Gameplay Balance

24 March 2021

Hi Explorers,

Welcome to our Dev Insights series where we share with you some of the behind-the-scenes thinking and planning that goes into the making of Scavengers.

Our newest Dev Insights blog takes an in-depth look at three key combat systems that affect gameplay balance and how strategic choices can help optimize your build for your playstyle. We also share interesting facts that you might not know about combat in Scavengers.

Read on and learn more from Wix, Game Designer at Midwinter.



Hello everyone! My name is Daniel Wiksten but people call me Wix so I don’t get confused with the tons of other Daniel and Dan’s we have here at Midwinter. I am a designer on Scavengers and today we will be talking a bit about gameplay balance.

I want to point out that we are getting ready for Early Access in late April, and still actively developing the game, so what I will talk about is subject to change or might not be in the game yet. Also, stick around for a quick list of “things you might not know” at the bottom.

So what does it mean for a game to be balanced?

When players are looking to exploit imbalances in the game, they will simply ask “what is the best thing in the game” and hope to use that same thing all the time since it is the obviously best thing. If a game has an interesting balance, then the answer to that question should be “well, it depends”. So for there to be balance the player needs to weigh multiple factors against each other. Heh! See what I did there… :)

Today we will be looking at combat balance specifically. The main factors that need to be considered in Scavengers for this are weapons, shields, and progression.

Alarm 4K (no watermark)

Weapons:

The first step of any expedition is to ensure that all teammates can be useful in a fight. This includes finding your first weapons and possibly sharing them with your team so that the weapons are put to use in the most effective way. Good teams ping weapons or talk about who needs what weapons. For starter weapons, three things are often considered: rarity, range and ammo.

Rarity

You might be tempted to think that a weapon with a higher rarity will always have significantly increased damage. This is most often not the case. Below are some of what we call “designer dials” that we crank on to make a weapon more interesting and have character instead of simply giving them a damage buff:

  • Fire rate: A higher fire rate means that hitting every shot is less critical. A high fire rate tends to be a bit more forgiving to poor aim. Of course, this often has an adverse effect on the recoil.
  • Magazine size: Firing more bullets before you have to reload can mean the difference between being able to drop an enemy before it attacks you or not. Even though big magazines generally have longer reload times, this still means you spend less time reloading per bullet fired. A really long reload can be dangerous if you do it at the wrong time though.
  • Scope magnification: This is an obvious benefit for most weapons, but it can also make it difficult to track targets at mid-range, and a high magnification scope leads to reduced situational awareness.
  • Accuracy: This increases the effectiveness of the weapon at longer ranges. Accuracy matters more for weapons with a high fire rate, but also for shotguns. For instance, the Boomstick (the blue Outlander shotgun) has a much tighter pellet spread that makes a big difference when engaging anything that is not within point-blank range.
  • Handling: How much does moving, jumping, reloading, or shooting from the hip affect the accuracy? A weapon with good handling will remain accurate even when performing lots of cool moves or shooting from the hip.
  • Recoil: Probably the most noticeable attribute of a weapon is how easy it is to control. Bipods reduce recoil significantly when crouched for instance. This makes a big difference especially for weapons with high fire rates.
  • Range: Increasing the damage falloff range can make the weapon more effective at range without making it stronger at close range.
  • Headshot Multiplier - This is a great way to make a weapon that rewards skill. This increases the payout of a carefully placed shot compared to shooting fast and loose.
  • Noise: A silent weapon will not mark you on the map of enemies (read more about this in the Information Warfare blog) and is excellent for ambushing or engaging enemy players that are already engaged in combat.
  • Damage Types: This will be expanded more on in future updates, but some damage types are more effective against certain targets, and they can also cause additional effects. More details on this to come later!
  • Extra Effects: Some special weapons have additional effects that can trigger when special conditions are met or sometimes randomly when dealing damage. These can be more extravagant effects that can give the weapon a whole new way to be used.

Generally speaking, a weapon of higher rarity will be better in some sense compared to others of the same weapon type. But it is up to you to figure out exactly what you need right now because the damage per second difference between rarities is not massive.

Range

Scavengers is set in a really big world and being able to engage at any range is essential. Many weapons have a very limited effective range (shotguns, SMGs) but have good damage output and are easy to use. Others (like sniper rifles) are more effective at very long range but require more skill to use. Try to ensure that all teammates have a weapon that can be effective at range. This is especially important if another team is starting to engage you from a distance. Communication is key here!

Ammo

An often overlooked aspect of weapons is the type of ammo they use. If possible, try to ensure that the two weapons you carry use different ammo types. That reduces the risk of you getting the “dead man’s click” and having no way to fight back. Bows and crossbows are a great backup weapon if you are low on ammo since arrows tend to be comparatively plentiful. They are also a great way to stay undetected since they are silent.

Shields:

There is never a downside to having stronger shields, however, they do come at a pretty hefty scrap cost. So the question is always… “when do I do it?”.

Likely, the most obvious decision you will need to make as a player is whether to upgrade your shield or build your weapon first. The outcome of this decision can depend on a multitude of things. Do you have a decent weapon yet? Are you expecting to fight players or AI? How much scrap do you have? What is your playstyle? Do you wait because you need to save up for a vehicle? Thinking about the answers to these questions can help you decide if it’s the right time to craft a shield.

Storm 4K (no watermark)

Progression:

As you do more and more expeditions, you will start to level up and eventually research new items for your loadout. There should be a balance between increasing a player’s power and also ensuring that high-level players do not automatically win every engagement (which is what you might see in an MMO). We do this by requiring a higher level within the session as well as more scrap before you can craft the higher rarity items and weapons.

As a player, you need to decide whether you are creating a build that favors early game capability (avoiding the need to rely on the randomness of scavenging weapons) or optimizing for late-game power (need to level-up and invest substantial scrap before your weapon can be crafted). Both are interesting strategic choices and perfectly viable in-game.

Our philosophy is that the benefits from leveling up fall under three categories: flexibility, consistency and power.

Flexibility

As you level up you will have access to more options (talents, weapons, items, etc) and are able to select items that fit your specific playstyle. Finding loadout options that work well together is an integral part of trying to find your unique way of playing each character. Don’t forget to make sure they work well with your team’s loadouts too. Consistency Feel like you are not finding a decent weapon when looting? By researching secondary weapons you will be able to sidestep the randomness of the world and reliably get the weapons that you need. Of course, anything you craft comes at a cost. For example, which one do you need more right now? Shields or that long-range rifle?

Power

Researching that cool, new and shiny signature weapon is an obvious power increase. However, not all of them come with an increase in damage output. Many of them will have some additional functionality that can help your team, such as converting enemy armor to scrap, regenerating shields after dealing damage, regaining stamina, etc. And others cause some additional damage effects, like slowdown, armor shredding, damage over time, and much more.

By comparison, the more basic signature weapons are nearly as effective but can be crafted earlier and cheaper. And sometimes, that can be the difference between getting a good head start or getting eliminated.

Summary:

If you made it this far you are no doubt ready for an expedition to the planet. I am sure you will make Mother proud.

We have many more features and cool items and weapons planned and coming to the game in the future. I feel we are just getting started, and we are really excited about getting your feedback and ideas for the future of Scavengers.

Here are some quick things you might not know when it comes to weapons and combat:

  • Outlander weapons are pieced together by scavenged parts and have worse handling than crafted Explorer weapons.
  • Some enemies have helmets and will only take bonus headshot damage once the helmet is destroyed.
  • Armored enemies take reduced damage while the armor is intact. Explosions shred armor twice as fast.
  • Scourge enemies can have weak spots other than the head.
  • Crouching reduces recoil and is really useful for firing auto weapons at mid or long-range.
  • Firing immediately after reloading makes the shot less accurate.
  • Drawing bows fully will make the arrow fly at a higher velocity (less drop and less leading the target - or aiming your weapon in front of a moving target - is needed) and also cause more damage. The draw power is indicated by the circle crosshair that shrinks while drawn.
  • Rapidly firing the bow can be a good tactic when enemies are really close but uses up a lot of arrows.
  • Be careful not to accidentally cancel your reloads by sprinting. If you are already sprinting and start to reload, the sprint will resume once completed. No need to press the sprint button again.
  • Reload while sliding not only looks cool but also does not slow you down like it does while sprinting.
  • You recover stamina while sliding, so do it at any chance you get.
  • Edged melee weapons cause some of its damage as bleed damage over time. Armored enemies are immune to bleed damage.

Until then, the best thing you can do is to ride, shoot straight and speak the truth! \m/



Got some thoughts you like to share about Gameplay Balance? Join in the discussion on our Discord and let us know what you think.

Stay tuned for more Dev Insights blogs to come and learn more about the making of Scavengers!

Keep Warm!

Midwinter

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