I recently found this and thought it was valuable to share with everyone here on the subreddit since it is scattered through a few links and requires a BSG account to view. It's very long so strap in and enjoy:
(Disclaimer: I am not tobiassolem)
The Vision of Escape From Tarkov, or How the game is meant to be – written by yours truly,
DISCLAIMER: The information presented in this, is based upon my understanding from devblogs, podcasts and interviews from members of BattleState Games (primarily Nikita). There may be misinterpretations made by me. This is not to be seen as anything beyond what is written in this disclaimer.
Timeline: Contract Wars -> Hired Ops -> Escape From Tarkov -> Russia 2028
BACKGROUND TO THIS POST
As you all probably know, the game Escape From Tarkov is not a finished product, and in many ways does not quite resemble what the developers and designers of this game have intended. Beyond quirks with cheaters, netcode, desync and mechanical glitches – there's a whole layer of intended gameplay and story that's just not present as of today, June 19:th 2020 (updated Feb 15, 2021). What we have today in many ways is a template, an expanded vertical slice if you will of what is to come.
To some of you, this is hardly news. If you have followed the development since the early announcement of the game, then you know already that what we're playing today will be different to what is going to be once the game is in release final shape. And I want to tell you about this goal. Because there just isn't really a "complete image" of what Escape From Tarkov is, so I decided to write the synopsis here for your reading. This thread is meant as a 'live' document of the vision of the game, and contain information that is otherwise spread out. Feel free to add things you know, or discuss things that you weren't aware of.
First of all though, we have to understand the context of the game.
THE SETTING, RUSSIA 2028
Escape From Tarkov is set in the context of the 'Russia 2028'-universe (henceforth referred to as R.2028). This universe takes place in a grim post-war world where the confines of our secure civilization in many places has been abandoned, with harsher living conditions and mega corporate entities have in many ways replaced systems of governance. Initially there were plans of making a standalone single player game, bearing this very title, but the idea was postponed. Russia 2028 is its own parallel timeline, meaning it has an altered history compared to ours, some things are similar, some things are the same, and some are very different.
However, set in the same universe instead was the game Contract Wars, made by sister company AbsolutSoft. The game reached alpha in 2011 and the game has historical significance to Escape From Tarkov. The Contract Wars were set in the same region that Tarkov resides in, Norvinsk, a 'special economic zone' where two ultra-modern cities were built; Tarkov and Norvinsk. Within this region a conflict between two privately funded military organizations, United Security (USEC) – hired by Terragroup to enforce security and prevent outside interests from interfering or investigating company research (for example within the facility, Terragroup Labs) as well as the Battle Encounter Assault Regiment (BEAR) formally also private, but in secret funded by the Russian Federation to avoid international conflict to interfere/investigate with the expansion within Norvinsk.
The Contract Wars went on for years, with great amounts of casualties on both sides, resulting in chaos, mass-evacuations of civilians and a locked down region, leading to a very difficult situation where operators on both sides were locked off and left to fend for themselves, but also similarly for the locals who were unable or unwilling to leave their homes.
At the end of the lifetime of the game 'Contract Wars', AbsolutSoft created a sequel known as 'Hired Ops' set after the events of the Contract Wars, initially known as 'Contract Wars 2' this title explores the events BEFORE the game Escape From Tarkov, and once more pits the contractors from mercenary BEAR and USEC against one another. In this multiplayer Squad based PvP-focused title you can train multiple contractors to perform tactical combat operations in a series of maps to either prevent certain operations from taking place, or make them happen (depending on the faction you chose). This game is currently a Free To Play title, still in development and available on Steam. Some of those who played it say that it's as if CS:GO, Call of Duty and Escape From Tarkov had a baby. The title was no means meant as "realistic", but more of a squad based, fast tactical shooter.
ESCAPE FROM TARKOV
After the events of the intense combat operations of 'Hired Ops', the factions started to shatter furthermore, leaving both BEAR and USEC away from their command, and many soldiers scattered and fending for themselves. What began as a military operation now turned into a warrior/survival operation. Some groups sticking together with mixed origins (some BEAR and USEC working together). Their primary mission no longer given to them by leaders from the corporations, but themselves. These many different factions have turned this thriving economic zone into a shell of its former beauty, contested by local SCAV-gangs and their leadership, and others. Tarkov is by no means a safe place to be for the players. But given its relative recent past, there still exists markets, trading and some resemblance of a society inside. Just an unstable one.
Escape From Tarkov is set in the special economic zone Norvinsk that was created as a form of contact between Russia and Europe. Thusly it attracted megacorporations to invest there, but also international military interests in the shape and form of private military contractors, mercenaries operating under contract for employers such as TerraGroup.
You play as a PMC. The story is your own, but most likely you got into Tarkov by being a part of one of the PMC groups sent here. Regardless of your background, you have lost touch with central command and now have to fend for yourself. You may have some friends, former squad mates, or new people you've run into that you grouped together with. Your goal together is to make the best of being here. You don't know how long you have to be here – you just know that you won't be able to leave tomorrow, whether you escape in weeks, months, or years is unknown. What you choose to do with this absence of information is up to you. Do you spend your time trying to make friends? Avoiding combat, trying to gather supply to weather the storm – or what is more likely, that you inevitably encounter fire with the local SCAV-forces or other PMC's. The lines of morality blur – who is friend and who is foe? That is for you to decide. Whether you decide to work alone all the time, join forces other times to complete certain more difficult tasks, or always run with a group is up to you.
Escape From Tarkov from the get-go was meant be an off-shoot away from the previous titles in the way that it would borrow ideas from the recently popular 'survival shooter' genre, BattleState had already set out to make a hardcore realistic and squad based version set in the same universe with much more in-depth weapon customization on all levels. The idea was to mix genres: MMO, Shooter, RPG, Survival, Realism… and the desire to make the military elements and weapons as real as playable. The central idea is to give you as the player as much freedom as possible to choose how to play the game. You want to make choices, do you want to be a part of a clan? Do you want to play alone? Or join up with people you encounter? All of this should by no means take away from the survival aspects of the title. Survival should be hard, squads should need to rely on each others' skills and loadouts to prepare for escape.
To now survive, they had to start building their own personal networks by working for (or against) local factions, traders all in trying to perform the great feat of Escaping from Tarkov. This title now instead developed by BattleState Games, a game company operated by lead Nikita Buyanov (formerly of AbsolutSoft). Early development (as in creation of the concept, illustration, art and plans) began in late 2012, and the first playable alpha release took place August 4, 2016.
UN Militia working to help secure and defend the defenseless in Norvinsk.
Make no mistake thinking that Escape From Tarkov is a game that's still about PMC's only. The best way to describe the current situation is: Chaos and Survival. Contrary to many beliefs, R.2028 is not set in a post-"nuclear explosion" kind of conflict, but in many ways; worse, as people trying to escape the area died from predators, human and animal alike, trying to get away from here. Those who didn't try to escape grouped together in 'scavenger' gangs (SCAVS) while others still tried to enforce some kind of humanitarian aid (United Nations) – however, as most know by now, within the confines of R.2028, no faction is free from corruption, and perhaps the peacekeepers in some ways are perpetuators of war within this context.
HOW TO SURVIVE?
The idea is that you are meant to play as survivor(s) of the conflicts preceding the events of Escape From Tarkov. Initially you will start out, locked down in one part of Tarkov – with very few means, some saved up rations and items stored in a hideout somewhere in Norvinsk, and from there you have to start gathering information, finding locals who are trustworthy, and learning about the layout of the area. But to get away from there unscathed you must start doing favours for some of the more influential locals, traders of goods with their own contact networks – their own market, and you have to build up a reputation with these to gain access to the supplies you will need to last so long as to be able to survive.
– BEAR & USEC
As previously mentioned there are two private military corporations, BEAR and USEC – both losing communication with their leaders, these started forming up in separate groups, some even working alongside each other regardless of previous affiliation. With the common goal to take whatever method to survive and eventually (hopefully) get away from the combat zone. As a player you can choose between these factions, and also choose to work alongside the "opposing" faction. As mentioned earlier, the sides are no longer black & white, who was your foe yesterday might be your friend today. You're going to have to decide as you go.
SCAVS or 'Scavengers' consisted of a mixture of local civilians (with a mixture of backgrounds, some military – but all of them still had been through conscription) ex-PMC's, laid off workers and general hoodlums. Most working in gang-like organizations led by 'SCAV bosses'. These gangs would be seen working together and against each other. Most SCAVS saw all PMC's as intruding forces. Some of the SCAVS would accept payment from PMC's to do favours for them. You can play as a SCAV that aids your PMC. Scavs are from one of the following groups: The Grizzle group, Stoporenko group, Pashutin armed group.
– SCAV RAIDERS
These guys are mostly ex-USEC/PMC but now working alongside the SCAV-gangs. They are heavily armed, and seem to have found a new cause with new leadership among the SCAVS leadership. Being hardcore special forces, they are much more disciplined and less commonly found. They've been seen defending Terragroup positions, suggesting that there possibly still are remnants of a Terragroup affiliation with this group?
– SCAV LEADERS
Don't mistake the captains in the SCAVS for their actual formal leadership. Reshala, Killa, Sanitar, etc. are more like subcommanders of their groups, responsible for local positions all over Tarkov. Some of these guys come with their own armed bodyguard, bearing gear that almost rival the SCAV raiders gear. In the future you might be able to play occasionally as a SCAV-leader.
Not much is known about this faction, but everyone has seen traces of their activities all over Tarkov. Leaving occult symbols and sacrifice here and there. There are many rumors of sightings across Tarkov, but most of the descriptions do not make any sense. Silent, poisoned weapons are said to be utilized by the cultists, and they supposedly operate mostly (only) at night. It's like the Baba Yaga of the woods, tales to scare children. But what part of these stories are true? We do not know. They have been spotted in the Woods locations, and sometimes also on Customs, wearing dark clothing, using the cover of night and silence. They murmur something indistinguishable before they attack. Why they do this? Beats me.
– UNITED NATIONS TARKOV (UN-TAR)
Peacekeeping UN-forces have been seen enforcing 'the peace' in the region, supposedly there as humanitarian aid. Bearing their baby blue colors they didn't inspire much confidence. But we would see their white military vehicles everywhere all across Tarkov. Clearly they had been in firefights, both taking and dealing it. We assumed that they were here to protect the innocent. But who's really innocent here? That's probably for moralists and politicians to decide. They operate all over Tarkov, and seem to have their own tasks in the city, some of them are looking to hunt down players who have committed "wrongs" – but by whose orders? They are a key player in this city, perhaps they are your friends? Who knows.
GEOGRAPHY OF NORVINSK
Tarkov, an ultra-modern metropolis
As previously mentioned, the story in the game Escape From Tarkov takes place in the Norvinsk region, where you as a PMC become stuck after losing contact with your military leadership and left to fend for yourself. You are stuck somewhere in Tarkov, but as you start your options will be limited.
Mechanically you will not be able to play "all the maps" in the final version of Tarkov, but instead perform a series of story driven tasks that tell you something about what is going on with Terragroup, and what is going on "behind the scenes". The idea is that you will discover these secrets while working for, and against the different factions. You are meant to have some freedom in choosing how you escape, but that your actions will come with consequences of those actions. There will, for example; be a KARMA SYSTEM in effect, that essentially works as a personal reputation system separate from the relations you have with the in-game traders. Based on your KARMA, you will be able to do certain things, or don't do certain others. Some actions will drop your KARMA, and perhaps lead to you being hunted. Whereas doing other deeds might give you opportunities that you otherwise would not have.
In the final version of the game, you will also – beyond playing as one PMC and (multiple) SCAVS be able to have more than one character, some initial plans have stated that we will be able to play using three different characters per account, and they can be from different factions – all with separate progression.
The main quest line will take you through a series of "personal" goals, separate from the 'favors' you can accomplish by performing tasks for traders – consider this similar to the main quest line in games such as STALKER or METRO, where you follow a series of story-driven operations, that both serve as a narrative medium to 'tie things together'. You will learn more about the different factions of SCAVS, you will get more background story to the different maps, and learn about the corruption of corporations, as well as discover the secrets of cults that have formed in the area. You will be surprised by what you encounter on your journey, and the dialogues you have with the people you encounter will show you more about what is going on behind the scenes in this region.
Emphasized again is the fact that you won't be able to go anywhere, at the start of the game there will be a more linear version of the game, a path you must take. You must discover ways to reach other places by traveling to them in-game, or finding ways to entering these locations by journeying to these locations physically. For example, beyond having a certain key card to enter 'The Labs', you must first find the location in-game (in for instance the map Streets of Tarkov) and then enter 'The Lab' from there.
The area surrounding Tarkov
THE WAYS OF PLAYING ESCAPE FROM TARKOV
Initially you start out with one stash of goods, one hideout, and some money to your name. Each character in your account has his own reputation with the traders, his own karma, and his own accomplishments (tasks performed). These stashes are locked down to your character and inventories cannot be shared between each other. Think of each character as a separate "life" with its own progression.
* Escape From Tarkov * PvPvE ["STORY MODE"]
You choose between playing as one of the SCAV's or as a PMC. As a SCAV, you in some ways work for your PMC and can help them by giving them items, weapons, or similar things, but they cannot complete quest objectives (beyond finding certain items) for you. Everything they bring to you will have a "Find In Raid"-status (if they survived), which carries importance to the game. Find in raid-status is symbolized with a white checkmark. This allows for an item to be traded on the FLEA MARKET or handed in on special quests. Items without this status can only be sold or bartered to traders.
The raid-focused version of the game as a PMC is where you run your storyline missions and trader tasks. This is the game mode that you are now currently (mostly) familiar with. With some differences. In the final game version, you will have to find the traders and earn your name in their favour, other traders being locked down. The 'raid' mode will contain the main quest chain, as well as a whole bunch of side-quests very similar to the trader tasks we now see. The main quest line will lead you throughout the city, unlocking map after map, until you finally manage to Escape, after which you will decide whether to now use your renown and established network to remain within Tarkov, or leave for good.
BSG original source (from May 2016): "The first and essential mode will be available with the game release, the story mode. The game session (typically an hour or hour and a half long) will take place on a large, about 5-10 sq. km., open location. The player will have to consecutively clear all of these raid scenarios, with several possible exits, each determined by the game story. By completing one scenario, the player unlocks the next one. Players can return to the previously unlocked scenarios in search for particular loot or more detailed exploration (which can lead to the uncovering of side quests and locations)."
* Open World Survival * PvPvE ["FREE ROAM MODE"]
Not much is known about this game mode as of yet. It was originally planned to be a part to play after the story mode was completed, but it has since not been spoken of by the developers. Potentially this game mode connects all the maps into one large one, but no final confirmation of how this will work has been made. There is no official announcement as of yet of such a game mode beyond a plan from F.A.Q from 2016.
BSG original source (from May 2016): "When all scenarios (there will be around 10 of them) are completed, a free roam mode will be unlocked. In this mode, player can move around a 15 sq. km. area without any time limits. The free roam mode will have no time limitations."
* ARENA mode
During the holiday events details of "the ARENA mode" was announced, and it was presented as a separate project, linked to Escape From Tarkov. Squads of operatives with pre-set loadouts enter one location to try and take each other out – this game-mode will be PvP-focused with separate servers and a separate client. More information will be presented in the future.
As mentioned before, the traders in-game are, similarly to the maps, be (mostly) locked down as you start the game. You will have to actually discover and meet these in-game prior to being able to deal with them. In more ways than one they will have different agendas, and treat you differently depending on how you've performed. There are plans to have the reputation/loyalty and KARMA-systems play a larger role in this in the future. Be careful who you stab in the back, it may have long-term side-effects. Also note, that there will be less things available for purchase, the namesake 'traders' are NOT meant as a simple term.
Behind the terms 'dynamic trade supply' and 'dynamic loot' is a PLAN to make the Escape From Tarkov-market and loot tables run by an AI that will calculate availability based on demand and discovery. Certain things will be more rare as they have been discovered in-game. Some things might even be so rare as to be almost a myth.
Dynamic & Predictibility
One of the cliché buzzwords of marketing, "dynamic" is a term that is (mis-)used a lot in a lot of contexts. The easiest way to understand what dynamic means is to learn its opposite, static, something that is static never changes. Thusly, something that is dynamic ever changes (depending on outside circumstances). In Escape From Tarkov this word is going to be a part of several mechanics, such as:
- Dynamic market
- Dynamic quality/quantity/durability
- Dynamic loot
Et cetera – but what does this mean? What exactly *IS* a "dynamic" *something*? To answer this we have to look at another part of
Allow me to give an example…
Imagine if you will that something that is in high-demand in a closed off region such as Norvinsk becomes in very short supply. This can be caused by several factors. A simple factor might be that there simply isn't any supply left in the region of that particular something, and because all the supply routes from the outside are… limited, to say the least. Then this supply shortage will greatly affect these dynamics. Let's apply this to the three different parts I listed above:
A big drop in supply of something would logically affect both the availability AND the pricing of the market. Please note that this does (and should) not limit these changes to the flea market. Suddenly that item runs out for the traders also, or perhaps they have a very limited supply of these items in particular, which also means they ALSO would raise the prices.
This is what a dynamic market is all about.
A big drop in supply of something would also affect the desire to buy "used" items of lower quality, quantity and durability. If you can't find enough of something that you really need, you have to settle for less. A well-used or cheaper version of *something* that you need is better than not having it at all in most cases. The same goes for the amount of what you need. 20 bullets certainly beats having none at all.
For this to become a reality in the gameplay, we would have to have a "dynamic" quality/quantity/durability of items, and these need to play a larger role in the game.
The biggest source of supplies outside the traders is the loot in the world, and it should go without saying that if everyone stops picking up "item X", but combs through every location for "item Y", then the chance for finding more of item Y in the gameworld would become a more and more crass reality.
A dynamic loot spawner would keep track of what items are being removed from the gameworld, and also would spawn fewer of these items in particular. And perhaps more of the items that aren't as interesting.
Now, all of these dynamics connected together would likely (and quite soon) create an impossible (and ever diminishing) economy (after all, at one point the rarest of items would likely vanish) and thus you would also need certain triggered events. One event (hypothetically) might be that supplies of a certain kind are being dropped in Norvinsk, and suddenly the supply of those particular item(s) increases. This combined with certain static elements would be necessary for a game such as Escape From Tarkov to sustain itself.
Predictable and unpredictable dynamics
But generally, a more dynamic world is an important factor of the user experience. After all to increase the survival experience, we have to introduce more factors that are much harder to control. Survival is the battle of control versus a combination of unpredictable and predictable obstacles. This already happens in the raids. The less you know in advance about the location you are going to, the more likely you are to be surprised about what you might run into. It might be a group of friendly SCAVS, it might be a hugely expensive item, it might be the aftermath of a big battle, where you believe that you might be the only survivor in the vicinity – only to find out that there was no battle at all, but one very effective sniper.
These unpredictible factors combined create a more immersive experience and makes the world feel more alive in general. OF COURSE you need some predictibility as well to maintain sanity. There's a big difference between unpredictible and random. If a player feels that something is completely random, then there will never EVER be any sensation of control at all. A prolonged random experience leads to insanity, and is not a part we wish to create.
How this, in general, applies to the vision of Tarkov
The developers of the game have been against certain types of changes for the very reason that they add too much predictibility to the game world. There's a reason why SCAV-bosses don't spawn every raid. There's a reason why you don't in general find the same loot at the same spot, every time. Why you might not have information about where someone who killed you were, and how many friends he had. When you don't know certain things the games "fear factor" increases. This is partially why some people refer to Escape From Tarkov as a "horror game". The greatest type of fear, is the fear of the unknown. What you don't know; literally may kill you in the game. And the skill involved is to use part of your time to try and learn and figure out yourself what is going on.
A vision of a game is not just about the grand scope, but also about the details. We as players might think we want as much information as possible, but the moment we know (and can control) everything, the more the game becomes predictible, the more we get bored from knowing everything already. There's a reason why some games aren't particularly replayable, because when the experience becomes the same every time, and you've done the same things over and over, eventually it becomes boring.
And the developers want you to be surprised, to run into the unpredictable and the unforeseen. The more you do this, the more "new" and replayable the game feels.