This is arguably the main area of improvement here, as it was also where most concerns from the community lied when it came to content and replayability. The Left4Dead-ish single-map structure was fun for a few rounds but eventually got stale and there were few incentives to get players going. So we completely reshaped the structure and decided to go for procedurally-generated maps instead. This idea had been around for a while, but the awesome feedback from the community convinced us that it was the way to go! This, in turn, allowed a ton of new ideas to be brought about.
Procedurally-generated maps made from existing environments (Harbour, Marketplace and Faubourg) quickly drew the outline of what would look more like a roguelite run rather than a single, 5-to-10-minute arcade round. This naturally evolved into the current roguelite structure that is now the backbone of the game. It became quickly apparent that a roguelite game would need at least three main incentives for players to come back: a feeling of novelty and surprise on each run, ways to build your Survivor differently every time and adapt to the situation, and of course, short and long term rewards!
There is now a leveling system based on Xp (gained from killing enemies), allowing players to pick a perk each time they level up. The role of gold ("Darks" coins), healing items and Tiny Tom's Shop were also completely rethought since they had a much more mid-term impact now. When you manage to defeat the game on Normal, Ascension levels unlock! Ascension levels bring weird and challenging rulesets to your runs, called “affixes”.
While the core gameplay loop didn't change radically, lots of improvements and care were brought to the overall game feel and did our best to increase the action's "twitchiness", allowing for a wider variety in playstyles (we'll come back to that speaking of perks!)
The roguelite structure introduces long-term rewards called "Curios". Curios are unlocked by spending Dreadium Ingots in the Portable Cabinet of Curiosities crafted by the shady Pr. Ehrgeiz, and can synergize with your current run's perks... or not! There's a total of 60 Curios to unlock, along 3 price levels (Common, Fancy, Extravagant).
With the change of structure came a necessary change in the roles of items. While your trusty healing items are still here (Bandages, Bandage Box, Healing Salve, Doctor's Satchel), we felt as we played over and over that the Frag' Bomb was not as appealing as it used to be in a more arcade, single run context, because it was a single use consumable that took up your only inventory slot. It was not great and was seldom picked up and all.
So we created Artifacts! Artifacts are items that can be picked up and unlock a fifth ability (default key: T). Those abilities are cooldown based, so you can knock yourself out with bombs now!
Level design (as well as level art) is probably the area that was affected most by this massive undertaking. Back in February, the map design process was pretty fixed: each map was fully handcrafted and told a story (kind of). Some amount of variation was implemented, but it was pretty limited (objects and barricades were on random spots and some areas had a degree of freedom in their layout).
The switch to procedurally-generated maps allowed us to build bigger maps from handcrafted "chunks", arranged in a new way every run. Because each run is now much longer and the experience richer than it used to be, level design could afford a much larger portion of exploration!
While it is not immediately apparent, chunks are built around a rather obvious critical path, surrounded by narrower, more convoluted areas called "capillaries". This is usually were the good stuff lies, but it's also a big risk to explore rather than rush for the exit! A whole new environment - Graveyard - was also added to create a nice, spooky atmosphere for the last biome of the run!
A new Survivor, Dr. Dolorosa, plague doctor by profession, was added shortly after release in Early Access. Her introduction was to allow more players to adopt a "hit and run", glass-cannon style, a role solely filled by Rose (and Twig!) so far.
Varag, our goodest boi, has been completely revamped to better fit to this new roguelitish, hard-to-predict environment. Varag was always a favourite among some players, but this pool always was fairly narrow. After watching hours of streaming, discussing the character and of course playing tons of hours ourselves, we finally concluded that the wolfman was fun to play, but not immediately so. Simply put, he was fun to play once mastered and absolutely vital to any serious team trying to tackle the hardest difficulty modes (hey there, Nightmare Squad!), but he was not the easiest character to pick up. With his high tankiness, low mobility and range, he was often left behind at lower difficulties and his Makeshift Shield didn't quite have the same appeal when it blocked low-damage attacks rather than killing-in-one-blow ones.
His Pounce was replaced by the existing Dire Bite, which can now be targeted on the ground, and serves as both a mobility/evade move and an attack.
The Dire Bite was itself replaced by the Shieldarang; Varag goes superhero-that-shan't-be-named-for-copyright-reasons and throws his Shield like a flying disc that wreaks havoc before coming back to him.
Makeshift Shield's been replaced by an alternate version, Defensive Stance. Varag can no longer walk around with his shield up, but can block damage and send back a massive counterattack if he's soaked up enough.
Call of Wild now only allows for Dire Bite, but let's be honest, nobody really used pounce with a 0s cooldown Dire Bite anyway 😀 To make up for the loss of mobility, Dire Bite's range during Call of the Wild has been slightly increased!
Rose was altered so that Twig becomes a defense debuff and control AoE that synergize better with Rose's playstyle. To improve her mobility (which is her bigger strength), Drilling Bolt was replaced by Trigger Bolt. Unlike Drilling Bolt, Trigger Bolt no longer needs to be charged up to increase range and is instead fired instantly and with an even bigger range than the old max range! Is addition to this, Trigger Bolt can now be triggered manually by pressing its ability key again, hence its name! Triggering it detonates it and creates a small, moderate-damage, stunning explosion! Barrage's rounds can now be fired separately without any penalty.
Runolf has received a slight revamp like Rose has, in order to improve immediate fun and mobility too: Bottled Delicacy now instantly explodes upon impact instead of leaving a support pickup. It missed too often and felt frustrating for Runolf players, so it now doubles as an attack grenade AND a support move. Ladle Smash no longer needs to be charged up to increase power and area of effect and is now launched at max capacity (almost) instantly.
Sister Abigail being the most universally popular character among the community, had only small improvements, and served as an inspiration for the other revamps.
Perks logically underwent a massive revamp too. Originally, there were only a few ones for each Survivor, permanently awarded after some hours of grind. Most of these perks have been ported to the roguelite structure (although not all of them made it), and many, many were added (each character now has around 25 of them). Perks are no longer permanent and won't survive the current run, and are awarded upon leveling up. They come in random drafts of 3 (only one can be picked up on each level), and some of them can be stacked several times for increased effects!
It would be a bit long to detail every single available perk in each Survivor's pool, but it's just important to note that the design philosophy here was to create perks that would alter your playstyle (sometimes in strange, counterintuitive yet fun ways) rather than just boost stats.
There was a big push from the community to get cosmetic rewards, and we heard you, loud and clear! Survivor skins are here! There’s currently only one per Survivor, but more are on the way! But wait! It won’t be that easy! To buy a skin, you’ll need chickens… and to get chickens, well… you’ll need to be fast enough to catch them in the dark streets of Darksburg!
Runner Zombies have changed to be more immediately and obviously dangerous than surrounding harassers that jump erratically around you and block your escape. They now pounce in a straight line and deal direct damage on impact. As a compensation, their attack is now clearly telegraphed.
Acid throwers are now a thing! Beware their acid splashes!
The terrifying Blackguard, sent by the Duke of Dreadmire to handle the situation in Darksburg (spoiler: it failed!) now roams the streets of the city as squads. Engage them at your own risk!
Revenants no longer appear randomly in the Fog of War and instead act as mini-bosses, lurking at street corners or on plazas, waiting for Survivors to engage them. Be wary, though! All Revenants have undergone a revamp and are more dangerous than ever! They also come with a zombie backup crew, now!
The Baron, Manfred Von Darksburg, no longer appears randomly either, and serves as the run's final boss!