[1.2.0] Dreamfeather: Post-Mortem

Hi everyone. I’m Lyralei, designer of the unique sword Dreamfeather. As promised, here’s the post-mortem of the entire design process behind my unique.

Conception
This began in early May sometime during Open Beta.

The initial design of this sword started out, surprisingly not as a sword but as a chestpiece. An assassin’s garb to be specific. During this period, Life was the ubiquitous choice due to the immense spike damage prior to later patches which often resulted in damage spikes upwards of 10,000 damage.
(rhoa shield charge did not miss also.)

Life was the name of the game. You took as many life nodes as you could and you wore a Kaom’s Heart. (If you were Dominion, you took ES.). Shavronne’s Wrappings didn’t exist and the only person mad enough to use Low-Life Righteous Fire without it was Invalesco.

I didn’t like the fact that evasion was severely underrepresented and very weak and after Neonspyder’s demonstration of an acrobatics ranger during a 1 month race, I decided that I would make a unique for what was one of the weakest defensive options in the game.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1VOnfidvhMP_IGnvuFC3OdchSGB8eRaI2gIS0EzKRqxU/edit?usp=sharing

The aforementioned design document accurately depicts my thoughts at said point of time and I pitched it to Rory. This was the initial pitch:

"
[placeholder] Lyralei's Duskveil
Assassin's Garb
+[50-30]% reduced maximum Life and Energy Shields
+[275-475] Evasion Rating
+[150-250]% Increased Local Evasion Rating
+75% Physical Damage Reduction
[30-55]% Chance to Dodge Spell Damage (stacks with Phase Acrobatics)
Gems in this item are Supported by level 17 Blind
Fluid Strikes: 1% of Evasion Rating is added as Physical Damage


The idea at that time was to create a unique chestpiece that ran parallel to the then-dominant Life meta by making you LOSE life in favour of mitigating damage when you did actually get hit. I opted for only physical damage mitigation because I felt that with flasks, elemental adaptation and purity (then), you could actively work towards mitigating incoming elemental damage which in my mind fit very well thematically with the concept of evasion - to be reactionary.

For physical damage however, the old Acrobatics set your armour to 0 making it impossible for you to mitigate damage outside of the then-clunky Enduring Cry + Immortal Call combo (CWDT did not exist) thus my unique aimed to give evasion players the ability to survive a single hard-hitting physical damage source and react.

______________________________________________________________


Design
Rory’s initial response was favourable. He liked how much thought I had put into designing the unique and said that while they’d like to address concerns on build dominance with the game’s systems itself, he still thought that my unique was a solid addition to the game. That left me in high hopes.

A few days later, he came back with a revision that I was pretty pleased with:

"
Lyralei's Duskveil
Assassin's Garb
50% less maximum Life and Energy Shields
375-475 Evasion Rating
150-200% Increased Local Evasion Rating
70% increased Physical Damage Reduction
15% Chance to Dodge Spells

1% increased Physical Damage for every 200 points of Evasion Rating.
15% chance to Blind enemies on Hit(?)


Over the next 2 months, I didn’t hear much if anything from him until late July. At this juncture he apologizes and mentions putting it off. Okay. I was fine with that.

Of course to no surprise, Rory apparently got quite the earful as a result of some uniques (Soul Taker and Auxium come to mind) and thus my unique was to be gutted! Physical Damage Reduction was apparently too powerful and it would mean cutting the values on my unique from 70% to 25-30% and even preventing the player from gaining endurance charges. Not exactly what I had in mind and not exactly what I’d call “overpowered”, not when immortal call existed but alright, I could compromise. I thought we could perhaps discuss things and work it out.

Of course I didn’t hear from him until mid-October and this time, the introduction of Mana Shield would mean we would have to rework this a little. I didn’t hear back until late November but at this point it was just a short e-mail about misc. stuff. I believe with 1.0.0 and Rory getting married and stuff, there wasn’t time for designing uniques so I just let it rest for now.

______________________________________________________________


Dreamfeather 2.0
Late Febuary during an extremely boring day at work, I decided to completely rework the unique. I decided that I would make a sword. Still evasion but fun. And thus, the results of my theorycrafting are located in this document:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1e6zOYo3mKvHCevtVO0vd0j8RiLRFa0_NUq-48AWKUHg/edit?usp=sharing

"
Dreamfeather
Eternal Sword
(200-250)% Increased Physical Damage
(20-25)% Increased Attack Speed
15% Reduced Chance to Block Sword Attacks
+2 Weapon Range / 10% Increased Movement Speed (One of the following or can be dropped. Filler stat.)

1% Increased Damage per 500 points of Evasion when in Main Hand
You gain Camouflaged Predator for 2 seconds on Critical Strike when in Off Hand


I was pleased with it. It was an evasion sword through and through. I made sure that Iron Reflexes/Resolute Technique builds could never fully benefit from it. It had a theme to it too, offence from defence and defence from offence. Sorta like one of those Bruce Lee quotes “Be like water”.

I also wanted to provide meaningful choices to the players who would pick up my unique. as explained to Rory in the e-mail:

Spoiler
"
“As you can see, the highlights are the evasion to damage conversion (borrowed from the assassin's garb) and more importantly, camouflaged predator which, in its current incarnation, lets you become highly evasive (and within the theme of an acrobat) against spells and attacks. The design goals here was to strike a balance of choice between using it in three scenarios: a) main hand only, b) off hand only or c) dual wield a pair. The former or latter provides a distinct and meaningful choice between which bonus you'd want to take, allowing some interesting combinations such as the use of a dagger in the main hand for critical strikes or other such combinations. The key thing to note is that this weapon does not usurp the position of a rare weapon which when perfect is double the DPS of this weapon. At best, it is equivalent in raw damage to the best rolled Soul Taker.

Other design elements I opted to include are natural limitations to Iron Reflexes when used in the main hand but still retaining some use in the form of Dodge when in the off-hand.

If built around, this can be very powerful but for the most part, it should be fairly balanced as it doesn't encroach on the territory of rares nor will it hold the title of Best in Slot at any point. It does however fulfill the position of a semi-build enabling unique as it lets one take a very different approach to melee acrobatics. Do let me know what you think.”


Inspired by Charan, I wanted to make it a choice of whether you got it or not. It was supposed to be a craftable build-defining unique that presented you with the choice of using two to dual-wield or taking it specifically for the benefits it provided in either hand.
(The separate hand properties were inspired by dlrr’s axe, Dyadus.)

I benchmarked the sword against uniques of a similar power level (easy) and started from there. As the earlier document indicated, the balance and design team seemed to agree that strong unique weapons stopped at 50% of a top tier rare’s power which made sense IF your unique property was compelling enough to make people want to use it beyond its transition phase.

The evasion conversion, I kept from the initial design because I like how it promoted evasion and let players who actively improved theirs benefit from it since it would otherwise be pointless to stack evasion past a certain level due to monster accuracy. This way, one wouldn’t be punished that badly for the diminishing returns on evasion efficiency (which Life and ES do not suffer from) and it let smarter players optimize their evasion and how much they wanted or needed based on their available gear (Queen of the Forest hadn’t come out yet).

Camouflaged Predator came to me as an active means of defence against physical spells (elemental isn’t a problem). Anyone facing the boss in Jungle Valley, Labyrinthe and Orchard knows how formidable these bosses are, the former being one of the worst if you get the wrong rare monsters accompanying it. Acrobats without any other secondary defences probably can’t do those bosses (easily).

The problems were exacerbated during late-game mapping where Evangelists are a common sight and it isn’t all too rare for you to get a huge pack of hasted substantial physical damage Evangelists in a map with +x% elemental damage. I hope none of you playing evasion builds ever had the misfortune of meeting one of those packs.

But back on point. The premise as I bolded earlier was to make it an ACTIVE defense meaning you didn’t just sit there and benefit from it like Aegis Aurora. In a sense it was balanced around you actually fighting instead of running away and I liked the idea of that, hence the wording of the first line in the flavour text - “dances a dance”.

Having submit my second proposal, I waited.

______________________________________________________________


Interim
It wasn’t until the end of March that I decided to shoot them a mail asking about it. At this point, I a little miffed at the fact that I had to keep chasing them about my unique, especially when I put effort into working with them and trying to start discussions. I actually felt more like a passenger along for the ride and less of a designer!

Design Continued
Okay. New designer. This time Rory handed me over to Nick.

I was pretty excited to get feedback on the new design. I got a green light - “looks feasible” with some toning down on Camouflaged Predator to which I concurred. The numbers at this point, I didn’t care about. I just wanted to see the concept make it into the game and I was prepared to fight for it.

At some point Rory forgot that he let my unique be craftable and said no only for me to inquire about it and have him backtrack. So far so good since it would keep all the major features AND be craftable!

That didn’t last long though as Nick met opposition from the other members of the design team. Camouflaged Predator was cut because they didn’t like how it was a “chance on a chance on a condition” mechanic and no amount of me fighting would help. Thus the dream (har har, what irony) of having people find one Dreamfeather, wonder which hand they’d put it on before they found their second Dreamfeather fizzled out.

And to make things worse from a gameplay perspective, removing that meant removing what the sword was trying to help with - dual wield evasion builds surviving physical spell spike damage. This was my retort:

Spoiler
"
“Unfortunately evasion doesn't solve the problem acrobats face - high spike physical spell damage. Because the game has so many sources of this, acrobats can and will often fall prey to this. Block/Immortal Call/Lightning Coil, while cool and all should not be the only solution to this issue. Go twink out the strongest acrobat you can and pit him against the boss in Jungle Valley. The average acrobatics user has no armour and will take some 3,000 - 4,000 damage depending on his or her chaos resistance. Better yet, test this same character against a big pack of Undying Evangelists in a 78 map. You will quickly find yourself in a situation (and this situation happens often at high level play) where you cannot sustain nor escape this burst damage simply because the highest spell dodge you can acquire is 46%.

Physical damage spells have come to a point where they happen so frequently and do so much damage (by extension due to their ability to inherit +damage % elemental modifiers on maps and from hatred) that someone using a purely evasion-based character will have problems and lots of it simply because there are so many things they cannot do.

I don't like compensating what a unique item is supposed to be by just giving it the ability to get more damage because we aren't solving the problem the unique is designed to tackle and we end up with bland uniques like Windripper which is neither creative nor unique. At best, its better than a rare bow and has mediocre "unique" properties. I do not wish to go down this route. Too many uniques have usurped the position of rares not because of their special property but because of the stats they give and I will not have my unique become one of those.

Something like Gain 1% Spell Dodge per x (say, 2000) Evasion [when in off-hand] would be a solid option and something you can personally control and adjust but do we really want to go down this route? It certainly can be a more elegant way of tackling the solution as you already have the template to make it happen.

As always, I am trying to create opportunities for meaningful choices to be made so that there isn't just one or two ways to play an acrobatics build.”


I wonder if Evangelists will get some balance pass on them. I sure hope they do. The game needs less incoming physical spell damage since it royally screws over evasion builds. But whatever the case is, Camouflaged Predator is gone.

Regardless, we spent quite some time going over how to best approach the matter. In the end, I relented and let the Evasion conversion mechanic take the center stage with other affixes supporting this central one while providing players with the opportunity to choose between taking Resolute Technique and forgoing the ability to evade reflects (and supplementing this weakness with block/dodge) or otherwise benefiting from the accuracy provided by the sword and trying to strike a balance between evasion and accuracy. Some sharp players may also notice the changes to certain sword node clusters in the Ranger highway and opt to deviate into critical strikes which accuracy plays an important role in.

(You’ll have to thank Nick for changing the conversion from physical damage to attack damage as this opens up avenues for many different damage types.)

Anyway, if you’ve found the unique, you’ll probably know by now that crafting it never made it in because of the implications it had on item progression for the player as well as economic reasons. They gave me the option of keeping it craftable while gutting the unique’s power or letting it be a rare drop and keeping its adjusted power. I chose the latter for obvious reasons. They did however give Dreamfeather its own rarity tier in between two of the top rarity brackets.

(Although if I had my way, crafting it wouldn’t be any easier to acquire. The document above should clue you in on why so.)

Last edited by Lyralei on Aug 21, 2014, 9:49:15 PM
Last bumped on Jan 27, 2018, 8:08:50 AM
Design Goals
For those of you who have been asking and contemplating about the pros and cons of dual-wielding one vs running a single sword - you’re asking the right questions.

My aims have always been to support underrepresented builds and create opportunities for players to think beyond the metagame. When you ask if trading a shield for another Dreamfeather is worth the loss in defense, it means you considered the opportunity cost of using that unique.

These were the questions I wanted people to ask themselves because they defined and set apart some players from the rest. Anyone can take a skill or item and make an optimized build around it but not everyone can identify less obvious interactions that these items/skills have, use them, work around their limitations and make something of them.

If you’ve managed to get yourself thinking about my sword then I’ve succeeded in my design goals.

______________________________________________________________


Flavour Text
I wrote this one. Took awhile and was inspired by a character I designed for my own game. Brian’s flavour text on the Death’s Harp got me started on doing a poem (I used to write a lot of poems) and I figured I could write a decent one.

The first version looked like this:

"
She dances a dance beneath the shade,
As evenfall beckons to the glade,
Who now hears her feathersteps flowing?
Beneath the stars, the moondrops glowing.



In retrospect, the first one was pretty shitty and I had Charan help me with feedback. Later on, I found what I wanted when I was re-reading Tolkien’s Silmarillion. In particular, Finrod Felagund’s poem in the Lay of Leithian helped with structuring it. Here’s the poem if anyone wants to read it: http://wonderingminstrels.blogspot.com/1999/07/he-chanted-song-of-wizardry-j-r-r.html

This one, I don’t remember when it came to me but I was happy with it and thus is the final flavour text:
"
She dances a dance beneath the shade,
The twilight shroud her only blade,
Who now hears her feathersteps flowing?
Beneath the stars, the moondrops glowing.


I'm a huge fan of layering hidden meanings within poetry so I attempted to do so while writing this. A lot of the words and phrases chosen either have attribution towards the item I designed or towards other facets of things I like.

"
The first line is a direct reference to the evasion playstyle and is also from a character I designed for something I was working on a while back.

The second line initially was both meant to signify the nightfall as well as identify the camouflaged predator affix on the item but also referred to the item's property of converting evasion into an offensive bonus.

The third line reinforces the initial premise of being highly elusive and is also a reference to one of my favourite DotA2 heroes, Windranger.

The fourth line brings the poem to a nice close and helps one identify the with the unique's name with words that are associated to sleep and nighttime. Of course, the word moondrop is a slight nod towards a manga (Air Gear) that I really enjoyed reading.




Another diamond supporter told me it was gorgeous. Thanks!

______________________________________________________________


Art
This one didn’t take too long. I left it entirely up to the artist’s interpretations. The original design is as shown below and the final revision was me making the blade slimmer and more agile to fit it being a fast sword. Pretty sure the art department was happy with that since I never sent it back more than once.

Last edited by Lyralei on Sep 1, 2014, 1:51:00 AM
Closing
I hope this has given you an insight on the entire design process, its ups and downs and a little bit about my thought process as a unique designer.

I really did want to make a unique that would get everyone thinking and I’m really sorry if the final revision didn’t cut it (no pun intended) for everyone.

Looking back, I can’t say I ever want to go through the process again, at least..not in the manner that I had to pursue it. Several of my guild mates going through (or have gone through) the design process have opted to take a more hands-off approach and I strongly encourage others do the same as they have good things to say about that.

Admittedly, I’d imagine that the level of depth at which I approached the project was partial cause of the problem and it probably left very little wriggle room for the design team to work around. I knew what I wanted and I knew the game - maybe a little too well. Perhaps I should have taken a different approach; one less focussed and specific.

Designing a unique is a difficult thing because we as diaternal supporters are never given the full picture, thus we design based on the present while the developers design based on the future which isn’t ideal at all because when you are rejected, you do not understand why nor can they explain it because it often pertains to matters which they can’t reveal just yet and this potentially causes a rift in communication between the two parties.

I personally feel that this system cannot make for a sustainable one (not in the long run), not with so many others in line for their unique and I really hope other diaternals don’t go through what I had to go through, particularly with the huge lapse in discussions. Its important to have the supporter be actively involved, not feel cast aside and not have to chase the design team for updates.

Hopefully the process (which during my time was still being improved upon) becomes better for future diaternals. While I would’ve loved to have debate with the design and balance team like a developer, working around time constraints and e-mail make this a difficult task for both them and us.

Ultimately, I think Nick did the best he could (which is still a fantastic job) and while its not the ideal unique I would’ve liked to see make it into the game, I’m really pleased with how it turned out and I hope everyone else who gets their hands on one is too.

(If not, at least it’ll make a sick skin transfer when it gets its particle effects.)

-Lyralei
Last edited by Lyralei on Aug 21, 2014, 9:52:25 PM
k now you can post.
Last edited by Lyralei on Aug 21, 2014, 9:52:41 PM
The design process gets more complicated the more you pour yourself into it.
Interesting conslusions.

I can't say i love the uniques that players make, since most of them feel uninspired and this one fails to escape that predicament.

I particularly hate the last mod on it and the general principle behind a mod like that.

To the designer :

A valiant effort, a great persona accomplishment! You are now part of the poe tapestry forever.
I applaud your contributions in the monetary sector, you make PoE possible and i thank you for that.

cheers!
Last edited by Malazans on Aug 22, 2014, 10:16:32 AM
Gratz on the unique and amazed by the thought you put in to it. I was really exited reading it till I got to the point were it became a sword. I personally would loved to see that chest considering the amount of rangers that are playing with tornado shot, including myself.

Nevertheless we'll written, thank you for the read.
I give kudos to those who go through this process.

Need to start collection for when it gets nerfed.
† You were a good man in a bad situation, Fairgraves. †
See what I am currently after here: 1767138
Thanks for sharing, love reading these.
When I kill a man he stays dead.
I need to go through this much more thoroughly, but my initial impression -- damn, I really need to learn to use colours in my longer posts.
I appreciate the effort you put into this Lyralei, and plan on dual-wielding two of these this league! :D

Overall 10/10 for doing what a true unique should do --- filling a niche otherwise unfilled.
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TheMidgetCowAmbush (Level 91.7 Buzzsaw Ranger --- Ambush)
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http://www.pathofexile.com/forum/view-thread/348309/page/1 --- Legacy Guide to CI Leapslam Templar

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