Countless posts complain about balancing issues, convoluted mechanics, timegated material, toxic players, and much more! Small incremental fixes aren't always what is needed, either. (If the growing pains of the recent Trap Meta changes are anything to go by, sometimes the incremental approach can really hurt along the way!) Rather than simply agree with the complaints, I wanted to provide the community with a detailed vision for one possible direction of the game! A fan-made roadmap, if you will.
The following article takes a wide sweep at the game and its systems in an attempt to create a more uniform design. Although it is meant to be taken as a whole, I am imperfect and the article is ridiculously long! It is very likely you will come across something you disagree with. I would greatly appreciate it if you wouldn't immediately discount every single word I've written just because you've run into the occasional poor idea! I actually welcome and encourage any feedback that isn't toxic. (And in that event… I already know that I am a pathetic human being who is unworthy of love; you can kindly leave my mother out of this!)
It is possible to balance active gameplay with tower defense. “Trading”, duping, and intrusive farming can be made things of the past. Design can be altered to better facilitate the addition of new content. (All of this, and more.) Even if my design isn't “the one true answer”, I aim to demonstrate how creative thinking to game design can potentially solve some big issues.
– Husk, Mist Monster, and Mini-Boss Meta
– Maps, Story, and Missions
– Equipment, Loadouts, and Farming
– Defenders and the Gear + U.P.G.R.A.D.E. Systems
– Heroes and the U.P.G.R.A.D.E. System
– Storm Shield Defense and the U.P.G.R.A.D.E. System
– Seasonal Material, Scaling, and Replayability
– Collection Book, Research, and Progression
– For Good Measure
Zapper – This husk needs a way for a player to respond to it. I suggest that Zappers “lock on” to a small area beneath the player a second or two before firing. If the player leaves the area within that small window (via jumping, phase shifting, dragon slashing, etc) the Zapper's shot does not track the player. The more Zappers there are, the more a player will be inconvenienced by them and there will be a higher chance of getting shot.
(Should you instead want building to be the counter: Lengthen how long it takes for the Zapper to fire, and give very clear on-screen indication that you're being aimed at as well as where it's coming from. This would give the player time to build a wall.)
Propane Huskies – Build-destroying enemies should not be beefy, super damaging, come in groups, and be difficult to spot amid the chaos all at once! I suggest splitting these threats into two enemies (one of which I've suggested below). Keep Propane Huskies beefy and in groups, but lower the damage of their explosions to be roughly equal to a normal Husky swipe or two. This turns Propane Huskies into a 1-time AoE variant. Propane Huskies continue their lives acting like normal Huskies after the explosion.
New Mist Monster: “Wrecker” – A large, slow, 3-legged crab-like creature whose shell is mottled with embedded propane tanks! Emits a lot of noise and glows threateningly, helping the player to spot it in the crowd. Wreckers don't care for players and will always prioritize forts. Easy to dispatch, shooting the propane tanks a couple of times will make it explode on the spot! Should the player fail to deal with it, however, it will commit suicide once reaching your trap tunnels. The resulting explosion is large and lethal, wrecking tunnels and players alike!
Smasher – Make Smashers naturally resistant to trap damage and trap-based crowd control while upping their weakness to gun and ability damage. The more you damage a Smasher, the higher your chance of turning its aggression away from your base and towards your face! This shifts them closer to a “Tank” from “Left 4 Dead” in principle, turning them into a tough, singular threat requiring the team rather than a cheap wave of destructive enemies which require abusing unintended trap meta to survive.
Lobber – Greatly lower the number of Lobbers spawned, but increase their rate of attack. Further decrease the chance of Beehive Lobbers. Give Lobbers extremely low health. (End result should be slightly lowered airstrike frequency, but coming from significantly fewer easy-to-kill sources.) The trick should be finding and eliminating them, not building Fort Knox. Lobbers are a good idea, but can be somewhat overwhelming for a “regular” enemy in their current state. Hunting down Lobbers should grant your fort blissful respite from their threat, not be a Sisyphean task.
HUSK, MIST MONSTER, AND MINI-BOSS META
Important tactical information has to be easy to recognize for the player, and a variety of necessary reactions will keep players engaged and cooperating. Turning enemy groups into a “Rock, Paper, Scissors” game of using traps, weapons, or abilities will serve both these purposes.
“Regular” Husks – Most vulnerable to traps, with guns and abilities being less effective at dealing damage. Building and traps are the player's counter to the massive hoards! (Guns and abilities are still strong enough to deal with the smaller groups encountered away from the objective. Traps are just better.)
Mist Monsters – Naturally somewhat resistant to trap damage, and launchers only stagger them. (Smashers would be even more resistant to trap damage, and also resistant to other trap CC.) Weakest to guns, followed closely by abilities. Player attention is highly advised, yet not 100% required!
Mini-Bosses – Only “regular” husks are eligible to receive the “Mini-Boss” buff, with Mist Monsters getting their own “Boss” category (explained below). Mini-bosses receive the usual increase in health, damage, etc, but no longer have modifiers. Instead they are most vulnerable to abilities, followed by guns. Traps, however, tickle them, and they are heavily resistant to all forms of trap CC.
Bosses – Only “Mist Monsters” are eligible to receive the “Boss” buff. Bosses receive the usual increase in health, damage, etc.. Unlike mini-bosses, Bosses still receive modifiers. (The “Trap-Vulnerable” modifier is removed for consistency. Also… avoiding an enemy until they walk into death doesn't feel very boss-like.) Totally immune to trap damage and CC. Equally vulnerable to guns and abilities.
MAPS, STORY, AND MISSIONS
What has Save The World's development historically excelled at? Remixing previously-made content while slapping on some top-notch dialogue! Embracing this fact would actually give the game a steady source of new content by making use of the Better Revenue mode's development, while simultaneously opening the design up for more variety.
- Retcon the lore (or use the Storm or Cube) to state that seas have risen, continents have cracked apart, and the world is now broken up into islands.
- Levels now take place on Better Revenue's maps with some randomized elements (chest placement, car placement, ore placement, etc.) Each map is associated with a zone, such as the original Better Revenue map being used for Stonewood. Whenever an update to a map in Better Revenue is made, new missions are added to the main campaign storyline and make use of the new area(s). When a new map is released, a new zone is released. (SSDs stay at their own unique maps.)
- Eliminating the procedural maps, as sad as it might be, should theoretically help with the “spaghetti code” problem while also making it easier to introduce new areas. Several versions of the old levels could be exported to be used in tutorials, special missions, early missions, events, etc..
- Make the intelligent Storm feel more like, well… a “storm”! Taking notes from Dungeons and Wargames modifiers, introduce weather that affects areas of the map. Fog banks reduce visibility. Rain is heavily damaging but is stopped by roofs. Mist doesn't care about structures, and slowly hurts you (aka – the current storm mechanic). Acid Clouds are a highly lethal area meant to keep players out by quickly killing them and destroying their structures (regardless of roof). Some missions have a tornado warning, etc.. The weather “Forecast” is shown on the map to the player before the mission starts (except if a mission modifier hides it).
- Reintroduce the “Patrol Ward” as the new and improved “Storm Ward”. Storm Wards act like campfires, protecting an area for a short period of time from both Patrols and Weather!
- Allow the mobility of the Better Revenue mode. This means swimming, vehicles, crouching, building into terrain…
- Edit husk pathing to accommodate for the smoother terrain. Husks can climb onto/over anything shorter than a third-high player wall (to account for odd jutting edges and such). Husks see terrain in 3 levels: Shallow, Steep, and Impassable. Anything a player would slide down or fully swim in is deemed Impassable. Steep slopes (or having to wade through water) slows husks down. Husks favor whatever path will get them to their goal the quickest, not accounting for traps and following all other current rules.
- Lower the number of husks, increasing their health and damage to compensate. This should help with performance without affecting difficulty. (Despite the performance issues of Horde Rush, the Better Revenue mode has proven that the game can run well with computer enemies on their maps via the Storm King event, bots, and henchmen.)
- Remove sleeping husks within levels to help with performance (reducing entities the engine has to keep track of at all times). Mist Monsters might occasionally linger, however. Patrols spawn near players. Patrol spawns are closer and more likely the longer a player stays in a given area, helping to keep the game moving while simultaneously punishing AFK players (with a reduced chance near objectives so that it doesn't get annoying). Patrol spawns are also larger in size the longer the mission has been running. Between the new Weather and a Patrol rework, threats should still be present.
- Mission types will be reworked to fit the new maps and weather (with most of them starting by dropping and gliding out of Lars' Van, making for a fun addition that can also be monetized with Better Revenue's cosmetics)! “Retrieve The Data” doesn't show the balloon to begin with; the storm circle shrinks like in Better Revenue until the landing site is revealed. “Fight The Storm” shows each ATLAS on the map from the beginning. “Ride The Lightning” becomes a form of Frostnite, with the player starting the mission on the ground at Lars' Van and having to fill it with BluGlo to escape (with the repeated option to risk extending the mission for better rewards if all players vote unanimously). Etc.
- Although missions will still be randomized, these tweaks will provide a framework for new, handcrafted missions to be made for events, story setpieces, or fun! The developers could easily hand-place waves, objectives, enemies, starting positions, and weather to create tailored levels in the vein of the level design of the Earth Defense Force franchise. For an extreme example: Acid Clouds could block the land, forcing players to journey down a river via a boat while Zappers, Lobbers, Blasters, and/or Takers attack from the stormy shores!
EQUIPMENT, LOADOUTS, AND FARMING
Sometimes less is more, simpler is better, and limited player choice actually creates more player choice! By changing the gear system – taking a couple notes from Dungeons and from the Better Revenue mode – you can better reinforce the core gameplay loop, lessen tedium, reduce “spaghetti code”, avoid some glitches, create meaningful player choices, and even eliminate a large source of toxicity!
The current way equipment is handled encourages players to stockpile a bajillion of the best traps/weapons, carrying the best of every tool for every job at all times. In response, the developers have to “balance” this habit by creating cheap enemies and challenges to create a false sense of difficulty. Players won't like you if you enter a mission underprepared, and they also won't like you if you are wasting their time by farming (a necessary task to get yourself prepared for a different mission). I propose a radical shift.
- Get rid of the Backpack and Storage. Yes, all of it. The weapons and traps you bring with you on a mission will be assigned via “Schematic” slots on the Loadout screen, no longer allowing (or requiring) stockpiling. No stockpiling means no more trading/scamming, no more duping or trap spamming, no more playing a level just to farm, and far less inventory management!
- Players will be compensated for erased stockpiles. Hoarded resources will be converted into a mixture of evolution materials, Re-Perk, Perk-Up, Flux, and SSD-specific materials (detailed in a later section). In addition, players will receive 2 Schematic Vouchers, and 10 Reset Vouchers.
- The number and type of weapons and traps you can bring with you will be very limited (as well as dependent upon character class). These will be the only weapons and traps available to you in the mission. The game will no longer have to keep track of your entire Inventory of possibilities at all times, loading only what it needs. Further, limiting weapon/trap loadouts will actually create more player choice rather than less; players will have to experiment with viable combos and focuses.
- If you fail to equip a schematic to your Loadout, the empty slot(s) will be filled with the highest level schematic out of your favorited gear, followed by non-favorited.
- Ranged weapons cannot break, like in Dungeons and Better Revenue. Replace “Durability” with “Ammo Efficiency” (i.e. a percent chance that the ammo from a fired shot gets returned to the total ammo pool). Guns still require ammo of the current types, and still share ammo pools. Current ammo pool maximums will be re-balanced.
- Melee weapons still can break, and they break quickly. Broken weapons don't disappear and instead simply become unusable. Like with crafting ammo for guns, melee weapons must be “mended” by spending resources gathered within the mission. (Unlike ammo, melee weapon durability is weapon-specific.)
- Traps still require materials gathered within a mission. Due to having no Backpack, traps simply use the required resources at the time of placement. Your current amount of materials will appear in the trap wheel next to the cost of the current trap highlighted. (Resource costs will be adjusted to make in-mission farming viable for trap creation.)
- Introduce Vindertech's patented “U.P.G.R.A.D.E.” system! (Universal Perpetual Gear Refinement And Development Equipment.) Weapons, although permanent, no longer start a mission at their maximum strength. They instead start with a lower rarity, and thus also have access to less of their perks. (All weapons other than Mythic will come in all rarities.) Special “Upgrade” bars – corresponding to farmed material types – will have to be filled if a player wants to bring their weapons to full strength! Each filled bar will raise the rarity of all carried weapons. Farming on a per-mission basis will reinforce the scavenge/build/fight gameplay loop that people like from other events and modes as well as give more purpose to the side missions.
- Higher rarity materials will fill more of their respective bar than lower rarity materials. (Silver will fill its respective bar faster than copper, for example.) Power Cells boost all bars! Higher rarity materials will have a higher chance of being granted from rarer chests as well as rarer objects. (Example: Fire trucks will grant better Upgrade materials than standard cars.)
- Weapons can only be Upgraded to the power/rarity of your equipped schematic.
- Traps do not follow the Upgrade system. They will still be placed at the power/rarity indicated by your schematic. Higher rarity traps will still cost more materials to place.
- Mythic weapons start the match at maximum rarity and, since they do not need to be upgraded, make it easier to Upgrade everything else a player is carrying! To compensate, their ammo/mending costs are massive.
- Schematics start out with a single elemental type. If that type can be changed, you can “unlock” a new element by spending Re-Perk and elemental Perk-Up. You can freely switch between “unlocked” elements when outside of a mission at the Loadout screen (no extra resources required). Each new “unlocked” element will cost more to unlock than the last.
- All schematics, heroes, defenders, gadgets, and research can be reset (with invested resources refunded) in exchange for V-Bucks.
DEFENDERS AND THE GEAR + U.P.G.R.A.D.E. SYSTEMS
- Your Defenders menu will allow you to equip a loadout of up to 6 Defenders to choose from for when you are placing them in a mission. You will assign each Defender an appropriate weapon schematic. (Unassigned slots will be filled with the highest-level Defender matched with the highest-available weapon.) When spawned, the Defender will be carrying a copy of the assigned weapon. This will reduce what the game has to keep track of as well as streamline placing Defenders. (Due to no Backpack and no weapon crafting, there will be no worry about Defenders “stealing” crafted weapons!)
- The Upgrade level of a Defender's weapon will match the current level of the player who placed them. Defenders have unlimited ammo and weapon durability. Since Defenders aren't as strong as human players, nor can they farm for themselves, eliminating their resource drain only seems fair.
- Defender Posts cannot be equipped on the Loadout screen, nor can they take up one of the slots for traps. They instead naturally appear in your trap wheel whenever there are fewer than 4 players in a mission!
- Introduce Mythic rarity Defenders who have a single special ability, such as a weaker Adrenaline Rush, mini-Airstrike, mini-Shockwave, etc..
HEROES AND THE U.P.G.R.A.D.E. SYSTEM
Unless specified by a Hero class or schematic text, all players start each mission without any ammo, crafting materials, or building materials. What you can carry into a mission will depend upon what class of Hero you choose, and each class will also have a bonus which will help them with their unique strength. All weapons will be accessible via the hotbar; extra hotbar space will also be reserved for consumables, making them finally see the light of day!
Soldiers will start out each mission with a large supply of ammo for all weapon types. They will be able to carry 3 guns, 1 melee, 2 consumables, and 2 traps.
Ninjas' “mend” actions heal a much larger portion of melee weapon durability. They will be able to carry 1 gun, 3 melee, 2 consumables, and 3 traps.
Outlanders collecting Charge Fragments will boost all Upgrade bars of themselves and every team member, regardless of distance. (Everyone starting out with little to no materials will naturally make Llama Fragments useful.) They will be able to carry 1 gun, 1 melee, 4 consumables, and 4 traps.
Constructors will start each mission with a decent supply of building and crafting materials. They will be able to carry 2 guns, 1 melee, 1 consumable, and 6 traps.
STORM SHIELD DEFENSE AND THE U.P.G.R.A.D.E. SYSTEM
Since farming isn't something you do in a Storm Shield Defense mission, special changes are needed to accommodate the new systems. Storm Shields will have their own supply of building and crafting materials which players will accumulate.
- Hosting players will have access to all of their accumulated building and crafting materials when visiting their storm shield (before the mission is started). Materials will be accumulated for a specific storm shield by beating missions within its respective zone. Each mission type will provide different distributions of materials (encouraging playing a variety of mission types).
- Before a mission is officially started, hosts can give permission to guests to use their accumulated materials for any desired building. If permission is denied (but normal building permission is granted), guest players may spend their own storm shield materials to build. Building costs with guest-provided materials are reduced in order to encourage this behavior. Players can also make a unanimous vote to pool and share their resources, with building costs being distributed across all players' stockpiles.
- All players begin a mission with ample supplies of materials for ammo/mending/crafting. Players may interact with the active amplifier/shield once per wave to restock, as well as collect supplies dropped by enemies.
- There are no Upgrade levels in an SSD mission since there isn't enough to farm; all schematics start at their full power.
- When collected by an Outlander, Charge Fragments will drop large quantities of guaranteed consumables.
SEASONAL MATERIAL, SCALING, AND REPLAYABILITY
Seasonal material has its appeal and purpose, but the community will be the first to tell you that it sucks to have to wait most of a year for a crucial part of a build. It also makes little sense to spend a lot of development time and money on events and questlines that will never be seen again. Further, scaling issues can create unfun conflicts between high and low Power Level players and also creates little reason to replay large swaths of the game (unless there is something like a V-buck mission). Improving how the game tackles replayability will vastly improve the life of the game!
- Add out-of-season Llamas into the X-Ray Llama rotation, purchasable via V-Bucks. This makes them rarer and more expensive than in-season llamas, yet still obtainable.
- Include a single out-of-season schematic or hero in the Weekly store, purchasable via gold.
- Add “Temporal Passports” which can be rented with gold or purchased with V-bucks. (Rental period lasts 7 days.) As an unexpected result of “The Long Road Home” storyline, commanders can revisit old event questlines. A single Passport will allow a player access to a single questline.
- Event Questlines accessed via Temporal Passports will reward players with their normal quest rewards, minus the Event Tickets. Instead, playing the questline will give you a set amount of the corresponding Llama as you go.
- Replaying an Event Questline will grant a second copy of rewarded schematics and heroes, but will yield reduced rewards for everything else. All subsequent replays will only yield a very small number of Llamas (providing another slow way of farming out-of-season Llamas, and a reward for replaying questlines for fun).
- Playing the current Event will still be completely free, and will still be the best way of farming a particular seasonal Llama. Any items that were offered via challenges or the Event Store will be added to their Event Llamas after the current season is over.
- Past events will take place on their respective “oldschool” maps. (A sampling of map variations will be exported and kept for this purpose.)
- All Founders will receive a set number of “Passport Vouchers” which can be redeemed for the permanent variety of Temporal Passport. The number of vouchers will be higher for higher-tier Founders.
- Main Campaign quests can be designated to be replayed on the Quest page. Although this will mostly be for fun, you will be able to get a second copy of certain rewards in this manner (much like with Temporal Passports).
- Reduce the amount of Hero and Schematic XP found in most missions (aside from alerts and the like). Playing with a Hero or Schematic will naturally level it. Heroes in the Commander slot will level faster than those slotted to support them. Although the “XP” resources will still exist, this should help encourage players to play with new and/or low-level gear from time to time (which will also encourage players to bring lower level gear when playing missions in lower level zones).
- Players joining Public lobbies who have a higher Power Level than the respective mission will have their Power Level and FORT stats reduced to just above the mission's level or to match the lowest-level player (whichever of the two numbers is higher). A 130 player joining a 20 mission with a 13 player would then have their level set to something like 25, but a 130 player joining a 20 mission with a 47 player would have their level set to 47. (Scaling would not be applied to Private lobbies unless turned on by the players.)
- Due to the crazy “Time” storylines (or perhaps the Cube), the Storm has found a way to avenge the Storm King by sending more powerful storms back through time in an attempt to change the timeline! These will be called “Temporal Storms”, and will be very high PL alerts which can appear in any zone. Since we can't risk leaving future technology behind in the past, no equipped schematics will be brought into the mission with you. You must instead scavenge for all weapons and traps (like in Dungeons)! These missions will provide large quantities of the Hero and Schematic XP resources (as well as other things).
COLLECTION BOOK, RESEARCH, AND PROGRESSION
The current progression systems are a bit weird. The Collection Book is a unique (but underutilized) idea which should encourage players to collect everything the game has to offer, yet instead is currently only a resting place for unnecessary junk. Research is a boring timegate with no real intrigue. Survivors are incredibly convoluted up until you've finally collected a perfect team, then serve no extra purpose and have no room to grow in their current state. Combining and reworking these systems has the potential to add more meaning to their existence as well as extend the life of the game by uncapping player progression (and thus allowing for harder missions).
- Survivors no longer control the Power Level or FORT stats of a player. (A later section suggests a possible rework for them.) The Collection Book now controls those aspects.
- Adding items to the Collection Book represents adding new people and supplies to Homebase. Each item added equally increases FORT stats as well as Power Level. This will encourage players to collect everything the game has to offer, and will surprisingly be less complicated than the current Survivor system!
- Higher level items raise the level of the Collection Book better than lower ones. Add the option to spend XP to level items that are already slotted within the book.
- Research is no longer collected by waiting. A “Research Bar” is added beneath every line of weapons and heroes within the Collection Book. Playing missions with any item listed directly above the bar will fill the bar until completion, granting Research points along the way. (Higher rarity items fill the bar faster. Completing a bar nets a bonus.) Research points can be spent in their usual way.
- Power Level, FORT stats, and Research have no artificial cap. This means that every time new heroes and schematics are introduced there are new things to slot, level and research (granting players higher and higher possible levels over the lifespan of the game).
- Use power creep to the game's advantage, embracing it rather than fighting it. Instead of wasting time balancing gear, make the more powerful gear obtainable by playing farther into the game and beating more difficult content. Old gear gives you the edge to obtain newer gear, which in turn helps you earn the newest gear, etc.. By making each new map taken from Better Revenue more difficult than the last, having the level cap naturally increase with every piece of new gear, and embracing the gear getting stronger over time… you have a recipe for indefinitely extending the lifespan of the game for as long as everyone wants!
- Based upon a player's current Research level, compensate players with “Research Vouchers” and reset their Research. The vouchers can be spent to immediately fill a Research Bar of a slotted Collection Book item without having to play missions with it (thus granting their Research points).
- A suggested compensation for the Survivors change will be suggested in the next section.
I would honestly be fine with eliminating Survivors completely (with extra compensation), but there is the alternate option of finding a way to rework their existence. The following suggestion is one way Survivors could be reworked, with the theme being that they're volunteering for special Homebase duties (and can get tired of doing so):
- Eliminate Survivor XP and leveling. Most of the Survivor XP (including XP already spent) will be converted into a mixture of Hero XP and Schematic XP in order to aid with the new Collection Book leveling mechanic. (All spent evolution materials and manuals will receive the same treatment, including a bit of bonus Flux for good measure.) What little was not converted this way will be turned into a new resource called “Motivational Posters”.
- Eliminate “set bonuses”.
- Survivor squads no longer contribute to Power Level or FORT stats. Instead, each squad serves as a sort of temporary boost or bonus! The “Training Team” might quicken the rate that heroes level and earn research, whereas the “Scouting Party” might increase the amount of rewards and/or SSD materials gained from a mission! (The stronger the squad, the bigger the bonus.)
- Survivors now have Durability which is reduced the longer they are equipped. Survivors retire when they run out of Durability, but can be “healed” by using Motivational Posters. Recycling survivors grants Motivational Posters.
- Leads come with a unique bonus, such as a Doctor granting Motivational Posters for rescuing survivors mid-mission or an Explorer granting extra gold for exploring the map.
- Mythics still have Durability, but rather than retire they simply can't be used until they are healed with Motivational Posters.
- The strength of a Survivor's bonus, as well as their Durability, depends upon their rarity.
- A subordinate's Durability will last longer if slotted in a squad with a Lead who matches their personality type. Similarly, a Lead will last longer for each matching subordinate!
- “Favorited” people will be ignored by Auto-Fill, keeping Survivors wherever you put them or saved them. Favorited Survivors will unslot themselves rather than retire.
- Add a “Motivate Favorites” button which will automatically distribute your Motivational Posters among all of your Favorites who need healing.
- Expeditions now require Motivational Posters rather than Research points.
FOR GOOD MEASURE
Grant all founders a couple Hero Vouchers as well as V-bucks as a goodwill gesture for such massive changes!
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