May 14, 2018

Point Blank: A Look at Content Update 1

Welcome to Point Blank, the game dev blog of Magnus Larbrant, Hunt's Creative Director. Today he's here to discuss some elements of Content Update 1.

Why scopes?

So let's talk about scopes, and why we made them. From the community feedback it was clear we needed to focus more on reducing camping and promoting objectives. The question being asked is: “so why did you do scopes?" The thing is, scopes are just meant to offer you more choice, not to be a dominating strategy. They should not feel like the scopes in traditional shooters where you use them and can see half the map and can snipe dudes right and left. We wanted them to be an additional option to iron sights, if that's your thing, but not give you a huge advantage. Sniping at range should be a challenge and next to impossible in close-combat situations.

But we want to keep evaluating scopes and the community's reaction to them. My rule is that if nobody likes something or its not working we will just cut it. But the surveys showed people liked them and valued them as an option for a different strategy, so we kept them in. The game needs to support different play styles while avoiding a single dominant way of way of playing.

Changing the compounds

Most of the time when something isn't working in the level, it's just too much noise. We might have put too many things into the level or taken the beautification too far, and it's made the level design unclear or frustrating.

When we're reviewing this stuff we always start with an overview. We take screenshots to get a sense of the geography of it all—where the paths are, where the openings and the doors and exits are, and how much cover players have.

After that, we tend to delete a lot of things, rough it out, and draw some “art notes" on top of the screen shots to get a quick idea of changes that would benefit the level. We do these little sketches, like ok, I'm at Point A I want to get to Point B, and there's a sniper in my way. How do I go from A to B without getting sniped? We ask a lot of questions and try things out. Like, could you have tunnels? Could you make deeper ditches? Do I need some more shacks and stuff in the way? Do I have to block the view in any other aspect?

When you add these view blockers and stuff, you have to do a lot of testing because there is a lot of potential to ruin things with the level of noise, or make things good from one side and ruin them from the other direction. We want to make sure the game is readable. We want people to be hiding and ambushing, but there is a point when there is too much cover, and you can't see anybody.

If you, for example, put all these really detailed trees in the combat space and every leaf is moving, the whole screen is basically moving, and you can't see anything. We need to find the balance between art detail and gameplay noise. The gameplay must always be the winner in that equation.

So for this patch, the level designers and I took a look at Scupper Lake, and we tried to analyze what was working and what wasn't. We started to identify a bunch of rules, and then we broke down those rules into building blocks. If I have a bunch of building blocks, I can put them together into more varying shapes.

The philosophy is: declutter it, remove everything that doesn't matter. Ask yourself, what is the point? I want to see this or I want to see that, do I have a path to get there? I don't have a path there. How do we put a path there? Or I have a very strange path there, so how do we make it easier to read? Or that path there is so obvious that nobody is going to risk taking it—that sort of thing.

This takes a lot of time, and we still have more to do there. We hope it makes a positive difference to the game, and you guys share your thoughts with us on the changes.

The future

We want to be getting you new content faster.

Everything takes a lot of time, and we are investing heavily in getting much shorter time between patches. We've created a most-wanted list for stability, performance, game, and meta, and each category has its top issues based on community and internal feedback, so we're looking through those things and seeing, hey what can we make in a small package that we could get out fast. We want to be more focused and iterate on the game more quickly.

Right now, we're working on some really cool stuff to make people want to be the one who kills the boss. There is a bonus at the end of the game now for that, but we also want something really cool to happen if you're the one who kills the boss and grabs the token. So that's coming, more on that later.

The important thing for us is do you like the game? Do you like what we're adding? Do you like what we're changing? Oh and we want to try and address loading times and getting into game faster in the future. It's on our immediate radar.

So give us your feedback. We're all in this together.