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Survival games have experienced a renaissance in the last five years and we are in the middle of the self-discovery phase of an ambivalent genre: Survival games have given us mainstream and obscure niche titles. But where is the journey going and what do we expect from Survivethis.news from the upcoming survival greats?

This is the current status: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds first reached us almost 10 years ago as a survival mod for ArmA 2. Today PUBG is one of the most-played titles on Steam and consoles and is even making the leap into the eSports scene. DayZ, Escape from Tarkov and SCUM are also high in the Twitch course, but appeal to a much smaller audience.

It’s difficult to pinpoint a core of the genre. Sure, it’s about survival, but that’s what almost every game is about. Perhaps there is no common denominator that points the way forward.

We wish that for the future of the genre

Survival simulation

We see that too often: It is neither realistic nor entertaining when the character dies of hunger or thirst for the umpteenth time after only two hours of in-game time. Hunger, thirst, stress, injury, and illness make perfect sense if the effects are believable and enrich the gameplay. For example, thirst can endurance affect and hunger affects accuracy. However, death as the last resort should be largely staged by opponents and not by missing breakfast.

This is our wish: physical and psychological needs that credibly influence the gameplay up to death, without constantly disturbing the flow of the game unnecessarily. For example, SCUM managed to realistically portray the character’s needs without becoming annoying.

SCUM Metabolismus
SCUM models the metabolism of the player extremely detailed, but fair

Enemy and combat system

We see that too often: In the post-apocalyptic world everyone is struggling to survive and we want to feel that. This is about much more than targeting zombie hordes. In PvE, the opponents should fit the game world and neither bored nor overwhelmed the player. Unfortunately, DayZ takes quite a bit of expansion to introduce a bear. It would be quite realistic to expect a small variation in interesting PvE opponents from the release.

In PvP, however, opinions are divided. As you can see on the community servers of the big survival titles, the players are demanding hardcore PvP on the one hand, but also safe zones in which one can meet in peaceful interaction to chat, craft, or build bases on the other. The balance of the two elements ultimately depends on the rest of the game design but should be in focus early in development.

This is our wish: varied and challenging PvE content that brings the world closer to players even more believably. The PvP elements are supposed to deliver crisp gunplay, adrenaline and masochistic boons. A good example of successful gunplay is Escape from Tarkov. Please do not lose sight of the fact that the players can or want to play with each other and not just against each other.

EFT Waffen-Mods
Hardly any other game designs weapon mods and gunplay as well as Escape from Tarkov

Permadeath and player progression

We see this too often: Especially newbies are deterred by the great sword of Damocles. Permadeath usually means that all game progress is lost with the death of the character. Depending on the difficulty of the game, this is frustrating and prevents many games from building a stable and healthy player base. However, it speaks against the unwritten codex of the genre to resurrect the fallen.

Meanwhile, SCUM, Deadside and Escape from Tarkov solve the problem via narrative detours: Fame points, reputation points or waiting times cost the player valuable resources in order not to have to forfeit the progress entirely. The mechanics appear artificial and break the immersion massively. There would be much more elegant solutions.

This is our wish: Account progression instead of character progression that persists beyond death, even if it is only cosmetic or in the form of e.g. Kill-death ratios or leaderboards are presented. That would motivate the player to get better in the long run.

Numerous “git gud” comments from relevant forums usually only have the opposite effect. At the same time, the lack of XP-based character progress prevents unfair confrontations between newcomers and veterans: Conflicts won are purely skill-based. A good example is the bounty shooter Hunt: Showdown, which with its bloodline provides motivation despite permadeath.

Hunt Showdown Blutlinie
Hunt: Showdown creates motivation through account progress

The core of the survival genre

This list could go on for as long as you like: You ask yourself, “Can the genre even be reduced to a core?” No, bare survival as the core is expanded by the numerous game elements and thus gives the genre its charm. However, many of the success factors can be reduced to one common denominator: credibility in the struggle for survival.

This is our wish: Regardless of whether the next big hit is in the direction of a looter shooter or a cozy base building, we want a survival game that believably combines the many elements of the genre core:

  • Loot,
  • Inventory management,
  • Graphic style,
  • Story or
  • Metagame

It is the multitude and fine-tuning of the mosaic particles that define the genre around survival. And none should be neglected.

What do you think of the survival genre in general and what are your wishes for future titles? Just comment below your opinion on this.

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Sascha leitet das Survival- und Horror-Newsmagazin Survivethis.news seit der Gründung im Jahre 2014. Neben dem Schreiben von Artikeln ist er für so ziemlich alles irgendwie zuständig. In seiner Freizeit zockt er gerne am PC, fährt Motorrad oder schaut Filme und Animes.


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