This is the official announcement; Blade Symphony is going Free-to-Play (F2P.) We just recently solved some major problems with developing this, so I figure it would be a good time as any to actually talk about it. What all of this means is that a game that is currently sold for $4.99 on Steam and Humble Bundle, will be reduced to $0, and we’ll need to make money in other ways. Before I begin this diatribe of information for all of you, let me preface it with this, our goal is not money, it is players. I’ll check back with you at the end, and see if that point sticks out enough.
When We Started
There has been some confusion about when development on the Free-To-Play effort started; some people think that we started as early as mid-2016, or earlier. That’s wrong. We’ve been talking internally about Blade Symphony becoming a free-to-play game since as early as 2013. However, after implementing achievements in December of last year, we did not start development of Free-To-Play until March 11th, 2017., as illustrated by the number of changes per day from the middle of last year to the middle of this year:
Who’s Working On It
I’ve detailed this in a Puny Human blog post, but we’re not the 15 person team we used to be when developing this game. There’s 6 of us working on some other games for another studio, full time, and only one person working on Blade Symphony Free-To-Play part time. I first engaged this developer in late November of 2016, and he’s already done some amazing stuff. Let’s get into it.
One of the first thing’s that was done, was that we upgraded the engine version from the Portal 2 version of Source, to the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive version of Source. Doing this was a no-brainer, as it meant we wouldn’t need to write code for things we wanted, like porting to other platforms, better optimized maps and lighting, etc.
Our goal for Blade Symphony Free to Play is to have more players, not make money. We’ve received quite a bit of feedback from people who would like to play Blade Symphony on their Mac or Linux computers, so we put in the time and effort to ensure it runs native on those platforms!
Blade Symphony on Mac
Blade Symphony on Linux
We’re positive there have been people who refunded Blade Symphony because it didn’t support their language. Who wants to learn through a tutorial, when you can’t read one of the three languages Blade Symphony supports. So in addition to English, Russian and Japanese, we’re going to translate Blade Symphony into as many European, Western Asian and Eastern Asian languages as possible. We’re crowd sourcing this effort, so if you’d like to help, stay tuned.
The engine upgrade allowed us to get some better frame rates on our maps (omitting duel_box.) This should also affect overall performance of the game, in menus and popups.
Level over Rank Progression
This was a contentious point for us. The system of giving people a global rank based on ELO, placing them into a ladder on global rank, and prescribing a league based on their ladder position will have to go away. This system is powered through this pretty expansive website that communicates with the game. While we love this website and how it can do that for the game, it’s a pretty big dependency that is showing it’s age. I detail more about that here. Replacing it, is something that 90% of can be managed by Steam, a level system.
It’s simple; as you play a character, you gain experience points (XP.) You get a big XP bonus based on whether you won the duel or if you won any round at all. You also get XP modifiers based on a grade we give you in areas such as Stance Diversity, Tier Usage, Mobility, and Hit Redirection. This is to encourage use of the breadth that Blade Symphony’s tactical sword fighting gameplay offers. Finally, we’ll be handing out some bonuses based on whether it’s your first time playing of the day, the week or whether a special event is running.
A concept for an end-round screen.
It wouldn’t be much fun to progress in Blade Symphony if you weren’t given rewards for doing so. As such, we’re going to reward players based on their level by unlocking things like swords, masks, armor attachments, capes, sword glow types, intro backgrounds, foot step colors, sword glow colors, armor colors, scoreboard name color and in-game chat colors. Sword glow color, armor color, scoreboard name color and in-game chat colors will be specific color items that you unlock such as Phalanx’s sword glow color Greater Wing Royal Red, Pure’s armor color Hokuten Assassin Recruit Green, or Judgement’s armor color Murai Knight Executor Blue.
In addition to rewards based on your level, we’re also going to sell some content on the new Blade Symphony marketplace. Everyone who owns the game will get all of the in-game developer-made swords, masks, attachments and skins, and any capes unlocked with notes. This does not include capes given to those who won them under special circumstances; that’s exclusive to them. In addition, we’ll be adding intro backgrounds (named above, also unlockable,) and potentially intro emblems.
What’s Not Changing
Understand that the list of the following is not set in stone. Instead of having a third ‘maybe changing’ category, I’m putting everything into two bucks of “definitely changing” and “maybe or not changing.” This is the latter bucket.
New or Changed Moves
Sadly, new moves (attacks, blocks, emotes, bows, rolls, shuffles) mean new animations. We don’t currently have a developer that can animate and implement these. In addition, we would need an animator to properly balance the gameplay related moves (attacks, blocks, rolls and shuffles,) for each character. That’s a lot of time, a lot of expense, and nobody to do it.
New or Changed Characters
Some of the characters have some obvious graphical issues, and our sixth character was never completed. Because new characters in Blade Symphony aren’t as easy as making a new model, and adding it to a list, a sixth character would only happen if Free-To-Play does well or we get some kind of Kickstarter for it. Changes to characters are equally time consuming and expensive, because any time we change the mesh of a character, the UV map, texture, mask and attachment points and animations all either have to be modified or re-exported. That’s a chain of three different people right there.
We don’t have any level designers that are free to work on Blade Symphony. Even if we did, creating a new map also takes a few months. It’s unlikely we would do a new level at all, and it’s more likely we will touch up the ones we have for performance (stated above.) I’ve given thought into having a mapping contest, in the past, but when we did these for Dystopia we ended up having to significantly touch up the winning maps to meet the quality bar of the developer made maps.
When’s It Releasing
Hopefully, with Blade Symphony’s price being $0, it being available on two more platforms and in many more languages, our hope is that this will drive more players. As I said earlier, the goal isn’t to make money, but it helps things go faster.
There is no easily predictable timeline for Blade Symphony Free-To-Play, but we’re going as fast as we can with a single developer working on this. We’re going to shift one of our previous artists to help us with some much needed art related tasks on a part-time basis, and I hope that means that we can meet our current target. Our current target is End of January 2018.
Playing Free-To-Play Early
We need to be able to support the one, soon to be two, developers that work on Blade Symphony. In exchange for certain rewards like in-game icons, your name in the credits, a weekly live-stream from the developers and access to what we’re working on, you can support our Patreon here. Doing so will get you a key to the Blade Symphony Beta. As more people play the Beta, the more we can find and solve critical bugs, and release on time.
How You Can Help
We could really use some talented level designers or artists to help us make some new items, touch up our levels, animations or characters. I already know the perfect candidates for most people, because they’re the people who did it for us in the past. However, I can’t pay them in wishes and dreams. If you’ve already bought the game, and want to help out, consider telling a friend that we’re going Free-To-Play so that they may purchase it.
Lastly, if you can’t support us financially, consider joining our Discord and be a part of the community. There are weekly active pick-up games, some upcoming tournaments and a pretty chatty bunch of players.