Tarkov needs more realism: Nerfs and Buffs

EFT for me is the flight simulator among fps games. The first fps game that offers uncompromising realism. The flight simulator comparison I relate to DCS (Digital Combat Simulator), which is a flight sim game with hard realism. A cockpit simulator where you have to flip every switch like in the real plane or helicopter. In that game, every subsystem is made realistic, beyond any gameplay or balance concern. Realism is the baseline that is never crossed.



Cockpit of an F-5E in DCS.

The term "fun vs realism" is not applied in DCS. One of the contractors, Belstimtek, which is a 3rd party developing modules for DCS, has the following advertisment on their website:

Enchant by realism.

Eagle Dynamics, the creator of DCS is a russian company. Belsimtek is Belorussian. The reason I mention this is that it appears the russian gaming market embraces complex realism more than western markets. There has been a long standing series of games from different companies that  made realism a very significant part of gameplay.

War Thunder - A famous game that is known to many. Even though it is a free to play game and accessible, the developers went pretty deep with terminal ballistic modeling.

Many other, often obscure games had this very solid core of realism in their gameplay. Here a few:

Faces of War, Men of War, Brigade E5, 7.62 high calibre.
Brigade E5
JA2 had a black market weapon shop where you could buy armor plates to put in vests. (in 1999!)

Experienced gamers of realism games might recognize Brigade E5 and 7.62 as clones or spiritual successors of Jagged Alliance 2 with an uncompromising level of realism.


To anyone who is not aware of  Jagged Alliance 2, think of it as a turnbased EFT and with the 1.13 mod, it is one of the greatest turnbased tactical games available.

Where am I going with this? Well, BSG is a russian company, and when I first saw EFT I hoped it would be in the same tradition of realism as the many other games developed for the russian market. And I was not disappointed. Extreme realism, and for the first time, Triple A quality when it comes to animation and weapon handling.

At 1:25, the developer says the magic words.
BSG promised "maximum possible realism" in this video from 2016. For the most part, this worked out. But several ingame items added recently broke that rule. The Kolpak visor, The IR, scope, the 6b43.

Let's go back to the opening statement of this article. EFT is a flight simulator for me. Beyond balance concerns. But 100% realism is not possible. So we have to settle for less than 100% realism. But how much less exactly? 99%? 95%?

If developers begin to balance things, they have to "nerf" and "buff" things to achieve "balance". This will lead to skewed results.





The Abstraction

In order to avoid the problem of two different parties to an argument throwing feelings at each other until something sticks, I will abstract the situation into shapes.

Let's abstract the item into internal properties and external properties, represented by the white core and the orange outer shell. Internal properties for an AK74 would equal its rate of fire, modifications that can be installed and the ammo used. External properties are things are variables that have an effect on gameplay but are not mechanical properties of the real weapon. Like price or how often you can find it in a raid. Changing these outer parameters has no effect how the weapon performs when used. This may sound trivial in this example but the consequences of how this is handles has a strong impact on the game.
If a designer wants to balance an AK74 so it fits into the large structure of the weapon balance, he would use the weapon price for balancing, not the firerate, because it would be silly to lower or increase the firerate of an AK74 to fix an imbalance. Games like Rainbow Six: Siege use this silliness as a main tool to balance weapons. Firerate, damage and recoil are free floating variables for balancing pick rates of operators. This leads to the makarov pistol being the second most damaging pistol, after a .357 revolver. Because it has a low magazine capacity so its damage was balanced. Pump action shotguns do almost twice the damage as semi-auto shotguns to balance their power against magazine capacity.

That should not be in Tarkov. Ever.


Of course there are things that can not be 100% realistic. Damage output of a caliber can not be replicated as in real life because of the complexities involved. However just because we can not have 100% realism, we should not settle for 50% realism. Let's get 95%. And Tarkov does a good job on this with weapon damage. Every bullet in Tarkov can kill a player without armor with 1 shot to the head or 2 to the chest. Damaged limbs have reasonably realistic impairments for character movement. This is where Tarkov (thankfully) retained a relative realism. Bullet damage varies by caliber to emphasize differences to keep ammo choice meaningful but itdoes not throw the baby out with the bathwater by making hp rounds completely useless or armor-piercing rounds  take more than 2 shots to the chest.

 

I am now going to demonstrate a few items in EFT that were "balanced" too much to the point it damaged the realism of the game. Let's start with the REAP-IR thermal optical scope. 



REAP-IR
The scope was first revealed in this forum topic:

Players brought up the obvious concerns. It would be "OP". It has to be "balanced". I was not worried. I was sure the developers would keep the promise of "maximum possible realism".


Intended result I expected for the Reap-IR.




But that did not work out as intended.

These are the manufacturers specifications: Note the 60-30hz frame rate.


Let's see how it performs ingame:



What exactly went wrong here? The developers, just like Rainbow Six, used the internal properties of the device as free floating variables for balance.The result is that the scope's ingame frame rate is intenionally ~10 frames per second, presumably to "balance" its "OP". This is a very bad thing. It is the first time the developers damaged an item's internal properties for balance. They literally pushed the usability of the object to an extreme to the edge of what a player can endure. And I am using the word endure, because apart from the unrealistic uselessness it also causes headaches for some players. And artificial flaw was invented because a lot of people claimed OP. This can have catastrophic consequences for the game, because this demonstrated if people on the forum or reddit complain enough and there is no vocal counter-opinion, then anything in the game can get diluted into a casual mess.

So how can we fix that? I would like to propose that the developers never touch the internal properties and only use the external ones for balance. Only in the most extreme cases internal properties should be allowed to carefully be modified around the edges. This should be a commandment or an amendment like in the American Constitution. Maximum Possible Realism.

And the REAP-IR is not an extreme case. Let's examine the "OP" of it:

  • Let things be OP. Players will adapt to the threat. They will initially complain but then adapt. The average skill of the playerbase as a whole will increase. But first players have to be confronted with something OP so they can adapt to it. Most players start out riddled with gear fear, carefully sneaking up factory staircases. But all eventually adapt and have epic gunbattles with expensive guns.

  • An IR scope is not that OP. In factory it is useless. Because the map is too small and too well lit to give an advantage to the user. On maps with wide open areas and thick vegetation, it is more useful, especially at night. But let's examine the advantage of both night and day situations. During daytime, the IR scope gives you a spotting advantage, however most players will not die from the first shot in combat, so the target has time to take cover or return fire. This means, after the first shot, the scope has lost its purpose for this particular gunfight.

  • During night time it offers a big advantage. But then  encountering other players with night vision goggles is also possible.

So the IR scope is OP in some situations. So what? It comes with a big price tag. This is where the scope should be balanced. If it becomes too common, the price can be increased. And then the device is balanced because it is at the edge of affordability, not the edge of usability.


Item Sizes

Not consistent, and defies all logic on the KEDR 30 round magazine:



The KEDR 30 round mag is about the same length as an MP5 magazine, so why is it a 1 slot item? What is the explanation? To "balance" it? Because it fires weak calibers it should also have a smaller inventory size so the player can carry more? That is not maximum possible realism. A weapon's most basic characteristics like the magazine dimensions should not be a freely resizable inventory size. Would you please make this a 2 slot item just like other items of the same size? Realism should not be distorted like this to "balance" things. I am one of the few players who use the KEDR so I actually care about its realistic dimensions.  Making the weapon more attractive to players by lowering its inventory size requirements has no place in EFT.

It is the same for the 20 round PAMG and the M1A 20, almost the same dimensions. Again, this should be part of any realism or balance argument, the item size is a hard variable that must not be bent around balance concerns. Just use realism, then all will fall into place.

Helmets and Audio

When putting on a helmet, the hearing of the character is reduced. Which is great to deafen out the rain, but there are realism problems with this. Let's take a look at how it muffles hearing ingame:



The Kolpak muffles the character's hearing the most. This makes sense as it tightly fits on the head like a motorcycle helmet. The 6b47 helmet muffles it a bit less, but still a bit too much. As you can see in the video, there is a 5 centimeter gap between the ears and helmet. There should be almost no muffling. It is still great that the developers made a gradual distinction for each helmet on how much it muffles. But the 6b47 is just a bit off. Realism should guide the decisions, not balance attempts that are detached from maximum possible realism.


Reload Speed

As you can see in the video, as soon as the left hand disappears below view with the empty magazine, it reappears almost instantly. At the very least there should be 2 seconds off screen time for the hand to fumble with the pockets and switch out the magazine. The magazine drop reload has almost no difference in time to the normal reload.


  • The animations for weapons are already possibly the best of any FPS game at the same level of quality with Triple A games like COD or Far Cry. This is why the split second magazine swap stands out as a glaring oversight. I am sure it would take a trained rifleman 2 seconds in real life to put a magazine into the vest and grab a new magazine. This extra piece is required for maximum possible realism.
  • If this is corrected, then magazine drop reloads would matter in gameplay. Because currently a magazine drop reload is only faster by a very small amount of time and it comes at the cost of losing a magazine. If the normal reload would have a realistic vest exchanging delay, this would increase gameplay application.
  • Magazine fumbling delays are a realistic component of a reload and should be added, regardless of arbitrary balance concerns. Realism as the law by which to balance it.
  • The magazine fumbling could have variable lengths, depending under how panicked or wounded the character is. This would not require to change the main animation, just the left-hand offscreen delay would have to be stretched for that. This would add a new layer of gameplay considerations. Would make as mentioned above, the tactical reload more attractive for use, and bringing a second weapon for emergencies.


Visors


An amazing feature, creates a new gameplay layer for armor and firefights because it protects the exposed face of the user. This is a 10/10 high quality feature. Except for one problem. They used the internal properties of the item to balance its "OP". Remember the REAP-IR issue with the usability being ruined to balance it? The same happened here.


The smears, blurred liquid spots (with refracting surfaces) are technically a masterpice of graphics, and they make the scene look like a renaissance painting. However, they make it very hard to the visors. To the point where it becomes very tiring for the eyes. Try it for yourself. Use the visors for a bit, then lift them. Pay attention to how your eye muscles relax. One of our test crew had to stop playing with them because it caused him a headache.



The visor dirt is not realistic. That's it. I have used motorcycle helmets with visors and even with some dirt on them you can quickly swipe them away with your hand. But the very troubling issue is, as with the REAP-IR scope, that the BSG devs used the usability as a balancing tool. They pressed the usability so far to the edge of what players can endure and then beyond it. But that should not happen. Maximum possible realism. No arbitrary disadvantages should be invented to balance it.

Let's examine the "OP".

  • It can protect your face, from 2-3 hits if the caliber is weak enough. But most players on average, carry ammo that easily defeats class 3 armor (almost every assault rifle bullet). Only an ALTYN visor provides class 4 protection. So statistically most visors are outmatched by the ammo the average player carries. And even if the visor is hit by weaker ammo, so what?
  • Let's assume a player is shooting at a target with a visor, and the ammo cant penetrate, the visor will still be damaged enough to break after 2-5 hits. And that is not OP, that is a protective item doing its job. If it proves dominating in combat, price should be the adjustment, not the usability.
  • If a target is dumb or unlucky enough to stand around allowing to be hit in the visor 2-5 times then it would be just as dead from hits to the body armor and exposed limbs.
Would the developers pretty pretty please allow the visor to be 100% realistic with no artificial dirt ruining it. I fear the developers are working on a more "sophisticated" fix using "cleaning", because they cant let go of the idea that it is "OP" and has to be nerfed. Otherwise in the newest patch they would have cleaned up the texture. Just let the thing be "OP" and have players deal with it. An AKM is "OP" against a makarov, but the player paid 35k for the AKM so he is entitled for that OP.


Developers should not even consider ideas that impair the object as a valid balancing tool. Never. Maximum possible realism. Not Team Fortress 2.

The worrying thing here is that the lead developer openly stated that he did this to balance the OP. This is very serious. If that trend of freely distorting realism based on complaint pressure or perceived OP is not corrected Tarkov as a whole will get derailed from maximum possible realism. If you enjoy hard realism, let the developers know you are not ok with these invented flaws being used to balance realism.

Eotech Holosight Reticles



Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMCztlncHyY
This is how it looks in real life.


This is how it looked in EFT before they "fixed" it. As you can see it had that realistic wiry appearance and fuzz.



reticle of the vortex UH in real life.
Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BAYwHfgbj8
This is how it looks now. This looks like a quick fix for the complaints about the reticle being too hard to see under bright conditions. But all the magic of looking through a scope is lost. Tarkov was the one game that got looking through a scope right. The beautiful fuzzy glow. All gone. This is the next example of realism being thrown out to satisfy reddit complaints. The baby was thrown out with the bath water to fix a slight deficiency in the scope. And what we got is a stone cold gamey, casualized PUBG or ARMA3 reticle. Can the developers at least revert that change and carefully tweak the fuzzy holographic look (or add brightness controls like for the real device? Pretty please?




A few words about realism
  • The developers should have a firm baseline, maximum possible realism. Any balancing should be very carefully done with the external properties. 
  • Things should be allowed to be "OP". OP is a word younger gamers will use against anything that was effectively used against them, because why admit being outplayed when you can shout OP at anything that you are not (yet)experienced enough to counter. Entire genres (roguelikes) are built on the premise of very harsh difficulty. Let players be exposed to it so they can adapt.
  • Realism should not be compromised for convenience. realism is not the opposite of fun, it is the very source of it. Realism is a bottomless pit of fun with endless amount of possibilities to create gameplay from it. Allow Tarkov to be that one game that does not compromise on realism. For casual "milsim" experiences, games like arma and squad exist, which do not reach the depths of Tarkov's realism or production quality. They offer a smooth and easy experience, but that is not what Tarkov should be.
  • The threat of the 9 wives should be ignored. It goes as follows:
    "I have 9 wives, 37 children and I only have 5 microseconds per day to play. If I dont get an M4 with a drum mag and a suppressor then I will hatchet run until I get what I want."



A few words to players who like hard realism in Tarkov:

Rise Up!

Let the developers know that you like hard realism with minimal compromises. Because if you do not, the casual vocal minority on Reddit will be the only thing Nikita will see and "adjust" the game to their wishes. Don't leave the field to the casuals who say scavs are terminator bots because they were limping to the exit with a backpack full of bitcoins and got one shotted in the leg. Don't leave it to the loot farmers who claim everyone should have easy access to keybars or the best medical items at level 1. If the field is left to them, Tarkov won't be a realistic gunbattle simulator, but a free loot shopping tour where difficult gameplay that only rewards smart play will be labeled unfair and not fun. It will be distorted into a casual game because of the complaint pressure by players who come from games like Overwatch, CSGO and Dota2. Don't leave the game to them. Because these types of players look for "fair" and "balanced" experiences, filled with loot chests and level up buttons.

Kommentare

  1. "An IR scope is not that OP. In factory it is useless. Because the map is too small and too well lit to give an advantage to the user. On maps with wide open areas and thick vegetation, it is more useful, especially at night. But let's examine the advantage of both night and day situations. During daytime, the IR scope gives you a spotting advantage, however most players will not die from the first shot in combat, so the target has time to take cover or return fire. This means, after the first shot, the scope has lost its purpose for this particular gunfight."

    This is incorrect and smacks of you being less objective than you let on. When you claim "the scope has lost it's purpose for this particular fight", you know that it's a lie. You will have a much easier time reacquiring your target when he repositions throughout the fight. He cannot use bushes for cover. Etc.

    I appreciate the work you do here, but the least we should be able to expect from you is honesty, and not twisting things to suit your point of view.

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  2. I'm extremely glad you made this post, because I completely agree, although I would go one step further and would have the pricing and availability of these items be realistic, and make the actually price/performance considerations when people buy or consider weapons realistic as well, which might mean bad things for pistols or smgs, but realistically, how often do you see those being used as a primary in a modern military context?

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  3. Most games don't have stuff breaking or cost to balance weapons, but this game does. I hate when a weapon with really high damage and impressive kick, does very low damage, because it fires too fast for balancing.

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