We are one week to Freelancer.
Here are the balances, and changes made from the CTT and its feedback.
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In early November, we opened up HITMAN: Freelancer to a Closed Technical Test to gain valuable feedback and insights from our players. Today, we want to share some of the key changes from what you may have seen in the CTT compared to how the mode will launch.
To improve the immersion around the economy, we changed the Merces amounts to seem more valuable by adding two zeroes to all values (Example 5M is now 500M).
Prestige objective communication and Quality of Life
Freelancer has a help section called Field Manuals in the Intel menu page. Here, you can find a description of the available Prestige Objectives and the specific rules for completing them. This information is quite hidden, so we have dedicated a wall setpiece to show that information up front, so that the players can plan ahead. We also added an option to reselect the chosen Prestige Objective, so that it’s possible to change your mind when considering the choices between objectives, locations and gear in the planning phase in the safehouse.
Added persistent item versions of select Freelancer Tools
We have chosen to stick to our design around the rules for losing Freelancer Tools. To alleviate the frustration that some players feel around losing their favorite gear in the Freelancer Tool category, we have made new versions of these tools that are known as ‘Collectors Editions’ that can be purchased and stored persistently on gear walls.
To phrase this in a different way, a player can choose to buy a rare lockpick that will not be lost on Campaign fail, for instance. We also added some UI-tags on the Freelancer Tool items so that a player can always see if an item will be lost on a mission or is bound to a campaign.
Playtime, overall difficulty and XP progression
In general, we were happy about the metrics we saw from the Closed Technical Test about playtime, the overall difficulty, and the XP progression. These matched our expectations quite well, so we didn’t tweak the balancing around these areas much. The game-mode is deliberately balanced and takes inspiration from rogue-lite mechanics to rely on using consequence to add adrenaline-infused tension to the gameplay.
We have added a ‘base payout’ that the player will earn for completing the mission. This means that players can earn money even without doing the optional payout objectives or prestige objectives. This makes earning money a little bit easier, helping less experienced players slightly. The base amount is higher for Showdown missions, which addresses an issue we saw in the metrics from the CTT, where players would earn less money in average on Showdown missions.
We added a large Merces payout for players that manage to complete a campaign, to celebrate this effort more. We also made the Reward Crate item drops follow the difficulty in a more reliable way, so that the gear that is earned matches the accomplishment in a better way.
Payout and Prestige Objective balancing
We found that some objectives were a bit skewed regarding reward and difficulty, so we balanced payout values based on success and popularity metrics.
In the CTT, we saw a lot of frustration from players failing showdown missions (and thereby Campaigns) by being spotted by Underground Lookouts in ways that felt unfair. To improve this, we introduced a grace-period so that a suspicious lookout can be dealt with before the suspect network is alerted to escape.
We also made lookouts telegraph this with animation, to make it more visible which NPC is a Lookout, when suspicious. Lookouts are still a pretty hardcore addition to be respected. Also, lookouts can still be alerted from distance (for example using a well-placed bullet impact distraction or deliberately positioned body) to support that the player can trigger an escape-scenario deliberately for a sniper strategy or similar.
The Closed Technical Test helped uncover some exploits around suspects in Showdown missions. Now it is no longer possible to use body containers to verify if a suspect is the target. We also added a Merces punishment for eliminating a suspect that isn’t the target to disincentivize the strategy of killing all suspects indiscriminately, thereby bypassing the investigation gameplay of the Showdown missions.
We added a small Merces punishment for killing innocent civilian NPCs. A big fun factor in Freelancer is that it loosens up the stances on preferred gameplay styles that the main game has cultivated and lets players try more aggressive play styles, for example, without punishing or pointing fingers at alternative approaches. We didn’t want to change this, but still wanted to have the game mechanics encourage killing targets over civilians.
Number of Suspects
The number of suspects were found to be too overwhelming on higher difficulties, so these have been scaled down a bit.
Increased value for on-mission stashes
The stashes that are found on location have been tweaked so that they contain more valuable gear. To balance this out, there are now fewer stashes but our hope is that they’re worth exploring for.
We balanced some prices and gear capacities for specific items based on metrics and player feedback.
We got feedback that some of our values for the challenges were ridiculously high and would frustrate completionists too much, so we lowered these to feel more reasonable (while still providing aspirational goals to shoot for).
Tweaks on texts
We received feedback on some of the in-game text that wasn’t formulated as clearly as it could be, especially around objectives. We’ve made some revisions to address that.
The test revealed a number of ALT+F4 exploits similar to what we know from Elusive Targets. We investigated removing these but they can’t be separated from when the game is exited during a power-outage or crash. With the roguelite consequences in Freelancer we decided to favor players that are unlucky enough to experience this.