Some thoughts on task difficulty and other issues w/ Tarkov’s game design

I've seen a few posts lamenting how hard tasks have become, like Tarkov Shooter, how hard it is to get Kappa now, and how easy it is to lose FIR items to cheaters and random deaths making it impossible to complete even simple objectives. It goes without saying that tasks, just behind cheaters, are one of the single most frustrating parts of the Tarkov experience. People often say that the reason for this is because BSG wants to create a "hardcore" experience and keep people from completing the wipe content in a week, but I don't think that's actually the case for a couple of reasons. But first, I'll break down the problems with the task system a lot of people have pointed out:

  1. Saving items for tasks takes up a ton of inventory space. I've filled up half an EOD stash before with task loot in previous wipes, and they keep adding more to the extent that it's ridiculous.
  2. Artificial difficulty. Task items are often extremely rare and spawn only in a handful of locations that are often camped, like Flash drives, OFZ shells, and so on. Plus, items like the SSD and pocket watch are a living hell to grab since the locations are camped early in the wipe, or everyone is trying to get them.
  3. Task objectives are too arbitrary and demanding, often requiring the player to go out of his way and interrupt his normal gameplay to carry out some kind of multi-step occult ritual before it completes. Often requiring you to buy expensive gear/a specific gun with a specific attachment, get some scav or PMC kills, and extract alive. This can cost 100k – 200k roubles per run, and if you die, it's a huge setback. The Shooter Born in Heaven quests are the worst culprit. The worst part about this is that it creates two Tarkovs: Questing Tarkov and PvP Tarkov. You have to focus on one to the exclusion of the other. Pick up an important item? Time to leave the raid immediately. Need to complete a weird quest? Better get used to only using a Mosin on a specific map from a specific sniper spot. It's not fun at all, most people just want to get on with normal Tarkov PvP gameplay.
  4. Find in Raid requirement gets players stuck on tasks for weeks, since it's very easy to die in Tarkov, especially since the game has such a massive cheater problem. If you pick up a quest item, every radar/ESP hacker will immediately sprint to your location and try to kill you. Picking up a flash drive makes Tarkov feel like a wave defense game, except you don't even stand a chance against your attackers.
  5. Many tasks are gated by rare keys. It can take literal weeks to find them early on, now that the Flea Market has been restricted.

I could go on further but you get the point, tasks in their current state are more frustrating than fun, which has led many people who have played Tarkov for years giving up on doing them entirely and just focusing on PvP. Many people have noted their desire to see tasks made easier or reformulated so that they can be passively completed as you play the game.

So then, why might BSG want to make tasks soul-crushingly difficult? Is it because that befits the "hardcore" nature of Tarkov? Well, it seems like a reasonable explanation on the surface, but if you think about it from the perspective of a businessman and game studio, things get sort of alarming about it.

It's common in the MMO industry to create problems for a player and then to sell the solution. Too many crafting items taking up inventory space? They will sell you a subscription to a bottomless materials bag. Don't want for "energy" to recharge so you can play longer? They'll sell you "energy." Skills grinding taking too long because of diminishing returns? They'll sell you XP boosts. Inventory still full? They'll sell you storage chests for your house.

Coincidentally, every "hardcore" change made to Tarkov has directly punished standard edition players while leaving EOD players either unaffected or in a superior position to standard edition players. We can think of every "hardcore" change they've made, especially to tasks, as another problem posed for the player. To that end, they've been selling a solution since day one, which is the ludicrously expensive EoD edition that comes with a huge stash size, a bunch of trader rep from level 1, a big secure container that can hold all kinds of stuff, and an inventory full of decent gear on wipe day. If we think about this a little further, consider how Std. edition players have suffered recently:

  1. Adding more rare quest items one needs to save up in one's stash disadvantages std. edition players whereas EOD players do not have as much trouble, since they have a huge stash from level 1 and can start saving early.
  2. Std. edition players need to complete more quests to access max level traders than EOD players, so they are exposed to more gatekeeping and rare item requirements.
  3. Larger secure containers than the Alpha (2×2) container require tons of questing to acquire, almost to the end of the quest lines. The Kappa container itself requires you to complete every quest and now has an insane XP requirement to the point it's impossible to acquire.

It gets worse, however, when you consider how these changes have made the RMT market even more profitable than it was before. Since the tasks have become incredibly hard and it's very easy to die while carrying valuable task items meaning you won't be able to turn them in, a lot of players have turned to carrying services and RMT transactions to get the items they need to progress and get the larger containers. Cheaters take advantage of the FIR requirement and hunt down players with these items, even in their secure containers, so they cannot extract with them, making more demand for RMT. It's almost as if the whole system were designed to make RMT an attractive gameplay option, which feeds into the cheater-developer complex by which BSG profits off of cheaters repurchasing the game every month after getting banned. Nikita has mentioned IIRC that the company brings in a lot of money from cheaters rebuying accounts. Cheaters, unlike legit players, get banned and need to buy the game over and over again, so they are a reliable source of continuous income, whereas legit players make a single purchase, or at the very most they will upgrade to EoD at some point, but they will not provide money afterward unlike the cheater.

Should we give BSG the benefit of the doubt, and accept the theory that these changes were simply made from a desire to keep the game challenging to experienced players? We know that most people don't complete all the tasks, people like Pestily and so on will grind them out from day 1 and finish them in a couple of weeks sure, but most people don't have that much time and experience. I see constant complaints about the progress gates and extended XP requirements, clearly it's not popular among the community except for a few dedicated players. It doesn't make financial sense to do this unless you consider how it pushes people toward buying EoD or feeding the RMT market, which indirectly enriches BSG.

Remember: Games are business, not art. Studios and publishers have investors who expect higher returns year-to-year, BSG is likely under pressure to get as much money out of its players as possible. Before you ask why they would make a change from the perspective of a player, consider what its economic impact would be for the business as a whole.


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