In Response to EpicNameBro’s “Future of the Souls Series” Video

The video can be seen here. EpicNameBro (also known as Marcus, which I’ll use from here on out because it works better in sentences!), a staple of the Souls community, talks about what changes should be made to the series in future installments that we have to assume are coming. He makes many astute points and it’s hard to peg anything he says as flat out wrong or bad. So this will be more of an… addition to that discussion. Some of this might be redundant with my previous writing on the Souls games, but whatever.

I mostly will be talking about the multiplayer aspect, much like Marcus was but I just want to note some stuff on story…

Storytelling

Marcus and I are mostly in agreement on this, but I really do think the Soul’s game need to put a LITTLE bit more forward to the player. The game get’s too many complaints about being hollow and storyless for this to stay. It kills me every time I hear it. I’d say the Soul’s game need…. like, “10%” more story. I don’t know what 10% actually means in StoryTellingUnits, but I think it invokes the right idea. A substantial but still minor push. I’d like to see more things that are on item descriptions be things that NPCs say offhandedly. I don’t want there to be any pre-boss-fight monologues, but I would like if NPCs added a bit more to your knowledge of whats going on. Just enough to give some sense of propulsion. I want the vagueness and mystery to remain, I just want some more clues to be put in plain sight to tell the player. I agree that cutscenes is not how the Souls games tell stories, but I don’t think item descriptions are a particularly good way to do it either when that represents such a large percentage of the information in the game. Ultimately what I want is for more people to be able to notice and enjoy what is there. I doubt, under that context, Marcus would even disagree but it is somewhat contrary to wait he said in his video.

The Gordian Knot of PvP

Marcus probably caught a lot of flak for referring to the multiplayer as Garbage and I don’t much disagree with him. That said, I thought a lot of his solutions missed essential and fundamental problems. It’s also a problem that changing one system almost kinda breaks the game. Many knobs need to be turned in unison to progress the Souls series along, making this a tough topic to theorize about.

The first thing in the video that made me want to comment was his thoughts on the Bottomless Box glitch. He stated that From is clearly okay with Gankers and has to be up on stuff like that and the dragonhead glitch if that’s the case. Technically that’s correct, but that is an unrealistic expectation. You can not make perfect software with any sort of confidence that it won’t break. Atop this, is tacit approval of over-leveled griefing really something worth preserving?

You cannot ever be sure that stuff like the Bottomless Box glitch or the Dragon Head glitch won’t happen. So all you can do is design your game so that if they do happen, their damage is limited. Non-scaling weapons are a pox upon the game. For a character at level 1 to 10 to do as much damage as a 120 vit-gouge build is absurd and it is madness that PVP match making is balanced round level when gear makes up the majority of a character’s strength. If gear properly scaled or had certain requirements along certain upgrade paths, then you could effectively limit how overpowered a low level character could be. This means that a skilled player who got a character through the game at a low level would be able to troll low level players better than another player, but that it wouldn’t be like being practically invaded by a level 120 character. Sure, their health and endurance is a lot less, but when the best weapon you could hope to have is the Drake Sword, the difference is almost invisible to all but the most skilled players.

AR, like defense, should scale with level. By doing that, an elemental build and caster builds could have decent weapons according to their level, but would not be unstoppable godmonsters at level 1. This also means people invading or being summoned can be stronger enough than the host for things to be meaningful, but not so overpowered that they trivialize the experience. Atop this we also got to assume that the invading player already has the skill advantage anyways.

If I were to be more radical, I’d say the next Souls game perhaps should not even have levels. Exact stat configurations in Dark Souls are not particularly interesting and are mostly focused on what equipment you want to use. Being able to switch your build on the fly via equipment could lead to equipment with various types of synergy bonuses (A Thief’s armor could improve backstab damage and be synergistic with light and stabbing weapons while a big set of armor might give synergy bonuses to large weapons). The only thing that makes me not like this approach is aesthetic reasons. I almost feel the same as Marcus about wanting to dress up to look cool. I want armor choices to be meaningful, but not so complex that I have to forgo a nice looking combination because not wearing an ugly mask is just not being competitive. You could do some things with specialty armor and weapon upgrades too (and thusly you can basically ‘change characters’ by changing equipment sets) but that is approaching a level of gaminess that might not fit right in Dark Souls. Personally I always felt rubbed the wrong way by characters who’s strength came primarily from their equipment too, but given that this ALREADY is true in Dark Souls I could perhaps let it slide.

Fortunately this stuff can be changed without fundamentally breaking the system, but lets talk about netplay. Marcus talks a lot about LAN support for the game. Regardless of the validity of that idea, I want everyone to think about something. If the game was played without any lag, how good would parries be? If you answer anything besides “Totally game destroying”, you’re fooling your self. The attack speed in Dark Souls is such that, without lag, a high level player would be able to parry most moves in the game on reaction. The competitive answer to this would be to speed attacks up, or remove parries. Speeding up attacks removes a lot of the personality from the game and removing parries removes a very cool PvE feature. You can’t make parries slower either, because then you make them even WORSE for PvE and they’re already on the borderline of “something a player might never use because they never figured out how to”. The needs of PvE, vs PvP, plus the knot of weird bugs and exploits that hold PvP together lead to a strange game that is hard to change without re-envisioning it. Lag also allows stuff like Pivot Backstabs to work and between that and glitches like Dead Angles, you’re able to overcome shields. Improved netplay (which I think is technically achievable AS IS while still introducing the same issues as Lan play — just to a lesser extent) changes backstabs even more for the worse, making their punishing capabilities better while making the positional, lag focused jukes to find an advantage less good. All these systems are, in a sense, degenerate, but it’s a huge question that will reshape the series to decide what they need to be replaced with. Like Marcus, I think grabs could be good. Ultimately we need ways to break turtling and for position to matter more and those are great for that — not currently, possibly if designed with that purpose in mind. And considering how many interactions happen with large enemies where parries are useless, having a multifunctional grab (I guess roughly like Dragon’s Dogma) has some obvious advantages and gives a way to balance mechanics between modes.

Another general issue is that Dark Souls PvP is far too all-or-nothing and it’s painful that a lot of the stuff I shared above is so damaging yet so essential. It feels lame to fish for backstabs but at times it’s the best thing you can do. Nerfing backstab damage was one of the best changes made to the AotA expansion. Between that, stunlocking attacks and ridiculous magic that has to be overpowered to be good in PvE but as such has to miss a lot in PvP to avoid being overpowered. That’s a huge problem. Spells like Dark Bead and Dark Mass wouldn’t be so god awfully retarded that they needed a special item to get around them if they didn’t have to do so much damage to be useful. Dark Mass is an amazing concept for a spell, and Dark Bead has the most interesting zone of control out of any spell in the game. But they end up being grossly degenerate now because either players will die immediately to those tactics or will survive them with relative ease. Magic in general is an area where the Souls games need a lot of work and the first step to doing so will be getting past the idea that spells are big nukes to use against dumb AI. Even the roll system possibly needs revisiting, though perhaps medium roll and even to an extent, fat roll’s semi-viability is a vast improvement from the vanilla game (Funnily, I think the best part of the DWGR nerf is that the roll is much shorter range and thusly makes it harder to pivot backstab slow-rollers. I agree with Marcus fully on things like how offhand weapons should work and such, as well as with covenants. Still, I think for the PvP to really shine without detracting from the PvE, a lot of deep, fundamental changes must be made. The basic control scheme can remain, but systematically, a lot of huge changes will be required, else Dark Souls PvP will always be a silly, semi-casual affair.

15 thoughts on “In Response to EpicNameBro’s “Future of the Souls Series” Video

  1. I agree with what you said about the PvP. While I mostly gave up on Dark Souls, I can say that Demon’s Souls had the same issues. Some friends and I used to spend hours in an IRC theorycrafting how to fix Demon’s Souls PvP. The basic formula to these discussions was

    -Remove lag. LAN, system-link, put it on an arcade cabinet, whatever.
    -Replace all the lag-related abuses which made the game more interesting with mechanics that mimicked their purpose.
    -Remove weird and unintuitive glitches such as pivot-casting, cross-up, using items/casting spells on parry, swap escaping, etc.
    -Replace them with mechanics which were more intuitive.
    -Miscellaneous balance tweaks, etc.

    So you’d have like spells where you would hold the button to cast them to charge them up, or you could just tap it very quickly and cast it almost immediately or anything inbetween. Grabs to get past shields (pressure escape was even worse in Demon’s Souls). I had an idea for rolls where they were faster, had slightly more recovery, and covered very little distance. The idea was to make it so that you could still punish rolls without relying on lag, which was normally the only way to consistently punish rolls in DS without a long-range weapon. There were a lot of other things we came up with

    The point is that this theoretical game we ended up with was not one that could be called Demon’s Souls.

    There ain’t much else like DS PvP, though. So despite the PvP being objectively crap, I still love it. In fact, I think I’ll go play some now.

  2. Yeah pretty much. It’s so flawed yet so unique. I’ve caught the bug again and can’t stop invading.

  3. Unsolicited proofreader mode engaged. :P

    At the end of the third paragraph, what does the word “vode” mean? Is this some combination of ‘video’ and ‘ode’? Maybe this is a typo?

    In paragraph five, “The first think…” should read ‘The first thing…’.

    In paragraph six, “…Drake Sword, you the difference…” should read ‘…Drake Sword, the difference…’.

    In paragraph eight, “…but that approaching a level of gaminess…” should read ‘…but that is approaching a level of gaminess…’ or ‘…but that approaches a level of gaminess…’.

    In paragraph nine, “…never figured out now to…” should read ‘…never figured out how to…’, “…capabilities better awhile making the…” should read ‘…capabilities better while making the…’, “…are useless, havign a multifunctional…” should read ‘…are useless, having a multifunctional…’, and “…to balance mechanics between modses.” should read ‘…to balance mechanics between modes.’.

    In paragraph ten, should “…an extent, fat rolls semi-viability…” read ‘…an extent, fast rolls semi-viability…’? I have not played Demons Souls or Dark Souls, so I do not know if the rolls are referred to as fat.

    Unsolicited proofreader mode disengaged.

    I take it the Souls games were built with PvE made first and PvP added later. I have read that some games (Starcraft, Guild Wars, others) are made with PvP first and then the designers build the PvE around the PvP base.

    On Marcus’ mention of a necklace slot, I have seen an MMO that has slots for normal equipment and separate slots for cosmetic equipment that overwrites the look of the normal equipment, so there have been systems that do what he seems to want with the necklace slot idea.

  4. All proof reads and corrections welcome. I’ve so desperately wanted a wordpress plugin that lets people submit typo corrections in a manner where I don’t have to hunt around and manually insert everything.

    But yeah totally agree on the PvE thing which makes all potential PvP changes really hard. PvE is the whole reason magic is so god awful. And yeah I like the necklace slot, though overriding cosmetics too much seems apt to have some issues. You can infer quite a bit from someone’s armor and appearance (you can pretty roughly eyeball someone’s poise at the very least, and shield can matter quite a bit). This isn’t insurmountable, but it IS a concern.

  5. An obvious solution for the spells is to not make spells tiered like they are. Tiered equipment design is in general something that I think is a flaw in games with PvP. I don’t really mind equipment leveling up with you or whatever, but having a tiered design just ends up with people choosing the best thing instead of the thing they like best or interesting combinations thereof. Instead there should be tradeoffs and a focus on having the final product after all the leveling up and upgrades be relatively balanced.

    A dirty solution for parries is to either have them be less effective, or have different timing than PvE parries. Less effective meaning, less half your health amounts of damage, maybe being more similar to Last Blade 2 style deflects instead. Different timing means it’s harder to understand and practice for players.

    I think speeding the game up to Demon’s Souls levels would be a positive change in general.

    I’m not in favor of getting rid of the various glitches as long as nothing too crazy gets allowed. Spells have long startup times and pivot canceling (as opposed to demon’s souls’ silly pivot casting) can help land hits just as much as it helped C. Viper in SF4. Dragon kidney is right out. Crossups/dead angle I don’t mind as long due to requiring a setup to use as it’s not on fucking wrath of god. Whoever wrote the algorithm for that spell deserves to go to hell. Swap escaping I think is a great touch for avoiding being stunlocked to death, because lets face it, Dark Souls doesn’t exactly have the best combo system. The build up reset for bleed is kinda stupid and probably relies on lag to even be possible.

    Grabs I’m on the edge about. In theory it’s a nice idea to have a solid anti-shield option. My issue though is that it’s really easy to get into someone’s face in Dark Souls. Frankly, speed up the kick, have it do 50% more stamina damage, and I think that would solve a lot of problems. The bonus damage for guard breaking is nice too.

    Backstabs in general bother me, but lagstabs are absolutely painful. The netcode needs a serious revamp and I hope dedicated servers help clear that up. Backstabs if they return should probably be comparable to a sweep in a regular fighting game rather than bonus damage through the roof. Hell, some of the heavier/higher damage potential weapons probably shouldn’t have backstabs at all. Keeping the BS cancel glitch, where the backstab is stuffed if they receive damage at the same time they start backstabbing, would probably be a good move.

  6. I’m totally with you on the kick. The kick is one of the most anti climatic moves in the game in terms of utility and it only sometimes BARELY does it’s job. I think making PvP parries being harder to practice wouldn’t help much though. The end result would still ultimately be the same, but yeah something like deflection might be good. Heck, just no riposte at all against players — you parry, you score a hit, maybe with that little bit of ‘counterhit’ damage. So yeah, mostly agree with you in general (Especially Wrath of God designer going to hell. I’m sad that the nerf to the Flip Ring was also a buff to WoG. I miss roll backstabbing WoG spammers. :| ).

    I can’t wait to see a LITTLE bit of DS2 gameplay because then we can start going crazy with the theories of what direction things are going to go.

  7. I would like grabs if they ignored blocks and i-frames from rolls/backsteps, but whiffed on attackers.

    Yomi Throws, basically, though that’s not exactly what I was going for. Basically just make it a way to punish defense, and you get out of it via offense.

    Also I don’t think the BS damage avoidance by hitting people is a glitch. From day one it struck me as something FROM put in intentionally.

  8. That’s very likely. I mean, it works on Lord Gwyn’s grab attack too. I believe that all enemy grabs are registered the same way as backstabs.

    Honestly, the blocking system in general is programmed in the weirdest way. It doesn’t do things like you’d expect, having a shield hitbox, or even comparing your facing direction relative to the angle of the enemy’s position. It compares your facing angle relative to the enemy’s facing angle, which is what enables dead angle in the first place. Friggen bizarre. I don’t know if I necessarily want this changed, or just revised for corner cases like wrath of the fucking gods. I mean, I think having things with weird setups like crossups/dead angle add interesting dynamics.

    This also leads to a lot of bosses being able to dead angle you with weirdly positioned melee attacks, like the asylum demon and ceaseless discharge. At least, I think those are dead angles.

    Having parries work like shield breaks currently do for a bit of counterhit damage would probably be cool. Having backstabs be more weaker and comparable to sweeps in fighters in terms of design space would also be cool. Honestly, jumping attacks should probably be stronger than backstabs (are they currently? I rarely use them, so hard to evaluate.) They’re way harder to land, they should be rewarded more. Backstabs occupy a weird position designwise, and I think they’d work fine if they were less powerful. With less reward, they wouldn’t dominate so completely heavily in PvP, and since they knock down enemies and get a bit of bonus damage, they’d still have use in PvE

    Also cool would be more synergy between dual wielded weapons, whatever that may mean. Combination attacks? Cancels?

    Oh, and more moves, maybe have the opposite input of kicks and jumping attacks, back + attack? Make it easier to execute too probably, maybe more along the lines of a smash attack in Smash Bros.

    Faster travel times on all projectiles would probably help a little. Especially for bow users. Have you seen Peeve noscope on the bow? His technique is insane and barely viable. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=er4lp0aggao

    Oh and for the wrath of god, have gestures be cancelable by blocking or dodging, or something. I’m sure we’ve all had at least one invasion where we bow and get backstabbed.

  9. I am like 96.3% sure that the blocking system only works how you describe (http://i.imgur.com/slHha.jpg like this, yeah?) in multiplayer. It most likely works this way because it’s simpler to detect and leads to less information having to get passed around.

    In PvE, the block detection is more sophisticated. Enemies can still kind of get around your shield, but they do it by actually hitting you from behind. E.G., if you are right up in a Longsword Black Knight’s face, some of its attacks will actually wrap around you and hit you from behind. If this were PvP, that attack would not actually go through your guard since you are facing each other, but in PvE the game detects the weapon’s hitbox is coming from behind you. Asylum Demon, IIRC, has an attack where it causes an explosion very far in front of it, and so it can do the same thing. It creates an explosion behind you, which you would then have to block by facing towards the explosion, rather than the boss.

    A problem with back+attack inputs is that you wouldn’t be able to do it unlocked. It would just turn your character around and do a forward+attack.

    And as for WoG, I always thought it was the best-designed spell in the game. Don’t really get the hate for it.

  10. To clarify, I think peeve’s bow technique is really fucking cool and should be a bit more viable.

  11. I don’t think that image really does the system justice. If someone is facing 90 degrees away from the person they’re hitting, perpendicular, they’ll dead angle, such is the case with the Claymore’s two-handed R2. Also panel 3’s example is weird, but makes sense, has anyone tried testing it with the Murakumo?

    Another one to try out is having two people stand shoulder to shoulder, and try using the Claymore’s two-handed R2, because by the logic of the image, that would fail, because the two are facing in opposite directions instead of the same direction, however I believe it would count as a dead angle..

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wk7-Iy7-8A
    This is the obvious reference to check on the matter.

    I don’t think it’s honestly more or less information to send over network. It’s just a check, did it block or not? The calculations can all be done clientside.

    Also, the asylum demon doesn’t have the explosion attack, the stray demon and firesage demon do. I was referring to how his hammer smash would sometimes dead angle.

    WoG + dead angle = completely unblockable, very powerful, decent range (further than a lot of weapons), fast startup attack.

    You dodge when you see it, or on anticipation, or you eat a ton of damage.

  12. I haven’t tested panel 3’s example in Dark Souls at all, actually. I assume it works the same as in Demon’s Souls, though. If EWGF didn’t include it, I dunno why, he’s usually pretty thorough.

    The comic doesn’t mention that shields have a ~180 degree blocking angle, so yeah you don’t get the left/right attacking out of it. But if you found any information that actually contradicted it, I’d be surprised and interested to know.

    As for the Asylum Demon, I’m guessing that either the attack started behind you, or landed behind you. Either one could go past your shield. I have tested out cross-up in PvE and have never seen it work, except when an attack actually hooks around a shield.

    I am not exactly sure what you are trying to describe with your shoulder-to-shoulder example.

    If you want to test any of this stuff and have DkS on PS3, my PSN is Saturday-Saint. I haven’t really gone over the specific mechanics of cross-up in some time, so I wouldn’t mind checking it out in detail again.

  13. It goes behind the actual shield. I guess that these are indeed different cases.

    http://imgur.com/a/q34ES this is also of interest for anyone who wants to know where souls is going.

    I own it on PS3 and PC, but I have been separated from my PS3, so I cannot play on there.

    EWGF didn’t have any formal experiments like he did in his other videos. He just showed a bunch of PvP clips.

    http://i.imgur.com/iQdRe.png

    here’s what I was referring to.

    I’ve never done any experimentation with dead angle at all.

  14. I am fairly sure that the attack would be blocked in the example of the Claymore attacking north and the shield blocking south. In Demon’s Souls this was certainly the case, I used this to block scary cross-ups on wake-up and stuff, and noticed the same effect sometimes when I tried to dead angle people with my DBS.

  15. I’m pretty much sure too, just it contradicts the example given with the murakumo I believe.

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