They have spent more than three long years for the Battalion of 1944. Announced in a Kickstarter campaign in February 2016, their promise of an old-school competitive shooter inspired by those of the early 2000s, such as Counter-Strike and Call of Duty 2, marked a chord. It was fully funded and won an unconditional and passionate community in just three days.
After about two more years of full production, the game was released in Steam Early Access. The servers were overwhelmed immediately, the pairings had problems, and after a big initial spike, the player count collapsed. More bad news followed, as the community sounded about the balance of the map and the weapons, cheaters, mistakes, Kickstarter rewards and more.
But it seems that everything was worth it in the end. The full launch of the v1.0 battalion in early June was their second chance: player populations increased again, but this time the servers faced and played they liked what they saw. Recent feedback, in particular from prominent streamers like Shroud, has been largely positive. Almost a month later, player counts are still healthy.
It has been a good walk, in other words. We contacted Joe Brammer, studio director of developer Bulkhead, and asked him to reflect on three hard but ultimately rewarding years of intense community development, and take a quick look at the future of the Battalion.
PCGN: I appreciate that it has changed a lot, but how has the environment been in the study between Early Access and 1.0?
When people call us liars and criminals, I get
Joe Brammer: Honestly? It was a roller coaster. We had things in our personal lives that did not completely help our mood, but in the end, the criticism we received from the players, usually outside our very close early access community, really affected us, especially me. . I definitely needed a change of pace.
It's easy for those who have not been in this situation to say "just ignore them", but I really care about the 1944 Battalion, and even more so my team at Bulkhead. Then, when people start calling us "shit developers" and "liars and criminals", it really affects me. In general, I've learned to deal with that, but I probably always have a chip on my shoulder from this experience, and I agree with that.
At your lowest point, were you ever tempted to give up the game?
JB: Sometimes making the game feel really bad. We were not happy, but we always wanted to take out the 1944 Battalion and make it a success. We had something to prove and we knew that the game we launched in Early Access was not the best we could do; It was just our first attempt at a really difficult task. The credit is really due to our team of developers, because day after day, they all found ways to improve the game.
My job was to generally take the heat and be the voice dev for the opinions of the community. However, we were not going to give up, no. The roughly 200 people who spent time in "the dark times," who gave us small compliments and words of encouragement every few weeks, had a greater impact on the study than they will probably realize.
Looking back on the development up to this point, would you do something different?
JB: Obviously, this is something that we discuss in the studio all the time, to try to learn from our decisions. At that time, every decision we made seemed to be the right one. There are always hidden restrictions that players simply do not even know exist, so when something seems like a stupid idea, they usually just yell "dumb developers". All I would say is that sometimes we have to do something in a certain way. Sure, I would have liked to have been better at everything, but I think if you look at the full version, I'd say we're better now. As a result of our mistakes and learning, from communication with our community to testing and balance, we have one year of experience in the execution of a shooter. We are honored to receive this second opportunity, but we also feel that it is a second opportunity we deserve.
Do you think a developer needs thick skin to follow the model you have?
JB: I would say that developers generally need to have thick skin, yes, but not so much for our model. Our model tries to show our passion and expose players to the rigors of game development. Sometimes, that means I call a boy who shouts "WHY ARE DEVELOPERS NOT ALLOWED TO FIX THIS PROBLEM, ARE NOT YOU FOUND?" A jerk, to put it crudely.
However, it also means being able to tell people passionately how grateful we are to have the opportunity to do a shooter in the first place. Our model tries to show that we really believe in our games. We return to one of your previous questions: we never consider leaving it or not supporting it, because we agreed to end the game when we sent it to Early Access. Either way, we've definitely developed a thicker skin, but we must make sure we do not use that new thicker skin to start ignoring people.
It is difficult to change an opinion after it has been formed. Why do you think so many people gave you that second chance and returned to the Battalion with 1.0, instead of discarding it forever during Early Access?
JB: Simple: the game is really fun to play. The fun factor of Battalion 1944 is transferred really well to the ten-second clips that people are watching on Twitter, whether Shroud is achieving an incredible photo or a random player in Brazil that is eliminated. Cut it out
What role have streamers played in your current success?
Sometimes that means I call a man a jerk, to put it crudely.
JB: It is no secret that the serpentines helped the 1944 Battalion to stand up. We did not pay any streamer, we did not have the amount of money necessary to do it, but we did provide codes to content creators when necessary. The low price of the game was also attractive to many of the main streamers; They did not bother looking for a code, they just bought it themselves, which was great to see.
I think the streamers helped the full launch grow. Faster more than anything, so I think we would have had a similar level of success over a longer period of time, even without them. However, it is always good to have your favorite transmitters saying that the game is great. The 1944 Battalion is not a broadcast fashion: we want to continue supporting the game and we have a great content planned for next year, with some incredible retro game modes that return to the FPS genre.
Exhaustion in a particular game is a common complaint among users, given their game. Are you worried about keeping your interest?
JB: We will never fully maintain your interest; Battalion 1944 does not have enough RNG elements for that. I trust that users will continue to come back when we post an interesting update or make a change to the goal, or even when we announce our sports plans and competitions, but for the most part we are happy that the few thousand players who have posted after the fiasco of Early Access, in general, we are very happy with the result of the 1944 Battalion.
How far we have come: Check out our preview of Battalion 1944 from your first public demonstration, back in EGX Rezzed 2017
With version 1.0, what are your plans for continuous support?
JB: We are currently committed to Faceit's competitive season lasting a month, more or less. At the end of this first season, we will make adjustments to the balance and the goal to give a feeling of freshness to each of the following seasons.
We do not seek to "monetize excessively" the game and, instead, we will rely on a more charitable and supportive approach, launching unique items that people can buy to help support the game financially, as we continue to work on new content for the game. Our main quarterly updates will generally contain these unique elements, but will also be released with a new special event mode each time. We keep updating the game on a weekly basis, but we do not want to simply launch content blindly to people; It is too much to digest, especially in a competitive game where dominance is such an important part of our ecosystem.
From version 1.0, you continue to reach more than 4k a day. Do you think you finally have something stable in the long term now?
JB: Yes, we are seeing that the game is conformed for now, we are on the moon with the numbers that we are seeing. Our goal is to surpass our historical maximum of around 16k in 2019, for now we are still updating, balancing and improving the game with the community when we are about to take our first "appropriate" step in the competitions. We still have many wished, since the game has only been put on sale at most 20 percent, and we have never used a free weekend. However, we are here for the long term and we are not in a hurry. We are very happy to enjoy the game with our community that we have had to know quite well during the last year.
What is your honest evaluation / expectation for the perspectives of the game from now on?
JB: I think it looks very positive. If your goal is to get more players, there are still many opportunities for us to reach new players. We know very well that we have not yet reached our maximum potential, but as I said, we are still happy to be able to play our own dream game with non-bot players.