There are many Challenges that are facing 7D2D in my personal opinion
Challenge #1 Useless Perks and What Makes Them Useless.
Currently right now a multitude of perks feel useless or only partially useful for a small portion of the game.
A non-comprehensive list of useless perks or at best semi-useful: Animal Tracker, Master Chef, Pack Mule, and Well Insulated.
The above list of perks are just a few of the ones that are either useless, or quickly become useless. I know some people out there might be saying, "Useless??" I understand that every perk might have a use in a very specific style of game play; however, over all these perks are quickly outdone by gear or simply the acquisition of items/schematics.
Animal Tracker: This skill on it's own, having to crouch to be able to track animals, might be useful in some style of play, but personally I have witnessed many a streamer, and myself, just run across random live animals making this skill sub par. Now if you didn't have to crouch and it warned you that an animal was in the vicinity and then you crouched to pinpoint the direction, that would be something useful. Probably a lot less animals escaping my notice at that point.
Master Chef: This perk is quickly outdone by the amount of food you naturally find, and the amount of cooking schematics that are in loot. When I who have no points in cooking can make everything, and my partner who has put points into it can not make everything then something is wrong. In addition to these points, many times we just subsist off of canned foods as there are zero chances of food poisoning and dysentery which add to the uselessness of this perk. (Please consider locking learning schematics behind certain levels of perks OR giving people who have used both the schematic and the perk a HUGE discount in materials or even the ability to make tier 6 preferably the only way to make tier 6)
Pack Mule: I played in earlier versions and remember Pack Mule being a necessity, so when I came back to A18 I instantly started picking this up so that I wouldn't be encumbered. I quickly found out that if I just had some patience I would not have needed this perk at all with Pocket Mods.
Well Insulated: Clothing provides enough heat/cold resist that even in the coldest areas if I just take the right clothing with me I am absolutely fine. No need to care about this perk.
Just like there are worthless perks there are perks that have so much power behind them that I find it hard to pass up taking:
And then your weapon of choice perk
I am not saying to nerf the perks that are taken constantly, I am stating the very opposite.
The question that needs to be asked is "What makes the worthless perks worthless and how can it be changed?" It is my opinion that what makes these perks worthless is that they are easily replicated by items or their bonus is given thru a schematic, making it pointless to continue beyond certain levels if you ever even started it at all.
Master Chef: A player should be able to learn from schematics how to make the Basic Tier 1 Recipes, Bacon and eggs, boiled and grilled meats, baked potatoes, cornbread, teas and coffee, and then even the tier 2 Recipes. The player should not be able to learn T3, T4, or T5. Without having the T1 perk minimum, I would even go as far as saying in order to learn a T5 recipe that you need to have the T3 perk. The other side of this is I would also suggest that a player who has both the perk and the schematic get a bonus; less materials used in cooking, longer buff duration, less chance of food poisoning, and things along those aspects.
Advanced Engineering: Players should be able to learn the ability to learn schematics that coincide with T1 and T2 of the perk, but should be required to have T1 to learn a T3 schematic, T2 to learn a T4 schematic, and T3 to learn a T5 schematic. Why? To prevent things like a player who gets extremely lucky just learning how to make a crucible with having zero points in Advanced Engineering.
Locking the ability to learn schematics behind having certain tiers of respective perks would create a more organic character progression. You can still be the solo player, but it will take a bit more work and you may have to go to T3 in certain perks to make it.
Another way to deal with some of the worthless perks is to get rid of the current attribute gains. IE: Weapon does x more damage for head shots with a chance to dismember. (This type of bonus honestly feels like it should be in the weapon specific perks.) Instead, roll some of the least chosen perks straight into the attributes. Below are some suggestions, but for game play balance changes would probably need to be made.
Perception = Animal Tracker
Strength = Pack Mule
Fortitude = Well Insulated and Iron Gut
Agility = Parkour
Intelligence = Unknown (Without moving perks around personally I'd put Cooking in here)
Challenge #2 is the organic growth of the characters. How much is too much and how much is too little?
Scratching the surface, we are talking about Level Gain VS EXP Gain VS Loot Level Gain. In many games that I have played and tested out different ways of doing things, one thing always bothered me and that was the loot progression of killing zombies, and looting random houses or PoI would out due our crafters. This means that by the time a Miner 69er could make T3 tools, I have already looted T4 or T5 tools sometimes even steel T3 or T4. By the time my ally who was running AK47s could make T3 AK47s I had found a pair of T5's. Unfortunately it's not just one run through that things like this happen, it is a consistent problem that while progressing to make T5 tools/weapons we have already looted them or greater.
Solution? Vanilla xp with 2x Skill point gain AFTER the starting missions. I would even suggest at lvl 10 the Skill points drop to one from that point out. This creates a situation where your crafters are making better gear than is being found.
Steel Tools being locked behind schematics is great, however, being locked behind schematics and having to find steel tools to break down is not. I would choose one and let the other go. An example would be to have the tool parts locked behind a schematic, and allow the players to make steel pick heads but need to have the schematic to make steel tool parts to be able to complete the creation. Also in order to learn said steel tool schematic you should have to have T3 Miner 69er (or the respective perk should it change).
Doing a double lock like it is now is ... strange.