Here is an update of where we are at. We’ve been flat out getting the latest patch together and it should be uploaded this coming week with a little luck. It address’ some of the bugs people have reported as well as some of the playability issues new people experience. In short, we’re fixing stuff and trying to make the first level a bit easier on new players. Surfing is such a life affirming sport but of course, not everyone surfs. Part of our philosophy is to give that person who hasn’t had the opportunity to try surfing (for real) a chance to give it a go. A game is no substitute for the real thing, of course, but it’s a start. There are a couple of tweaks we’ve made to try and assist in achieving that.
Free Surf: As we mentioned last month, we’ve realized that most of our surfers head straight to Free Surf mainly. So the first thing we’ve done there is to re-structure the way we load the levels. As with Single Session and our Championship modes, you can now go level to level without having to go back to the Main Menu which was tedious. Man that’s pretty obvious stuff… but when you’re so close to the work you can get lost and not see the wood from the trees – so that’s a first fix. The other thing we’re going to work on (not in this patch but later on) is to make Free Surf feel more like that touring-around-surfing-experience that you have when you go on surf trips. This is mainly production and cosmetic stuff, but it’s important and we’ll get to this.
As part of our overall process to begin porting, we’ve also just started the process of upgrading our old graphics engine (near 9 years old) to the latest version of Phyreengine. We’re hopeful that this upgrade will not only assist our port across to other platforms, but also with the DLC and this PS3 version. In short, if we can get a graphical and resolution boost from the upgrade, then anyone with a PS3 shouldn’t be disadvantaged – that wouldn’t be right so we’ll be doing what we can.
We also fixed a free surf scoring bug, a shop text fix for our French version, we’ve fixed some incorrect stats for the L’Ossauire level, added new animated foam texture and animated ripple effect and we’ve added a functionality to the foam so that it animates across the wave now, just as it does in real life. The tube already does this and it made no sense that the rolling (non-tubing foam) didn’t, so we’ve fixed that. In all we’re hoping for a tighter bunch of improvements.
Ledge Rock: We’ve recently been out and about showing the game in public. At a recent surf comp it was interesting to see how new players would pick up and play the game. Most people got it but we still have to improve. The take away for us from that was that the first level needed to be easier and so we had to reduce the learning curve difficulty. Yeah people can play it sure, but we could see that there was confusion with the peak wave and option to go left or right on that first wave. The number of restarts new player’s experience when playing it for the first time, is too many. On average we were watching people hit that end of the wave restart around 10-15 times in an initial session – that’s way too many times. So we’ve bitten the bullet and removed the peak wave and replaced it with a right hander in Ledge now, and so far the results are encouraging. Not only has there been a large reduction in that end of wave restart rate (approx. 2 times now vs 10-15) but people also seem more comfortable with surfing in the one direction to start the game off with. It’s still challenging but there is just much less confusion and a lot more-carving-waves-faster. I think our mistake was that we got too carried away and overcompensated with too many locations featuring peak waves simply because we could. We were thinking about we wanted to play and not what a new player wants or needs. A rookie error. So now we’ve got a nice big right in there and as a result the game feels more balanced now overall (we hope!). So now we have a long right, two peaks and a long left and the next level (Monsters) will be another right, albeit an open ocean bombee. Hopefully you like this update before the first DLC drop in a few weeks.