Dungeons Dev Blog - Adjusting the Endgame
A closer look at the changes coming to Minecraft Dungeons.
Hello everyone! Next week, the Nether is coming to Minecraft Dungeons, and we'd like to take this opportunity to talk about some changes we're making in this update. The patch includes the brand-new Flames of the Nether DLC with maps, mobs, and items, as well as exciting new systems and enchantments for everyone to enjoy for free. We’ve already teased some of these upcoming features, and today we’ll dive deeper into what they are, the design decisions behind them, as well as what it all means for our more seasoned players.
As of the Nether update, there will be two interlocking systems that each play a role in the endgame:
Ancient Hunts – a new feature available for all players.
Apocalypse Plus, which has been re-designed for a better overall experience.
Ancient Hunts is a brand-new feature that unlocks for players once they've reached sufficiently high difficulties (starting at Default V). By playing Ancient Hunts, players get access to new rewards in the form of Gilded Gear.
Before we started work on the Nether update, we had a few primary design goals in mind:
Give players a highly replayable, highly procedural way to play in the endgame.
Keep existing content relevant and mix content in ways players have not seen before.
Give players interesting secrets/rare rewards to find.
Expand on the existing item and emerald economy, and give players an outlet for excess resources.
Give players agency over how a mission plays out.
In order to achieve these goals, we came up with something called Ancient Hunts, which take regular items and enchantment points as input and turn them into special missions via an intricate generator. Items and points invested this way are permanently lost. This directly impacts the game's economy and ties into our goal of increased player agency: Your input affects how the mission plays out – including which mobs spawn in the mission and which rare ancient mobs you may encounter (more on them below).
There’s still a degree of randomness and the missions themselves are highly procedural, but players have a means to affect the generation to achieve the outcome they want. Once generated, an Ancient Hunt can be played in one sitting or split across several play sessions.
Ancient mobs and Gilded gear
When thinking about how to approach the goal of secrets and rare rewards, we realized we needed a new type of reward. To fulfill this need, there would have to be many different versions of this reward, each of which should feel exotic and exciting.
Based on what we see in our own playthroughs – and when watching others play – specialized gear is some of the most sought after in the game. We decided to create a new gear type with highly randomized properties that gives good variety and significant impact: Gilded gear. These items come in common, rare, and unique varieties, and have additional randomized enchantments built in. Obtaining the rarest gilded items will be difficult, but the items are incredibly powerful!
As for the secrets part, we wanted the way you find these items to feel satisfying, varied, and challenging. To fulfill that goal, we added a large number of new “ancient mobs”. These are a more powerful type of enchanted mobs, each of which lives in their own area that you may encounter during the hunts.
Each ancient mob also has its own loot table, meaning gilded items of a given type can only be dropped by one specific ancient mob. Let’s say you wanted some gilded daggers – to find them, you would need to input the correct combination of items to encounter one specific ancient mob, and then defeat it for a chance to get the daggers.
Apocalypse Plus Changes
Alongside the introduction of Ancient Hunts, we're making significant changes to how Apocalypse Plus works.
The Previous Design
Just as with Ancient Hunts, we had a set of goals in mind when we first designed Apocalypse Plus:
Near-infinite perceived progression as a result of rapidly increasing difficulty.
Few players should ever reach the end of Apocalypse Plus.
Limited actual progression, such that we can add to it later down the line if needed.
To fulfill the first goal, we made mobs very powerful towards the end of Apocalypse Plus. Over the original twenty Apocalypse Plus levels, the difficulty curve shoots rapidly upwards behind the scenes, meaning damage, resistances, health, and other properties go up more than usual per step along the slider.
Our intention was to provide players with an experience where most players would reach partway through Apocalypse Plus and feel like there was a goal beyond the horizon – something to strive for. Only a relative few would ever reach +20.
For some players, this approach was successful. On the flip side, many of our players found builds and methods to reach all the way to Apocalypse +20 with relative ease. We noticed that this often included completing our shortest missions, such as Arch Haven. For these players, the design intent now caused a problem: Their recommended difficulty was expressly designed to be incredibly challenging, which meant that many missions did not feel rewarding to play. Seeing this, we wanted to adjust the design of Apocalypse Plus to be more interesting for all types of players.
New Apocalypse Plus
With these lessons in mind, our new approach to Apocalypse Plus had the following design goals:
Longer-term progression with a significant challenge.
Most players who spend time and energy should be able to reach the end of Apocalypse Plus.
A more linear degree of challenge overall, with mobs that scale up less towards the end.
A system that encourages playing a variety of content, including completing harder missions.
Adding progression for those players that had already reached Apocalypse +20.
Limited actual progression, such that we can add to it later down the line if needed.
To meet these goals, we’ve made several changes to the system:
The old Apocalypse Plus progression has been compressed into ten levels. Any items players had previously found on Apocalypse +20 still retain their power level. However, Apocalypse +10 is now scaled such that it’ll be the recommended difficulty for players playing with these items. This also means that the jump in power level between each Apocalypse Plus level is twice as big now as it was in the past. We also scale the mobs up faster with each level to accommodate this change, while simultaneously reducing their damage, health, speed, and stun resistance towards the end of Apocalypse Plus.
In addition to the above, we've added 15 new Apocalypse Plus levels at the end, for a total of 25 levels of difficulty. Items dropped from Apocalypse +25 will have an item power of around 250.
In order to progress through the new Apocalypse Plus levels, players will need to complete an increasing number of "boss missions". Every third Apocalypse Plus level will be locked, starting at Apocalypse +4.
To unlock +4, you'll need to complete any one boss mission at +3 difficulty. Similarly, to unlock +7, you'll need to complete any two different boss missions at +6 difficulty. In this fashion, you'll have to take on an increasing number of challenging missions until you finally unlock Apocalypse +22-25. For this, you'll have to complete at least seven different missions with a boss on Apocalypse +21. There are exactly seven missions defined as boss missions in the base game, which means all players can play this without owning DLC.
Of course, alongside the changes mentioned above, we’re making some balance changes and introducing new enchantments and items to improve the number of viable builds in the endgame. Notably, pet builds are getting multiple new enchantments, and we are introducing poison, lightning, fire, and soul damage types. Each of these comes with an accompanying "damage focus" enchantment, allowing for new kinds of build synergies.
We’ve also made slight adjustments to Dynamo on melee and ranged weapons. While the decision to originally make the enchantment uncapped was intentional, the new objective of defeating bosses to progress through Apocalypse Plus means that we want to avoid players from one-shotting bosses. Dynamo has been updated to cap out at 20 stacks, but deal even more damage than before per stack. It’ll still be plenty powerful, and a good choice for taking on bosses, but it won’t necessarily guarantee an instant takedown.
Tying it Together
Defeating bosses on high Apocalypse Plus difficulties will be challenging, and that's where Ancient Hunts come in. The way these systems combine, players will be encouraged to interact with both: The regular missions are required to advance in Apocalypse Plus and to find fuel for Ancient Hunts, and the new Ancient Hunts give powerful gear that cannot be found elsewhere, making it easier to progress on high difficulties.
That’s all for today. Thanks for reading, and we hope you’ll enjoy playing the Nether update!
- Måns Olson