In this fifth installment, I introduce the second hero of the campaign: Alendis, the Mage Hunter, and discuss some of her basic abilities.

I was thankfully able to log another ten hours on my campaign this weekend, which were enough to get me caught back up to an equivalent point to where I was before rework began. Probably the first fifteen minutes or so of gameplay is now implemented (twenty with cutscenes). This takes us up through Kal’s arrival at the night elf village, his confrontation with Marius and subsequent pairing with Alendis, and the graveyard section that contains the first stage of their questing together. Alendis herself has also now been implemented with her initial skills.

As previously discussed, Alendis intended as a supporting hero, shoring up Kal’s vulnerabilities in combat without demanding too much micromanagement herself. This stage of the campaign is still very much about the user learning how to play Kal effectively and acquiring his different abilities, so I wanted Alendis to be fairly mindless by contrast. In other words while Kal requires the majority of the user’s attention, Alendis is probably responsible for the majority of the party DPS. In this way she is more like a bigger support unit than a focal hero.

Designing Alendis was therefore about designing useful combat skills that would largely manage themselves. Being that Alendis is a Mage Hunter, I also knew I wanted her skills to revolve around combating enemy casters. These two factors made Alendis’s first skill, Spell Steal an intuitive choice. For the unfamiliar, Spell Steal is an autocast ability (meaning while toggled on the hero will cast it automatically given an appropriate target in range) which moves positive buffs from nearby enemies onto nearby allies, and negative buffs from nearby allies onto nearby enemies.

Here’s an interesting mental exercise: You just introduced a secondary character like Alendis. How do you use the next immediate gameplay area to play to that character’s abilities and make the player appreciate her, without requiring the player to focus attention on that character (and therefore away from the primary character)? The way I handled it here was to fill the first area you take Alendis (the Highborn graveyard) with units that use lots of different buffs. The player doesn’t need to micro Alendis or give her particular attention, but as long as Spell Steal is turned on, he or she is sure to notice all the buffs moving around during the fighting.

Alendis was also given a secondary skill called Arcane Hunger, which is similar to one Kal has called Survival Instinct. Survival Instinct restores a small amount of Kal’s life every time an enemy is killed, and Arcane Hunger does the same for Alendis for mana. This is important given Alendis’s autocast spell, since she is not an Intelligence-based hero and therefore does not naturally have large mana reserves. The combination of the two skills helps me define Alendis’s natural tension as a unit that cares about mana. Inasmuch as the user worries about Alendis at all, he or she will be mainly concerned with keep Alendis’s mana at a level sufficient to autocast Spell Steal. Arcane Hunger gives her a built-in mechanism to that.

Alendis’s third skill (available but unlearned when she’s recruited, and learnable as soon as she levels up once) is Starfire Ward, which is pretty much what it sounds like: a ward that casts Starfall on nearby enemies. (I rigged this together based on the Permanent Immolation ability, actually, just changing the relevant graphics to mimic Starfall’s.) I wanted a basic AOE spell for some of the early creeping, and it made more sense for Alendis than Kaldorian.

So what is Alendis’s character like? Well, she hates the Highborn implicitly – which makes her pairing with Kal uncomfortable for both of them – but she is more chiefly concerned with her mysterious mission. She is cold, and not very forthcoming about herself. This mirrors the gameplay as it allows her to fade into the background, letting the player focus on Kal; but it also adds some mystery to her and makes the player wonder what she’s really all about.

Currently, I plan for Alendis to stick with Kal through three basic quests, at the end of which Kal will have regained his three basic spells and be able to adventure further alone. At that point Alendis will depart, although she will most certainly return later on. This will leave me free to explore Kal’s identity on his own for awhile, as well as introduce other characters and companions.

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