PAX Prime 2014: Lichdom – Battlemage Q&A With George Chapman Part 1 (Live)

Like I stated in the snippit on Lichdom, I wasn’t really excited about this game. However, in getting to know more about it and in talking with the devs and seeing their absolute love for the game, it gave me a change of heart. George Chapman excitedly shared his love for Lichdom: Battlemage and he showed me how deep this rabbit hole goes and I’m happy to share that with you guys. Enjoy the read! (And all the pictures of things blowing up!)

The Videogame Backlog: So could you tell the readers who you are and what your game is about?

George Chapman (COO of Xaviant): First off I’m George Chapman, I’m the COO of the company. This is Lichdom: Battlemage. Lichdom: Battlemage is all about creating the bad-ass mage experience. When we started to make this game, our Creative Director: Michael McMain… he’s been a fan of mages for years and every game he plays, that’s what he wants play. Every time he gets in to play them, he finds that the mage class, which should be this uber-powered kind of guy, going through and mowing down his enemies, he’s always balanced against the other classes. So you want to make sure that a guy that’s running up on you with a sword has an equal chance of defeating you. So he’s kind of shackled. He’s kind of artificially held down.

The number may not be that high, but the explosion sure is pretty.
The number may not be that high, but the explosion sure is pretty.

We try to remove those shackles in this game and just kind of focus solely on the mage experience. In doing so we’ve taken away mana bars. We’ve taken away cooldowns. None of that comes into play at all in this. It’s all about using your brain, putting your spells together, creating something that matches your playstyle. A lot of playstyles evolve out of this game and there’s a lot of arguments at the office as to which is the best playsytle. The best part is that [you create] your playstyle. It’s something that a lot of people make just for them and it evolves over time.

I’ve been, in the past four weeks, playing through the game and I’ve changed my sigils up time and time again. I didn’t even get to see Necromancy until about ten days ago and it just shattered my belief in what I really thought was the best sigil at that point. So then I went through a completely new playthrough on that. In fact I didn’t see Necromancy really until we put the demo together for this game. It’s one of the sigils that we purposely held out until release so it wasn’t being widely disseminated where it was, but it’s an awesome sigil!

[The way the magic works in our game is that there are different schools of magic if you will.] It starts with Fire, Ice, Lightning, Kinesis, Delirium, Necromancy, Phase, and Corruption and it’s not just simply spell effects that change color. It’s not just changing from a red ball of destruction to a blue ball of destruction. There are spell effects that go along with them and you can construct your spells using what we call Destruction which is simply about making pure damage.

TVGBL: Making things explode, yeh.

George: Yeh, and Control, which is about creating the situation where you store some damage on the enemy, but at the same time you control it in some fashion. As you saw ice, you’re freezing a target, immobilizing and holding them in space. If I use Kinesis/Control you can lift the target up in the air and then they’re sitting there completely immobilized. So you can kind of control the battlefield using that. You can pick the targets that you want to attack in the order you want to attack them and then that’s very important because our AI’s pretty smart. We have a pretty decent array of enemies that come out. Some are ranged, some are melee, some are summoners that bring forth other things so they can really create a lot of chaos on the battlefield. So you have to kind of figure out what are my biggest threats right now, so Control is very important in this game.

Lichdom Battlemage

The third aspect of [magic] is mastery. Mastery is all about putting debuffs onto the enemy. These debuffs basically, again they don’t trigger any damage, but when combined with a mastery hit and a Control hit, you’re going to score some damage and [finish with] critical Destruction damage. You will get some really big numbers! So it’s all about delivering these different combinations and when you figure out… so my playstyle, just because I’m a methodical guy, I like to know which sigil I’m on. I like to dedication one sigil to Mastery, one to Control, one to Destruction.

TVGBL: It makes sense.

George: You don’t have to do it that way, but it’s just my way so that when I’m flipping through the different sigils I know which one I’m on and what effect I’m going to do. Our Creative Director Michael, he will mix and match [them] all together and he’s great at doing that, but that’s a little more of [a disordered] approach for me. So when you do that, like I said, the interactions between the spells can be very important. So in one case, I told you I like to stick with Kinesis and Lightning, as an example because I like to get synergies, but I’ll talk about that again in a second. So I try to do that, I try to find different ways to use them.

In one playthrough I ran a Control/Lightning build and then a Mastery/Kinesis build. What I really liked about that was that the Control/Lightning basically will stun the target and completely immobilize them. It also arches out so if anybody gets near that guy it locks them down as well even after I fired it just on that one guy. So I can create a situation where I know there’s five guys running at me from this direction, I can shock this one guy and put him in the middle and the other guys come running up on him and they’ll get shocked and held in place too. The downside to Lightning is that it charges them up so when they come out of the Control effect, they’re hasted. Well if you compliment that with Kinesis/Mastery, [it] not only puts a debuff on them, but it roots them down so you get a second form of crowd control. So usually I’ll Lightning everything up in that kind of a situation and completely immobilized everyone in the room and I’ll find the melee guys and Master them up and hold them down in place and then I focus and take out the ranged guys. So it’s all about developing that kind of a strategy.

The next playthrough I did I said, ‘Well I want to keep that, but I want to mix it up a little bit.’ I went with Destruction based Lighting and then I went with Kinesis for my Control. As I mentioned before, Kinesis/Control is all about lifting the targets up. So it’s really great, they’re all immobilized, you can see very clearly on the battlefield who is out of this combat and then with the Lightning, when it’s Destruction, it arches out to everybody so as much as the Control effected the spread-out, if I get this guy, the damage from the Lightning arches out and gets the other guys around him as well. You can craft that for a high Apocalyptical chance. Apocalypticals are basically… we have a way of doing guaranteed criticals. If you hold down and charge a [spell] it will do a critical hit.

I think there's an ointment for this right?
I think there’s an ointment for this right?

TVGBL: That’s signified by your hand starting to glow correct?

George: Yeh exactly! When you hear that “Ding!” then you know you can let loose with it! We also then have the ability to critical off of that critical; we call that an Apocolyptical. When you get an Apocolyptical a sigil will appear over the guys head.

TVGBL: Is that when it started to “Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!”?

George: That was different, you had a pool down. I’ll talk about that in a second, but that’s a good question too. As you can see there’s a lot to this game. When you get the sigil that appears over the guy’s head, you’ve got about ten to fifteen seconds to kill him. If you do, then you activate a sigil power. Sigil powers are different depending on which sigils you have. If you have Necromancy and you activate that sigil power, you get what’s called Bone Armor and basically you’re sucking the skeleton out of the guy and it creates a little skeleton around you and that gives you a new shield.

TVGBL: Actually I got that and I was kind of freaking out because I didn’t know what it was. It was kind of ‘This things flying at me! I can’t shake it!’

George: That’s actually blocking an attack. So if you watch, you weren’t taking any damage during that time frame. [It will sit there] and absorb damage the whole time that it’s up. It’s an extra shield that when in a boss fight, like you were in, it’s phenomenal! It’s great to have.

Fool! I told you! It's hot!
Fool! I told you! It’s hot!

Going back to the Lightning, which is why I was using Lightning for Destruction on this, if you craft for a high Apocolyptical chance on that: it’s time to become the Emperor! You’re basically doing Arch-Lightning out constantly and you are just melting targets on the battlefield. So then I throw Necromancy into that, well Necromancy is obviously, you tag a target, if you kill that target you raise an undead minion out. I had a situation, basically, where all my undead guys were coming up and they were handling this particular battle that’s going on and I got an Apocolyptical and I said, “Now it’s time to move on forward!” I started pushing into an area while  they were kind of doing stuff and I am just melting the next set of encounters that are coming in front of me. [There are lots] of different things like that and your playstyle evolves the more and more you play and with the decisions that you make.

You were talking about the “Ding! Ding! Ding!” That goes into what our crafting system is about.

TVGBL: That’s a scientific term.

George: Yes. So on top of all of these sigils, basically we have a lot of different ways to craft the magic.  We think there’s thousands and thousands of combinations of spells based on 168 different levers you can throw. These levers range from ‘what are your spell patterns?’ If it’s a Targeted spell, you might have a homing missile, you might have a lob. If it’s an AOE spell you might have a trap which is really useful specially with that Lightning sigil that I mentioned before because our AI is pretty decent and pretty smart. You get your archers that like to hide behind pillars and things like that.

Explosions: the answer to all the problems in Lichdom.
Explosions: the answer to all the problems in Lichdom.

TVGBL: I was going to compliment you on that because I was playing and one of them was jumping back and forth out behind a pillar…

George: It pisses you off doesn’t it?

TVGBL: I was having some PTSD from Warcraft in the arenas like ‘GRRAH! I hate those guys!’ 

George: Well what you can do then is you can take a trap Lightning and you can throw it just behind them and what will happen is you’ll see a little ball go up because he’s within proximity of that trap. It’ll trip. It’ll lock him in place and shock him. Then you just run up and finish him off.

TVGBL: I was just targeting AOE just by the side of the pillar, just behind it so I could still get him.

George: You can do that as well too. In addition to that then we have what we call pools and that’s where you were hearing the “Ding! Ding! Ding!” You can drop down an AOE. You can make it continue to do its effect like it’s just sitting there as a pool. It does [less effective damage] than just a single hit AOE, but there’s a lot of benefits to that. If you have a Kinesis/Mastery pool, anything that runs into that pool now will get rooted and locked in place and you’re applying Mastery. So what you can do then at that point is drop down another pool on top of it that’s Destruction and so now you’re getting that combo and it’s going “Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom!” and it will melt targets down. You can also do Rays the same way.

TVGBL: I was tempted because I like lasers. 

George: A lot of these different things came out of when we went into Early Access. We went into Early Access with Steam back in early March and initially our intention was to release the game in July. We talked to some people and they convinced us that Early Access might be a pretty good idea for us. We came back to the office and thought and talked about it and decided we were going to go ahead and do it. So we went Early Access in March and the player feedback we got from the community was phenomenal! I mean they really changed the landscape of this game. It is a much different game today than it was four months ago and we couldn’t have done it without the Early Access community. They helped us work through a lot of things we thought were good in the core gameplay and really expand on it to [give] people a lot more options and really just increase their fun.

For Part 2, click here!

Jonathan Amarelo Sig

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