Understanding the Fun in Escape from Tarkov: A Deep Dive into Game Mechanics
Escape from Tarkov has captivated players worldwide, offering a unique blend of intense gameplay and immersive experiences. To understand what makes this game so engaging, it's essential to dissect it into four key components: art, mechanics, music, and narrative. Each of these elements plays a crucial role in leaving a lasting impression on players and enticing them to dive into the game. However, discussing all these aspects in detail would be quite extensive. Therefore, in this blog, we will primarily focus on the game's mechanics, exploring what aspects are ingeniously crafted and which areas might need some improvement.
The Interplay of Rules and Mechanics in Games
In any game, rules and mechanics are intrinsically linked, shaping what players can and cannot do. Jesper Juul, a renowned scholar in game design, discusses his understanding of rules in his book "Half-Real." For Juul, rules are the constraints placed on players, forming the structure of the game and serving as a cornerstone that gives the game meaning. A game becomes interesting and meaningful only when players adhere to its rules, much like in sports. For instance, a basketball game where players don't follow the rules would be chaotic and meaningless. In real life, rules are tangible and can be directly understood and broken by players. In contrast, in video games, rules become more abstract and invisible, transforming into game mechanics that subtly yet constantly influence the player's experience. For example, in Escape from Tarkov, clicking the left mouse button to shoot is a common mechanic in shooting games. To me, mechanics are like invisible rules – they are the foundation of the game, not requiring constant conscious adherence by players and are not easily broken. In video games, rules are numerous and complex, so their operation and calculation are handled by computers, allowing players to simply experience these intangible rules. Typically, players can only break these mechanics through exploiting bugs or cheating, unlike in board games or real-life games where cheating can be more straightforward.
Exploring Unique Mechanics in Escape from Tarkov
Having understood the relationship between rules and mechanics, let's delve into some of the unique mechanics and designs in Escape from Tarkov. I have compiled a list of these mechanics, which we will discuss one by one:
Death Drop and Secure Containers:
Resource Gathering and Economic System
Player Control over Game Characters
Map Design and Immersion
Growth Mechanics in the Game
Each of these mechanics contributes to the unique and engaging experience that Escape from Tarkov offers, making it more than just a game – it's an adventure that challenges both the strategic mind and the skilled gamer.
Death Drop and Secure Containers
One of the hardcore designs in Escape from Tarkov is the death drop mechanic. When players die in a raid, they lose almost all items they carried, including those found during the raid and those brought into it. The only items that don't drop or disappear are those placed in the player's secure container, often humorously referred to as the "pocket." Anything stored here remains safe.
This mechanic is deeply intertwined with two fundamental elements of video game mechanics design: rewards and punishments. Rewards and punishments are feedback for different actions taken by players in a game.
Rewards are positive feedback, usually given when players make the right choices or achieve specific goals. These can vary widely, from visual effects to tangible items that players can acquire. Rewards are a significant factor in motivating players to continue playing.
Punishments, on the other hand, are negative feedback, typically resulting from wrong choices or failure to achieve certain goals in the game. These can range from character death to the loss of in-game currency. Punishments not only balance rewards but also add challenge to the game, compelling players to play in a way envisioned by the designers.
Returning to the death mechanic in Tarkov, it represents a significant punishment, causing a heavy psychological impact on players. The loss of all acquired items, equipment brought into the raid, and time spent can feel like a combination punch, turning players into what I call "Tarkov insomniacs." This controversial design has deterred many casual players and signifies that Tarkov is not a game for everyone.
However, the death drop also means that when players kill an opponent, they can acquire all the equipment and items the opponent carried. This represents a huge reward for the player, creating a high-risk, high-reward scenario. Although the punishment for death is severe, the sweet reward of looting an enemy becomes even more enticing. The punishment of death serves as a balance to the reward of killing, creating a roller-coaster experience for players who seek the thrill of entering a raid standing and leaving crawling.
This brings us to a crucial concept in gaming: Game Flow, or what can be termed as the player's flow state. When a game skillfully captures the player's flow, it can immerse them, making them lose track of time and play for hours. An important aspect of inducing this flow state is the game's difficulty, which is linked to its system of rewards and punishments. If a game constantly provides positive feedback, players may quickly find it too easy and boring, losing interest. Conversely, if a game only gives negative feedback, players can also lose interest, as playing becomes a form of self-torture. Tarkov's approach to difficulty is notoriously unfriendly to new players, making it hard for them to enter the flow state due to the lack of guidance and protection for newcomers. This is a point of criticism for Tarkov. However, once players get past the challenging initial phase, Tarkov's advanced and bold design of rewards and punishments acts like a whip and candy. The punishing aspect of death highlights the "sweetness" in Tarkov – the rewarding feeling of killing enemies. Combined with the game's randomness and the inherent gambler's mentality in people, players are constantly enticed to think, "What if I survive this raid? What if I can crawl out of Tarkov this time?" This mix of substantial rewards and uncertainty motivates players to embark on the next raid in Tarkov.
In another perspective, Tarkov relies on its amplified system of rewards and punishments to provide a unique and thrilling gaming experience. Clearly, the design of Tarkov's death drop is bold and double-edged; it sacrifices a portion of its potential audience while offering a more intense and immersive experience to its intended audience. The mechanic is extraordinary but perfectly aligns with its target audience and game style, which is why I highly appreciate this design. There is no absolute answer to how rewards and punishments should be designed, which is why extensive playtesting and consideration of various factors, such as the target audience, are essential in game design. It's like a double-edged sword that, if not handled carefully by the designers, can cause players to lose their flow state in the game.
Resource Collection and the Economic System
The game features an extremely complex and intricate economic system. Players' income can come from collecting items during raids, completing tasks, crafting in their hideout, and spending at traders or the flea market. Before delving deeper into the design of Escape from Tarkov's economic system, let's first explain these sources of income and expenditure.
Collecting in raids refers to items players find or pick up in the game, essentially scavenging. Task rewards are given to players for completing specific objectives, including money, experience, items, skill levels, and trader reputation. The hideout crafting is a significant design element in Tarkov. As the name suggests, it's each player's hideout, like a base camp. Players can upgrade various modules of their hideout to gain more benefits and craft items. The hideout's crafting system can be understood as a time-based barter system, where players collect specific items, submit them, and after a production period, reap the rewards.
Players' expenditures in the game mainly come from two sources: traders and the flea market. Traders are the NPCs in the game where players can spend money to buy weapons, items, or barter for goods. The flea market is a player-driven market where players can sell items they've marked (which will be explained later) and buy items sold by other players.
This economic system has many tight loops and logical chains, forming the foundation of Tarkov's dynamic environment. Let's start by discussing the scavenging gameplay in Tarkov. In raids, players encounter a wide variety of junk, from food to electronic items. Most items we use or see in daily life appear in Escape from Tarkov. Although many items are not directly useful to most players, their presence adds an element of choice to the game. When scavenging, it's precisely because of these less valuable items that the valuable ones seem rare. The variety also allows players to make meaningful choices, like what to carry and what to leave behind. Interestingly, almost every item in the game has a purpose, whether it's a crucial task item, needed for bartering with traders, or as materials for upgrading the hideout. These loops, combined with the flea market, create a dynamic environment in the game.
The game's economic system is closely tied to the player's progression system. Players' character levels divide them into different classes, such as players from level 1-15 who don't have access to the flea market, or those from 15-25 who can't fully upgrade their hideout. These different player classes, combined with the varying amount of time players spend in Tarkov each week, create a dynamic and ever-changing economy. Since players at different levels have different needs and supplies, the value of each item in the game is not fixed. For instance, sugar picked up early in the game can be sold for a profit later. The market environment in the game changes in real-time, making the scavenging aspect more interesting because players are never sure how much the items they pick up are worth. This uncertainty and dynamic price fluctuation encourage players to think and make choices about what to pick up, adding more meaningful small and large decisions to the game.
From another perspective, the essence of gaming is about making choices, like deciding which path to take in a shooter, when to aim, when to retreat, or when to reload. A well-designed game is one where players feel their choices are meaningful and impactful, and Tarkov's scavenging system achieves this perfectly. Players' growth and the profit of each raid are closely related to the junk they choose to take, directly impacting the player. The scavenging system, combined with the dynamic economy, removes the "silent choices" in the game. Because scavenging directly affects players' income, they can clearly feel the significance of their choices, which is why scavenging in Tarkov is enjoyable. We can directly feel the significance of the junk we choose to pick up, whether it's for completing a task or earning more money. Another factor that makes this mechanism fun is the dynamic economy caused by the different player classes in the game. Randomness is one of the most powerful tools for game developers because it can bring suspense and surprises. The fluctuating prices of items in Tarkov not only bring surprises, like finding out a piece of junk is actually valuable, but also suspense. Until players check the current market prices, they won't know how much they can earn from their loot. Suspense is a crucial element in maintaining interest, whether in games or movies. A movie with a known ending or a sports match with a predictable outcome tends to be less engaging.
Adding to the fun brought by randomness, one of Tarkov's most outstanding and motivating designs is the key rooms and dynamic loot refresh. Players can find many keys in the game that open different rooms on the map, sometimes containing important task items or high-tier loot. This makes many keys quite expensive. The refresh of these valuable keys is not fixed; they appear in various containers, and players don't know what's inside until they open them. The uncertainty and the lottery-like nature of the game motivate players to enter raids repeatedly, hoping for a successful extraction. From individual containers to key rooms, the game's inherent uncertainty brings freshness and suspense, drawing us back for "one more raid." The design of key rooms in Tarkov adds another layer to the high-risk, high-reward mechanics. For example, cultist rooms often refresh with high-value items like keychains, ammo boxes, and syringes. But the outcome is unknown until players open the door, and no one knows whether they'll find a few worthless guns or make a fortune. These key rooms are usually located in densely populated areas of the map, like the dorms in Customs. The uncertainty of what's behind the door and whether players can even reach the key room alive adds layers of suspense, playing on players' greed and hope. Despite the dangers, the possibility of finding something valuable in these key rooms motivates and tempts players to take the risk, as everyone harbors a dream of striking it rich.
An important mechanic in the game's scavenging system is the "Found in Raid" requirement mentioned earlier. This design primarily targets gold farming but also significantly impacts the gameplay experience. "Found in Raid" means that players must survive the raid and leave in a surviving state. This requires players to spend enough time in the raid and gain sufficient experience to leave. If any of these requirements are not met, the item won't be marked as "Found in Raid," usually indicating that it was brought into the raid by the player, like weapons and equipment, or sometimes high-value items stuffed into their secure container, or items bought from the flea market. Not being marked means players can't use the item for tasks or sell it on the flea market, which is a significant punishment. For example, finding a LEDX in a raid and planning to sell it for a million on the flea market, only to be killed by a camper, means not only losing the potential million but also figuring out how to deal with the unmarked item. Whether trading with a trader or upgrading the hideout, the value of unmarked items is greatly reduced, or they lose their purpose entirely, like a gas analyzer, an early task item with almost no other use. This is a double-edged sword for players. On one hand, it restricts flea market item flipping and provides a more thrilling experience in raids, as the punishment for death is too costly, even for high-value items in the secure container. On the other hand, it's overly harsh for average players, as not every raid guarantees survival, especially frustrating when dying with task items.
Combining the scavenging system with the flea market, the latter is the core of the rewards, suspense, and surprises brought by scavenging. The flea market is a player-driven market where the supply and demand of items are determined by the players, with prices and availability depending on the players' levels in the game. Due to the different player levels, the market prices fluctuate dynamically. In the game, players' levels depend on their playtime and number of raids, leading to two distinct economies in Tarkov, commonly referred to as the early wipe economy and the late wipe economy. This concept of "wipe" will be analyzed in detail later, but for now, we can understand it as the game resetting all players' levels and resources every few months, starting everyone from scratch. The early wipe economy is right after the reset, when everyone's level is low, and players are leveling up and exploring. Basic construction materials for the hideout or materials for tasks are particularly expensive, like a can of vegetables selling for 50,000 rubles. As time progresses and players' levels generally increase, the game enters the late wipe economy, where firearm accessories and ammunition become more expensive, while basic construction materials lose their value. The stark contrast between early and late wipe creates value for items in Tarkov, making them meaningful at specific times and environments. Moreover, this dynamic and changing economy becomes the foundation for players' earning suspense, providing a more vivid and varied environment, allowing players to make more meaningful choices when deciding what junk to pick up. At the same time, this dynamic change reduces the repetitiveness of the Tarkov gaming experience, allowing players to experience different environments in Tarkov at different times. For game designers, repetitiveness in games is a player killer. Without careful consideration and removal of repetitive experiences, players can quickly lose interest in a game. Monotonous experiences lacking suspense and surprises can make a game feel boring and uninteresting. Therefore, Tarkov's economy system, tied to player growth and class, significantly reduces the repetitiveness of the scavenging experience, as the price of each piece of junk is not fixed and changes over time.
Character Growth in the Game, Similar to MMORPG Levels, and the Hideout System
A significant reason why Escape from Tarkov stands apart from traditional shooting games is its built-in leveling system, akin to the skill levels found in MMORPGs. These skill levels greatly influence players' tactical choices and experiences in the game. For instance, a player with level 50 endurance and strength will undoubtedly reach the sanatorium on the Shoreline map much faster than a player with level 1 endurance and strength. These skills have a substantial and tangible impact on players' choices in the game, making them an integral part of the experience. As players visibly level up, they can genuinely feel the fruits of their labor and progression. This leveling system serves as a reward for the time players invest in the game, allowing them to perceive their advantage over players who have spent less time in the game. However, some players may not pay much attention to this leveling system, or they might not find it as rewarding as leveling up in other MMORPGs, because the benefits of leveling up are often passive and not immediately apparent. In Tarkov, leveling up skills doesn't grant any new active abilities to players. But in my opinion, this leveling system significantly contributes to the dynamic and fresh atmosphere of the game. Combined with the game's completely random matchmaking mechanism, the differences between players are amplified, ensuring that each match offers a unique PvP experience, full of strategizing and competition for resources. Without the skill system, players who spend more time in the game would lose a significant part of the rewards and incentives that come with extended playtime, leading to a homogenization of player combat. For a competitive game, fairness among players is emphasized, but in Tarkov, the randomness not only achieves a realistic design goal but also adds suspense and surprises to the game. This not only creates a vivid environment but also significantly reduces the repetitiveness of the game. Although the maps are the same in each match, the players, loot, and boss spawns are all random, providing a different experience in each game. The randomness in multiplayer games largely comes from the players themselves, and Tarkov's leveling system further intensifies this randomness, creating suspense and surprises for players at different stages, such as a pistol-wielding player encountering a fully geared opponent, or taking down a heavily armored enemy with leg shots.
The game's leveling system plays a significant role in classifying players, allowing them to experience different stages of Tarkov. For example, the weapons, attachments, and ammunition available to players at levels 1-15, 15-25, or 42+ are different. This is a thoughtful design choice, as players who rush through the game, like full-time streamers, can access better bullets and equipment, overpowering ordinary players who are still scavenging for basic items. There are many ways to limit players' rapid progression, but as of now, the Tarkov development team hasn't found a method to balance ordinary players and hardcore full-time players. This issue is common in many PvP games, but due to Tarkov's severe death penalties, it is exponentially magnified. However, on the other hand, the classification of player levels enriches the dynamic nature of the game's economic system. The items required by players at different stages vary, adding more uncertainty to player encounters and battles. At the same time, this classification encourages the "high-risk, high-reward" gameplay style. While this may frustrate some fully geared players, it offers a balance between ordinary and hardcore players. In other words, an ordinary player with accurate shooting skills still has a chance to defeat a fully equipped "chad." More importantly, the classification limits players' choices, making early-game items and attachments more meaningful. If players could buy top-tier attachments and ammunition from the start, the early-game weapons and ammo would become redundant, leading to a repetitive and homogenized game experience, a common issue towards the end of a game cycle. Using game duration and levels to classify players is a viable design element, providing a sense of achievement and creating more suspense and surprises in the game environment. However, balancing the classes of players is a challenge that we, as developers, need to consider. Players who can play eight hours a day are definitely a minority in the player base.
Another key factor in Tarkov that contributes to the sense of achievement in player growth is the hideout system, which can be thought of as each player's home base. The hideout is divided into several sections, and players need to collect materials and money to build and upgrade them. Some modules offer benefits, some allow item crafting, and some even include a card-drawing mechanic. The materials for upgrading these modules are the items and junk that can be picked up in the game. The hideout's upgrade process is realistically considered and carefully designed. Many seemingly useless items, like matches and batteries, become important building materials for the hideout, making sense in the real world and adding value to their existence in the game. Almost every item in the game can be used for some form of bartering, selling for money, completing tasks, or upgrading the hideout. Clearly, the developers didn't create all this junk just for the sake of having players pick it up; these items are a crucial foundation of the game's economic system. Speaking of building the hideout, this process is very lengthy, both in terms of hours spent and materials needed. Players often need weeks or months to fully upgrade every module in their hideout, similar to how building and upgrading in games like Clash of Clans can take several hours or even more than ten hours. These time requirements are obviously a design choice by the developers to limit players' rapid development, combined with the requirement that certain hideout upgrade modules need specific trader or skill levels for balance considerations. The existence of the hideout significantly impacts players' gaming experience, including but not limited to the types of bullets players can use or the size of their inventory. The presence of time and level restrictions is to balance the significant benefits that the hideout brings to players. If players could manufacture top-tier bullets from the start, then early-stage bullets would lose their purpose. This is something we need to consider in game design: how do we provide different choices and experiences for players at different stages, and how do we balance the gap between players who play for long periods and those who play casually? Time and level restrictions are a straightforward and effective way to balance, but is there a better way that benefits all players? This is worth pondering. Returning to the hideout modules themselves, their existence and design fill and expand the tactical choices players make in the game, such as crafting a Salewa first aid kit for a task or considering what weapon to use because of the bullet crafting system at the workbench. Combined with the mechanisms we've analyzed above, it's clear that the Tarkov development team has focused on the concept of freedom. On one hand, they provide players with an unparalleled number of meaningful choices compared to other games. On the other hand, this becomes a significant barrier for new players learning the game. Freedom is a concept promoted in games, but too much freedom can also create problems for new players, especially given Tarkov's lack of a beginner's guide. This issue is further magnified by the absence of such guidance. The freedom in Tarkov is one of its shining points, but the developers need to consider how to introduce newcomers to the game, rather than relying on videos made by game streamers or YouTubers as the primary source of guidance for new players.
The sense of engagement and immersion
Overall, the game's map design, UI/UX, and character settings all enhance the sense of immersion and engagement. Engagement, often referring to the depth of the player's relationship with the game space, is a crucial component in creating an immersive experience. The concept of immersion is detailed by author Janet Murray in her book "Hamlet on the Holodeck." Simply put, immersion can be understood as the feeling of being completely placed in another world, fully "entering" a game world or story. In the game, the developers increase player involvement and challenge by minimizing the UI, such as not displaying health bars and mini-maps, and through other hardcore designs, like manually loading bullets into magazines. While this significantly raises the learning curve for players, it creates a sense of accomplishment in doing things on their own, which in other games would be done automatically by the system. This feeling of doing things oneself subtly immerses players in the world of Tarkov. At this point, the character becomes an extension of the player's senses. Players no longer feel like they are controlling a character or looking at a computer screen, but rather they are in the perilous city of Tarkov. For example, when a player's character dies in the game, they usually say "I died!" not "The character I was controlling died!" The sensory extension brought about by immersion and engagement helps players establish a solid connection with the game world, creating an immersive experience that amplifies the roller-coaster-like thrills of the game.
Due to these hardcore designs, auditory perception plays a key role in gathering information. In the game, walking, brushing against grass, opening backpacks, and even turning around all produce noise. More important than directly spotting and shooting an enemy is knowing where the enemy is and what they are doing. Because of the game's penalty system, players are very cautious, leading to interesting auditory-based strategies in the game. Whether it's fake running to deceive opponents or using grenades to cover footsteps, these strategies not only test the player's understanding of the game but also require high concentration. Missing any sound can lead to defeat in an encounter. More importantly, there are no identifiers for enemies or teammates in the game. Players need to distinguish and communicate with teammates, reporting positions to avoid friendly fire. These designs firmly capture the player's attention, fully immersing them in the world of Tarkov.
However, it is worth criticizing that the sound system in Escape from Tarkov has been buggy and rudimentary for years, which is a point of contention for many players. Although the development team has demonstrated the complexity and realism of their sound system in live streams, it is clear that they have not polished the core of this system – allowing players to clearly understand the source of sounds. A game is an experience, not a simulation. Their ambition to make the sound system realistic clearly lacks sufficient technical support, resulting in a system that is not only confusing but also buggy. This is something we need to be mindful of when designing games. Scoping (defining the scope and scale of a game project to ensure it can be completed within the set time and budget) is crucial. We can have grand ambitions, but we need to be clear about our technical strengths and weaknesses, ensuring that our ambition does not compromise the quality of the game itself.
From my perspective, the map and level design in Escape from Tarkov are unique and forward-thinking. The design revolves around realism, rationality, and immersion. Every detail of the map, whether it's the overall layout or the construction of rooms and interiors, greatly contributes to enhancing the game's immersive experience.
Particularly noteworthy is the interior design in the "Streets of Tarkov" map. Each room in the map is filled with implicit background stories - blood on the walls, unfinished meals, or what players jokingly call "fruit particles" - vividly depicting the past stories of these rooms and allowing us to see the lively, yet invisible, past of these people. These details not only satisfy our innate curiosity and desire to explore but also make Tarkov more than just a battleground for combat and missions; it feels like a vibrant and real world.
Turning to the overall design of the map, let's take the classic "Customs" map as an example. The distribution of AI, the location of each gap, the position of the cult room, and the loot spots are all thoughtfully designed. This elongated map can be primarily divided into three routes: the dorms, the sniper tower, and the central road. Players spawning on the left side of the map need to move to the right side to extract, and vice versa. This leads to the dorms, the new gas station, and the sniper tower becoming the most likely places to encounter other players. For this reason, the designers not only made these three locations key areas for many missions but also places where bosses spawn and high-tier loot is found. In the dorms and sniper tower, both areas with high-tier loot, the designers added relatively difficult extraction points, such as the random appearance of the dorms' car extract or the need to pull a lever at the sniper tower. This not only encourages players to engage in combat at these two locations but also creates a division between high-risk and low-risk areas on the map. Such design provides meaningful path choices for players at different stages and with different objectives. A clever aspect of the map design is the use of AI as a tool for players to report enemy positions, like the AI in the dorms, which helps players quickly locate each other. The presence of AI forces players to fire their weapons, revealing their positions and thus promoting PvP encounters, while also providing or disrupting information. The presence of AI and bosses not only offers dynamic ways of gathering information but also adds to the game's randomness. Of course, this brings us to the period when Tarkov's AI design was notoriously overpowered, often killing players from great distances with a single shot. From my perspective, this was somewhat counterproductive. I believe AI should be a means of gathering information, not a challenge to players. Positioning each design element in a game is a complex task, and Tarkov's previous impulsive and misguided changes were indeed rough around the edges, something we must avoid in game design. Overall, Tarkov's maps provide a lively, dynamic environment without losing detail or immersion, offering players more meaningful choices in movement. From planning each raid's route to finding potential flanking opportunities in PvP, the possibilities the map offers are countless.
A distinctive feature of this game is the ability for players to control their character's posture and movements with great precision. This design not only adds to the game's realism but also significantly expands the meaningful choices players can make in combat. For example, players can precisely control the height of crouching using the mouse wheel, or adjust the extent of head bobbing through key combinations. However, this refined control system is a double-edged sword. Its complexity can lead to cognitive overload, especially for new players. The high learning curve of this design might deter some players. The intricate and complex key operations make it difficult for new players to get the hang of the game, often leaving them unaware or forgetful of how to perform certain actions. This is similar to the recent design of "Baldur's Gate 3," which, although initially confusing, offers unparalleled freedom once mastered.
Critically, the recently added "inertia system" has caused a series of issues in terms of game feel. From my perspective, this design has obvious flaws. For instance, the character appears to "slide" rather than walk, and the unnatural pauses when moving side to side severely impact the player's gaming experience. These design issues affect not just the experience but, more importantly, they weaken the intuitive interaction between the player and the game space, leading to a disconnect between game feedback and player perception. This separation can create a range of discomforts, such as 3D motion sickness and a feeling of stickiness in movements. Game feel is a complex perceptual experience involving how players sense their interactions with the game world, and a poorly designed and rough inertia system clearly disrupts the original game feel.
This is one of the highlights of the game. Compared to other shooting games, Escape from Tarkov pursues extreme realism, allowing players to modify and customize nearly every part of a firearm. This includes not only grips and sights but also charging handles and magazines. Notably, the game imposes almost no restrictions on customization; you can even equip a gun with multiple scopes or flashlights, as seen in the game's "Sun God" tactic. However, this gun modification system is not just to attract military enthusiasts or showcase realism. It's a fitting system tightly integrated with the game's economic system. The price of components is directly proportional to their performance, each with unique bonuses and penalties. This offers players a variety of strategic choices. You can invest heavily to build a "laser" gun, or create a budget "murder machine." The game's progress and economic system further enhance the complexity and depth of this mechanism. As they divide players into different economic classes, they ensure that gun parts of various prices and performances all have their value. This dynamic economic system provides more meaningful choices for firearm customization, encouraging players to think more about their combinations rather than just chasing the current strongest configuration (Meta).
Another key feature of the game is its periodic wipe. Every few months, all players' gear and levels are reset, forcing them to start from scratch. Initially, this mechanism caused dissatisfaction and pain among many players, as it meant that months of effort and achievements were lost overnight. Although the development team explained that this was necessary due to the game still being in development, over time, players began to recognize the unique fun this mechanism brought. This is why the development team later planned to introduce two types of servers: one with wipes and one without. So, what are the advantages of periodic wipes? Many players find Tarkov most interesting right after a wipe. This is because the wipe resets the economic and equipment status of all players, greatly increasing the game's diversity and freedom. As previously discussed, Tarkov's player base can be divided into early, mid, and late stages, each with different equipment and weapon choices. Towards the end of a few months, when all players become "billionaires," the game environment becomes highly homogenized. This not only reduces the game's surprises and suspense but also diminishes the importance of death and resource collection. In other words, when everyone has top-tier equipment and countless resources, many other elements of the game, such as supplies, missions, weapons, and equipment, lose their original value and meaning. Therefore, until the development team finds a better way to maintain the game's diversity and freedom, the periodic wipe mechanism is indispensable. It ensures that various design elements within the game, including missions, weapons, components, and equipment, are reasonably utilized and experienced by players at different stages.
In conclusion, my detailed analysis of the various mechanics in Escape from Tarkov reveals that the game's excitement and appeal are composed of several key elements:
Suspense and Surprise from Randomness: The dynamic environment and the diversity arising from different player classes contribute to the game's unpredictability, creating suspense and surprise.
Amplified Rewards and Punishments: The game capitalizes on players' greed and gambling instincts, as everyone is in pursuit of the sweet rewards, leading to a roller-coaster gaming experience.
Freedom and Meaningful Choices: From the different gear setups chosen in various stages to the seemingly insignificant items picked up during combat, the game offers a plethora of meaningful choices.
Engagement and Immersion: Tarkov's intricate and realistic mechanics, combined with its UI, increase player engagement and challenge. The high degree of freedom and player autonomy enhances immersion, making the gaming experience more vivid and intensifying the roller-coaster-like experience.
Map Design: Focused on realism and rationality, Tarkov's map design, though at the cost of optimization, brings a vivid gaming world that sparks our desire to explore. The dynamic AI and boss distribution, along with the high-risk/low-risk areas, create diverse gaming experiences and tactical choices.
Movement and Action: The detailed and complex character control system offers a variety of tactical and strategic choices, enriching the PvPvE experience. However, there's room for improvement in optimizing player 'feel', especially regarding the inertia system.
Firearm Customization: The ultra-realistic firearm customization system provides a limitless playground for military enthusiasts. The dynamic economic system ensures that gun parts of various prices and performances all have their value, creating a dynamic gaming environment and a rich shooting experience.
Periodic Wipes: This mechanism, which resets all players' economic and equipment status, increases the game's diversity and freedom. It ensures that various design elements are appropriately utilized and experienced by players at different stages, avoiding homogenization of the gaming experience when all players become economically strong.
Overall, these design elements and mechanics work together to make Escape from Tarkov an exceptionally deep and broad game. The entire game, with its numerous mechanics, revolves around the key concepts of freedom and immersion, offering a unique and thrilling experience. Of course, there are many more details in this game worthy of deeper exploration.