posted on September 20, 2023
“Asset request received. Dev blog incoming!”
With it now being three months since we announced our commitment to reworking the infantry combat systems with Squad “Infantry Combat Overhaul” (ICO), it has been an active effort to bring our title closer in line with its roots and inspiration. With a shift towards more coordinated teamwork, longer and more tactical firefights, and a desire to provide a more diverse player experience.
Throughout the development of the Infantry Combat Overhaul, we have had an immense interest from the community to share what Offworlds processes when implementing a feature change this large looks like, and we agree that it’s a great idea! As the overall playtesting experience has greatly influenced our development regarding the future of combat in Squad since our initial announcement.
So, with this dev blog, we wanted to provide more insight to the community on the development of the overhaul and our experience of working closely with the Squad community through public playtesting. As well as share the ideas that have emerged from our passionate community’s feedback, highlighting what has been successful and what has not, and providing a bigger picture on how Offworld perceives the current state and the future of infantry combat.
With this Infantry Combat Overhaul, we are reworking how the Infantry role plays within Squad. We want to create the most fun and immersive infantry combat and gunplay systems you can get in a gaming experience. With this, we have revisited and adjusted several core features in Squad. While also introducing some exciting additions that will work together to provide the gameplay we wish for you to experience. We’d like to take the time to revisit some of the core changes.
We have implemented Picture-in-Picture optics to replace our current optics system. We sourced physical optics to help dial in this feature as part of the development process. Our observations of the optics in person allowed us to accurately represent the optics magnification, field of view, eyebox, and lens quality in-game. The Picture-in-Picture optics system is done by rendering the scene from a separate camera and projecting the rendered scene onto the optic. We hope the change enhances the feel of the firearm and introduces new gameplay variables by offering trade-offs you must weigh when you choose your weapon and respective optic.
Suppression has received a complete rework in terms of its mechanics. We aim to bring suppression to the forefront as a useful tactical tool for attack and defense in any firefight.
We have extensively changed how guns and their mechanics play out in firefights. Our goal was to facilitate longer firefights, give players more time to think of, plan, and execute tactics, and highlight the unique roles of the various weapons in Squad, capturing the intense “fight or flight” emotional response in an encounter, all while ensuring that the overall gun handling remains satisfying.
Our aim with the Infantry Combat Overhaul was to slow down individual players and seek to promote more coordinated play, thoughtful positioning, and increased communication. Infantry will find their speed, stamina, and overall movement mechanics adjusted to reinforce a teamwork-oriented vision we had for gameplay.
For those who wish to learn more about the changes to infantry combat coming soon, you should check out our initial announcement on the topic [LINK].
With the Infantry Combat Overhaul, the Squad community has been instrumental in assisting us with playtests, playing a pivotal role in developing the Infantry Combat Overhaul by helping us assess our various playtest iterations. These playtests served as essential development milestones, enabling our team to gather a wealth of data and observations, which, in turn, have fueled more iterative testing and rapid refinement of the changes we’ve been working on.
We’re extremely delighted to witness an extraordinary level of participation from the community, with a level of engagement shattering all previous records for public testing in Squad’s history. What has truly been a pleasure for us to see is the remarkable passion and thoughtfulness displayed by participating testers. Their unwavering dedication to the future of Squad, coupled with the detailed and constructive feedback provided, has left us deeply humbled. Furthermore, the feedback we have received from playtesters was overwhelmingly positive, reinforcing our confidence in the direction we are taking Squad. The playtests proved invaluable, providing the design team with information quickly, allowing our team to continually fine-tune the changes we are implementing, and ensuring that our game reaches its full potential.
To shed some light on public playtesting, our observations, and the effect on gameplay. During our numerous tests, we noticed a notable shift in multiple areas. Regarding gameplay, in the RAAS and AAS game modes, we saw an increased back-and-forth capture and gunfight dynamic, resulting in more engaging and intense moments on the field of combat. The overhaul has introduced new dimensions of gameplay, not only affecting firefights but also map traversal and vehicle usage, offering fresh challenges and opportunities for players of all levels.
We have also learned more about how the overhaul plays into vehicular combat. Armored vehicles have now taken on more importance, their utility in resupplying friendly squads and supporting them with the enhanced suppression will encourage vehicle crews to coordinate with and stick close to friendly infantry. The updated gunplay tuning and value of heavy suppressive fire have made open-top vehicle turrets more survivable and viable compared to the current version of the game. Furthermore, while it was the design team’s intent to increase the effectiveness in vehicles as part of the overhaul, it has sparked discussions within our community and our development team as players raised valid concerns about a potential imbalance. Rest assured, our design team is carefully considering player feedback and contemplating adjustments to armored combat to ensure a fair and enjoyable gaming experience should the need arise in the future.
Among other insights, we also found our changes to the infantry role have a major benefit to new players. The overhaul finds these newer players no longer need advanced spotting skills to make a meaningful contribution to their team. Instead, they can actively cooperate and positively impact their Squad by providing suppressing fire where teammates direct. This level of approachability allows newcomers to dive into the action and feel like valuable squadmates from the get-go, making the new user experience much more welcoming.
With these playtesting efforts, we have gained useful information from our community and they have remained a guide through our ongoing efforts to refine and optimize the gameplay. As development progresses, we wish to continue our work with the community as we remain committed to maintaining a balanced and exciting environment where both veterans and newcomers can enjoy thrilling firefights and create their own unforgettable moments in Squad.
Work In Progress
For these past few months, and through our extensive playtesting sessions, we’ve generated, tested, implemented, and iterated on a myriad of concepts for gameplay systems, some of which were inspired by feedback we received throughout testing. We also encountered various failures, surprising outcomes, and interesting challenges while developing the overhaul, and we would like to share our thoughts on some of the more notable ones.
The “Clear Sights” system
Hurt State Stamina Rework
Adjustable Scope Magnification
Damage Falloff Adjustments
Bullet Penetration Visual Effects
Tuning Weapon Handling
Sway-Based Alternate ADS Poses
As we have introduced all these new features that players were able to experience in the tests, we have seen people’s concerns and comments regarding realism and how we represent combat in Squad. We’d like to restate that our goal in the overhaul is to provide the most fun, immersive, and authentic experience one can achieve in a tactical shooter while remaining approachable to a wider audience. To this end, we will make sacrifices where necessary as it relates to realism. For example, we cannot recreate the fear one experiences when being suppressed by gunfire in real life. But, we can use game mechanics to encourage players to react similarly by incentivizing them to stop returning fire, get down, and try to reposition away from the incoming fire. With this in mind, we aim to bridge the gap between “realism” and the “arcade” nature of tactical shooter videogames, and that comes together by focusing on the “authenticity” of the infantry combat experience.
Work In Progress
With all the recent changes, we anticipate a significant shift in how effective combat plays out in Squad. For attackers, strategic decision-making will become paramount. Gone are the days of launching reckless assaults; now, carefully picking your battles is crucial for success. The new ideal is to attack with overwhelming force and fire support, dissuading premature, uncoordinated assaults that can deplete valuable tickets.
Suppression will now take on a central role in the offensive strategy. It levels the playing field, especially against stationary defenders, and empowers smaller units to overcome superior numbers. The significance of suppression extends to coordinated fire and maneuver tactics, where elements like machine guns, grenade launchers, and vehicles play critical roles in locking enemies down to allow attacking elements to move forward more safely.
“Bounding Overwatch,” a tactic where one squad covers the advance of another, will become key, especially for unsupported and smaller groups. Additionally, using armored vehicles to cross open terrain introduces an element of surprise, provided they can dismount and cover the remaining ground with fire support before defenders can effectively react. This new approach to combat intends to be dynamic and strategic, transforming how attackers and defenders operate on the battlefield. With this in mind, we’d like to take the time to share some of the general characteristics behind our newly defined weapon archetypes.
Short Rifles and Carbines (M4, AK74)
Full-length Rifles (M16, C7)
Bullpups (L85A2, QBZ95-1)
Battle Rifles (G3, FAL)
Automatic Rifles (RPK-74M, M27 IAR, QJB95-1)
Light Machine Guns (M249, RPD)
Medium Machine Guns (M240, PKP, Maximi)
Heavy Machine Guns (M2, DShK)
Grenades and Grenade Launchers (M203, GP25)
Designated Marksman Rifles (HK417, SVD, M110)
Sniper Rifles (C14, SV98M)
Pistols (M17, TT33)
We also have many more peculiar weapons not fully covered here, which will be present in the game that you may find blur the lines in what they do. We leave it for you to play the game and determine their quirks and how best to utilize their strengths and accommodate their weaknesses.
The state of the Infantry Combat Overhaul in Squad is now one of great satisfaction, following an exhaustive and lengthy process of testing and refinement. We look forward to the release and are eager to let players immerse themselves in-game. After the release, we will remain ever vigilant to iterating as evolving needs arise.
As we move forward, our approach involves adding some final finishing touches post-launch while maintaining an open mindset to experimentation and innovation on this feature. At the same time, we want to maintain a commitment to trying new ideas and continuously enriching the overall gaming experience for players of Squad.
It’s important to note that improving the core minute-to-minute gameplay is not an isolated goal. Instead, it serves as a crucial stepping stone toward enhancing various other aspects of the game. By prioritizing and refining the core combat experience, we set the stage for a comprehensive and engaging game that continues to evolve and captivate our playerbase.
As we continue our development efforts, we look to a bright future for Squad as we refine and revisit topics discussed in this dev blog. We’d like to once again thank the community for their enthusiasm and support with the overhaul. With the turnout for playtesting and feedback provided, we cannot describe how instrumental the community was in helping iterate our designs. Regardless, we hope this dev blog answers some common community questions and gives an interesting glimpse into the behind-the-scenes of developing the overhaul at Offworld. We hope the community stays tuned in for updates as we aim to deliver an even more immersive and enjoyable experience in Squad.