Thanks for the link Tresh! Good information there. As he pointed out, we haven't played the game yet, and Tribes does have a steep learning curve. Maybe graduated loadouts will help...
0. We are Still Testing... Nothing is Final
We are hesitant about communicating details because we change often based upon testing. Some of the specific details described below will almost certainly change before launch. (The GA Alpha & Beta Testers can attest to that). That said, with all the concerns & questions about Loadouts I wanted to share some of our design intent and what we are currently testing.
1. A loadout is NOT limited to only 2 weapons. (at least not the way most people would define weapons)
Just to clarify, our current LoadOuts consist of: a specific armor (light, medium, or heavy), an in-hand weapon, another in-hand weapon, a belt slot (that might hold grenades or mines for example), a Pack (cloaking or jamming as examples), and a melee weapon. So, there are currently 5 usable items per Load-Out. And the in-hand weapons do not follow a traditional Primary/Secondary metaphor. It is much more of a per loadout balance decision; so one loadout might include two particularly powerful in-hands for example. Maybe this was already clear to people or maybe it wasn't. And the LoadOut spec above is simply what we are testing now; it could change.
2. Per match you can access multiple load-outs.
How many is still TBD. In the build we played internally today, players selected three load-outs to bring with them per mission. Then, during that single match they choose between those load-outs upon respawn or at an Inventory Station. So in the current playable you have up to 15 different items available to you within a match; albeit only 5 at any point in time based upon which of your chosen load-outs is active. What is exactly the right number to bring into a match? TBD but at this point less than 'all of them'.
3. Loadouts can be acquired thru gameplay or purchase.
Our general stance on items that affect gameplay is to provide a path for players to earn them thru gameplay and/or acquire them more quickly thru purchase. As a player becomes more experienced with Tribes: Ascend they will generally have access to more load-out choices and be more flexible in terms of more tools (load-outs) at their disposal. Again, a player might play their way to that large selection of loadouts or pay to accelerate that progress.
4. Our goal is for all Loadouts to be viable/balanced.
Certainly players will prefer some over others based upon playstyle or preferred role. But it is not our intent for free players to get 'gimped' loadouts and that paid loadouts would be more powerful.
5. Easier for new players to grasp. Most definitely.
We have hosted quite a few external playtesting groups in studio (NOT Tribes veterans but both casual and competitive shooter players). We have seen them try to pick up the game with the 'original' style equipping and also with our Loadout based system. And we know without a doubt that this system is easier for new players for grasp. That doesn't mean everything, but it means a lot.
6. More interesting for long-term and competitive players. TBD - but that is certainly our intent.
We had no illusions that this system, on-paper, would be seen as "better" by veterans of previous Tribes games. It is clearly different from a system that worked well in previous Tribes games, and that veterans are used to and love. We get that. But we have to design for what we think will be most interesting to seasoned players of Tribes: Ascend - a game that we intend to have a large player population at various skill levels. Selecting LoadOuts pre-match may very well add another, interesting meta-game layer for very team-oriented, competitive play. Again, we need testing in Alpha and Beta to verify this hypothesis but that is the intent.
7. A framework that allows new weapons to be added in a balanced fashion.
This is a MAJOR consideration. The set of weapons we offer in early Beta will be a subset of what we offer at Launch. The set we offer at Launch will be a subset of what we offer one year later. Given an ever expanding universe of weapons, how do we a. maintain balance b. not let the game devolve into just a few, very generic, swiss-army knife uber-builds that are generally considered best; and c. release those new weapons with decent frequency so players can get their hands on those new tools and discover great uses for them? We need an architecture to support ongoing new weapon updates in a balanced manner. Previous Tribes games used three armor choices as their constraint-set and architecture. We are choosing Load-Outs as our constraint-set and architecture. And without even seeing the specific weapons it is a little presumptuous for posters to assume that 5 (in-hand, in-hand, belt, pack, melee) is too few.
Ultimately you'll need to play Tribes: Ascend to decide for yourself; and guess what, you'll be able to... for FREE.
Acronyms are for the weak, TBH, IMHO. ROFL.