SynergiesMOD team interview
A fresh overhaul, a total conversion, Salan’s SynergiesMOD provides new Necromancer, Paladin and Warlock(WIP) classes loaded with passives and skills, a new town, higher tier weapons and armour, more pets, more inventory space, quests, PvP dungeon, crafting legendary armour and even new world bosses to take on and more! It really is an mod awesome to check out, so we asked Salan, Epoch and Kelintor to give their thoughts behind SynergiesMOD and Torchlight 2 in general.
So let’s kick off with some background info…
Incgamers: How did it all start? What inspired you to think, okay, this is what I’m going to make?
Salan: I loved Torchlight 1 even though I wasn’t very active with it, I’m not a fan of single player games and I love a good challenge in Action RPGS. When they announced Torchlight 2 and said it would be multiplayer I decided right then at that announcement that I would make a MOD for that game. I had no clue what type of mod, but something that took my favorite gaming experiences and put them into my favorite style of game, a complete conversion! My original plan was simply to have a creative outlet that my wife and myself could enjoy when our kids were sleeping at night. Anytime I can make something complicated enough to get an emotional screaming curse out of her, yet easy enough for her to actually understand and do, it was worth doing!
Kelintor: I wanted to have some specific monsters as pets, back in October many modders were starting their own custom pets and were taking request. I was replied that some of my requests weren’t possible and I found that strange, I was already modding Torchlight 1 back then so I knew somehow the limitations. I didn’t want to begin modding without GUTS so I decided to wait. Finally growing out of patience I began modding a sword for bran a player I meet in the Community Hub tool by RMUK as he wanted to do mods but wasn’t able to (it seems the tools doesn’t work well on WinXP). Then I began doing more and more things.
Epoch: I followed Torchlight 2 development for a long time due to the advertisement of being friendly to mods. I thoroughly enjoyed all the mods the community developed for Torchlight 1, and I expected the bar to be raised for Torchlight 2. I never expected that I would be the one modding the game, though. It wasn’t until I played Synergies in early January that I decided I would start development. Once I saw that Salan had created a custom class without the GUTS development tools, I told myself it was time to begin doing it myself. I picked Ninja because I saw it was one class I wanted to make that wasn’t on Salan’s list of classes to develop. I figured it would be a good place to begin since many people enjoy playing games with ninjas. It was one of roughly a dozen classes I had planned out in my mind.
Incgamers: Yeah beware of ye wife, worship thee wife, bestow loot to thee wife :). @All: How did you first come across the Torchlight Series, anything in particular that attracted you to the game?
Salan: I played a lot of Diablo and Diablo 2 and more recently Titan Quest before playing Torchlight. I was always interested in the Action RPGs. As a fan I followed parts of the Runic team through their transitional stages of starting and finishing Flagship Studios, I was in the Mythos Alpha, and watched as Runic came to be. So I have always been partial to Torchlight series, even if Torchlight 1 wasn’t as much of an interest for me.
Kelintor: Back then I purchased an indie game and was very satisfied so I took a look into the Steam Indie section for more awesomeness and stumble upon Torchlight 1, I hadn’t played this genre in ages and the pricing was quite low so why not? To my surprise a modding tool was released so I dig in. When TL2 was announced I knew I would buy it too.
Epoch: I spent a lot of my childhood playing Diablo and Diablo 2. It was an interest in the genre that propelled me into Torchlight and Torchlight 2. The only thing I miss is the open PVP of Diablo 1. In my opinion, game companies cater to care-bears way too much now.
Incgamers: Cool, what’s your favourite feature of about the SynergiesMOD far?
Salan: My absolute favourite feature (don’t mind my Canadian spelling) is a tuff one. The best way to answer that is to explain how I look at the mod. I see it in pieces, not as a whole. I jump between pieces when I do my work, so that I can concentrate on what I am doing. Levelling, end game dungeons, classes and all the extra additions that don’t fall into those categories. I’ll comment on two of them here.
For the levelling, I absolutely LOVE the reactions I get when people run into the world bosses randomly in the wilds. Imagine you are trucking along splatting normal monsters by the handful and out of nowhere something big and aggressive storms at you. Putting your mouse on it you notice it’s a Boss, you’re thinking bosses don’t spawn here! Your life starts to drop, you run around getting your bearings and then you start to fight back. The monster is usually slightly higher level then you are (hopefully) and demands up to date equipment to deal with. I have had more emotional feedback about how great it was to have something like this happen than any other part of this mod to date. For the record the world bosses have a chance to spawn with any phase beasts, but somewhere around a 25% chance with each.
For end game Dungeons, the difference in each encounter. I really tried to nail down a different play style as the means in which to best deal with each of the main dungeon encounters. In a ARPG all classes can usually do all things. It’s just flair and style in how they truly achieve it. So building encounters to be the same routine gets boring.
I had timing fights, gear check fights, dps fights, aoe centric burst damage fights, and of course ones where if you just aren’t good at everything, your done for. I think the first 6 raid bosses in the Darkness chain achieved what I wanted perfectly. The addition of different tiered levels of these dungeons works very well with how legendary armor was introduced. At some point you over gear the level 105 content, so progressing into the 150 content is doable, and then the 200 content. Doing them under geared, is beyond challenging.
Kelintor: The Necromancer class is one of my favourite feature, it adds a great re-playability. The Paladin actually a WIP may take his place though.
Epoch: Constant development and releases.
Incgamers @Kelintor/Epoch: Can you tell us about your contributions to the SynergiesMOD?
Kelintor: My KelinTor’s Merchant mod is integrated into Synergies but it is a mod which contains many ad-hoc systems. As such I devised the portal scroll system, before this you were obliged to go into Mapworks to use a custom map, the scrolls send you directly into the dungeons now.
- I made a gold transferring mechanism, usually gold in Torchlight 2 doesn’t allow you to transfer your gold to another one, it’s still not perfect but with Guts I’ll complete it.
- I added 7 more stashes which can be summoned anywhere anytime, this was able thanks to Lyravega who helped me out on this.
- 4 maps were made so you can fight Champions and Bosses either in a wave format or in continuous battle.
- I made summonable mercenaries.
- I made new quests which Salan could use as a base for his own. Before that nobody was able to add quests. More recently pets can equip armors and some custom pets can wear weapons.
In general Salan used many of those mechanisms as a base and developed on it to make his own additions and skills. Other contribution I do is help Salan on the technical side like being able to open a portal where it should not be possible or bug fixes. Sometimes he encounters a roadblock and we work together to bypass it. I try to find new mechanisms and if Salan find it useful he integrate it, some of them requires alteration to fit into Synergies’ vision.
Epoch: Unfortunately, outside of class creation I can’t say I’ve provided much to Synergies Mod. I’ve tried to provide feedback on topics to help drive ingenuity, but nowhere near as much as the Synergies community has.
In regards to class creation, I’ve invested an enormous amount of time trying to learn what is possible to code for classes within our current limitations. I’ve tried to develop new ways of handling skills and the way classes work. My ultimate goal is to help create each class as unique as possible to help avoid monotony. I’ve also recently catalogued almost every particle animation available, hoping to streamline future class developments — a task that took roughly 24 hours of loading the game, taking a screenshot, changing a file, and then repeating the process.
Incgamers: Cool, sounds awesome with the boss fights and amount of features implemented, I’m gearing up now! @Salan/Epoch: Balancing can take a large portion of a modders/developers time, how did you go about balancing the Necromancer & Ninja class and items compared the vanilla ones?
Salan: Well the mod itself is based on the design decision to CHANGE the balance point away from vanilla. I did this to make the mod different. Because ultimately some of the things added into Synergies are things that could easily be added into the base game as future content I wanted to maintain a different point of balance in case that ever happened, and to give Synergies its own point of contention within its community!
Balance is fickle and subjective. Nothing stirs a crowd like talking about nerfs and buffs and deciding what needs to be done and why. You need to have a base understanding of what everything you are doing does, and how the rest of everything else you have created effects the game as a whole. I’ve always had the ability to see the big picture in things I have done in my life. So far my Intuitions haven’t been too bad, and if they are, I fix it!
I try to extensively test everything I do. But being a one man show in how i patch, things sneak through, and some balance needs to be tweaked after the fact. Notwithstanding is the fact that I am still learning. Just recently we figured out how damaging a simple BOOL entry can be on effects. It has grand reaching issues, that the future stuff will easily avoid, but some of the past might need to be reworked slightly in order to make it not as much of an issue. Most of that won’t be noticed by anyone playing though.
The biggest thing I am going to do going forward is creation of a Test sub-forum and test files. Any big changes to the mod will be vetted through public access to this forum and files. The public will be asked to try to break the game within the direction of the test. And is open to feedback from anyone on how it works, the balance of it, and if it indeed has bugs I need to fix. I found small things are easy for me to do on my daily update routine, the big things, I need a bigger audience before putting it through to find all the potential problems. And so, now I have a test forum and structure!
Epoch: Balancing a class, in my opinion, takes two key steps: The first involves me loading a character and test running everything myself. During this process I spend almost as much time writing notes down that need to be made as I am actually play-testing. This step takes several hours just to make minute adjustments in damage scales, cast speeds, mana costs, etc.
The second step involves community feedback. I never believed the number of exploits or bugs that would slip through the cracks. Without community feedback, there’s no way a new class could be developed in a balanced way.
Incgamers: Kudos for editing like that man, I believe that if Path of Exile’s way of engaging with the community has taught me anything, your forum method should work out fine. Random question Salan, as I like Necromancer classes how many minions in total could one summon with the Necromancer?
Salan: Necromancer total amount of pets is probably way to much at any one time. But this is slightly controlled by skill points. You have 150 skill points in Synergies, and each skill takes 15 points to max and a lot of the summons add monsters at the very end 15 point investment. You could build a build specifically around ONLY pets, but your survivability later in the game would plummet so much that your pets would become inefficient because they die with you.
The Necromancer skill page has the following summons to choose between. Skeletons, Zombies, Death Dolls, Spores, Fiends. Master minions Fury, Spectral Dragon, Shade. Passive summons Faceless Terrors, Infernal Scourges. Bone wall Halfskeletons (no one remembers the bone wall sheds green glowing half skeletons through its lifetime.) And new legendary weapon summon proc Infected zombies (big green glowing bloated zombies). So, 12 completely different types of summons. Each with their own unique twists, no 1 summon skill is the same as another.
Incgamers: Sold! I’m making a Necromancer now, just got to remember to make a healthy balance. Can you tell us more about the Paladin and Warlock, their current progress, design concepts, gameplay feel etc?
Salan: Well the paladin is pretty well thought out at this point. I have posted a rather in-depth description of how I am going to make this a very unique class in Torchlight 2. It will use combination skills in order to be truly useful. Something to keep the player active and interactive with their environment as they play. Things like a buff that increases your weapon damage while decreasing your critical chances every time you crit was something I was introduced to early in the modding by another modder on the Runic site.
I plan to use self-limiting buffs like this throughout the class and tie them into strong single use abilities that will benefit most from the synergizing design. The paladin will also use a charge bar more like the engineer. Because of this I believe it will take a bit longer, and a bit more frustration in order to complete. I am itching to start, and even have a good basis of his files started, but I have prioritized a new dungeon set first.
The warlock is on paper only. He will be a mage that uses Void, Eldritch Energy and Mana effects as a basis for his spells. I found these styles to be so colorful in Torchlight 2 that they made perfect groupings to build upon!