Trying to reconcile two conflicting game design philosophies in the Dark Zones can be a harder task than it seems.
The big problem a lot of shared world shooters like Destiny often face is reconciling game balance for the PvE modes with the balance for PvP modes. This is important because there are different considerations and sensibilities involved across both modes—PvE, for instance, is about giving the player enough of a grind to work towards and against, while PvP has to not only consider honouring that grind and the high level loot, but also balance that against pure player skill (which should be the primary consideration in a multiplayer competition).
It’s a tough question that developers in this genre have struggled with, and tougher still for something like The Division, given that it involves content like the Dark Zone, which are a blend of PvP and PvE. So how do the developers approach this problem at all?
Speaking to DualShockers, The Division 2 co-developer Red Storm Entertainment’s Lead Gameplay Designer Keith Evans spoke about how they approached the problem, to try and ensure that a player’s loot never feels irrelevant, but that it doesn’t overwhelm skill either.
“It is different from a lot of other games,” Evans said. “We have this huge community and this huge game and everyone has their thing they’re most interested in. We have some players who play everything, we have some players who only play for the story, or only play missions, or someone who fell in love with one of the expansions in the first game. Then we had a huge amount of players who were crazy hardcore in the Dark Zone and spent a lot of hours grinding out perfect builds.
“What we tried to do in the sequel is still cater to all those players but open the buffet of options for them a little bit more. Specifically in the Dark Zone we’ve done things like add a layer of normalization on player’s builds. As you go into the Dark Zone now, the base experience has everyone at the same power level and now shooter skill matters a little bit more than, ‘Well, I have spent 4,000 hours grinding out this perfect min-max build,’ and we have also infused a lot more story.
“All the Dark Zones in The Division 2 have their own missions that are PvE-focused and let you explore the space and help you understand what made this area go dark. For those really hardcore players, once they hit end game, end game was a really big focus for us the whole time, now you have a really lawless place for the Dark Zone where one is always un-normalized and we’ve stripped a lot of the feedback for who is rogue and who is friendly and it becomes the highest risk and highest reward in the game. We really try to widen the field for gamers for when they log on and decide what they want to do on any given night.”
It sounds like an interesting compromise here—trying to get skill and builds reconciled in a space like the Dark Zone. Whether or not it plays out as intended (or ends up becoming a hodgepodge mess) remains to be seen, but it can hardly be disputed that this is an interesting compromise for a problem that otherwise has often frustrated even genre veterans like Bungie.
The Division 2 launches on March 15 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. If you are interested in the game, don’t forget to check out the latest gameplay footage we have received for it (20 minutes of it!), as well as a new trailer revealing a new end-game faction.