Core gameplay problems pt 2: bigger numbers =/= more fun

Continuing the discussion from Health, damage, healing, and FFYL: needs an update in BL4?: (look at the numbers if tldr)

Apart from the problems with BL3’s combat and how it affects high level play, there is another aspect that I believe needs to be addressed going forward: scaling and bigger numbers.

It happened with BL2, and it has happened with M10 in BL3; the drive to inflate numbers of enemy health, resistances, and one’s own gun damage has negatively affected the gameplay and bottlenecked players into certain playstyles.

I’m going to talk about how scaling negatively affects combat, loot, and builds.

This game has many many different varieties of guns available, yet most of them don’t even get looked at after a certain period, as most guns simply can not compete with the number of weapons that not only do the same thing, but have added effects, as well. Not to mention that we’re in the odd place where we have legs dropping like flies, yet the anointment system and general problems with balance and scaling (as the level cap keeps going up) mean that even those will normally not even be glanced over. We have way more loot, but the chances at getting what we want haven’t really changed that much.

Therein lies the first two problems with big numbers:

  1. more loot is not a good thing if it means more chances for RNG to screw you over, and
  2. When gun damage and enemy health scale to the point where only the best of the best can considered to be not crap, the benefit of a loot system is lost.

Second problem is combat. In M10 (and UVHM in BL2), enemy damage is/was so high that those ridiculously high numbers for health and shields mean nothing. Enemies will still down you in seconds if there are enough, and typically the spawn system means that you’ll need to enter the firefight in order to engage them (this also negatively affects sniping, but that’s another topic). Shields are meant to last long enough for the player to hide somewhere and let them recharge, or get healing, but instead it takes 3 bullets to lose most shields, and options for recovery vary greatly between characters. This goes both ways, too; when enemies are so inflated that you can’t use anything less than an optimal setup to get through certain areas, it’s less a case of skill and more about having the right gear, and means that there will inevitably be less build diversity due to some things straight up not working at that level.

  1. Inflated health and damage numbers negatively affect combat by conflicting with core concepts (such as shields) and forcing players to use certain gear just to survive.
  2. The current set up fails to properly reward cleverness in build diversity and experimentation, instead rewarding lucky RNG rolls and save editing. If you can point a mouse and have a good gun, you’re miles ahead of anyone trying to make something unique, most of the time.

Lastly, this affects builds, as well. While a lot of problems with build diversity in this game come from problems at a conceptual level (90% of Zane’s mods, for example), a lot of it also comes down to the problem of scaling and the fact that certain skills become useless at higher levels or need constant adjustment. While this is more a problem with some characters than others, the fact is that the VH’s really don’t have that many options for build diversity, and, perhaps more importantly (albeit more debatably), the characters in this game don’t play as differently as other class-based shooters. Fl4ks tankiness in the form of health buffs is negated by M10 scaling, and both the Clone and Iron Bear were useless until they were patched, after which they became op. How is there no middle ground? Because the only thing that changed was that the numbers went up.

  1. Scaling causes problems with skills that requires more than just a boost in numbers to fix.
  2. When you need nothing less than the best to survive, it becomes much harder to balance multiple different playstyle options for a single character, let alone multiple.

EDIT: one important note I forgot to mention:

  1. When certain weapons and skills are designed to be balanced at lower levels, scaling non-linearly, or perhaps at all, is going to throw off that balance and require more adjustment. Hence the constant need for weapon buffs and tweaks.

I think that there are a few things that should be done to fix these issues in future instalments. I’m going to suggest some ideas, but of course welcome better ones.

  • I think it would be better to move away from the randomisation system for loot and focus on quality over quantity. Perhaps a gun-smithing system could be put into effect; put different parts on guns to change their stats and effects, and scrap guns for parts. It would incentivise picking up even trash weapons, and would justify not seeing as many drops as we do now (which get ignored). This is especially important if RNG is to continue being a factor in whether a gun is usable (anointments, etc). Hell, even just anointments, seeing as so many weapons have fixed parts now.
  • Don’t scale as much. Either that, or keep the numbers the same, and find other ways to make things more challenging than just using a calculator. Having to empty 3 types of ammo in a level and maintain constant lifesteal in order to survive suggests that the numbers have simply gotten too high. While high scaling can result in more intense and faster combat when done right, I don’t believe this is what we have now.
  • Rather than having skills that do no more than boost certain stats, it may be better to focus more on how those skills can modify or create a playstyle. If half of a characters skills will simply increase gun damage but the other half won’t, which ones do you think people will choose?
  • Sliding, slamming, and vaulting are good additions to the series, and I think it would be good to introduce things like this that allow for more options beyond ‘shoot strong gun make big numbers’. Part of the reason why I think that a melee weapon class would help, particularly since any melee build is restricted to using only the Face-puncher.
2 Likes

They should lock the devs in a room and make them play Remnant: from the ashes until they understand how scaling should work!

I absolutely hated Remnant when I first started playing, mainly because my head was still in Borderlands mode expecting just to get bigger and better gear and ROFLstomp everything. Once I got over the fact that I was always going to be underpowered vs the bosses and just had to learn to deal with it the game really got its hooks into me, unlike M10 with its stupid gimmicks.

Having mobs always scale to the level of your strongest gear +1 is bloody genius, it means that you never become godlike and the game remains challenging no matter how long you play.

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I don’t think that having a set progression is necessarily a bad thing, more that the way mayhem and uvhm have been set up, with spongy enemies and inflated numbers, causes the problems I listed above.

Remnant is a fun game. They were very deliberate in not making it a looter shooter, though, even restricting multiplayer to 3 players to prevent that 4 person looter shooter feeling.

That said, it has a fixed, linear upgrade path, which allows for appropriate scaling and avoids a major change in gameplay or shoehorning the player into ‘meta’ builds so much. BL3 doesn’t do itself any favours with the exponential formula for growth.

I understand them wanting to avoid the situation in BL1 where the low scaling made better loot harder to get, but a) the opposite can and has happened, where any cap increase requires a replacement inventory, and b) a better way to fix that is to change the way that things scale. Maybe fewer levels, or having player level use a different system to gun levels.

God, no. There’s no point in getting more powerful if you’re always going to be relatively weak.

2 Likes

Well, depends on what you’re looking for. Souls-likes pull that off fairly consistently, but I don’t think it would help anyone to turn BL into a souls-like XD

Rather, I think that better scaling and a shift towards a more balanced form of progression, along with a change in combat mechanics to allow for different playstyles, would be best.