Super People’s major update

It’s been 1 month+ since Super People released and the developers just announced their first major update to the game so I thought I’d write a small post on it.

My previous posts on the game:

In these posts I roughly analyzed the game’s design from a personality trait based framework and followed up on my thoughts whenever the devs changed the game’s design in any significant way.

For a very brief recap, in the Thoughts on Super People’s final beta, I mentioned my suggestions from the previous articles based on what I thought would make the game more harmonious from a personality perspective:

  • Class selection: change it so it can be chosen freely instead of being given at random
  • Levelling + passives: no change
  • Gear grinding (needing to find materials in game): remove entirely
  • Personal supply: no change
  • Armory: change so that it has more impactful upgrades and non-random weapon effects
  • TTK: keep it low or lower it

The reasoning for these suggestions can be found in the Super People design review post. What the devs actually did in the final beta and when shipping the game to Early Access was largely a compromise between my suggestions and their needs:

  • Class selection: unlocks classes gradually but still random, easing players into the game
  • Levelling + passives: no change
  • Gear grinding: vastly simplified but not removed
  • Personal supply: no change
  • Armory: more deterministic but still fairly random
  • TTK: somewhat increased but not that much

The way I initially reacted to these compromises was like this:

I initially read all of these less aggressive changes as normal big company risk averse kinds of decisions. This is a serious game made by serious people, so you can’t just go around abruptly changing the game too significantly left and right like I suggested.

I also often talk about how I think this kind of thinking is frequently wrong. How the middle ground solution is often a toxic slow-burning pit of disillusionment”, and how often times in life there are situations where the correct course of action is either 0 or 1: you either don’t do something or you do it with full commitment, no room for anything in between.

This is an idea that has worked very well for me and that I see working very well for other people, so it’s just one of those things that I think are True about human existence. Given that this is the case, it’s obvious that I’ll also apply it to game design and prefer high level solutions that go hard one way or another.

All of this to say, my initial reaction to all these middleground changes right before the beta started was like: there’s nothing wrong here necessarily, but it kind of isn’t a good sign that they’re playing it this safe. Still, the game is pretty fun, it’s not like the changes are going to ruin it, so let’s see what’s up before judging it too harshly.

And then I came around to it by noticing that they would use the ticket system as an additional way of monetizing the game, and these middle ground changes worked well with that in mind. At the end of the day they ended up not doing that, and they simply decided to give people tickets for free every day they logged into the game. Either this was their plan from the start, or they changed their minds once they saw how people reacted to how the store was monetized (very poorly, game still has a mixed review score on Steam because of it).

Either way, despite this one miss, for this new update, which can be seen in the stream below:

… the devs decided on the following changes:

  • Class selection: can be chosen freely instead of being given at random
  • Levelling + passives: massively simplified and streamlined
  • Gear grinding (finding materials in game): removed entirely
  • Personal supply: no change
  • Armory: no change
  • TTK: still not clear but they want to encourage more fighting, which is good in general

And these changes look a lot like my initial suggestions, which is a big win for this personality-based way of analyzing a game’s design. The devs have a much more detailed view of their game than I could possibly have, and so the fact that they reached the same conclusions as I did means that this framework allows me to map reality accurately, which allows me to make correct decisions going from there.

A small re-analysis of the situation though is useful. In my first post on this game I came to the following conclusions:

So to summarize, here’s what the game’s system currently look like:

  • Classes: adds variety to the game (+open)
  • Class selection: random class selection adds even more variety (+open)
  • Levelling + passives: predictability and grinding, but passives are random (neutral)
  • Gear grinding: adds quite a lot of grinding to each round (+cons)
  • Personal supply: adds some predictability to each round (+cons)
  • Armory: adds some predictability and grind, but weapon effects are random (neutral)

And so if we look at this we have a game that’s roughly neutral on the whole, with some additions favoring the highly open, some favoring the highly conscientious, and some pulling both ways and ending up neutral. Given that the base game itself is somewhat neutral, except that it doesn’t appeal to those low in openness, but we have a system that fixes that (gear grind + material markers), we could look at this and say that the game is very well balanced personality wise.

But as I mentioned before, all these elements have to align harmoniously, and this current set of mechanics doesn’t for all the reasons mentioned above. So the changed systems look like this:

  • Classes: same as before (+open)
  • Class selection: changed so that players can choose their class (+cons)
  • Levelling + passives: same as before (neutral)
  • Gear grinding: removed (-cons)
  • Personal supply: same as before (+cons)
  • Armory: more impactful and with non-random weapon effects (+cons)

This version of the game would be heavier on favoring the highly conscientious, but that’s a good thing because now this happens in a more contained manner.

Before, both classes and gear grinding were things that changed the base game, now only classes do. This means that the base game is more tilted towards the highly open, but this feels coherent because it’s a 30 minute max round and you don’t really have time to grind things out that much, so a mechanic that encourages grinding is in conflict with how the game plays.

Compare this to a game like Risk of Rain, for instance, which has a potentially much longer run length, and thus any mechanic involving grinding in a single run will fit it better. The time mechanic also works well with this, since it’s a pretty significant constraint that also increases difficulty, both things that the highly conscientious will like, so both this and longer runs go together and feel very harmonious.

But with SP because each round length is fairly fixed and small, you have to go for something similar to what other roguelites do which is to keep each run pure, and then add things that appeal to the conscientious outside of it. In this case, class selection, personal supply and armory are all systems that happen outside any given match but that add predictability to it.

I divided the game into what favored the highly open and highly conscientious and made the argument that everything that favors the highly conscientious should be moved out of the game and happen between rounds, while the game itself should remain pure and slightly favor the highly open.

What the devs are going to do with this update is just that, but a slightly better version of it that didn’t occur to me at the time. If you look at the stream I posted above, quite a lot of the changes they’re going to make have to do with making the game simpler and more streamlined. Here’s the list of everything they’re going to change that I wrote while watching the stream:

1. Main goals

  • Reduce clutter
  • Make the game more clear cut

2. Fast-paced gameplay

  • Faster looting
  • Faster gunfights

3. Major changes

  • Level simplification
  • Skill simplification
  • Remove crafting system
  • Faster movement
  • Shorter wait times

4. Class overhaul

  • Max level from 27 to 12
  • All 9 passive skills become 3 skills and 1 ultimate
  • Start at level 3 to increase early fighting

5. Remove specialized weapons, level stats, reduced stat checks

6. Remove damage log, show HP bar instead

7. Remove crafting system

  • Pros
    • Reduced dependency on gear
    • Motivates movement
    • Sense of achievement
  • Cons
    • Requires constant attention
    • Creates unnecessary learning curve
    • Promotes excessive looting

8. Reduced weapon tiers, now 5 tiers instead of 7

9. Reduced equipment tiers, now 3 instead of 7

10. Kill bonuses gives you levels up to 3 kills, which encourages fighting

11. Capsules removed

  • White capsules give 1 level
  • Gold capsules gives 2 levels
  • Find materials UI replaced with find capsules UI, to encourage fighting

12. Increased movement speed

  • Largely increased base movement speed
  • Faster parkour
  • Faster landing
  • Sliding available to all classes

13. 80 players on 60 players map

  • Higher population density
  • Increased fighting

14. Class picking system rework

  • Free tickets wasn’t perfect solution
  • Gold no longer needed to pick classes
  • No more rerolls, just pick whatever class you want

15. Battle pass, no more temporary cash shop items

16. New class and Demolisher + Titan rework

17. Replay system, potentially ranked matches

The ones I already went over are 7 and 14, while 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13 are largely about simplifying the game. These would all fall into the section that I previously called levelling + passives”, and my suggestions for that aspect of the game was to largely leave it unchanged.

This was because this is an aspect that was fairly harmonious already: you were granted new passives randomly, which favored the open; but there was some grinding you had to do each match to get to max level, which favored the conscientious.

However, one aspect of this that I didn’t realize so strongly then but that’s more obvious now, is that the inherent complexity of the game also favors the more open. This is obvious with the addition of classes, which I did mention:

By definition the addition of classes adds variety to the game, which favors the highly open. Even if all you do is play with a single class, you still need to learn how to play against the other 11 and learn the intricacies of each match up.

But it was not obvious to me with passives. The fact that each class had 9 passives and specialized weapons struck me as a cool RPG aspect of the game that I enjoyed, but I didn’t really consider it to be overly complex, because I’m highly open, and one thing the highly open enjoy is higher cognitive load, so, for me, having to pay attention to which of the 9 passives I have currently and acting accordingly is fun, but I can clearly see now how it might be a little too much for other people.

One clear example of this that still gets me to this day is all cover” type of passives. These are passives where if you’re leaning left/right while shooting you get a damage buff. Because this class of passives exists only for some classes, I still haven’t managed to add leaning” as something that I do automatically when shooting. Sometimes I do it, sometimes I don’t, but in the heat of the moment I can’t remember to do it consistently.

And so applying this to all other passives the game has, it’s easy to see how it might be too much for people. So knowing this, what the levelling + passives simplifications do to the game is that they’re still harmonious and favoring both types of personality, since you still have to level up and you still get new passives/skills randomly, but it’s a much more muted version of it.

Before, the levelling + passives system captured both the highly open and the highly conscientious. If you were to think of it as a normal distribution, it captured the extremes of this distribution for both traits well. As we all know, every time you’re capturing the extremes of such distributions you’re capturing less people than if you targetted the middle.

So what these changes do is to bring the window of who they’re capturing closer to the center for both traits. The grinding is still there, but it’s vastly diminished. The randomness/complexity from passives/skills is still there, but it’s also vastly diminished. This should, in theory, capture more people than what the game captured previously.

So if I were to redo my open vs. cons analysis of the game’s design it would be something like this:

  • Classes: adds variety to the game (+open)
  • Class selection: class can be chosen at will (+cons)
  • Levelling + passives: simplified and streamlined (neutral but more muted)
  • Gear grinding: removed (-cons)
  • Personal supply: same as before (+cons)
  • Armory: same as before (neutral)

And this is largely in line with what I initially suggested the game should be like. Coupled with all the changes to put more weight on fighting and making the game more fast-paced rather than looting/grinding, I think these are all very very positive changes.

The developers didn’t talk about this, but since they’re making the game more fast-paced and also increasing the limit of players per match, the only way they can make this work while keeping matchmaking times low is to decrease the amount of time each match takes to complete. This makes sense, since if you want to increase fighting all you have to do is make the circle contract faster, which also keeps the game alive for longer since if matches are shorter people will die faster which makes matchmaking faster.

All of these things are very good for the game’s future and if the game performs better than what it did so far after this update, then this will be a very strong signal that this personality trait based analysis of a game’s design is very powerful and useful. I’m very curious to see how it goes.

And speaking of performance, it’s worth looking at how the game did in its first month:

This is definitely not good, but it’s also not too bad. It’s a fairly controlled drop of about ~500 concurrent players a day, which gives the devs enough time to work on their next update, push it with some good marketing, try to get a new concurrent all-time peak and then spend the next few months bleeding players and try again, until they find a formula that sustains itself better.

As I mentioned in the skill death spirals post regarding low TTK and high luck = higher retention, the fact that the drop in players so far has been this controlled gives me more confidence that that theory is right.

This seems to especially be the true given that Rumbleverse itself seems to have had a much much more steep drop in player numbers, as when I was 1 month into the game’s release I stopped playing since I couldn’t get a match that wasn’t like 50% bots. And with how Super People is doing now, where I can get matches without any bots pretty much all the time, comparatively it’s just doing a lot better.

But yea, now it’s a matter of just waiting and seeing how the player numbers go after this major update is released. From my analysis the game should be able to reach more people and to ease new players into the game more effectively, which means that whatever marketing efforts the developers engage in should be more effective than they were when they released the game in Early Access.

However, I’m not so sure if retention itself will be better, since the game’s simplification has a chance to not work for the more extreme (in terms of openness and conscientiousness) parts of the playerbase, which might lead to worse retention. For the first month retention was about ~500 concurrent loss per day, so I can compare that to 1 month after the update is released to see if it’s better or not. I have no strong opinions on how it’ll be either way, but I’m leaning towards it not being an issue.

Anyway, that’s all I wanted to write I think. The fact that the developers keep converging on what I’ve been writing about in these posts is wild to me, since it means that I’m looking at reality accurately at a very high level and from a fairly information starved perspective. If the game does significantly better in the next update than it has done so far then that will be it, and it will be all the confirmation I need for all this analysis to be proven right. I guess we’ll see.

2022-11-17 09:35