New player experience, difficulty scaling, and player retention

So this is a concern that has probably been said here on the forums or on reddit a number of times but ill rehash it here organized around the issue of initial difficulty curve and new player retention.

I’ve seen at least some anecdotal evidence that the easy early difficulties and gear power thresholds of the new player experience puts people off. To me the beauty of this game is the defensive mechanics and when learning those are necessary to success the game become fun. But for new players they don’t feel they have to learn these systems to succeed until legend/cata. And the gear power requirement might mean thats like 100 hr of grinding on too easy difficulties before you can actually play the ‘real’ game.

Looking to darktide, im sur ethe game will have alarge initial playerbase due to marketing and hype so a good first 5-20 hr of game experience is critical in showing off what the game has in store for you. And I feel like V2 lets people down and relied on people knowing V1 to keep with V2 (this probaly has gotten a bit worse over time b/c more experienced player pool means new players dont have to do as much to ‘win’ a mission) . I dont want the same for Darktide.

What are people thoughts on this experience?

And heres 3 possible solutions I could think of:

  1. No barriers to higher difficulty, + loot increase more than linearly with difficulty. This way you can play at your limit in terms of skill and be rewarded well so its always best to play the highest difficulty you can beat.

  2. Have difficulty increase faster, as in only one easy difficulty and the second requires teamwork/defense mastery. Examples would be to make hordes difficult to solo on the second difficulty, or have enemy damage ramp faster, or have special/elite density grow rapidly.

  3. Have the tanky classes/careers be unlocked last. In other words start with the squishier classes so there is more threat from lower difficulties so one is forced to learn defensive mechanics.


If i recall correctly, it took around 80 hours for me to get every hero to maximum level when V2 released. Lets say around 15-20 for one hero + reaching max powerlevel. I believe Champion was unlocked around 200 and Legend around 400, though i am not sure anymore and it maybe was higher at release, though nothing major. Since i was also able to give other heroes high powerlevel items i got with my first hero, i spent overall very little time below Champion.

Though i do understand the concern and have experienced it myself with people who i introduced to the game, so my solution would have been starting at Veteran and shortly after getting to Champion, like after two games. Recruit should be optional to the people who just want to hack and slash without any worries and there are quite a few of them. Legend and higher should still be earned because:

  1. No, absolutely not. As a years-long PUG carry i have seen that the majority of people do not understand that its a teamgame and rather want to follow their own fun. High difficulty matches would easily be destroyed by constant new players and casuals. Even in Vermintide 2, after 4 years now and with requirements, there are still people complaining about other players that arent experienced enough for high difficulties and i can guarantee that the forums will be flooded with those complains in Darktide if new players could just join high difficulty matches after starting the game for the first time.

  2. Yes, at least the equivalent of Champion difficulty should be reachable shortly after starting the game. Its basically normal difficulty. Though apparently we will be able to tweak difficulty in more detail, like having more hordes spawn, more specials and maybe more bosses as well, so it seems to be a variable difficulty inside a static difficulty so i have to experience that first to make a guess.

  3. No, everyone should be able to play what they want from the very beginning.

Eventually Darktide is just Vermintide with a 40k skin and most people will leave regardless after a couple months. Absolutely expected though, because it happens with every game, but Fatshark should get their support in order, so they can hold a good 10k instead of the 5k Vermintide has. They had the opportunity back then but failed, now its time for a new try. Its a dream though, Darktide is just a base game again and will probably have less content than V2 had to release.


I expect that progression will have to be structured differently since it will be possible to delete a character in order to make another and there’s a good chance that inventories are not shared. In VT2 each character was permanent and all xp progression was permanent. Taking 20 hours to level up each is not so ridiculous.

It’ll be a bit harder to handle 20 hours to level up a new character because you want to try out a new VA or see what voicelines proc on a different origin. Hopefully the process is streamlined somehow.

In the past, they discussed a trust system. I’m hoping that there is no hero power leveling up like in the previous but that progression for each character you create is tied to this trust value. Likely it will go up on a successful clear and down on a failure. This will allow you to progress quickly if you are good and if you are not it will force you to take time and improve on lower difficulties where penalties and benefits are both less impactful. Because, hopefully, in keeping with the setting, if your trust hits a sufficiently low value, your character will be deemed by Inquisitorial staff to not be worth the expenditure of resources and terminated; forcibly deleted and back you go to the character creator.

At least, that’s my hope. I guess we’ll see what they went with.


where did you get that from, to my Knowledge they never said we could delete a character, all they ever mentioned is that we can adjust the looks and personalities whenever we wish, i assume we will lvl the overarching class and thats it.

when i played Vermintide 1 i pretty much started it the day it dropped, i could witness the segregation by players who would kick others based on their displayed lvl firsthand

let me tell you i met players who just started the game playing way more team-oriented than any of those “veterans”. Skill is something you can aquire rather quickly even More so with an mentor teaching you.
changing your mindset to finally understand that the game isnt about you, won’t come that easily, and i think even cata now in V2 still shows this.
there a plenty of players incapable making team-oriented decisions

i much rather play with people who are bad at the game but have the right mindset then the other way around.


I witnessed that as well, but i also agree with you on many points. I have played with your examples too and a new player who has the right mindset is indeed a more appreciated member of the team than a veteran who does shenanigans.

But these arent the majority though, the majority plays for themself, regardless how much experience they have. Matter of the fact is though, that not everyone is a PUG carry and new players will be a problem for people who are just decent at the higher difficulties themself. I dont mind them myself and i have never kicked someone because they lacked skill, on the contrary, i had a lot of fun just helping people out. But the majority wasnt on that level when i played and i highly doubt the majority will be in Darktide, especially because completely new people who never touched Vermintide will be starting as well.

So i think requirements for higher difficulties are needed. Champion difficulty is enough to get to know the game in the first 5 hours and if they like it then they can spend another 5-10 to reach the end difficulty with all the modifiers.

It was observed during Gamescom. It can be seen here. Of course this might be part of the roster screen or it might just be a part of the character creator. It might also not make it into the final build.

Just leveling the archetype is possible; I suppose that could be why they chose that term in the first place but then that raises a lot of questions. What’d be the point of level-specific voice lines if you only get to hear them once on the way up? Or not at all if they just don’t proc? What’s the point of a “trust” system if it cannot be lost as well as gained? You may as well call it xp.

But on the other hand, they haven’t discussed the “trust” system in a while so it may very well have been scrapped. Which would be a shame and a real loss of flavor for the game in keeping with the setting. I mean, if the Inquisitor is never actually gonna use the slave collars, they kinda lose all meaning, don’t they?

There was a new reveal yesterday showing the character roster screen for the first time. As you can see it shows 2 ogryns at different levels which means we are leveling characters individually.

I guess I should add that I am perfectly fine with this set-up, at least, as of now. It feels like it will have a lot of replayability combining the best parts of a game like VT2 with a more RPG-type game. Of course, it relies on a number of things like a sufficiently large roster and the ability to save loadouts.

I’m optimistic in my outlook. Looking forward to the beta in one week.

Balancing this feels pretty hard. You can be max level and have access to all the difficulties and still have no idea how to play the game. I’ve seen countless lvl 35 in Legend and Cata that were just wasting resources, healing all the time because they wouldn’t stop dying, throwing bombs to a normal horde, and so on. It is true that the difficulty curve is too much for new players, but you should at least be a decent player and learn the basics before joining a high difficulty game and being a burden.
I feel that it is also a mindset of the players. Do I really want to commit to this game? Do I really want to know how to dodge and fight against every enemy so I can jump to higher difficulties? Or I just want to hack and slash everything and have that feeling of satisfaction?
Saying this, I’m open to making the game more accessible to a wider range of players. The more, the merrier. If difficulty is the problem, maybe adding new ones in between can help to “put more steps in the curve” if that makes sense. Or adding modifications to the levels (which I think they are implementing), to make a specific match in a certain difficulty harder.

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I mean, it wasnt really about accessibility per se, but about forcing new players to go through pathetic difficulties until they reach a difficulty that actually needs a little bit of skill. Vermitide 2 forced new players to play on Recruit (Very Easy) and Veteran (Easy) a considerable amount of time and there is no skill needed for those, which easily frustrated people who already had enough experience with like First-Person Shooters. This is a terrible system.

People should start their first game on Veteran (Easy), just to get to know the game. After that, or maybe after the second match, Champion (Normal) should be unlocked. There they can experience the real game with friendly fire, blocking/dodging and more enemies that hit harder. Unlocking Legend (Hard) should take considerably longer though, like reaching a specific powerlevel again. Cataclysm (Very Hard) should then be unlocked after finishing every base map on Legend.

No need for new static difficulties and the way to Legend shouldnt be that tough for someone who breezes through Champion anyway.

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