The Importance of Efficient Information
Refer to (https://imgur.com/gallery/t8kNX) to see the warrior selection screens, especially if you’re looking at the transcript or recommended rephrasings, and shoutout to Peekyu for posting it on Reddit here (https://redd.it/55xegg).
The full, 2200~ word transcript that goes through my first-hand thought processes for every ability and buildable is available here: https://goo.gl/fs8zd1
And the whole list of recommended rephrasings for said abilities and buildables can be found here: https://goo.gl/K2ka4v
Hey everyone, Kalo’s here! In this post I’ll be discussing how presenting information efficiently, in this case with Warriors kit descriptions, could make all the difference when legends (the players!) are deciding who to play. For clarification, I’ll be focusing on the warrior selection screens for those that were available during Twitchcon this year, but hope that I’ll be able to do something similar for the unrevealed warriors we’ll have available to us in the future.
This is NOT a kit analysis in the traditional sense.
While I am planning posts about kit effectiveness and warrior synergies some time down the line, this is strictly about the language and information presented in the warrior’s kits descriptions. Keep in mind that some of this may seem like I’m just nitpicking, but as the goal here is to be as effective with our information as possible, every little bit counts.
Imagine loading up Breakaway for the first time, partying up with friends, entering a lobby and then realizing YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT ANY THESE CHARACTERS DO!!!! Giving players all the information they need without any excess is a difficult but awesome way to polish especially a new player’s experience, and I hope to assist in achieving that through this post.
All that being said, let’s hold that shift key and slide right in! :D
First, some guidelines that lay out my logic for deciding what is good and bad in a description:
Avoid words that don’t explicitly explain anything.
Good, strong, very, and powerful are all words that feel nice, but are unfortunately vague. What defines a “good distance” or “strong shot” in this game? This isn’t a question you want players to even have to think about. At the very least, using inherently comparative words like “stronger” is better, but giving players access to flat value numbers may be ideal in some cases (I’ll touch upon that later on).
Explain what something does, not what it is good for.
What defines a defensive buildable? How it is typically used, or where on the map it is usually placed? Trick question, actually: this is another thing you don’t want your players thinking. If a community is given a canon (official/from the devs/in the game) reason that explains something in one dimension, that community will tend to view it in said dimension. This indirectly discourages creativity and in some extreme cases, can even result in the community criminalizing any veering from what will seem like the set path.
On the other hand, we have examples like Spartacus’s Fire Catapult, which is described to be “good for clearing buildables”. Is stating this bad? Not necessarily. I do feel that if something is optimal or even only good at doing one certain thing, that needs to be emphasized, however we can still avoid more basic words like “good” or “strong”. Stating that it “excels in this area” is a clean way to highlight a definite and/or sole strength, but being mindful of when is a right or wrong time to do so is key.
Redundancy is your worst enemy. Try not to be redundant. Redundancy is bad.
Spartacus’s Slide says “invulnerability”. Thorgrim’s Armor Up says “invincibility”. Anne Bonny’s Roll says “immunity”. Morgan La Fey’s Flock says “intangibility”; But what’s the difference?! Essentially, they’re all describing the same thing: being unable to receive damage. So pick one, or if there really are significant differences (damage + crowd control immunity compared to just one or the other) be sure to only use the officially decided word for each.
Another form of redundancy shines through the warrior descriptions in a mostly grammatical sense. Examples like, “nearby, in range”, or starting buildable descriptions with the buildables name like, “Fire Catapult: Catapult which launches indendiary...” (not a typo, incendiary is spelled wrong in the game) takes up space that doesn’t need to be filled.
Remember the aesthetics.
Text & illustration should work together to create a unified message. In examples like Thorgrim’s Rib Splitter, the abilities icon already shows the hammer in a spinning motion, so saying “spinning attack with his hammer” in the description is unnecessary. On the other hand, Anne Bonny’s Musket Jump may be a bit confusing for players on how it works, at least aesthetically, so there is reason to explicitly say “shoots the ground at her feet”. This is a smaller section, but definitely worth mentioning!
Now that we’ve gone over those basic guidelines, I want to turn towards some primary, problematic examples of bad descriptions in Breakaway so I can explain how I would fix them.
Exhibit A - Ragnarok:
Read the description for this ability in the imgur link (it’s Thorgrim’s last ability). I’ll wait.
Alright, awesome. (Please do the same with the other examples as they come up!)
Did you notice anything missing in the description? Yes, it does area of effect damage and yes, it launches nearby enemies away (I prefer the term “knock back” and talk about why more in the transcript), but...does it not do anything else? Actually, a key part of this ability isn’t brought up in the description. The first thing that Thorgrim does when Ragnarok is activated is leap up into the air before slamming back down. This not only makes him extremely hard (if not impossible) to hit, but adds to his tankiness by giving just enough extra time for potential dodge play (jumping over an Anne Bonny ult for instance) in addition to the rest of his already subtly counter play centered kit with Armor Up and Rib Splitter. This needs to be added to the description! Here’s my recommendation:
Leaps into the air then slams back down, dealing damage to and knocking back any nearby enemies.
(A reminder that a full list of my recommended rephrasings can be found at the beginning of the article!)
Notice how my description states that he leaps into the air first, but does not say that the leap can be good for dodging abilities, no matter how much I believe that it is. Remember, “Explain what something does, not what it is good for.”
Exhibit B - Walk of Iron:
Solely from the text description given for Black Knight’s last ability, it seems lackluster. Sure, pulling enemies around me closer could be okay, I guess; But leaving out the fact that it pulses quickly, continually pulling enemies in for the entire duration, keeping anyone unfortunate enough to not have a quick escape stuck to him for free, uncontested hits from Black Knight AND his team, is devastating. Here’s my recommendation:
Creates thorns that damage and continually pull nearby enemies closer in quick pulses.
Exhibit C - Buildables That Force A Relic Drop:
This isn’t an ability, but more of an overall addition that I feel is very important. Firstly, let me clarify that “forcing a relic drop” is just a phrase I’m coining, not a canon one, but it says what it means: it forces someone to drop the relic. Because some buildables do damage but do not force that drop, newer players may get surprised or even frustrated when, for example, their Light of Judgement (one of Alona’s buildables) is hitting someone but they are just skipping on past it to score. There are two options here: either make it so every buildable that does damage forces a relic drop, or simply write, “Forces relic drop on hit” in the buildables description.
Closing Thoughts: Adding Number To The Descriptions?
As I said at the beginning of this article, you can use the best words available to you but nothing quite compares to knowing exactly how much damage an ability is going to do. Just think about how awful it would be for the cooldown descriptions to just say, “short, long, really long...” compared to giving the exact length. It may seem silly to think about, but it’s true! On the other hand, too many numbers can also be an unhealthy turn-off for some players.
That being said, I believe that finding a balance between the two is definitely possible. Here are some quick examples of where numbers would help most:
Alona’s Blessing of the Sun:
Is this massive heal a flat amount or a percentage of max health? Quickly saying “heals for 200” or “50% of a player’s max health” in the description is simple and much more understandable than solely calling it “powerful”.
Morgan La Fey’s Burden of Sin:
Slowing multiple enemies seems good, but imagine this: slowing multiple enemies by 70%?! Now that is an attractive ability! I will say that another option which avoids numbers here is at least changing it to say “slows multiple enemies heavily”. It would help, but still falls short of seeing that exact percentage.
Morgan La Fey’s Aura of Silence:
This isn’t just another one of Morgan’s abilities, this is her ultimate! An area of effect silence can be a huge fight changer, and knowing exactly how long that silence is going to last is essential to using it effectively. An adjusted description could look like:
Area of Silence around her that lasts for ___ seconds, preventing nearby opponents from using abilities
And that’s it!
If you got through the entire article or even read some of it, thank you so much, and I’d really appreciate if you gave me an upvote if you enjoyed it. Please post any additions, criticisms, or thoughts that you have down below and I’ll happily respond, or you can contact me at my Twitter (https://twitter.com/Kalological), my email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or come say hi at my Twitch (twitch.tv/kalology) -- I’ll be streaming Breakaway as much as possible when Alpha arrives!
Thank you all again. I'm very excited to become champions together!
Finally got around to reading this. Fantastic points all around.
Some of these abilities definitely need to be reworded.
For example: Ragnarok says "Powerful area of effect attack, which deals damage and launches any nearby opponents in range"
Launches them where? Launches them into the air? Launches them away from him? "launching any nearby opponents in range" sounds like he's pulling them toward him.
How does Morgan Le Fays ult work? What does "locking out nearby opponents' abilities" mean? Does that mean they're silenced or does it act as a wall that negates abilities from traveling through? Does the silence area follow her? Does it stay where she casted it? Does it root her in place?
Maybe just adding a clip of the abilities being used in-game would be a nice addition to the game.
I hope they consider the changes/additions you suggested because they are very reasonable and realistic. The way they're currently worded just brings up a lot of questions and shows inconsistency in the wording.
Blam! spice weasel! +1
Awesome post man. Glad the character descriptions helped you out with this.
I think that this is one of the most important things to emphasize as the game development moves forward. Detailed numbers and decimals are important for a competitive game.
I think that Amazon can definitely find a good balance between making the game easy to understand and watch, but also giving it enough depth so that it will be bringing in millions of viewers in a few years and just keep people coming back. That's what I'm most excited for. If Amazon can get details across in a numerical, clean manner, then I already can tell that this game is going to be huge.
@Peekyu Thanks so much for the reply, and again for posting the photos! :)
I totally agree, and hope that the devs can find at least some of the info useful, and that they know they've got an awesome community willing to help out in any way we can.
@Kalology, my man! Always a great post dude. Couple of comments:
- I love your point about explaining "what something does" and avoiding suggesting a use for. This leaves the game more open for interpretation.
"But Mack, what about all of those nub casuals that don't know what they're doing? I want them to learn before they come in to my game!"
Thank you, Salty McSalterson. I think there are options here, such as a game tutorial mode as well as a "game mode" where players can test out a warrior to see how things work before they go into a match.
- about aesthetics - I agree that icons should more clearly support the actual ability, however, I don't think it's bad to clarify what the ability does in the text. Example, with Thorgrim's spin move, the spinning hammer icon is pretty clear in hind sight, but could also mean this is a ranged attack. I think saying he spins around clarifies that it's a melee. Also, some gamers (like me) don't pay that much attention to the icons at first. Removing that information would mean that I don't know exactly how the attack works.
Now, maybe it can be worded differently - more directly.
@MackNJeeves I can see what you mean about the icons not always being enough.
I've gotten some private replies to this as well, a couple of which suggest they just add an option to mouse over an ability and have a quick preview of what it looks like in game. Can't beat seeing it!