FatShark released the first post-release patch and development roadmap for Warhammer: Vermintide 2 today. The notes for Patch 1.0.2 offered a number of general and stability fixes, but a portion of the 500,000 players who have purchased the game are unhappy.
For one, the "Known Issues" category includes bullet points like "Skittergate bosses are currently in an unstable state," which is a fairly large problem given that the Skittergate is the game's final level, and "attempting to upgrade an illusion weapon will instead salvage the illusion", which means players can't upgrade their illusion weapons.
"Various Balancing Adjustments"
The note that seems to have players the most incensed is in the "Balance" section, stating simply "various balancing adjustments." The release patch for the game carried the same vague note. Players already had issues with the fact that Vermintide 2 already obfuscates character statistics in lieu of a single Power metric, so this is a bit more salt on the wound.
"The problem is that unless the players know exactly what has been tuned somehow, we don’t know how to keep an eye out for it. My first reaction to seeing 'balancing adjustments' was to just try a number of different weapons on different characters, assuming I can remember the damage numbers on the dummy from before," wrote Diexna on the Official Fatshark forums. "All I’m saying is that without knowing what to keep a lookout for regarding balancing changes, it’s very difficult to give any feedback on it, and it gives us more to look forward to and geek out about when it comes to actually testing things."
A similar thread on the Vermintide subreddit had one user guessing that the lack of detail might be because the changes were done behind the scenes and may require a more complex explanation than the patch notes could provide. That user also has a specific weight behind their estimate.
"Looking at the code, there were no changes to weapons other than the push stab fix, no changes to enemies other than the bile troll adjustments, and no changes overall to careers," wrote Reddit user Aussiemon, who was a frequent modder for the first Vermintide and will likely do the same for Vermintide 2. "My guess is that the adjustments were to background systems that would require a lot of explanation or not really make sense without context."
The issue here is a general one, a lack of total transparency. Players want to know if something is changing in the game they're playing. Usually, that's because they want to know what they can be angry about, but occasionally it's so they can provide proper feedback. You want your players to be armed with the correct information. Worse, obfuscation puts a developer in a poor position if players do discover hidden mechanics in their game, like Bungie's situation with Destiny 2.
The other major problem affecting Warhammer: Vermintide 2 that doesn't seem to be getting a fix yet are the game's talent trees. Each of the game's heroes has three Careers, each with their own Talent Trees. The problem is some of the talents don't work, while others are underwhelming due to career nerfs at launch.
One example is the Foot Knight career for Markus Kruber. The character has a passive aura called Protective Presence that increases damage resistance and stamina. It's a key part of the career. The problem is when you hit level 15 as a Foot Knight, the passive aura just stops working. Yeah, a core facet of the career just does nothing. It's survivable on lower difficulties because Foot Knight has high hit points, but as the difficulty ramps up, the lack of aura becomes a problem.
Another example is the starting Waystalker career for the elf Krellian. The character was a bit too powerful in beta due to her passive ability Amaranthe, which regenerated her health over time, doubled her ammo capacity, and prevented ranged damage falloff. The health regen allowed the career to take far more damage than some hardier careers. Fatshark responded to this at launch by making the health regen only active below 50 percent health.
The developer didn't change the talent trees to match the new ability though. The Waystalker's Level 15 talent choices are all balanced around the previous version of the ability, with a focus on consistent health regen. In order to make good use of that tier of talents, a player has to actually take damage to trigger some health regen, meaning it's not rewarding good play.
Communication is Key
Players are unhappy whether the talents are straight up broken or poorly tuned for the current careers. They've been calling for broken talents to be fixed since launch, whether that's on the Steam community, the subreddit, or the official forums. Worse, many of these problems aren't even in the "Known Issues" section of the current patch notes, meaning players have no indication of when they'll be fixed. The developer has stated that the Foot Knight talent fixes might be a part of patch 1.0.3, which the team hopes to get out tomorrow, but that's only one career out of many.
Fatshark released its roadmap for Vermintide 2, showing a strong commitment to making balance changes and technical improvements to the game over the course of the next few months. The first downloadable content maps are planned for late April/early May, as is mod support and dedicated servers. Still, players lack an understanding of when their specific issues will be fixed. Even putting most of the issues above on the Known Issues list is a good start.
The community is 500,000 strong and now if the time to build goodwill and trust. You do that through solid communication and great updates. Fatshark is doing its best, but it needs to get better about communicating the smaller details of development to the userbase.