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Worldbrand

Liches in the Long Term: Looking at symptoms and their causes

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With several Lich victories now under my belt, I’d like to talk about the Lich system and problems with implementation that affect it at its heart.

I will start by pointing out that the hot-button issues being tackled have actually been short-term problems that were mostly just symptoms of bigger ones. Don’t get me wrong, I like a lot of the solutions, but they don’t directly address what I see to be the deeper issues.

Some problems are symptoms:

  • Duplicate weapons - Valence transfer is intuitive and lets us pass progression forward, but the real problem isn’t that we don’t need every weapon- it’s that we don’t want every Lich. When people are hunting for what they don’t have, be it Ephemeras or weapons, they will always be trying to get rid of some liches ASAP. Hopefully Lich trading helps with this, but from the sounds of “trading,” it may not be enough.

 

  • Requiem relics are rare - There was a very vocal outcry about the difficulty of acquiring Requiem relics. Most of this was due to bugs, but this was still a short-lived problem.

    A player really only feels the pain of lacking their first full set of Requiem mods. With a full collection, any spares can easily be traded to replace Requiems that will deplete. The need to be picky evaporates. If the Siphon bugs were fixed sooner, there probably wouldn’t be a need to accelerate the drops- and that something you can’t really take back!

 

  • Cooperative Lich hunts - Two major complaints that have arisen:

    1. Some players won’t stab their Lich, preventing others from spawning
    2. There’s no real benefit to fighting other players’ Liches

    These can be fixed, but you should consider why a player wouldn’t want to stab their Lich to begin with, and why players care so much about Murmur. That second one seems obvious, but I think that both questions lead to the same conclusion:

    A player may be afraid of stabbing their Lich because it will increase its rank, but they probably don’t know that clearing their territory will do that anyway. A stronger player will always go for the stab because the Murmur gain outweighs the increase in Lich rank. It is an inevitability and there is no real choice here. There is only one actual path in the system, and it is to kill the Lich as fast as possible.

 

  • Converted Liches are weak - That’s because Liches as specters are really limited to begin with. This was probably a concession with Railjack still in the works, but you can see why addressing their specters doesn’t solve the core issue.


 

Even if all of those short-term problems get tackled, the system would remain in a state in which Liches aren’t as special as they were made out to be, or and aren’t as cool as they could be!

 

The big picture and core issues

When I think of how the Lich system was pitched - assigning us our own villain, a persistent and personal adversary, I can see what it’s trying to do. I would like to point out the things that make this impossible.

 

1. Decisions

Every step of the player experience, we never actually engage with the mechanics on a level that is supposed to make this more of a back-and-forth conflict. We farm Murmur and try to get lucky with our guesses and that’s about the only choice we have.

When a Lich takes territory, we pick the nodes that have the easiest gamemodes and we go farm Murmur. There’s no reason to bother clearing all the nodes because the Lich will probably be dead by the time we manage that by its third Rank.

When a Lich gets annoyed, there’s no way to actually interact with that or prepare, and there aren’t even other ways to make them angry. We farm Murmur and we hope they spawn and we go farm more Murmur to make them angrier so that they spawn next time.

When we reconfigure the Mastermind Lite™ puzzle with Requiems, there is nothing to actually consider but trial and chance. We farm Murmur and we hope we get lucky enough with our stabs so that we don’t have to farm more Murmur.

When a player gets stuck fighting a Lich that is too strong for them, they farm Murmur and hope that pubs are strong enough to soften the Lich so that they can do the final blow.

I know repetition is at the heart of Warframe, but this system really feels like we’re just doing one thing. If the Lich system is meant to help uplift the whole of Warframe, it’s very much stuck in its own corner.

 

2. Liches lack presence

Liches are funny, charming, and menacing. They talk the talk, but they don’t walk the walk. They steal from us, yes. Beyond that? They exist only to be hunted.

Despite being spread all over the starchart, they are isolated in one mission type where they all congregate and players repeat one task while waiting for their Lich to spawn, and while watching others fight theirs.

Doing the same thing back to back to back to back and fighting ~2 Liches per mission really robs them of their individuality. As with any procedural system, you become adjusted to the forest the more individual trees you see, and by the time we get half the weapons, we’ve seen a lot of Liches.

There was a thread on the subreddit that did an excellent job of suggesting ways to open up Liches to general gameplay, ways that were dripping with personality. If you want people to fall in love with the Lich system, this is the exact type of thing that you need, and the exact type of thing I thought we’d be getting.


 

3. The only road

Earlier I detailed that there was only one real path to dealing with a Lich, and that was by hunting it as efficiently as possible. It may not be obvious why this is such a big deal.

Players want to kill their Lich ASAP because they have to kill a lot of Liches to get everything they want. This means that you have to balance between keeping Liches quick to eliminate and making them last long enough to live up to the vision of the persistent foe.

But what if there was a second option? If there were a reason to keep fighting a single Lich, you could address these two paths separately. What if we could have the long-term rivalry with a given Lich that increased its staying power and memorability while also incentivizing this prolonged dynamic with a reward? In this way, you can trim the number of Liches have to kill, slowing down how fast their procedural nature becomes stale, without necessarily trimming the total time we’ll spend in the system. Fuelled by an incentive like… gradual progression on the Lich’s weapon bonus.
 

This is by no means exhaustive. I do think that there are other issues, like Liches not actually behaving like their description and only actually dying once, or ranking up too quickly, or not truly rewarding cooperation. But I do think that tackling the above issues will mitigate a lot of others.

 

Solutions

These solutions are only loose ideas because they would never be implemented as-is anyway.

These are designed to tackle the problem that Liches are forgettable, impersonal and short-lived, and the intention is to add memorable surprises, make the fight feel personal, and give players a way and reason to make this fight last.

  1. Liches are no longer limited to Lich-controlled territory missions and will jump you in regular gameplay, often in unique and sneaky ways. This spawn rate is tied to aggression. Additionally, they will select one node in their turf to hide in. They will spawn there guaranteed, but the player won’t know which node it is without help:
  2. Clearing Lich-controlled territory missions offer secondary bonuses to help you fight your Lich. This makes your decisions in the star chart more deliberate, and focuses the conflict around your Lich.

    These bonuses are things like:

    Weakens the level of Lich forces (exterminate,sabotage, hijack)
    Recovers some stolen resources (survival, disruption, defense)
    Reveals the position of the Lich (spy, mobile defense, interception)
    Makes the Lich super mad (capture, rescue, excavation)

    This not only helps add player decision to the conflict and focuses it around what they want to do with their Lich, it also helps lower-level players tackle theirs too. It accommodates both the players who want their Liches gone quickly, and the ones who want to make the fight last.
     
  3. Converted Liches can be used to clear territory and claim the above secondary rewards instantly, going on a cooldown based on their Rank when they were converted. Just some extra utility that helps them feel worthwhile. If they hit the node where the Lich was hiding, they fail and now the player knows.
  4. Liches start by taking over one planet. Every time they rank up, they take over another planet. Every time their territory is completely cleared, they rank up and take a different planet. Just like normal so far.

    Every time that a Lich takes over another planet, its weapon bonus increases slightly. It could also “obtain” a wealth of resources from that planet that get added to the player’s stock of recovered goods when they finally defeat the Lich. Perhaps add small baubles like Ayatans or Universal Medallions too.

    It offers the player a reason to continue to hunt Liches after they have their desired weapons, and emulates the Lich’s own growth. After all, they’re not only stealing from us, right?

 

I hope I’ve adequately expressed the importance of the central issues to the Lich system, and demonstrated that you don’t need to take a hammer to the whole thing to fix them. I want to see this and other adversary/kingpin/nemesis systems become a strong feature for Warframe because I really do like the concept! But right now, they don’t feel as special as they could. Thanks for reading!

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One thing I don't like is that the lich keeps talking about "No matter how many times you kill me, I return." when we never actually kill them until the very end. I think getting the mod order wrong should kill them, but not perma-kill them, and then they come back from the dead with Kuva, and gain more power from the process (including absorbing some aspect from the frame that killed them). It would make more sense than what happens now. It should also slightly increase their weapon bonus percentage.

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This is an incredibly well written post that identifies a lot of the issues i have with the current system. I agree that integrating the lich into the regular gameplay loop would feel far more immersive and less like I am just farming boring missons to remove my lich. I think you've outlined a number of great ideas that DE should really take a look at. Another thing I would like to see is if there are truly "long term" liches, that they gain their ephemera of respected type so that players have a way to get them through means other than RNG.

Some great ideas here.

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I'm loving everything I'm reading. Something I have seen floating around is the idea that you don't autofail when you attempt to kill a Lich. If you don't have the required Murmurs, then you still kill the Lich, but they will return the next day. I think that "killing" them should grant some sort of reward that the whole squad can get, while also removing the influence of the Lich on that particular planet, so that you can actively choose where to remove influence in case of a Sortie.

Great concepts so far. Keep it up!

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6 hours ago, Worldbrand said:

Duplicate weapons - Valence transfer is intuitive and lets us pass progression forward, but the real problem isn’t that we don’t need every weapon- it’s that we don’t want every Lich. When people are hunting for what they don’t have, be it Ephemeras or weapons, they will always be trying to get rid of some liches ASAP. Hopefully Lich trading helps with this, but from the sounds of “trading,” it may not be enough.

DE just confirmed that you need to convert a lich to trade it so there goes all hope. god i hate this game now

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I love pretty much every idea in this post, and I really hope DE does too, we absolutely need something better and more interactive than "okay, now you farm this guy's minions, and then kill him!", it's pretty much just a relic grind but we're collecting murmurs instead of traces. There's no personality, and no reason not to plow through it as fast as humanly possible.

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I'd like to add a bit to this thread.

 

Lich nemesis system in general: Give players the option of extending a "peace offering" to their Lich nemesis so that it will go away and leave the player alone.

Lich "candidates" / Larvalings: These should be Commander / Eximus units, not normal troops...The "Old Blood" should be a gift bestowed by the Worm Queen and her lackeys to important Grineer they don't want to lose.

The Lich nemesis: The Lich nemesis should be defeated by "normal" means, but require the Parazon with the right phrase sequence for kill permanence or conversion to an ally. Conversely, attempting a jab with the Parazon without the right mod sequence or any mods should not result in the player getting K.O.'d, nor should it level up the Lich. Instead, have the Lich nemesis initiate an emergency teleport escape to fight another day. The Lich should only be able to level up if it actually defeats you in a fight. If / When it beats you, it levels up and retakes the nodes you previously cleared, but no more than that. Also, the Lich nemesis needs to be a far more active hunter and have a chance of attacking you in normal missions as well as nodes under its influence.

The Lich ally: They need to be far more reliable. Right now they're unreliable and not worth the effort expended in obtaining them. Ideally, allow them to be summoned, but restrict the summon to once per mission. The Lich ally should also be able to revive a player if running a solo mission. I'd also like to see a bit more lore / relationship between the player and their new ally / allies. Think about it...you defeated a really tough opponent that wanted to destroy you on multiple levels, yet you spared their life, gave them an opportunity to redeem themselves, and freed them from the Worm Queen's control. If I were the Lich, I'd be indebted to my former adversary.

Duplicate weapons: When generating a Lich nemesis for a player, the game should ould do one of two things. The first would be to check for existing Kuva weapons in the player's inventory and only equip the Lich with a random weapon that the player does NOT have. This would to prevent instances of players winding up with duplicate Kuva weapons. If the player has all the Kuva weapons that are available, the game is allowed to generate a random Kuva weapon for the Lich nemesis. There's still a bit of grind and randomness involved to get the weapon you want, but at least there's little chance of getting a duplicate weapon unless you go after more than 13 Liches. Another idea would be to give the Larva a regular version of the Kuva weapon it would get if it became a Lich nemesis. This way, players can quickly decide as to whether or not to simply gun down the Larva and let it die or trigger it so that it turns into a Lich with the appropriate Kuva weapon. The second solution gives the player more agency by allowing them to decide if a Larva will be worth "converting" or not. The current "fix" only stops you from getting consecutive dupes...and that's it.

Murmurs: The number of Thralls that players need to "mercy kill" to get Murmurs really ought to drop by half.

Requiem mods: Remove the "charge" mechanic completely (preferably) or allow players to recharge depleted mods with Kuva.

Requiem Relics: Remove Kuva and Ayatan Amber Stars from the drop tables. I'd rather that Requiem mods drop by themselves, but that's never going to happen.

Tax / Tribute system: Either remove it entirely or rework pickups so that you pick up only 50-75% of what you'd normally get, to represent the Lich nemesis and its forces pillaging the area. With regard to the whole "paying the Lich tribute" thing is concerned...How is this Lich able to "tax" us anyway? Why would I pay my enemy a tax for stuff I took from "their" node? And if the "taxed" portion was stolen by the Lich, how is that even possible? I went and physically collected those credits, mods, and resources myself and sent them to my lander / orbiter. And if the Lich has access to my Lander right up to the point where I'm leaving, why only take a percentage of what I picked up?

Also, for a system that requires the player to have finished The War Within, the Operator's part in all this is notably absent. Honestly, it's fantastic that using the Operator to help defeat a Lich nemesis hasn't been forced on us / been a requirement and I'm extremely grateful for that, but it would be nice if using the Operator had a small part in the proceedings.
 

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