New Wizard 1: Out With the Old...

Hello, new readers. I haven't said a whole lot about the new Wizard gamemode in awhile, because I've been waiting for this blog. Now that I have access, expect me to write long-winded posts about my progress, my thoughts, and reasoning for some hard decisions I've made. This post is going to describe a lot of the issues which our current Wizard gamemode has. The solutions for the problems I have through up will be in the next post.

This is also my first post. Yay!

History & Today

First, lets start at the beginning, and talk about what we have right now, our current Wizard gamemode. What we have now was inherited from Baystation12's code, which was in turn inherited from /tg/station13's code. I'm not sure if /tg/ inherited their wizard directly from Goonstation or not, but regardless, Wizard has a long legacy. Between Wizard coming from /tg/ to bay to us, it hasn't really changed a whole lot on Baystation12 and by extension, us (although this is changing on Bay). Before saying what I plan to change, lets look at the flaws of our current Wizard gamemode.

There's three major problems I can point off rather easily. It breaks the lore and immersion of the round, the spells themselves are very limited and annoying to fight against, and finally, the wizard's limited abilities locks it in conflict with the crew.

First Issue - Lore

The lore-breaking is the first of the big three problems, and I'm sure this is a common experience with quite a number of our players, and perhaps you as well, where as your suspension of disbelief is destroyed by the presence of a person wearing a blue robe and a wizard hat, making everyone's heads turn into a horse, and turning random people into different species. This might be fine on other servers, where that kind of chaos is welcomed, however on Polaris, it isn't.

We have a lot of hard working lore-people attempting to write a believable universe to surround our tiny place in it, on the Northern Star, however this trust in the universe making sense goes out the airlock once you see a man (or woman, or robot, or whatever) appear in your face, waggle their fingers, and invalidate everything our lore-persons did, as they show that "Oh yeah, magic is real.". It's probably why you hear "That floating black and red thing is probably just a synthetic.", when someone sees an construct in a cult round, because suddenly they are having to rationalize it to maintain suspension of disbelief, assuming it wasn't already broken by now. Having to make your character rationalize it like that is probably realistic too, however the player behind the character would probably rather not do that, especially since certain people (usually the cultists/wizards/etc) believe doing that makes the round more boring.

Wizard (and Cult, but cult talk is for another time) fits poorly with the lore, as the setting is generally established as a science fiction game, and not a sci-fi fantasy one, because the idea that magic is real does not come up in most rounds, except for Wizard and sometimes Cult. This contradiction is what ruins the immersion for myself, and probably other people too. I can see two ways of fixing it, and the path of least resistance is to phase out the idea of magic being real, in certain rounds, rather then the other way around. The visual style of the default Technomancer being someone who uses technology is an attempt to resolve this issue. There will be alternate visual styles available, however.

Unfortunately, this problem is harder to solve than it may seem on the surface, as this is not just a mechanics and code issue. It's also an issue of perception. Wizard has a long history, and it will be difficult to disassociate my project from what we've played for years already. This is one of the reasons for the big 'theme' change away from D&D fantasy wizards towards a more technological based entity.

Second Issue - Annoying Mechanics

The second issue is that a lot of the current spells and mechanics are rather annoying to deal with as someone who is not the wizard. They're also quite boring from a decision standpoint, as often there is no real choice.

Some spells, like Magic Missile, Ethereal Jaunt, and Mutate provide no real choice, as they are very strong, for the same price as all the other spells except for Robeless. It does not make logical sense to not take at least one of those 'no-brainer' spells.

Spells like Teleport, Ethereal Jaunt, and Blink often cause two hours of a game of cat and mouse, with six cats and one mouse in a blue robe, resulting in security having to use lethals due to it being impossible to detain the wizard, or the whole crew gets annoyed as the wizard taunts everyone for the whole round.

Finally, the 'useless' spells Smoke, Forcewall, and Blind are 'useless' because they are both very situational, and cost the same as a 'no-brainer' spell. Unless your wizard gimmick involves playing the round as if you were playing the game Snake and spamming Forcewalls behind you as you're chased, it's really rare to pick these spells.

Third Issue - Stale Rounds

There are a few more spells I haven't mentioned, but lets get onto the third problem, which is somewhat related to the second. The wizard's limited set of spells and abilities locks them in conflict, as a lot of the spells and artifacts can fit into these categories.

  • Pure robusting spells (Magic Missile, Fireball, Mutate, Disable Technology, Staff of Animation).
  • 'Yakkey Saxing' spells (Jaunt, Teleport, Blink).
  • Annoying spells (Horsehead, Staff of Change, Mind Swap, Subjugate).

Not a whole lot of room to do much else, which tends to mean that Wizard rounds will play mostly the same, with perhaps a starting gimmick which devolves into the Sec vs Wizard game that we've all seen time immemorial. I do not believe it is fair to blame the antagonist for this occurring, when they lack the tools necessary to engage more people. They were engineered to fight security, on a different server with different ideas on what a good antagonist is. They lack antag records that traitors and mercenaries get. They lack a station identity that traitors, changelings, and cultists get. They are an outsider, which immediately draws suspicion, even if the colony is supposedly open to all. Ninja has a lot of the same problems, however Ninja currently has a better arsenal to deal with their issues, where as Wizard is severely lacking.

It will be quite hard to solve all of these problems, and there's a good chance that I won't be able to completely fix all of these issues, however the success I've seen with the new Changeling mode gives me hope that, at the very least, the new Wizard will be an improvement of the old one.

So how will those problems be resolved? That's the topic for the next post.