Greetings, Champions! Schell Games’ Community Marketing Specialist Adam Kuta here with another Until You Fall Developer Diary.
In the previous posts from our team, Project Director Dave Bennett, Design Director Patrick Jalbert, and Art Director Justin DeVore discussed topics from the early stages of Until You Fall’s development—setting the game’s identity through its pillars, refining the core of the combat, and building the beautiful, neon world of Rokar respectively. All of these directly impact the game, but what about the players themselves?
Player outreach efforts can often be an overlooked aspect of videogame development, but it’s a crucial part of the process. We started building a community for Until You Fall while we were in the midst of developing the game. Community development helps to build buzz and enthusiasm for a videogame even before it launches. We give fans the opportunity to provide input and feedback into the game’s development by directly connecting our team with the players. The interaction with our players encourages continued discussion about the title, which can be a key factor in a game’s success.
My primary job revolves around building and fostering community. I dabble in everything from creating and sharing social media posts on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages to building events and activities for the players. And one day in a hopeful future, I’ll be encouraging new players to take on the Unraveled at a convention near you!
My absolute favourite aspect of my job is managing the Discord server. Here, over 2,700 Rune Knights have joined in to share their passion for Until You Fall. The Discord serves as our hub for players to talk about the game, share battle strategies, report bugs, give feedback, and most importantly for this diary, enter monthly challenges!
These challenges task players with completing in-game feats for the chance to win real-world prizes, with the primary function of keeping players engaged with the game’s content and each other. However, there’s a lot to learn about how a community behaves, what they like, and how they play the game through these types of events. Let’s take a look.
A New Challenge Appears
During the early stages of community building, Until You Fall’s monthly challenges mostly consisted of simply reaching the final boss with a specific combination of weapons. This is wonderful for two reasons: it inspires players to test new playstyles and strategies they may not have tried, and it effectively keeps them engaged with the content.
However, I made it a mission to allow players of all skill levels to be able to compete in community challenges. For example, the “Welcome to Rokar Challenge” asked players to complete the game with the default weapons on any difficulty, mostly targeting newcomers; however, it was paired with the “Welcome Back to Rokar Challenge,” a speedrun competition for the fastest time with the same weapon set for the veterans.
After the challenge ended, we received a lot of feedback that players wanted to see even more tiered contests. Players of all skill levels appreciated the different options so they could participate at their level. It didn’t feel as though only the best players were going to be the winners, and casual players felt welcomed (pun intended) to enter the “Welcome to Rokar” Challenge.
This success inspired me even further with the next challenge, and I wanted to see how the community would react to a “minimal skill level required” event. In other words, I wanted to test the Aether with a purely creative-based challenge. Thus, the “Rokari Safari” was born.
Creating A New Way
Perhaps I got a little overzealous because the event consisted of sixteen different mini-challenges players needed to complete to earn points. All of these went hard with the “creativity” focus. For example: creating a postcard for the different in-game environments, sharing a Rokar-inspired recipe, and writing lyrics for one of the amazing Swordwave tracks from the game’s original soundtrack.
We received a handful of absolutely stunning submissions. Sharing some of the fan artwork and videos with the development team was a pure joy, and I was increasingly inspired and impressed by each entry we got. Yet, despite the quality of the submissions, participation was significantly lower than I had hoped. And, I’m still low-key sad no one wrote lyrics for Kneon Knightmare…
I learned so much from this challenge. Most entries came from a handful of dedicated players. So, it seemed the ‘creative-focus’ of the “Rokari Safari” had turned some of the newcomers and “less-artsy” players away from participating. We even had some players admit to not submitting simply because they didn’t think they could produce something “worthy” or “good enough.” It’s funny how the original intention of “a challenge anyone can participate in” became the one that many felt like they couldn’t.
It definitely wasn’t the vibe or impression I wanted to give. EVERYONE can be a badass Rune Knight, and we certainly don’t want to discourage anyone from participating in our events. So, for the next month’s challenge, I returned to another pre-established challenge format: Community Factions.
Finding Where You Belong
There are three main Factions in the Until You Fall Discord lore, each one representing a specific focus to combat, weapons, and/or battle tactics. With these factions in mind, I really wanted players to feel a sense of pride in their “home team” and maybe a bit of friendly rivalry against the other teams. Insert obvious Pokémon GO team and Harry Potter House Cup correlation here. What? It’s a thing for a reason! It works.
The challenge asked players to pick a Faction and earn points for their team by upgrading the Faction’s weaponry, beating the game with said weapons, and actively promoting their Faction through social media. And wow, did they ever!
The Discord server came alive with veterans and newcomers alike pledging their allegiance to one of the three Factions and encouraging each other to earn points for their teams. Weekly updates of the team’s scores turned up the intensity even further, as two of the Factions were neck and neck until the end. It was exhilarating!
In fact, the community connected with the challenge so much, we’re planning to host quarterly Faction Challenges. We already released specific emojis for the server based on the teams, and have seen an increase in conversation/recruiting in the Faction-specific Discord channels—even during the off-season!
The idea of “finding your place” really stuck with me for the next challenge, and I wanted to incorporate that major success into the next challenge while testing another theory. See, part of me had doubts “Rokari Safari” underperformed just because it was a “creative” challenge. I thought, maybe I had simply made it too complex. I mean, sixteen different challenges is a lot, right? Maybe I overwhelmed the players? Well, I needed to test this theory.
Mastering Your Own Style
The “Your Inner Rune Knight Challenge” combined all of my previous challenges into one. We returned to the weapon-combination focus of the “Welcome to Rokar” challenge. We broke the players into personality types and “teams” like the Faction Challenge. And, most importantly, I provided more complex rules and asked a bit more from the players, like the “Rokari Safari Challenge.”
Essentially, players were tasked to complete the “Discover Your Inner Rune Knight” quiz. Their results would recommend specific weapons and strategies for playing the game. There are four different archetypes. For the challenge, each archetype was designated with four weapons to choose from, and players would need to reach the final boss of the game using two of those four weapons for their archetype. But, it didn’t stop there. Players were then encouraged to try out the other three archetypes and reach the final boss using two of their weapons. This tasked players to reach the end of the game four times with four completely different play styles. Plus taking a quiz—but let’s face it, that part was easy.
When I posted the official rules in the Discord, I remember being slightly afraid. Was this going to be another “too complex” challenge like the “Rokari Safari?” But, wow was I proven wrong.
The “Discover Your Inner Rune Knight” challenge easily became the most participated in challenge in the Discord server to date. (Granted, it just happened last month, but… still!). We had almost triple the amount of submissions when compared to “Rokari Safari” and probably ten times more than some of our early day Challenges.
While a huge part of this success can be attributed to the intense growth of our Discord server since the game’s official launch for Oculus Quest and PlayStation VR on 29th September plus the Early Access exit on Oculus Rift/S and Steam on 27th October, I like to think that it also validates many of the lessons I took away from my experimental approaches to Challenges in the months prior.
With all of these takeaways, I’m more and more confident that Until You Fall’s Discord challenges will only continue to explore new territories and (hopefully) build and foster the growing community of Rune Knights. The team has plenty of ideas for Rokar’s future, and we look forward to sharing them with our growing Discord community!
With that said, we would love to hear what you want to see and experience. I highly encourage you to join the Discord server. While you’re there, sign up for the next monthly challenge and tap into your inner Rune Knight along with the rest of the Until You Fall community.
I’ll be rooting for you, Champion. Stay strong and press the advantage!