Today, Phoenix Labs have rolled out the first major content update for Dauntless, their free-to-play brawler where players team up in groups of four to fight giant monsters. Forge Your Legends brings a new tutorial, a Halloween-themed event, and—not least of all—the transition away from its current loot box-based microtransaction model.
On Thursday, Phoenix Labs hosted a roundtable to talk about the new update and announce their plans to drop loot boxes in favor of a system they feel is more "player-first."
"One of the things that we felt has not been the best of experiences is our loot box-based monetization," said design director Chris Cleroux. "We're going to be moving away from that as our primary monetization to more of a bespoke model like Warframe and Path of Exile, where you'll be able to choose and pick the things you want to purchase rather than go through the gotcha-box method. We feel like it's a lot more player-first in how it works, and it also reflects a changing interest in the community."
Currently, Dauntless lets players purchase cosmetic alterations to their character through Chroma Cores—devices that sound suspiciously like a loot box in that they contain a random assortment of banners, emotes, and sigils of varying degrees of rarity. It was a microtransaction model that Phoenix Labs said it settled on years ago and never revisited. The developers said that, soon, that system will be replaced by one that lets you pay directly for the cosmetics you want.
The decision came in response to both feedback from the community and their own internal discussions, said co-founder and executive producer Jesse Houston. While it was an ongoing discussion already, Houston mentioned reading a recent Ars Technica article about loot boxes and the annoying trend that every game must have them. "When we sat down, Chris and I were kind of the main drivers in this decision," he said. "We were just like, yeah fuck, this article is kind of right. Let's just move away [from loot boxes]. I think players will view that more favorable, so we're going to do it."
"I don't want to build a game that folks expect and are okay with," Houston added. "I want to build a game where folks get behind the choices that we make and they believe what we do and we do it for the right reasons. Everything I do, I want to do it with the player in mind and I want the player to feel like we're doing it for them to deliver a quality experience that they will then reward us with their money. I do not want to build a company that is known for being able to extract capital, or some other bullshit, out of [players]."
It's one of the cool changes coming in the Forge Your Legend update. The first phase of a completely revamped tutorial is also being added, one that Phoenix Labs feels is a much better introduction to the rather hardcore monster brawling and will better arm new players as the game nears open beta in early 2018. Also coming is the Dark Harvest seasonal event, which makes the floating sky-islands of Dauntless a lot spookier while also adding some new scary new hunts.
For veterans, the team has been working on expanding the player customization tools, adding more hairstyles and makeup options. Forge Your Legend also replaces much of the placeholder weapons and armor, so you can finally feel proud of the beasts you've slain and the gear they've dropped.
Forge Your Legend isn't the only major update coming in 2017, either. During the preview, Phoenix Labs also teased a December update that features a massive revamping of Dauntless' combat and progression. In addition to two new behemoths and a new weapon type, players will be able to upgrade their equipment through a new progression system, adding a lot more depth to combat.
Dauntless is in closed beta right now, which you can buy into if you're interested, but sometime after February 2018 it will launch into open beta and be free-to-play. That puts it toe-to-toe with the other big behemoth in the room, Monster Hunter: World, which is due to launch on consoles in January and (hopefully) soon after on PC.