posted on July 24, 2020
We hope you have enjoyed all the content releases this week, with the new roadmap and our first SquadChat in a while explaining the future of Squad. We’re not done yet though, oh no! You’ve had some time with B20 now, and we have a survey we’d like you to fill out to help us understand the aspects you’ve been enjoying (or not so much) since it released.
We also have quite the extensive Design Letter from Fuzzhead for you all to pour over, so get comfortable in your favorite reading chair, stoke the fire and get reading.
Have a great weekend everybody.
Greetings from the Squad Design Team! We wanted to give an update today on all things Squad Development and Design!
This letter will be a bit longer than usual, and will dive into details regarding:
If you have not already seen it, our “living roadmap” can now be viewed on its own page on our website: https://joinsquad.com/roadmap/. For more detailed information, we also have made available a Trello board: https://trello.com/b/12AMfhIv/squad-roadmap. I’d like to stress that although these are our current plans, the living roadmap will continue to change if and when challenges in development occur and / or the community needs shift.
There are many things that are not yet listed on the newly released Squad Roadmap; either they are too far out, planned but not yet started, or still in design concept stages and not yet ready. As well, there are no doubt unseen challenges that may delay or prevent us from implementing something on the roadmap. And still there are many ideas, tweaks and modifications that will form based on results of implementation of some of the critical elements to gameplay on the road map. When new information arrives, we will keep the roadmap as updated as possible.
The Squad team wants to continue to increase the flow of information to all of you, our dedicated community that has a passion for tactical gameplay that emphasizes teamwork, communication, coordination and being a welcoming and friendly community. We recognize that increasing our transparency and providing more information like the roadmap to our community is very important, and are now excited to have transitioned to a more open policy with that information, especially having moved through some difficult work regarding engine upgrades and working through technical issues. I hope to include more frequent, but bite sized Game Design Letter’s to increase that flow of information.
I’ve recently taken on the role of Project Lead for Squad (in addition to Game Design lead). This means that I am continuing to help lead the charge on shaping the vision and principles that make up the core gameplay experience. Squad is however, very much a group effort. We have an incredibly talented Squad dev team that work together in the planning and execution, and we welcome constructive feedback both internally and externally.
During the life cycle of Squad’s Early Access period, the gameplay design has gone thru several revisions. This natural development progression has shifted the focus of Squad’s gameplay direction a few times. We are now looking at shifting back to a more appropriate middle ground, to align with Squad’s core principles. To help on that endeavour, Squad has been growing the size of our design team. We have plans for increasing the Design team even further, so we are entering a time with a very capable team.
Over the lifetime of Squad’s ~5 years of development, the project has been in various stages and has emphasized different aspects as it grew and took on new features, a larger community, and different approaches. Over the past ~15 months, we have introduced several long planned features including Tutorials, Helicopters and Commander Role. We’ve also seen a lot of healthy growth in new players joining the community, which has helped further strengthen Squad and ensure a very bright future!
There has been a heavy focus in development during this period primarily on new player onboarding and decreasing the entry barrier for players that may be coming from the broader FPS genre. We made a lot of progress in many of our UI aspects to help with this onboarding, in addition to the full blown new player Tutorial as well as the first time spawn menu tutorial. We still have work to be done with a full User Interface / User Experience overhaul, but overall Squad has had many improvements on explaining UI functionality.
As part of the player onboarding focus during this period, there were also several gameplay changes that were made that have shifted the community focus, meta gameplay and overall pacing of Squad. Some examples of these gameplay changes that were part of this onboarding endeavour were: Buddy Rally feature, Infantry 10% Speed Increase, Removal of Post Incap Vulnerability, Increase of Logistic Truck seats, Ability for all Kit Roles to revive with bandage, to name a few.
Some of these gameplay changes have since been reversed (an example is the removal of the Buddy Rally feature which was introduced in A13 and then removed in B18). That decision was made after carefully considering the long term side effects impacting gameplay, in terms of depth of play, tactical decision making, and “Consequence of Action”. As the gameplay of Squad continues to evolve, we will continue to evaluate past/current and future features and aspects as we enter a Live Operations development cycle, with the goal of smaller incremental iteration of important gameplay aspects.
We recognize that at certain times in the past, the speed of iteration on critical gameplay aspects had been less than ideal. Squad has been in development since the very beginning of Unreal Engine 4. Many of the early systems built into Squad were built at a time when UE4 had far less tools and functionality than it does now. These legacy systems were also built at a time where the project was still in the start up phase of development, and simply put, the team did not have access to the same level of resources that we do now. As such, some of these legacy systems are now needing replacement, and this replacement process can take time and resources to fully replace. This is what is commonly referred to as Technical Debt, with which we have done a lot of work to reduce, still have work to do. This process can often be a complicated one.
We have been working towards solutions that will help enable us to more smoothly iterate and improve gameplay aspects, helping to reduce long lag times between releases.
One of these improvements has already been implemented in our update process, which we label as “Major / Minor / Micro” releases. We now have for example the ability to release “Micro” releases, which are small Client only patches that are compatible with servers running different versions. This enables us to deploy fixes faster with less turn around time. We hope to continue to refine this build process, and include more flexibility for design with tools to tweak things faster in the future.
Today I want to let the community know that while we maintain new player onboarding as an important pillar of Squad’s design, it will not come at the cost to Squad’s core gameplay principles. We want to re-emphasis that Squad’s core gameplay principles and primary focus is bringing players together to “Communicate, Work Together, Plan, Coordinate”. We want players to allow themselves to become immersed in an authentic combat experience, all while emphasizing a welcoming and friendly playerbase community.
As shown in the graphic above, the pillars of Modding, Accessible / Intuitive Play, Competitive / Meta Play and Authentic / Milsim Play are all encompassed within Squad, but they should not come at the expense of the Core values and principles. At times in the past, the “Consequence of Action” has been dulled by various gameplay changes which favored new player onboarding, which I believe in the long term can lead to much less emphasis on the ability to Communicate, Work Together, form a plan, coordinate and use teamwork effectively. So the path forward with regards to gameplay features is about finding ways to onboard new players effectively, while still maintaining the depth of play and keeping true to Squad’s core principles.
Part of this decision means that we have reaffirmed and are OK with making game design decisions that will Not be liked by all veterans in the Squad community. Designing features that embrace these core principles, means inevitably we won’t be able to please “everyone”. We are OK with that decision. In attempting to design a game for ‘everyone’, you inevitably end up designing something that no one really enjoys. We very much want to avoid that.
Squad’s vision for the future involves a renewed focus on it’s roots, to allow those core values to grow and truly become the soul of the game and its community.
With all that out of the way, let’s dive into some of the gameplay specific topics that are upcoming in B21 and B22.
Rallypoint as an Inventory Item
FOB Bleedout System
VOIP QoL: Left / Right Radio Channel Options for SL Command Radio Channel
VOIP QoL: Priority dampening for Leadership Roles
Infantry Speed Adjustment
FTL Improvement to allow FTLs to place fortifications
FTL Improvement to include an optional auto-assignment of fireteams
HAB Changes – short delay to spawn whenever HAB is first built or enemy overrun has been cleared.
Squad has 100 player servers as a top goal. We feel that this level of player saturation is essential for getting the correct feeling of epicness and fully realizing combined arms coordinated battles with all the elements. The increase from 80 to 100 players would add 10 extra players per team. The number of vehicles on most map layers currently is unlikely to increase with the increase of players. So the vast majority of these additional players we intend to be adding to frontline infantry units. We are aware that with the newer additions of support elements like Transport Helicopters, CO, Armor, infantry frontline units have been thinned out. We would like to see that filled back in, and maximize the capability to have all aspects of combined arms that are currently represented in game, to be present and active in a server at the same time.
An example of what might be a typical break down of units in a 50 player team, which of course fluctuates depending on map assets and style of play:
CO Squad (2-4 players), APC/IFV Squad (4-6 Players), Mechanized Infantry Squad / QRF (9 Players), Infantry Assault Squad (9+ players), Infantry Defense Squad (9+ players), Mortar Support Squad (2-4 Players), Logistics / Helicopter Transport Squad (2-4 players), Main Battle Tank Squad (4-6 Players). (~50 players per team).
Another aspect to the 100 player servers is that vehicle assets take up a large portion of network traffic on a server. We are continuing to improve the efficiency of our vehicles on the network, but may need to further reduce vehicle amounts on map layers to reach the goal of 100 players. Further analysis and testing is needed before committing to a vehicle reduction audit of map layers.
We have successfully completed one 100 player test in the b20 cycle, which was by far our best result in Squad’s history to date when it comes to having a playable 100 player server experience. The next steps for 100 Player server testing is to further refine our analysis data tools regarding network, so the next test that is run will give us granular details about which areas are costing the most in network performance, and where we will be able to get the best savings. We anticipate these tools to be ready in b21, so expect more testing to begin at that time.
I want to emphasize that we continue to appreciate your support and passion. We welcome your constructive feedback through the Discord channels, Social Media channels, Reddit, and the JoinSquad forums once they are back online. I encourage all of you to let us know what Squad means to you, and what you would like to see in Squad in the future. I hope through this message, you can understand and embrace the path forwards with Squad’s design and core values.
Lead Game Design