Frontline: Epic Normandy Test Wrap-up

Source: Sandbox Portal

After crawling out from under the deluge of data we collected, we’re extremely excited to brief you on the results of the Frontline test. Its massive battles with double-sized teams, respawns and resupplying really clicked with everyone. We’re pleased with what we’ve seen and will continue working on Frontline together with you. All the feedback and associated stats also helped us identify elements that require revision and/or improvement.

Before we get into details, we’d like to thank those who joined us on the server, poured hours into playtesting the new mode, and supplied the devs with substantial feedback. We are always listening and absorbing the data as we think about our next steps! Now that we have time to sit down and share them with you, let’s get to it.

What worked well

The completely new experience this mode presents ensured there’s never a dull moment! That’s right; the sheer scope of intense action you get when 60 vehicles cross paths on a 9km2 arena resonated with the Sandbox community, offering a much-desired change of pace from Random Battles. Those who were there will back us up and say the mode brings quick-fire decision making to the forefront with its long-distance shootouts, fierce short-range encounters, and positional fire.

The rank system we introduced to stress the importance of individual performance got a thumbs-up from the majority of testers, too. We’ve seen many great suggestions on evolving this component, and the team is carefully evaluating several proposals.

The gameplay pace in Frontline proved to have enough options for fans of heart-pounding close-range duels and positional combat alike. To promote more movement, we introduced respawns, repair and resupply zones, and it worked. If players know they can return after being destroyed, or replenish ammo or HP, they’re much more inclined to perform daring maneuvers and get up close and personal, instead of cautious and discouraging camping you often have in Random Battles. At the same time, those who’d rather trade shots at distance and/or catch enemies unaware by setting up an ambush have plenty of opportunities to utilize these tactics across the vast expanse of Epic Normandy.

What will be improved

The Frontline economy became one of the most-discussed topics on the Sandbox forum. We went into the test with a Tier X economy, ensuring players that this is nothing but a temporary setup and we would get down to crafting the mode’s economy at a later stage. Along with assessing the gameplay, during the test we analyzed how many credits and XP players earned and how many credits they used per minute; which vehicle classes and vehicles are top-earners and which lag behind, etc. This data will lay the groundwork for the Frontline economy. Our goal here is crafting a model that could fit nicely into the game’s overall economy, while also fostering an enjoyable experience.

The mode’s performance received mixed reviews. We had some reports of FPS issues, while other players argued that the performance didn’t differ from production servers. Along with feedback, we gathered a lot of technical data and are already working on optimization. We won’t declare Frontline ready for release until we ensure its performance meets the quality standards of production servers.

The defense gameplay needs some serious improvement. Right now, defenders aren’t rewarded for well thought-out actions, unlike the attackers who move deeper into defensive lines when they succeed in capturing bases. Defense roles seem far less exciting than an offensive ones, which is somewhat discouraging for those who end up protecting the land from enemy invasion. How does it affect things? Well, here’s the short version: lower motivation leads to more careless performances, which in turn results in the more excited attackers getting statistically more wins. Moving ahead, we’ll brainstorm how to make the defense just as rewarding as attacking.

The fluid gameplay also has a serious downside. It naturally pushes slower vehicles to the sidelines. The situation on the battlefield changes far too quickly for them to adjust to it. For example, they would end up destroyed with an AI airstrike simply because they didn’t leave the captured area in time and often had little choice when it came to respawning. As a result, players tended to choose more mobile and fast mediums over slower heavies. It’s good that we’ve noticed this trend early because it gives us time to revise the battleground so each vehicle type could contribute to the match outcome. Given how much time it takes to grind to Tier X, it’s really important that we provide players, who put this much time and effort into leveling, with gameplay worthy of any Tier X tank.

Looking Ahead

Armed with all the constructive feedback we received, we’ll get down to improving the mode based on your suggestions. In the coming months, we’ll be optimizing its technical performance, working on economy, iterating on defense gameplay, and evolving the map layout to ensure all vehicle classes have a meaningful role, including slower tanks. Along with that, the team will be integrating revised arty and Tier X light tanks into the mode. As always, we’ll keep you posted on progress.