Scavengers has been in early access for a few months now, but the game itself has had a few challenges along the way. From a lackluster new player experience to a pretty limited researching tool, the survival battle royale has used player feedback to make some major changes to the game in those few months, but where will the next round of changes focus if this game is going to survive in a crowded genre? I had the opportunity to chat with CEO and Cofounder of Midwinter Entertainment Josh Holmes to find out.
MMOBomb (MMO): Before we get started, can you introduce yourself and give us a little peek at what you do day-to-day on Scavengers?
Josh Holmes (JH): Sure. I’m Josh Holmes, CEO and co-founder of Midwinter Entertainment. I oversee the studio and our game Scavengers, which launched into Early Access in late April. Right now, my day-to-day focuses a lot on taking the feedback from our players and working with the different teams across the studio to implement that into gameplay improvements, bug fixes, and to map out how the game will evolve in the coming weeks and months. On top of that, myself and everyone here is working on rolling out new content across Early Access.
MMO: It has now been two months since early access launched. What has the team learned since opening the floodgates? What were your biggest surprises once you started getting feedback from players on a large scale?
JH: The biggest surprise has been just the sheer volume and quality of the feedback we’ve received from our community; it absolutely exceeded our expectations going into early access. Players have been very vocal in terms of what they like and dislike about the experience, and we’ve matched that with gameplay data that we’re able to gather, which has given us a lot of direction as to where we need to make changes to the game. One specific area that we’re focusing on right now is making improvements to the PvE & new player experience, so you’re in a better position to succeed without feeling like you’re forced into PvP combat, which includes tweaking and expanding our progression system.
MMO: In those two months we have seen a wipe, progression changes, talent changes, and most recently a change to the resurrection system. That last item is probably the biggest change that was not something we suspect would change in early access. What prompted this overhaul of the “dying” in game?
JH: When we launched early access, we were very upfront about the significance it would have on the continued development of Scavengers; it’s a period of open development ahead of our full launch where players can help shape and develop the future of the game alongside the studio. So we always anticipated that some adjustments through early access would appear drastic but that’s just the nature of early access development and our commitment to refining the gameplay experience for all players.
When it comes to the changes to re-cloning during a match, it came down to upping the stakes in a match. With the old system, the ability to easily resurrect diminished the challenge of AI and PvP encounters – death became a minor setback. Moreover, this lack of stakes impacted play patterns with a strict meta emerging focused around team splitting and certain exploit, like having players sacrifice themselves to rush an objective to accelerate XP gains and deny opposing teams access to resources. All-in-all, the new system is more balanced and adds additional strategic considerations, and we hope makes getting player kills feel more satisfying for players. That being said, we know it has disrupted the flow of matches to our veteran players, so we’re still listening and taking on board feedback in response to the changes. One of the big points of feedback from the community has been the data cost of earning new lives, and this is something we are actively looking at with an eye to improving balance.
MMO: Are there concerns that this shift may cater more to a “hardcore” audience at the risk of alienating more casual players?
JH: We always have to consider how any change we make may disrupt the match balance, and there are always going to be a number of players that are disappointed with any changes that we make. We can’t please everyone, as hard as we try. We follow the data and what players tell us, so we’re confident that, with the changes to the resurrection system, it’ll make for a more meaningful and gratifying gameplay experience that all types of players can appreciate. We also want the community to know that we are listening, and if something isn’t working on a broader level, then we’ll address it. We don’t make these decisions flippantly, so we hope that our players trust us when we do implement bigger changes to the gameplay. What you will see in the near future are steps we’re taking to offer more variety with new modes that we hope will appeal to our more casual players in the community.
MMO: Players are incredibly happy that the “Salvage Bug” was addressed in the June 29th patch, but the “Developer Focus” post also addressed the “New Player Experience,” which has been a little bit of a sore spot on the game’s Reddit lately. What changes were made/are being made here and how do they help?
JH: There’s no doubt that this has been an area of frustration for both the team here at Midwinter and our community. We’re working on it right now, to make sure that players are both better educated before they enter a match, as well as having more enjoyable and compelling early expeditions in matches. We have a number of matchmaking improvements in development, which we expect to come online in the coming weeks. Additionally, we are continuing to refine our onboarding experience for new players with the addition of a more PvE-focused experience for initial sessions. However, it is important to note that while we will be able to support skill-based matchmaking with these changes, we will be limited to some degree by player population during early access, until we make our launch push to draw players into the game.
MMO: Another common “gripe” is the lack of solo modes since the Expedition mode teams up solo players. Will there ever be a mode that will be added/altered to cater more to solo players?
JH: There’s a lot of things to consider with a solo mode and how it impacts the gameplay balance in a match. What we are doing right now is looking into better matchmaking whereby players who solo queue are put into lobbies with other players in the same situation (rather than being dropped into a game with a bunch of partied-up teams). However, it’s worth noting that whilst we’re looking into it, it’s unlikely that it will come online soon.
MMO: For those players that are already max researched, what new items, tools, and tricks can we look forward to seeing in game?
JH: We’ll be expanding Research options in the future, but I can’t share any specifics about what those will look like quite yet. However, I know content is something that the community really craves right now, and so we’re excited to see how they react to our plans this week to roll out a new PvE mode and our Season 0 Battle Pass, which’ll give a taste of what’s to come in the weeks and months ahead. This is really just a teaser for the type of content that we’ll be releasing in the future, so expect bigger and better things when we get to our full launch.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The New Horde mode and Season 0 Battle Pass were just announced today. The season pass can be claimed for free until August 3 (after that you’ll have to purchase it) and the Season itself starts on July 23. See the link in Josh’s reply above for more details on both.
MMO: What do you think Scavengers does (or is going to do) to separate itself from a bit of a crowded field right now that includes not only battle royales, but also battle royales that are incorporating PvE elements like Scavengers does?
JH: We’ve never been preoccupied with thinking about other games or competition. We’ve always had a vision for what we want Scavengers to be, and we’ve been immensely proud of how far we’ve come and the response we’ve had from players to date. Our belief is that Scavengers brings a unique take to the online shooter, and we’ll continue to refine and evolve that vision up to our full launch and beyond.
MMO: Any tidbits or surprises you can give our readers about the future of the game? Any Easter eggs in the game that players have not noticed yet you can give us a clue about?
JH: We’re always looking for the opportunity to include little hidden secrets and tidbits of lore throughout the game, and players with a keen eye should be able to pick up on some of these elements as they explore the remnants of our ruined world. In future releases we’ll be continuing to expand the suite of enemies that players face, as well as the tools at their disposal. And over time, more secrets will be revealed.