On the image: Talbadar and Conradical
Today's interview is about Forge, a third person MMO with aim based combat. My interview partners are Talbadar who works as a balance tester for Forge as well as Timothy Alvis, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Technical officer or better said the wearer of many heads at Forge. Below you will find the newly released game play video of Forge as well as many questions about this game. Additionally I took the chance and asked Talbadar a lot of questions about World of Warcraft, too.
The game has five unique classes. Combat includes sprinting, jumping and wall-jumping mechanics. Each class has nine unique abilities with most of them on a 10-15 second cooldown. The resource system includes energy and there is a global cooldown. The game modes are 5v5 team death match, as well as 8v8 and 16v16 capture the flag. Along with Talbadar many familiar names are found in the balance team: Reckful, Snutz, Sodah, Venruki and Pookz.
Hildegard: Today I welcome and Rodney "Talbadar" Pare, one of the best WoW players and balance tester, for our interview about the game Forge. As Talbadar probably knows my first question is always the same: What did you eat today?
Timothy Alvis: Corazona's banana oatmeal bar for breakfast, 2 slices of cold pizza for lunch.
Rodney "Talbadar" Pare: I just woke up recently and I ate some Apple Jack's cereal!
Timothy Alvis: <- Jealous
Hildegard: We have 4:21pm in your time zone Talbadar. How on earth do you earn money?
Rodney "Talbadar" Pare: Working on the computer works wonders for people with poor sleeping schedules.
Hildegard: Snutz, Reckful, Sodah, Venruki, Pookz, and you Talbadar work as balance testers. So for Forge how did you start out?
Rodney "Talbadar" Pare: Okay, so when we first got involved we took a look at each class and all their abilities. At the time the game wasn't playable so it was all theory. Timothy Alvis, the lead designer, already had a great initial design for all classes and I'd say about 80% of the things in the game were from his initial planning. One of the first things we tackled as a team was energy design. We didn't like the idea of having high passive regeneration and wanted it to be more active. Those of us chosen to help work on the project have not just played WoW. We've played MMOs and various FPS games throughout our lives. Asheron's Call, TERA, Rift, Warhammer, Quake, and Counterstrike -- you name it one of us has likely played it. With everyone's ideas on the table from previous games we came up with our active energy design system. Now, we have a small passive regeneration and you use primary attacks (each class has one and uses it often) to generate energy. There are sprints, wall jumps, high-damage abilities, and various cooldowns that use energy; you will find yourself low on energy if you aren't able to land those basic attacks often.
Timothy Alvis: We don't really have a concept of brackets right now. Some maps are built for slightly larger groups, some smaller, but our ability designs work well for 5v5 and up. If we ever supported smaller match sizes than that officially, we would likely create abilities specifically for that size.
Hildegard: From the video it appears as if wall jumping sprinting will be a large part of the game, how do you feel about the movement so far?
Rodney "Talbadar" Pare: I love the movement in the game. As an FPS the game feels excellent while moving and you never feel cheated out of a hit. Sprinting and wall jumping add interesting aspects to the game. Do you want to use energy to increase your mobility or for stronger attacks? Along with honning your aiming skills you'll constantly be making choices with your mobility and resources.
Hildegard: The icons that float to the middle of the screen look like ability icons, I noticed the arrow in the foot (forgot the skill name). What exactly are they showing?
Talbadar: The design of the UI gives players the option to use what's directly in front of them to understand what's going on instead of having to look down at the bottom for specifics. There is built in blood mapping to let you know you are low on health, an energy meter right below your character, and the floating icons you see in the middle of the screen are to track your cooldowns.
Hildegard: Talbadar, you are one of the prime examples of players that manage to earn a living as a player without resorting to shady stuff like boosting. In the last weeks you started to publish daily videos on your YouTube page, played in several tournaments with high success and managed to get a job as a balance tester for Forge. Would it be correct to say that you are a professional player that makes his living by playing?
Rodney "Talbadar" Pare: Although I wouldn't say what I do right now earns a living, I've been lucky to be able to have so many opportunities in front of me as a professional gamer. I've played games my entire life, starting with Super Mario World and Mega Man X as a kid. In my teen years I played games like Diablo II, Starcraft: Brood War, and Runescape (oh the memories). I'd never considered professional gaming as a possible career until a couple years ago.
Hildegard: Becoming a pro is very risky and there are many examples of players that skipped college or university to do so and failed horribly. What made your decision back then?
Rodney "Talbadar" Pare: Honestly, I've been playing WoW since I was 14, starting 6 years ago. I've been addicted since the moment I saw the Leeroy Jenkins video that a friend showed me in our computer class. Fast forwarding, I wanted to become competitive in the game when it came to Season 6. I just kept playing and wanting to become better and better and I found myself at BlizzCon in 2010. The following year, with similar drive and practice, I was able to team up with Azael and Cdew and play on Team EG. I felt, then, I should keep pursuing any child's dream: doing what you love for a living.
Hildegard: While many players always state that WoW takes zero skill, I guess that a lot of work is involved to get on your level. What, besides playing lots of games, did you do to become so good?
Rodney "Talbadar" Pare: In Season 4, I watched Noxn 1 and Noxn 2. Noxn was, by far, the best shadow priest of her time and I started by mimicking her game play in BC. Watching through it I just kept noticing these amazing subtle things she was doing. She would line up her DoTs to all tick together and then burst with Mind Blast and SW:Death with all those at once. She would use chain crowd control with her teammate. I analyzed her duels with Glickz to get better at dueling. Using all that information I learned from analyzing her videos, I dueled players throughout WotLK as Shadow and Discipline and tried to get better and better at 1v1 fights. I've learned the most from simplifying the game and getting better at specific fights. I was able to tie Snutz for first place in the World of Ming Dueling Tournament using this analytical style of learning.
Hildegard: Do you document what you learn or just keep it in your head?
Rodney "Talbadar" Pare: I keep everything in my head and I find myself spending extra time outside of the game thinking about what is possible.
Hildegard: You were one of the bloggers on World of Ming on the gameriot website during a time that many call the prime of WoW's PvP. How was working with Ming?
Rodney "Talbadar" Pare: Ming is an awesome guy. Working with him and Trance was literally life changing. Ming did something extraordinary by starting up his own blogging site and slowly adding exciting new bloggers to the roster. A lot of players miss the drama that occurred daily on his site.
Hildegard: Did you feel pity for some of the writers that had a hard time with the trolls, like Zilea or every female writer that Ming tried to push?
Rodney "Talbadar" Pare: It's funny to answer this way, but no I do not. Those guys attracted the most views and were the main attraction every week. They generated the most comments and people loved the drama.
Hildegard: If I am not mistaken your very first tournament game was against Orangemarmalade's RMP with the newly founded triple healer comp. How did it feel to play against the player that was considered the absolute best at that time?
Rodney "Talbadar" Pare: It's funny because we had a list of teams going in that we just didn't want to face in that tournament. Realz, Kollektiv, and Glickz's RLS and Orangemarmalade's RMP were the two. They were both in our group and the tournament veterans were playing us for the first game of the whole tournament streamed live for everyone to witness. We were so excited to go up 2-0 against a seemingly immortal team, but ended up losing 2-3 to them.
Hildegard: You start a tournament, go up 2:0, lose 2:3, and the tournament goes on. I guess the rage level was pretty high. What happens, how do you continue?
Rodney "Talbadar" Pare: After playing so many RMPs beforehand and practicing for the tournament, we knew what went wrong immediately after the series. Even though Drmayonaise would get angry from losing there was no teammate blaming going on. We played the other games in the tournament and they all went as expected. We ended up beating CoL.Black's beastcleave and Filovirus's RLS 3-0 and lost to Realz’s RLS 0-3. The first losses didn't affect our attitude towards the rest of the tournament.
Hildegard: Impressive. Xandyn said that losing makes you better. Would you agree?
Rodney "Talbadar" Pare: I'd say that and go as far as saying losing is much better for improving than winning. What exactly have you learned while winning? You learned that your strategy went as planned and that you played as well as you'd have liked to beat the opposing team. What about losing? Your strategy didn't work; you need to learn better strategies. I didn't play as well as I could have; I need to learn to play my best at all times. If you win every game there's no reason to want to get better. In a game like WoW it's a bit harder to see that with all the complexities in the game like gear, comp imbalance, rating, and seasons, but I certainly believe losing is the key to improving.
Hildegard: Mists of Pandaria will be released soon. Many players have high hopes for PvP. What are the main issues at the moment?
Rodney "Talbadar" Pare: There are two issues with the expansion at the moment. The first is the obvious: healing is way too high in comparison to the damage players deal. This is something that will be extremely hard to fix with the correlation between consistent damage/burst damage/consistent healing/burst healing/survivability along with having PvE balance halting most progress on that. The second problem is something that can't be fixed. As more expansions come out there are more things added to the game that hurt PvP. More survivability cooldowns, more burst, more CC, more ways to get mana back, more ways to increase your speed, more ways to remove snares, faster ways to heal your partners, and so on hurt the game more as they are added. The fun in the game doesn't come from having a bunch of stuff, but when you feel like you have enough to do what you want to do. That feeling already came for a bunch of different specs in previous expansions. Obviously this is only talking about what's best for PvP balance and I know that they need to keep adding new abilities to keep it fun for the masses.
Hildegard: Do you think high amounts of PvP power on weapons could fix the healing issue, especially if combined with a reasonable healing reduction in arenas?
Rodney "Talbadar" Pare: While it would help the issue, I don't think either are things that will be changed. From previous blue posts they would rather make big changes on abilities in PvP to fix it rather than change things to be "PvP only". They introduced a small healing reduction a long time ago, and I doubt they will do it again with the reluctance they show. My thoughts have been to first fix overpowered burst from certain classes and reduce the resilience change to only 10% more reduction instead of 20%. People should die slow, but with the amount of healing from non-healing specs, even if healing is reduced significantly those DPS specs with that extra healing will be nearly unkillable. Healing needs to be reduced slightly and I'm hoping they don't hesitate to do so if it feels necessary after changing resilience. I'm happy they are at least fiddling with the numbers.
Hildegard: How do you like the MoP shadow priest design?
Rodney "Talbadar" Pare: To me, the Cataclysm shadow priest design was the most well designed PvP spec in the game to date. Everything you do is active. You are actively working to keep your mana up. You are actively trying to have high uptime on Shadow Orbs, Evangelism stacks, and Empowered Orbs. You can help out your teammates and prevent them from dying, but rarely without being able to be stopped. Successfully casting spells was the key the getting things done. The MoP design is new and interesting to me. Using Shadow Orbs as a combo point system I feel like I have a lot of control and choices over what I'm doing, but I don’t get the same feeling I have in Cataclysm because of the lack of active mana management and buff management.
Hildegard: Games like Guild Wars 2 and Forge changed many of the issues WoW faces, like gear tread mills, ability clutter and PvE vs. PvP balancing. Do you think that the WoW PvP scene will move on to other games?
Rodney "Talbadar" Pare: There's always been something special about WoW PvP for everyone. No game really dares to try to do what they've tried to do. They gave players 10+ classes to choose from and gave each class 30+ abilities. They then gave players the ability to slay dragons with their friends and guilds with huge content updates two times a year, and at the same time hosted team death match combat which, for the most part, one could say has been fairly balanced (considering all the factors in the game that could made PvP much less entertaining than it is). I don't see a large scale WoW PvP scene movement to anything besides Titan.
Hildegard: You have numerous sponsors, which you will surely thank in the shout-outs. Do you have some advice for players that would like to get sponsored?
Rodney "Talbadar" Pare: There are two criteria I have for players looking to get sponsored. First, you need to be unique. You need to have something that no one else has. This is the only way to be noticed. Being skilled and proving yourself is one thing, but being unique is another.
Second is not what you'd expect to hear, but it is certainly important: you need to know the right people. For my first sponsor, Arenapwnage, a friend of mine help me find and convinced them that we were a team worthy of sponsorship. For my second sponsor I was lucky to join a team with two players who were already sponsored by one of the top gaming teams in the world, Team EG.
Hildegard: Team EG is one of the only sponsors around WoW these days and has remained loyal for a long time without tournaments. Do they have hope for WoW to rise again as E-Sport?
Rodney "Talbadar" Pare: They have as high of hopes as the professional players do. They know the game is pretty dead right now and the four of us truly appreciate them keeping us on the team with so few tournaments happening. Azael is one of the longest standing members of Team EG and I think he may be the only reason there is still an Evil Geniuses WoW team.
Hildegard: Coming back to Forge. How will great players be able to distinguish themselves?
Rodney "Talbadar" Pare: From thorough play testing, we've learned there's a lot players can improve on. Not only do we have the traditional FPS element with aiming and skill shots involved, but with the MMO side of things we have energy and cooldown management. There's sprinting and wall jumping mechanics built into the game that cost energy, so both melee and ranged can use those to their advantage. Also, our current map designs have plenty of line of sight so you'll rarely find yourself dead in the water.
Hildegard: I read a lot through your forums and over former interviews and I like your decision to put game play and fun before features. You have a very positive belief in the players, that they will put fun over bragging rights and don’t long for tread-mills to keep them busy, and not put possibilities to earn money and e-fame as their main priority. What makes you think that the player base has grown up and is willing to leave these old concepts behind them?
Timothy Alvis: I’m not sure that the player base ever really felt any differently than how we do. It’s only the games that have lost sight of it from time to time. People enjoy playing all types of games still, both on the PC, console, or even in the backyard, that earn them nothing more than the fun they have while doing it. It’s really the most important aspect of whether or not you’ll keep doing it and be glad that you did.
That doesn’t mean though that the ability to earn something, either virtual items, money or e-fame, aren’t there. It still can be, it’s just not the main focus or priority of the game’s design. The potential is there, some of the guys we have playing are scary good, better than I am by far, but we’re most happy with the fact that it’s just a lot of fun to play even if you’re not at that level.
Hildegard: PvP only games have had a hard time to keep the more casual players around. Blood Line Champions is a good example of that. What are you doing different?
Timothy Alvis: We’re not focusing on the same player base or game play that they did. They went after the hardcore arena crowd. That’s great, and as you can see by where we’re posting and who we have involved we’re fans of arenas in WoW, but as you said, it’s just not a fun experience for a wide range of players if your game is built such that only players at a high level are able to grasp the game and perform at a level that lets them be powerful.
Our attention has been on, rather than the binary sort of “you fail or succeed,” making sure there are varied levels of success and failure built into everything. Every play session, you can get just a little better than you were the last time, whether you’re new to either genre (FPS or MMO) or a vet.
Rodney "Talbadar" Pare: One thing WoW players enjoy is team deathmatch style combat, like arena. We have plans for a similar game mode - likely in 5v5 format on release. Also, players can compete in 8-16 player Capture the Flag game play. We’re aware rated battlegrounds in WoW rarely involve small-scale battles - we’re designing our Capture the Flag to play out differently. We have plans for other modes that I can’t talk about yet, but we could see a 1v1 mode as well.
Hildegard: That sounds amazing, even if these game modes are not balanced.
Rodney "Talbadar" Pare: It's difficult to balance around a potentially team based game and then look to balance it for 1v1 without adding new variables. The 1v1 mode will likely have changes made to balance it.
Hildegard: Timothy, when I looked over the classes I noticed that they all look very fierce. Do you plan to include avatars that cater to players that would roll a Gnome or Night Elf in World of Warcraft or an Asura in GW2?
Timothy Alvis: All of our classes will have something fierce about them, but when you see some of the future releases, a few will have a bit more humor involved. I can’t release the name of one in particular right now, but he would definitely appeal to people that enjoy playing gnome engineers.
Hildegard: Sounds like that will be my choice. Staying a bit on the more casual side of things, player interaction and socializing are a huge part of building a community. Is there a place for that in Forge?
Timothy Alvis: At this time, there won’t be one built into the game. Post launch we have plans to build that type of environment, but it’s not something we could achieve at the quality level we desired by our launch date. Our forums and other functionality will help out in the interim.
Hildegard: One thing that struck me while reading through your forums was that it takes between 15 and 20 seconds to take down a player that does not use defensive abilities or receive healing. The first thing that came to my mind is that this could cause stalemates.
Rodney "Talbadar" Pare: This is the same concern we had when we were in Pre-Alpha. We spent all our time playing with numbers and trying to imagine what it would be like. Everything looked great on paper, and as soon as we had a playable game all of our concerns vanished. Taking a player down solo in 15-20 seconds feels great. We've tested 1v1 duels, 3v3 team fights, and 16v16 battles. I never got the feeling of someone being immortal, nor was anyone dying without being able to respond. What if that was 10 seconds to kill someone? Then it would take 4 players 2.5 seconds to kill you. Now we have a problem.
Hildegard: How are healing abilities handled, do you use mana?
Timothy Alvis: We do have mana, but some abilities give you mana while others spend it. If you manage it well, you'll feel you have quite a deep supply. If you manage it poorly, you'll find yourself running away (without sprint) rather quickly.
Hildegard: Do all classes use mana?
Timothy Alvis: Some use mana, others energy. All classes have to manage their resources with the same method.
Hildegard: So could a player of your caliber energy starve a group of more average players, let's say four, and win by outplaying them?
Rodney "Talbadar" Pare: Well I'm certainly not good enough to handle that yet, but with proper use of the game mechanics that's definitely possible. In our 3v3 and 5v5 testing we saw some crazy upsets when it was down to 2v3 and 3v5.
Hildegard: Do we see you playing in the first game play video?
Rodney "Talbadar" Pare: Yes, actually. But our names are simply Pathfinder and Assassin so you won't be able to tell which one is me. :P
Hildegard: I did not know you were that shy, haha. A spectator client and ranked ladders are features that PvP-focused players ask a lot for. You surely cannot give us dates, but could you state if you are planning to include these?
Timothy Alvis: Yes to both, but as you said, we can't discuss dates.
Hildegard: Is Indie design as romantic as I would imagine? A bunch of guys trying to do everything right, that the big companies screwed up, focus on the ideals and not on marketing surveys. Long nights, sleeping in the office and having this dream of creating something that has not been done before?
Timothy Alvis: Haha! That's half the story certainly. It's not all romance though. One thing the big studios have that we don't is resources, and lots of them. We have to make a lot of tough calls as an Indie that a larger studio just doesn't have to make. It's great though, overall. It really helps us stay focused on what it is we're trying to build, and to not get too far ahead of ourselves.
Accessible and fun first, competitively balanced a near second, and the rest we believe will fall into place.
Hildegard: When looking at developers like Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street. Do you envy or feel pity for him?
Timothy Alvis: A little pity, but not a lot. I'm sure he loves what he's doing… they have a hell of a set of brands to work with.
Hildegard: Talbadar, once the beta starts, will regular testers like me be able to play with or against you?
Rodney "Talbadar" Pare: Yes, a couple of us will be streaming our game play and while we won't spend eight hours a day fighting the beta testers, there will definitely be lots of time to fight us.
Hildegard: If I would love to get a chance to enter the beta and keep updated about the game. What is the next step to do?
Timothy Alvis: The next step would be to register on www.playforgewar.com, and throw us a like on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/playforgewar
We stay in constant contact with the community through both of these, you won't miss anything if you do both.
Rodney "Talbadar" Pare: You wouldn't believe how often Tim is on the forums posting information and reading feedback. It's outstanding.
Hildegard: That is true; I was very surprised that he replied first to nearly every thread in some sections. Are you a forum junkie Timothy?
Timothy Alvis: Not really, but being Indie, we don't have people dedicated to watching the forums. I figured the easiest way to get information to them was to just go in and do it. I love talking to people and seeing them get excited about the same thing that has kept me excited every day for a long time now, so I enjoy it.
Hildegard: As always my interviews end with a best of five list. As you are the first game designer I had the honor to interview, what are the five computer games you enjoyed most?
Timothy Alvis: Half-Life, Q3 Rocket Arena, Counter-Strike, TF2, and World of Warcraft are probably going to win on hours spent. Very honorable mentions to the entire Unreal franchise and Guild Wars.
Rodney "Talbadar" Pare: My list will be quite different from most, but here we go: Quake Live, WoW, Dragon Nest, StarCraft 2, and Osu! (Osu! is basically DDR for the mouse).
Hildegard: Any shout-outs?
Timothy Alvis: None here, I always forget someone when I do!
Rodney "Talbadar" Pare: First: Shout out to the other WoW players working on the project alongside us: Sodah, Reckful, Venruki, Snutz, and Pookz.
Second: Shout out to Team EG, Azael, and Cdew as well as our co-sponsors: Steelseries, Intel, Monster, Gunnar, Kingston Hyper and others.
Timothy Alvis: Oh, well, now I'm all embarrassed. ;)
Let's see.... *stretches fingers* Shout outs to SuperGenius and Digital Confectioners for being absolutely amazing partners to work with. Also to FunnelBox for helping us out when we needed it most. Same for everyone that's joined our design group and had faith in what we were wanting to do long before I had much to show them. Also a quick nod to OriginPC and Astro Gaming, glad to have them working with us as we head towards launch.
Hildegard: Thank you for the interview Timothy and Rodney.
Forge Facebook Page
Forge Kickstarter Campaign
Talbadar's YouTube channel
Original unshortened interview