Combo Breaker: Stagger Returns

Greetings Contestants!

It’s April and we’re thawing from a winter freeze and feeling the excitement of sunshine and new potential. Earlier this month we leaked a little bit of info about what’s to come with The Culling, and we weren’t fooling.

What’s old is new again, and what’s new is newer than ever before.

Point blank: Stagger is back.

[Servers will be down on Wednesday April 26th at 8AM EST and maintenance will continue for up to four hours.]

But that’s not all! Along with the Stagger comes a host of new tweaks and variations to help improve the flow of gameplay and return some of the “show” in the game show that is The Culling. Heck, we even went in and threw in a new training mode for good measure!

Many of these changes are based on key feedback from the community and we’re excited to hear what you think about them once they go live!

Until then..

See you in the arena.



  • New Combat Mechanics

    • Return of stagger on block: Players are now staggered if they attack a blocking opponent (replaces Weakness and Feeble wounds)

      • Dev comments: The nature of Weakness/Feeble created scenarios where it was nearly impossible to overcome a HP disadvantage because the Weakened player was capable of forcing damage trades. We want players to have the opportunity to overcome any HP deficit through skillful play- Stagger creates that opportunity.

    • Stagger duration is now 1.2s (previously 1.7s)

      • Dev comments: The original rationale for replacing stagger with Weakness was that at nearly 2 seconds, Stagger was disruptive to the flow of a combat encounter, making the action feel stilted and forcing players of all skill levels to spend too much time in a stunned state. Cutting the Stagger duration by half a second makes it feel more like a large hit reaction than an extended stun.

    • New combo system — allows you to follow up any successful combat action (block, attack, or shove) with an additional action very quickly

      • Dev comments: Stagger times were previously set to 1.7 seconds in order to give players enough time to capitalize with an attack and avoid a jab-back when the stagger wore off. In order to reduce Stagger time significantly, we need a tool that allows players to avoid an inevitable jab-back.
        The new combo system allows a skilled player to punish the Staggered player and transition quickly into a block if they expect a jab-back. This generally increases the skill ceiling for combat by requiring better positioning and timing to capitalize on a Stagger (a fully charged attack is no longer guaranteed), as well as creating new decisions where a players must quickly decide how to combo their actions. A side benefit is that skilled play is rewarded with faster and more responsive combat actions.

  • New Modes: Offline Survival (Basic and Advanced)

    • Dev comments: This mode was born of a desire to give new and veteran players an offline space where they can develop their skills in an environment that concentrates the action into a fast-paced battle for survival against wave after wave of AI bots. This takes place in a brand-new arena with custom-tailored Culminators.

  • New Items

    • Lung Butter Stim: Increases stamina pool by 10 points

    • Hemo Drip Stim: Recovers 5 HP instantly, and an additional 20hp over 20 seconds

  • Updated Economy for Classic Matches

    • Holospawner contents are now hidden until purchased

      • Dev comments: Though strategic, previous iteration of Holospawners made it too easy for a player to obtain a gun, with the result that guns were almost guaranteed to appear in most matches. We want Holospawners to represent a bit of a gamble rather than a sure-fire path to a specific item.

    • Holospawner contents and costs update with each match phase (Early: 50 FUNC, Mid 100 FUNC, Late 200 FUNC)

      • Dev comments: We want Holospawners to have meaning for everyone throughout the match, rather than only being available to players who’ve accumulated several kills. With the new scheme, there are several viable Airdrop/Holospawner strategies, with a healthy dose of RNG thrown into the mix to keep things interesting.

    • Airdrop availability is now based on accumulated FUNC (previously required players to to spend their FUNC to call an Airdrop)

      • Dev comments: The goal here is to encourage use of all economy sinks (Crafting, Health Stations, Holospawners) throughout the match, rather than requiring players to hoard their FUNC in order to access a Late-match Airdrop. The net result is that Airdrops will be more accessible and players will be free to spend their FUNC without worrying how that impacts Airdrop availability.

    • Recycle values increased for many items

      • Dev comments: While it’s good to have systems that promote aggressive play (we don’t want everyone hiding in a bush until the end of the match), we think the early match scavenging process is an important part of the game that needs to offer real value in terms of pursuing an expensive Airdrop or Holospawner.

    • Kills reward 45 FUNC (previously 60)

      • Dev comments: This goes hand-in-hand with the increased recycle values change. We’re shifting the balance of the economy to be more balanced in terms of rewarding all types of active play, not just killing sprees.

    • Airdrop Costs adjusted (75 FUNC for Utility, 100 FUNC for Mid-Match, 150-200 FUNC for Late-Match, 0 for Bait Crate)

    • All Airdrops can now be called a maximum of one time

    • 10 Green Crates spawn per classic match (previously 20)

      • Dev comments: The goal here is to make Tier 2 weapons more valuable in the Early phase of the match due to scarcity. The only way to get a Tier 2 early will be to purchase it in a Holospawner (costs 50 FUNC, not guaranteed) or to find one in a Green Crate (few of them in the match, also not guaranteed).

    • Green Crates are no longer found inside of buildings

    • Tier 2 weapons no longer spawn in lockers

    • Fewer duplicate items found within a building

    • Buildings offer better consistency in terms of number of items per building, based on size

  • Updated Match Progression for Classic mode

    • Match events now trigger based on player attrition (with a timer as a backup)

      • Mid-match event/airdrops begin when 25% of players have died (or after 6:00 elapsed)

      • Late-match event/airdrops begin when 50% of players have died (or after 9:00 elapsed)

      • Dev comments: We are confident in our approach to match and weapon progression - every match gets more lethal over time and every tier of weapon is viable, depending on how far the match has progressed. This new system ensures that no matter whether a match is aggressive or passive, Mid- and Late-match Airdrops represent viable choices and the match events are guaranteed to to reward players who successfully participate.

  • Armor now absorbs 10%, 15%, or 20% of incoming damage, depending on armor type (previously a flat rate of 50%), armor HP remains unchanged

    • Dev comments: The way armor worked previously almost guaranteed that it would be fully utilized in a single fight, meaning that if you survived a fight but encountered an armored vulture, your HP deficit was magnified. Armor effectively extended your HP pool by a large  amount for a single encounter. Armor now has less impact on an individual fight by offering a maximum of 20% damage reduction, and will now typically last over the course of multiple encounters.

  • Kill Perks are now Reward Perks

    • Kill Another player: Ol’ Painless (+10% damage dealt)

    • Travel 2000 meters: Big Lungs (+10 stamina pool)

    • Collect 100 FUNC: Big Boned (+10 health pool)

    • Dev comments: In keeping with the economy changes geared towards promoting activity rather than only rewarding kills, Kill Perks have been refactored.

  • New Airdrops Added

    • 10 new themed mid-match airdrops containing T2 weapons and additional items

    • 9 new themed late-match airdrops containing T3 weapons and additional items

  • New Input System to provide consistently responsive controls and eliminate bugs related to state changes

  • Full Controller Support

    • All game menus support controller navigation

    • Adjustable horizontal/vertical look sensitivity

    • Horizontal/vertical look axes can be inverted

    • Adjustable aim sensitivity assist

    • Adjustable rotational aim assist

    • Adjustable aim assist lock duration

    • Dual-zone look sensitivity

    • Multiple controller layouts

  • Updated Melee Weapon Balance

    • Damage has been updated for all melee weapons based on the following scheme (note that individual weapons deviate slightly from these values):

      • Fists, Rocks Sticks: 4-8

      • Crafted: 4-13

      • T1: 5-15

      • T2: 6-18

      • T3: 7-22

      • T4: 8-27

    • Dev comments: With the new combat changes, fights tend to be faster-paced, so this was a good opportunity to revisit weapon damage numbers.  We tried to follow a few rules of thumb: Having a weapon provides a tremendous advantage vs. being unarmed. A manufactured T1 has a small advantage over crafted - otherwise crafted is always the go-to choice because it costs less (vs. the recycle value of a T1) and allows you to choose which weapon type you want (no RNG element).
      The magnitude of the step from one tier to the next grows with each tier, which helps incentivize going for the next higher tier despite the additional cost. The top damage-dealer of a given tier is never better than the worst damage-dealer of the next tier up, regardless of wounds (the last iteration had some issues with this).

  • Added several new spots where players can find T1 melee weapons (replaces FUNC piles that randomly spawned with T2 melee weapons)

  • General

    • Framerate optimizations

    • Load time optimizations

    • Major lighting pass including a new filmic tonemapper

    • Polish and improvements to Survival Island and Cul County Correctional maps

    • New CHAS voice calls

    • Increased number of bots in offline matches to 15

    • Fixed bug where changing user settings would re-apply default settings - often resulting in unintended/undesired graphics settings

    • Headshots ignore armor

    • Various bot AI improvements

    • HUD UI refinements

    • Crafted Explosives are no longer available in Lightning Rounds

    • Fixed display bug with hours played on profile screen that caused it to reset after 24 hours

    • Fixed several stability issues that could lead to crashes or hangs

    • Improved character hair visuals

    • Drop My Bridges now awards a random airdrop (previously allowed a player to call their airdrop for free)

    • Backstab bonus  damage has been removed by default, Brutus perk now grants a +25% bonus (previously +50%)

      • Dev comments: With the new combo system, backstabs typically allow for multiple hits to land quickly, which serves as a built-in bonus.

    • Lightning Mode Airdrops adjusted to remove guns and explosives from several drops

  • Dev comments: Lightning Rounds are meant to be a fast-paced alternative to Classic matches, with a few novelty Airdrops that really shake things up from time to time. A large proportion of the Lightning Airdrops contained a gun and/or an explosive, which meant that too many Airdrops had the “novelty” flavor. We’ve adjusted a handful of them so that the overall list is a little more traditional.
    • Replaced temporary Airdrop landing pad music