Yes I agree, we'd had concerns about it being too much of a drag after the first few times. It's worth noting though that there is still some things that need discovering about enemy spawns and their behavior, specifically their spawn size and radius. Spawning anything inside of those corridors or tight spaces often ends up with enemies out of bounds. This is partly why a lot of these areas only have one or two enemies, and the larger rooms have fuller spawns. Unfortunately it's a bit too late to go back and change some of it. I was going to move the key for the first Grass Assassin box closer to the console a few days ago, but it would have only confused players more after having figured out the puzzle.
This one isn't quite in our hands, because these maps are still Sega's. They were just changed to be sundown and midnight. If you run BBB and you get lucky with the variant, you'll notice that Block 2 in IC is about 80% the same as BBB. This wasn't really our intention, but when the map was loaded and most of the walls, gates, and spawns were in place already, it just came about that our initial plan wasn't far off what Sega had already made in the past.
Block 1 is another beach area, but I don't know if it was used in any BBB variant. Most of the beach maps we found were unused, which might be saying something in the way of "too open" lol.
I'll admit though that Block 2 is my least favorite of the blocks.
Yes, you most likely will die at some point by some stray bullets or an unfortunate Groode stomp or missile, and I don't want to be lame and fall back on that we did say it would be a difficult mission, and that running in a team is somewhat preferred. People have solo'd S2 just to see if they could do it, a lot of them had to restock on consumables. I will say that S2 is overtuned, and as was discussed in the Discord last night, we're aware of that and it will likely get re-tuned before too long. Specifically because, if it's going to have items that people want, which aren't available in lower ranks, then it's not aligning to the original idea for us. Just like Zeta back in the past, S2 was effectively going to be Master Mode with higher reward, but somewhere along the line that got sidestepped, and now it's a weird smashy bit in the middle.
But! From the S2's that I have run, yeah it hurts, but with a party it isn't unbearable in my own opinion. Yes Grinna Bete is terrifying especially if you forget to change armor, or you're solo, but in a group their aggro can quickly change to someone who isn't you, opening up huge opportunities to get damage in. With that said, leading in to this...
This unfortunately is something I want to disagree with. Yes Renvolt and Howzer are difficult, and in solo it probably is the worst thing to be dealing with and I doubt it's very much fun. However, in every party I've ran with, the boss arena is by far the easiest part of the mission. Howzer, Renvolt, and Seed Magashi aren't enemies that do well against multiple targets, they're not really designed for it imo. Not being able to CC Howzer and Renvolt probably sounds awful on paper, but there's a few things I want people to at least acknowledge. Howzer and Renvolts AI both (that is client controlled) have built in flinch and stun when you catch them during certain frames or inflict a threshold of damage. It's quite possible to interrupt both of them by getting hits in. Unfortunately, fighting both of these isn't the same as fighting regular enemies. You can't get into a rhythm of jabbing with your weapon and hitting a Dimate or Trimate, depending on whether you get hit, and what by.
You have to play offense and defense with these bosses, and I know PSU's combat isn't really designed for this kind of play, but it isn't painfully impossible either. All three of them have massive openings, and a lot of their attacks are avoidable. Howzer has warnings on pretty much all of his attacks; Megid, his round kick, dive kick, his jabs, and his laser attacks are all openings for you to get behind him and deal damage, and potentially flinch him so he goes down for even more damage. The same can be applied to Renvolt! a lot of his attacks are major openings, and you can get behind him and stun him. If you're in a party then chances are he isn't even coming after you, and if he is, or if you can't get close, then just wait for an opening and play defense. I know this might not be "the PSU way", but just because it's different doesn't necessarily mean it's bad. I can appreciate that it's probably frustrating, however.
SEED Magashi is the biggest joke of a boss, since you can stun lock him indefinitely and that's honestly all people do in every party I've ran.
I want to say that, for particularly a boss fight, it should be allowed to be a boss fight. What fun is it when you can bind all three of these bosses to the ground with endless knock down, and wail on them? they would be no threat, and instead boring jokes that don't even try to fight back. Sure there are people that might enjoy that, and to feel powerful, but it's not much different from switching their AI off at that point.
As for the traps, yes I agree. The boss fights alone are fine enough, it didn't really need anything extra. This unfortunately falls into the "Out of the players control" frustration category. Imagine someone walking up and taking your controller every 10 seconds, and giving you the cheesiest shit eating grin. No thanks.
This isn't the mindset, but there are a few things going on. There isn't much in Clem that I would even consider wanting to be "difficult" or "hard". In terms of PSU in today's world, there is a lot that can absolutely be improved. It's worth keeping in mind that the whole damage formula thing was reworked to fix buffs, debuffs, and DFP in general and this ultimately alters how the game feels. Not to mention that there are still some unknowns about enemies and how to really stat them up correctly.
However I'd still like to flip this on its head and say that, us having a mindset of "difficulty = fun" and everything must be difficult, isn't far off being the opposite of people in the community saying "PSU isn't hard, it can't be hard, so it should just be easy". Every mission would generally be the same. Specifically, not every mission or content we make needs to conform to the easy nature that people expect from a mission. Just because people don't believe that PSU can be engaging or difficult in or outside of combat doesn't mean we can't try or experiment around, or worse put it off completely. I personally, and I know others, wouldn't really want to just give up the idea of a challenging mission because something might be too frustrating or too annoying. There were absolutely scenarios like this on the official server, where getting slapped around by enemies wasn't shocking. That said, I agree and also think IC has overshot the mark that we were trying to land, and I'll get in to everything we've learned and everything to take away from it shortly.
In terms of difficulty vs frustration, what's the line here? I feel like frustration can stem from "difficult" really easily. I think frustration comes from situations or scenarios where you're either forced to play or learn to play a certain way, or scenarios where the control is completely stripped away from you. That's frustrating, and I can see how some parts of IC are this way.
But what I can comment on is that while some parts of IC are challenging and difficult, many parts of it are not. For instance, a lot of the enemies seem to be placed around and geared toward the big maybe scenarios. Maybe you can stun Bead Groode, and maybe you can drop a Freeze EX, therefore they should be tuned toward such a scenario where it's you or the enemy. That, in my honest opinion, is foolish. At that point, the enemies and the overall experience is no longer tuned toward the relaxed or casual play style, and more tuned toward the types of players that know every nook and cranny of every enemy. Not everyone has the tools to disable Bead Groode, and even if they do, not everyone wants to be forced to incorporate that play style into their own.
No, enemies won't go above Level 200, and their HP on S3 will be the same as what it was on Official, or so I'm told. Although it's important to mention, quite a lot of S3's weren't logged, and they had to be remade based around lesser difficulties, which runs into a handful of issues. Unfortunately there's no way for anyone to know what kind of mission modifiers these enemies had in place. It's all good knowing the base stats, and the enemy specific modifiers, but there wasn't any information about the individual mission itself apply modifiers. In essence, while C, B, and A could have a 90-100% HP modifier on enemies, S+ could have had 80, 70, 60, and so forth, to bring them into some level of comfort. Most of these missions being made from lesser ranks runs the risk of S3 having higher HP modifiers than what was officially set, or intended, and it's something we'll most likely have to address over time once we get there.
I would greatly encourage people to call this stuff out, please. I know there are plenty of people who would sit silent and hope it changes, or complain about it where I may not see it.
Milestones are good on paper, but generally this whole thing is a test. Up until recently, it wasn't possible for us to apply a lot of this stuff in real time, and is partially why it's gone through this system. I want to point out though that we're not quite at the level of custom exchange missions, which is why this one might be a bit short in the way of rewards. Differently to official, these are active during the event and apply globally, not just to the event mission itself. We did it this way because we already knew that forcing people to attend IC for 4 weeks straight wouldn't be ideal, even if it was a fun and enjoyable mission for the majority. We wanted this event to benefit you in your day to day as well, which is generally preferred and encouraged. Don't think of it as a bad thing to go somewhere else to farm for an item, or MP, or whatever you might be looking for. The event enables people to do that, so I'm at least glad for that.
Generally what I'm getting from this is that you went on the hardest difficulty and then got discouraged because... you went on the hardest difficulty, and then you just didn't try it ever again. Basically, you haven't played the event. I'm not saying that disqualifies your opinions on it, far from it, just that it kind of boils down to that you got discouraged, which I can understand.
Here you also said:
I can't help but feel that your best course of action would have been to learn the mission on S, and then when you were comfortable to continue, take it on S2 with or without a party. This way you know what to expect on the hardest difficulty. There's no shame in going on a lower difficulty to learn the ins and outs, and what to expect. There is no fundamental difference between the difficulties, so what you learn on C, B, A, or S, also applies to S2.
To compare this to another game, say like Resident Evil, for the very first time would you pick Nightmare mode and then complain that all the enemies do too much damage, there's not enough ammo, and there's no healing items, aside from not really knowing where anything is or the dangers that lurk. Inevitably putting the controller down and saying, "Man, Resident Evil isn't fun".
I've already covered this up above, but the gist of it is, these bosses are quite possibly the easiest part of the mission. Would you also push for De Ragan to be consistently stun locked, poisoned, frozen, or paralyzed easily? They're bosses, not another spawn at the back of the room. They're designed to make you move and be cautious, and play defense once in a while.
We do this already! the level cap always get raised to 1 under the up coming content requirement, so that people can access the next tier of missions for the least amount of work. While IC S2 requires Level 100 to enter, you can level to 104, because the next set of S2's (when drops are finished for them) is at 105. Unfortunately it's not simple for us to let the level cap go past certain tiers of missions, it would end up causing too much confusion and headache for everyone.
ALSO! I want to point out something important here that was discovered the other day...
And going back to this comment:
There's a bug going around where your equipped line shield isn't actually a line shield. There have been a few players with Synthesis Boards or Materials as line shields when players check their equipment. I'm supposing this is another sync issue, possibly tied to armor switching with less slots than the previous one. This means that you may not even have armor on at all. This has likely been a thing since... forever, and rather frustratingly has probably not helped with balance at all.
Until I can find more leads on this one, it might be worth uneqipping your units, then your armor, and then equipping it all again to make sure you're still synced up.
Nothing in IC should be doing 2-3 hits.
Now here are my thoughts...
I wrote this whole post a few days ago, but I didn't post it because I wanted to further confirm my thoughts before anything. Since then, S2 has already been tweaked further, and the enemies are now no longer as strong.
Having played the event quite a lot since it started (and still am), I hope that my input can be taken as another player, and seen just as valuable or taken into consideration. I have to agree in some instances that S2 can be quite rough. IC was designed to be a challenging "party focused" mission and will probably only be one of very few that come about, but still I don't think this was entirely the intended outcome. Currently there are a handful of problems that blindside us here. First is the armor bug that was recently discovered, where your equipment can become desynced and your armor ineffective at times. The second is that the whole damage formula was changed to incorporate DFP better, so that armor and buffs were effective. The third is that enemy data is just too basic and misunderstood right now for proper enemy balance, but this will soon be fixed as I've been researching a lot more into it. Things like iframes on players don't exist either, and it's a major problem because you can get hit many times while you're being knocked down, and it's out of your control completely. That, or you can get launched again while you're still recovering from one already.
If it's of any use, I'm an Acrofighter, and my equipment isn't so good due to time, but I still manage to do alright in a party despite it being harsh for melee players. I haven't found myself sighing in disbelief, or getting annoyed because the sponge with legs won't die. Honestly, I've actually been having a lot of fun with the mission, and it's been making me smile and laugh. Not in a sadistic kind of way, but most of the people I've played with are chill AF, and laugh when they get ultra-clapped by a coconut or one of the bosses. It's honestly just the Bead Groode x Rogue Mazz combo that make me think twice, because you can't equip any elemental armor that will protect you. You have to hope that the maybe scenario comes around, and someone manages to get the Groode stunlocked. Outside of that, it's either 1.5k from the Groode with range, or 1.5k from the Rogue Mazz's normal attack multiple times. Either way, you're getting that hit, and it's going to take a Trimate or two.
In terms of the event itself, it was a cool idea and I don't hate it, but I'm also not big on the overall thing. The design didn't really go how I'd have expected it, being that it was meant to be more of a scenic summertime mission with icecream (at least in my mind), it took a darker turn at the end and became somewhat of a story... thing. Admittedly I don't think any of us on the team plan to or want to make any kind of story related event mission again in the future. It's fun for a 1 or 2 time run, but after that, it just becomes a pain and it isn't fun. Unfortunately I don't think the mission I was hoping IC to come out as will ever come about, at least not soon, just because the maps and all have been used and seen and it's meh. It was also to be a more rewarding mission, but unfortunately as is the curse of Sega right now for us (and will soon be fixed, thank god), boxes are far too limited when it comes to item space, so it becomes difficult to put in something for everyone right now.
Rest assured, these issues with enemies and boxes are next on my list of things to improve drastically upon, and it will open doors for the drops team to fix a lot of the problems going around right now (I.E Base C in S rares lmao)
For future events, depending on how soon anyone would even want one, this is generally what I've learned and would honestly prefer to be the case:
Length is OK, but it's only OK if there's something good at the end of it. The reasons I wouldn't really opt for lengthy missions anymore is both:
1. If it isn't highly rewarding, or at least some guarantee of a good outcome, then it's incredibly draining.
2. Peoples connection stability doesn't work so well with a long mission. In fact, I think boss gates and blue gates will be avoided as much as possible from now on.
For future custom events, I'm feeling that a better approach would be to have multiple shorter missions, and either let them all be run by player choice, or if an event ends up running for as long as IC, perhaps released them on a weekly basis to keep the event from going stale. For example, we would make 3 or 4 different stand alone missions, each with different maps, enemy layout, and rewards, and then release one for week one, another on top for week 2 (so you'd have parts 1 and 2), and then another on week 3. This way, there's something new and refreshing, something to look forward to, and hopefully naturally rewarding for players.
Difficult enemies I don't mind, but things like that should be restricted to secret or side rooms. As Skinny mentioned above, the final secret room with Grinna Bete and Bead Groode is kinda rough, but It feels alright. In instances like that I think it's fine, but when it's the whole block, erm... not so much.
Secret rooms and puzzles we're all for, but we're all definitely feeling that making them required for S rank isn't a great approach at all, especially if some of those secrets aren't fun to do on repeat. Any future "secrets" are likely to be optional instead of required or forced.
Real time milestones I honestly am not sure I will be doing again. As mentioned, a lot of these boosts can generally just be enabled for the event overall, and most likely will be. Dealing with the milestones ended up being more stress than I was expecting, or really willing to deal with even if it is once every however long between events. I would much rather they were just on, and any "milestones" would be for after event rewards.
Balance it around feel, rather than the woulds, the coulds, and the numbers on the sheet. One of the biggest problems that arose about IC S2 was that a lot of it seemed to have been balanced around this idea that players might do something, and was assumed that most players would do it, which isn't good at all.
There also seemed to be a lot of changes based around the idea and the numbers, rather than how it actually felt to play the thing. At this point it's difficult to really fix IC S2 completely, but it has had some improvements since. For the future I will be pushing harder for game feel rather than the math behind the scenes. I think this is honestly the most important thing, and now that I've got more time to actually play PSU, I'm hoping to get us all on the same page as everyone else.
Obtainable rewards is important. If the mission is to be incredibly difficult for players then it also needs to be incredibly rewarding for players. Difficult to play + difficult to get loot isn't a combination that should often exist. When it comes to rewards as a whole, I would much rather that it was a guaranteed approach, similar to how IC is now with its guaranteed tickets for item crafting. Just a little less... demanding?
It isn't the end of the event just yet, and I will likely be expanding my thoughts on the whole thing once it's all said and done, but I would still like to hear feedback during or after as well. When it comes to events, I wouldn't hate working with the community to make something fun or exciting.
Sorry that this is huge, and I also couldn't get to every point :(
Thanks for taking the time.