CM diary #17 - 11/14/2021

Hello, hello!

…this is from an NPC’s dialogue, did you know. Took me a long time to realize where I picked it up from.

Right, anyway. There was a lot of tension since last time, so there’s a lot to unpack. I’ve also written more than my fair share on these subjects across platforms already, so please excuse my abridging here and there. I’m mostly trying to avoid tendonitis.

So.

The drop rate debacle

Perhaps the most heated topic of the days, so let’s start here. For the unaware, our last hotfix patch included a drop rate reduction. To be more specific, a drop rate buff retraction. The relevant line reads, verbatim:

“An old buff to generic Champion and boss treasures has been reverted.”

So, this caused quite an upheaval. Between that and another change, to be discussed below, many players alleged a serious spike in early-game difficulty – which our resident .yio had to explore.

To begin to untangle this, my relevant Discord announcement stated this:

“Outside of the issues with the Explorer’s dungeon, this hotfix includes a few of the changes we wanted to include in the last patch but were unable to.”

So this is where the issue begins. Was it wise to include this change into a hotfix that addressed another issue? Probably not, and I’ll be the first to admit this. Still, I cannot stress enough how overworked we’ve been – so for this I must ask for some understanding. We’re already testing a solution for this, a propos.

Now, was it tested? Yes, it was. Perhaps not as extensively as we normally would – but that’s only because we were simply reverting to Flagship’s own original drop rates, which we’ve had on live before.

Next, what was the exact intent behind this? The next relevant line, that spawned its own confusion, reads as follows:

“This change intends to make Legendary-grade items drop slightly less often across the game, while allowing Luck to affect them more linearly and predictably.”

So, the “slightly” part fueled some of the above allegations. This was my phrasing, so with this comes another apology. This intended to convey an endgame player’s perception of this change, as in my tests it was indeed slight. However, this does not fully reflect a player’s perception “across the game”. Still, the intent was indeed for a “slight” reduction, as our own new content, AB changes, and other density buffs had brought resource acquisition to massively higher rates than Flagship’s original vision intended.

Finally, still on this line, was this intending to force players to use Luck? Absolutely not. Here I may just clarify what this means.

Luck is a desirable property for many – for full disclosure, I’m not one of those players. Still, what our drop rate buff did, functionally, was it obscured Luck’s exact effects (ie the reduction/elimination of white drops, and nothing else). Reverting this intended to make Luck’s effects more consistent and observable, not to enforce players to use Luck.

Australia

Adjacent to general drop rates, before we reach the aforementioned performance issue, come Australia drop rates. For the unaware, this dungeon launched with very low drop rates – and now has massive drop rates. Imagine, players reached out about high drop rates; the first time I’ve ever seen this, ever.

So, both of those fall squarely on me. That’s because…

Breath

I’m not a dev.

Really, that’s all there is to it. Between my inexperience and our testers’ unavailability, this dungeon failed to land where it needed to. Addressing this is in the works too, yes.

Oh, for that matter; the dungeon intentionally doesn’t award exp. Let me repeat that; this intends to allow you to farm lower item grades without outleveling them. If you feel this makes the rewards minimal, especially for such a hard dungeon, you may safely skip it; it was always meant to be an optional, party-oriented dungeon.

(For those who do run it, I wrote the first guide on it the other day. Cheers!)

The Imp menace

So back to overall performance, then comes the recent Imp buff. This line laconically reads:

“Imp Snipers of all kinds will attack more aggressively.”

Now this one was quite intentional too, so let me clarify this too. The concept of this change was to make these enemies more challenging, while also promoting player responses to their AI; dash at them and firing ceases, as they harmlessly whack you with their guns’ grips. If that doesn’t suffice for crowds, pump up defense and/or party up – that was the intent, in a nutshell.

Now, is it perfect? We thought so, as it added challenge from practically lv1 to lv50 (and .yio’s research corroborates the early-game part). Some of you disagree though, bringing up some fair points for specific classes - so this one is being discussed as well.

The taxi upheaval

Finally, this one relates to an issue that’s not even acted on yet. For the unaware, in Hellgate lingo a “taxi” involves the practice of using party portals to bring players to areas they normally don’t have access to. Ie, “taxi”. Our intent to fix this exploit resurfaced, and so did some, um, heated dicussions.

The issue with this one, then, is that it enables powerleveling. It lets players bypass dangerous areas, overlevel them (typically with powerlevel help), and return when it’s safe to. As it does, it introduces some risk of breakage, as regards quest prereqs and progression – but that’s rather uncommon, to be fair.

So, this sparked a huge discussion. Convenience, ethics, what have you. In the briefest of terms, this is a very long-standing exploit; it’s not a “feature”, nor is it intended.

Still, we asked what makes this exploit appealing. To copy my closing statement on this, as it reflected my position better than this entry can:

“I can certainly sympathize with those who like them as a player - I also reset quest bosses for convenience on live, for example, despite it falling into the same broader category. From a “staff” perspective, however, I cannot willingly let a clear exploit remain, despite it having always been there, or it being convenient, or it constituting a bandaid solution to other problems.

Still, that’s not to say I’m engaging out of some shade of schadenfreude, asking for arguments for an outcome I can’t likely accept no matter its positives. Rather, my intent is to identify exactly which problems this exploit addresses and which agreeable conveniences it provides, so as to negotiate those and address them at the same time as the exploit is disabled. The point is not, after all, to simply inconvenience players and take an option away, unintended as it is. It is to “enforce” specific gameplay boundaries, yes, but also to iron out the flaws that made it so desirable or needed in the first place. And for that I’ll need said negotiations.”

This should, hopefully, cover this final issue. We do intend to eventually remove this exploit, because that’s what it is. At the same time, however, we will try to address the game’s shortcomings that made it appealing, reaching a better, “natural” state.

The future

And now, the obligatory future section!

Well, between the above issues and the holiday season approaching, we couldn’t take that much-needed break after all. So, here’s what’s being worked on now, without major spoilers:

  • Fixes. First, fixes related to the above issues, and a couple others here and there. Perhaps some QoL conveniences while we’re at it.
  • Items. A few of our newcomer baddies don’t carry shiny enough loot, and some classes need some more tools for some specific encounters. So a few new items there shall be.
  • A Christmas event. We’ll try to get together a Christmas event, as Flagship intended. If we succeed, many of you will see their festive hat for the first time.
  • Events. Tireless Alternalo is now working on global events, because this time it became crystal-clear the players love events. Can’t say when those will be done, but so far they look deliciously dangerous.
  • The expansions. Speaking of, Alternalo is now at a solid place with his brainchild expansion. It’s nowhere near ready, but it’s shaping up well. At the same time, I’m returning to the drawing board with mine, as we have a better understanding of what we need to accomplish with it – and can use assets more creatively to deliver a better end result.

FIN

And there you have it, dear diary. These were some unpleasant, restless times. But on we go, hopefully to better places - like the Broker.

Until next time, all the best.

5 Likes

I didnt read any of the discussions about drop rates and taxi anywhere but here’s my opinion on it:

Low drop rates usually serve the purpose to avoid bloating this type of game with millions of uniques that people can buy for cheap rather than farm themselves. However, HG has a low enough population that the bloat shouldnt happen too fast.
On top of this, uniques in this game are leaving the economy constantly due to our friend the augmentrex. We brick tons of them. I remember buying tons of duellos just to get +boost on them. If items were rarer than they already are for some, i would never use the augmentrex.
Better drop rates means more tries at the slot machine, more build experiments and so on. I love it.

For the taxi, i think it’s simply a matter of people being really bored of the early game. Im known for my total questing aversion, so being taxied to come back later just to blast through these quests to reach the endgame part which is the only one that matters to me is appealing.
Same applies for all hack n slashes honestly. I love PoE endgame but i stopped playing temp leagues just because I couldnt do the campaign ever again for exemple.
If i can grind cemetery from 1 to 50 instead of going through a campaign i dont enjoy for the 20th time i choose the former. Eating a ball of shit ice cream before being aloowed to reach the sweet vanilla ball under it doesnt makes me appreciate the vanilla more, but instead leaves the horrible feeling that if i want to eat vanilla again, i ll have to go through the well known process of eating a turd in the first place ^^
The campaign could be really really good, i’d still get bored after having to do it way too many times. It doesnt help neither that this kind of games make give the feeling that everything you do before the end game is irrelevant.

I didnt grind the new contents yet due to lack of time, but the little i’ve seen of australia looks really cool, and i’m really impressed by what the team can do with this game. Cheers !

4 Likes

Alternalo is now at a solid place with his brainchild expansion. It’s nowhere near ready, but it’s shaping up well.

wow. i don’t know what to expect, but i’m sure it will be good. won’t even try to speculate or imagine anything, as not to ruin the surprise for myself. i feel like speculation and false expectations often makes new content feel less exciting. i’ll just sit down and enjoy it when it will arrive :slight_smile:

taxi and loot - i’m ok with bugs getting fixed and excessive buffs being reverted. imagine if SoJ’s +300% damage was never reverted? that’s how Diablo 3 got where it is now.

1 Like

would you be able to explain how progressing through campaign differes from progressing through endgame? i lack the perspective of a person who enjoys grinding, so i don’t see how doing the campaign several times is worse than clearing the same area several hundreds of times.

is it about item level? i mean, when during endgame you replace single pieces of gear with slightly better pieces - isn’t it comparable to replacing gear while leveling? in both cases you couldn’t get where you are without what you had equipped before.

There’s several reasons i can see on top of my head:

-endgame content is played plenty of times, which make gear progression visible. Seeing molly die in 15 seconds instead of 20 after making build/gear adjustments is satisfying. You can use the content as a punching bag to guide you through the right path for what your trying with the current character. Campaign content is usually encountered only once on your way.

-You have way more pieces available to the puzzle you re trying to solve. More skillpoints/attribute/expertises or available items. Having a larger pool of things at your disposal gives more options which is what i love in character building games. It’s also in the endgame that min-maxing trully becomes a thing.

-Endgame is physically more pleasant for me as it often involves faster gameplay loops, with higher runspeed, larger aoe and so on. The gameplay is flashier and smoother.

-I briefly mentioned choices that dont really matter while levelling, and i dont like having a piece of gear that i know will end up in the bin as i know it’s gonna be replaced with a BiS unique or a specific base item later. One thing i really like tho is having a low level unique that is still relevant in endgame that i can prepare and equip as soon as i have the level req for it. It gives a small taste of what to come :).

-Having level lock skills means that if im planning to build around let’s say giant Hellfires with high ignite chance, i wont have access to it until lvl 30 and i ll have to find temporary skills that i wont use any longer later on which makes levelling an hellfire build not as fun because you cant use it ^^.

All in all it’s a matter of preferences, but i can hardly get bored of running cemetery for hours without any clear goals in mind with a fleshed out character while i have to force myself to play further the campaign ordeal every time.

3 Likes

in some Games Power leveling has its own inherent dangers, my first MMO was Asheron’s call, Monsters prioritised players who were drastically weaker (level wise) as they were generally easier to kill, so it was never danger free, there was some aspect of skill required in order to get it working, either going to high level area, tagging big monsters and hoping to get a high enough cut of the xp to warrant it (groups split xp evenly if within 5 levels of group creator, and % based when not, so yeah you only got 10% of the xp, but 10% of 1 million is more than you’d normally get) an other alternative was to get buffed to the hilt and go for things slightly above your pay grade, this was far more efficient but still netted the same result, you could do more than you are supposed to do … the reason why? Friends and Community …

by the time i resorted to power levelling i was on my 3rd/4th character, i’d done the low slog, i had all the spare gear, i just needed the levels to catch up with everyone else again.

i make it no secret, i’m not a fan of the Grind, i’d rather get stuck into the action and not have to fear that the only reason im failing is because i dont have the gear or the levels, its frustrating to know i have the skill, but not the output …

i played Guild Wars 2, never did the leveling or the story, just did the pvp as it set everyone at the same level, with the same gear … (this is my preference, each to their own)

So… PL … make it more fun or relevant to be a low level, or enable people who have the knowledge and gear to quickly side step the story that they have already done, if they want to especially if it takes a long time to enjoy “end game content”…

i swear, one of these days i’ll realise my dream and make “End Game Content” a game …

As always, Thanks for the hard work, and thank you for keeping Hellgate alive, team!