Katey here!

What’s happening in Stunlock town?

Well as you know, there’s been a lot of fiddling and tweaking for Patch, which we’re all pretty excited about (but also, admittedly, a teeny bit anxious for). The game designers and co have been busy on the core gameplay changes, playing it with testers, getting feedback etc. The patch date was already announced last Friday and I can confirm it will go live this Thursday.

I took part in testing the new patch and it’s been quite an experience so far. Initially, the purpose of the patch was to create more interesting and dynamic play via movement speed changes and changes to M1 ranged abilities. The goal was to get more dodging and interesting plays in neutral situations, allowing for more outplays via skill.

The results of these initial changes we tested were not positive across the board. We found that the pacing felt wrong for certain champions. The moving, stopping then moving and stopping again made the game feel sluggish in some cases, even with the movement speed increase. We also discovered that constant heal support champions like Poloma and Pestilus had problems keeping up their healing on moving allies. The diversity among the champions also suffered. Allowing every champion with a ranged M1 to dodge and poke equally meant they needed to work almost exactly the same. And lastly, certain champions lost core parts of their identity, despite our efforts to keep it, such as Jade, Iva and Ezmo.

So, we concluded that some champions still felt improved with the changes, and we will likely keep them intact, such as Varesh and Jumong. However, other champions we will take a step back on and iterate further. We’re trying to find a middle ground between the current gameplay and initial gameplay changes we made. The overall movement speed changes and hitbox reductions will likely stay the same.

There’s no doubt that these changes have affected so much more than simply some M1 range ability adjustments; at least every champion has had one additional ability change in order to strive for a balanced game, as well as Battlerite changes, particularly to Ashka and Shifu. We’re still making iterations at this point to get the best feeling for the game going forward.

Do be sure to give us your feedback on the patch. I’m positive it won’t be the last update to the gameplay as we will continue to make improvements throughout Early Access!

In other news, we welcome a new employee to the office, Adam Kratz, whom you may also know by the name of Kraetyz; a Battlerite addict from our community! He’s joining us as a programmer and we’re really excited about his involvement and insight that he brings with him. He shares with me a look into how to make a gameplay change in Battlerite.

“In the two weeks I’ve been here I’ve been working on ironing out kinks in the new M1 patch such as bugs, strange behaviors, and some new Battlerites.

Now, before we go forward, I think it is important to put a disclaimer: This is subject to change. What I am about to describe is something I expect to be in the patch, but it may not be the final iteration!

Wild Fire has received some changes in the new patch. The current Wild Fire, which Ashka players worldwide are now familiar with as “The one next to the one I pick”, is a round 1 Battlerite that makes Fire Storm shoot four projectiles instead of three. It’s a decent increase in damage, but the increased channel duration makes it a double edged sword.

With the M1 changes (and some changes to Fire Storm), we felt that this Battlerite had to go. It was also picked in much less than 1% of games with Diamond or higher rated players so far in the current Season.

What could be done instead? A few ideas were tossed back and forth. In the end, our initial Wild Fire change became this:

Hitting an Ignited target with your Fireball inflicts ignite on nearby enemies.

After a short talk about potential issues such as visual disruption and usefulness, we placed the area effect on Fire Storm hits instead. This is less visually disruptive, since Fire Storm is on a cooldown, and the knockback on Fire Storm lets you force your enemies into each other. Cool, now we have something to work with!

Enter, the Game Tool.

This is what happens when you let programmers design interfaces.

This beautiful piece of software is a Stunlock Studios-developed tool for editing Battlerite. In our case, we will not need to bother with most of it. We only need to look at “Igniter”, which is Ashka’s working name. Ten internet points to everyone who can figure out why.

Volcano? Raging Fire? So many mysterious folders.

Here we have a list of Ashka’s abilities, his Battlerites (called “Upgrades”), and Igniter/Ashka himself. These are all Game Objects, simple code constructs that we can use and connect to each other in all manners of exciting ways.

For now, let’s look into the Upgrades folder.

Goodness, that’s all of them!

Wild Fire is already there. Now, in case this new Battlerite does not work out, it would be very convenient to be able to go back to the old Wild Fire and compare them or rethink. Because of this, I will create a separate Upgrade object. Let’s call the new Battlerite Searing Heat. Not the most creative, but I never pretended I was any good at naming things. Look at my username.

After having made Searing Heat inherit the behaviors of our base Upgrade object, we can see that it has some Constant Data that we need to look over. All upgrades need an icon and some information about which ability slot is upgraded, as well as localization.

Searing Heat requires some additional data too, though! We want to have an area radius, and the effect played when the Battlerite comes into play. We also decided that with this Battlerite, each Fire Storm hit should deal 2 additional damage. That bonus damage should be in here too.

Now it looks something like this.

Our upgrade is ready. We now need to tell the Fire Storm projectiles that it exists. Projectiles usually have a lot of Constant Data, but we only need to add one more thing.

What’s Living Flame, you ask? Wait and see.

Okay, all that is left now is the actual coding. This is the power of the Game Tool – because of it, there are loads of changes we can make without ever having to open up Visual Studio.

Now there’s just one more step – replacing the old Wild Fire Battlerite with the new one and, we’re done! From a concept, where we decided that Ashka should have a tool to make it easier applying Ignite to multiple enemies, to implementing it in code.” – Kraetyz

I also got talking to some of the backend developers, who have been busy on all sorts of things but one thing I thought interesting was their work on what they called “dynamic collision”.

Since I had no idea what that meant, I enquired further. Right now, when you jump or teleport or use any other kind of ability that can place your champion “inside” another champion, you will snap out of that player as soon as the ability is completed. This creates a visible, ugly teleportation of players when they use certain abilities (for example, Heroic Leap). This is what they refer to as “dynamic collision” and the programmers have been working on changing this behaviour so that it allows your champion to walk out of other entities, if they have managed to “get inside” of them.

Alongside this, one of the programmers (who goes by the nickname of Smurf) has been working on fixing other collision and physics related bugs that could cause some abilities to move a player into walls and outside of the map arena. Nice work!

Last week we had the pleasure of a visit from our community managers, Pangolin (Russia), Boccato (South America) and Grace (China). Once they finally arrived, we welcomed them to the office and a busy couple of days in the office filled with meetings.

Pangolin and Boccato having a great time!

We wanted to show our appreciation to the hard work these guys have been up to, from managing translations, to tournaments, reporting bugs and much more. Whilst they were here, we were able to introduce them to our marketing director, current community manager and everyone else in the office in order to get better acquainted. The meetings helped us to communicate our marketing plan and goals as well as give them a sneak peek at the VR system and the new landing page which I teased about the last time I blogged.

We had a board games night and a visit to the Swedish sports bar classic, O’leary’s, for burgers and beer (if that was your thing). It was great fun meeting them and we hope they had a great time!

In UI, we’re fairly busy on our UI 2.0 prototype. There’s not really much I can tease about the new UI, when it will come or what it looks like, but we are working on a prototype that is essentially a completely new UI (layout, art, navigation, the whole works). It’s pretty tough but also super exciting to be looking at Battlerite with a fresh new menu system.

The hardest part is designing the UI when other features and improvements are being worked on, meaning I have to predict where these are going to go or possibly work, and try to design something as modular and scalable as possible. That’s easier said than done, and in UI when you design something without the context, you can’t always guarantee it’s going to be all that effective. But we don’t have a choice, since F2P is getting closer and closer, so we must all work hands-on-deck to get things developed!

One thing I can talk about is improvements we are prioritising for before F2P and may be released into the current UI for testing. It contains two areas, the scoreboard and improving game tips. I can’t go into too much detail yet, but basically we want to provide a new and improved scoreboard and statistical information between rounds that’s going to help you understand how you can improve as a player. We’re in discussions about how exactly this is going to work right now.

Regarding game tips, we have an idea for a way to provide tips that will help new players learn ability names and their hidden mechanics, specifically according the the champions they are playing and the champions they are playing against (if we’re able to, this may change). We want to help new players learn how abilities work as we believe this is a tough hurdle in the beginning. Again, that’s all I can say for now and this feature is not as high priority as the scoreboard due to the content and pipeline needs this feature demands, but as you can see our focus is once again related to improving the game for the influx of new players.

There are many other things we are working on to help aid the success of our F2P launch as much as possible, but these particular ones we hope will be an additional aid for players to pick up Battlerite more easily and get inspired to improve.

That’s it for this week, I hope you guys enjoy the patch, and as always, we appreciate your feedback.

/ Katey

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