April 26 2024 - 3:00 pm

PAYDAY 3: Blog Update #10 – Loud Modifiers and Difficulty

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Hello Heisters!

This week is all about difficulty, we’ve heard your feedback – adding the Fortitude skill line and Adaptive Armor made the game too easy. Thankfully there’s a plan, and that plan starts with Loud Modifiers!

To provide us with answers on this complicated topic, we asked Game Director Miodrag “Mio” Kovačević a number of questions and as he tends to, he delivered.

Loud Modifiers are meant as a way for us to customize difficulty without having to resort to +/- health or damage of the enemies. Instead, the difficulty is increased by encouraging change in play style. For instance, if you’re used to playing while relying on a particular buff, the Debilitating Specials modifier might make you rethink how you approach the heist.

We hope to see the first of these new modifiers in May or June, we’ll keep you updated if that changes.’

Adaptive Armor together with the Fortitude skill line has made the game feel too forgiving for many of the hardcore heisters, was this something you anticipated?

  • Mio: “For Update 5, we did a lot of internal and external testing (by involving our SBZ partners and PAYDAY moderators) to get it right. We knew that the changes would make the game easier, but we also had feedback that the game was more enjoyable to play, so we decided to go through with it.”

    “We are aiming to add loud modifiers in May/June, which will make combat harder on Very Hard and Overkill difficulty. In general, we want to alternate giving players more power and options, with making the game harder. It makes it easier for us to identify issues, but it also gives players some time to adjust to new options and new threats in separate updates.”

Cutting Shot trivialized a lot of the enemy encounters. Is there a strategy to adjust that?

  • Mio: “Cutting Shot has been a pretty problematic skill for us to balance. It is currently the only skill in the game that affects armor penetration, and it is easy to maintain during combat. This in turn leads to it cannibalizing a lot of design space for our weapons and leaves us little room to make an interesting arsenal.

    “We’ve discussed several ways to address this, like limiting it only to optic sights, or aim-down sights, but we didn’t feel it solved the problem – it only shuffled it around. So after lengthy discussions, we decided on our current plan: we will move the functionality of Cutting Shot to High Grain from the Ammo Specialist skill line. Rather than High Grain giving 20% extra damage, players will get extra armor penetration for 30 seconds from interacting with an ammo bag (the bonus 5% damage from multiple people running the skill will stay).”

    “We felt that having the power boost from Cutting Shot in a more limited environment with ammo bags would be acceptable, and would give more utility to what we currently feel is the weakest of the deployables. As part of this change, we’re going to be reworking Cutting Shot to do something else, but we’ll share that once we’re closer to releasing the update in question. We understand that people do not like when things get nerfed, but we also have to consider the long-term health of the game, so we hope you understand.”

What are we doing to adjust the difficulty in the future?

  • Mio: “In terms of adrenaline and the Fortitude skill line, we are going to hold off on any major adjustments until after the loud modifiers have been released. One change we will do in the meantime though is that we’ll increase the damage special enemies do to adrenaline specifically, so things like the Zapper electrocution and Cloaker beatdowns would do somewhere between double and triple damage to adrenaline (we haven’t decided on the actual values yet).

    “Loud modifiers are the next big difficulty adjustment we are releasing, and it will only affect very hard and overkill difficulties. We also have plans to roll out the Techie across all heists and difficulties, which should further add to the challenge of the game. And with the upcoming changes to progression, where we scale Infamy Points with the amount and quality of bags secured, we expect more players to find heists like Cook Off more worthwhile.

    “In general, we expect a few more systems that we’re adding to the game this year to make the game easier and harder in different ways. We’re currently focusing on improving the options and playstyle variety in the game, and once we think that’s in a good state, we’ll start looking at whatever we end up calling the difficulty above Overkill. In the meantime, we’ll do our best to cater to hardcore players by making the most challenging heists worth it and by adding hardcore challenges like the one in Cook Off, where we ask you to do very difficult things for cosmetic rewards.”

Any weapon balance adjustments upcoming?

  • Mio: “We are in early discussions of updating the weapons to emphasize their sub-families more (like having “Battle Rifles” under the “Assault Rifle” umbrella), and we plan to have these sub-families have a more direct impact on your builds. We’re also looking into adding more long-term rewards that will let you further improve your favorite weapons.”

Why loud modifiers, what purpose do the modifiers serve that balance changes wouldn’t?

Mio: “Much like the security modifiers we use for stealth, the loud modifiers are there to counter player strategies. For example, the lead guard modifier for stealth is basically a response to players who are used to completing stealth by killing as many guards as they can. With modifiers, we want you to re-think how you approach the heist and also make them feel a bit fresh when you replay them.”

Can you list the loud modifiers and why you want to add them in particular?

  • Mio: “We are starting off with 6 loud modifiers. Please keep in mind that any numbers are subject to change and that all the names are essentially placeholders.”
    • Hard Bargain: Players can’t leave custody without hostage trades. Getting a player out of custody costs 1 hostage, plus 1 additional hostage for each time they’ve been in custody or have killed a civilian.
      • Mio: “This is how we originally intended respawning to work in the game, but it was deemed too difficult internally and shelved for a moment like this.
        This means you can’t wait it out for backup and actually have to have hostages as a contingency. It also makes going into custody during the Final Charge especially difficult even for experienced heisters.”
    • Buddy System: Up to two instances of each special can spawn and the special cap is raised by 1.
      • Mio: “This one is pretty straightforward. Currently, the special enemies are the most disruptive, but due to how they’re spaced out, they’re pretty manageable. However, having two Cloakers or Dozers can brutalize uncoordinated groups.”

    • Armor Piercing: 10% of damage Law Enforcement deals to armor is also applied to health.
      • Mio: “Right now, stacking armor is a prevalent strategy in the game. This modifier will mean that even if your armor absorbs most of the damage, you will eventually run out of health if you only focus on bringing armor bags. While this doesn’t prevent you from using armor, it will encourage you to stock up on healing within your team.”

    • Alpha Strike: Regular SWAT units are replaced with Heavy SWAT.
      • Mio: “Heavy SWAT are considered a noticeable difficulty spike during a heist, so much so that players completely avoid them by finishing the heist quickly enough. With this modifier, you can (and should) still play fast, but you won’t be able to skip them.”
    • Reflector Shields: Shields come equipped with a light that can blind players.
      • Mio: “Shields are already quite a nuisance when they block your path and offer cover for their fellow law enforcers. With this modifier, you’ll want to dispatch them quickly, as staring too long into the light in their shield will temporarily blind you. You can avoid getting blinded by looking away in time, or killing the Shield.”
    • Debilitating Specials: players disabled by Zappers and Cloakers, damaged by Nader gas, or hit by Shield and Dozer melee attacks will lose any stack of EDGE, GRIT and RUSH.
      • Mio: “Last but not least, this modifier addresses something we don’t really counter in the game yet, which is stacking buffs. While not as dangerous as the upcoming tactical drone that not only removes, but also prevents you from gaining EDGE/GRIT/RUSH, this modifier will still lead to a bad time if you relied on that stack of GRIT to activate Last Man Standing.”

Are you doing anything else with difficulty other than the modifiers?

  • Mio: “We have an internal design for a new potential difficulty above Overkill, but we’re holding off on it for Year 1, as we want to focus on other more pressing issues. We don’t always want to resort to just increasing the damage enemies deal, or their HP, as we feel we’re already pushing it on Overkill. That means that whatever solution we come up with, it will likely take time to implement.”

What are the biggest challenges in adjusting the difficulty and getting that to a good place in a game like PAYDAY 3?

  • Mio: “I’d say the big issue is that anything we add to the game adds more knowledge checks for the player (which means things you need to know that aren’t easy to explain during a high-octane heist). PAYDAY 3 has a lot of systems and rules that are a bit unorthodox for co-op shooters, which means that even if you’re good at FPS, you might initially struggle until you understand how the game works.”

    “People like to quote the phrase ‘easy to learn, hard to master,’ but PAYDAY 3 is the inverse, it’s ‘hard to learn, easy to master.’ Once you’re beyond that initial hurdle, a lot of it comes naturally. That means that once people have a good grasp on the game, they obviously want to be pushed more, which means we have to address that.”

    “Loud modifiers kind of help with that, as they’re exclusive to the higher difficulties, but in general, anything we add to the game to make it harder for veterans will also inadvertently make it harder for new players. A good example is the Techie, as once she’s across all heists, she’s not just gonna give Overkill players a hard time, but also players playing on Normal. Of course, you could argue that she should only be on higher difficulties, but one of our core combat pillars is that lower difficulties prepare you for higher ones, so we’d want to keep her.”

    “The other issue is also identifying player feedback. At least from my experience, no matter how hard a game is, someone is gonna say it’s too easy, whether as a humble brag or because they actually find it easy. And that means you have to be very careful what feedback you take on-board, because you risk alienating both newer and lower skill players at the expense of hardcore ones. On the other hand, you need to also give hardcore players a good time, because they’re your most dedicated fans.”

Since you’re adding loud modifiers, any chance we’ll get more stealth modifiers too?

  • Mio: “Yes. The loud modifiers will come with two new stealth modifiers. We’ll share details on the new modifiers before they’re released.”

Next week we’ll get a sneak peek on a first-of-its-kind weapon, the LMG, joining the PAYDAY 3 arsenal. Have a great weekend, heisters!

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