I'm riser member of the ISP community and competitive player from PRS clan. If you are looking for players to play on Europe region please join our discord server (You don't need to be Polish to join us )
This post is our community manifest regarding competive mode in this game with some ideas that can be used to make it better.
According to the steamspy there are over 500 000 owners of this game. The big question is where the hell are those people? In the greatest time, there were almost 8000 online users. In our opinion, developers should change their mindset and instead of asking current players what they should change, they should ask all those players that are not playing why did they quit the game?
What makes Sandstorm unique
Most of the Insurgency Sandstorm players came to this game because of the offered realism. They want to feel like a soldier or a rebel. It's very hard to complete a mission if there is no discipline and order. Here the strength is not in the individual soldier, but in a organized group. This experience combined with the dynamic of the game creates a unique experience. It's very easy to die if the player runs in front of enemies without cover. A realistic approach for ballistic, damage, map design is definitely a strong point of this game. During a military conflict in real life there are no safe spaces. There is almost always a way to sneak back if you are creative. Large open areas force players to use smokes in order to change safety position or use another route. Overall the difference between the insurgent and security side in the game should be more distinct. In Insurgency source, you could feel more like a rebel in a war zone when you play the game. Here we are missing this, maybe it should be changed to be more like special forces vs terrorist?
Competitive mode weak points
Low pool of players. Where they are playing and why?
- Local games - Learn mechanic and get some skills. Limited game modes available. No rewards.
- Cooperative - More game modes available. Multiplayer PvE / PvP experience. Get experience to level up, unlock cosmetics and gain coins.
- Team deathmatch - Unique game experience and game rules. Get experience as reward.
- Competitive - Different game experience, but still similar to versus. Low experience gain, rank as extra reward.
- Private servers - Unique game experience, because of a different server setup. Admin power to control players behaviour.
From our experience, we can say that, in the first place, most of the new players play the game because they want to try it and they keep playing because they have fun or they have some targets to meet (collect all items, unlock achievements, get the highest level, etc.). Only a small part of players wants to play on a competitive level at the beginning.
The most difficult thing is to design game in such a way that ideally would convert all casual players to competitive players with success.
As an example let's see what fresh player needs to do to unlock all cosmetics. After one match in each mode, he/she would figure out that farming of tdm/cooperative is the most effective way to level up. Some of them who have different gameplay preferences would switch to versus mode. Going to competitive mode is pointless from their point of view because this mode is difficult and gives almost no experience required to level up compared to other modes.
Somebody can say that cosmetics are not so important so let’s take a look at the achievements. As we can see 15 of them are common for each game mode and 11 are exclusive for versus/cooperative. Here those two modes are promoted because they are giving the biggest chance to get all of the achievements.
What about this small number of players that want to play competitive and want to be the best one? As a result of their hard work, they have less experience for levelling up and they don't have any exclusive achievements. In fact, the only extra "reward" is the rank that in theory gives nothing more than information about how good you are comparing to other players in this mode. To be honest even that part isn’t that rewarding since players don't how many other players are on each rank.
Let's now switch to the pro players and analyze how the game looks from their perspective. With their set of skills and game knowledge there is a big chance to start from a high rank (platinum) and after some time go to diamond 1. What’s the problem now? Should they play more and risk losing their rank? What more can they achieve if they will keep playing? Sadly there is no extra reward, no extra ranks, there is simply no point to keep playing competitive mode. What if somebody would like to keep playing on the top level and continue their journey?
Unfortunately with the current state of the competitive mode, this is not possible. Matchmaking is so unbalanced that a premade team of top players can face 5 random new players and crush them. This gives no satisfaction and makes the game frustrating for both teams.
The power of a private server
Private servers are a perfect solution to create a unique and well-defined game experience, because of their very high potential for customization. Most common choices in this area are hardcore play against bots and creating a high-level competitive experience. Players that are using private servers can create their own rules required for the better game experience. This is possible because of the administrative power with which the server owner can easily and most importantly immediately remove cheaters and other problematic players negatively impacting the game experience.
As we can see the current design of the game is highly promoting versus/cooperative/tdm modes. There is no mechanism that encourages players to move to the competitive mode and there is nothing that will keep the best players in that mode.
Ideas for changes in the competitive mode
- Game should make sure that a new player has a minimum set of skills and the knowledge required to play this mode at a basic level. Most common requirements:
- Knowledge of the rules , what is the win / lose condition , when a draw happens
- Basic level of decision making in the most common scenarios
- Usage of voice chat and knowing map callouts
This can be done by either:
- Adding a mandatory tutorial - some players would not be happy if they will have to do something before starting to play (possible, but not recommended solution)
- Adding the newbie part of the ladder - this part is for the new players only to make sure that they will not face strong enemies. In order to make sure that there will be enough pool of players, they can search in the pool of other newbies and last bronze players. A number of played hours in competitive mode combined with a number of achieved points should indicate that player is ready to play ranking games. Such a mechanism should filter out afk players / fraggers only and would make sure that player at least knows how to get points from the objective which is crucial in their journey through ranking mode.
- Unique set of rewards to bring all the collector players back into the game (cosmetics , achievements or something completely new)
- “Legendary” ranking for all players that achieve the highest rank as a goal for top players. This ranking should be dynamic in the sense that players that stop playing will have the same amount of points and they will drop in the ranking if somebody will have more points.
- Guaranteed rank - to make sure that a good player will not suffer from being matched with cheaters and trolls there should be minimum guaranteed rank. Also, this system will promote players that are on the edge of the next rank. For example, as a reward for playing well, a player just getting into gold 4 would only play against better players who he can learn from.
- Bronze 4-1 cannot drop lower than Bronze 4
- Silver 4-1 cannot drop lower than Silver 4
- Gold 4-1 cannot drop lower than Gold 4
- Platinum 4-1 cannot drop lower than Platinum 4
- Diamond 4-1 cannot drop lower than Diamond 4
- Legendary ranking cannot drop lower than Legendary last place
Team wars (Clan / 5-stack party mode)
From our observation, we can see that a lot of top players moved from the competitive mode and started playing daily pugs organized by DGL on private servers. To bring them back to competitive mode the same game experience should be offered. In order to do that (and bring even more) we came up with the idea of a separate ranking mode. The idea is to create a place that will bring all pug players and encourage them to switch from organized party to a clan. This will be a place for all players who want a true competitive experience with premade teams only. Lack of random players will better the game experience and make for a stronger team spirit. List of exclusive features for this mode:
- Only full 5 stack parties can play this mode
- Parties can be created from a random set of people or from clan members
- Each 5 stack party will need to choose one leader - leaders would have the power to choose a map and number of rounds (default should be 5 like in competitive or 11 like in tournaments). This can also be done during the search, but this will require large enough pool of teams to make sure that match will be found. (not sure which option is better)
- Exclusive set of cosmetics with various options to add clan logo for different parts of the clothes (on the hat, back/front/side of the shirt, gloves etc…)
- Special clan ranking based on clan vs clan matches (all 5 players from both sides must be from same clan)
- Special separate rank for individual players
In the future ranking points could be used as requirements to qualify to official tournaments
New game modes
As a part of extending the competitive mode and creating a more unique experience, new game modes should be added. In order to not split the playerbase, the search engine should always search in all available game modes. On top of that, to add more progression, access to the new game modes should be available only after reaching certain levels in the competitive mode. Gamemode ideas that can be used:
Gun shop approach
At the beginning of the game, players would have a limited amount of starting points that can be used to buy equipment. After taking an objective, killing an enemy, finding secret items, etc… team would gain points to improve their equipment. As an extra feature only for this mode an extended number of accessories should be available. This includes: a laser that can detect enemy activity, mines, breach charges that can break doors or cracked walls, drones with cameras used to check areas, drones with grenades, protective shields, hacking accessories that give access to security cameras, scissors that are used to cut electric wires (to turn off cameras, lights, alarms etc.) and many, many more gadgets that are used by militaries in various scenarios.
Search and destroy
Special items would be spawned on the map in random places or hidden by the enemy team before the start of the round. As a win condition, all of the items would have to be destroyed within the time limit by the attacking team. It would also be nice if the item could be moved by the players (carrying of the item should slow down the player to prevent running with items). Even after killing off all the enemies the attacking team still has to find all of the items before the round finishes. Team respawn is not allowed in this scenario.
This gamemode would have the same rules as the ambush gamemode in Insurgency source. VIP is just as fast and mobile as a normal player with an armour and pistol. Depending on the scenario, the win condition can be changed from escorting the VIP to simply keeping him alive if the map is small and narrow. No team respawn would be allowed in this mode.
Secret item escort/protection
The objective of this gamemode is to secure/destroy the secret item (or even items) within the time limit. The first team which would complete that objective wins the round. Killing all enemies wouldn’t finish the round. Secret items would be able to be moved and dropped by all players (it's mandatory to constantly monitor the location of the object in the game to make sure it's accessible by other players. If it's not possible to pick it up it should automatically respawn in the closest place). Adding a way for the searching team to localize the items is a possibility.
Night mode elimination
The idea of this mode is to provide a very similar game experience that was available in hunt night maps known from Insurgency source. The win condition of this mode as the attacking team would be to kill all enemies (or just eliminate one target and escape back to the base) within the time limit. No team respawns would be allowed here. The attacking team should complete their objectives as stealthily as possible because they would get rewards for commiting stealth kills etc.. To increase the challenge for this mode the targets can be put in a highly secure building that has an alarm and cameras that need to be turned off for sneak entry. As an easter egg, there should be an option to take control of an enemy radio (by picking it from a dead body or taking control of radio room) that would give the player the option to hear and talk on enemy voice chat. When such player talks on that aforementioned radio the nickname of the original owner should be visible.
This gamemode could be extended to more than 5v5 by adding extra detachments that would need to cooperate to achieve win. For example a sniper team, an assault team, a support/backup team, a scout team.
The great addition to that would be give an option to customize scenario by choosing:
- Time of Day - sunrise, day, sunset, night
- Mission profile - stealth, loud, elimination from range
- Spawn point - add a selection of possible spawn points for the players to choose from so that the attack phase would be not so predictable
Quality of life improvements
- More advanced online statistics
- How many people play each mode
- Information about the estimated search time
- On which region players are playing in each mode
- Advanced skill training area
- Dynamic targets
- Leaning training
- Long range shooting training
- Short range shooting training
- Infinite ammo during training
- Strategy / position training area
- Add an option to put a clone of the player character model in the current position - this is good for checking angles, cover and visibility in the selected position. Could be used by clans.
- There should be an option to switch the camera from the current player to a dummy copy - this could be used to find a counter for the current position. Can be also used as feedback for grenade training.
- Damage and speed indicators / tests - can be used as a part of the information required for setup optimization
- Melee kill animation - when player is close to the enemy’s back there should be option to prepare a backstab attack using the knife.
- When you’re prone on the ground there should be an option to turn on your back and check what is above or behind you.
- Dual optics system would give the player an option to use more than one sight. Choice of the sight would be highly determined by the current situation on the map. This could be implemented in following ways. First option would be to have two sights at once and switch between them. Common combinations are a 4x-7x sight with a 1x sight. Second option would be to add a possibility of detaching the scope and use the iron sights.
- Weight loss system - in emergency situations some players might prefer to drop some equipment in order to increase their mobility. With such option implemented there should also be a possibility to pick up dropped items that would decrease your mobility back down. This drop/pick interaction should include:
- Bullet proof vest
- Ammo belt
- Dynamic / breakable sources of light
- Ability to save replays on local storage from private server games.
Most annoying bugs
- After entering the game sometimes the player can’t choose his class. When he reconnects to the game he has a 24h ban
- Gunshots sound loop bug
- Sound, mainly for footsteps - except for the sound of the feet hitting the ground, there is no sound for when the player is jumping through a window or vaulting over an obstacle
- Texture blocking - mainly near window/hill area you must shoot with bigger margin from the edges, because bullet stuck in the texture and cover enemy
- Flash grenade does not always blind the enemy
- Melee attack doesn't guarantee a kill no matter how close and stealthy you are. Adding a backstab-like option would be nice
- Grenade throwback doesn’t always work, sometimes the grenade gets stuck in player’s hand after picking it up
- Sound with the information about capturing objective is delayed by a few seconds
- When you rejoin the competitive game you get “unable to join server” error. It’s starts to work only when there are 30 seconds to start game
- Flash from shooting is visible through walls
Map design and map pool
Maps that are currently available in the game are great for missions that require multiple detachments of soldiers. They have nice open spaces mixed with the buildings inside of which you can take cover. Unfortunately such approach is not so good for competitive play with its 5vs5 only gameplay.. We need more urban maps like in Insurgency source. In addition to that number of available maps in the competitive mode should be bigger to increase the variety of the game experience. Currently it is common to play the same map four (or more) times in a row.
In order to give players a feeling of making progress they can earn experience by using certain weapons that will slightly increase their performance with those weapons. This should mimic the weapon training that soldiers go through to improve their skills. These changes should be minor enough to not break the game balance. Basically the way this works is the more a player plays with a certain weapon, the more proficient with it he is. For example:
- Throwing grenades - grenades throw range is bigger
- Getting kills while focused - focus time increased
- Getting kills while using full-automatic mode - better recoil control
- Getting kills while quickscoping - faster scope switching
- Getting kills after weapon switching - faster weapon switching
Some players are complaining that there is no cover in some strategic points of the map. As a partial solution for this adding an option to move some objects (barrels, boxes, etc…) could be added. This would make each round more unique and also could give access to other, previously unavailable places.
During game in competitive mode you can meet organised groups of players that unite by creating clan. Very good feature would be adding to the game clan management system. Such system will have following options:
- Creating clan, choosing name,tag, logo
- Supporting creating clan application from game menu
- Assigning clan members rights to:
- Change name, tag, logo
- Recruiting/kicking members
- Choosing team leaders if clan have more members
Together with clan management system it’s required to have ranking list of active clans with their rankings. Such list will be used by other players to choose which clan they will join. This should be done as addition to the “team wars” game mode that was described earlier.