Update September 14th 2018: The servers of LawBreakers are officially offline now. There is no way of buying or playing the game anymore as the steam page is gone.
The hashtag #bosskeyjobs was created to help the developers to find a new studio to work at. My best wishes go out to everbody affected and in need for a new job. I can tell from all the Tweets, that you guys enjoyed your time at Boss Key and I hope to read all of your names in the credits of the next awesome game! Thank you guys for everything!
Update April 6th 2018: BossKey made an official statement about the current status of the game on April 5th 2018. “We will continue to support the game in its current state, but we also need to focus on other projects with fresh creative leaders.”
This shows that some of my assumptions were actually pretty close to the truth. Firstly, the company lost a lot of creative and talented employees over the last few months, as I witnessed on Twitter first hand. Secondly, the team is working on other projects, probably to keep the company afloat and alive. Lastly, it validates that there is a certain shift in the creative department, allowing the team to embrace creativity and fun with their new Battle Royale game Radical Heights. The trend towards more fun and less competitiveness was already present on the official Twitter Outlets.
Since the game came out on April 11th, Hau5test and I could already test it for some hours. You can read a short summary by Hau5test and some facts about the game on TheNewByte website.
With LawBreakers being part of the highly competitive multiplayer only first person shooter genre, marketing has to be well planned and on point to gain the interest of players. Looking back at the time I had with LawBreakers, there were multiple situations, that were (in my opinion) handled poorly:
- Switch from Free2Play to a 30$ game during development (Has been admitted by Cliff Bleszinski)
- Marketing the game with “Hard as fuck” and you need to be “#skilledAF” scared off casual players, while also attacking other games
- The game is not that hard to play, it just has a high skill ceiling
- Other games are hard to get into, too. LawBreakers is not special in that sense. (Rainbow Six, Counterstrike, …)
- The humorous trailer for Gateway and Patch 2.0 was way more interesting than the gritty launch trailer
- No emphasis on different characters, lore, story or anything relatable (Can you remember all character names and what their personality is?)
- Going for a Sci-Fi Scenario at a time, when the Call of Duty Infinite Warfare trailer angered the playerbase by staying in a futuristic setting
- Talking about Overwatch (and other games) in interviews and articles
- Either you compare it to Overwatch, basically wrecking your game
- Or you don’t mention Overwatch, possibly leaving people confused, what differentiates the two games (Which might have been the better way)
- Allowing people to stream and record the game in its Alpha phase, when it was clearly unfinished and not ready to show. You don’t want that to be the first impression for players or viewers (This has been admitted by Cliff Bleszinski)
- Releasing in mid summer, when almost nobody is buying or playing games (August 2017)
- Going for Playstation 4, while keeping statements about Xbox very vague, angering the Xbox user-base
- Including Cliff Bleszinski into marketing:
- Claiming his game is better than game XYZ
- Showing his kind-of arrogant personality (“F**k off”)
- Talking about a billion dollar franchise, before having proven anything
- Marketing started too late, leaving people uninformed about the launch
- Focussing on Twitch Streamers (following the PUBG strategy) did not help the game, since streamers lost interest quickly
- Free Weekends should be marketed extremely everywhere before they start (and maybe avoid doing it on Call of Duty or Destiny 2 Weekends)
- Probably one of the worst marketing statements imaginable made by Nexon, claiming the failure of LawBreakers was caused by Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds (a statement, that was not officially backed up by the developers at Boss Key)
While playing the game during Beta and on launch the game felt polished, but lacked important content to win new players over.
- Launching with a lack of a proper tutorial (which was introduced with Patch 2.0)
- Video Tutorials are useless and are not being watched by the average player
- Tutorials have to be “forced” on you before you jump into multiplayer
- No objectives to grind for. Things that makes you want to start the game more often. (Daily/Weekly Quests, …)
- A system to reduce queue times should have been in place to prevent player frustration
- Lack of content on launch day, especially compared to other similar shooters
- Pushing the release into 2018 could have fixed a lot of issues
- Not releasing during summer/ drought time
- Not releasing close to Destiny 2 (September 2017)
- Increasing the time between Overwatch and LawBreakers
- More content could have differentiated the game from the competition
- Pushing the release into 2018 could have fixed a lot of issues
- Usage of Loot Boxes (especially with Dauntless removing them, Shadow of War, Battlefront 2 and Call of Duty WW2 pissing people off with them)
The developers behind LawBreakers pushed out patches at an astonishing speed, delivering new content, while keeping the game balanced and bug free. But with the player counts falling and the resulting shortage of statistics led to some big missteps in Patches 1.4 and 2.0.
Source: Patchnotes for Version 1.4
The patch aimed to give new players a better start into the game by increasing the time to kill and allowing players to stay alive longer. What it actually did, was:
- Give veteran players the advantage of faster healing, making it even harder for new players to get into the game
- Threw most existing players in front of the bus, by basically changing the overall idea of what LawBreakers is or should be
- Destroyed the overall balancing of the game by buffing the previously strong enforcer class
Source: Patchnotes of Version 2.0
This patch on the other hand included some things that should have been in the game from the beginning, like:
- Most notably the linear tutorial, that teaches new players how to play (a basic level)
- Adjusted the drop rate to allow for better stash drops overall (Patch 2.0.1)
- Removing skirmishes as a useless extra queue and integrating it into the normal mix (Patch 2.0.1)
- Tuning down the health regeneration to a more acceptable level
- Since Ranked was already dead a week after launch of Patch 2.0
- Having a dead queue button in the game, reminds players about the small player-base
The balancing changes included with Patch 2.0 further damaged the previously broken balancing of the game:
- Buffing wraith to a point, so he’s basically like a much faster enforcer
- Nerf of enforcer was way too weak, continuing the reign of the enforcer and wraith
So there are a lot of people on the internet, who claim to know how BossKey can revive their game, but honestly speaking, most of them try to guarantee something impossible. I can’t name specific methods that will definitely help the game, but I can set some objectives, that might help:
- Break the downward spiral of lower player numbers
- Keep Cliff Bleszinski away from marketing the game. Even though I actually like him, he should not be the face of the game
- Change the marketing from gritty, hardcore and esports to personality, humor and fun
- Give players things to grind for, inviting them to play every day (or every week at least)
- Distance yourself from unhealthy fans, as well as from unhealthy haters as much as possible
Nexon “will not be accruing any other impairment loss pertaining to LawBreakers in the future”. With a concurrent user-base in the double digits and the lost money and support by their own publisher Nexon, the hope of a comeback is dwindling fast. There was no direct answer by the developer team, but this tweet shows, that the team wasn’t happy with the message.
Not everything went bad and as I explained in my “Why You Should Play LawBreakers”, the game itself is fun and enjoyable and delivered some truely unique moments.
- Overall polish of the game – No big differences in quality to AAA games
- Telling players regularly what the development team is working on and what’s coming up
- Evaluating statistics and player feedback to fix issues and balance the game
- Regular and fast updates (avoid bit too many changes per update eg. Patch 1.4)
- Huge diversity in movement, weaponry and overall playstyle (per role)
- Admitting errors and failures and being honest about it (and fixing them)
- Continuous support for the game, including content and maintenance
- Extremely fair and fast netcode (Battle(non)sense)
- Clean and simple art style (Good Read: Key Factors in Environment Design of Lawbreakers)
- Balanced matches, especially via symmetrical maps
There are a lot of conclusions to draw from LawBreakers, but instead of hammering away at Boss Key Productions, Nexon or Cliff Bleszinski, I mainly want to thank every single contributor for their work and effort. I spent more than 200 hours in LawBreakers and enjoyed every single hour. Admittedly I stopped playing LawBreakers some time ago and went back to more traditional first person shooters, but LawBreakers will stay a big part of my gaming history, just like Blacklight: Retribution by HardsuitLabs.
(Everything in this article is – as always – my personally opinion, unless it is sourced or stated otherwise. If there are any open questions about this article either by Nexon, Boss Key Productions or anybody else, then please contact me via one of the given contact methods on this website – including Twitter direct messages and Discord.