Combat Balancing Changes

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    Hi everyone,

    Along with the ‘Friends Play Free’ update for Sea of Thieves released today, we’ve taken a first step in rebalancing weapons and addressing some of the issues that have caused frustration for players. While Drew gave an overview of our overall approach in this week’s update video, I’d like to spend some time going into more detail about the specific changes and why we’ve made them.

    When it comes to the vision for combat in Sea of Thieves, some of the most important aspects for us are maintaining a first person perspective, not having any excessive UI elements and most importantly, the need for combat to handle all the varieties of encounters that can occur while sailing around in the world – 1v1, 2v5, 3v3 etc. This is also alongside the types of locations combat can occur in, such as within cramped decks, on large islands, as well as the interplay between fighting skeletons, before then immediately switching to fighting other players. Even though the ideal scenario we want to cater for is about picking the right weapon for the job at hand, the game is unpredictable and players frequently have to adjust to different combat scenarios.

    Since we launched the game, we’ve been adding new experiences and features for players with the larger updates, but now with the Arena on the horizon, we’ve been taking a look at combat in detail again, with today’s update the first of what we expect to be several that aim to improve the overall combat experience in the game. It’s important that we don’t make these changes all at once, but rather release a smaller set of tweaks and then assess how it changes the experience, shown both in your feedback and the data we receive from the game, before we then rollout further changes.

    Here’s a breakdown of the changes that we be live following today’s update:

    Preventing the Double Gun Exploit

    The ‘double gun’ is a non-intended exploit that has recently gained traction in the community. It’s essentially the result of the wield animations for each of the weapons being too brief. Up until now, equipping a weapon has played a basic wield animation that finished extremely quickly, and what this means in the case of a gun is that it can go from unequipped to being ready to fire in a short space of time. This has led to scenarios where some players are exploiting the fact that two guns can be swapped between extremely quickly, allowing two shots to be fired in quick succession that can then easily overpower their target. Traditionally, most first person experiences have a more elaborate wield animation to allow for a short ready time before any shot can be fired, preventing any exploits around wielding weapons. Rather than add an arbitrary delay, from the gameplay perspective, it will always ‘feel’ better to have a wield animation where the gun animates to the screen, comes to a natural rest, and the moment the animation looks like its finished, the gun will be ready to fire.

    As part of this, all weapons have new wield animations as part of an inbuilt delay when equipping weapons. We’re confident this will reduce the effectiveness of this exploit.

    As a nice side effect, the new wield animations look much nicer than the ones we launched the game with!

    Reload Improvements

    This relates to a change recently made to the Eye of Reach, but now rolled out to all weapons. It ensures that a gun is reloaded the moment the hammer is pulled, rather than when the full reload animation is finished. This resolves issues where players reload a weapon and think that the reload has been finished, so go into a sprint or change their weapons, before then frustratingly seeing that the animation for their weapon is restarted when then wield it. It’s been so easy to be caught out by this in combat or high pressure situations, but should now function as players expect.

    More Fluid Swordplay

    As part of ensuring that swordplay between players remained super accessible, but also has a layer of depth, we originally launched with an enforced slowdown on the player when performing cutlass attacks. This was particularly frustrating in situations where a swing didn’t connect, leading to situations where control felt like it was being momentarily taken away. While it did lead to some tactics around timing swings, after revaluating this, we believe that removing the slowdown and prioritising more fluid attacks, feels like the better approach. Nothing captured the frustration quite like missing a swing against a skeleton, to then see it back up while chomping on a banana, but being temporarily slowed down and unable to close the distance. It’s gone!

    Increased Projectile Speeds

    As part of having a nod to period weaponry, as well as adding additional strategy, gunshots have a natural ‘time of flight’ and ‘drop off’ before they hit a target, presented as the visual tracers of each pellet. This is demonstrated most critically with the Eye of Reach, with players having to adjust their aim based on the expected distance of the target. With this change, we’ve increased the projectile speeds of both the Eye of Reach and the Blunderbuss. With the Eye of Reach, this means that it’ll be easier to land shots at distance and with the Blunderbuss, it just makes the weapon feel more powerful when fired. While the damage from the Blunderbuss felt right at close range, the feedback from the tracers now more appropriately matches this.

    Removed Scaling Damage Distance

    For many players, this has probably gone unnoticed, instead being perceived as lag or server issues. Up until this update, we’ve actually been scaling the damage on projectiles, with longer range shots inflicting less damage on a target. While physically more accurate, it leads to more frustration and we’ve decided to remove it in favour of a more solid feeling overall experience. If you’re lucky enough to land that awesome shot between two moving ships, we’ll short change you no longer!

    Eye of Reach Damage Reduction

    As part of the two above improvements, the Eye of Reach is now a more effective tool when used for what it was designed to do, which was hit targets at long range. With this in mind, we’ve slightly reduced the damage caused by an Eye of Reach from 80 to 70. This reduction still makes it effective in the right hands but prevents it from feeling too overpowered now shots move faster and hit with consistent damage.

    Increased Hip Firing inaccuracy with the Eye of Reach

    As part of each weapon having a defined role, we’ve made hip fired shots, or shots made without aiming down the sights, to be wildly inaccurate when using the Eye of Reach. This is largely based on some players exploiting it, but also due to the fact that it makes little sense to reward the hip firing of a long range weapon. While it would have been easier to just remove hip firing from the Eye of Reach, we always strive to make mechanics just work as you expect, therefore we always want the fire button to do something, rather than just taking that ability away. Under pressure, you can still get lucky with a hip fired Eye of Reach shot, but it now functions less like a mini shotgun at close range.

    Weapon Knockback

    Swords and guns have all been able to knockback players, leading to fun situations where players can be knocked off ships, but also pushing two players apart, potentially allowing time for other strategies. We believe however that having this across all the weapons strayed too far into making combat feel less solid and dare I say it, a bit goofy. With this change, a cutlass and a blunderbuss will each still cause knockback, but its been removed from the Flintlock Pistol and the Eye of Reach. The same change also applies to skeletons, but we’ve taken the additional step of also taking knockback off the Blunderbuss when it comes to skeletons to further reduce frustration.

    As mentioned previously, this is the first step in a re-evaluation of combat and we’re keen to assess the impact of these changes in this latest release. There are more changes planned… both for player AND ship combat, all with the goal of improving the combat experience across Adventure and Arena. Your feedback and thoughts as ever are greatly appreciated.

    -Mike

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    These are all very welcome changes, thanks for shining some light on the thought process behind it!

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    Always good to explain the why!

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    Great changes.

    Now to hopefully see a secondary attack (a thrust) added to the sword, allowing for more combos and strategies. And of course the eventual addition of new weapons types (boarding ax, harpoon/spear, iron grenades).

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    Excellent changes! I’ve been very much looking forward to when these hit the live servers!

    Great job Rare! :)

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    very nice! I'm really excited to try out the cutlass now. These updates are great.

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    its like the inventory system.... now this... i dislike the changes but i got to deal with them..

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    @knightx13 isn't there already a thrust on the sword? when you hold left mouse button. What did you mean with a secondary attack if thats not it

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    @mikethemutinous

    Right on, good changes. Always a fan of sword to sword combat.

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    Great changes!

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    Id like to see a sword parry added

    Great update though

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    Thanks for all the work you guys do! I'm a little sad that my EoR won't be as powerful now (or at least will be useful in fewer situations), but it'll be a good motivation to start practicing with the other weapons. Solid update, and I'm excited to try it out!

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    Wow, you guys are just on point. Perfect update and clever changes. Well done team!

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    @vorondil1 said in Combat Balancing Changes:

    Thanks for all the work you guys do! I'm a little sad that my EoR won't be as powerful now (or at least will be useful in fewer situations), but it'll be a good motivation to start practicing with the other weapons. Solid update, and I'm excited to try it out!

    Hopefully I won't be too upset over the EoR changes. It has been my favorite weapon since launch day, next to my cutlass. And extremely versatile for the solo slooper. However, I am excited to try out the new combat feel with the changes to the cutlass and blunderbuss. I hope that I won't be spending a lot of time swapping weapons to accommodate specific combat scenarios though.

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    I'll have to put my patch notes discussion video in this thread as well.

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    @ogdirtyape yes, as a solo slooper as well I feel you that we want a "one size fits all" weapon. I think the point though is that no weapon should fit all situations, we're supposed to swap around a bit. I for one will be curious to see if the blunderbuss is a more worthwhile investment now.

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    greetings !!

    What about the arena? If I understand this one will be operational in March? too sad! ^^

    And the choice of cross play is operatoinnel? look forward to seeing these changes tonight :)

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    @mikethemutinous

    While it would have been easier to just remove hip firing from the Eye of Reach, we always strive to make mechanics just work as you expect, therefore we always want the fire button to do something, rather than just taking that ability away. You can still get lucky with a hip fired Eye of Reach shot, but it now functions less like a mini shotgun at close range.

    I'm hoping that you guys made the right call, I still would've prefered the hipfire to be disabled to emphasise the gun's purpose, but I'm willing to accept a compromise.

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    Nicely written up, Chappers! I'll keep your reasonings in mind when trying out these changes and posting feedback, as they're sound.

    I can't wait to read about the ship combat additions and changes based on what I've seen and heard, especially with the new streamlined design on the front of our ships...

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    @lapinnoux I saw nothing in the details about crossplay. That is coming sometime before Arena, but is not in this update.

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    @vorondil1 I have a feeling that the blunderbuss cutlass combo will be a much more dynamic option for pvp on a ship, especially with the increased projectile speed. This is going to be a lot of fun with a crew where different crew members are using different weapons for specific roles. I can see my greatest problem when sailing solo, being the time it takes to switch from EoR to the Blunderbuss in the weapons box. Having purchased all of the various weapon cosmetics, it is a bit clunky with all the options available. I have to open the box, select weapon type, select position (primary or secondary) and then I am ready for combat. That is going to be a challenge when say, sniping from my boat to find I am about to be boarded. That being said though, it will be fun to have new challenges to figure out in the crucible of combat.

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    So, I dont know whats "mid range" to you, but a range where I'm already able to hit someone with a sword is defenetly not mid range..

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    Love me some double gunner tears!
    🍻
    They might actually have to learn how to fight now.

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    @urihamrayne said in Combat Balancing Changes:

    I'm hoping that you guys made the right call, I still would've prefered the hipfire to be disabled to emphasise the gun's purpose, but I'm willing to accept a compromise.

    Whether this change has the intended affect will be dependent on how bad the hipfire accuracy is and the difference in reload time compared to the pistol. Unless the EoR is hilariously inaccurate with hipfire, I could still see it being used in close quarters ship boarding since you'd still have a pretty good chance at hitting a target at closer ranges.

    At least it will be worthwhile trying out all the weapons again.

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    @d3adst1ck It's very wild, believe me, you won't hit your target unless you get lucky, it's not going to be efficient to hipfire since it's gonna be a wasted shot most of the time. What I think is that players don't recognize that when they pick up these guns, may even try using it against skellies and get owned, this is why I prefered no hipfire just to emphasise the purpose of the EoR, but as it is hopefully it will work just the same.

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    @mikethemutinous Nice changes!

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    I think you guys just effectively scared off Summ1tg and his following of toxic pirates. Thank you so much for this update, you really did a service to us longtime supporters and fans. Keep up the good work!

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    Welcomed changes. I look forward to trying them out soon :)

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    All these changes on paper look to be a great way forward..
    I'm off to sail now to find out myself, and i will no longer dread running flat out towards those pesky skeletons armed with an eye of reach!

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    Updating my game now to try out the new combat implementations. Looking forward to see what other changes will be made to help improve combat and offer more well-versed fighting techniques.

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    @silent-sippycup said in Combat Balancing Changes:

    I think you guys just effectively scared off Summ1tg and his following of toxic pirates. Thank you so much for this update, you really did a service to us longtime supporters and fans. Keep up the good work!

    You are still going to lose your fights, these changes are nice but nothing game breaking for people who used the double shot. There will be new combos for you to complain about shortly, don't you worry.

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    @kerufc said in Combat Balancing Changes:

    @knightx13 isn't there already a thrust on the sword? when you hold left mouse button. What did you mean with a secondary attack if thats not it

    That is a charged attack lunge. I'm referring to a simple thrust or stab. This would potentially allow for more combos or chained attacks. So instead of only swing-swing-swing, you could also swing-swing-stab or stab-swing-stab, etc. etc., as well as add a second charged attack.

    This is something that has long been discussed on the forum, and my previous thoughts on the matter were last made here:

    @knightx13 said in Melee Combat System : How to improve the experience of Sword fighting making it more dynamic and complex:

    I have long been advocating for more depth to the sword mechanics...

    The "simple" version would be to add a quick attack to compliment the current standard or medium attack, along with the charged or "heavy" attack. For example, using an Xbox controller for reference, if parry was removed from LT then a quick attack could be added. You'd then have the standard attack be RT and be a swing, and the quick attack on LT be a thrust/jab/poke. This would allow for different combinations of attacks to be created through the order of standard and quick attacks. And much like the 3-hit combo now that does a knock back, these new combinations could have similar or other effects, including a stun (instead of it being on every hit). Parrying could be done by holding both RT and LT at the same time. And you could still have the charged lunge attack for holding the RT, and maybe a charged flurry attack (rapid multi-hit thrust) by holding LT. The flurry attack could create a "bleed" damage-over-time effect if it connects. Or maybe move the charged lunge to LT to pair it with the thrust, and create a new sweeping heavy swing that is used by charging RT, and does damage/knocks-back enemies surrounding you so is better for crowd control.

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    @urihamrayne said in Combat Balancing Changes:

    @d3adst1ck It's very wild, believe me, you won't hit your target unless you get lucky, it's not going to be efficient to hipfire since it's gonna be a wasted shot most of the time. What I think is that players don't recognize that when they pick up these guns, may even try using it against skellies and get owned, this is why I prefered no hipfire just to emphasise the purpose of the EoR, but as it is hopefully it will work just the same.

    Yeah I saw a gif on reddit and it definitely shoots far off center. Sword + Pistol/Blunderbuss are likely going to be used a bit more now which is good. Hopefully there isn't a predictable pattern to the recoil or that using the scope has some kind of delay before increasing accuracy.

    Does anyone know if the knockback effect being removed from pistol/EoR means they no longer knock people off ladders?

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    @d3adst1ck said in Combat Balancing Changes:

    @urihamrayne said in Combat Balancing Changes:

    @d3adst1ck It's very wild, believe me, you won't hit your target unless you get lucky, it's not going to be efficient to hipfire since it's gonna be a wasted shot most of the time. What I think is that players don't recognize that when they pick up these guns, may even try using it against skellies and get owned, this is why I prefered no hipfire just to emphasise the purpose of the EoR, but as it is hopefully it will work just the same.

    Yeah I saw a gif on reddit and it definitely shoots far off center. Sword + Pistol/Blunderbuss are likely going to be used a bit more now which is good. Hopefully there isn't a predictable pattern to the recoil or that using the scope has some kind of delay before increasing accuracy.

    Does anyone know if the knockback effect being removed from pistol/EoR means they no longer knock people off ladders?

    Id imagine they do not since that was caused from the knock back. I will be boarding your ship and dropping anchor with ease now! Thanks for the changes.

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    You guys said it was up and running on twitter 30 mins ago. On my xbox one im still getting Bronze beard and cant even join a single game.