As some of you may know, the game LawBreakers is a multiplayer FPS game developed by Boss Key Productions Inc. and, unfortunately, it has been struggling during the past few months to increase its CCU (concurrent players). As a study, I took the opportunity to invest 600+ hours in the game to understand why it had difficulty to retain players on PC. I share my findings in this blog post for those who wants to avoid making the same mistakes in the future, because all that knowledge isn't found in schools. It's in our heads as game developers/players and it needs to be shared.
The game was advertised as Free to Play, it ended up not being Free to Play. It was released for $29.99 and with microtransactions for which they sacrificed player progression and visual clarity. And what I mean by that is that players can wear character skins of any color, there is no team color Red vs Blue or something like that. It's chaos, visually, because they really wanted to sell stash boxes and character skins of many colors. And to make enemies more visible, they added a red outline with health bars. And to make it worst, BKP painted most environments in Red. You even have a map named Red Falls. It just doesn't make a lot of sense to me. And they sacrificed player progression in the sense that player progression is slower and when you do unlock stash boxes, you often get nothing interesting and feel empty handed after hours of play.
It was advertised as Skilled AF and it's not actually skilled AF. It takes more skills than CoD, but it's much closer to Halo than UT. The game offers 9 roles, but 5 of them use very similar full-automatic guns and 3 roles have shotguns. You'll get bored of one role just to realize that other roles aren't so different after all. Gameplay-wise, the game doesn't give you ways to skillfully quickly kill enemies. So the main strategy is always to 2+ vs 1 opponents (deathballing). It's not the kind of game where a skillful player can get 20 kills / 0 deaths with one life. To do that you'll need to refill your health many times. And when it comes to headshots, the best selling competitive multiplayer games such as Counter-Strike, R6 Vegas 2, Battlefield 2142, Battlefield Bad Company 2, UT or even Halo have a "headshot damage multiplier of 2-5x". LawBreakers has a headshot damage multiplier of only 1.5x with Wraith and 1.75x with both Enforcer and Harrier. In % if we calculate ''(number of headshots X 100) / number of bodyshots'', LawBreakers is approx 70% and Counter Strike is approx 20%. LawBreakers just doesn't reward players enough for their aiming skills.
The whole Gravity-Defying-Gameplay also doesn't work very well. The game is a lot more fun on maps such as Namsan or Red Falls where there are no low gravity zones and players are always in full control of their character, always reactive. To do something just for the sake of making something different doesn't necessarily mean better.
In terms of level design, most maps flow well. However, Vertigo and Trench could be considered as ''bad maps'' considering how close the Spawn Zones are to the objectives. One of the issues that I have with LawBreakers is that all the maps are symmetrical, which often are a double edge sword. As a game/level designer myself, I personally find symmetrical map design lazy. While some argue that it can make a match more fair for both team, it also means that it has twice the same issues. Symmetrical maps can also be confusing or feel less immersive as the game just reminds you that you are really playing a game. We don't really find symmetrical environments in real life. As a player, I really find it difficult to fall in love with a symmetrical map. They generally don't stand out for me. When I think about my favorite maps in multiplayer FPS games, I think of the maps in Quake 3 Arena, Counter-Strike, Soldier of Fortune 2, Unreal Tournament 2K4, Halo 2, the Battlefield series or Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. I would say that most of the maps in LawBreakers are good, but none of them is particularly great or memorable. I never had this feeling of ''Oh, I cannot wait to play this map!''.
Cliffy B doesn't seem to believe in having to create a ''Killer game'' like a Halo killer or a CoD killer, etc. he explained before that there is room for 2-3 somewhat similar games, which isn't necessarily wrong. And that's the big problem with LawBreakers, there is nothing that it does better than any other game. It doesn't have a better gunplay. It doesn't have better abilities. It doesn't have a better visual clarity. It doesn't have a greater accessibility. It doesn't have better character customization, etc. Again, ''just different'' doesn't sell.
The game was released without bots, server browser, a free to play version, modding tools and a marketplace to share custom maps and sell skins what could have helped BKP to add value to the game without having to release content themselves and it would have allowed them to make profits as well. This is what lead to the great success of games like Team Fortress 2 and Counter-Strike Global Offensive. All LB offered was Matchmaking and custom matches between friends. The problem is, with the currently low CCU, the matchmaking system just isn't efficient and is basically killing the game. Also, because the CCU is so low right now, it means players from different regions desperately try to join each others, but that also means that most players in a match have ping above 100. That doesn't lead to a very pleasant gameplay experience. And it takes so much time to find players, players just leave and go play other games. This is very important, something that every game studio and game developer should know and understand. Every multiplayer game should be prepared to handle both a high and low CCU. And if you have to choose between the two, it's better to be prepared to handle the low CCU, because that way the franchise can move forward. In the case of LawBreakers, it only had the necessary multiplayer functionalities to handle a high CCU and because it started slow and died right away, because it didn't have what it takes to handle a low CCU. LawBreakers was murdered by design involuntarily.
The game was interesting at first after release, BKP added a few nice patches from 1.0 to 1.3. And then came 1.4 where, instead of just fixing Assassin - Romerus and Gunslinger - Omega, they added more health to all roles and added health regeneration and an unfinished version of Team Deathmatch where enemies spawn in your face or right behind you during a fight. Boss Leagues only reward Win/Loss and ignores individual player performance, so even if you outperform all players on both team and are on the losing team, you lose points. It's non-sense. And patches after 1.4 kept making the game less and less stable. Crashes and lag spikes we never had before. One of the latest patches made projectiles super laggy by attempting to fix another issue and thankfully it got fixed recently. The point is, they kept making the game worst instead of improving it. Patches made the game more casual. And design-wise LawBreakers is in a place where it still doesn't appeal to the casuals and it doesn't appeal either to competitive players, basically appealing ot no one or only to a very small minority.
According to the Q4 Roadmap, BKP is currently busy working on new maps and a new role. Things that probably won't really help to increase the CCU. To improve gameplay could help. A server browser and user-generated content could help. A free to play version could help.
More importantly, some of us who are both experienced game developers and LawBreakers players have also applied for jobs or filled a speculative applications in order to help solve all issues listed above and have never received any reply. When a game reaches such a low point, it's unclear why the developers of the game kept refusing external help. Weeks later they were still trying to figure things out with Nexon.