Concerns over 1.5.15+

Hello Hellgate. I play the HC characters Honeybeard, Upgrayedd, Zergling, Avail and Fargowoodchippr. I play mostly jank builds to offset my challenge level, and I’ve been here a year and a half. These are my concerns for patch 1.5.15 onwards.

First the big elephant in the room: what in the world happened to the difficulty and the endgame? It seems like many challenges that a Lv 50 character might rise to face have been removed. When I log on to solo now, I have the option to run Catacombs or the Wilds, because the entire normal game (and areas like Australia) have been nerfed (‘Token’ events are thankfully still here, when requirements are met and there is a large enough population to run them). Another way to say it, why was endgame removed from an old game with nothing to replace it? Hellgate used to have a charming bevy of challenge at the endgame that was included in the original design. If you found a story quest or point challenging, you had a myriad of options to level in the other content included in stonehenge and parliament square… you never hit a brick wall or were simply stopped. The Syd fight, with the equipment available to us was a white knuckled thirty minute high level challenge. My latest characters ran him at 46 and 47, and he was dead shortly after the first growl. Hellgate always let the players pick the difficulty level they wanted to play at(it was just never explicitly stated) and that is exactly where a game like this should be. Now it feels like players do not have a choice. It feels like at this point some of the only challenge left is to run a new character through the game so quickly that you are 7-10+ levels under your opponents. After the character hits 50 it is in a sense “ruined”, as you can no longer face higher level opponents. This is a terrible feeling for an action RPG, and ‘underleveling’ is harder to pull off since all of that content has been simplified as well. It feels like the new target audience is children instead of ‘old school gamers that loved hellgate london’, but children are generally not even technically apt enough to find their way here.

Here is one I don’t even see in the patch notes or discussed at all: removal of nearly all the high level items from the high level areas that still exist. Previously, endgame drops were a three circle venn diagram between augmentations, rarity and level(one could argue type in here as well). For along time this system has provided so many possibilities that this sixteen year old list of items was always still fresh- but now there are really only two circles left. If you do the math, this cuts your availability of competing items by far more than that third. If you think practically about what this does to “Items that can compete with endgame uniques” (The category that these items truly fall in for a 50) you will find this has killed most of the possibilities here. That is to say, how many non-unique items are on your endgame characters? That category (all other items combined, a category that should be massive) was already a small minority compared to uniques, it is now much smaller. Item level in particular (higher stats)was really the only thing that competed with items that allow for far more augs, have much higher natural augs and also grey augs that you can ‘double up’ on. Now these are basically only dropped from Imhotep or Molloch? This hurts build and equipment options and endgame diversity.

Regarding Tracy and her parliament square quest: being able to cycle for the item type you want enabled jank builds. As far as I can figure, jank builds are 1. not threatening the power level in any way and 2. good for the game on every level(some of these were clearly Flagship’s intention but made -jank- by a lack of support). Ive had SC players ask about and pick up my melee ENG/drone and desolator/kilij guardian builds and that is good for the game, more variety and things to do is always a positive. With tracy gone, a lot of these builds are no longer viable. I will never be able to create another cricket bat blademaster when Zergling dies; the item is too rare and the community too small. Fargowoodchippr died to the thunderstruck bug shortly after patch and I can not find her replacement another bladefrenzy: same issue. The class is effectively dead and the new Fargo has to carry a gun now. The tradeoff to finding such an item was significant, it sometimes took -hours- to find these items from here with slots(and then you roll augs and pray). Tracy was not breaking anything(that I am aware of) but added a lot of diversity to the game. Taking this away takes a lot of build possibilities with it. These items only occasionally ‘enabled’ play in areas like catacombs, they did not ever dominate it. This is easily more important to the game than the function of a single daily quest (just set quest to kill instead of item condition). Lets also briefly touch on the Escape skill here- this was changed this to only work with ‘stealth’ skills. Stealth skills is an extremely small category available only on new items right? What this does is hurt the two closest range hunter builds, melee ENG and grenadier. These two builds (that max out tactical use rate) badly needed the extra ability to weave in and out of melee. Now these specialized (tight)builds need to force new items that they do not want to use? This only seems to hurt what are possibly the two weakest hunter builds here. Having this skill as Tactical fit in perfectly with the two archtypes that needed it most often.

This patch also broke something critical in the hellgate matrix. Previously, the only enemies untargetable or bugged were occasional infernal titan types, and you just had to wait for them to teleport again to fix it. Now enemies and bosses of all types are becoming untargetable on a daily basis. Sometimes this appears to be the footprint in a different location than the model, and you can ‘shoot this other spot’ to hit them, but not all of them(drone with a beam weapon can sometimes find this ‘spot’). Some enemies like Belphagor will bug out for some period of time unmoving, and then unleash all of the pent up actions in a dangerous rapid succession. A lot of times it is better to just leave the instance if you see it, as one does not know if they will die to a bug(also similar behavior to lag/disconnect).

I do not understand for the life of me how SC does not share any of these concerns. If the fear of death is removed along with the challenge, what is left besides a mercantile game of shiny things and making money? The boomerang/rebounder changes are the best thing here, but I have lost twice as many characters now coming around a corner to a thunderstruck type enemy(no thunder gfx, just thunder sfx then loading screen). A LOT of hardcore characters have died in this way since the patch.

I wish I had more positive things to say here. The hellgate community has been wonderful. During the 22-23 end of year event, I remarked that I had never run Molloch, and Psyona took me on my first run. The hardcore community is filled with individuals of great character that all look out for each other. The additional affixes seem appropriate and increase build diversity and options, especially mage/knight/soldier because DE and myth helms needed something(DE still needs more). “When hit” nova items working is excellent, but I now have to throw away every armor or weapon that rolls electric discharge on hit or kill because I can not tell them apart from enemies and do not want to die. You have all done some great work with balancing out skills, and I would not be able to do many of these jank builds if you had not. Of the new items that were added, several at least put a dent in the meta and that is a great thing. Looking at the changes that happened before I landed, I generally agree wholeheartedly with the direction the game was moving in. This patch seems like a giant step in the wrong direction. Since closed station is indefinitely on hold, and this patch was supposed to “steamline into the new endgame of closed station”, have you considered putting this content back into the game? If not and closed station is hinged on a dev who disappeared and has not been heard from in over a year, have you considered handing the reigns of the project to a dev or team capable of further development at that level? The prospect of getting stuck at this point of development is daunting.

Unrelated to the patch, the server maintenance at the end of April seems to have permanently changed the server. There have been disconnections every day, but they are not severing the player instance from the game. A LOT of hardcore characters have died in the last twelve days that were not in danger when disconnected, but the game ‘kept them’ in the universe long enough to kill them without available input from the player.

If this is not fixed, hardcore will not be playable anymore.

Also unrelated to the patch, changing skullsplitter from a skillshot to a grenade took easily the greatest joy from evoker. It was a lot of fun going for a half court skillshot lob every two to three seconds, and if something needed to happen to the skill it should have been otherwise changed. High ceiling abilities make a class and should be explored and expanded instead of curtailed.

The new character voices needed to be recorded in similar ways or run through an experienced sound engineer, they do not fit into the game and break immersion.

If possible, all of this could be fixed for players by providing a portal to “Old Hellgate” where players could play the classic hellgate london content, difficulty level and drops with multiplayer available(insert any necessary warnings for snowflakes). It feels like the original version has once again become the ultimate version of hellgate, but I could not play with this awesome community and all the friends I have made there. Regardless of any differences in opinion, my heart and respect go out to anyone working on this beloved game from my childhood that has suffered so many tragic fates.

[tl;dr]I dont find nice things in catacombs anymore and don’t have anywhere else to go.

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Hi there,
due to time pressure here’s a quick response to your key points, and we can go from there when there’s time and if you feel like discussing the specifics or broader points.

The actual endgame was not removed. What was removed was an artificial difficulty spike that was meant to delay and stonewall players as it stalled for time, which we’ve consistently heard was not welcome or logical. Eg, St. Paul’s side quests that award stat points being “locked” behind unnatural lv59 enemies was not welcome by solo players.
Yes, some folks did like the challenge. But that does not mean that state of affairs was natural or logical on the whole, regardless of CS timing. Plus, there is a new endgame now that wasn’t there before.

This is not in patch notes because it didn’t happen. As in, there was no change intending to specifically remove high-level items.
Now if you’re referring to areas that had their levels lowered, that’s a natural outcome. If not, issues of that nature may be related to the level scaling issue that was accidentally slipped in and fixed in 1.5.17.
If it’s something else I’m missing here, kindly elaborate as this was never an intentional outcome beyond lowering area levels where appropriate - and this is indeed the first time I hear of this in such terms.

The zmail change was not aimed at Tracy, but at fixing an array of relevant exploits. This has been explained in 1.5.16’s patch notes, and we would have taken a better alternative if we had one - because the intent was not to prevent rerolls but exploits.

Escape was not changed with such builds in mind, but with its maximum potential, interaction with Camouflage, and the sheer value of +boost and +tactical outside of Escape. You may need someone else to explain this in more depth, but the gist is that this change hurting two builds was not a factor - and does not outweigh the reasons why this change happened.

Such behaviors cannot be related to the patch, as the patch did not make such changes - and such behaviors are typically not data-sided anyway. What this sounds like is broader OVH host issues, which we’ve had for a while and are doing our best to address. I understand this is unpleasant, but unfortunately it’s not entirely in our hands.

Is this since 1.5.17? If so, it intended to fix this issue - so if it didn’t we’d need to take another look.

As in, revert the level and difficulty changes? No, because they did not hinge on just CS being released. They intended to make sense, smoothen curves, and still leave endgame party content there for those who want a challenge.

It is also unpleasant for us, but that is not an option. From finding any help whatsoever to vetting and onboarding them and handling them the reigns of something we’ve built from scratch, there are ample prohibiting factors.
Again, I do understand. I wrote CS’s plot ages ago, and have personally poured countless hours of work into it beyond that. But sadly, things are as they are.

Could you please explain that? I do not recall such a change, and the last 3 patches (as per your title) do not mention such a change.

These were community contributions, so each was recorded with what contributors had available. We would welcome any sound engineer, but we do not have one(s) among our ranks or available to contribute.

So revert all of our changes of 7 years and just host classic servers? And are you sure you want “classic”, whether that’s vanilla or TCv4, despite all their glaring issues?
But in any case… no, I don’t think that’s an acceptable turn for the project so late into development.

All that aside, I do appreciate the positive segment. And I do hope this abridged response helped explain at least a few things, since they seemed to be unclear.
I will try to find some time for a deeper dive these days, especially if someone else does not. In the meantime, any follow-ups and elaborations would be most welcome.

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Hi Bryan,
Appreciate the response. Yes, high level items were taken out of -normal- catacombs drops when the abyss types were added in. If this was not intentional you may want to take a closer look. High level items used to be a significant part of the haul. I am not sure how this relates to the level scaling issue and playing has been difficult since 1.5.17.

The bugged and desynced enemies started happening right after the patch. I do not know how this relates to the code or changes, but I know it was not happening in this way before. Before it was only the infernal titan type (small ones too) and only until they teleport again. We now call out bugged enemies the way we would call out boomerang tormentors. This is absolutely not confined to the recent server issues, and started happening after 1.5.15.

Deaths to thunderstruck type enemies has been since 1.5.15. If something happened to this recently, I could not tell when facing them recently.

Regarding the skullsplitter change I said “Also unrelated to the patch, changing skullsplitter…”. I do not know when this change took place but to explain, skullsplitter used to not have a maximum range, so you could lob it like swarm or lightning field. Unlike those two skills, you also had to hit a tricky physics based skillshot based on the environment and other threats. So some of the -trick- has been left in, but you can only fire it effectively some ~12m in front of you with 1 glyph? The fun part I am referring to was the ability to lob this skillshot and try to hit that same puzzle from an incredible distance.

I would not want to revert any of your changes for “Old Hellgate” except for 1.5.15(and really, only the part that relates to level and item changes). Ideally, I was thinking 1.5.11 with the boomerang fix. I would gladly take most other changes too, but I would assume this ideal instance would have to be a ‘quick fix’ (you could open a new portal to a zone pulling data from an old file) and I do not know if the game is set up like that. Thinking further, you could cover a lot of this ground simply by having a portal to “Old St. Paul”, and in this way level 50 characters would always have the option to fight higher level opponents again.

Thank you, I will pass this along. Now, clarifications to make this easier for those who get this forwarded:

  1. Could you point me to “when the abyss types were added in”? Identifying this change and its timing could be useful.
  2. Does this still occur now, after 1.5.17?

1.5.15 was almost entirely data-sided, and data tweaks should not have such effects - especially desync, which to my knowledge is a classic connection issue. Are you sure these did not begin with the server migration? The two were ~3 weeks apart, so especially by memory it’d be easy to confuse the two.
I’m not being pedantic here; identifying the proper suspects is crucial, or we’ll be endlessly looking into the wrong ones.
Also, is this issue global or specific to players from specific regions? Is there any other factor that’s shared among those players? I would assume this is a global occurrence, but to my knowledge it hasn’t been brought up so far so it might be isolated.

1.5.17 subjected them to a different damage formula, so as to prevent the issue (which was a byproduct of repairing whenhit novas on armor). So the issue should theoretically have been fixed in-between, hence the question.

I’ve searched through all patch notes and could not find any mention of such a change; all mentions of the skill only reference damage changes. Are you sure this happened during 2038, and was not how another version of the game handled the skill? And if so, could you direct me to related patch notes or provide a rough date of the change? Any time specificity would be useful in looking into this.

Selectively reverting data like that is most likely virtually impossible; the more likely way to handle such changes would be to manually change data again.
But still, this would not be a likely route; we’d have to also agree on the necessity for such changes, and we do not. It may not feel great to lack this challenge, but we stand by the decision to not have that artificial wall in place for everyone who does not like it - and there is an endgame until a proper challenge can be implemented.
I know this is not the answer you’re looking for, but even disregarding our own view of this we just can’t revert changes that were made due to player feedback. The moment we do we’ll be dissatisfying all the players who wanted said changes, so one group or the other will be unhappy. So, the proper way to handle this is to simply provide that missing challenge elsewhere when that’s possible - ergo, CS.

I believe abyss types were added in with 1.5.15. That is the only major patch I have been here for. Yes, this still occurs in 1.5.17. Item levels tend to cap in mid 50s instead of low-mid 60s.
The bugged and desynced enemies started happening for me right after 1.5.15 dropped, the week when it was raining uniques. I am playing from northeastern US region.
I suppose I am not sure what you mean by thunderstruck being ‘fixed’. If you intended to make it stronger than pre1.5.15, it is much much stronger. Thunderstruck type enemies nearly body some thick characters every week, including yesterday and today. In that sense it does not seem different than 1.5.15. If this is an intentional buff then players will adapt and overcome but it is clearly the biggest threat in hardcore right now, and orders of magnitude stronger than it was before. I’ve killed three characters since 1.5.15 dropped; all of them perished to this. I am not opposed to this or other enemy prefixes becoming stronger, but this one leads to some instant death situations that are less than gratifying.
I did not play any of these other heathen versions of hellgate, only the 2008cd-rom version. If you are saying that skullsplitter was this way in TCv4(using this term to assume your basic building block patch) then it must have been changed at the very end. I had never used a skullsplitter I could not lob until 2038.