Before we begin: what do you think Betrayal would and should look like as a core game mechanic? What expectations do you have for it? In addition, try to think of what Betrayal's place would be in the game were it simply implemented exactly as is, but somewhat less common than it is at the moment because it will compete with other masters for appearances (assuming they're mutually exclusive). PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS:
- "Core" league vs "current" league
- Betrayal Safehouse loot is bad and so is low-level farming
- The Good
- The Bad
- The Middle
- Betrayal does not scale well with area level
- Betrayal Veiled items are bad but not that bad
- Manipulating the Syndicate feels bad
- It feels bad to walk away from Betrayal encounters
- The Mastermind
"Core" league vs "current" league Description of problem:
This isn't actually a problem, just a byproduct of GGG's league design. I decided to talk about this at the very start to differentiate between two things: How GGG "should" design a current league and how GGG should adapt that league into core content. The league's content is stretched to last for three months, and since the encounter rate is high, the rewards are correspondingly miniscule. Content that is now core has a relatively lower encounter rate, but the rewards are larger per encounter (but still small to make up for the fact that content has been cumulative for years on end, lending to how crazy maps can get). Since temporary leagues have long been the de facto "way" of playing the game, people seem to have forgotten GGG's disclaimers that temporary league balance has a high likelihood of being off. GGG rarely hits out of the park on the first try, but they have a history of nailing it the next time around. Invasion was nerfed, Necrovigil and Phylacteral Link were removed, Order of the Frozen Sky isn't horrific anymore, Malachai was nerfed, Bestiary was fixed, Betrayal's bugs were (eventually) fixed, and so forth. I have faith that GGG will do what's right and I'm looking forward to what GGG will do with a "core" Betrayal because the "league" Betrayal is already history at this point. We're already in the preliminary stages of the next round of new league hypebuilding.
Betrayal Safehouse loot is bad and so is low-level farming Description of problem:
At the core of ARPGs, everything comes back to loot. We're not helping Zana because we care; we want to snatch the eyes right out of Uber Elder's writhing head. This talk will be split into two parts: Safehouses and Veiled items. Let's start with Safehouses. Here is a graphic of all Betrayal rewards and how I have personally ranked them, according to their value within BSC and the opportunity cost of putting a member in one branch and not another.
Some of these could be shifted around according to one's preferences (some people don't want to deal with Guff's benches, other people don't value Cameria's legacy Uniques because the chances of getting something good are too low, etc). But this is a rough guide for what most players will see when they get Safehouse loot.
|Total # of possible rewards: 68 ||# of good rewards: 15 ||# of middling rewards: 16 ||# of bad rewards: 37 |
|# of level-scaled rewards: 15 ||# of good rewards scaled by level: 0 ||# of middling rewards scaled by level: 0 ||# of bad rewards scaled by level: 15 |
| || || || |
Let's talk about the three types of rewards I've delineated. The Good:
GGG did well with the good rewards. Stuff like turning Rare amulets into Talismans (effectively solving Talisman's long-standing problem of being inferior Rare items because you could never control the explicit rolls), adding White sockets to any gear (not just craftable bases like Delve's Fractured Fossils), "free" Exalt slams, breaking the quality cap, and so forth. PoE is a character building game and giving players these kinds of small optimizations (on top of the big and risky stuff like double-corruption rooms) is precisely what separates the top builds on poe.ninja
from the budget cookie-cutter stuff with inferior performance. In fact, I wouldn't mind them being at their current rarity level once they go core because that's just how strong they are. The Bad:
Thing #1 is that it's okay for the Syndicate to have bad rewards. It would have happened regardless of design since even when all things are good, some things are relatively less good. Additionally, if everything was good in a generic and non-specific way, the Syndicate as a whole would lack flavor. For example, Leo gives Torment Scarabs because he's the Ghost of PvP Past and Tormented Spirits are about as fun and rewarding as PoE PvP in 2019. Jokes aside, it's also possible to mitigate the bad rewards by interrogating these people for intel in lieu of others because they don't matter anyways, unlike a 3* Cameria in Intervention. So we can't deny that Betrayal's got flavor. The bad news is that the flavor is "the juice that leaks out from the bottom of black garbage bags". Instead of "everything being good so nothing matters", we have "almost nothing is good, so only a few things matter". Really, I don't know what GGG was thinking when it came to some of Vagan, Haku, and Elreon's rewards. They literally drop less than a white unrolled map for all the effort that goes into making a Safehouse.
Thing #2 is that there's too much "bad". Much of it could be converted to "middling" with some adjustment, which would make an undesirable safehouse outcome much less galling to swallow. Alternatively, many "bad" rewards would simply become less relevant if syndicate manipulation had more quality of life and less tedium. If Betrayal was simply dumped into the core game with a lower encounter rate right now, it would be frustrating to deal with and a mediocre gameplay experience as a result. The Middle:
The middling rewards mostly relate to items you can get from other sources, like Fossils, Fragments, Essences, Currencies, Divination Cards, and Maps. In the case of Maps and anything to do with them, I think some of the devaluation can also be blamed on Pure Breachstones, which have inflated supply (The HarbingeBeachhead effect).
The problem is simple: It is more efficient to obtain those items from other sources (including their original sources) than it is to farm the Syndicate for them. I'm not advocating for the reverse, because then only the Syndicate would be relevant content unless it was significantly gated. But as it stands, Korell's fossils are a joke because doing Delve for them is better. Stacks or spreads of random Divination cards are a joke because it's better to use a Divination Card scarab on a zone that actually gives the Divination card you want in a somewhat deterministic fashion (You know, the point
of Divination cards); Gravicius ain't no Putrid Cloister. Fragments are better farmed from the trade website and twinned triple boss corrupted maps and currencies and uniques are better found simply by running a map. Betrayal does not scale well with area level:
Oh boy, here we go.
This. This right here. This is the reason why we were running Harbour Bridge and Foothills for the whole league.
This is the reason why people were able to target-farm Pure Breachstones and pump out more than half the amount of level 100s in Standard (the cumulative history of the game) in a single league. If Betrayal's content and rewards had scaled more appropriately with area level, we could have had a league that excels in both low and high-level content, like Delve.
So, you do easy stuff, you should get meh rewards. If you do hard stuff, you should get good rewards. One of the most fundamental ingrained ideas behind gaming design. What constitutes "hard stuff" can be difficult to describe at times since the layered content and occasional lack of visual clarity in PoE creates difficulty spikes and each build and player is challenged by different aspects of the game. But content design and controlled encounters can remove the possibility of difficulty spiking due to unexpected variables, which means Betrayal has less excuses for its ratio of difficulty to reward. You feel bored when you do hundreds of hours of monotonous low-level zones. You feel excited when something challenges you and forces you to upgrade your build and pay close attention to positioning and enemy patterns. You feel betrayed when hard content gives you bad loot and you feel annoyed when easy content gives you good loot because the game's design gives you a begrudging reason to do the tedious and easy content as opposed to the more varied difficult content. That's what Betrayal, as a league, was.
If you look at the second row of my table above, you'll see that less than a fourth of all possible Safehouse rewards scale with area level. And all of them are "bad" outcomes. Arguably, Jorgin's "Aspect rares" are potentially middling because you could split them with a Bestiary recipe and get a craftable base in case you're not finding a Fenumal Hybrid Spider or a Farric whatever, thus enabling SSF builds. And that part of Jorgin is good because it gives a partially deterministic outcome
. Here's the other commonality between all of these bad, level-scaling rewards: there are a lot of rare item outcomes.
Hell, I didn't even read this thread, but it probably does an excellent job of explaining the numerous problems with rare items. As it stands, there is virtually no reason to do Betrayal in Tier 16 maps: you get plenty of risk, without a corresponding increase in reward. Proposed solutions to problem:
The solution should be grounded in thinking about "where" Betrayal fits in the loot acquisition possibilities of the game as a whole. Delve, for example, is an all-rounded system with good scaling that bolsters Rare item crafting. Bestiary is mostly mid to end-game with respect to customizing flasks, obtaining random Unique items, and using obscure crafting techniques. Incursion falls into the same mold, with Alva's temples being the most influential as a supplement for early mapping (map drops within the Temple of Atzoatl) and for various powerful "crafting benches" and upgraded Incursion Uniques that are reserved for the elite (or ludicrously lucky) of Wraeclast. Bloodlines, Nemesis, Invasion, Beyond, Domination, and various other leagues are instance and enemy seasoning.
What I mean when I say "where does Betrayal belong" is that Betrayal has a tremendous untapped niche that has been buried all along because of GGG's flawed reward distribution. This niche is "deterministic farming"
. Manipulating the Syndicate and targeting certain members in certain branches to get Harbinger Orbs to upgrade your stagnant map pool or getting crucial gem levels on your spells to get an extra power boost, that's what I'd really love to do. Betrayal could be like Divination cards 2.0 in giving mid to end-game players a solid process for obtaining otherwise obscure items and niche services that will really push their itemization to the next level while also giving lower-level players powerful Rare items and crafting options while leveling. Frankly, I have no idea what I'd want to make this happen, so this is just an idea at present. So what I'm suggesting will merely be tweaks on top of what exists at the moment rather than a radical overhaul to bring Betrayal more in line with something like Divination cards.
The good rewards are fine and could even be a little rarer (especially to preserve the value and intrigue of those services). Especially Pure Breachstones. Look, I enjoy being level 100 as much as any of you guys, but it's a little ridiculous, right? That this single Safehouse outcome alone was so influential as to influence gem experience markets, map valuation, rare jewelry markets, build archetypes, and generate a majority of "the reason why people are running Harbour Bridge"? We know it, GGG knows it; it's going to be destroyed harder than CoC was in the past.
The middling rewards are largely a ratio of reward against tedium and quantity. If GGG can balance this ratio, it'll just work. Make Betrayal less tedious to manipulate; more on that later. Make the currency-based rewards drop a guaranteed higher-tier currency of the respective type or a higher quantity of the lower tiers. Essences of Hysteria, Delirium, etc. Faceted and Hollow fossils. Divine and Annulment Orbs. Uber Atziri fragments. That's what we should be seeing once Betrayal goes core. Make quantity scale with the 3* mechanic and make quality scale with area level, because a level 60 3* Syndicate member is far less dangerous than a level 83 1* Syndicate member.
The bad rewards need to either be scaled up or changed entirely, full stop. On an individual basis, my ideas:
- Aisling's stashes should drop more Veiled items now that the Syndicate will be less common.
- Elreon should give more Unique items or give a guaranteed higher rarity tier of them. Every league has given increased means to obtain Unique items and compared to them, Elreon is an utter joke. I get more Uniques from completing one Incursion in a yellow map than I do from Elreon.
- Why does Haku give items with quality in Research. I can buy Whetstones and Armourer scraps from vendors. Even Delve gives "Superior" (30% quality) items, which I'd count as better than Haku. What does Haku even "do" in Transportation?
- Hillock map quality. This would only be valued back in the days when people Exalted maps.
- ITF should give more Breach Splinters, more Abyss Jewels. To be honest, I'm not sure why they gave it Abyss Jewels instead of Breach Rings. Maybe because they realized that Breach Rings are hot garbage.
- More Talismans from Jorgin, perhaps with a guaranteed cascade of tiers and even some Tier 4 Greatwolfs (not the Unique variety), which we haven't seen since the days of Rigwald. Most if not all of the Talisman affixes are useful, hence why I don't distinguish so much between tiers 1 to 3 and would want equal access to all of them.
- For SSF, I'd rate Riker as a middling pick because ilvl100 can be useful for some bases and a choice of Unique is better than Elreon's "Rain of Alch Shards". But it's still not great since we're getting "one" item and it's probably not great. Better options would be the obvious pick, not sure what would fly besides that. Maybe if we could go between five Trapped tabs, pick out five items, and get two randomly out of five? It'd ruin the deterministic flavor though, which I like about Trapped stashes. I'd almost even like a Tetris or matching game.
- Tora should give the highest tier of enchant on bases of the best possible item variant. Getting a Merciless Labyrinth enchant on utter trash is disheartening. Shaper or Elder influence would be a welcome addition as well.
The sad part about the level-scaling was that GGG could have done it before this point. They could have done it all along and made Betrayal a truly great league.
So, what should they do going forward? I've read some people who proposed that the 3* system should be abolished completely and that all rewards should simply be scaled by area level, but I don't see why they couldn't utilize both systems. As I said earlier, quantity should scale with the 3* mechanic and quality should scale with area level because the latter is the far more dangerous (and important, if we want to incentivize playing in high-level content).
- As I said for currency stashes, give a chance to drop either one of a high-tier currency or several lower-tier currencies of the same type.
- Intervention stashes should perform similarly. Make the 3* continue to give a guaranteed gilded scarab of the member's type (since this worked fine in the league), but make area level scale linearly with chances to give additional Polished or Rusted Scarabs (with an extra Scarab being granted per 6 levels divisible past area level 65 (so an area level 83 zone gives a neat chance to give 4 Scarabs per stash and 1-3 in anything less). I'm assuming that Scarabs will stay locked behind Betrayal instead of becoming a general currency drop, but we could get an Annulment Orb treatment.
- Research rewards are tricky, since they consist of crafting bench services that can't really be meaningfully changed and are already very good. But change some of the crappy ones, my god...
- Gravicius is a joke: the tier of card given should at least be of the same rarity tier, or it could be something like a Tier 3 Sacrifice chamber where a card with a same "set count" is given (thus drastically revaluing 8-set cards).
- Or it could be changed to "create duplicates of an inserted card", with the number scaling according to Gravicius' level and the set count of that card.
- Janus and Cadiro as a whole need to be rebalanced; it's a crying shame for such a widely praised league with solid early-mid game integration and SSF potential to go to waste because Cadiro is now an overcharging Rare jewelry vendor.
- Haku should do something completely different. My idea is to upgrade items with "low" base into items of a "high" base. This has been a longstanding idea, but I've never heard it mentioned with respect to the Syndicate (which surprises me, since the Syndicate is all about outlandish ideas). For example, going from a Destroyer Regalia to a Vaal Regalia. Obviously, not all items have a 1:1 example like this, so the applications would need to be done on a case by case basis.
- Several rare-item related rewards should be changed to have a deterministic mod on them or provide a craftable base a la Jorgin's Aspect items. "More Rare items to identify" is not the solution. Identifying items is a tedious exercise in item-filtering that takes away from gameplay and adds to unnecessary micro-management that is no different from the end of an Incursion or Delve node. Giving us something to craft and sink currency into; that's engaging, that's "Delve meta-mod item" kinda stuff right there. The Syndicate is all about customization, so give us something to customize. Abyss jewels could have Delve fossil modifiers already on them, Rare items with Essence mods could drop, sealed Bestiary Orbs with beasts inside... the possibilities are far larger than what GGG has laid forth
- This is the most outlandish idea I've thought of yet: Make the Syndicate change rewards per league, like Zana. They could still stick to general themes, but any way to shake up potential future metas involving Betrayal as a core league mechanic is huge. Especially with respect to the "discovery" theme of Betrayal, if we had to relearn what the rewards were each league. I seriously didn't think of this until just now and I don't think GGG will do it, but it's an interesting proposition for sure.
Betrayal Veiled items are bad but not that bad Description of problem:
Veiled items share the same problems as rare items because they are rare items with a crafted affix on top. As one's crafting bench completion increases, Veiled items become increasingly useless to pick up and annoying to unveil. The veiled signature mods of Syndicate members, in particular, require special attention to obtain. 20 chaos orbs for It that Fled veiled mods will become far worse in future leagues. Proposed solution to problem:
Rare items are another can of worms, so it's regrettable that there's no way to make veiled item drops impactful beyond early game, recipe unlocking, and the occasional very rare good item. The crafting bench problem will not be alleviated by making veiled items more rare (an assumed condition of Betrayal going core exactly as it is now): you'll simply have the same problem at the top-end with a corresponding increase in the price of unveiled items,crafting services, and scamming. Solutions are numerous, but they all boil down to "make more veiled items drop" because it is likely that the difficulty of finishing one's crafting bench may even be intentional. Veiled items could drop in the core game and not merely from Syndicate members. Syndicate members could have a guaranteed drop of at least one veiled item. More Syndicate members could spawn per encounter, or Jun could become an Alva-style master and be encountered multiple times per instance, but only spawn the encounter once you speak with her (rather than running across them in the wild as we do now, as the spawning of one Syndicate encounter removes the existence of previous unfinished ones due to the Betrayal board increments by "turns". I was going to suggest making unveils more likely to give unknown or incomplete recipes, but the way veiled items generate prohibits that. Finally, GGG could shake up crafting as we know it in 3.6 and add more recipes, move some veiled mods to in-map recipes, or make Syndicate members themselves drop recipe objects that grant the recipe in question.
Manipulating the Syndicate feels bad Description of problem:
While having two choices per encounter may have worked for Incursion, it doesn't work for Betrayal. With Incursion, you get 11 encounters and that's it; each one increments progress, even if you die and fail to kill either of the Architects.
With Betrayal, encounters do not necessarily increment progress towards a Safehouse because other options continually come up. I said that there were "two" options per member per encounter, but in practice, this number is often lower. While interrogation will guarantee that progress increases, it is generally reserved for moving undesirable members around to allow desired members to fill their places or for keeping a safehouse locked because it decreases the quality of rewards from the interrogated member and lowers their rank, resulting in less intelligence and necessitating yet more executions to level members up. In the course of "naturally" playing Betrayal (as opposed to targeted farming), interrogation is mathematically the least efficient option, if necessary at times to cap off a Safehouse.
While GGG may have envisioned Betrayal like a tidal pool with patterns constantly in flux, ultimately yielding a beneficial outcome, we players would rather have a bird in a hand than some unknown garbage in the bush. Thus, valued members are rarely interrogated (because there's no guarantee that they'd return to their original position due to the randomness involved in encounters) and single-member encounters are often utterly useless, especially for the purposes of securing intelligence. The reward design of the Syndicate coupled with the mechanics of progressing towards a Safehouse result in an optimal and preferable structure that largely removes the annoyances of the two inferior Syndicate branches (Transportation and Fortification) while promoting investment into a few key members in Research and Intervention. Theoretically, it would also be possible to farm Fortification and Transportation quite rapidly and profitably because they are more common than their sister branches, but again, the reward structure dissuades this type of farming.
The specter of level-scaling also rears its head here. While higher area levels seem to increase the chance for multiple Syndicate members to spawn (alongside appropriate relationships), they also increase the difficulty of the encounter multiplicatively. Red map mods on top of higher area level on top of whatever items and ranks the Syndicate members have on top of there simply being more members around to attack you. By contrast, Harbour Bridge farming is extremely tame. There's also time to take into consideration: higher level areas take more time to clear than Harbour Bridge or Foothills, assuming that the same build were to deal with both. While a high level area might have extra features that might give returns for the time invested (aka, you do the rest of the map after you do the Syndicate), there's nothing quite so fast and precise as farming the Syndicate in Foothill. Level scaling also has absolutely no effect on intel gains, apart from the possibility of spawning more members (which is more safely and rapidly done by creating new instances in low level zones).
Of course, what I've mentioned thus far is if everything in the Syndicate works like clockwork and people simply go into encounters, click whichever buttons, and go on their merry way. What actually happens is that players are constantly forced to walk away from encounters because the given options would actually set them back. It feels bad to walk away from Betrayal encounters.
Or from any encounter in general. Take Alva, for example. Due to the way instance generation works, her three appearances within an instance sharply limit our ability to get specific Tier 3 Temple rooms (namely, the highly desired Corruption and Sacrifice rooms). When an instance is created, content is not generated as it is encountered; it is created all at once. This means that Alva cannot offer to affect the same room more than once within a single set of three Incursions (whereas she was capable of offering consecutive upgrades during Incursion league). If you were to naturally do 3-3-3-2 Incursions, you would only have 4 chances to affect a given room in the Temple. There is a small trick you can do to increase your chances of affecting a desirable room: When Alva offers a room, that offer remains on the table if you leave the instance and spawn a new Alva elsewhere. Consequently, if you get a bad offer from Alva, you can just skip her current Incursion, spawn another Alva, and then the other 2 Incursions in the new set of 3 cannot be that "bad" offer that she's currently got.
The problem is that this trick increases the amount of time it would take you to access a temple. Let's say you constantly perform this trick, such that you only effectively do 2 Incursions per Alva. Instead of taking 4 Alvas to access a Temple, it would take 6. In addition, let's say you're getting Alva on high pack size maps or maps with desirable Divination cards. If you skip an Alva encounter in that instance, you're losing out on loot and experience. This is technically a trade-off, as you are trading away Alva encounters in order to potentially get better results from your Temple. But that's not what it feels like, due to the opportunity costs involved with walking away from Alva.
And now let's bring it back to Betrayal. When you meet the Syndicate, what's the worst that could happen? Well, you might get members who won't be kicked out, or you'll kick them out but they just come back, or desirable members will try to leave, or they'll offer to remove all rivalries when you don't want to, or they'll offer to become trusted, or they'll offer to do some kind of betrayal that you don't want (which are most of what happens when it's down to two people, hence the preference for rivalries over trusted statuses), or you'll simply only get one lone guy to show up and it isn't because he's 3* and can't summon unranked members, it's because you just got bad RNG, and you'll have no choice but to turn tail and gloomily walk out of that Research lab. And it'll keep on happening over and over, though at least Betrayal going core means you won't get this crap happening in every single instance.
That's what I mean when I say manipulating the Syndicate feels bad. If the league went core exactly as it is today, with an appearance rate shared between all of the masters, you would virtually never complete a safehouse with desirable outcomes.
I would be remiss to not mention that there are quality of life problems with the Syndicate that have nothing to do with the league's mechanical design. For instance, the visual web of lines connecting members can become so tangled as to be incomprehensible. Only dialogue outputted to chat can give clear indicators of what each member thinks of their colleagues (because the infighting tends to be unnoticeable in the storm of VFX that typically occupy any PoE player's screen or the enemies die too quickly to do anything). Syndicate members can also rarely die out of bounds while performing movement skills. Finally, there are persistent damage skills on some Syndicate members and mobs that can annoy someone who's just trying to bargain with the fallen, including the electrified nets and Cameria's icicle cone. These self-same skill effects will also become invisible if you go too far off-screen and come back.
But wait. There's more. The Mastermind.
It's Catarina. Spoilers, by the way. People have different opinions about the design of the fight. Some people think that the visual effects of the attacks, the relative scarcity of flask-granting adds, the indicators for how to progress the phases of the fight, and the area of denial mechanics that limit the viability of some build types within that fight are bad. Others think that her fight is the best thing since sliced bread. So the design of her fight is not necessarily a problem, though it's worth a mention because it's contentious.
What is a problem is how she interacts with the Syndicate. As GGG's own statistics have shown, players have still deemed it more punishing than not to actually complete her fight. Even after they adjusted her fight to give the rewards of the four safehouse leaders at the time of her defeat. Even though many of her dropped items are somewhat expensive thanks to a lack of supply. This is down to the Syndicate being a pain in the ass to manipulate and set back up (especially once you've locked undesirable members into undesirable branches and prefer to keep them that way) on top of her fight resetting the entire Syndicate's members and progress. In addition, if you fail the fight, you reset all of her progress . This isn't really important considering how people mostly only fight her for challenge-related purposes (and the loot is simply a byproduct), but it is noticeably more punishing than most other endgame boss fights. Shaper and Uber Elder can simply be fought again and are known to be tough but fair. Catarina is hardly so gracious. Even though it turns out she's always hiding in the Forbidden Vault, you've got to find her all over again.
If Betrayal goes core exactly as it is, barring some people who would like to get some of her exclusive crafts for services in the new league, I don't see why people would bother with her fight. It would still be more profitable to farm for scarabs and crafting benches than to screw up a painstakingly laid Syndicate. Proposed solution to problem:
To reiterate, the problems with the mechanics of the Syndicate include the binary choice system a la Incursion, the undesirable outcomes of any given Betrayal offer (including the interrogation option), the tedium caused by the random nature of said offers compounded with the fact that you only get a few choices in the matter, and the fact that progressing the Syndicate and getting better rewards from it has nearly no relation to high level content. Oh, and the Mastermind may as well not exist. Here are some options:
- Encounters will be less frequent, so GGG should simply make them always have at least 2 members, regardless of the relationships between said members (though it should prioritize relationship statuses before inserting random members).
- Make Syndicate members give more options. I cannot stress enough just how bad it is to have virtually 1-2 choices per encounter: we wouldn't be constantly walking away from encounters otherwise. It would be absolutely unacceptable for us to have to do this in the core game. This could be something as simple and reductive as simply allowing us to always execute a member (You might not necessarily get progress because they're already 3*, but at least they drop their items) regardless of how many members are present (on top of a Bargain or Betray option).
- Or it could be something as complex as a wholesale rework of the interaction mechanics. Personally, I favor a drag-and-drop board with intuitive decision making.
- Each member in the encounter should be highlighted with a black and green flame border as per the colors of Betrayal.
- Their relationship lines should glow brightly when that member is hovered over, and green or red outlines should appear based on what relationship the selected member has with a given member (and make them hues that are friendly to more common varieties of colorblindness).
- When a member is selected, there should be a menu of options to choose from, including Interrogation, Execution, Bargaining for Intel, Bargaining for Items, Destroying a Branch's items, Freeing Prisoners and any number of available Betrayal options where they're available (if trusted members are in the zone).
- The "drag and drop" aspect would be for removing members (putting them in the trash bin to get swapped with someone who isn't in the Syndicate) and for switching the positions of members between branches or between leadership positions (only leaders can switch with other leaders and only subordinates can switch with leaders in their branch).
- Allow multiple encounters within a zone. I suggested this for the purpose of improving the feeling of dealing with Veiled Items, but this would also apply to interacting with Syndicate mechanics by giving a sense of rapid and impactful progression through a single set of Jun encounters. Of course, only different branches or keystone members might be allowed to show up, which could prove to be troublesome for manipulation purposes, but if it came hand in hand with increases to intel gains or bargaining/execution options, it could be fine. The impromptu feeling of stumbling into the four distinct mission types is appealing though, hence why having Jun as the start trigger might not be possible (especially when it comes to Intervention, which is supposed to ambush you).
- Make area level have an effect on Syndicate progress. Once it goes core, infrequent encounters mean that intel could be adjusted to fill with fewer encounters based on area level and not just rank within the Syndicate. In addition, intel could scale asymptotically with the amount of relationships that a member has (makes sense, right? More friends/enemies, more info). The way I see it, Safehouses don't really come into play until at least level 60; it's all veiled items and manipulation before then. This means that Safehouse farming in low-level zones should be diminished by changing how intel is gathered and farming in high-level zones will be rewarding both with respect to looting and to interfacing with the content. In addition, to promote some degree of multi-safehouse farming, we could have cross-department intel (give intel for their own branch as well as the branch they appeared to help with).
- Make the Mastermind worthwhile to do. This would be helped by making the Syndicate less tedious to set up in some way, whether by one of the above methods or some other method. This depends on how GGG wants the Mastermind to be treated by players: as an integral end-goal that is equivalent to other established Syndicate farming methods, or just as a nice bonus on top, or something else? If the former, then GGG should double the rewards made available by the Safehouse leaders. Four stashes against two is a clear winner, especially considering that we're skipping out on the safehouse members by doing this as well as the potential difficulty of getting the Mastermind in future leagues. This also really promotes a risk/reward mechanic and justifies having Catarina disappear for another several Safehouses should you fail to kill her. Having an "incomplete" reset of the Syndicate might also be good (explain it by saying that previous members keep some of their old ties after being reorganized), though the ability to wipe the board is useful for people who have screwed up too much and would rather start over without moving people around (again, depends on if Betrayal interaction is changed when it goes core). The criteria for not being reset could be an amount of relationships (rivalries/trusts) or a rank requirement (3* in the leader position, thus shielding the subordinates from reset).
- Finally, making alternative farming methods within the Syndicate viable through interaction mechanics. While the suggestions about loot increases could help to incentivize some people to pick more of the currently middling/bad rewards and therefore farm outside of Intervention and Research, what people generally do is they set up everyone to have rivalries (because of the problem with bad choices, especially when members are trusted). I'd like to see a more distinct set of advantages/disadvantages that are different but equal for trusted/rival statuses. I don't think that Intervention or Research will necessarily be devalued by making Transportation and Fortification more accessible and rewarding; they have worthwhile rewards that can stand against simple numeric increases in currency drops from the common branches. Making it easier to move members where you want or keep them where they are (instead of constantly rolling the dice and walking away when it the outcome is unsuitable) would help with shifting the current meta of "locking" the "undesirable" Syndicate branches, although the targeted farming is appealing in it's own player-invented ingenuity.
In closing, I would rather Betrayal get a "Bestiary" treatment if GGG doesn't have a game plan for how they're going to make it into core content. Better to wait a few months and do the job right than to botch it. Betrayal is tied to a lot of crafting options at the moment, but they could be moved to environmental Atlas recipes for the time being or veiled items could drop regardless of the Syndicate's presence in Wraeclast (a little odd to have a Veiled master without a Syndicate to fight though, hence why I'm fairly certain GGG already has something up their sleeve for this). GGG has invested a lot of resources into writing and polishing Betrayal and creatively engineering its mechanics, and it shows. Most content that GGG has ever made tends to return in one way or another, thanks to how asset use and systems design work in this game. It isn't a matter of "if", it's a matter of "when". I hope GGG makes the right calls on this and I look forward to what you guys think should be done.
Now that all the info is out there and according to the sticky the D4 team is looking for feedback I've decided to type up this wall of text with my opinions so far.
I like the prospect of a player driven economy and the tiered trading system. The big question I’ve been pondering regarding the D4 trading system “why gold?”
Durability has been scrapped (rightly so in my opinion) and with crafting materials and a purportedly extensive catalog of legendary items being tradable why not scrap gold altogether? Allow the players to create a commodities market much like they did in D2. Gold is such a boring currency, something that you absentmindedly vacuum up as you focus on picking up more important and interesting types of loot. In my experience item to item trading is always much more interesting than item to flat currency trading.
The increased focus on affixes is encouraging. The dev team obviously wants more interesting and varied gearing choices for players to mull over. However, the “Attack” and “Defense” stats we’ve seen on items seem to be in direct opposition to the dev teams affix oriented philosophy. Is there some offensive niche that is not being filled by stats like crit, attack speed, +X to skills? Those are all “Attack” affixes. Likewise, is there some defensive hole that “Defense” is filling that cannot be filled by +% to resistance, dodge, block, armor, health? With all the hard work the devs have done to populate the affix pool with interesting choices, these two bland modifiers are, depending on their level of scaling, at best redundant and at worst actively undermining the impact of the affix pool.
- 𝔼 𝕟 𝕕 G 𝕒 𝕞 𝕖 C 𝕠 𝕟 𝕥 𝕖 𝕟 𝕥
The ARPG end game has always been about the grind. How well can your character chew up the most difficult level of content? How efficiently can you convert monsters/bosses into loot and exp? No matter how you dress it up the dichotomy is essentially the same and it’s difficult to find real depth. You need to attack this problem from both ends; the difficulty and variety of content you’re feeding into the grinder and the quantity and quality of rewards spewing out the other end. Both need to be varied, repeatable and, most importantly, freely customizable by the player.
This is why I’ve always enjoyed the Path of Exile mapping system. The map is just like any other piece of gear in the game which means I can modify it to give me the experience I want. I control the content and it’s rewards by rolling affixes onto the map just I would when customizing my character’s gear. This provides amazing variety and replayability and also doubles as a perfect yardstick with which players can measure the strength of their characters. D4’s key system, while similar, seems to lack the customizability of the mapping system. This can suffer from the “dead key” problem we see sometimes in the World of Warcraft Mythic+ system where players loot a key of a specific dungeon that is simply not worth doing and without a system to either reroll the key to another dungeon or change the affixes the key is simply abandoned.
I’d like the D4 key system to follow the itemization philosophy of allowing player choice and customization so people can more intricately personalize their dungeon experience like they can with their build.
I personally enjoyed the expanded powers of the cube in D3. With the focus on item customization through affixes I can see the cube being more than just a reroll machine in D4. This is where I think we can see rare items finding it’s niche. Not all legendary items will have the stats we need like life and resistances. We can fill these gaps in our build with rare items that can have large concentrations of these more basic or bread and butter stats. Using the cube to craft rares and fish for stats we need can be a very satisfying change of pace to the, at times, monotonous grinding of dungeons. Recipes could be scattered across the world sending players on targeted farming runs and allow players to leverage rarer crafting recipes in the game’s economy.
Rare items do not have to be relegated to the auto-salvage pile and many players have lamented this fact in both D3 and D4. We can use the crafting system to build a niche for them while still keeping legendaries and their unique build defining affixes in the spotlight.
- ℂ 𝕦 𝕤 𝕥 𝕠 𝕞 𝕚 𝕫 𝕒 𝕥 𝕚 𝕠 𝕟 I 𝕟 G 𝕖 𝕟 𝕖 𝕣 𝕒 𝕝
My general philosophy here is more is better. I think it’s ok for players to be confused. There’s immense satisfaction to be had from taking time to figure something out. At minimum the customization in an ARPG should allow for a healthy bell curve to form in the player base; from players who are bewildered to players who have mastered every aspect of its systems and the majority in between. I hope the devs go into developing their systems with an intrinsic trust of the players to not give up at the first hurdle and instead to work things out either by themselves or by looking to more experienced players for help.
It seems the world casual is used more and more as a synonym for stupid or lazy. Casual use to simply mean someone who played less hours. Casuals are just as capable as “hardcore” players at problem solving and logical reasoning so it’s perfectly fine to make D4 with casuals in mind. However, I don't think it’s OK to make D4 for the lowest common denominator.
From the demo streams it was implied that skills would be grouped into 6 categories for each class and that only one skill from each category can be used in your build. That seems to fly in the face of the focus on customizability. These skills should be free from restrictions so if a player wants to use 2 conjuration skills or weapon mastery skills in his build he can. Instead of being a restriction these categories can be used as a way for affixes and talents to augment our skills by providing +effectiveness to a particular skill category. Other than that, the skill progression system seems promising going by what we’ve been told and having experienced a similar system in D2.
The talent trees seem slightly anemic. Whether that is due to the pre-alpha state of the game or a deliberate design choice I don’t know. I would like to see them expanded out to include more choices instead of a series of binary options. I personally am OK with there being bad or sub optimal choices in talent trees that serve no other purpose than to add flavor to the tree. I’d like to see greater specialization in the talent tree that opens up when you reach the end of a specific branch. I’ve always found a build to be more fun when I can double down on some aspect of gameplay I’ve committed my build to. This also opens up opportunities to introduce more drastic game changing talents in these specialist trees because the big end of tree talents shown in the demo were not as earth-shatteringly game-changing as I’d hoped. My advice to the devs on specific talents would be don’t be timid, just go for it, go absolutely nuts. More often than not us players will find a way to make it work.
If you made it this far thanks for reading.
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