This is the press release from OWI today:
THE PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE OF COMBAT IN SQUAD
Squad traces its roots back to the esteemed Project Reality mod for Battlefield 2. The mod’s immersive and realistic combat mechanics garnered immense praise and a dedicated following, laying the foundation for Squad’s creation. Its emphasis on teamwork, communication, and coordination as essential ingredients to triumph became the driving force behind our vision for Squad.
From the outset, our aim was to build upon the success of Project Reality, propelling the gameplay experience to unprecedented heights. We understood that the mod’s quality stemmed from its demand for collaborative teamwork, where victory hinged on players relying on one another to achieve shared objectives.
Yet, during Squad’s development, we faced the inevitable temptation to stray from this original vision. Influenced by prevailing shooter trends and the desire for broader appeal, we found ourselves at times prioritizing individual skill and instant gratification over the core principles that made Project Reality exceptional. The evolving gaming industry, with its emphasis on fast-paced action and solo play, gradually seeped into Squad’s design choices, leading to mechanics and features that favored a more independent playstyle and somewhat diluted the importance of teamwork and coordination.
The current state of infantry combat in Squad presents a mixed picture with both positive and negative aspects. On the positive side, teamwork can still yield rewarding experiences. When players effectively coordinate their actions, execute well-planned strategies, and communicate seamlessly, they can achieve remarkable feats on the battlefield. These moments of collective triumph are the core strength of Squad and create lasting memories, highlighting the importance of collaboration.
However, there are several notable concerns regarding the combat systems in Squad. One significant hurdle is the tendency towards individualistic gameplay under their current iteration. Instances occur where a lone wolf flanker can single-handedly decimate an entire squad, undermining the emphasis on teamwork and coordination. This individualistic nature detracts from the intended immersive and cooperative experience.
Recognizing this drift from our roots, we have decided to take a decisive step towards rectification and realignment. Our upcoming changes to the infantry combat systems signify a renewed focus on fostering an environment that thrives on teamwork, communication, and coordination. By acknowledging and addressing these past deviations, we recommit ourselves to delivering an authentic and immersive experience reminiscent of the vision we set out with for Squad.
WHERE WE ARE GOING.
Moving forward, our primary goal is to steer Squad’s combat systems towards a greater emphasis on teamwork and cooperation. We have learned valuable lessons from our previous work and player feedback, which have highlighted the need to enhance the gameplay experience by fostering a stronger sense of camaraderie and strategic decision-making.
To achieve these goals, we are approaching the changes we want to implement in a deliberate and comprehensive manner. We have conducted extensive research, analyzed player behavior patterns, and engaged in internal testing to fine-tune our approach. By adopting the “see-think-speak-do” philosophy, we aim to create a combat system that encourages players to observe the battlefield, analyze the situation, communicate effectively with their squadmates, and take purposeful actions.
One of the key changes we are implementing is to create longer firefights and provide more opportunities for tactical choices as a squad. By adjusting the pacing and dynamics of combat, we aim to extend the duration of engagements, allowing players to make informed decisions and employ various tactics to overcome the situation. This will not only deepen the tactical aspect of Squad but also generate more memorable war story moments that players can share and reminisce about.
In addition, we are striving to make combat more approachable for players of all skill levels. We understand the importance of creating an inclusive environment where new players can feel useful and contribute to the overall success of the squad. By providing opportunities for newcomers to engage in suppressive fire or support roles, while experienced players execute flanking maneuvers and decisive pushes, we aim to strike a balance that promotes both learning and effective teamwork.
During our internal testing, we have already witnessed significant shifts in player behavior. The changes we have implemented have prompted players to rely more on their squadmates, communicate more frequently and effectively, and strategize collaboratively. We have observed increased coordination in movements, better utilization of cover and suppressive fire, and a greater focus on overall squad objectives. These changes have led to a more immersive and rewarding gameplay experience, with players actively contributing to the success of their teams.
In conclusion, our vision for Squad’s combat system entails a shift towards enhanced teamwork and cooperation, longer and more strategic firefights, and a more approachable experience for players. We anticipate that these changes will fundamentally change the way Squad is played. The benefits will be far-reaching, fostering stronger player engagement, more dynamic and memorable moments, and ultimately solidifying Squad’s position as a premier multiplayer, first-person shooter game that thrives on teamwork and strategic thinking.
Work in Progress
Our goals for suppression were to make it a core part of the combat puzzle, give greater purpose to MGs, and make it useful to shoot at the general location of the enemy without necessarily having a clear view of them. We seek to reward the fireteam which spends two minutes shooting at a bush. When the fight kicks off and the suppression kicks in, it should enhance the feeling of being in a chaotic firefight.
Complete rework of suppression VFX
Suppression blurs the distance but keeps the foreground navigable, so you can seek cover, return fire, or escape.
By depriving the suppressed player of some of their perception, suppression becomes a meaningful debuff and instant retaliation is inhibited. Being suppressed will require you to behave as you might in real life, despite not being in real danger. The enemy will use it to cause trouble for you, but remember that you can do the same to them!
There are multiple levels of suppression, with new VFX kicking in as it becomes more severe. The higher your suppression level, the longer it takes to fade out.
Various kinds of feedback and effects have also been implemented to make being suppressed feel not just oppressive, but exhilarating.
Suppression aim hindrances
Player behavior modification under-fire (sway and flinch penalty).
This makes counter-suppression more about dumping rounds at the shooter, rather than lining up pinpoint snap shots.
Suppression is now applied in a more systematic way, so it should only occur in situations where one would realistically expect to be suppressed.
Per-weapon suppression power
Machine guns don’t just suppress you more, they do so faster and the suppression will persist for longer. The heavier the weapon, the more severely it can suppress you.
This also applies to vehicle-mounted HMGs and autocannons, which makes even light vehicles able to terrorize entrenched or hidden infantry.
Explosions now also cause suppression in an area of effect (examples: grenades, mortars, artillery, autocannon HE-Frag).
Players in protected turrets and emplacements are less susceptible to suppression – suppression resistance.
Improved bullet penetration exit VFX so you understand when lead is coming through the walls and have a better readability of the situation. Don’t forget your eye protection!
To facilitate longer shootouts, we need to reduce the odds of them ending in one or two shots. From there a sudden encounter can grow into a full-on firefight as the rest of the squad joins in, suppressing fire is laid down, maneuvers are planned and executed, and reinforcements are called up. Overall, you should have the time you need to call out contact with the enemy, analyze the situation, coordinate with your squad, and execute a plan together.
Every weapon is being reworked to have a defined role, with strengths and weaknesses which need to be covered and complimented by your squadmates.
We aim to add depth while making it easier for new players to be useful and live longer. We also want to make guns feel more satisfying to shoot, even if they’re not always as unconditionally accurate as before. It should be fun to shoot a gun in an empty room.
Reworked traditional Hip-Fire into Point Shooting
The weapon now moves with your camera in a cone of motion as you look around. This emulates the experience of using hand-eye coordination to aim without looking down the sights.
This is primarily meant to increase non-ADS reaction time without resorting to traditional bullet spread mechanics.
But perhaps most importantly, we just think it looks and feels really cool.
Recoil has been modified and made more sophisticated
Recoil has been tuned to make full-auto more situational, and to create realistic tradeoffs when using different kinds of weapons. It is still possible to be very accurate, but you need to be smart about it and remember what kind of weapon you’re using, learn your guns!
Added Recoil Misalignment: Recoil now causes the weapon to rotate in more axes, and can be thought of as an additional dimension of recoil.
This misaligns the sights and creates a natural “cone of fire” shot pattern.
It has a particularly significant impact on machine guns, emulating the “beaten zone” and the real machine gun theory necessary for them to be employed in Squad as they are in real life.
Generally speaking, muzzle climb is controllable, but recoil misalignment is not. Even the most skilled shooter can only counter recoil to a certain point.
This also affects the accuracy of follow up shots, so there is a situational tradeoff between slow, accurate fire and less accurate high-volume fire.
Sway has been reworked from the ground up
Increases initial target acquisition time, particularly when running and gunning, but fades out quickly enough that you can still post up and make accurate long-range shots.
Added new dimensions to sway:
A second layer of sway now rotates the weapon to misalign the sights, similar to Recoil Misalignment.
Sway now also offsets the weapon laterally and vertically.
Together, when used conservatively, these changes help the sway feel much more like the product of a soldier holding a weapon in two hands, and help us achieve our goals for accuracy mitigation without making any one component feel excessive.
As before, the amount of sway is driven by Stamina, Movement, and Stance.
To help you better understand the sway mechanics, a small indicator was added to the compass, taking inspiration from Project Reality.
Steadying your aim no longer applies instantly
The accuracy benefits of holding your breath now fade in over a couple of seconds.
You must be more patient when lining up shots on targets of opportunity – or you could fire a burst immediately, in hopes of fixing them in place with suppression until your teammates can get involved!
Per-stance ADS time
Your character will line up the sights faster when crouched, and fastest when prone or bipoded.
Bullets now go exactly where your gun is pointing under all circumstances
This has allowed us to embrace a fully animation-driven sway and recoil system.
The effects are particularly noticeable during animation transitions, such as when shooting after sprinting. Watch your muzzle discipline!
The bullet impact point is also more accurately represented in optics when animations are affecting the point of aim.
Look And Feel
Improved muzzle gas VFX
Improved screen shake when firing
Improved recoil and settling motions
More realistic movement of weapon in sway and recoil (see above), inspired by helmet cam footage and the experiences of our developers, many being active or former service members.
More natural-looking movement of weapons on bipods. This makes bipoded weapons feel and play less like turrets.
Added more animations and wobbles from various gameplay events such as changing stance, leaning, and going ADS.
Adjusted the camera position when ADS in a way which better shows off the weapon firing VFX and animations.
Work in Progress
We aim to add tradeoffs to magnified optics so there are benefits to having a mix of different weapon configurations in your squad, and to set the standard for video game representations of scopes in the 2020s. It should feel like you are looking through an optic, not a camera.
These render the scene from a separate camera and project it onto the lens. Besides looking far better, this approach allows us to accurately emulate the advantages and tradeoffs of using magnified optics. We have aspired to achieve nothing less than the best implementation of scopes ever put in a video game.
The behaviour of these optics is a 1 to 1 emulation of how real optics work. They are affected correctly by every movement of the gun and camera.
Many visual details have been added to make it feel like you’re looking through a lens, including scratches, scuffs, refraction, and colour shifting.
Reworked mouse sensitivity when using magnified optics for much easier fine adjustments, and added more granular control options for players to customize. See Soldier Sensitivity Scaling in the Game Options.
Thanks to advancements in technology, and a few sacrifices to the Sphere, the reworked scopes run as smoothly as the old scopes. The new scopes also solve a host of bugs and issues associated with the legacy implementation.
Thanks to how PIP scopes emulate the real challenges of using magnified optics, there are some tradeoffs for the user:
The new scopes generally have more zoom than the old scopes, but more of your field of view is occluded by the scope, so while your peripheral vision is expanded, the target area is harder to scan. This is just like looking for a specific object in the distance through a pair of binoculars. The scope is therefore a pinhole view peering into a further engagement range.
Peripheral vision is blurred while looking through scopes.
Scopes are not affected by suppression blur, but sway is a bigger problem.
Scopes will suffer much more in close quarters. Rely on Point Firing, or ideally, move with a buddy who has CQB-oriented sights!
Scopes take longer to ADS and are more severely affected by eye relief issues when aiming with heavy sway.
Tradeoffs between the different optics options:
Scopes have an advantage at range but suffer at close quarters.
Reflector Sights and Holographic Sights excel at CQB and have the shortest ADS times, but cannot be adjusted for range.
Ironsights are the middle-ground option. They are effective in close quarters and the sights can be adjusted for engaging distant targets.
It is necessary to slow down engagements and the overall pace of the game. This will give players time to See → Think → Speak → Do, encourage the use of vehicle transportation, and create counter-play to rush tactics. While speed and aggression have a place in Squad, as they do in real life, they should not be more effective than communication and coordination.
Chokepoints and barriers should be meaningful obstacles which require adapting your defensive and offensive tactics. Assaulting a high-walled Afghan compound, for example, will soon be a completely different experience.
Pacing and Stamina adjustments
Character movement speed has been reduced. The faster movement introduced late in Squad’s early access period was intended to help players get into combat faster. In hindsight, we concluded that it actually made the game more unforgiving and contributed to even more running around, by encouraging a Spawn-Run-Die-Repeat cycle. Slightly slower movement creates more time to react and coordinate in combat. Taking regular stamina breaks is now advisable, especially with the weapon sway changes. This creates opportunities to regroup and get oriented. In internal testing, we have found the movement speed changes make it easier to keep squads together, lead to more interesting fights, and significantly reduce the cognitive load on the Squad Leader.
Stamina regen rate was slowed down slightly. Stamina costs for various actions were rebalanced.
You can no longer climb or vault while in mid-air. This significantly affects which rooftops and ledges are accessible, making it much easier to think tactically about locking down lanes and access points, since there are fewer possible approaches, especially in urban combat. This also encourages the use of the teamwork-oriented buddy-boost ability.
Prevents lone wolves from negating environmental obstacles to get easy flanks or overcome FOB fortifications. Removes ninja moves from the list of options to win a fight.
Vault and climb heights were adjusted.
Reworked fall damage to be more punishing, but also more consistent and predictable. Fall damage is now applied as a percentage of remaining health based on the height of the fall, down to a minimum value. The effect is that you can no longer survive multi-story drops when at full health, but you should always be able to predict whether a fall could kill you before you risk the drop.
Reworked Leaning to create less gamey-feeling close-quarters encounters and solve the lean-spam exploit. Additionally, leaning is inhibited when using some heavy weapons.
Various small tweaks to make the game feel both simultaneously more fluid and more grounded in reality.
EXPERIENCE THE INFANTRY COMBAT REWORK IN OUR UPCOMING PLAYTEST
Revamping Squad’s infantry combat systems is the first step in our broader initiative to align all gameplay systems with the goals of our original vision for the game. We understand that achieving a truly immersive and cooperative experience requires a holistic approach, addressing various aspects of the game. While focusing on the revamp of infantry combat is crucial, we are committed to thoroughly improving and refining other gameplay systems to ensure they complement the realignment of the game’s direction.
We recognize the importance of not rushing the release of these changes and our top priority is to provide the best possible experience for our community. That’s why we are dedicated to conducting extensive public testing and actively gathering feedback from players. This approach allows us to fine-tune the revamped infantry combat systems based on real-world gameplay experiences and ensures that we have the buy-in and support of our community.
This commitment to comprehensive testing and community involvement guarantees that the changes we implement to the infantry combat systems will resonate with players and align with their expectations. Our goal is to deliver a polished and refined experience that not only meets our goals but also exceeds the expectations of our community.
We will be running a series of playtests to thoroughly test the changes and actively involve the community in the process, we can make well-informed decisions about the overall realignment of Squad’s gameplay. We highly value the input of our dedicated player base and want to ensure that their voices are heard throughout the development process. Stay tuned for the announcement date of our first playtest very soon!