STW Lacks End Game Content But Also Has Another Major Problem

There seems to be quite a bit of excitement around a potential Battle Pass being added to STW. I fully support a BP if the game is F2P but I don't think it will be successful if the game is locked behind a paywall. My best guess is Epic is trying to get the BP worked out to launch around the time of the Birthday event, wherein the game will either go on sale or go F2P.

If it's the former I don't think it will work. How many players will pay for the game and then also pay for a BP? The reason the BP in BR is successful is there is no monetary barrier to entry. This is not the case for STW right now.

Personally I don't think the game is anywhere near being ready for F2P. I did a little research (and excuse me if this has been discussed before) and found some staggering data. Before I get to that let's address the elephant in the room. None of the leaked content has anything for end game players. The die hards that have slogged through all the fetch quests, recycled content and lack of any clear direction of where the game is going will benefit so little from the leaked BP rewards.

Of course they may just be placeholders but can the BP be balanced? In BR there is no progress from season to season. The season starts and ends with the player maybe getting better but their BP level means nothing (especially since you can purchase all 100 tiers). In STW level matters. Both Commander Level and Power Level, while not always correlated with skill, equate to time spent in the game. You can of course buy your way to max level faster via llamas but I doubt even a fraction of the players are doing that now.

In BR the cosmetics earned from the BP have zero impact on the game. In STW 20 Pure Drops of Rain might make a world of difference for a new player but is useless to a max level player. Will a potential STW BP take Commander Level and/or Power Level into account? So maybe a SW player would get 20 Rain for that BP level, a Plankerton player 50, a Canny player 100 and a Twine player 200 but even those numbers for many players are irrelevant.

At the time of this post I have more than 28,000 Pure Drops of Rain and I've only played 4 or 5 times in the last 4 months. In one day I can farm 4-5k Rain in a 140 4x while AFK jail building. Cosmetics in the BP might be okay for all players but the other rewards can't be static for all players. Getting 20 rain on day 600 something for daily logins has been a running joke and so will the BP rewards if they follow suit.

Now on to the other major problem. The game seems to have a gameplay loop that is not conducive to player retention. This is likely caused by a few major factors. Firstly the tutorials are so insufficient that a new player will not only have no idea how to build but the wrong idea. The first mission and the SW SSD tutorials teach new players the worst possible way to build.

If those players are lucky enough to make it through them they are then likely greeted by trade boxes or other toxic behavior. Trading, scamming, AFKing, ignoring the objective, sabotaging missions all must be turnoffs for a new player. It also doesn't help that the top videos on YouTube are almost all related to scamming and trading. The tutorial videos are buried.

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Now to the numbers. The following is the best source of data I could find and while obviously not accounting for the entire STW playerbase it is a large enough sample to at least derive some trends from to discuss.

PS4 STW Major Achievements

This chart shows the number of PS4 players that have completed the major achievements in STW. Sources for this information will be linked at the end of the post. To plot this data I started by determining the number of players that completed Gunsmith, which is the first achievement and therefore means a player at least started playing the main quest. The listed total number of PS4 players that own the game is much higher.

The numbers combine the NA and EU data and a total of 147,847 players completed Gunsmith. As you can see the trend following that is about as bad as you could expect. Less than half (48%) of those players completed Launch the Rocket, which is the end of the SW quest line. There is another major decline through Plankerton with less than 15% of the players completing Many Planks, which is the Launch the Rocket.

At this point we reach the first interesting thing. Slightly more players completed Future Days, which is Canny SSD 1, than Plankerton Launch the Rocket. This of course should not be possible but is due to the decision to allow players to skip the main quests.

As for the rest of the data the major takeways are only 6.44% of players finished the Canny quest line (Uncanny), slightly more completed Twine SSD 1 (Into the Night) at 6.53% and only 2.47% of the players completed Twine SSD 6 (All Tied Up).

Xbox data is much smaller but shows the same trends and this why I think the game is not even close to ready for F2P nor do I think a BP is going to solve the problem of player retention.

For me the gameplay loop was good enough, especially in SW and Plankerton, to keep me going for several thousand hours over several years across two accounts (one at max level and the other around PL100 through Twine SSD 1) but it's not for most players or at least the players in this data set.

I honestly was shocked that so few made it through Plankerton since most of the main quests up to that point are tutorial based (teaching you how to complete each mission type) and both combined take less time than the first half of the Canny quest line.

The Canny quest line is by far the worst of the three and in my opinion needs a massive overhaul. Nineteen pages of fetch quests, that almost universally take 2-3 missions to complete will surely be the death of most players and it is as the data shows. If Twine follows suit I doubt even the most die hard players will force themselves through it.

So where do we go from here? It's clear the game has a gameplay loop that at this time is not appealing to casual or hard core players. Casual players either get swept up in the toxic environment of SW, only play to trade/scam/dupe and/or farm v-bucks. They don't care about learning how to play the game and it's not their fault. The game doesn't teach you any meaningful skills. Searching YouTube brings these players all the wrong ways to play the game. The solution for this is simple but complex.

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First dropping anything must be removed from the game. Use the system for Mythic weapons for all weapons, traps and resources. This will immediately kill trading, scamming and up until now not mentioned begging for MSK carries and the shady sites selling weapons and resources. This change would eliminate 90% of the toxic behavior that likely causes new players to quit.

Second the tutorials need a major overhaul. Either do them in game or provide players with tutorials made by content creators that show how to build properly for each type of mission.

Third the main quest line needs to be streamlined and not skippable. The main quest line is way too long for even many non-casual players. There is zero chance any crossover with the average BR player will work. Get rid of all the fluff and get players through the basics of the game as quickly as possible.

Fourth Twine needs a unique biome and quest line that is also streamlined. By the time a player reaches Twine they should understand how to build for each mission, how to funnel husks, which elements and traps to use based on the mission modifiers and how important leveling survivors is to increasing your PL.

Fifth the game needs some type of end game loop that is worth getting to and staying with. What happens when you get to Twine? Nothing, you play the same missions for the same rewards over and over again with no need for any of it. A good example of the type of loop would be Horde Bash. You play through levels, unlocking more resources and better resources. Frostnite could have been done the same way as could Endurance. The tower defense game modes are what made STW so special. Players spent hours and hours in them day after day. You can't say the same about Hit the Road or Dungeons or MSK. Once you do them you move on. They aren't unique and they don't fit the core concept of the game.

STW was created as a survival, tower defense, base-building game. It's why I and many others bought into it. Lately the game has shifted away from that concept. Run and gun isn't working. The aforementioned game modes are cool for a few days but then no one plays them. Queue into any Dungeon now or even at the end of the first time they were around and you'd be lucky to find anyone. The same of course can be said for many normal missions.

Each "season" should have a tower defense mode. Rotating variations of Horde Bash, Frostnite, a modified Endurance mode and a few others would suffice as long as they have some progression tied to them like Horde Bash and include the enemies and traps to use.

Sixth the game needs more diversity in mission type and enemy type. Playing the same core missions for years gets boring. Facing almost the same enemies for that time doubles that effect. Every new "season" should bring a new mission type and new husk and new trap. Spend less time adding new weapons and heroes that are just not needed and add more variety to the base game. Putting a Santa hat on husks, or a space outfit isn't content and it isn't any different and neither is the fifth Jonesy hero or sixth Bow.

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Seventh all defense missions need to be kill based. Get rid of time based objectives that lead to stalling/jailing. Incentive players to kill the husks faster by giving better rewards for faster completions.

Eighth farming rates need to be increased. No one wants to spend more than half their time farming materials for missions. This is why stalling/jailing are so prevalent. Resources also need to be level appropriate. Any mission above PL100 should only give tier 5 resources.

Ninth ditch seasonal heroes and weapons. Seasonal content should be cosmetics only and thus not impact gameplay. Taking a break for a few weeks or months should not result in a player being put at a disadvantage in a PvE game. This is where the BP would fit in.

Tenth make all existing weapons and heroes obtainable. This is easy content. Creating a small side quest for them or just making previous seasonal event quests available would allow players to earn them.

Eleventh ditch RNG llamas. Getting to max level should not rely on luck. I met someone that has been playing for more than two years that can't get the last two Mythic leads they need. Tie Mythic Leads to main quests or side quests so players can earn them. Getting event items shouldn't be RNG either. Although I would prefer they be limited when they are added make them obtainable via a mission or quest.

Twelfth monetize the game (after F2P) with BP, cosmetics and selling non-progression resources such as hero loadout slots, re-perk, perk-up and flux for v-bucks.

I could go on but I think that covers most of the major pain points right now. The game needs an overhaul and I'm not sure how long that would take given the limited resources working on it. Also the game doesn't need to be for everyone. It's better to create a niche game that is amazing for a smaller player base than a generic game that no one likes.

TLDR: STW has a gameplay loop that is not appealing to casuals or hard core players but there are ways to fix that.

NA PS4 STW Data Source:
EU PS4 STW Data Source:


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