's a very small change, but hopefully, it makes it easier to talk about the difficulties without thinking that someone is talking about how far into the run they are.

We're changing the name and the framing of it. Normal is the most balanced for experience, while Nightmare is super punishing and challenging. So don't feel bad if you don't play on Nightmare. It's hard enough.

What else will we be seeing in 1.0.4?

Simon: There are some new Cards coming - five Cards to be specific. Potentially, if you're lucky, you could find a way to utilise these Cards to get a build going faster.

The one I'm most excited about is Inner Growth. It's a new Bounty Card where when you play it, you get to draw as many Cards as you played during that visit to the Hand Screen. So, let’s say you open up your Hand Screen and play three Cards. Then you play Inner Growth, and you get to draw three Cards again. That can really help you get going fast and maybe then you can risk not farming as much, which is quite interesting.

We’ve also introduced some fun Cards, a direction we’re excited about going towards. We want to make sure that our Bounty Cards feel good to play, and have mechanics like reducing the cost of other Cards in your hand. Maybe it drains a random Card in your hand, but you get the mana cost of that Card.

These new Cards are interacting with a different part of the world and game that maybe we didn't touch with Cards before. Is that a direction that the team is looking to go toward? Can we expect to see more Cards interacting with even more systems and features in the future?

Simon: We are really excited about this kind of direction - this is just the start. Now we want to see how the community feels about that direction. That will be what we base future Cards on.

Steacy: This is something that we feel answers something in the community. We’re super excited to put it out there, but we also want players to give feedback on it. If it’s popular, then we’ll definitely add more.

How do we evaluate if they're successful and if they’re going to hit the mark that we were looking for with them?

Steacy: This is something we work with a lot of teams on, to make sure that we get the balance right. Our community feedback is super important to us - that gives us a lot of information about what feels right, and what feels fun.

This gives us a lot of clues on where to look because another thing that we do is use balancing data. How are players playing the Cards? Is that what we expected, and does it look balanced? If it’s not what we expected, is it still fun, or is it messy?

Sometimes someone will say that it’s not fun for them, and we can go and confirm that it’s not balancing the way we expect. But even before we put it out there, we do a lot of internal playtesting. We utilise everyone on the team to just play and see, “Does this feel good? Is it fun? Can we make a nice deck?” and make sure that they can be used strategically.

It’s nice when you can plan the order of the Cards in a way that’s going to make the playthrough the most exciting.

Simon: The balance of our Cards is a very common discussion, and how we feel about it can be quite tricky. The data helps us find threats that we can investigate. For example, we can see if a Trait is not performing and work out why - maybe it’s not the Trait itself, but rather there are not enough builds to work with, so there’s no incentive to pick it.

Is this the reason for the Blaze Brand Card, which gives you Frenzy when nearby enemies are burning?

Simon: We want to make sure that there are more Relics that interact with different status effects. We’re excited about going in this direction and moving more status effect power into Relic Cards, this to move more status effect power into relics, because right now you can get locked into getting a specific weapon in order for the build to work. It’s not a trigger effect, more like a boost that allows you to become more powerful for it. 

However, something we’ve identified is that we’re also lacking Relics that interact with Frenzied in a fun way.

We want to add more things to boost status effects connected to your defensive mechanics. If you perform a perfect dodge then you become Frenzied and we have some Traits that interact with that. We want to expand that a bit to allow you that moment when you’re Frenzied, which would then boost a Relic that would make you Frenzied whenever you have Grey Health, for example, and the same with Perfect Guard when you become invulnerable.

In future, we want to look into boosting that kind of status on yourself so that there are more opportunities to build around it. Right now you can build around your Guard, and make use of the invulnerability, but we want to make sure that there’s an opportunity to go, “I’m mainly guarding for the invulnerability and that’s the main trigger for my Relics”.

This is a sneak peek in one of the directions that we want to go with for Cards. We want more fun Cards and ones that interact in fun ways with status effects to create more varied builds.

Is there anything else you’d like to point out about in this patch?

Steacy: There are a lot of bug fixes going into this patch, especially in audio. We’ve got some fixes for the tutorial as well. As always, we’re introducing new crash fixes, so we’re hoping that this will make the gameplay even smoother for everyone!

Simon: In our last patch, we introduced new Hatred Cards, so Hatred is attacking you in a much more varied way. It’s not just that enemies get stronger; you can lose coins or Mana. One thing that we changed in that patch was that instead of every enemy getting a 5% increase to their damage and health, they would get an increase between 2-4% based on your Hatred level.

It’s weak on individual enemies because if you bolster the health of a stronger enemy, it’s noticeable, but on weaker enemies, it’s not as noticeable. We’ve tweaked it so that it’s more about the perception of 4% rather than the actual 4%.

With that change, we actually lost some damage for enemies. They would get the health increase based on your Hatred level, but the damage increase hasn’t worked as intended. We’re now fixing that bug so that damage is tied to Hatred level, and we’ll see how it feels. If it feels that your Hatred level is suddenly really, really punishing and not fun to engage with, please let us know. We will really try to monitor this closely.

Where can you find the Meditation and Inner Growth Cards?

Simon:I think that Meditation is Rare, and Inner Growth is Legendary. So for Inner Growth, you’ll definitely want to pick up those Legendary golden chests to have the highest chance of getting them. Meditation is one that you’re going to see without necessarily farming the most valuable chests.

What kind of tools, techniques and workflows went into creating the world of Ravenbound?

Simon: We don’t have the world designer here that was responsible for it, but I can go into a bit of detail. The first thing is that we create everything in the Apex Engine, as we have an editor for Apex that allows us to create very large worlds.

One of the huge benefits of this engine is that I can build on one end of the island, and then fly over to the other end of the island in seconds and continue my work over there. If I put some crates down, I can press one button and go in-game in a second, then I can run around and test it.

Tools make your overworld development a lot easier if they’re made for open-world development. In this case, Apex helps us a ton. That’s the technical side from a non-technical point of view. We can talk about how we handle that big of a world, But we’d need the more code-savvy people to explain how we make the Apex engine really shine.

Approaching it from the design perspective, you can find a lot about level design on YouTube, but there aren’t that many articles on world design in particular. In my experience, it can be a bit harder - but in reality, it’s a lot of the same. It’s scaled up, but you treat the entire world as a level.

The camps and other parts of the world are very different. They’re like props in a level with opportunities and moments. Depending on the open world, you would think of mountains as “T-intersections” - you can probably find a YouTube video with someone talking about how you use T-intersections from a level-design perspective to really create these environmental storytelling moments.

An example would be to put up a poster about a carnival in the T-intersection, and that’s a great way to tell people about the world without them thinking about it. Maybe they don’t even stop and look at the poster, they just walk past it, but they’ll learn about it.

It’s the same thing here. We place a cool dragon skull on a mountain, like you’ve seen in other open world games, and treat the mountain as a T-intersection. It’s the same thing, just on a much larger scale.

Steacy: Something that’s always important is that you lay out your rules - we call them pillars. When you have a collection of rules for your world and know what your world is like, that enables your work. Especially if you’re in a larger team as well. If you’re multiple people, you need to be able to build up that world in a way that feels cohesive for the players.

Something we’ve really tried to do with Ravenbound is make sure that you really feel like you’re being dropped into a world of Scandinavian folklore. We want to make sure that it feels cool and melancholy in all those pieces.

A less cool thing for the engine is: don’t forget your documentation! Think through it first about what this world is, and then find all the cool tools to build it.

Since the second Card drawn is either Mana or Gold, will the new Cards like Inner Growth and Meditation occupy the same space?

Simon: We really tried to reserve the centre space in chests for Mana or Gold, so I would be surprised if they can appear there. I will make sure and confirm, but the center Card should be safe!

Hey, we'll definitely find out when we start playing those runs in the new patch. 

Simon: And I would say, when you play the game, if you get like a spark of inspiration, and you think “this card should exist”, but it doesn't exist, please share your ideas with us! We read so much in the Discord or Steam forums. We really appreciate all your feedback and ideas.

Steacy: We're really excited about the upcoming patch and we hope you are too. We're looking forward to talking to you more post-patch and seeing what you think!

Thank you all so much for attending and/or reading the Q&As. Patch 1.0.4 is now live, so we’re excited to know your thoughts about the new features and tweaks we’ve made to Ravenbound. Make sure to join the Discord server if you’d like to participate in the live Q&A sessions.

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