INSOMNIA

LawBreakers (2017, PC)

By Yue Zhang / October 2, 2017


It hurts me to write this, because the devs are great, but it's important to figure out exactly why a game with such a good concept went from 8000 players to 100 a month after release.
   I really wanted to like this game, because it looks amazing and the mechanics are innovative and fast-paced. But after trying it, I realized the real reasons why it has a low playerbase.
   Above all else, the game feels awkward, clunky, and the mechanics, graphics, map design and gun fall-off, all detract from my fun instead of adding to it. It's like I'm fighting the mechanics and lack of gravity, instead of smoothly controlling my character. The movement and gun mechanics of this game are off.
   This is caused by a combination of bad design decisions that made no logical sense and took away enjoyment from players:

- The camera is wrong: imagine if this game used a third-person camera instead of first. With the constant dashing, 360 awareness, movement, and aiming, and CQB-focused combat, and getting knocked around constantly, a third-person camera would’ve made more sense.
   This is why this game feels off to players, it’s because from first-person view, the action feels like a mess, and you feel the camera and player controls limit what you’re trying to accomplish in this environment. None of the guns require iron sights to aim or manage their recoil, and they don't fire long range anyways, so they're using a first-person camera to their detriment, and put in none of the benefits. The player has to fight with the camera constantly, and it takes away a huge chunk of enjoyment and fun. This is a third-person game stuck in a first-person perspective, a huge factor that affects all of the following.

- CQB-focused combat. The game REALLY wants you to be within ten meters of your enemies. The gun damage has huge drop off, and the maps are made to be congested and tight spaces to force close-range encounters. There are no snipers, one-hit weapons, or any long range weapons for that matter. See that guy 20m away from you? You can't damage him, unless you dash really close to him.

- Objectives that encourage deathball, which have no counters. All objectives need you to physically dive into the enemy deathball. Combined with CQB focus, and no long-range or explosive weapons, it makes this game one-dimensional. It takes control away from the player, and forces them to play a certain way.

- In a game that is already hard to land hits, it takes five direct hits from the rocket launcher to kill an enemy. The explosive weapons have a very small radius of splash damage. The enemies can cluster up around an objective, and there's nothing any class can do to punish their deathball. There is very little you can do versus a deathball grouped-up near an objective. There are no major AOEs that make them scatter, since the explosive weapons have so little splash.

- Map size: why would you have massive open spaces, if your guns can't hit-scan long range, and have significant damage drop off? This feels really awkward. If you want to make guns ineffective long range, add a recoil system. In 0G large open areas, it's hard enough to hit enemies, but you make the guns do nothing at a range greater than 10m. If you want a CQB game, don't put in massive open 0G spaces that are 300m in diameter. It's not fun to chase someone down at that range! Either give me the tools to deal with long range, or don't put in large places in the map.

- Players are already dodging most shots, and the few shots that do land don't do any damage. This results in awkward and unfun gun fights.

- The guns don't feel impactful, because the enemies are bullet sponges.

- Overly saturated graphics. The screen is always filled with bright effects, even in the maps, there are way too many effects going on in the background, and it's distracting. If you're going to make a fast-paced twitch shooter, with unpredictable and fast movement, it's probably better if you just made the walls and ceilings white blank spaces, instead of neon and blurry sparks everywhere. I'm disoriented enough from gun fire 360 degrees around, chasing enemies that are hopping everywhere, teleportation, and dashing, and being smacked around, I don't need the map to be filled with neon lights to make this worse. It would've been better if the maps where just solid blank walls.

- The zero-gravity environment actually takes away from the mechanics. It's awkward because 0G areas are not really 100% 0G, there's some G just to make it awkward for you, and also you can fall to your death in 0G areas, which makes no sense. The constant switching between 0G and regular G is nauseating, and awkward. Either have all 0G map or gravity map, don't mix both in the map. Constantly switching between the two actually interrupts the flow, and I don't enjoy it.

- This is made worse by having no clear distinctive indicators that I'm in a zero-gravity or regular environment. Sometimes in the heat of battle, I need to know to make the right movement decisions. I can see a minor blur and hear a minor sound, but this is lost when I'm chasing or being chased by enemies. I can never get to where I'm trying to go. "Now I can float, now I can't, now I can, now I can't."

- I can't move in the direction I want to go without aiming in that direction. If you're going to allow 0G, you need to give me full 360 controls. I NEED to be able to move 360 degrees in any direction, while aiming independently. In 0G I can't even drop or float up, I need to look at where I want to go, instead of aiming at my enemies. Aiming is already hectic enough in 0G, why can't you give me independent movement controls? Why can't I dash sideways, and double-jump on all characters? It's a movement-focused game, why take all these regular mechanics away?

- There's an odd delay between my inputs and what is shown on screen, like the game is a few ms behind what I'm trying to tell it to do. In such a fast-paced game, the controls need to be tighter. I have the game on lowest setting, and my ping is great, so it's just something in the game causing this odd delay, making the controls feel worse.
   Others who left probably felt this awkwardness in controls, consciously or subconsciously, and just stopped playing. These issues can be fixed by giving guns full damage at all ranges, implementing independent 360-degree movement controls, and putting in a non-obtrusive indicator you're in 0G, like a loud hum sound.

   Most importantly, make up your mind about the following. Either:

1) make it a fast-paced shooter where you can dodge bullets that can kill you fast, in maps with confined spaces, OR

2) make it a slow-paced shooter where you can't dodge as quickly, and have long-range weapons and open-ended maps.

The deadly combination of fast-paced movement and a huge health pool makes the game really awkward, and not FUN. This drove away most of the playerbase that liked the game in the first place.
   At its current state, it takes five-six slow slashes with an Assassin sword to kill someone at melee range. It takes five direct rocket hits to kill the average enemy. Rockets with no manual detonation.
   Chasing down enemies for 15 seconds, while switching between 0G and full-G environments, while having your weapons do minimum damage, is not fun mechanics.
   Having your enemies get away over and over after you've been chasing them and shooting them, is not fun.
   Floating in a large 0G open space with CQB weapons is NOT fun.
   Match your environment with the game mechanics, and make this game fun again. These are the reasons people don't play this game.
   It was not the timing or the marketing that led to a player drop from 8000 to 100 in one month, but the lack of a fun game underneath the flashy awesome exterior. At the end of the day, people are either having fun playing your game, or they're not and leave. Put fun stuff to do in your game, and make them work.

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