Dark and Darker – Developer Q&A for Playtest #4

Developer Questions and Answers

Q: You said you only had 3 and a half weeks this time around, right?

A: Yeah, so actually after the last playtest, we extended it until the 26th and then we took the rest of the year off; We came back January 2nd and we started working for this playtest. The other thing that happened was right in the middle we had the Lunar New Years, which is a big holiday in Korea. It was like, basically that week was a wash too.

We actually only had 4 weeks of actual working, so we’re not going to have as much juicy content this time, so we kind of focused more on Quality of Life features, partly because we’re doing it with this Steam’s Next Fest, since we will have a little bit more exposure.

Q: I read that you had over a million unique users on steam?

A: Yeah, we had at this time. It’s crazy. Big shout out to the team right out here!

Q: What about this last playtest you think worked well and what didn’t?

A: Man, I should’ve prepared for that! There’s going to be more cosmetics we want to try out, we’re not exactly sure If the current Adventure Points shop is what we will go with, we have other ideas; We did have time to implement some more skins. In terms of balancing, we’re not going hardcore into balancing, but some of the magic stuff… We watched those videos and were like “Oh,” but in our world Magic should be powerful but because of some of the formulas and design that we did, a lot of it was implemented before we added magic spells, so It was more theory crafting and we haven’t edited that since. That’s one of the options we have in mind to balance it.

We’re going to try other ways to balance the magic power curves, we still have like, 4 to 5 days so we’re still going to do some internal testing. We still want to encourage people making weird builds, we’re trying to find a good medium between that and balance. What we’re doing with Wizard is, the starting stats, our Wizard right now is more like what we imagine the Sorcerer would be and the knowledge stat wasn’t implemented until the last playtest. We’re going to try and balance the spells directly themselves and then actually change around the starting stats of the Wizard. Also, we’re giving the Clerics that point back that they are missing!

Q: One of the things that’s interesting about this game is that there are many nuanced fights where no matter what gear you have, you make one mistake and you’re just instantly dead.

A: The design team has annotations about how we want to do balancing, we do want these high peaks and valleys because I think overall in the end that’s what makes it more fun! Even in fighting games, with a huge roster, not every single character is viable depending on what kinda scene they’re in. As long as all the characters are fun in their own way. Our goal is not too extreme peaks and valleys but we do want to have these kinds of valleys and peaks where people can figure out their playstyle.

You could be a very powerful Wizard but step on a trap and die. That makes the game more interesting, makes it more interesting gameplay. Trying to perfectly balance every single detail would be kind of a futile endeavor. Our thing is just to lean into making the game more fun. It makes good twitch moments! That’s what we want.

Q: With High Roller dungeons from the last playtest, how do you feel like that went? We had a little bit of community split with the Leaderboards being High Roller only, what did you guys end up coming to on that?

A: So, High Roller was always in the picture from very early on, that’s one thing that we’re going to continue to tweak. There was an issue with not enough people going to High Roller, in terms of the difficulty was that we overturned the difficulty so when you went in even with all blue items It was still on the high end difficulty curve, we did need to do a lot more tuning there and in terms of giving enough incentive for people to go to the High Rollers, we were not giving people enough incentive to say “It’s worth my time and the risk of going there”, so what’s why we’ve been tuning that.

I’ll give you a little hint of what’s coming, there’s going to be very very good incentives to go get the boss in High Roller this time. The only way to get unique items is by beating the boss right? We’re going to make it worth your time to go and get those unique items.

Q: So speaking of bosses, we had the ARG you guys did that luckily we were able to figure out finding the QR code under the bench, and then we have this image of the Cave Troll boss, does that mean the Cave and B1 is coming with this playtest?

A: I’ll let you know, It’s going to be very experimental. There’s this big divide in our community about “Hey, how do you support, Solo Adventurers?”, so we’re going to do a big experimental thing this time. Our policy, the way we designed the game, we’re not big fans of just having a Solo Queue, but in our mind, in what we want to accomplish for the game five or ten years down the line is:

Dark and Darker is not just about this one dungeon in itself, It’s that there’s this whole world, we want it to feel like It’s an actual World setting. Everyone is used to this dungeon that we’re familiar with right now but we want to give you a hint of “Okay, there’s more than just this one location.” So the one thing we didn’t want to do is like “Oh, make a solo queue just for our current dungeon” because that’s not what we designed the dungeon around, It’s around the “Hey, I’m here with my Fantasy Party and we’re going dungeon diving!”, but these adventurers are not going to be always hanging out with their crew, sometimes they want to go do things on their own right? That’s what we’re looking to hint on the Cave Troll announcement, It’s very experimental.

The players made it loud and clear that there’s that kind of need for “You know, when my friends aren’t online I still want to be able to do something that builds upon my character.” SDF, you know, the guy in charge of our studio, when we started kicking off the company he said: “The goal of our company and our team is to fulfill the dreams of the gamers that want to play our games.” So that’s the main motivation for us. When players said they want to be Veteran adventurers but not always with a group, we said we have to take that seriously and let’s see If we can do it in a way that fits the Dark and Darker experience. It could totally blow up in our face, we have to realize that It’s going to be a huge experimental thing. We’re really looking towards collecting data.

So just like High Rollers need a lot of work from when they first came out, their first iteration, It’s a good starting point to get some data, is this just some vocal minority that’s shouting or is this a real deep desire that we have to accommodate? There’s definitely a lot of concerns because It will split the player base, even with High Rollers that was our biggest concern. One of the things we did learn with High Rollers is that we’re not getting as many people as we expected and that’s why we’re putting more carrots now for High Rollers. The Success of this last playtest is what gives us the ability to say, even with the split, we can still have good matchmaking.

After the playtest, with concrete data, we can see If this is going the direction we were hoping for, or If It’s a failure. We’ll see. Unless we test it directly with our players, we won’t know. It’s like the Theory crafting magic power curse. That’s what the Cave Troll is hinting about.

Q: So a completely separate dungeon?

A: Yes, there’s going to be a completely new dungeon for solo players. It’s going to be very experimental. If we see things that are not good for us, It could disappear in the middle of the playtest. You could still play solo, and go to the group side If you wanted.

Q: Will there be a separate level of difficulty for the solo side? Or is it the one dungeon, the troll boss and that’s the run?

A: Yes, that’s the run right now. Again, this is very experimental, we had three and a half weeks. The concept actually started the first week of January, there’s so many people asking for this, is this even viable? We’re like “Okay, well, If we do have enough sleepless nights, we might be able to do this!” That’s where we’re at right now. It was built in basically two and a half weeks. We’re looking for that feedback to see, and again please realize this is the first iteration, the first experience, that’s what we’re hoping to build upon. If we’re totally in the wrong direction, let us know about that too.

Your feedback actually does change our direction. The very obvious point is the skill tree right now, we haven’t touched it yet, we had that fully designed but It might not actually fit the actual direction of the game. We have to revisit it and see If now the way that the community has driven the game, how do we bring it back? We are getting a lot of good feedback.

Q: Can I ask what the maximum quality item can drop in a solo level one dungeon?

A: We will probably change it as It goes up but right now It’s going to be Epic. It might go up to Legendary, we’re still tuning that Troll. We have other ways to make it difficult not just by increasing the damages the Troll itself does, like other aspects of the map. Also the density of how many Solo Adventurers go in, If you’re attacking the troll boss and then five other solo guys come in, It’s just going to be chaos right? We have these little things that we could start messing around with. Right now It’s Epic but If we make it more difficult It could even go up to Legendary, we will see.

You have to be very careful of the Troll boss! With the current bosses, It’s a little bit easier for ranged characters to take down the current bosses, so with the Troll boss we wanted to make it so going face to face with the Troll is going to be a better experience than ranged.

Q: Could the current bosses maybe have weak spots that can only be exploited by melee characters?

A: Those are things that we wanted to start experimenting with but because of the short duration of the development time this time, we couldn’t implement stuff like this. The other thing is that because we’re such a small development team, we can’t do a lot of the actual 3DR assets in-house. We have one full time 3D modeler that makes assets and then our art director, he could do 3D models too but his time is very valuable for making sure the art team is not blowing up.

So we’re using you know, a lot of assets from the marketplace right? The limitation there is that because we’re buying these things, we have to customize them. If everything was custom made in-house from the ground up, It takes a lot more pre-planning. It’s not something we can’t overcome but we don’t have the time. We only have three full-time game designers: It’s the level designer, the system/weapons balance designer and one monster designer. They’re all excellent, they’re the guys making all that content. I guess SDF is also our key full designer.

So there’s four making all the design work. We need to figure out a solution for the low amount of designers. If we get to a stage where we can easily make assets, then It’s not going to be a problem at all anymore.

Q: How are you guys on pace for your Q2 release?

A: Well, first because of the Next Fest, we might need to release this next playtest as a Demo. The requirement is that you have to release a Demo version of the game, so the process is actually going to be a bit different, we wanted it to be just a small update but because of the Next Fest, what’s going to happen is that on the sixth, the Stress test starts at 10AM on the 6th PST on Monday.

We’re going to actually release our Demo, six hours earlier. What you will do is just go to our steam page, and there’s going to be a “Download Demo” or “Launch Demo” button. It kind of sucks because you will have to download 9-10gb from scratch. So, sorry, what was the original question again? Sorry, I went off on a tangent again.

Q: You guys are going to sell over 2 million copies! That’s not even a question! Hahah!

A: If that happens, I will put out another tweet personally thanking you guys for predicting it! Because of the Next Fest, we focused more on Quality of Life features, making improvements to some of the features that are already in the game. It is Alpha, so there are a lot of things that are cumbersome; A lot of that stuff is going to be improved. If the new Quality of Life features meet the expectations of the players this time, then we can start focusing on building up enough content to get the Early Access.

If things go well in that aspect then, I feel pretty good about going to Early Access at the end of April or maybe May, that’s probably going to be more real than just April. One of our biggest challenges will be B1, in my mind that is a must-have for Early Access, to have B1. We’re still in the concept phase for that.

Q: There have been community rumors back and forth that the starting floor could be in an outdoors area, like a Forest area and then working your way into the Dungeon, so I guess my question is: For B1 will we be able to see the sky?

A: There’s actually been that discussion internally. I don’t want to commit, we haven’t actually done any real development work yet but seeing the sky was actually talked about, yeah. There’s definitely a chance. That emotional connection that you had when you’re playing old Fantasy games, in your imagination, that goes back to the company speech SDF gave us, that’s our job. Our job is very simple, we have to fulfill that kind of fantasy. The issue right now, is by Q2, do we actually have enough time and capacity to build that experience?

Because that’s our eventual goal, we’re going to have that but is it going to be in Early Access? I can’t say for sure. We try to be very realistic about our time frame, that’s going to be very very challenging. We might have openings in the ceiling to hint that in the future there’s outdoors, you’re not always in the dungeons. One or two years down the line, that’s like, our ultimate goal, to fulfill the players dreams. We have to get there step by step. We always want to dream big. People could share that Journey going there.

Q: Blocking angles for Shields, If you don’t have that angle perfect, a lot seems to still get through. Is that something that you guys have been looking at?

A: We haven’t been looking at that actively, that’s something we want to polish on. So basically the way the blocking system works is that all the attacks have collision tracers, so when It goes through animation It will track where all the tracers go, all the blocking like shields or anything that parries they actually have collision boxes so we’re checking per tick, If the path of the weapon animation is actually blocked by the collision and that’s what makes an actual successful block. It has to be very, very precise. We’re using the actual physics engine of the Unreal Engine to calculate this out.

This is where we might need to figure out where the polish comes in because we’re just being exact. There are issues with the frame rate. If the server tick rate stutters or there’s weapons that are so big It’ll go through the entirety of the motion in like three or four ticks. We do those calculations but I think the main disconnect is that we’re using very very very precise calculations to do these kinds of blocks but because you’re not physically there, in that first person view, If there was a camera out there looking at it, you could precisely see why you didn’t block it. If the tip of the sword glances your forehead, you’re going to take that bad headshot damage.

It’s not an issue that could be totally solved through the logic itself, we have to start figuring out ways to polish it so It feels better to people, those are things that are on the plan but again, this time, we’re at a point where It doesn’t feel great but It gives you a hint on what’s to come. It’s kind of on the back burner right now. There’s a ton of those kinds of stuff we need to fix. If you look at the list of stuff we have to work on, It’s all about prioritizing things.

There’s a lot of stuff that we could do that, we call it like the low hanging fruit, where It’s like, for the amount of effort and amount of impact it has to our overall community and players, we still have so many of larger things we still have to work on. Things like that, they are always in the back of our minds to improve upon but there’s these other gigantic tasks right in front of us that we’re looking at right now.

Q: For Two-handed Mauls, can we have an overhead?

A: We may have gone a little overboard with the movement penalty. The moving penalties on two-handed were pretty rough. The October playtest had basically no movement penalty, the September playtest had a severe movement penalty. For us the reality of balancing is, sometimes we go to the extreme and then we have to kind of ease it back up. It’s very hard for us to, on the first try, hit that balancing mark.

Q: Is there any chance of changing the attack animation on the Two-handed Mauls?

A: One of the most famous Korean streamers, they killed the Lich and a legendary War Maul came out, and he’s like: “Oh my god I’ve never seen this before! I’ve never swang a legendary War Maul” so he was just like *swings* THUMP! And his teammate walked headfirst into the swing. It’s awesome content. The answer right now is that we haven’t touched that swing. At this point It’s kind of like a meme item. We’ll look into it, but It’s not very high on priority.

Q: I wonder If It will make more sense for spells capped people at a certain speed, so that If they are particularly fast, It brings them down to a normalized speed?

A: There is currently a cap, It’s not a very sophisticated capping system. I don’t know off the top of my head, the actual formula we’re using for that. So we do movement penalties with just an actual nominal amount. We do it by percentage % base. So I don’t know exactly how the slow is, there’s just so many complex analogies. It’s not on our radar, It’s something that we will look into. I don’t know If It’s going to be an easy fix.

Q: Gold storage, is that being changed?

A: So, this playtest, we haven’t touched anything on gold storage. There’s actually stuff that we built in already, you know, right now there’s pouches, we actually built like bags, chests and stuff. We’re not sure If we’re ever going to implement this. We’re learning things from the playstyle and giving players these kinds of restrictions have side effects. At first that’s not maybe what we desire but, after deeper thinking maybe It’s not a bad thing and giving players those type of restrictions gives people reason to explore more and try to figure out how to be more creative.

Right now there’s a very good chance that in the future we’re going to implement it, but we’re not in a rush right now. That’s kind of what changed and we’ll see how people react. I think It’s too overbearing or even burdensome. No big money changes except Quality of Life stuff. We’re making it so interacting with the menus, interacting on Trading Post. The Trading Post is actually, really close to what we wanted to do but I guess It’s kind of a victim of Its own success is that If you go into the Trading Post It’s too crazy. We worked a lot on how to make it more functional. Those are the kinds of things we’ve been really focused on those Quality of Life features.

Q: Would it be possible for the gold bags that you can buy to have larger capacity for the coins that they’ll hold?

A: That’s a very easy change for us but on purpose right now we’re not going to do that because giving these set of restrictions is good. There is a hard limit on the max amount of gold that you can store right now, and because we have that benefit, a lot of people are making strategic decisions because of that limit. This is not something that we actively designed around, It’s like, okay we don’t have to make that extra stash. We have so much other stuff to do so, and this is actually making the game more interesting and more fun by giving people these kinds of limitations and seeing how they’re working around their limitations.

That’s the cool thing when you watch streamers, is like you can see with their mouse where like what they’re pointing at and that kind of gear. I think that’s the cool thing about games in itself. Or when you’re spectating someone and you’re going to tell, like when there’s going to be a surprise. The little subtle things and that’s the hints that we’re getting. Shared stash and more gold storage is on hold right now, If we need to we can just put it on easily. It’s on hold but It’s still on the table. It just requires a lot more analysis I think.

Q: I’ve been holding on to this question that chat has been spamming me all the time, Voice Over IP (VOIP) in-game?

A: It’s going to be in the game this test. I wanted to get input from you guys because you guys are big streamers. It’s going to be on by default, we’re going to have a button that mutes it. It might be comma or period keys but you guys can customize it. It’s thanks to the streamers that we have even gone this far. So now we have to have you guys always on consideration. There will also be a button where you press it, and It will toggle only for your team, or proximity. That’s something we have been working on the most. It’s our very very first time implementing this kind of technology. That was the big announcement I wanted to make.

Q: Can we use VOIP in stealth? As a Rogue or Wizard?

A: The way we implemented it, It should work in stealth.

Q: Bards?

A: Again, we haven’t had focus on content, there’s not going to be a Bard this playtest. Maybe next time. Hopefully next time.

Q: Will there be new spells or perks or anything like that being added for any of the classes in this playtest?

A: Not much. I mean, there might be one or two. It’s not going to be a big thing. Because we’re expecting a less hardcore audience for this playtest, we want to make it so the non-day experience is as smooth as possible for them. The other thing with VOIP we’re adding this time, is a party finder. So you don’t need to just go and start sending spam invites to everyone.

We’ll actually have an in-game chatroom, you could inspect other people and It’s separated by regions. I guess to supplement that, there’s going to be a Karma system. If you team-kill too many people, your name will turn red. It will be very hard for you to find teams, you’re going to have to do a lot of convincing to get people to party up with you. These are experimental stuff that we’re working on. Even though It doesn’t add to the gameplay experience, we want to widen the net for new players coming in to make it as smooth as possible. Team-killing is actually part of Dark and Darker, that’s what we think of it right now. There’s actually no rules against team-killing. We want to give people that kind of freedom, the problem is not having any consequences for team-killing.

That’s where up until this point we feel like we failed. We want you to be able to judge somebody by having a reputation to address with. If you’re going in with people that you have never met before, you should have that kind of tension of “Okay, can I really trust these guys?”, that’s why we didn’t outright within the system try to handle that. But it shouldn’t just be the wild wild west, right? We want it to be some kind of way to tell your reputation so, that’s what we’re going to try and implement with this Karma system.

We don’t know how people are going to actually behave with this Karma system, we were making bets last night where “Man, I bet you like, in three days, 90% of our playerbase have red names.” Now we leave it out to the community, we’re going to see how the community uses this tool. The problem in the past was not having any kind of tools and It was pure pure chaos. We always want that kind of sense of element of danger. We want it to feel like, you’re in the Tavern and then there’s all the Adventurers there so you’re like: “Can I really trust this guy? What’s his motivation?”

We want to keep that freedom but If the community just totally degenerates into everyone then we might have to make a harder line. Maintaining player freedom is something that we have to make really deep considerations before we overstep that or cross that line. 

Q: Bulk buying and selling of items?

A: That was actually a more difficult problem than we initially expected it to be. We could have a solution, It’s not like the perfect solution, but you can sell stacked items. It’s kind of like an intermediary step. We focused on making the gameplay experience a little bit smoother.

Q: The last question I have is, for the Ruby silver mining, the ratios to craft and make was an awful lot, has that been adjusted at all?

A: Yeah, I think off the top of my head, I think we just slashed in half. Hopefully this time you’ll see more people wearing it.

Q: I’m going to assume there aren’t any quests for this playtest?

A: Yeah, sometimes I need to shut up, haha. It’s a little too ambitious for now, we have pushed it off until we start to see the preliminary Quest system, the start of it.

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