Constructive Community Feedback about U34

4 months ago

Hey everyone, it's another blog post from MeatShield. However, this one is going to be pretty different from my normal style. While I generally prefer to write about DRG's game mechanics, weapons, and various statistics, today I'm writing about Update 34. For anyone reading this post in the future, here's a brief timeline of what's happened so far:

  1. GSG announced on April 8th, 2021 that Update 34 would have basic Modding Support, Elite enemies, and a major weapon balance pass
  2. GSG opened up the Experimental build of U34 to the public on April 13th
  3. Based on the feedback during U34XP, GSG changed what they had in mind for Modding Support on April 15th, and then on April 19th they postponed Modding Support until "U34.5".
  4. U34 was released on April 22nd, and for the past few days there has been a lot of grumbling, discontent, and complaints from a moderately-sized portion of the playerbase (maybe 10-15%?). It's on the subreddit, in various Discord servers I'm in, and even word-of-mouth from some people on my friends lists.

To the best of my knowledge, this is the first update that has had so much negative feedback in such a short period of time. Rather than just sit back and let the community fracture and divide itself over the changes, I'm choosing to get involved. I want to engage with people, understand the actual issues behind the complaints, and then consolidate those issues into constructive feedback for GSG. Although I can't do anything directly, I'd rather take a shot at helping to identify what people are unhappy about than leave GSG in the lurch.

On Friday night I publicly posted a survey link in several DRG Discord servers: DRG Community Tools, DRG Modding Community, Karl News Network, USteppin's, and Rabid Scotsman's. In the 42 hours following, I recieved a total of 54 responses and followed up on 26 of them via DMs. This blog post is the results of those survey responses, the dozens of follow-up questions I asked in DMs, and a heavy interpretation of both raw data as well as the major themes running through all the feedback on various topics.

Disclaimer: this feedback is not representative of my personal opinions about Update 34. This is primarily my interpretation and summary of other people's opinions.

Major Themes

Lack of information

For the majority of the playerbase, it sounds like mods were "the bogeyman" of DRG -- lots of tall tales and anecdotes about how a modded lobby ruined their progression or how they played the game. No way to know what mods existed, or when you would encounter someone using mods in public lobbies. Due to the lack of actual knowledge about the DRG Modding community, the common misperception was that "mods = cheats". Because GSG had a long standing policy of not officially endorsing mods for DRG and preventing them from being discussed on the public platforms, there was no real way for the playerbase as a whole to actually know what most of the mods actually are for -- cosmetic changes like changing sound files or adding beards to Glyphid Grunts, QoL changes like improving Molly's AI, higher difficulty modes for veterans looking for a challenge beyond Hazard 5, and even more!

On the flip side of the coin, the modding community as a whole was waiting with baited breath for U34XP -- with the exception of a couple individuals, they had no idea what GSG had mind for U34's modding support. GSG hadn't announced what their new stance would be towards mods, what guidelines they would want the mods to abide by, or what roles they expected mods to play in the game. The first idea of what GSG had in mind for mods didn't arrive until U34XP, after GSG had already implemented their first draft of modding support.

Suggestion: enable and promote ways to share knowledge with the playerbase and let them share with each other about more aspects of the game (mods in particular)

Lack of communication

Before U34XP arrived, all that we were told was the content they wanted to add (modding support, elite enemies, balance pass, etc). After U34 arrived on the 22nd, all that we've been told so far is what was added or changed. However, a lot of the responses to the survey indicate that the playerbase also wants to know why GSG made those additions and changes. What is GSG mainly concerned about for mods that led to the creation of forced split-savefiles at the beginning? What issues was GSG trying to address by adding Elite enemies? What was the reasoning behind all the balance changes if not just based on pickrate?

I am aware that GSG was in contact with a few individuals during the time leading up to U34XP regarding various facets of the update, and that they have a group of Community Testers who get access to pre-XP builds. However, GSG requested that they not talk about what content they have access to, and that prevented (and in some cases is still preventing) those individuals from talking about the future content with everyone else.

By only presenting the playerbase with the changes themselves and no contextual explanation of what's behind the changes, it makes everyone speculate wildly. This led to a lot of players to presume that the weapon balance changes were only based on something being overpicked, which caused a lot of ire. More on that in the Weapon Balance Changes section.

Suggestions:

Although GSG certainly doesn't need to inform the entire playerbase about every decision they make, communicate more often and further in advance.

  • Add some comments about goals for each update's announcement, in addition to what content is planned
  • Engage with more of the community during research and development phase, perhaps through public surveys? It doesn't need to be 1,000 DMs, just some way to let players use their voice and be heard
  • Add contextual comments to updates' patch notes (preferably through a blog post released at the same time) so that the playerbase isn't left guessing why certain decisions were made
  • Maybe be less restrictive on what the Community Testers and other individuals can share? If community members could at least provide some outlines of changes GSG has in mind (if not the exact changes themselves), it would mean less work that GSG has to do themselves to spread information to the playerbase

Lack of time

Several of the survey responses mentioned that U34 felt rushed. I'm under the impression that GSG has been working on U34 since U33's hotfixes ended, if not even a little before then, so I think the survey responses have been equivocating "incompleteness" with "rushed". GSG has had a long-standing tradition of working on the next update for a long stretch, a 2-to-3 week Experimental phase, and then 2-to-4 weeks of Hotfixes after the update. It seems that an unfortunate effect of that production cycle is that the playerbase sees the mostly-finished content on launch day and gets to the completed content on the last Hotfix.

Additionally, there was only a couple days that players were able to try out U34XP changes and provide feedback that GSG could implement before launch date. Although U34 was intended to be a small update, it generated a lot of feedback that I don't think GSG was prepared for in such a short Experimental phase. Instead of being able to resolve the few bugs that were anticipated, it feels like their time during U34XP was eaten up by trying to get Modding Support into a better state.

Suggestion: change the production cycle to have a 6-week Experimental period, and try to only add 3 Hotfixes or fewer afterwards.

The current production cycle was established before I started playing the game, but I think Update 34 is where it needs to change. I think that both the quality and reception of future updates would improve dramatically if it changed to something more like a 6 week Experimental period. This longer experimental time would give them more time to get players' feedback, react to the changes requested, locate more of the bugs before launch, and all in all improve the experience of everyone who either doesn't try the experimental release or just downright can't (like Xbox players).

Modding Support

Although Modding Support been pushed back to be its own mini-update labeled "U34.5", I still think that it's worth talking about in this blog post. I already mentioned it in the Major Theme: Lack of Information, but GSG had a long-standing policy of discouraging players from discussing mods on the official Discord or the subreddit. With Update 34 officially recognizing mods as part of the game, there's going to be a significant uptick in mod usage and creation in the near future.

When U34XP.0 arrived on the 13th, the first draft of modding support arrived too. GSG's original idea was to force any player who used any mods to create a copy of their vanilla savefile that would be used exclusively for modded gameplay. As a result, any progression unlocked on the modded savefile would not be mirrored back to the vanilla savefile. That created a lot of frustration for pre-U34 mod users who didn't want to have to "lose progression" when reverting back to vanilla gameplay with their friends. After a couple of days of complaints from mod-users, GSG changed the savefile feature to be optional for mod users.

That created a new problem, though. By recognizing mods and supporting their use in-game, a lot of the vanilla-only players started complaining that they would be at risk of joining a modded lobby and having their progression unnaturally boosted, or modded players would join their games and ruin the sense of challenge and fun with cheating upgrades. Ultimately, GSG decided to postpone adding Modding Support until they can decide what the best solution is.

In the survey, I asked participants to summarize their position about mods in DRG. 90.7% of responses approved of GSG officially recognizing mods, but only 33.3% wanted GSG to be directly involved in regulating or restricting mods. Here are some of the major themes I was able to identify based on feedback during the XP period, responses to the survey, and the follow-up DM conversations I had:

Agency

Both camps desire to have agency over how they play the game. People who want a vanilla experience want to be able to see if someone is hosting a lobby with mods, or if someone using mods joins their lobby, and then decide if they want to engage with a modded experience. People who use mods to enhance their game want to be able to choose what mods they use without being penalized as if they're cheating. Things like cosmetic mods (changing how things look or sound) and most of the "quality of life" mods (QoL) have no impact on how the game actually plays for either the mod user or players in the same lobby, but the original implementation would have treated it as if it was a XP or Credit booster mod.

The original idea removed agency from the mod-users, and the second idea didn't provide the necessary agency for the vanilla players, so I think GSG made the right call to push it back for a couple weeks.

Expectations

Tying back to the Major Theme: Lack of Communication, the playerbase has no idea what expectations GSG has for mods. Before U34 they were more or less "black market goods", and the modding scene has been as unregulated as the Wild West. Because GSG hasn't published a blog post outlining what kind of mods they're excited to see, what mods they want to encourage, what mods they want to prevent or discourage, or any kind of information like that, it has left the playerbase guessing how GSG actually feels about mods. The original idea of forced savefile duplication was perceived as if every mod was a form of cheating that was supposed to have a negative incentive associated with using them.

People who have no experience with mods don't know what they're capable of, and don't know what mods are out there. That lack of knowledge coupled with GSG's previous embargo about mods led to fearing mods. Most of that fear is unjustified, but it seems to be there nonetheless. Tying in with Major Theme: Lack of Information, the expectations of vanilla players were far off the mark.

Finally, mod creators and users have no idea what expectations they should have for the future of mods. There's a lot of trepidation about making new mods, several of the more obvious "cheat" mods have already been removed from the repository by their creators, and there's an air of anxiety about being punished for having mods in your game.

All three major camps (GSG, vanilla players, and mod users) have their own expectations of what's going to happen, but almost no idea how the other two parties feel. We need to come together as a community, and align on what to expect for the future of mods. In my opinion, I believe that GSG should be the ones to spearhead that effort.

Suggestions

Communicate what GSG has in mind for mods

  • What mods GSG is excited to see added to the game
  • What guidelines GSG would prefer modders to follow
  • What interactions between vanilla and modded players GSG wants to prevent or avoid

Develop better-defined categories for mods

  • "Allowed for Vanilla": All Cosmetic mods, most QoL (like Speedometer)
  • "Requires Modded Lobby": Gameplay-affecting mods (gameplay changes, weapon balancing, difficulty enhancements, AI behavior, etc), other QoL stuff that has to be host-side
  • "Requires new Savefile": XP or Credit-boosting mods, giving all upgrades, intentionally unbalanced weapon changes, etc

Work with the modding community to develop a renown or trust system that all players can use

  • Communicate with the modding community as a whole, instead of only a few individuals.
  • Trust the mod creators to use the correct category for their mod, and trust the modding community to remove incorrectly tagged mods and deal with the creators accordingly
  • Develop a third-party Risk of Rain 2 kind of "storefront" website that lets all players browse and sort through what mods are available and try whatever they want (more knowledge translates into less fear)
  • Track the number of downloads and number of upvotes for each mod on the website to let players know which ones are trusted and well-liked
  • Let community members be moderators on that website to offload the responsiblity of maintenance from GSG
  • Sort by highest number of downloads, by highest number of upvotes, by creator, by mod category and/or sub-category, etc
  • Create a reporting system on the website that anyone can use to flag a mod as using the incorrect category and notify the moderators

Enable players' agency

  • Let all players see which lobbies in the Server List are modded and which are vanilla
  • Potentially develop tech to let the Esc Menu show what mods all players in the lobby have active
  • Let vanilla players or "Allowed for Vanilla" mod users join any lobby and use their normal savefile (requires trust that this category of mods will never affect other players in the lobby)
  • Prevent players using "Requires Modded Lobby" mods from joining vanilla lobbies but they can still use their normal savefile (requires trust that this category of mods will preserve progression integrity)
  • If anyone tries to host or join a lobby using "Requires new Savefile" mods, then make them use the new savefile feature to preserve the progression integrity. This way people can still use those cheaty mods if they want to artificially advance their progress or make the game a cakewalk, but there's no risk for other players who don't want to partake. There's no way to actually prevent people from cheating in DRG, so if we provide an official way for them to cheat to their heart's content without disrupting other players, the rest of mod users won't have to be treated as cheaters too.

Elite Enemies

One of the questions in the survey was "Do you think GSG had a reason to add Elite enemies?". The resounding answer was 77.8% "yes", but there was a wide spectrum of guesses about what that reason was:

  • Making the game more difficult?
  • Adding variety to the combat loop?
  • Countering the overperforming strategies?
  • Other games have elites?

This all ties into Major Theme: Lack of Communication. Because GSG added the Elites with no context of what purpose they're supposed to serve, as a community we have no clue why they're in the game. They're a decently cool concept (albeit still in need of a little tuning), but because they were added without explanation we don't know where they're supposed to fit into the combat puzzle. They're extremely tanky ("bullet sponges"), impossible to Stun, and very difficult to Freeze or Ignite for longer than a moment. This has led to a frustrating and non-interactive experience for players while fighting Elite enemies, where they take a lot of ammo to kill and there's very few ways to inflict Crowd Control (Slows and Fear).

Current Elite stat boosts

I got in contact with Banagement and asked him to extract the current values of Elites' stat boosts as of U34.1. He obliged, and here's the results:

  • Global value StunDurationMultiplier set to 0 (means that even if a Stun procs, it has no duration and therefore no effect)
  WarmingRate UnFreezeTemperature TemperatureChangeScale AttackSpeed MovementSpeed Damage Resistance Elemental Resistance
Glyphid Grunt 100 -150 0.01 x10 x1.3 0.25 0.25
Glyphid Guard 100 -400 0.05 x2 x1.15 0.2 0.25
Glyphid Slasher 200 0 0.0125 x10 x1.5 0.15 0.25
Glyphid Warden         x1.5 0.4 0.1
Glyphid Praetorian 100 -150 0.1   x1.5 0.5 0.25
Glyphid Oppressor 100 -100 0.1   x1.25 0.5 0.25
Glyphid Acid Spitter 200 0 0.025 x2 x1.3 0.15 0.25
Glyphid Web Spitter 200 0 0.025 x2 x2 0.2 0.25
Glyphid Menace 200 0 0.05 x2 x1.5 0.6 0.25
Glyphid Bulk Detonator 100 -200 0.25 x3 x2.15 0.75 0.25
Mactera Spawn 100 0 0.1 x5 x10 0.175 0.25
Mactera Brundle 100 0 0.05 x3 x3 0.3 0.25
Mactera Tri-Jaw 100 0 0.1 x5 x4 0.2 0.25
Mactera Goo Bomber       x5 x2 0.1 0.1
Mactera Grabber 100 0 0.1 x3 x5 0.4 0.25
Q'ronar Shellback       x2 x1.25 0.3 0.1
Q'ronar Youngling         x1.25 0.1 0.1

I've done a couple of tests on Elites, and it appears that all incoming damage gets multiplied by the DamageResistance, and if any of it is elemental (like Fat Boy's radiation field, Flamethrower, etc) it gets multiplied again by [1.0 - ElementalResistance]. This means that Elites range from Glyphid Menace's x1.67 eHP all the way to Mactera Goo Bomber's x10 eHP, not accounting for the additional Elemental Resistances.

Gameplay Effects preferred over Stat Boosts

One of the major themes that ran through the responses and DM conversations was that rather than fighting a stat-boosted version of the normal enemy, it would be better if Elite enemies added new gameplay effects. Similar to how the Oppressor has its Rage Quake and Roar attacks instead of spraying acid like a Praetorian, there's a variety of other gameplay effects that Elites could use in order to shake up gameplay and interact with players in a different way than the base enemies do. One of the survey responses even highlighted a Reddit post with a whole slew of mechanics already in the game that could be added to Elite enemies and gives examples of how they could be used.

Suggestions

Despite the intial reaction to Elite enemies, there's still hope. 94.4% of responses indicated that with the proper changes, Elite enemies could become a good addition to the game. Here are some constructive ideas on how to improve them:

  • Communicate why GSG added Elite enemies to the game. If we understand the intention behind them, then it will be easier for us to gauge interacting with Elites and assess if they're fulfulling their purpose.
  • Reduce their effective HP. No one was able to suggest proper numbers, but my intuition leads me to think that lowering eHP multiplier range to [x1.4, x2] would be a good place to start and then tweak numbers from there.
  • Increase the interactivity of fighting Elite enemies. In particular: change the StunDurationMultiplier from 0 to 0.2 so that they can be stunned for 1/5 duration, and change the TemperatureChangeScale values to be no less than 0.2 or somewhere around there. This would still make them take more Cold to Freeze and more Heat to Ignite, but it would be achievable in a reasonable amount of time and ammo. This would restore the feeling of agency while fighting them instead of just an unstoppable and non-responsive enemy.
  • If possible, add some gameplay effects to them to make them more of a threat to the player without necessarily making them deal more damage or just attack faster.

I agree with the sentiment that Elites could be changed into a great addition to the combat puzzle, and I think what they are right now is just the "ground floor", so to speak. Ghost Ship Games has a good track record so far, so I'm optimistic that Elites will be changed into something more of the playerbase will enjoy.

Weapon Balance Changes

Although it may not seem like it with how loud the complaints about weapon balance are, the survey seemed to indicate an overall approval of U34's balance changes. 63% indicated the balance pass was mostly good with only a couple mistakes, 22.2% indicated that it was a mix of good and bad, and only 14.8% indicated an overall disapproval of the balance changes.

Communication strongly desired

Once again, the Major Theme: Lack of Communication rears its head. There was significant frustration about favorite upgrades being nerfed instead of having the alternatives buffed to be competitive. It's difficult for players to understand why the development team made it harder for them to play the game with no comments explaining why the changes happened. In particular, it seems that many of the participants have their sights set on a higher difficulty setting than GSG has in mind. Because of how effective certain build combinations were, they were overperforming and making Hazard 5 trivial and Hazard 6/7 viable. Because they enjoyed that content, reducing their ability to play that way with no context was a very frustrating experience.

One of the most common complaints listed was that "GSG only nerfed things based on pickrate". Because I'm not a developer at GSG I can't definitively say one way or the other, but my suspicion is that far more went into U34's balance changes than only pickrate. However, because there has been no contextual comments about the nerfs there's no way to disprove that claim. Something I would like to point out to everyone reading this: players tend to equip the most effective upgrades the most often, which means that nerfing something based on overperformance also usually means nerfing something that's extremely popular too. Please keep that in mind instead of just complaining that GSG is only using pickrate to select what things need nerfing.

I think one of the biggest steps GSG can do to mitigate the frustration of players who had their favorite build nerfed is to communicate what they want each weapon's "power level" to be. Even just mentioning that a particular Mod, Overclock, or combination exceeds a desired power level for the weapon would help, without even needing to specify what the power level is. Just... something to communicate why the nerf is happening so that people don't immediately jump to the conclusion that it's exclusively pickrate-driven.

Cryo Cannon and "Perfectly Tuned Cooler"

Overall, participants generally approved of Perfectly Tuned Cooler getting nerfed in some form, but I was struck by a major theme that kept resurfacing in the feedback: many of them mentioned that the Frozen status effect is what unbalanced the Cryo Cannon. In particular, its ability to halt enemies in their tracks and make them take 3x Direct Damage from all sources. By letting Cryo Cannon inflict Frozen on enemies so quickly, it doesn't matter how much or how little damage it does; it only matters how quickly it can freeze enemies and how many times. As a result, ammo stacking will always be the most effective strategy and Tuned Cooler will still be one of the strongest Overclocks regardless of its penalties. The PTC nerf helped address a symptom, but I think that a major rework is required in order to solve the underlying problems.

EPC "Thin Containment Field"

What is the core issue behind TCF?

In my opinion: the core gameplay loop is. Fighting enemies is fun, traversing terrain is fun, doing objectives can be fun, but mining minerals is... less fun. There are lots of ways to see the edges of this issue -- veterans skipping gold veins because it's not worth the time investment, greenbeards pressing the "Call Drop Pod" button on Molly once they hit the Morkite quota instead of exploring the remaining cave, players calling it "staring at the wall", and most visibly of all: the TCF debate. I've talked at length with outspoken advocates of TCF mining, and the best way its been described is probably how Milligin put it: TCF rewards your skill with the ability to exchange weapon ammo for time saved and minerals.

By letting players significantly reduce the time spent on the "mundane" parts of the game (gathering minerals, mining Oil Shale for refueling), TCF lets people get back to doing the "fun" parts again (namely combat and objectives). From the other classes' perspective, this one upgrade lets Drillers do the fun things more often and interact with the mundane as little as possible, and it's a shortcut that they don't have access to. All the other classes have to walk up the mineral veins and start whacking away at it with their pickaxe. Once viewed through the perspective of "letting Drillers skip mundane mining", the rest of the debate comes into focus: Scouts aren't complaining that they want to be relegated to fetching high-up mineral veins with Engineer platforms, their complaint is that they have to first put in the time to get to the vein (optionally waiting for an Engineer to platform it first), mine it out manually, and the whole time they're in danger of being attacked by bugs crawling on the wall or ceiling and being downed in an extremely-hard-to-access position. Scouts take pride in being able to help the team by reaching those minerals and fetching them, and putting themselves in danger to do it. When a TCF Driller comes along they just pop the mineral vein from the ground, pick up the minerals, and go on their merry way. Less danger, less time, and using a fun skill-based mechanic of a weapon instead of their pickaxe. Complaints about how quickly Drillers can clear a cave of mineral veins aren't complaining that it's being done too fast, but that they want to do it that fast too. I don't think many players actively enjoy mining out Morkite or Nitra instead of shooting bugs, but it's a burden that everyone shares equally... except TCF Drillers.

In addition to providing a shortcut past mining, TCF also does a lot of damage in combat but that's much easier to balance numerically. Its Heat per Charged Shot and Heat per Regular Shot boosts are convenient, but not really the core issues either. The debate around pro-TCF vs anti-TCF has always revolved around the mining aspect, but I don't know if anyone has taken the time to think through why it's the core issue.

Looking through the lens of "mining shortcut", it's also easy to see why pro-TCF players are so upset about the minerals flying around: TCF was changed from a shortcut into a transmutator. Instead of spending the time mining, they now have to spend the time walking around the cave to achieve the same result. On the other hand, it's easy to see why anti-TCF players see it as a good change; now TCF users have to spend the same amount of time collecting minerals that they do.

What are some solutions?

Frankly, I think there's only one solution that would actually solve the core issue: either make mining faster, or more fun to perform. There are some crazy ideas about how to do it, ranging from increasing the pickaxe's carving radius to making every mineral vein break in 1-3 pickaxe hits anywhere on the vein depending on its size. However it gets changed, I think drastically reducing the time spent mining will resolve a lot of the gripes with TCF. For Drillers, it allows them to do it from range but it's no longer a shortcut to bypass a mechanic of the game.

With that being said, I don't think GSG would actually go for that kind of solution. It seems like they intended for mining minerals to be a kind of "down time" between combat encounters -- sort of a soothing rhythm to calm your heart rate. If they're looking for some other ideas that maintain the current design paradigm of both pickaxe mining and TCF mining, here are a couple of ideas that might help:

  • Now that Charged Shots don't instantly overheat the EPC by default, it should be possible to split the damage component and the mining component into two separate mods. T5.B could be the 240 Fire-element Area Damage in a 3m radius, and T5.C could become the ability to carve terrain in a 3m radius. By uncoupling the mining effect from the damage effect, now GSG would be able to balance each effect independently. If it's doing too much damage, they can reduce the damage of T5.B. If it's too efficient at mining, they can increase the ammo cost of T5.C or reduce its carving radius. I'm not sure what would happen to Plasma Burn; really the only slot available left would be at T2.C in competition with Heat Shield and Overcharged Plasma Accelerator.
  • If splitting the damage and mining capabilities is too drastic of a change, there are a variety of other things that GSG could do instead of making TCF throw minerals around the room: (pick one or more)
    • Move x0.8 Heat per Regular Shot from TCF to Plasma Burn
    • Change its damage from a flat 240 to instead do 2.5x the listed Charged Shot Area Damage (60 -> 150, 75 -> 187.5, 90 -> 225)
    • Change its radius from a flat 3m to instead match the radius of the normal Charged Shot
  • The latter two changes would be aimed at nerfing TCF's full-ammo build, but it would let people pick up the damage upgrades to restore most of its damage or the radius upgrade to restore its current radius. This would also let Overcharger be usable to increase TCF's damage or radius beyond what it already is (but not both at the same time).
  • Potentially revert the minerals scattering on explosive mining if some other changes are made instead?

EPC "Heat Pipe"

Heat Pipe enjoyed an immensely high usage rate in the past few patches because of its extreme synergy with Charged Shot builds, and by extension Thin Containment Field. In an attempt to encourage players to use other Overclocks, it had a pretty major nerf by changing its penalty of x1.5 Heat per Regular Shot to two new penalties: x2 Heat per Charged Shot and x2 Heat generated while holding a Charged Shot. By making this change, many of the participants feel that it just forced from from using Heat Pipe all the time to just using Energy Rerouting instead. By reducing the time before the EPC overheats while holding a Charged Shot from 0.5 seconds (baseline) to 0.25 seconds (without T2.A "Heat Shield"), it makes it very hard to use without Overheating as host and nearly impossible as client. It effectively negated the baseline change of letting all Charged Shots be fired without Overheating, which turned Heat Pipe into something that felt bad to use. Many of the responses indicated that reducing or even removing the extra Heat generation while holding a Charged Shot penalty would go a long way to making Heat Pipe feel better to use.

PGL & Platform Gun now adding player's velocity to projectiles' velocities

This is one of the more controversial changes made, and it's not even technically a weapon balance change. 55.8% of the responses approved of the changes, 44.2% disapproved. Many of the comments suggest keeping this change for the Platform Gun to help save from fall damage more reliably, but to confine this change to only affect OC "RJ250 Compound". That way players like ZazyMomba can keep using RJ250 to its fullest extent, but players who use PGL mainly for combat can still use it consistently.

Revolver "Six Shooter"

Although there wasn't much argument that the U33 version of Six Shooter was a bit overperforming at times, many of the responses indicated that the RoF nerf wasn't the change they would have preferred. From my follow-up conversations with several people, it seems that Six Shooter's identity and "fun factor" was tied directly to its very fast RoF. As a result, even though it brought the power level down on par with the other OCs it was received very negatively. One of the alternatives suggested was to restore the +4 RoF and then add a Direct Damage penalty of some kind to bring its DPS back in line while keeping the fast RoF.

M1000 changes

By far some of the most controversial weapon balance changes made in U34 were related to the M1000. For some people, it raised it up to new heights of viability. For others, they lost any incentive to equip the weapon. Some of the phrases that recurred the most often in responses and DM conversations:

  • "Sniper weapon"
  • "Weakpoint damage"
  • "No reason to use Focused Shots anymore"

The M1000 was runner-up behind TCF for how much of my DM conversations it occupied in the days following the survey. I wanted to get to the root of the complaints and identify why those three phrases kept cropping up. After a couple of illuminating conversations, here's the best I can make of it: pre-U34 M1000 had its identity and functionality rooted in rewarding aim and skill. By having a Weakpoint Bonus baseline, and then letting T4.B raise it up to the fourth-highest value in the game after the Revolver, Subata, and AI Stability Engine, it heavily rewarded players who took the time to practice with the weapon and aim for Weakpoints. Similarly, the damage multiplier of Focused Shots let players kill Grunts via 1 bodyshot in addition to making Weakpoint damage even more impactful. When U34 rearranged how the damage calculations shook out to be slightly more Direct Damage and slightly less Weakpoint Bonus, it allowed players to use the Hipfire builds with T2.C Armor Breaking to achieve the same result (kill a Grunt via bodyshot using 2 ammo) using less time and less aim required. In addition, it lets players pick up T4.A "Super Blowthrough Rounds" because they're not relying on Weakpoint damage anymore.

As a result, the line of reasoning follows thus: "Why should I use a Focused Shot + Weakpoint build that requires more time, skill, and aim to use than an equally-effective Hipfired build with Blowthrough?" Translation: U34's changes were a loss of incentive to use Focused Shots. It's not that the damage has been significantly reduced (not even a difference of 7 for full damage Focused Shots + Weakpoint), but that the reward for time and effort of Focused Shots is decreased in relation to how easy it has become to achieve via Hipfired builds.

Truth be told, I'm not sure what the best way to resolve that dilemma is. I've been mulling on this problem off-and-on for the better part of 3 days now, and I still don't have an actionable suggestion like I do for the vast majority of the other topics in this blog post. I think it would be safe to revert T4.B back to its +25% Weakpoint Bonus, but even that wouldn't solve the "effort vs reward" problem of Focus vs Hipfire. It would restore the Weakpoint damage per shot back to its pre-U34 value (well, maybe a smidge higher), but I'm not convinced that alone would solve the underlying problem.

I had a crazy idea about making Focused Shots that damage a Weakpoint refund 1 ammo to the M1000's reserve, and then Supercooling Chamber could increase that refund to 2 ammo per Focused Shot Weakpoint. It would definitely add a large incentive to use Focus Shots for the damage boost and aim for Weakpoints to "undo" the double-ammo cost, as well as giving SCC a strong use case. However, I don't think that's a particularly healthy balance decision to make in the long run. I wish I had a better suggestion to offer GSG, but I think everyone would be better served by me publishing this blog post instead of delaying it longer trying to rack my brain for a new idea.


That does it for this blog post. After 2 full days of 26 DM conversations, and another 2.5 days of writing up this post, I hope that at least something insightful or helpful has been written in here. Like I said at the top, I don't want to let U34 divide the DRG community so I took the time to try and identify the core issues of people's complaints. After doing that, I wanted to provide constructive and actionable suggestions that Ghost Ship Games can implement before U34's Hotfixes finish up, and potentially make improvements to future Updates' production cycles. I'm just one person, though, trying to understand 54 other points of view and interpret common threads as "core issues". I make no promise that this blog post has precisely conveyed any one person's feedback, but I'm hopeful that it has conveyed the vast majority of the survey participants' sentiments.

Feel free to reach out to me on the DRG Community Tools Discord to ask follow-up questions about this blog post. If you took the survey, I thank you and I hope that I didn't misrepresent your position.

Rock and Stone, everyone
-MeatShield