What is Powercreep? (And an example of it...)
“Powercreep refers to the gradual increase in the power level or effectiveness of characters, abilities, or items in a game over time.,” In the context of Valorant, powercreep can be observed in the form of agent abilities, weapon updates, or map design.
This was recently corroborated (in Valorant) during Patch 6.11; released on June 6th, 2023, which included the reduction of reserve ammo in the Phantom and Vandal, this could be viewed as controversial for some players due to the negative impact it had on the gameplay aspect (As seen below).
Fast forward to June 27, 2023, begins Episode 7 Act 1, where Riot implemented a new system in which to unlock characters, involving a new free in game currency; named, ‘Kingdom Credits’, earned by playing matches accompanied by the new opportunity to spend ‘VP’, an in-game currency which cannot be earned by playing matches but by spending real money to convert into these ‘E-coins’, to gain access to new characters instantly rather than playing normally like the average player. Now this does not sound so deplorable, until it coincided with the release of agent ‘Deadlock’, this character, accompanied with the recent nerf of ammo reduction and the newly implemented agent unlocking system, makes this new agent ineffably strong for anyone who utilizes it.
An example of her strength is conveyed through one of her signature abilities, the ‘Barrier Mesh’, where a disc is thrown at any point in the map to create a core, around which an X-Shaped barrier arises which blocks enemies from moving through it. Although only blocking players and not bullets, it is created by destructible nanowire balls, which can be destroyed to break part of the barrier, or the core to break the whole barrier.
You may be thinking this sounds fair for players and could also possibly negatively impact the wielder, however with the outer points being a whopping 700HP, (With a total of 4 outer points) and the Centre being 1000HP, this creates a huge problem for players countering this barrier mesh as it takes up to 30-31 bullets using a Vandal or Phantom, this accompanied by the recent ammo reservation nerf means that Deadlock’s ‘Barrier Mesh’ becomes a very impactful piece of utility and can sway, delay and even prevent a push from the enemy team due to its sheer strength.
Naturally, older agents become obsolete, despite previously being powerful agents, they are outclassed by Deadlocks’ new and improved versions of old abilities, an example of this is shown in Sage’s ‘Barrier Orb,’; which once was considered to be extraordinarily strong, is now becoming outdated. Additionally players believe that the introduction to new agents and features means that their time and investment spent on learning and mastering older characters feel worthless.
So, what is the financial benefit of Powercreep for large companies like Ubisoft and Riot?
One reason game developers introduce the idea of powercreep is to keep the game feeling new and up-to-date, particularly a game like Valorant with one main game mode. It creates interest and the willpower to keep on playing and grinding to gain access to these features for a better experience, consequently this creates a pay-to-win dynamic where players with the latest features gain an unfair advantage.
You see, developers capitalize on players (FOMO), the idea of ‘Fear of Missing Out,’ by making these opportunities for status, it opens players’ wallets and tendency to purchase currency through micro-transactions for the opportunity to become superior to other players; along with Patch 6.11 allowing for players to purchase characters through VP (Rather than previous leveling system)
How game developers (COULD) prevent powercreep
The most effective way to prevent powercreep in games is ‘Horizontal Progression’ this is the idea of rather than introducing strictly superior abilities or weapons, developers could add features that incorporate other play-styles and options without inherently being stronger than any existing abilities, this creates an opportunity for a wider selection of play-styles without enforcing a meta. Additionally, iterative balance updates could also solve this through balancing abilities of every character based on data and research to create a fair environment.
Conclusion on Powercreep and its presence in modern games
In conclusion, powercreep is a significant problem for modern game developers in their strive to keep their game engaging and enjoyable for players while maintaining a fair experience for everyone, powercreep is a prevalent and frustrating aspect of modern gaming but something which CAN be prevented through careful design testing and horizontal progression.
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