Thursday, March 07, 2024

Oh Helldivers...

An image on how the Helldivers 2 developers determined to nerf their game

 The Helldivers 2 developers took on their game's namesake and hell dived right into a hot steaming pile of community feedback with a discussion that is as old as time: nerf or buff.  Developers always land on nerf and players always end up on buff.

 I caught up to the controversy via Massively OP: Helldivers 2 tries to further explain recent balancing as players push back against nerfs.  The key quote pulled from a dev blog:

“I have since the game released seen many who say ‘Don’t Nerf, only Buff’ and other similar ideas. However as a designer I can tell you this is not a great idea, but I understand where the sentiment comes from. All too often in the games industry the core fantasy, and what makes a weapon feel good and fun, is ignored for the sake of Balance. I believe players are scared of Nerfs, because it will ruin the fantasy of a weapon, ruin their fun. It is extra important to us to tread carefully so that we don’t ruin fantasy and fun when we do nerfs. We hope you, our players, will tell us when we cross that line inadvertently.”

 The last part of that quote stuck out to me: "cross that line inadvertently".  This is basically saying "we are going to cross that line on purpose"; reinforced by the line before says when and not IF they implement nerfs: "when we do nerfs".  So we have developers here calling out their strategy is going to favor nerfs and they need the community to tell them when it's too far.

 As can be expected the community feedback was swift and loud.  Lifting a summary from Massively OP "with most arguing that nerfs shouldn’t be the first move in a PvE-only game".  That is a solid argument.  Helldivers 2 is a player vs environment game so an unbalanced weapon is not the same detriment as PvP.  The only one being hurt by the imbalance is a developer or two that have hurt feelings the toy they made isn't getting as much use.

 Which brings me to my thoughts here.  Reading the dev blog it is clear the developers have their idea on the fantasy (as they call it) of what a weapon should be in their game.  I am stressing their because as we can see by the community feedback it is not the general player's fantasy they are fulfilling.

 Also this whole fantasy comment is just odd.  I get that player's have an idea in their minds (aka a fantasy) of how something should work but do the developers really think players are so basic that their fantasy overrides that it's a game?

  What's the point of a game? To have fun!  So shouldn't fun win out over a perceived fantasy?  This is why sniper rifles in a Battlefield are balanced to not be equivalent to their real life counterparts (i.e. invisible and firing from a mile away).  Games make concessions to be a game all the time.

 I'm the type of gamer that is persuadable to agree with developers that "nerfs" are appropriate and a better design approach than thinking games can be buffed into balance (when does power inflation stop?).  If nerfs are appropriate, especially in a PvE game, then the reason will be obvious to most.  It does not seem that is the case in Helldivers 2 and the community is screaming the line was crossed.

 This attempt to hide the nerfs behind the fantasy is just nonsense.  Players want to have fun.  Don't take fun away.

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