Latest Skill Tree Build Now Live on PTS!

by Alexander Garden in [ Announcements ] on, Mar 2, 2017 2:00 AM UTC 363  comments





Table of Contents

Skill Tree Changes
• New Economy
• New Layout and Structure

General Balance Changes
• Critical Hits (Fix)
• 'Mech Mobility


Greetings MechWarriors,

If you’ve read our most recent post regarding the pending direction of the Skill Tree PTS you’ll already have a sense of what you’ll see in today’s update to the Skill Tree PTS build.
This post will reiterate and expand upon the information provided in our last post in greater detail, covering everything you’ll need to know about the changes and improvements featured in the latest build.
For those of you who read the previous post, please note that in more than a few cases this post draws directly from the last post, particularly in the case of summaries.

Also, if you haven't done so already, head over to the original Skill Tree PTS announcement to read other pertinent information not covered in this update post, such as the structure of this Public Test, details on navigating the Skill Tree, details regarding the planned refunds of Modules and Experience, and more.

We have a fair bit of ground to cover, so let's get into it.





Unlocking 1 Skill Node for the first time (for the individual ‘Mech whose Skill Tree you are working with) will now only require 60,000 C-Bills and 800 XP. This is a reduction from the 100,000 C-Bills and 1,500 XP required in the previous PTS build.

There is no longer any C-Bill, MC, or Experience cost for removing a Skill Node once you’ve unlocked it.
Removing a Skill Node you’ve already unlocked (for the individual ‘Mech whose Skill Tree you are working with) has no cost associated with it whatsoever.
In light of the above change, removing a Skill Node you've already unlocked will no longer return the XP spent to acquire it. However, that brings us to the next change.

If you wish to re-acquire a Skill Node you previously removed (from the individual ‘Mech whose Skill Tree you are working with) you will not be required to repurchase that Skill Node at the initial purchase cost.
Re-acquiring Nodes you previously purchased at full cost will only require 400 XP. There is no longer any C-Bill cost for re-acquiring a Node you've previously acquired for that 'Mech.



Firepower
• Weapons
Survival
• Armor Structure
Mobility
• Agility
Jump Jets
• Jump Capabilities
Operations
• 'Mech Operations
Sensors
• Sensor Systems
Auxiliary
• Miscellaneous

While the layout and content of Skill Branches are identical between Clan and Inner Sphere 'Mechs (and between weight classes), there are minor differences in the values used for certain Skill Nodes.

In the following section we'll run through all of the available Skill Branches.
Please note that the 'Mech used for the purposes of demonstration in the images below is the Warhammer, an Inner Sphere Heavy 'Mech.
As mentioned above, the physical layout and core content of all Skill Branches are identical between Clan and Inner Sphere 'Mechs and between weight classes.
Any differences in Skill Node values will be displayed in a table below each section when applicable.




While the various Firepower Skill Branches were intended to provide players with a similar analogue to the Module system, the distinct Branches overwhelmingly favored single-weapon Loadouts and provided ‘Mechs suited to that configuration with a significant number of Skill Points to invest elsewhere. ‘Mechs with an array of Hardpoints of different types did not share that freedom.

In today's PTS update you’ll see a significant rework of the distinct Firepower Skill Branch into a single, all-encompassing Firepower/Weapons Branch.  All individual Weapon Branches have been removed, such as the LBX Skill Branch or the Autocannon Skill Branch.
The new Weapons Branch contain Skill Nodes which provide universal bonuses to all weapons. There are no longer distinct Cooldown Nodes specifically for Autocannon weaponry, for example. In their place are all-encompassing Weapon Cooldown Nodes affecting all Ballistic, Energy, and Missile weaponry.

Certain weapon-specific Nodes do still remain however, such as Nodes for UAC Jam Chance and Gauss Charge. These weapon-Nodes reside in distinct areas of the Weapons Branch, marked by indicator icons (and highlights when unlocked).
In the example below the player is focusing 40 Skill Points toward Laser and Missile-specific Nodes, unlocking universal Weapon Nodes along the way.


The goal here is to provide players with more options for skilling ‘Mechs with multiple Hardpoint types, ensuring that investing into Weapon Skills will provide the same benefits to a much larger variety of builds.

One critical change as a result of these changes to Weapon Skills is that you are no longer restricted from unlocking Skill Nodes for weaponry your 'Mech is incapable of equipping. For example, if you have no Ballistic Hardpoints but still wish to invest points to reach the additional universal Nodes, you may do so.

New Skill Nodes within the Weapons Branch

Missile Rack: Increases the amount of Ammo for all Missile weapons.
High Explosive: Increases Critical Damage if a Missile attains a Critical Hit.




While we’re happy to see enthusiasm for the Survival Skill Tree, we feel the average investment seen in these Nodes did not represent a compelling give-and-take scenario. In the vast majority of cases investing all the way into the Survival Tree was almost seen as mandatory. As a result we have altered the overall layout of the Survival Tree, spreading the bonuses across a greater number of Nodes within the Tree. We have also introduced a new defense-oriented Skill Node which will allow for a reduction in your chances of receiving a Critical Hit.
With these changes to the Survival Branch, unlocking the full potential of Structure and Armor Skills will need greater investment, requiring you to evaluate the potential commitment more deeply.

Finally, Survival values are now contingent upon exact tonnage, rather than Weight Class. The table below is truncated for clean formatting, but percentages scale at 1% per tonnage increment for Total Values, 0.2% for Per Node values.
 

Total Values

20 t

25 t

...

95 t

100 t

Skeletal Density

36%

35%

...

21%

20%

Armor Hardening

26%

25%

...

11%

10%

Per Node Values

20 t

25 t

...

95 t

100 t

Skeletal Density

7.2%

7.0%

...

4.2%

4.0%

Armor Hardening

5.2%

5.0%

...

2.2%

2.0%

 

New Skill Nodes within the Survival Branch

Reinforced Casing: Reduces the chance of suffering a Critical Hit.




Similar to Firepower, we did not feel that the division of distinct Mobility-based Skill Branches facilitated the give-and-take nature we intended with Skill Tree choices. For this update we have consolidated the Upper and Lower Torso Skills into a single Mobility Tree, with many of their values receiving adjustments.

As you can see in the above screenshot we have removed the Arm Speed Skill Nodes altogether.





We’ve significantly boosted the benefits provided from investing into the Jump Jet Branch, making them more compelling choices for ‘Mechs capable of equipping Jump Jets. The Jump Jet Branch is also receiving a new type of Skill Node aimed at reducing the amount of heat generated by Jump Jets.

New Skill Nodes within the Jump Jet Branch

Heat Shielding: Reduces the amount of Heat generated by Jump Jets.





As with Survival, bonuses provided from the Operations Skill Nodes have been spread across a greater number of Nodes within the Operations Skill Branch. Unlocking the full potential of this Branch will need greater investment, requiring you to evaluate the potential commitment more deeply.





For now, the Sensor Branch remains unchanged. We’ll continue to monitor its role in light of the other changes seen in this update.





Second only to the changes seen with the Firepower Skills, the Auxiliary Branch is receiving the most significant changes to its structure and content. Through the Auxiliary Branch you'll now be capable of fielding additional Consumable items, with greater benefits to each. Skill Node boosts for Cool Shot and Strike Consumables will also be introduced into the Auxiliary Branch.

We’d also like to take a moment to reiterate that C-Bill and MC Consumables of the same type will be evenly matched in their fundamental capabilities. A C-Bill UAV and an MC UAV will both possess identical Range and identical Duration, for example. Both will of course benefit from unlocking UAV Skill Nodes, as will all other Consumables benefit from their own associated Skill Nodes.

New Skill Nodes within the Auxiliary Branch

Consumable Slot: Provides your 'Mech with an additional Consumable Slot.
Coolshot Cooldown: Reduces the cooldown period for using additional Coolshot Consumables.
Coolant ReservesEnables you to equip a second Coolshot.
Enhanced Coolshot: Increases Coolshot efficiency.
Enhanced Spotting: Increases the accuracy of Air and Artillery Strikes.
Expanded ReservesEnables you to equip a second Strike.
Extended Bombardment: Increases the number of bombs/shells in Air/Artillery Strikes.
Extra UAV: Enables you to equip a second UAV.





The changes to Critical Hit systems seen in the first PTS brought with them an unanticipated bug in the way Critical Hit chances were being determined. This bug significantly increased the chances of a Critical Hit. We’ve corrected this behavior in the latest PTS update. As a result, we are not making any adjustments to Component Health or any aspects of the Critical Hit until we can see how the previous changes play out when a bug isn’t impacting the results.



Disassociating 'Mech Mobility Attributes from Engine Size

Engine selection has long been a balance sore-spot in MWO. Too much was gained by upgrading Engines to higher ratings, with little opportunity for providing a compelling give-and-take between the lighter, slower Engines against the heavier, faster Engines. The system also created a dynamic where baseline ‘Mech viability could be dramatically impacted by the inherent Engine restrictions of a 'Mech. These issues only compounded Inner Sphere and Clan imbalances, with Clan 'Mechs fielding much heavier Engines than their Inner Sphere counterparts - with no sacrifice to Loadout - due to fundamentally lighter equipment.

With the above issues in mind, we are breaking baseline Mobility characteristics away from Engines. Mobility will instead be determined by the overall tonnage of the chassis. It’s important to note that this will not affect the speed of a ‘Mech, which will remain tied with Engine size. This change was specifically designed in the context of the Skill Tree, but was omitted from the first PTS as we continued to finalize some work required for implementing it.

Affected Mobility Attributes

The following ‘Mech Mobility Attributes are no longer directly determined by your Engine:

• Acceleration
• Deceleration
• Turn Rate
• Torso Twist Speed
• Arm Speed

While Engine sizes no longer dictate core Mobility traits, larger Engines will still play a role in Acceleration, Deceleration, and Turn Speed in other ways, as we will explain in a later section of these notes.

Rather than being dictated by Engine size, the above Mobility attributes will instead be integrated as baseline attributes on an individual variant basis.  These attributes have been primarily distributed based on tonnage values, and at a top-down level you can expect Mobility to now be roughly equal across tonnage lines.

As examples, while their speeds will differ an UrbanMech will now have the same Mobility attributes as an Arctic Cheetah, while a Kodiak will share the same Mobility attributes as an Atlas.

To illustrate the impact these fundamental changes to Mobility can have, the video below demonstrates before-and-after comparison for an UrbanMech equipped with a Standard 60 Engine.



Mobility Quirks

Disassociating base Mobility attributes from Engine size is not only intended to improve baseline balance between ‘Mechs, technology bases, and Engines, but also to accomplish one of the stated design goals of the Skill Tree system. That is, to facilitate a drastic reduction in inherent ‘Mech Quirks.

As a result of this change we will be removing all of the current Mobility Quirks from Inner Sphere Battlemechs and Clan Center Torso OmniPods. Non-CT OmniPod and Set of 8 Mobility Quirks will remain.

We are fully aware that many ‘Mechs have been balanced around Mobility attributes in the past; this will continue under the new system, though in a slightly different form.
Many ‘Mechs previously balanced around Mobility Quirks will instead see those Quirks integrated into the inherent Mobility attributes of the 'Mech. Those inherent Mobility attributes will then be evaluated and adjusted against similar 'Mechs within their tonnage bracket. For example, the Phoenix Hawk will be provided with higher baseline Mobility stats compared to the Blackjack.

This is being done with the explicit intent to complement the new Skill Tree. Under the previous Quirk-based system, Pilot Skills played a fairly minor role in 'Mech performance when compared against the power of Mobility Quirks.
With Mobility boosts shifting from Quirks to inherent traits, Mobility-based Skills in the new Skill Tree will now have a much greater impact than they did under the previous system, particularly for ‘Mechs possessing higher baseline Mobility attributes.

You can find the entirety of Quirk changes in this PTS update in the PDF files linked below.


Associated UI Updates

With Mobility attributes now being determined on a per-variant basis the MechLab includes essential UI additions to clearly expose these values. These stats can currently be viewed in detail window when hovering over a 'Mech portrait. In this PTS build the information is not displayed in the 'Mech Stats window; this will be fixed for final release.



These values will factor in any relevant Skill Nodes or OmniPod Quirks the variant may currently possess. It should be noted however that these stats will only display the ‘average’ Mobility performance. Acceleration, Deceleration, and Turn Speed are still impacted by the current speed of your 'Mech relative to its Max Speed.

In-Game Mobility and the MechLab Performance Curves

While this update does remove the core link between Engine size and Mobility, this change will not eliminate the impact of higher Engine sizes on Mobility attributes altogether. Mobility attributes are now merely influenced by Engine size, rather than being directly rooted to it. 'Mechs will continue to handle differently depending on how fast they are currently going relative to their Max Speed.



While the raw Mobility attributes across this curve are now primarily determined by tonnage, the practical impact of this curve on the battlefield will still be influenced by the Max Speed/Engine Size of your ‘Mech. Put another way, while ‘Mechs with identical baseline Mobility stats will keep those stats regardless of Engine size, ‘Mechs with larger engines will still benefit from better Acceleration, Deceleration, and Turn Speed due to the higher Max Speed provided from the Engine.

While you will not see this behavior affect overall Mobility to the degree that the previous system compounded on these advantages, we did want to express that despite baseline attributes being more closely associated with a Mech’s baseline stats, larger Engines will still allow 'Mechs to boost their inherent Mobility attributes through the performance curve at lower speeds.

Deceleration

We wanted to make a special note about Deceleration rates due to its unique implementation.  While it may not be common knowledge, Deceleration rates are primarily influenced by the tonnage of a ‘Mech, with additional attributes contributing to its total performance curve as mentioned in the section above.

As a result of this behavior, inherent Deceleration attributes may seem a bit out of sync with the other Mobility attributes. This is behavior that is consistent with how it is implemented in the main game; we just wish to highlight that it is there due to the UI now displaying its influence.

In Conclusion

All of these above changes to Mobility allow for the following impacts toward to the Skill Tree:

• With Mobility Quirks now rolled into the base Mobility attributes of individual 'Mech variants, Skill Nodes will have greater influence over the final Mobility attributes of a ‘Mech when compared to the impact previously seen under the Quirk system.

• Creates greater value for Mobility-based Skill bonuses for ‘Mechs which possess naturally high Mobility attributes.

• Streamlines the influence of the Skill Tree on ‘Mech Mobility, providing more transparency within the MechLab in terms of how Skill Nodes influence the Mobility of a ‘Mech.

We are also aiming at providing a much better “give and take” dynamic to the way that Engines are utilized in this game. Our initial implementation of these changes aim to bring things closer toward even-ground regarding Engine dynamics. Many ‘Mechs currently suffering low Engine caps will more than likely see the greatest benefit from these changes, while certain 'Mechs greatly benefiting from the current system will see a similar impact in the other direction.

We want to heavily stress to all you reading over and testing these changes in today's update that we are examining this Mobility rework as an approach which complements the Skill Tree system as a whole, and not any one individual ‘Mech. The Skill Tree allows for much higher values then what is available in the current game, and these Skills have much greater impact now due to the way they can compound upon higher base Mobility values.

Beyond examining the baseline properties of 'Mechs, we are examining how they are impacted by the changes introduced by the Skill Tree system to better inform us on not only the initial tuning of the system upon release, but to point us in a direction toward further fleshing out ‘Mech dynamics under this system moving forward.

What we have presented in this PTS update should be looked at as a baseline from which we can better balance the game and upon which we can continue to build. We will continue to flesh out this system once we are assured that the baseline foundation accomplishes the overall goals stated throughout this post.

We very much look forward to hearing your feedback on all of these PTS changes. Thanks for testing, MechWarriors.



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