Warhammer: Vermintide

Rebuilding the skinner Box

chivalry medieval warfare screenshot 09 ps4 us 26oct15 1024x576 - Rebuilding the skinner Box

So, I've noticed that a lot of folks are getting a little disheartened with V2 and I cannot help but to agree. Fatshark's used up a lot of the capital they'd built up with the community when they released V2 way ahead of having it as a completed game.

However, its not so much the unfinished content that bugs me as it is the steps backward the dev team took in their design philosophy. Specifically about loot system between the two games.

If you look at V1, you will notice a few things. For starters you got only 1 item per map you completed. This has a couple of effects, for one it means that every loot drop matters. Items are only designated by tiers (instead of an arbitrary number like Hero Power), so as long as your item is orange it can be used quite effectively. Orange items drops very consistently from Nightmare (Heroic) level missions, so it is quite easy to gather up a collection. Even if you can't quite beat nightmare consistently, the Contract board can supply you with SPECIFIC REWARDS including Orange tier gear. I'll get back to the board in a bit.

Moving back to the "one item per map" loot design of the first game, it means that the game generates your item on completion of the map. You do not need to go back to base and go into a separate animation of opening a box to see what you got. With the QoL Mod, which made V1 an incredibly enjoyable game and whose ideas are sadly unused here in V2, you could even scrap the item on collection if you didn't want it. This may seem like a minor detail, but it cut out on the duration you spend screwing around in base and let you jump straight back into action. Lastly, only having one item per mission means that crafting materials took longer to gather in V1 than in V2 from just grinding missions over and over and over.

Enter the Contract Board, part two of why V1's Skinner Box was well designed. The Contract board was refilled with 3 random items and 5-6 missions EVERY SINGLE DAY. None of this "one new mission a day" nonsense that reduces player's to playing once every few days to maximize their rewards. Additionally, the items the board posted were usually fairly quality and included things like cosmetics and rare trinkets. In order to unlock them, you needed to collect Keys over the course of several days of play time by completing missions. Missing a day of Vermintide could force you into making hard decisions like deciding between two different rewards because you could only work towards ONE item at a time. Additionally, every day there were missions that gave out crafting materials so that gathering mats could be done in a less grindy fashion. Finally, the contract board offered buffs that could help players through Cataclysm (Legend) difficulty maps like reduced damage or increased stamina for a short period of ingame time. This encouraged folks to do those contracts first and then play the harder contracts second, ensuring that folks actually would sit down for 1-2 hours a night playing Vermintide.

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And that right there is the issue with V2, there is no Skinner Box in place to force players into playing the game. Actually, there are a number of features that really discourage people from playing V2. Hero Power is one of them, sadly, as once you hit 300 Hero Power drops you basically scrap every single item you obtain that is below 300. The problem is, those items still drop…quite a lot. Half the loot I gather from missions is basically scrap metal, I have more crafting mats than I know what to do with because every chest I open contains 1-2 items below 300 Hero Power.

Additionally, weapons and trinkets were more distinct in V1 than in V2 as they had much more measurable effects. Instead of passive effects that are very difficult to notice as a player, such as damage vs monsters or crit damage, your high tier gear in V1 had 3 highly noticeable effects like Bloodlust (heal green health on kill %), Swift Slaying (on hit %, attack speed goes massively up), and Devestating Blow (all pushes are stronger). Sure, every weapon had a set of "ultimate best traits" but rolling that single set of 3 was really hard. Sometimes you'd luck out and have it handed to you from Ranald or the Shrine (another great feature missing currently) but usually you'd end up with 3-4 copies of a weapon that each specialized in something different based on the traits you rolled. You could have 3 different one handed swords for Kruber and each would physically feel different to play with in V1, and thats just not the case right now. Each 1h Sword, because the benefits from individual equipment are so small, feels exactly the same as every other 1h Sword.

Trinkets are another issue, in V1 they had a singular HUGE effect on gameplay. You could recognize and feel the difference between having the Anti-Globidier trinket on vs not having it on. V2's have effects as well, but most players do not notice any of them except Curse Resistance. Additionally, since each trinket did something different you could have someone decked out in Bomb Trinkets or Potion Trinkets to be the designated "item guy" in the party. Trinkets in V1 were basically your build, and depending on what you ran it altered your play style drastically. Sure, a myriad of smaller benefits is alright but if the player cannot feel them they have no reason to go looking for a specific combination of trinkets or experiment beyond finding a 33% curse resistance and stack as much Power Vs Chaos as possible.

Which brings me to the Shrine, oh that loved and hated Shrine. The Shrine let you reroll your 3 traits on a weapon, and then let you choose between keeping your old set or taking the new set. Yes, you got to choose which set you wanted to keep! Why is that not an option any longer? Additionally, you could reroll %s on individual traits without altering the entire item, WHY IS THAT NOT HERE?

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Its aggravating to see V1 with all its flaws (many fixed by QoL but still plenty more left over) get overlooked completely in V2's design. Its like V2 was designed on the oldest version of V1 Fatshark had in the office, before the Shrine or the Bounty Board was present. Even then, it doesn't explain the change from "meaningful weapon traits and decisions" to "here are a bunch of bonuses you won't notice while playing".

V1's design kept you playing, over and over, to gather more gear. V2 had such potential to offer new builds, more customization to fulfill the player base's desires. Instead we have…well, this mess of a system. They game's still fun to play, don't get me wrong, but it lacks the hook that the first game offered you. This lack of a solidly designed Skinner Box is probably why we've seen the population decline as much as we have.

In closing, Vermintide 1 was fun because it offered you significant choices in customization and made every piece of loot you found or scrounged up with the contract board a fun and tense experience. Vermintide 2 had the potential to offer its players meaningful choices and the ability to customize their playstyles but ultimately failed to have enough meaningful choices to maintain a player base without the need for content. Without a properly built Skinner Box to keep people interested, V2 will need to survive on constant content updates or else its player base will continue to fall off far faster than its original.


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