Payday 3 is now officially announced to be in development. With no release window in sight, we’re are left only to speculate. What is the game going to be like? And more importantly, what do the fans want to see?


I have a complicated relationship with Payday 2. On one hand, it’s a game that I’ve easily sunk more time and money into than any other game I own since it was released. Crushing heists on “overkill” difficulty with a team of 4, all working in perfect unison, has been among the most rewarding experiences of my gaming career. However, I’ve grown quite weary of all the community drama, the almost embarrassingly-high amount of paid DLC, and most of all the CSGO-style micro-transactions for gun skins.

I am both ecstatic and rather anxious at the recent announcement via the Payday subreddit that Payday 3 is officially in development. Overkill Software has done a lot right, but just as much wrong, and it’s for those very reasons that I’ve put together a list of 5 things I’d like to see in Payday 3.

Bigger and Longer Heists

Good heists are the backbone of any Payday iteration, and from the earliest days of Payday 2’s christening, Overkill set a precedent that there would be several multi-day heists coming down the pipeline. Each “Day” in a heist essentially represents a new map and play session. In a 3 day heist for example you play 3 sessions in 3 different locations, then you get paid in money, experience, and a random reward. Many players were quite excited at the prospect of huge 7-day heists.

Unfortunately for the lot of us, we never got that fabled 7 day heist. In fact, most new DLC heists are either 1 or 2 days long. It seems that Overkill may have figured out that it’s better (and more financially viable) to squeeze even more things to do into those 2 days, rather than spread it out over 3-4. And I honestly don’t have a problem with that. But in Payday 3, I’d like them to go bigger. Much bigger.

I could ramble ad nauseam on my specific heist and map ideas, but I’ll save you the headache and just give you the cliff notes. The maps should be larger, the set pieces should be more grandiose, and I wouldn’t be opposed to things getting just a bit silly. Not that cramming cocaine-filled goats into the back of a 70’s Challenger isn’t already Austin Powers levels of silly, but still. Set a heist in a multi-floor skyscraper and parachute off of it to escape. Do a highway heist where you have to jump across the top of semi trucks a la Matrix Reloaded. Hell, invade a birthday party at Chuck-E-Cheese and have Wolf jump into the ball pit to defuse a bomb. Go nuts!

Ditch Diesel Engine

It’s no secret that Payday 1 and 2 ran on an engine that is more than a little outdated. They utilized the “Diesel” engine, which was first used in the game Ballistics back in October 2001. To put things into perspective, that makes it older than Halo: Combat Evolved… which came out on the original Xbox. It was also a flagship game for the Geforce 3, which for those keeping score, was 14 generations of graphics card ago.

Yeah, I’m talking about this thing.

Now I’m sure Overkill could make the argument that the engine has been upgraded substantially since then, and has held up pretty well over the years. But sometimes you have to call a spade a spade. Diesel is ancient, and I believe it’s holding the potential of the series back substantially. Imagine a Payday game running on Frostbite or Unreal 4. A change of scenery could improve quite a bit of the gameplay as a whole. And maybe then they could finally make the driving not feel like piloting a Barbie Power Wheels. Not that I would know what it’s like to drive a Barbie Power Wheels… moving on.


Update
Payday 3 will be using the Valhalla engine, which Overkill was said to be acquiring around the Summer of 2015. This is the same engine they are using on Overkill’s the Walking Dead.


Make Character Classes Fun

The number one complaint I get from new friends trying to get into Payday is that it’s too complicated. What they mean is not entirely apparent for those who don’t know the game. They’re really saying: “The meta of this game is so convoluted, I don’t even know where to start”. Now I love the meta-game of Payday. It’s spectacular. I could talk about tank vs dodge vs grinder builds literally all day. It’s the endless possible strategies to toy with that kept bringing me back. The main problem I see isn’t the meta, it’s WHY it was formed in the first place, and what that means for new players.

In Payday 2 you have the choice to level 5 different classes, or to be more precise, skill trees. You can level each of these 5 trees separately, as much or as little as you want, and they all count towards your character’s abilities. So you can focus on getting to the top tier skills of one or two trees you really want to invest in, or just become a jack-of-all-trades.

“New players are left completely overwhelmed from the word go.”

What ends up happening though, is that a few combinations become the “ideal builds”, and some of the trees get almost completely ignored. This was ever-apparent to me after spending the first 6 months or so playing exclusively under the Technician tree. I ended up finding out that most of those skills were either useless or redundant, and that I’d be better off using only a few tier 1 tech skills, and just investing the rest of my points elsewhere.

Some of these issues you could consider somewhat accounted for due to the recent restructuring of the skill trees, and the addition of “perk decks”, but I’d argue that those are more of a band-aid on a bigger issue. Without spending countless hours figuring out the meta, and learning how to optimize their build, new players are left completely overwhelmed from the word go. I think Overkill should go out of their way to make skills feel rewarding and easy to grasp at first, and then allow you to augment and tweak those skills for higher level play later on.

Stop Spreading Content So Thin

Oh boy, here comes the big one. DLC and Micro-transactions. Payday 2 has become rather infamous in recent years with their addition of micro-transactions. Playing the game normally will sometimes (see also: almost never) net you either a safe or a drill when you finish a heist. You need the correct flavor of drill to open the corresponding safe, which contains a random weapon skin that’s presented to you with a Wheel-of-Fortune-style spin. This is a business model that has become ever-popular in games such as CS GO, Team Fortress 2, and Killing Floor 2 as of late. I have to say: not a fan.

The issue for some is that a few of these gun skins give stat bonuses, thus giving those who use them an advantage. But honestly? Payday 2 isn’t actually a PvP game. It’s strictly co-operative PvE, so I was never really too torn up about that part myself. However, each of these skins have various levels of “wear”, meaning some of them looked pristine, while other versions of the same skins looked like you tossed it in the wash with some rocks and a fresh bucket of bleach. As a result you can either basically gamble to get the skin you want, or buy it on the marketplace and hope it doesn’t go for $50-$75 a pop.

Better get drilling, I guess…

Another huge issue is the sheer volume of paid DLC. As of writing this article, the game has 35 pieces of paid DLC. That means if you bought all of them right now it would cost you over $180 USD. Overkill does negate this a bit by occasionally giving out free content packs here and there, and they make it so that you can play DLC maps you don’t own as long as a friend who does hosts the session. But if you don’t own at least a quarter of the DLC, you’re missing out on quite a bit of what I’d consider essential content.

In Payday 3, I think it would be much nicer to see more spread-out DLC. Instead of drip-feeding us 3 guns, 3-4 masks, and 1-2 heists per pack, I think they should wait and release much larger DLC in 3-4 month increments. It would be like an event. “10 new guns! 4 New Heists! 20+ masks and patterns to unlock!” Do something along those lines, charge $15 for it, keep the as-long-as-your-friend-has-it policy for heists, and spread about 4 of those out throughout the year.

Also, in terms of the infamous weapon skins micro-transactions fiasco… why not have the weapon skin system mirror what you do for the masks? Finish a heist and you have a chance to get a material or pattern that can be used for both masks and weapons. How cool and goofy would it to be to cover a glock with an oak finish and put red flames on it? Or dip a Mossberg 500 in chrome and cover it in black tiger stripes? Hell, you could even sell people new materials and patterns in DLC packs, and I wouldn’t even be mad. Just ditch this lame skin system. Do it.


Update
Paid drills and safes that require them are no longer dropped in-game. All safes earned in-game can now be opened without the use of a drill, and there is a guaranteed 1 safe per week for every 8 – 10 hours of gameplay.


Build a Better Safe House

Probably one of the most-hyped yet least satisfying things in all of Payday 2 is the upgradeable safehouse. This is a feature that the devs were touting would be “coming soon” from day one, but didn’t show up until around 3 full years later. And if I’m being completely honest, it’s not all that great. I’ll go one further and say I haven’t been more disappointed since Duke Nukem Forever. I booted it up day 1 of the update, ran through it a bit, saw that I had to spend countless hours grinding sub-missions “unlocking” each room, then promptly turned the game off.

Artwork by Dany Desmeules

In Payday 3, Overkill needs to seriously retcon this safehouse concept in a substantial way. Give us lots of interesting choices. Let us pick from multiple possible safehouse locations, all with different “fronts”. I picture a modular design where you can move rooms around, choose what goes where, and decorate it top to bottom. Let us change carpets, wallpaper, furniture, the works.

Also, and I can’t stress this enough: allow us to start lobbies in our safehouses! While the host is at the computer plotting out the particulars, I could be testing out new equipment, modding my gun in the shop, or hitting the firing range. Once he’s ready for the mission to start, you could have everyone’s pager go off, and answering it would throw you into the prep screen. You could even have the prep screen be the four of you riding in the back of the van, and changing your armor and guns would happen in real-time. Then when you all ready up, the van would stop and you’d seamlessly jump out to start the mission. Ambitious, I know. But I think it’s possible, and would be a nice touch.

In Conclusion

For as much flack as I’m giving it, I am still a huge fan of Payday 2. It’s my love of the series that drives my sometimes-harsh criticism, because I want to see it grow and expand in new and exciting ways. The worst thing it could be is just more of the same, so fingers crossed that the future is bright for the Payday gang.

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