Hello Slayers, and welcome to the first State of Dauntless Reddit post. The goal of these posts will be to highlight what we’re currently working on and what issues are on our radar. These posts will let us explore and communicate new features, bug fixes, and improvements. This is also a valuable opportunity to see if our perceptions align with yours, so please, don’t hold back in the comments below.

By now, you may have read the letter from our CEO, Jesse Houston. If you haven't, it's a great place to start, and I'll be revisiting some of those core topics here. Specifically, I’d like to call out these three paragraphs on community concerns:

Power Creep

We're aware of the power creep that stems from Escalation power and resistance bonuses. Managing this effect is a priority for our design team, and you can expect to see incremental adjustments in patches through the end of the year. More significant changes — for example, eliminating Escalation bonuses outside of Escalation, putting a cap on those bonuses, or introducing a nerf — are currently being discussed, but won't be rolled out until we have a clear plan. Expect that we’ll share more on this, and seek feedback, in the near future.

Meta

The cells we introduced to challenge the low-life meta (e.g. Tenacious) are just the first step toward shifting the current meta. Increasing the number of viable builds for end-game players is an important part of Dauntless' future, as is further adjustments to the war pike (e.g. through tuning the Wound mechanic). Bottom line: We’re taking steps to ensure that a single build or weapon class does not dominate the meta.

Trials

We know that Trials needs more love, and we plan on returning to this hunt type in early 2021. We’re currently heads-down on other features, but once Hunting Grounds and our new progression systems have launched, we plan on giving Trials the attention it deserves. As we mentioned in the Power Creep section, we’re currently working on a solution to the Escalation power spillover that's been impacting Trial times.

I want to reiterate this important part: We are aware of these points of friction, and we plan to revisit them once we get 1.5.0 out the door and into your hands. Right now, we are heads down on Hunting Grounds and all of our effort is going into making sure it’s the best it can possibly be at launch. Future Reddit posts will dig much deeper into the above topics, but for now, let’s focus on what we’re currently working on.

Hunting Grounds and Playtests

On a high level, here is what patch 1.5.0 will launch with in December:

  • New Hunt Type: Hunting Grounds (which will replace Patrols and Pursuits)
  • 17 reworked islands for Hunting Grounds
  • 1 brand-new island for Hunting Grounds
  • Gliders
  • Island Events
  • Slayer’s Path progression system
  • Weapon XP and power surge system

You may notice that this doesn’t include a new Escalation. We plan to get this body of work out first, then deliver a new Escalation in a future update. The goal right now is to make sure that Dauntless Reforged launches in a polished state. We see Hunting Grounds and the 1.5.0 patch as a foundation and a container for future content -- think new Behemoths, islands, events, etc. We will continue to iterate on what is in Hunting Grounds in the months to come after launch.

Recently, we’ve been running internal and external playtests to nail down the design, pacing, and stability of this new hunt type in order to reach the above goal. Let’s dive into what we learned, yeah?

Why Playtests?

I chatted with Eric, our system designer on Hunting Grounds, and he had this to say:

“It's incredibly useful to have people playtesting our new features weeks or months before they are shipped in the live game. On top of that, we are able to join players on Discord and watch them streaming their game, so we get raw feedback directly and can see their live emotional reactions, both positive and negative, to our design decisions. When players have a visceral reaction to gliding around islands and are clearly enjoying the experience, it really gives us confidence that we are on the right track. When players are bored or confused, it's a clear sign that we have some work to do in those areas."

“I loved seeing the first reactions to gliders. We've had so much fun playing around with these and it was awesome to see players finding new paths around the islands and pushing the bounds of this new traversal mechanic. I also really enjoyed seeing the richer island experience with fauna and multiple Behemoths and how that emergent gameplay impacted how players engaged with the game.”

The bottom line, these tests don’t just help expose points of friction, they help us validate our decisions. Judging by players’ reactions, we know we’re on to something here.

Listening to Feedback

“The high level goal of playtests from a developer's perspective is to allow us to watch players interact with our features and validate some of the decisions that we've made,” says Greg, a senior designer on the project. “Most of that can be achieved through observation and listening to feedback after the playtest.” All of your feedback helps us understand this new hunt type. If something is too easy or too hard, or if a feature is difficult to understand, we’ll find out early in the development process.

Asking Questions

Our combat designer, Justin, was using the playtests to get insights on these questions:

Are the new revive and danger systems providing the appropriate guidance to players fighting Behemoths below/at/above their skill and equipment level?

Are players able to understand the difference between being in and out of combat, and do the controls function in the way they would expect them to in those states?

How often are players using supply crates, and what are they using them for (healing, restocking, changing loadouts)?

Looking at the feedback has shown us a lot on these topics, and we’re finding out more and more each day.

We’re still combing through the feedback, but it’s safe to say you have all been tremendous with helping us understand how actual players will engage with Hunting Grounds.

Data

I took some time to chat to Elena who is our in-house UX researcher. She helped me understand how we’re looking at data outside of feedback. “Playtesting lets us see first-hand how players react to our work and identify points of friction,” she said. “Do they notice the things we want them to notice, get excited about the things we want them to get excited for? And if not, why not? This information helps us identify problems and possible solutions."

“We can tell a lot just by the way users play! Telemetry can show us how many people tried the experiment, how long they played, and how they spent that time. This can reveal possible problem areas that need further investigation.”

She also had some interesting takeaways from the most recent tests. “One thing I didn't expect to see was the number of folks who had fun just watching people. It's something I've discovered over and over again as a researcher: Nothing is more entertaining to humans than other humans.”

She also found that players really enjoyed roaming fauna. “I was worried players would find the roaming fauna annoying since they didn't have any loot set up yet, but to my surprise the response was very positive! Players who liked immersion and lore enjoyed discovering non-Behemoth creatures in the world, and players who liked excitement and action enjoyed having something to beat up between big fights. I think it's definitely something we need to keep working on, but it was good to see that the basic idea is sound.”

Data also shows that players are enjoying the game mode more and more with each test we run. Here’s some data comparing our first playtest to the second.

Numbers and stuff and things!

The Future

We’ve put a lot of effort into setting up a foundation for future testing with Dauntless Experimental. The goal isn’t to just improve Dauntless in the near future, but for the entirety of its future development. “Now that we've run a few playtests, we've solidified our technology and process for the Experimental branch and worked out all the kinks,” says Eric. “We also have our feedback process in place and the devs are now used to getting regular feedback from players during these tests, so we can very quickly set up a new version of the game, test specific features, and get instant feedback from the community.”

So on behalf of the entire team, thank you all so much for taking part in these tests. It’s really helping us develop this new and exciting hunt type. Hunting Grounds represents our best thinking over the past year, and we’re currently heads down on tuning this all up to get it out the door in December in our 1.5.0 patch. These tests have just shown a small portion of what will be in Dauntless Reforged, and we can’t wait to get further feedback on our progression changes.

The next State of Dauntless post will be about progression and solo queues since these are both hot topics right now.

Until then, happy hunting and clear skies!

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