It’s Simon Berry, Lead Designer, here today to give you an update on what we have been doing recently regarding game difficulty on Second Extinction. Hopefully, it’ll shed a bit more light on some of the details.
First up, I’d like to be completely open about the state of play from the Early Access launch to Preseason 2.
At launch, the game was generally regarded as overly difficult for first-time players and as a solo experience in general. It was also sometimes considered to be not challenging enough for a team of 3.
Since opening for Early Access, we have introduced our first iteration of a couple of new features that we hope have significantly impacted the session’s intended difficulty.
The first is Expedition mode. By its nature, it allows players to ‘dip their toes in’ to our systems without forcing them to overcome a series of intense objectives and gives them the possibility to extract when they see fit. This should make a more welcoming experience for a new player or new squad of players.
The second is the Difficulty Settings, where players can choose between Normal, Hard, and Insane to fit their taste and skill level. There is modest scaling on the number of dinos you encounter based on the numbers of players in your squad on whatever difficulty setting you play. This scaling becomes highly significant if players are too far apart, as they will eventually be treated as individual players entirely, thereby attracting duplicate amounts of dino attention.
Even with these features taken into account, there is still too much of a leap in difficulty when playing missions solo. There is also not enough differentiation between our difficulty settings, limiting teams wanting the ‘Insane’ experience.
So What’s New in Preseason 3?
Preseason 3 is a significant patch in many ways, and its updates on difficulty could be considered one of its headlines.
Normal, Hard, and Insane will now have their unique dino ecosystems. Yes, this is mostly a very flashy way of saying they have different numbers of dinos appearing. But it goes deeper than that. For example, high threat level regions on Normal are a different experience to low threat level regions on Hard. The types of enemies that appear, the pack size, the cadence that they may appear in, the mechanics of dino reinforcements, and Burrows all differ depending on both threat level and difficulty in their own ways.
The dinos themselves have also had their differences exaggerated.
In Preseason 2, as difficulty setting increased, so did the dinos’ aggressiveness (reducing the chances of repositioning and taunting in place of more attacks and simultaneously attacking a player at once), the players’ window to dodge attacks decreased (how much time dinos’ had to rotate towards players before the conclusive attack) and increased how much damage their attacks would inflict on players.
In Preseason 3, we have also added some health scaling to the dinos’ with a slight easing down of base health on Normal and amplified the damage dealt by them on Insane.
When playing on Normal, one can now expect manageable-sized encounters of less threatening individual dinos, with an unlikelihood of coming across more than one large dino at once. On Insane, one should be even more ready for swarms of aggressive dinos and, unlike in lower difficulties, the potential of dealing with hordes of large dinos at once.
Difficulty as a Known Quantity
We feel that having the difficulty not being further adjusted by the number of players in the session provides a stronger sense of progression and challenge potential. A player can instantly feel the extra challenge they face when going solo or when wandering off alone when being part of a team. An experienced team of 3 that find it comfortable on Insane could find additional challenges in a team of 2. Likewise, a solo playthrough of missions on Insane would be regarded as a true achievement and not bring the design of the systems into account.
We would love to hear from anyone who found solo missions too punishing so far on their thoughts from trying again in Preseason 3. Likewise, is Insane insane enough in Preseason 3? Join our Discord server here and share your thoughts when you’ve tried it out.
Simon Berry, and the Second Extinction Team