Dev Blog 19. November 2017

Gameplay Experiments

We will soon do some small gameplay changes to make life easier for beginners, and we want to try out some bigger experimental changes.

Basically it's about improving the experience for new players and have them be less frustrated. Because right now, we only turn about 0.14% of players into Supraball fans. That means, when we get 1000 new people to try the game, only 1 or 2 of them will actually stay and love it.
Many more like it, as the latest very positive Steam reviews also show, but it's of no use for the game if they don't return daily to play the game.

I've watched new players for a couple of months now and I see the same problems over and over again.

Supraball is hard at first and gets more and more satisfying the longer you play it. So let's not pretend new players will at some point start to understand boosting. Maybe after they played 200 matches they will start to get that. But we need to get them to have more fun in their early phase. Because the average new player only plays 2 matches before never returning again. If we can double this to 4, the concurrent player numbers would already look much better.
You won't believe it, but we have 500-1000 new players every day. But we have this very bad rate of turning them into Supraball fans.

We also lose a lot of people before their first match, so the gameplay clearly cannot be blamed there.

About 25% don't even start the tutorial or anything; I have no idea why they even downloaded the game in the first place. But we will make sure everyone plays the tutorial. We will prevent people from playing botmatches before that, because they won't have a good time if they don't understand what's going on. We will also counter people's fear of online gaming by funneling them from the tutorial right into an online match. The chance is there, that they might just like it. We have to be a bit ruthless there and accept the fact, that we don't need players who only play offline. We need to try to make the online-community grow, because that's all that matters in the end.
And the last major change is, that at the end of every match you will be able to just click "find next match"; so you can get into a flow, not interrupted by the launcher - which you might not see for hours while you keep on playing.

Apart from these infrastructural improvements it will be down to gameplay itself to make new people stay for much longer.

Because feature wise there is not much more to come really. We'll bring back clubs, we'll allow party internal matches (for example queue with 6 people to play 3v3 with them), we'll add an item exchange tool, we might have daily tasks... but all of those things are not seriously going to improve the early impressions for new players, so I would not expect those changes to do any wonders.
So we will soon leave early access and officially release (in Spring 2018 I guess) and then the game either works or it doesn't. Tweaking the gameplay is more or less our last try to improve the current situation.
So please understand that we have to be willing to make changes that might not make veterans happy but new players. Otherwise we'll have the same group of veterans playing the game for the next decades and call this project a failure.

The small changes we'll do to gameplay, that I guess nobody of you will mind:

- Bigger Pull-Catch angle and duration (so your aiming and timing needs to be less perfect for a catch)
- Damage causes less shaking of your view and less disorientation
- Knockouts only take half the time
- Very low power charge shots will not release the ball. This is to prevent accidental releases of the ball, when you try to kick it, but then tap the left mouse button when already having caught the ball.
- Kicking has a slightly longer duration to make timing easier

The more contronversial experimental changes that we want to try with you in the beta channel for at least one week are the following three:

- No more knockouts outside of the keeper boxes. Instead the ballowner gets knocked back and drops the ball. While being knocked back, the gun gets deactivated for 2 seconds, the dash bar is emptied and the multijumps are lost. After the tackling you have enough time to pickup the ball and do something with it, because the thrown back player takes some time to bother you again. There is one exception for knockouts: if you're being knocked against a wall or into other players you will go KO, because there would be no other room to drop the ball. Apart from that, knockouts only happen in the keeper box, as usual. With this change we can also completely remove the health bar. The use of this new mechanic is to never interrupt anyone's movement, because it frustrates new players a lot to get knocked out all the time.

- One multijump after a dash for fieldplayers. So you can fly a littler further than usual. It is still very weak compared to boosting but it fixes something that has been bothering me for a while. Because defenders could pretty easily just block everything by just standing there. You can right now fiddle yourself past a defender with some sucking, dashing, swirling, kicking and whatnot, but I think we can agree that it feels awkward. This enhanced dash creates a situation in which the defender actually has to focus on the attacker to block a sudden dash, which can go past the defender left or right. This gives more options to attackers and demands more agility and concentration from defenders than just sitting in the right spot and kicking everyone who gets near.

- Having the shield activated, every ball that is going to touch you will be deflected into the direction you are facing. If the ball hits you in the back, it will not be caught but also be deflected forward. This removes lots of accidental catching. Especially for new players it makes the whole volley business so much more easy.

So when we have tested those for over a week, we can start discussing them - let's try not to have opinions about it too early for obvious reasons. We first need to get used to them as the first impression will be misleading if you are used to something different for a long time. I'll inform you about the upcoming beta on Discord.

If you have ideas how gameplay changes can make life better for beginners, please let us know!
Yes you! Please tell us what you think is currently making the gameplay uncomfortable for you and what could improve it! Don't be afraid to break open established gameplay patterns. Maybe we can find something much better.