The Powercreep Problem

I realize what I’m about to write will be a contentious post. Please realize the words below express my opinion only (and maybe some of yours?), but not all. I’m aware this may spark debate and have people disagree. I have strong feelings on this topic, and you may as well, and for this reason, I will be leaving this feedback here, but not really replying to it as I hope it fosters discussion and solutions. I hope everyone understands, even if they don’t see my opinion the same way I do.

BIG OLD EDIT, BECAUSE THIS KEEPS GETTING BROUGHT UP: I am NOT saying, nor advocating that VT2 needs to be built around modded difficulties. Powercreep affects these difficulties as well, making hard mods no longer hard. It should not be up to modders to keep creating difficulties so the game scales appropriately to powercreep; it should be up to the devs to scale (back) their powercreep to what the game currently offers. The crux of this post is that this is currently not happening. The combination of nerfs to the game’s difficulties (whether deserved or undeserved) combined with the release of weapons and classes that contain powercreep, creates a trivialized game and takes away what makes Vermintide “Vermintide” (i.e. a challenging game against hordes of rats).

I’ve been in Vermintide 2 for maybe almost three years now. I started out barely able to play the game, arguing with players much better than me in WoM beta test that Cata wasn’t too easy, and was just the right difficulty to be difficult enough for QP, to playing DWONS (ironically with those same people), to now writing this post.

Fatshark has a problem with powercreep, and it needs to be addressed. Before I go further, I want to make mention I am not saying this to stand on a podium to preach or gatekeep, but to point to an overarching problem. My concerns about powercreep are couched in the following:

  1. Powercreep inhibits learning. This isn’t to say that people don’t evolve at their own rates, but if Cata is the upper limit and players can fast approach (and even pass) that limit; is the progression in Verm too fast? Fatshark excels in making a game that is attainable by practice, but what happens when talents and classes that delete bosses in the blink of an eye solo enter this difficulty? Suddenly, team play is lesser (though not necessarily absent), overshadowed or centered around a certain OP pick. Why work together to overcome Cata when one person can press one button and delete a whole room?

  2. Powercreep creates disparities in realms. A very long time ago, I used to say that anyone unhappy with live could go play modded. Sadly, I must eat my own words now. While modded has grown, it’s still not large enough to play with randoms in QP late at night, get cool event frames, or have any level of tangible progression. For me, at least, I like chaotic randoms. Randoms are less chaotic when everyone is playing the new meta. I would like to play with my live realm friends, but live holds nothing for me in terms of entertainment value. Not everyone plays modded difficulties, and those that don’t and reach the upper point, leave. FS has mentioned on some level they are fine with that, and by design, Vermintide is not meant to be played for thousands of hours on end…but I’d say a lot of us on this forum do. Modded realm is a band-aid, not a solve. Right now, the challenge lies between “do I break my kneecaps to play with an underpowered weapon” and “never playing with my friends in a way we all have fun.” Having someone tear through the map while the rest of your team kills maybe a handful of enemies isn’t fun for anyone in that scenario (except maybe loot chasers).

  3. Powercreep kills the idea of obstacles and events meant to be overcome. If we look at Convo, which was just nerfed, the limit or challenge of overcoming things is essentially removed (if at the very least watered-down). Verm is a game built on fostering a sense of accomplishment in overcoming the Tide; and some of these things are hard. They’ve never been impossibly so, but some are hard; very hard. Fort had a nerf, beastmen had a nerf (albiet quite needed), Convo’s had a nerf. Is Nurgolth next? Why are these things being nerfed instead of giving players resources or fostered skill development to accomplish these events? Or, further, why are we given tools that encourages making light of these challenges? The cornerstone of Verm is learning; and further—learning together as a team. A lot of players like to teach their pubs and want to help; overbuffing weapons or classes and overnerfing events doesn’t encourage this for the community.

  4. Powercreep makes it difficult to measure self-development. Have I honestly gotten better at the game, or has the game done the work for me? Powercreep waters down aspects of what a player needs improving on. You don’t care about positioning with Shade or Handmaiden or a BW that staggers everything with a firesword if you just can get out of bad spots without fail. So am I good now or is the career? The world may never know!

Ultimately, I’m hesitant to give solutions as my bias is slanted to how I like to play (DW/Onslaught/B2F/etc.), but I do hope this post sparks discussion for potential ideas to solve (rather than argument).

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Powercreep sells i guess.

While i do agree with the general sentiment of your post I think modded difficulties should not be considered when balancing the game.
There are maybe a 150 to 200 people (about 1 or 2% of the playerbase) who consistently play modded difficulties and for whom standard cata is not a challenge anymore.
If we balance cata around the very best players we make an already scarcely played difficulty even less played.
And no this will not become some obstacle to overcome with randoms, the already few cata pubs i like to play with will be completely gone and replaced with premade discord groups.
The disparities between official and modded should remain.

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Must have read another post. There was not one line that asked for balance having modded in mind.

The problem is that the stuff that gets released lately is so enormously broken strong that it impacts EVEN modded content difficulty.

Since GK went live people asked for betas with people who know what they are talking about, so underdeveloped Talents, like Stoicism, or ultra borked stuff like Inheritance does not make it into live in the first place. It all wouldn’t be a problem if balance updates wouldn’t be as rare as floppy drives in modern pcs, but they are.

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I think this is an issue with a lot of facets.

Power creep is definitely a thing - I don’t think this is even the strongest players have ever been, though I think the careers themselves are way more powerful (aside from times that some were just straight-up broken in a player-power way). At least some of the current things in the game are over-performing, and hopefully just get some nerfs.

I do think that often these nerfs go too far, though, and rather than just making something, nerfs often make them garbage (seems common in many games). It kind of makes it hard balancing them.

Certainly, in the very concept, the new careers are also leaning into new territories that can potentially just bust the game wide open.

I don’t want to derail the whole conversation here, but I really think it’s also an issue of content. Even new players, if they’re trying to get better, they can learn from the collective knowledge of others in the community; “here’s how to deal with x and y, and if x and y happen together, it’s tough, but here’s some ways to handle it”.

There needs to be content that actually shakes up player tactics. If Z is introduced that makes reading a situation take more skill, or makes our current strategies ineffective when they’re present, then it will bring more challenge back into the game.

I know this is what Fatshark wanted to do with the Winds of Magic stagger changes, and with the Beastmen - both ideas were genuine attempts to shake things up. People didn’t like them, though; not because this isn’t a good idea, but because they just weren’t implemented well. Stagger meta slowed things down too much in its first forms and Beastmen are half a faction. Sorry - not aiming to rag on WoM, I’m sure we all have had our fill of talking about that.

My point is that Fatshark needs to be more targeted with these additions. What if they focused on making 1-2 new special types? And their abilities can be tailored to counter our tactics. Maybe a special who, say, can disable your ability to use your ult for a few seconds. That would immediately get players attention, and if the other special made enemies resistant or immune to ranged, then suddenly apart they’re both an issue, and together they’re suddenly a huge issue that can’t just be solved with some ults or infinite-ammo ranged weapon.

These are just examples! They’re probably bad ideas, and definitely would be if implemented poorly. I only suggested these as blatant examples of how new stuff might create more challenge to counter our greater skill. Another idea might be variant enemies - recolored and with Chaos mutations that give them unique properties, like Elite enemies in Diablo 2 and 3. Or something else entirely.

But we keep getting new tools, even each update that just makes weapons viable often gives them new tactical options that are quite strong, and the enemies have gotten very, very little.

Any new enemy can face backlash, too. But there are ways to introduce them. For the weekly challenge we could try a mode that is otherwise normal but introduces the new enemy. Could run for a few weeks, could be iterated upon more easily as the test can be ended and the new enemy isn’t just running free anymore in live games. Since it’d be one or two enemies, they can get more focus.

This sort of arms race can’t go on forever, balance still matters. But there is still a lot of room to advance things before it becomes too much - and this sort of evolution is very natural for something skill-based.

This is how MMOs work, and it works great for them. Each time a new raid comes out, veteran raiders compare it to previous raids. Early raids have 1-2 mechanics in many older MMOs while the new ones can have all kinds of crazy phases and a dozen mechanics at once. Again, there’s a limit, but Vermintide hasn’t come close to that, I think - look at the “Onslaught Deathwish Cata 3” runs that people like Core do. Lots of space between current Cata and that.

People don’t like it when things they’ve already learned change, so that’s why new things mixed in as specials or elites or something will work better. Our current enemies are fine (bugs aside), and new bosses like Nurgloth did cool things that I think are a step in the right direction - but Nurgloth is also just one boss at the end of a long level. We need this content to be something we can potentially face in existing maps (just not oppressively, all the time).

Sorry for the tangent; I’m not trying to take the topic off powercreep. I just think the problem and solutions have to be multi-faceted.

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Thats why I’m opposed to nerfing events, they need to be buffed convo was doable without bigger problem IF YOU used tools that you have. Most of them are boring because how strong some ults are or character that can just sit on ass and tank/delete most of it.
Kerillian always was powercreeping character, best ranged best dps/nuke most mobile ‘tank’ and now you have everything in one pack career :slight_smile: FS went quite hard with that opness

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Great now I wonder when will FS nerf GK, WHC, Pistol RV, bolt BW, cog hammer?

Don’t be selfish, other people want to play the game too. I didn’t come here for a walking simulator. If I’m on Cataclysm, I don’t want to see a rat ogre dead in 8 seconds from Sister with 0 supplies used.

“Oh but a career like BH can do the exact same thing!” Yeah and BH is only good at that basically, comparing him to Sister would be just funny.

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And you also need to land those ult headshots with BH.

This post is about power creep, not SoT. Oh and about rat ogre dead in 8 seconds, pistol vet could do that pretty easily too.

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Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

Look I am not here to defend SoT and if you wana talk about SoT being OP go ahead and do that on countless threads both here and on steam forum. But this post is about power creep and I am merely pointing out that the careers/weapons that I mentioned are all examples of this power creep. Only metnioning SoT and not even willing to begin discussing the OPness of everything else that exist in this game is hypocritical.

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do we have a list of extremely niche, underpowered and overpowered talents? and should synergies with other talents be taken into account when balancing a single talents? should niche talents also be looked at to make it work better for more play styles?

I’ll throw in my 2 shillings as someone who’s mostly happy just playing Legend solo with bots and/or friends that are more casual with the game.

I agree with the sentiment in all honesty.

Having a meta choice that trivialises certain threats or is just so strong as to be able to hard carry base difficulty content just isn’t healthy, because for those struggling, it’s hard not to rely on it.

It’s understandable to have some power creep when you rely on players desire to play the new things to make sales of the new things (although I’m not sure there is going to be much evidence that this even drives sales due to weapons all being bundled and classes released 6 months apart, but they’ll certainly be designed to be at the stronger end of the spectrum, and that’s not really a bad thing specifically).

To a degree, I think adding cata was the right move at the time. As the game gets older you’re going to have a broader disparity in skill level between the newer players, the casual middle ground and the more dedicated skilled players.

I’m also not certain that the latter group is big enough to become the focus of development, speaking as someone who spent way to many years running a hardcore raid guild in EQ2, those pushing at the limits of the game aren’t a big enough demographic to be the focus of content design (I’m still amazed we had as much raid content as we did back then, not sure how things are in the nearly 10 years since i quit all that).

But, at that point that’s where its important to keep power creep in check.

I also think it’s important to also provide better matchmaking tools. Quick Play or public lobbies that need people to go click on the loby browser aren’t exactly great, especially for those that are maybe looking to quick play cata + twitch mode on the unmodded realm.

Just like I mentioned earlier though with raiding, to a degree the harder the content the more likely you are to need to take organisation out of the game and have more dedicated fixed groups, there is just too much to control for after a certain point. This is mostly in regards to point 2, but I’m not sure disparities between modded and unmodded is a bad thing, it feels like modded has already created a pretty strong community of those that are seeking that extra challenge and want to push themselves with likeminded players, I’m not sure that would have happened to that same degree if there was just quickplay for cata onslaught sqaured. Maybe I’m wrong though, I don’t know what came first i V1.

To me the main issue is the disparity.
While its great to reward skilled or knowledgable use of mechanics, the ability for some setups to delete Lords even on cata in mere seconds vs not having anything of the sort is such a massive difference that it really is trivialising content.

Also, maybe unpopular opnion, but maybe, just maybe, multiplicitive modifiers in a game like this aren’t a great idea, because they do create massive power spikes.

I’ve disagreed with you elsewhere and I don’t want to derail this thread, but this is relevant so I’ll reitterate my reasoning.

Difficulties should be consistant, especially if we’re talking about quick play.

Having one event that stands so far out of line with everything else in that difficulty bracket that it feels over tuned even for the one above it is not good design. I’m also not sure if by “tools you have” you mean planning before you get randomly quickplayed into that map vs literally anything else that didn’t need any planning.

The game needs better tools for matchmaking Cata+ on the unmodded servers. I get that a lot of you are so skilled and knowledgable that even base Cata on your least proficient characters is too easy, but the inverse of power creed is not good for the game either.

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In a way, powercreep was the thing that killed Payday 2 for me.

When I logged back into it at some point, I realized I am physically unable to follow the pace of the game, with everyone running at lightning speed, damage numbers being 2 or 3 times higher than I used to remember them and everything else feeling like an acid trip on cocaine and steroids at the same time.
I’m telling this story as an example.

That said, I do still think that having “strong toys” to play with is better than nerfing everything in hopes of making things “balanced” for modded difficulty levels.
There is a middle ground to be struck, because otherwise we und up with 1h Axe, Warpick, Crowbill and so on, which only feel great to use in some specific circumstances and require a lot of investment for a sub-par result.

Remember how Halberd used to be the King weapon on Mercenary, but required you to learn the pattern to properly use it? Now it is rarely seen in play, because most people find it not being woth it, both because there are better options (which are caused by power creep, supporting your point), but also because of how balance changes did it dirty.
Yes, you can technically make it work, and it can still perform reasonably well if you go out of your way to make it so, but at this point it becomes less about weapon being good, and instead about the player being skilled/dedicated enough.
Same goes for 1h Axe on Saltzpyre, which CAN work out, but you kinda need to play Zealot and invest a lot of effort into your build to compensate for the weapon’s weaknesses.

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SoT is powercreep. I only mentioned SoT, but for sure, we should also talk about Bow of Moonfire, Pistol of Masterwork-make, Wizard of Battle and Shade of Mist too.

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I see your concerns, but I mildly disagree with you.
For one, as many players have pointed out, the top population is low in numbers, which is part of the reason why you find so few people in modded and doing the hardest content of the game (like weaves, which have also got other big matchmaking problems).
About balancing maps: I still don’t know the extent of convocation nerf (I suggested leaving it as it is, but stopping spawns when you are all down, so the total number of enemies wouldn’t change between runs) but as the majority opinion showed it was not an argument of overall difficulty as much as one of consistency. Consistency is important.

I mostly play normal cata, some cata deeds, and cata expeditions. I’m happy with the current level of difficulty there. Like you I feel like it’s a lot easier than it used to be for me, but I think that’s a consequence of self-development rather than power creep: I say this as I noticed it after beating cata expeditions. Admittedly, as I was super-hyped for the content, when I beat it (especially if you get good boons) I felt like I was expecting more. Feedback threads were flooded with comments of how too easy the new gamemode was. BUT I think this was the bias. If you move to normal cata after doing an expedition run you realize how chill normal cata is by comparison: you have your sweet, sweet breakpoints, spawns are rarely out of control, meaning pacing is uniform, you get a couple bosses and it’s over. In other words, normal cata is a breeze compared to cata expeditions. Then, if you move back to legend you are once again staggered at how much easier it is compared to cata. This can, and should be looked upon from both directions: cata is much much harder than legend.

There have been some powercreep developments (looking at you, moonfire bow) and some are still problematic (BH doubleshot!) but for the most part we just got used to fighting on harder difficulties - both creating builds for it and playing it - and if we look back the game seems really easy. It’s exactly the learning curve, the self-development aspect you’re worried is getting lost. Proof is that trying to complete a cata expedition with randoms is a huge pain in the ass. Another thing that I think supports my point is this sentence:

A few days ago I faced Skarrik with a spear and shield, randoms - none of which had an OP build - and I was amazed at founding out I was unable to damage the bugger.

IMO the issue is one of balance, not of straight powercreep. FK is a fine class, spear and shield a fine weapon, but I couldn’t go reasonably past Skarrik’s odd superarmor.

TL:DR: some player options are overtuned and need to be toned down, but overall cata is fine, IMO. Part of the percieved problem is players going for the overtuned, META options and expecting the game to be balanced around that. That would be the real powercreep.

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I like this. Thanks I’ll be calling her this from now on.

@Exanimia
I agree.
Vermintide 2 used to be a lot more grounded and generally slower.
Now there are a lot of things that circumvents challenge, threats and game mechanics.

Does it need to be addressed? Fatshark don’t “need” to do anything.
They could release the remaining careers then pack their bags.

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Even as someone who by no means finds Cata easy, the power creep is pretty apparent yeah. It’s not just damage power creep either, there’s some pretty nutty support power creep too, and it’s hard not to mention SoT here who basically gives the whole party boon of Shallya just by existing. Combo this with things like GK healing duties, temp health Ults etc and I think the team survivability you can get is pretty crazy in its own right.

I feel like we really need that second BBB, and if we’re waiting till after all 5 careers are our to get it I kind of wonder what state things will be in by then.

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Well obviously this is a problem. There is clearly a lack of testing and I think the recent sister release is a perfectly good example of this. (Or the people testing are bad at the job but I doubt this)

However the balance patches are also almost never happening anymore which could fix many of these obvious issues. Last BBB even if I disagreed with lot of the solutions ultimately made the game better. Still tough these patches seem to only materialize when someone gets so bored and actually mods the game for the devs.
Game such as this would heavily benefit from balance update every 2-3 months instead of the crap we are now getting.

Difficulty discussion itself is kind of moot point when even cata can be played in 2 totally distinct ways. There is one way where the challenge can be perfectly manageable with 4 player party then there is the RV masterwork, moonbow elf, shade, whc captain etc meta which basically allows players skilled enough to solo the difficulty. Obviously those careers and combinations are going to be played more often than some 1h axe saltz. The gap between “optimal” and bad is simply insane right now.

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