“In video gaming a nerf is a change to a game that reduces the desirability or effectiveness of a particular game element. The term is also used as a verb for the act of making such a change. The opposite of nerf is buff (in one of that term’s two usages).”
One of the changes in update 2.20.0 (Update 2.20.0 / アップデートバージョン2.20.0) was about gooseberry bushes, and gooseberries. There was a bit of an uproar on Discord, so I promised to clarify the reasons for the change once more, in a forum post. This is that post. I will start here, and depending on follow-up questions and arguments, I can add further detail where it makes sense. I’m not going to try and put every detail in one single post.
I make it a habit to discuss changes that I judge as impactful with you in the community ahead of time. The place for that discussion is here in the forum, because unlike Discord, the forum is sorted by topic threads. It’s easier to go back and re-read the topics and I tend to do just that when I plan new updates.
History of gooseberries discussion
The topic of gooseberry bushes have been brought up several times, because they have been overused by players for a long time. I asked the community for feedback on some proposed changes in this topic thread, more than half a year ago: Making Gooseberry bush behave like Raspberry / スグリをキイチゴのように変更
If you haven’t read it, I encourage you to do so. The TLDR is roughly that the community wanted the bushes to change, but not through the method of seasonality but by making it impossible to plant new ones from seeds.
I saw a need to prepare for changes by improving the carrots though, which I explained here: Carrot Improvements / ニンジンの改善
Those improvements came in the 2.15.0 update, together with some other improvements (Release 2.15.0, What's New? / バージョン2.15.0とは)
I let the ideas of the gooseberry changes lie for a time, while we made other updates that people wanted (Farming technology updates in the making / 農耕技術アップデート準備中 (2.16.0), Update 2.17.0 / 近況, Update 2.18.0 The Fire Update / バージョン2.18.0 新しい火起こし, Upcoming update (Mining and Christmas) / 鉱脈とクリスマスのアップデート (2.19.0))
What we were trying to solve
When I was about to plan the 2.20 update, there was a lot of discussion in Discord about a perceived problem: “Why is there so much Wheat lying around? Can’t you make a way for us to clean it up easily?” There were also some good ideas, like the idea of Stick Bread, which I more or less immediately decided that I wanted to put into the game.
Some of you who talked about the excess wheat have complained about the contents of update 2.20, saying “no one asked for any change to the bushes”. (This is only partially true. If you have read the topics I have linked to, you know now that many players supported and wished for some change.) I hear you, but I have to try to fix the cause of the problem - not just the symptoms.
You are Hope is a survival game. Many of you who have played it for a long time, have mastered the challenge of staying alive and have begun to play the game more as a perpetual building game. I have no problem with this, in fact we have devoted a lot of effort over the years to build both features and content for this play style. But if you look at the description on the AppStore or Google Play, you will see that we promise the buyers a survival game.
If the players of a survival game have the problem “there is always food littering on the ground” then something is broken, and the solution is not to build a clean-up system for excess food. So I took a deeper look and saw that the problem of overlarge fields of berry bushes had only grown since we discussed it last. Gooseberries were now an almost exclusive diet for many players, and hiding so much of nice game content from new players. It was time to put ideas into action.
Reasons for the decisions of the update
Now, one of the reasons I like to discuss potential solutions with you guys a long time ahead, is that I find that good ideas take time. With the background of a previous discussion, some later input can suddenly strike a spark of better ideas, and an improved, or less intrusive solution, might present itself. In this case, I had the realisation that just making bushes non-reproducible would be a short term solution. Players tend to spend a lot of time in the same cities now (certainly more so than before the Rebirth feature was added) and it would only be a matter of time until you had your 100-bush orchards again, from exploring and bringing bushes back. So the solution must make it so that there is no gain from having 100 bushes instead of for example 10-20.
The domestic bushes were never intended for early play. The delay for them to grow berries would make you die before you got them. What happens now is that experienced players play on the beginner servers, where hunger is slow, and make the berry patches for the newbie players. This way, the bushes “work”, though they weren’t supposed to. The new players “learn” that berries is what you are supposed to make and miss out on the challenge of the early game.
So we made the bushes quicker, so newbies can grow them themselves (if they want to). But we also made the berries give much less food per work and resource use, so you can’t rely on only berries to survive. And we greatly reduced their “storage ability”, so that 100 bushes clearly is not a final solution to the food problem.
The disappearing bush problem
There was also one other change: we let the dead bushes despawn automatically. This was mostly a “beauty” problem and had nothing to do with the food logic. I personally get depressed from seeing those dead bushes, and I wanted to spare those of you who feel the same way. This turned out to be a mistake for other reasons though, which some of you brought up in this topic: About Gooseberries / すぐりについて . The bush is sometimes used as a griefer-resistant detail for sheep pens and other constructions. So I will remove the decay of a bush into nothing, to restore this property. This will be changed in the next update.
I think I will stop here and let you ask questions if you want more details on any aspect. I hope you have gotten a peak at some of the underlying reasons for why the bushes had to change, for the good of the game experience. I’m open to talking further on the subject, so feel free to join the discussion.