Squad A Little Update from Merlin

Merlin recently responded to a video on Reddit, regarding the state of Squad. It's easy to see how it would get buried on reddit, so it's worth resharing here, in its own thread. Dig in for some tidbits, insights, and words directly from The Boss Man:

Hey everyone,

I want to write a candid response to the video and thread to hopefully help address concerns that are being brought up. This response is on behalf of the whole team, I posted it internally and we worked to make sure it’s something we all stand behind as developers.

We care a lot about you guys, and having seen the amount of people who are unhappy with the state of the game atm has been a bit distressing for us, but we're working intensely to try and address the issues with the state of the game right now.

I can start with the good news which is that we’re aiming to get a 10.2 patch out either later this week or early next week.

WIth that patch we will be addressing two of the bad bugs commonly mentioned at the moment, which are:

  • The meatgrinder meta at FOBs. A large part of the problems with this in A10 are caused by a bug where your spawn timer at a fob no longer increases when people are killed at it, which has been fixed for 10.2.
  • The problem where you can lose your role when someone leaves your Squad, or be switched to a role you don’t like, addressed by the following two fixes
  • First, currently a player leaving the Squad immediately bumps you off a limited role in game even if you’re alive if your Squad no longer meets the requirements. We have changed this so that test only happens when you actually die and fully give up.
  • Second, in cases where you do lose your role, your role becomes unselected so that you are aware of it and are able to choose something else, instead of defaulting to rifleman.

I think all in all though, I don’t share the view that things are as dire as you might think, but I rather think this is really just a perfect storm of circumstances that have lead to a rough couple months. The game has been in this state before (after the vehicle launch was the biggest example) and I'm confident our team will work through this.

The biggest issues I see are:

  • Alpha 10 has made performance worse. I think this is the root of many of the real deeper issues and the cause of a lot of frustration in the community with the game, which at times manifests itself in different ways.
  • The two user experience bugs above are still in 10.1 (meatgrinder and role selection).
  • The AAS game mode out of the box in A10 being something that doesn’t have a lot of replayability now that games are turning into a stalemate a lot more. In particular this is pushed further by influencing advance flags being removed, gun-play being slower, and in particular with the meatgrind meta that already existed and has been made worse by the spawn bug.
  • Some of our player base not liking the new gunplay, in some cases wholesale, but for most people just some small details of it
  • General bugginess of the game (e.g. queue issues, freezing, crashing for some people, etc)
  • Vets not playing due to one or more of the above, leading to not enough experienced players in game to offset the new players in v10. This causes a feedback loop where the vets who do stick around get tired of having to always teach new players with a poor ratio.
  • Mixed messages from us about these problems, and exactly how we are fixing them.

I can tell you with certainty we know and recognize all the above issues, and are working hard to solve all of them.

The key thing to realize is that I think the community got used to the level of stability that existed in Alpha 9, and in many ways we are going to see the growing pains of us going down the path to get our game fleshed out and launched.

The reality is that in order to make the game we have a vision for, we’re going to have to make changes and disrupt things along the way. It’s like the old adage “you've got to crack a few eggs to make an omelet”. This year we’re placing a lot more emphasis on making rapid progress on features, functionality and gameplay changes, and at times it’s going to come at the cost of stability and the changes aren’t going to be perfect at first.

We often are forced to choose between things taking a lot longer, or the game being less stable, and at the moment we are airing on the side of pushing to get things done quicker, even if it's going to have some nasty issues come in along the way. I do adamantly believe this is what players want, and that people would much rather release take 2 - 3 months with some bugginess, rather than 5 - 6 months with very high stability, which often we can't hit anyway.

As what should hopefully be a testament to us working hard to solve the issues you guys care about, we’re right in the middle of development of randomized AAS and territory control, improving the damage model for vehicles, tweaking gun handling/transition times and improving our user interface and nametag settings. This is in addition to a good amount of new content that should freshen up the game.

These changes will be coming quickly too compared to the pace of development last year. Alpha 11 is scheduled internally and currently on target to come out in April, and we’re working hard to get as many of those improvements above as we can into it. I don’t want to promise just yet what will make it in exactly when though, as there is surely going to be stuff that won’t make it in, and not all of these changes are simple or easy (in particular the game mode ones).

Performance is a tougher nut to crack, but we’re specifically focusing on it and working through the worst parts. We have 3 programmers working on performance-related functionality, and our programmers and QA have been digging into performance profile reports in depth. Another great thing is that we’ve begun developing a relationship with some the lead technical guys on the Fortnite team, and are talking with them about what things we can improve in game, as they are a case of a team that has gotten a similar style of game on Unreal Engine running quite smoothly.

On a final note, I wanted to address the game’s overall design direction. It’s been talked about a lot since Alpha 10 came out, and it is one of the points specifically highlighted in the video.

There are a number of people who feel the game will now be taking a sharp turn in the milsim direction, which I do not believe is the case. The game is supposed to give people an experience that feels like you're in real combat, but we're never trying to have it be anywhere near the level you'd see in something like Arma. Quite to the contrary, I feel that Project Reality had something that was halfway in between Arma and Battlefield, and I see Squad being in roughly the same kind of spot.

We are trying to make some improvements to bring the game more and more in line with our original vision, which is a teamwork based game that puts emphasis on players moving together and working together. One thing I think people are going to have to realize is that this means that gameplay is going to be slowed down from what existed in the early days of Squad. Any of our long-time players know this already happened during the very early days of Squad when vehicles were added.

In particular suppression changes when they come for example will hammer this home further. We also really want less emphasis on fast-paced firefights that end quickly with everyone dying, and more emphasis on strategy and maneuvering, prolonged firefights with suppressive fire, and often getting wounded/healed in long range engagements. For us, these are all an atmosphere that gets people talking and working together, rather than spending their time respawning constantly.

Since I know where this falls in relation to Project Reality has been mentioned a lot in this thread, it’s worth making the comparison. I think everyone does need to remember that we have always intended Squad to be a spiritual successor to PR, and while we don’t want to be exactly the same as the original PR, we want many important aspects to feel the same. This is where as many have pointed out, yes sway and the changes in A10 are meant in many ways to fill the same role that deviation did in PR. We plan to tone it down a bit and tweak/adjust it, but it’s here to stay. That said, I feel sometimes these changes are being viewed in a vacuum, where other things like making a more impactful suppression mechanic and making FOBs more fragile will also be major changes which change the game even further, and again which chunks of the existing community will likely not like.

At the end of the day, we’re just going to have to keep pushing onward making the game we are envisioning, even if it’s not the one that 100% of the players who have been along for the journey are happy with. I think a lot of the trouble at the moment is that these changes to the game are combining with general bugs and issues that come with development, and it is leading to a lot of unhappy people, which is totally understandable.

With time though I think these problems will improve as we finish more and more of our final features, and more of our stability improvements are permanent. As the game gets closer to its final vision, people will get a chance to play the game with that vision, and will either love it or move on. I spent years playing PR and having an awesome experience playing together with clan mates, in the PR tournament, and eventually developing the game, and I think Squad will eventually be there as well where it has a stable community that doesn’t have to deal with these dramatic changes to the game and periods of instability. I see Squad as a game that will be around the next 5 - 10 years, especially when modding comes into the picture.

It just takes some time and works to do it, and everyone really needs to remember this and bear with us as we make it happen. At the end of the day, if people need to take a break for a few months while we work this stuff out, it won’t be the end of the world, we’ll still be here working hard and trying to build something awesome for you guys.

Note that formatting has been preserved as closely as possible for clarity, but I did fix some grammar/duplicate words, 'cause we all have pet peeves, damnit.

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