Hunt: Showdown

Hunt is pretty great.

Ed Note: The screenshots in this article are from the Hunt: Showdown press kit. Getting good screenshots of the game is kind of tricky, because any time you’d want to get a screenshot of something cool, it’s usually trying to kill you. With that said, in my opinion, the game doesn’t look as good as its marketing material, but I also don’t care because the gameplay is what sells it.

Today, I’m gonna be talking about Hunt: Showdown, also known as “That Other Game Crytek Made” and “Wait, Crytek Makes More Than Engines?” I like Hunt: Showdown. A week ago Steam said I’d played about 70 hours, and I’ve played another 15 or so since then, so I feel fairly confident in that recommendation.

If I was forced to stuff Hunt: Showdown into a neat little box to characterize it, it would probably go in the “Battle Royale” box, with Fortnite/Warzone/PUBG. You can play with a squad of up to three folks, you want to shoot people, and you start on a massive single map. I don’t think this is entirely fair and accurate, though, because while the general intention of Hunt is similar to those other games (forcing interesting FPS based fights on a massive open map against other players), the way it goes about making this occur is pretty different.

For starters, there is no “looting phase” or “drop phase.” Instead, you create a loadout of items and weapons prior to starting a hunt, and once the hunt begins, you just spawn with your team on a random edge of the map. While you can pick up additional ammo and supplies from caravans around the map, and also other dead players, you don’t get to choose what you get from these, and so you mostly just have to make do with what you brought with you. Generally speaking, you’ll bring things like bolt action rifles, six-shooters, shotguns, and sticks of dynamite.

Also, unlike most Battle Royales, your goal isn’t to wipe out all other players on the map. You can leave more or less whenever you want by getting to an exit point, and waiting out the escape timer. And if you want to save your character (we’ll get into why you might want this in a bit) escaping like this can be the smartest choice.

Behold, the zombies. Stupid, slow, and not a problem until one that you miss stabs you with a meat cleaver.

Instead, the goal of a round of Hunt is to escape with a bounty token, an item that you get from either killing an AI boss monster, or prying it from the from cold dead hands of someone else who did. You locate the boss by picking up clues. Each time you pick up a clue, a section of the minimap gets closed off, letting you know the boss isn’t in that zone. After 3, you’re given the boss’s location.

And this is where things get interesting, because you’ll note I said “Boss.” See, Hunt’s map is fully populated with AI enemies, fairly basic trash mobs. And while these enemies are dumb as bricks, if you’re not careful, or a little too gung-ho, they can easily get you into trouble. Not because they do massive amounts of damage (they don’t) or can kill you quickly (most of them can’t), but because they force you to spend time or ammunition dealing with them.

It’s a spider made out of people! And yes, it looks just as horrifying close up as you might expect.

Okay, so I’m bored of writing about the general mechanics. This is enough to explain the general tension and what makes Hunt: Showdown interesting. In brief, all of the game’s systems are built to force you into fights, and the lower player count means that you only need to win 1-2 of these fights in order to “win” a match. The boss objectives mean that despite starting at different locations, players are funneled together, while the game’s sound design and AI means that if you find yourself using non-silenced weapons against monsters, enemy players can quickly locate you. The bounty mechanic puts a target on your head once you’re trying to escape, but it also gives you dark sight, a very minimalist wallhack sort of thing that lets you spot folks trying to ambush you, and make those end game engagements more even.

The one big thing I haven’t talked about yet is how loadouts and perks work, and while I don’t have too much to say, here’s the five second version:

Your “Hunters” have a level from 1-50, and whenever they successfully extract from a hunt, they get some more experience based on how they did (mob kills, boss kills, bounties, player kills). Each time they level up, they get a skill point that can be used to unlock passive perks, things like walking quieter, taking less damage from falling, that sort of jazz. If your team wipes in a mission, your Hunter is permanently dead, and there’s no way to bring them back, and you lose all the gear they had on them.

Gear is somewhat similar. Various actions during a match will pay out Hunt Dollars, which you use to buy gear. Different types of gear are unlocked as you level up your bloodline, and when you buy hunters they come with some of their own gear.

While you always have access to a pool of Hunters that includes at least one free Hunter to recruit, this free Hunter has random weapons and equipment, and no perks.

And this is one of the reasons you might choose to extract early: saving your gear and Hunter, and living to fight another day. It might not be worth much, but it can take 2-3 successful matches to get a Hunter to the cap, and losing them feels bad.

The end result is a game with some interesting character building systems outside of the actual gameplay, and solid FPS mechanics with a set of much older weapons. For me, the game feels like it’s built in a way to encourage and cause interesting gunfights, as opposed to being shot in the head by someone hiding twelve miles away in a cornfield, or simply losing because you couldn’t find a gun when you dropped.

This doesn’t mean Hunt is flawless. The loading times are incredibly frustrating and long. There are no death cams, just death views, which make it difficult to learn from your deaths, or if the person who killed you was hacking, which it can feel like even if they weren’t. For me, though, these downsides are annoying, but not enough to make the tense gunfights less fun, and the game itself less enjoyable.

Hunt: Showdown is $40 on Steam, and it’s also on PS4/XboxOne, but it looks like there’s no crossplay between consoles and PC. So if you do want to play it with friends, make sure everyone gets it on the same platform.

“Secret Lair Survey” Survey Results

I was curious, and created a bad survey to try to answer my curiosity. Here’s the data, why the survey was bad, and my attempt at a better one.

TLDR: MTG sent out a survey about possible future directions for Secret Lair subscriptions and pricing. I was curious who received the survey, so I sent out my own survey about their survey. Here is the raw data I collected as a CSV, minus contact info if it was provided. I didn’t do a great job following up on this one. I’ve also made a better version of the survey, trying to learn from my mistakes.

About three weeks back, a lot of people who had purchased Secret Lair products received an email asking them to take a survey about Secret Lair products. I did not receive this email, but I heard from friends who did.

I don’t have any screenshots of the survey (if you do, please send them over to me, I’d like to include them in this article), but I reached out to a few of the folks who received the it. The general gist I got from talking to folks was something like this:

  1. The survey contained a variety of offers, most related to different subscriptions/subscription offers.
  2. The specific pricing on these offers ranged price based on the survey, and some folks who opened the survey multiple times stated that they saw the amount change, which implies there was some A/B testing going on regarding price point.

Regarding the specific offers themselves, there were a few different types I saw mentioned. These included same day shipping on orders, a discount on purchases, and subscriptions to all Secret Lair products for a year.

Now, all of this is very interesting, and I’d write about it more if I actually had the link to said survey, and screenshots. But I don’t. What I’m interested in is who WoTC sent the survey to. It seems like they were primarily targeting individuals who spend large sums of money on Secret Lair with this survey.

So, I did what any bored motherfucker who thought they could get a clickbait article for their blog out of it reasonable person would: I put up a Google form, posted it to Reddit and Twitter, and waited for some responses.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I got enough responses to reasonably answer my question, but I did promise to release my data in those posts, so here it is in csv format. I’ve removed the column that included contact information, but left everything else.

I do want to quickly go over why I don’t believe this data can be used to support my hypothesis which went something like “WoTC was specifically targeting folks who had spent lots of money.”

Lets start with the big one: this is an incredibly small set of responses. I’m incredibly grateful to the folks who took the time to fill it out, but 38 data points is nowhere near enough to begin drawing meaningful conclusions, and not everyone who responded had even purchased Secret Lair products.

In addition to this, this survey was from a specific subset of the population of folks who might have even seen it, i.e., Twitter and Reddit users. So we have a fairly heavy sampling bias to add to that as well.

(I think it’s actually fairly easy to manipulate this data to make the argument you want. For example, if you look at the average spend of folks who received the survey, they spent more than folks who didn’t. But if you look at actual numbers of folks who bought Secret Lair products and received the survey versus those who didn’t, there’s no clear cutoff. This is also why I’m not comfortable drawing conclusions with this data.)

On the other hand, I think there are some valuable lessons to be learned here, at least from my side. Let’s go over them briefly, shall we?

  1. Have a testable hypothesis before you randomly ask strangers to give you info. Pretty sure any science or stats teacher would smack me for what I did here, at least in terms of going “Hey, lets just gather a bunch of data, and then think about it.”
  2. If I’m going to try to do something that is time sensitive, I need to actually move quickly. Plenty of people gave me contact info. I didn’t reach out to them, partly because I had other work stuff, mostly because the new Path of Exile league came out, and I started playing that non-stop. (It turns out that doing meaningful data analysis and journalism is hard, who would have thought.)
  3. Reach out to the company involved. I probably could have just emailed WoTC. I mean, I doubt they would have responded, but who knows. It couldn’t have hurt to have tried.

So, in the spirit of being curious if WoTC is about to lean hard into whale fracking learning from my own mistakes, I’ve created a brand new survey that attempts to fix the problems with the first one. This time, we’re only interested in two things: if you received the survey, and how much you spent on Secret Lair in 2020, and 2021.

You can fill it out here.

Again, I greatly appreciate anyone who takes the time to do so, and while I doubt this second survey will hit the numbers required to do meaningful analysis, I’ve tried my best to fix some of the flaws I noticed with the first one. And just like the first one, I’ll release whatever data I get publicly.