Pretty sure my past 6 articles related to Crimefest have made it obvious that we here at TechRaptor are full-on following the madness of this year's annual event surrounding Payday 2. We've gone from a wild train ride starting with microtransactions on weapon-skins with stat boosts, to a finale with Troll face masks and a hardly noticeable update to the jump animation. And now, as Crimefest met its inevetable end, Payday 2's director Almir Listo is undergoing an AMA on the Payday 2 subreddit.
The questions and answers are lengthy. So sit back and relax as I pick it apart for you, and maybe stick around after for an overview of this year's Crimefest, written by yours truly. We'll cover this topic-by-topic, just to make sure there won't be any repeat answers here. It's going to be a long ride, folks. So hold on tight.
First things first. Almir reveals that Overkill has a deal with 505 Games, with whom they have a partnership, to "produce a specific amount of content until 2017." Basically this confirms that Payday 2 is probably not on its last legs, if only for the fact that Overkill is obligated to keep it going. That, or maybe finally make a sequel. Still, I take a look at all the DLC for Payday 2, coincidentally most of which I own, and I wonder how Overkill could possibly come up with even more themes to make DLC for. Maybe we'll see laser weaponry in 2016.
What about the microtransactions? Well, there's an answer on why they did it, and an answer on why they think it's okay. First off, Almir proudly states that the dev team size has tripled over the years from 25 to 75 ... only to later admit that it's increasingly difficult to pay the wages of these people, leading to Microtransactions being the excuse for it. Tell me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure part of a healthy company plan is to properly tailor company growth compared to expected profit. If you're using artificial methods (such as pushing DLC) to raise your money intake—as opposed to, say, having a properly fixed game that people want to buy years after—then one could argue there's been some poor decisions made. In the end, it's not the userbase's fault Overkill took too many people on. Don't bank on success you don't have 100% certainty of, and surely don't sell out your fanbase for it when risks taken come back to bite you in the behind!
I also feel the picture below is a remark worth quoting on the above excuse.
And then there's the excuses for why it should be okay. In fact, Almir has three arguments, the first of which is that "the game is balanced around the vanilla experience, that is, the game without any DLC. When we add any new difficulties, enemies, features, heists or otherwise, we balance this in relation to the base game." I'm confused how this is the first argument in saying why the skill boosts in their microtransactions is okay. If anything, it just confirms how poorly balanced the DLC weaponry is, proving often quite overpowered. In fact, the Jiro DLC comes with an SMG that has the highest default Concealment of all SMG's and still proves quite powerful.
"PAYDAY 2 is a player-versus-environment game. You and your three friends play together against the AI; you lose together and you win together. Any advantage your friends have will only benefit the success of the group." This is also quite the fallacy. This argues that people who don't use skins are therefor less of an asset to the team, as opposed to skill being the only factor in that. And what of Cheaters who use Godmode or Aimbot? Technically they also help the fight against the AI. Does this mean that a random hacker who instantly wins the Heist should be revered as the ultimate blessing? What kind of precedence are we actually establishing here?
"Making sure that the boosts are balanced in such a way that it doesn't impare on the player's experience. This is an ongoing effort on our side." That basically means they don't want the upgrades to ruin the gun. The only way that could happen is if they nerf a gun so bad that even a skin can't save it.
Also confirmed, the stat boosts with the skins are here to stay (answer to question 14). Overkill has heard the outrage and thinks it is wrong. Any questions on whether the stat boosts will be removed (and there are quite a few) have been met with a resolute "No." Another interesting quote and retort comes to mind, shared in the picture below (the top is Almir).
Moving on, a day or so ago I was actually in the process on writing up my suspicions on where the $250.000 prize money went from the Hype Train reward. Almir has now said "we'll have more information to share regarding this next week. Stay tuned!" Down the line he adds that "[Overkill] has not pocketed the money. When we announced the tournament originally, a lot of players were angry that it would be only one tournament that only a few could participate in. We have been working with a partner on how to solve this in a good way and will share what we have in mind in the coming week."
There are also no plans yet for making the game Free To Play (answer 2). But if it would mean that the game would "live longer" while generating more revenue, then Almir sees it as a viable idea for the distant future. A year ago, I would've said there are no things that would go over worse than the game going Free To Play, both for Overkill's profit as for the impending suffering of the established playerbase. But then the microtransactions happened ...
The weapon rebalance is also another thing that hasn't come over well. Almir says (answer 3) that feedback has been gathered during the past 10 days, and a new thread on the Payday 2 subreddit or Steam will be opened to discuss them with the players. I do hope this actually gets taken serious, because the complaints about it are not few. I find myself annoyed with how many of my meticulously built set of weaponry has now been negatively affected with a crapshoot of a rebalance.
In general, as I dove through the reddit thread, it felt very obvious that Almir was holding this AMA as nothing more than a PR play. Most of the answers were vague and diplomatic, promising a better future without any real specifics. Just apologies. In the end, I feel like we are being played. None of the big problems with this Crimefest look like they will be addressed the way the playerbase wants, save for (hopefully) the weapon rebalance. If you'd ask me, I'd say Overkill is stretching Payday 2 until they've met their end of the bargain with 505 Games in 2017. But that's just me ...
Now on to the second part of the article. Crimefest 2015 has passed, an AMA has been held. But what have we really earned?
- 16 masks—2 of which are technically just glasses
- 3 new heists—2 of which are remakes from the old Payday: The Heist
- Several new music tracks
- 1 new weapon, available for free (besides in-game currency) to all players and a bipod mod to go with it
- A Teammate AI update that now allows them to engage in Hostage Trading if all Player Characters are in custody
- An option to set up a lobby marked with the Hosts' intent to go Loud or Silent, and an option to filter lobbies based on this
- The option to set up to 4 favorite characters—useful when your favorite is taken when joining a lobby
- An even tougher version of the already-annoying S.W.A.T. Van Turret
- An update to the jumping animation
- Weapons rebalance
- Weapon skins microtransactions in style of CS:GO, but with stat boosts
- ... and supposedly these "keys" can drop randomly post-Heist
- Oh, and there are two achievements you can earn which, in the first 30 days, will give a free safe and drill upon completion.
Masks? Masks. Masks! Masks are always great, except when they're made to laugh at you. The notorious Day 10 masks will not be forgotten easily. To be fair, three of the four already existed in the first Payday game. I personally have little love for masks that have a very dominant theme. I prefer masks like The Grin or The Mannequin. A mask with an idea where you can then slap on your own pattern/material and feel like you've created something like a painting upon a blank canvas. But some people just enjoy running around with a big Anime mask recolored to look like something found only in your nightmares. To each their own.
I wrote an article on the first of three new Heists, namely Aftershock. To summarize, the Heist felt a bit disappointing all in all. But other people say they've found plenty enjoyment in it. The remakes of the two classics, those being the First World Bank and Slaughterhouse, are both worthwhile remakes of the originals. However, it does feel like those maps were made with the original Payday in mind. Payday 2 differs strongly from its predecessor with the addition of five extensive skilltrees that allow some pretty insane builds to be made. Add in an LMG and you have a classic being torn apart by new mechanics. It feels weird, but for someone who's had his share of fun with the original game, the nostalgia was enough to make it worthwhile for my time.
I can't say much on the music. The beats are good enough to not be too disruptive during a Heist, and they fit the game as well as the tracks before it did. I still think the Alesso Heist track is something special, though. But in truth, the music has always been Payday 2's strong suit. Few games know how to tie their game music to the excitement taking place as Payday 2 does it, especially when transitioning towards an incoming Wave.
The KSP 58, the new free LMG that came with Crimefest, is an okay weapon. If you do not own the Gage Historical Pack or LMG DLC, it's a good weapon to have when hungry for a weapon that can spew bullets at a rate like it's nobody's business. It's what LMGs are good at, and the KSP fulfills the role well enough, but not exceptionally so. However, the bipod mod that came with it is a whole different matter.
In the past, LMGs proved to be formidable weapons held back by only one thing: accuracy. It's not strange to imagine that holding a big weapon such as this will not make for a very stable aim, even with a laser sight. However, with the bipod, you can now deploy yourself almost anywhere and experience no recoil whatsoever. This proves pricelss when holding down a hallway or quickly needing to take down a Bulldozer. You still can't aim down the sights with it, but who expects to kill a sniper with an LMG anyway?
Setting up favorite characters is a welcome quality-of-life update. It's always been annoying to have a favorite character (mine being Old Hoxton and Wolf second) only to find yourself stuck with your least favorite character (again, mine being Dragan and Chains) because someone else happened to already have picked that one character, but not your second favorite. This has now been alleviated. If your favorite character is taken, you'll pick the second one. Or third, or fourth, depending on how bad your luck is.
The update to now mark your Heist with your intent for going Loud or Silent is useful, but another one of those small quality-of-life updates. In the past, it was often difficult to determine before joining a Lobby whether the Host intended to go Loud or Silent. Bringing the wrong gear would then often result in being kicked as soon as the Host would see your loadout. This should help alleviate the issue for the most part. I only wish they'd actually take a look at the buggy netcode and make sure random disconnects or Lobby-joining woes are a thing of the past.
The Teammate AI update is quite welcome. Especially for solo players, being downed by a fluke is one of the most infuriating things to happen. And when the incredibly brain dead AI fails to revive you for whatever reason (and believe me, there are plenty), then you see yourself looking for 10 seconds upon the lost lambs that are now your leaderless AI Teammates. No more, with this update. As long as you have a hostage and as soon all human players are in custody, the Teammate AI will work its way toward a Hostage Exchange. Here's to hoping they'll manage to stay alive until then (very doubtful).
The S.W.A.T. Van Turret is, quite frankly, a huge pain in the ass (pardon my french) of many a Heister. If a Heist supports placement of these Vans, you'll often find these arriving within the first ten minutes of a Heist going "loud." They have almost minute-long bursts of relentless firing of bullets at you, having only short breaks in between these. In general, it's not hard to hide from them, and a full-on dodge build can actually crouch in front of them with impunity. However, it's the Teammate AI that likes to show it's shortcomings regarding these.
Whenever an AI Teammate gets hit, there's a big chance they'll undergo a "hit" animation of them stumbling back. Usually this isn't too bad with humanoid enemy NPCs, but the S.W.A.T. Van Turret is effectively capable of (and many times has) stunlocking your AI Teammates. I like Meltdown as a Heist, but I've seen Dallas dance one too many times while being fired upon by a Van. And now these S.W.A.T. Vans get an upgrade. Oh dear ... as far as "free updates" go, this one might almost be the most painful.
The new jumping animation ... Well, I guess it's better if you see for yourself.
The Payday 2 subreddit has made it well obvious that the weapons rebalance has largely been a pain in their backside. I too find myself annoyed at my vast array of guns being tampered with. As stated earlier, Almir has promised that they would look into it with the community, so ... here's to hoping, I guess?
And finally, the microtransactions ... I've stated my opinion on this before, so I'll give you the short version. Personally, I think the stats do not belong on the skins. If they are really as insignificant as claimed, then they can just as easily be removed. As it stands, they may set a precedent for future games or companies. Sure, the stat boosts now are insignificant. Then a year from now we see another game do the same thing, using Payday 2 as an excuse. And what if one of these "affected" games start slowly edging out these stat bonuses? As time goes on, we could find these boosts to be a lot more significant than we thought, just because it managed to creep up on us like that. That is what I call the snowball effect of precedence, and it is why I believe it is right to take a stand against such practices.
The Drills being available as a Loot Drop, as well as the limited-time achievements giving both Drills and Safes out for free as a reward feels as a sign of Overkill acknowledging its error. But the AMA starts to hint at something else. In the end, it is said that it was all part of the plan, but I don't feel that these things excuse it at all. The drop rate of the Drills seems very, very low at the moment. I've been playing the game almost non-stop the past few days and haven't had a single one drop, supporting the claims of my friends who haven't had one drop either. This does not sit well, especially when Almir claims the Microtransactions were mainly thought of as a good idea to encourage "trading" on the Steam Market in order for everyone to make a profit.
My final thoughts
It's been quite the week for me. As I started my first Crimefest article, I will end it the same way.
Overkill knows how to keep Payday 2 in the back of everyone's mind. The past 10 days I've been playing a lot more Payday 2 than I have in the recent months. Part curiosity, part journalistic obligation, part ... because I was enjoying my time with it again. I don't like the microtransactions any more than you do, and my negative review sits among the countless others now. But despite the (un)intentional efforts of Overkill to ruin it, Payday 2 is still a game that's fun to experience with your friends. However, with the current state of modability, and no solid date or prospect of it improving, I think it might finally be time for me to move on. Payday 2, we've had some great times, but now you go back to your little dark corner in my Steam Library as I drift away towards other, probably better games. It's been great.
See You Payday Cowboy ...