Before I get started let me just say that Dead by Daylight’s core gameplay is amazing. As either a survivor or a killer it is almost always very tense, there’s real strategy in play and a huge skill differential. Thematically the game is amazing they’ve really leveraged the horror tropes to saturate the game with a foreboding and ominous presence. The choice of not giving the survivors anyway to fight back, besides short stuns, is as prescient as it is effective, and the supporting mechanics compliment it nicely.
But there are currently several issues with the design, mostly with the features which surround that satisfying core set of mechanics. Today I’d like to talk about the scoring system. I know this is a feature that the devs are aware has issues and they are currently working on overhauling this system. I’d like to talk about what about the current scoring system doesn’t work, and why. I will propose some possible solutions and opinions, but given my limited access to information these might not quite hit the mark.
Killers are to be feared
As the devs have stated the core of this game relies on the killers doing everything they can to make your life as a survivor a living nightmare, if not ending it outright. Currently the scoring system undermines this in several different ways. Under the existing system players gain rank pips when they acquire enough bloodpoints in a given match (10,000). Since both rank pips and bloodpoints are the path to advancement for players, it is in their best interests to maximise the number of bloodpoints they get in a given match. Bloodpoints are given for many different actions and interactions in the game, some that relate to success, escaping alive, or sacrificing a player to the entity. And some for extraneous tasks like breaking barricades, and fixing generators once the doors have been opened.
The problem with this system is that gaining bloodpoints is exploitable through cooperation between the killer and the survivors. For example, both sides get blood points from being chased, being hit and healing up, which is one of the many important arcs of the core gameplay. There’s nothing stopping players from repeating this action over and over again until those categories are maxed out. It is even possible to cooperate in many different ways to maximise the bloodpoints of every player in a given round. And in fact it is the most effective way to both rank up and gain bloodpoints with each player easily able the get around 15,000+ per match. It is even possible for every single player in a given match to rank up, with all survivors escaping after being hooked once or twice each. You could think of this situation as a modified form of the prisoner’s dilemma, where cooperation gives the biggest reward, but only if the other side doesn’t defect.
This is a very serious issue as not just the core gamplay but the entire theming and tension of the game relies on the killer being hostile and.merciless, any semblance of safety should be shattered over the course of a round not fostered.
At the moment the two advancement system are entwined, with bloodpoints giving items on the bloodweb and rank pips. I think any system that wants to address the issues with this system should first consider disentangling these two systems. By all means keep bloodpoints as optional tasks players can do to keep leveling up, but make it so that rank pips are only given for tasks that are central to maintaining the conflict between players and killers. Although I do think the all tasks that currently reward bloodpoints should be reviewed to ensure they aren’t exploitable and encourage rather than discourage conflict between survivors and the killer.
One way to ensure that killers and players are in conflict is to make the ranking up system zero sum. So that for a killer to gain a rank pip they must take that rank pip from the players they kill. I don’t know exactly what the right actions to reward are, but a good start would be to have only sacrifices and escapes count towards ranking up. Perhaps the killer takes a pip off of each player they sacrifice or kill and the survivors take a pip off of the killer each time they escape. This would mean the killer loses ranks if they sacrifice one or less survivors, but stay steady if they sacrifice two survivors and then gain ranks if they sacrifice three or more. And survivors would either gain or lose one pip. This would also require the game to be balanced around on average two survivors escaping. But this change, or something like it would ensure that survivors and killers are always at odds for advancement; there is no reason for a killer to willingly let someone escape if their only way to rank up is to sacrifice them.
Such a system can create issues for new player’s not feeling any sense of advancement. But if the bloodweb system isn’t enough, buffer ranks from 20-25 could be introduced that allow pips to be gained but not lost, as in hearthstone.
Long matches and conflict between the survivors
One question I think the developers should ask is how much should the survivors cooperate vs compete? I think the tension between altruism and survival is very interesting at the moment. There is a lot that goes into the decision to help someone versus trying to save your own skin, and this is a feature I would not want to compromise, if anything I’d want to ratchet up the stakes.
But there is another undesirable feature of matches at the moment and that is that they can last indefinitely. With a good enough hidings spot and enough mistakes from the killer, the survivor can draw games out as long as they like. While this can build tension for a while, eventually it becomes to much. To be playable long term and to be reliable as a spectator sport there has to be some mechanism to help long games wind up. I know at the moment there are some subtle things. And with 4 survivors in a match you’re bound to run into one eventually, but I think forcing some kind of time constraint into matches is desirable to both up the tension and force mistakes.
Another issue is that survivors will stand in the exits waiting for the killer to chase them out even though they are completely safe. While changing the scoring system to remove the points they get from this will go some way towards addressing it, I think there is more that could be done.
One possibility I find as interesting as it is diabolical is to create a conflict between the survivors. In a case where the killer isn’t very good, games can become rote or boring. One way to maintain tension would be to change the scoring system for escaping to take account of the time or order of the escapees. In the case that all four survivors escape, what if the first player to escape get 2 pips and the last player gets none? This would encourage players to be the first and not last player out. This would make games faster as players would be less willing to take chances waiting around since they could be giving up valuable rank points. Reducing game time means that stomps by survivors or by killers should be shorter and let people get back into the queue faster to hopefully find a good match.
The huge issue with this system is that it places too much value on escape and makes altruism basically worthless. To compensate, the reward for altruism must be at odds with the reward for abandonment. In this system I would suggest giving altruistic players time bonuses for their altruistic actions. Unhook another survivor here’s 30 seconds off your time. Now even if they barely beat you out the door you’re still going to get more pips than them. Could even offer 10 seconds for things like heals, helping people out of bear traps and getting people up off the ground. Of course these numbers would need to be tested a tweaked to get right, but I’m sure you get the idea. Ideally you’d want to get it to the place so that if two players are about to escape and one turns back to rescue their fellow survivors and the other escapes, then the heroic survivor would still come out ahead as the winner thanks to their bonus time.
The other upshot of such a system is that it would make figuring out how to design player run tournaments a lot clearer, figuring out which player to eliminate is much clearer, those that died, those that failed to sacrifice anyone, and the slowest to escape. It would also push tournament formats into being teamless, every person for themselves, which I think would deliver the most tension and excitement. You could even track the order that players are sacrificed so that when the killer gets a wipe there’s still a way to differentiate between the best survivor and the worst, perhaps the last to die loses zero pips but the first loses two.
While this solution doesn’t address the problems when there is only one survivor left alive and the game drawing out for a long time. I think there are other solutions to that problem along the lines of steadily upping the stakes for both sides as the game progresses, so that the survivor becomes less safe. Since these cannot be addressed with the scoring system I’ll just list a few possibilities. Such as making the level brighter, the survivors slower, the killer faster... but if they last until a hard time limit they escape automatically as the killer is banished back into the night. Basically just add more crazy (but fair) stuff that happens the longer the game runs. But this is of course a less pressing issue.
In summary, I agree with the developers and the community that the scoring and ranking systems in the game need to be overhauled in some way. And I hope that the changes they make ensure that the best way to play the game (to gain ranks and advance in levels) is also the most tense and exciting way to play the game. That cruel killers and efficient but heroic survivors are rewarded and encouraged.
If you've gotten this far and still haven't played Dead by Daylight I recommend it despite my criticisms. The core gameplay is fantastic especially if you are a horror fan, and the huge asymmetry in the two sides mean there's something for everyone and always something different. Also it looks like this is only the beginning as the developers have expressed a strong desire to continue adding to and improving what is already a great and innovative game.