Big Picture Update: Birthday Edition
Earlier this month we reached a big milestone: The Culling has been in Early Access for a full year! It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come in the last twelve months. With endless hard work from our talented team and unwavering dedication from the community, The Culling has really grown up. Mom would be so proud! Even after 365 days of murder and mayhem, our passion for The Culling hasn’t dulled in the slightest, and we’re thrilled to share a few of our plans for year two.
Without further Mountain Dew...
Perhaps the biggest item on the list for 2017 is the Xbox One launch.
Bringing The Culling to a new platform means a whole new audience will get their hands on the game and we couldn’t be more excited to see people bring BR, into the LR. That’s Battle Royale into the living room.
We’ve dabbed. We’re Hip.
Although UE4 makes it relatively easy for us to add a platform, it’s true that some of our attention will be divided moving forward. With that said, we remain dedicated to the PC and continuing to make smart development decisions that benefit the game’s global audience, ensuring that the Xaviant team can continue lavishing the community with updates for a long time to come across both platforms.
At this moment we’re still weighing whether to support cross-platform play due to the implications of competing with a controller vs. keyboard/mouse, but full controller support is a feature we know many PC players will be happy to receive. As you can imagine, making the game feel good on a controller is more than just mapping buttons and we think we have a handle on how to let players enjoy both ranged and melee combat using a gamepad.
Invert-able thumbsticks? Check. Dual-zone look sensitivity? Check. Aiming sensitivity and rotation assist? Check. Selectable control scheme presets? Check.
We have a few important changes coming to combat - and they’re coming with the next patch.
The first change addresses the weakness/feeble wounds. After observing the latest combat iteration, we’ve found that skilled players are able to consistently avoid taking damage after receiving a weakness wound, which means blocking still doesn’t offer a significant advantage in combat. We’re upping the intensity of the micro-stagger that accompanies weakness, so that blocking a player’s attack creates a true opportunity to capitalize.
The second change slightly more intense(and still subject to change based on internal play testing before we put it out in the wild).
At the upper levels of competition, players are taking advantage of the fact that being in a fully charged attack state is tremendously powerful, leading to stalemate scenarios (i.e. one player holds charged attack while the other player holds block) that aren’t fun to play or spectate.
TL;DR: Good players do this weird dance combat that’s as awkward as watching your dad try to both whip AND nae nae.
To address this, we’re no longer allowing players to hold a fully charged attack. Once a melee attack reaches full charge, it will execute automatically. Further, players will no longer be able to cancel an attack by blocking. While this technique can create some interesting moments, it doesn’t fit our overall vision of combat. Charged attacks should be very powerful for capitalizing on an opportunity (i.e. against a staggered or unaware opponent), however, they should also be risky under normal combat circumstances due to a likelihood of being blocked.
Finally, we are removing the non-obvious mini-stagger that occurs if you are struck by an attack while you are shoving. This was implemented some time ago to discourage players spamming shove, but we don’t think it has a meaningful place in the current combat system.
There are a few more balance changes that will be finding their way into the next patch:
Dig Deep will restore 10 HP (instead of 20), properly plays SFX when it procs
Leg Day is being removed
Speedy Spear now improves movement speed by 5% (previously 7%)
Duration of the expose wound (imparted by Axes) is now 4 seconds (previously 6 seconds)
Economy and Progression
We have quite a few changes planned for the economy and match progression.
Early match airdrops are being removed (this will be included in the next patch)
Airdrop purchasing will be based on FUNC accumulated, not current FUNC balance, meaning you can spend FUNC on crafting and healing without impacting your ability to call your Airdrop
The Airdrop list will be revised heavily to include fun themed options as well as vanilla choices similar to the ones that currently exist
Mid- and Late-match events and airdrops will be triggered primarily by player attrition. Mid-match begins after 4 contestants die, Late-match begins after 8 contestants die. Timers will still be used as backups for slow-moving matches.
Tier 2 weapons no longer spawn in lockers, only found in green crates.
We believe these changes will make Airdrops more accessible and desirable (regardless of the pace of the match) and also ensure that each match has two match events to spice things up.
Under the Hood
Although we’re continuing to work on shiny new features and balance work, there’s a lot going on that won’t be visible to the naked eye. We’re upgrading to the latest version of the Unreal Engine (4.15), which brings with it a host of optimizations that should improve load times, memory footprint, frame rate performance, and networking efficiency for many users.
We’ve also done quite a bit of targeted optimization of our client-side network behavior, resulting in a major reduction in the number and size of messages being sent to and from the game servers. This has allowed us to increase our server tick rate substantially, and should provide a better online experience for everyone.
Have you ever found yourself stuck in a block or taking an action you didn’t intend? We’ve rewritten our input system to be more robust and eliminate the types of bugs that occur when you switch weapons or change states during combat. Hopefully you won’t feel much of a difference, but you’ll find the controls to be consistently responsive and reliable, just as you’d expect.
The Big House update brought with it lots of new features, and throughout 2017 we hope to introduce many more. Two of the most critical are matchmaker filtering (allowing you to specify teams vs. solo and classic vs. lightning if you choose) and seasonal ranked play.
Matchmaker filtering will be coming with the next patch and ranked play will follow soon after the Xbox One launch. We are also excited to expand our private match feature set to allow more customization and better support of community tournaments.
We’re also excited to experiment with new game modes. We’re even working on a fast-paced offline horde survival mode that’s intended to let novice players hone their combat skills against waves of mandroids and provide veteran players with a challenging diversion.
As we knock out the big features on our list, we’re looking forward to engaging the community about what you’re hoping to see next.
Leaving Early Access
The Culling will be exiting the Early Access program in 2017. We don’t have a date to share just yet, but our goal has always been to officially launch the game when it’s ready. For us, Early Access isn’t a permanent label, it’s a phase of our project that we’re using to release The Culling in the best possible form.
That means that the coming months will see lots of polishing and bug fixing as we strive to attain the level of fit and finish we think the game deserves. To that end, we’re working to build a small in-house QA team to help us discover issues, vet community bug reports, and verify our fixes to provide our future updates with a higher level of quality and stability.
Once we exit Early Access we’ll continue to patch and update the game, but those updates will be geared towards adding content, features, and variety, rather than fixing bugs or iterating core features.
The community has been invaluable so far on our Early Access journey and we will continue to rely on your feedback and support as we move forward.
In the year that we’ve been in Early Access, we’ve seen the cullmunity create some incredible content. On platforms such as Twitch and YouTube, players have put together montages, hosted tournaments and have even held regular roundtable discussions centered entirely around the game.
Now it’s our turn to return the favor.
We’re excited to announce that starting next week we will be launching weekly Official live streams. Viewers can expect to not only learn more about The Culling as a game, but also get to know the developers behind it and the community that supports it.
We will have more information on this very shortly, so make sure you’re following us on Twitter, Facebook and Twitch for the latest!
So when are all of these changes coming?
The next patch will include matchmaking, combat changes, removal of early airdrops, and a few other balance changes. It should arrive next week (March 22nd). Look for official patch notes as that date nears.
There will likely be one more patch after that before the Xbox One launch. That patch will bring the live PC version up to date with all of the under the hood (Unreal Engine 4.15) and economy / Airdrop / match progression changes detailed above. We’re not ready to estimate a date for that yet.
We will patch the PC again to coincide with the Xbox One launch, and from there we expect ongoing updates every 4-6 weeks, with smaller hotfixes as necessary.
The Culling had an amazing first year. Our little team never imagined the response we would get when the game first launched, nor did we fully grasp the magnitude of the task that still lay ahead. This journey has been a wild ride, an unparalleled learning experience, and an absolute joy. You, the cullmunity, have made it possible. We thank you for your passion, your feedback, your kind words, and your uncanny ability to smash, shoot, poison, and slash each other to death.
We’ll see you on the island!