We’d like to thank all of you who took part in the latest Scavengers Technical Playtest! We received an amazing response, and a wealth of great feedback from everyone who participated. Your input helps us gain a better understanding of the player experience, and is essential to the continued development and evolution of Scavengers.
Below we’ve highlighted a handful of topics we gathered from your feedback and outlined what we’ll be doing next to improve these aspects of the game.
By far the most common theme throughout the feedback was the lack of clarity when it comes to the goal of the match. It was not clear to some players what their goal was, how they could achieve it, or where they needed to go to find it. Many factors contributed to this general lack of clarity: shared scoring between teams, the dissonance between that scoring system and the focus on PvP, navigational challenges, and issues with objective recognition.
We’re testing a change to the game mode that provides a more straightforward competitive scoring system. With this change each team will have an individual score target that they are competing to achieve.
In addition to adjusting the scoring system, this will minimize the dissonance of PvP in the experience and make for a more overt sense of competition. There will also be improvements to how the game signposts the location of objectives in the world to players. This includes refining the map to make the location of objectives clearer, while the ability to place a HUD marker (aka “blipper”) on the nearest objective(s) would lead players to these encounter destinations.
Finally, we plan to do more to showcase objective interactions and scoring within the HUD. The current Keeper harvesting and interaction overlays are confusing and often overlap other important information, making it difficult to parse what is going on in the game.
Many players stumbled into higher level encounters early in the match when they lacked the equipment and capabilities to take on Elite-tier Outlanders. These encounters naturally felt unbalanced and too difficult. This may also have led players to exhaust their early ammo supply as these enemies soak up a ton of damage when using base-tier weapons.
As we’re still in early development, we are continuing to tune the challenge level for AI encounters to achieve a better sense of balance and progression. We will focus on clearly communicating the difficulty of encounters so that players are making an intentional choice when they take on tougher enemies. Encounter difficulty should be communicated through the map (represent difficulty level of major encounters), the HUD (while entering encounter zones and targeting individual enemies) and audio (musical stingers).
We want to further differentiate each of the survival mechanics.
We are exploring improvements to Hunger (shifting to treat more like stamina), Cold (tying cold status to maximum health replenishment), and Infection (passively replenishing to address the lack of in-world solutions). We will also focus on better representation of each survival mechanic in the HUD, enabling players to clearly identify each meter and understand what it means.
Finally, we are considering highlighting in-world objects when the player is in a critical survival state, so they are able to identify the tools necessary to solve their immediate dilemma (eg: mark a fire when freezing to death).
During the latest playtest the map displayed the precise location of all players in the game, except when covered by storms. This feature was added to help players find one another in our large open environment and increase the frequency of PvP conflict. It also gives players engaged in PvE encounters information about approaching PvP threats to reduce the number of unexpected ambushes in the game. A number of players commented on how the current implementation doesn’t feel right.
We are exploring changes to this system that provide intermittent and less precise updates on player locations on the map. Player locations would register on the map and fade out over time until re-registered at consistent intervals. In addition, players would register when firing non-silent weapons and when initiating a Keeper harvest action at an objective site. With these changes in place, concealment will be possible through storms, special items/abilities and in the case of weapon fire, by using silent weapons like the bow.
Communication is vitally important in Scavengers and when you can’t communicate effectively with your team, it has a negative impact on the experience. In the latest playtest, players reported a number of issues with voice chat. This included inconsistent functionality (voice chat failing to initiate or cutting out intermittently) and the fact that the game defaulted players to an open mic without giving them the opportunity to confirm. For players who do not wish to use voice, we currently have limited options for communication.
There will be continued improvements and consistency to the voice chat support. We are considering introducing an initial “core settings” menu when starting the game, so players aren’t thrown into open chat without first verifying that this is something they want. In future, text chat will be added as an additional form of communication on PC. Additionally, we will continue to expand the ping system to include more specific commands and support these with character speech.
Some players have requested proximity voice chat as an additional way to communicate in the game. We feel the benefits of this feature are limited, particularly as we focus on a more competitive relationship between opposing teams in the game. In our experience, proximity chat introduces toxic and abusive behavior, which we strongly wish to avoid. For this reason, we will not be supporting proximity chat in Scavengers, instead focusing on improving the communication options for teammates in game.
Feedback on PvP was split between players who either wanted to see more or instead preferred less encounters in the world (ie: more focus on a pure PvE experience). Our goal is to promote PvP and competition within a hostile living environment filled with dynamic PvE encounters. As mentioned earlier, there is a dissonance in our current game mode scoring system. Since players depend on one another to complete the shared goal, engaging in PvP undermines the success of all teams and this feels wrong to many players. We will be switching our game mode to test individual team scoring, which will remove the conflict between completing the shared objective and the desire to PvP. Players will still need to cooperate to survive within their teams, but they will no longer be implicitly allied with other teams in the game. This will make competition more clear and direct.
Players will still be able to win the game without engaging in direct PvP conflict, but we won’t be focusing on a purely cooperative approach to playing the game. Additionally, we may choose to offer cooperative PvE-focused modes as time-limited events once the game is live, but it’s not the core of the Scavengers experience.
A heightened emphasis on PvP will require better balance between characters. We’ll be continuing to tune this within our PvP testbed and internal playtests over the next couple of months.
Performance issues factored heavily into player feedback from PT4 as a number of players reported a lower than expected framerate. We have made progress in this area over the past few months, but we still have a long way to go.
We need to provide more consistent performance across the game, including for lower spec machines. This requires tight collaboration between content and engineering and becomes more straightforward as we lock down content and systems so that we can focus on optimization. There is no silver bullet here; performance optimization results from continued hard work and focus from everyone on the team. Rest assured this is a priority for us and you will see consistent improvement from now until the launch of Scavengers.
We’re aiming for our next playtest to take place in February 2020. Stay tuned for more info on the specific date and times!