[devblog] Singleplayer, guard breaks, rankings and more

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WongKit
Pixel Tennis Developer
Posts: 193
Joined: Sat Jan 27, 2018 3:07 pm

[devblog] Singleplayer, guard breaks, rankings and more

Post by WongKit »

Hi there,

I was quite busy with Pixel Tennis in the past 1 1/2 months, so it is time to showcase the latest changes and new features :D Everything shown here will be available in the upcoming test run(s).

As always, please post your opinions on the game and it's development. Every response I get will help to improve the game further.

Singleplayer Mode

Pixel Tennis now features an original singleplayer mode with 10 (?) different levels of increasing difficulty. You face an AI controlled opponent which skill level can range from a bag of beans to … well, a skilled bag of beans! No seriously, the higher you get, the more challenging every match will become. It is definitively not easy to get to the end.

Pixel Tennis Singleplayer Mode.png
Pixel Tennis Singleplayer Mode.png (173.55 KiB) Viewed 2163 times

Every level gives you a predefined amount of experience and Pixel. The rewards will quickly become higher, but you can only get them once per level.

If you beat a match, your best clear time will be tracked globally and compared with other players. You can see the top 3 players on each level overview.

A singleplayer mode might not be on the top priority list of many players, but I think it is a mandatory feature if the game stays online for a longer period of time. I expect, that there will be sessions, where no or very few people are playing. With AI matches, you can still experience some of the gameplay Pixel Tennis offers. (Additionally, you can mess with your controls and test them before involving other people on an online match)


Guard breaks

Guard breaks were one of the last gameplay mechanics from FT, that were missing here. Now, they are fully implemented and somewhat improved. Guard breaks are very strong smashes that will knockback and stun your opponent similar to special shots. They do not require a fully charged special bar, but they have other trigger criteria.

Pixel Tennis Guard Break.jpg
Pixel Tennis Guard Break.jpg (63.53 KiB) Viewed 2163 times

You can issue such a shot if you or your team manages to smash a ball 3 times in a row or charge a smash long enough. These scenarios will not occur that often in 1on1, but can get quite relevant in 2on2, especially on front/back style. Getting knocked back and stumble towads a ball received their own (simple) animation.


The effect of STA

The character attribute STA (stamina) had no effect on your character’s abilities in the last test runs. With Pixel Tennis 0.2.0, you can reduce hit lag and knockback stun time when hitting balls. It affects returning guard breaks and special shots as well. With this mostly defensive ability, you can now skill for

STR (strength) - ball speed
STA (stamina) - hit lag and stun reduction
DEX (dexterity) - character movement speed
WIL (will power) - ball curve

Pixel Tennis Character Details.png
Pixel Tennis Character Details.png (11.32 KiB) Viewed 2163 times

The character details screen now also shows the current and the required exp of a level in the brackets.


Player Ranking

Win and lose statistics are already tracked by the game server. They can give you at most an overview of a player’s win rate, but do not accurately reflect a player’s skill. With the addition of a new Elo based score system, this will change.

This rating system, which is used in chess or League of Legends for example, considers the strength and win expectations of both opponents to distribute or take away ranking points after a match. It’s fancy math.

Pixel Tennis Ranking.png
Pixel Tennis Ranking.png (215.72 KiB) Viewed 2163 times

The global player ranking is publicly accessible in the games menu. You only get ranked when you played at least 5 matches in the corresponding game mode. Thanks go to Cristian for proposing this system about a year ago.


Networking Improvements

The not so fancy topic, that still should get its honorable mention. The networking logic was heavily revised to improve CPU and memory usage on the server-side. I spare you with technical details, but I can tell, that the game server would have hit its performance limits at around 20 parallel matches during the last test run. This is now fixed.
The changes should also result in small performance improvements on the client-side as well.


Automatic online updater

The game now checks for client-side updates and downloads/installs them automatically after an initial confirmation prompt. This way, it is easier to provide hotfixes or smaller changes during the upcoming test runs and keep everyone up-to-date.

Pixel Tennis Auto Updater.png
Pixel Tennis Auto Updater.png (19.7 KiB) Viewed 2163 times

In order to test this feature, version 0.2.0 is not available for download on the Pixel Tennis homepage. You can only obtain it through the auto updater of version 0.1.6.


Online List improvements

As requested by Seikk, the Online players list could need some improvements. Here they are!
The menu button now contains an indicator to see how many people are online without needing to open the list. The counter refreshes itself in real-time while you are in the lobby.

Pixel Tennis Character Online List.png
Pixel Tennis Character Online List.png (16.83 KiB) Viewed 2163 times

The list itself also got two more indicators. The “playing” text obviously displays if a player is currently in a match. The L, Rn and Sn buttons show, if a player is in the lobby, a room or a singleplayer level with its respective number. You can click an Rn button to attempt to join the corresponding room if it still has a free slot.


Chat Icon

Speaking of indicators - your character now shows a chat icon above its head, when you are typing during the match. If you have a friendly opponent, he or she could wait a bit during the next serve (or hit the ball extra fast in your face)

Pixel Tennis Chat Indicator.jpg
Pixel Tennis Chat Indicator.jpg (10.02 KiB) Viewed 2163 times

Room Reset Kick List

If you kick a player (or yourself) out of a room, the room remembers it and prevents subsequent join attempts. With the new button in the room settings, you can make the room forget all the bad guys.

Pixel Tennis Room Reset Kick List.png
Pixel Tennis Room Reset Kick List.png (36.16 KiB) Viewed 2163 times

Ping stats

Along with the frame rate counter, which you can toggle in the game settings, you can now also monitor your network ping to the game server. The UI also was slightly changed, so that it does not take away too much screen space.

Pixel Tennis FPS and Ping.png
Pixel Tennis FPS and Ping.png (7.32 KiB) Viewed 2163 times

Mini Shop

It’s something.

Pixel Tennis Mini Shop.png
Pixel Tennis Mini Shop.png (42.85 KiB) Viewed 2163 times

Special shots

With Milestone 1 and the (still) missing items, your available special shot depends on the player level. This still takes place but is modified a bit.
With higher levels, you still unlock higher tier shots, but the old ones do not vanish anymore. This means, that your special shot is picked randomly from a level-dependent pool.
This gives you more opportunities to test different shots and prevent everyone from playing with dragon shots after level 16.

I know, that skillshots in FT were considered as “bad” back then, but I think this was mainly due to the introduction of defensive shots, which required no skill to execute and could make matches unbearably long.

Pixel Tennis only offers offensive shots, so my recommendation is: Give them a chance! They can spice matches up and add another tactical element (as soon as they are not randomized anymore ^^")


Balancing changes
  • Increased guard break and special shot return stun time based on FT
  • Increased smash hit lag based on FT
  • Added hit lag after serving
  • Decreased perfect serve ball speed
  • Removed ball curve from serves
  • Increased smash rebound curve
  • Added speed bonus if the ball was volleyed
  • Adjusted volley height
  • Make long slicing easier

Whoops, this post became a bit longer than expected...
Somehow related to an online tennis game.

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Cristian
Posts: 15
Joined: Thu Jul 19, 2018 8:07 am

Re: [devblog] Singleplayer, guard breaks, rankings and more

Post by Cristian »

Wow, this is taking shape so well already. Glad to see so many improvements with so little feedback that you are recieving. Glad to see I made the list btw haha!

If you remember, I kind of complained a little bit about stats bullying via discord and you said you'd do some chars for testing purposes and able to reset stats for builds, could you please have a few of them ready?
Also, would it be possible for this run that everyone starts with level 1? I'm pretty sure you can keep the stats (W/L) for those who worked harder to show some kind of appreciation, but I think it would maybe push other new players to test a bit longer.
Or as an easier solution, put everyone on the same level with free stats resets so we can test different builds and shenanigans without too much of a headache for you.

In the future could you also add an option to enable/disable special shots? Some of us prefer to play without, some prefer to play with and maybe even specify the settings somewhere (title of the room?).

For balancing purposes, could you also add "hit lag" after volleying? There have been many cases where I hit the ball at the net as a volley, the opponent countered with another volley and I was able to hit yet another volley and viceversa. If you remember correctly, in FT there was volley + counter and then your character would just miss the ball if you tried to hit it afterwards. Scenario at 01:06: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOU7gl4zu10. Funny how it's actually one of your old videos haha! In FT if he tried to hit that, he wouldn't be able to because of the "hit lag", but in PT you can actually volley that again.

Once again, in the name of all of us, I thank you for doing this game for us nostalgics.

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Suijake
Posts: 26
Joined: Wed Feb 07, 2018 4:31 pm

Re: [devblog] Singleplayer, guard breaks, rankings and more

Post by Suijake »

Wow these are some great updates and improvements in such a short amount of time, i'll make to sure to be there to test it :D

I'll provide feedback if necessary once we were able to test things out, but for now this update looks clean to me, great job :)

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WongKit
Pixel Tennis Developer
Posts: 193
Joined: Sat Jan 27, 2018 3:07 pm

Re: [devblog] Singleplayer, guard breaks, rankings and more

Post by WongKit »

@Cristian: Sorry, I scraped the idea with the pre-leveled characters and forgot to communicate it. Providing max- or high level characters would make everyone prefer playing with these, so there are no low or mid tier matches anymore. Singleplayer mode also would becomes less challenging, if you are always on a level advantage over the cpu.
Removing or resetting these chars later would also mess up the rankings if a buffed char played against a normal one (e.g. ranking points were exchanged).

However, this does not mean, that I completely ignore the level difference issue. In Discord, you asked about other ways to level up your character. This is whats singleplayer mode for. Exp and Pixel rewards for this mode are intentionally high (temporarily), so that you have an option to level up fast (but not completely without effort). When beating this mode, you would end up at level 30+.

Additionally, I decided to make the "Wing of Memory" item FREE for the upcoming test runs, so that everyone can reset their stats as often as they want, trying different combinations. With 0 cost, you can also kindly ask your opponents, if they want to reset/reduce their stats in order to balance out a match.

I know, this is not the previously communicated method, but I think it still is viable solution.

An option to disable special shots is currently not planned. As written in the original post, they have their right to exist in Pixel Tennis.

Regarding the low volley hit lag - Yes, I am totally with you. The general hit lag is higher now, so the issue might be already gone. If not, I will definitely check and compare the hit lag with FT material. From gameplay perspective, the player on the net should not be able to return a close counter.

Thanks you two for your kind words!
Somehow related to an online tennis game.

Zoe
Posts: 4
Joined: Sun Apr 12, 2020 11:31 pm

Re: [devblog] Singleplayer, guard breaks, rankings and more

Post by Zoe »

Great update and finally another test run, was waiting for a while to get to play this game again! Some really cool new features. Also the game runs smoothly without any issues whatsoever.

Wing of Memory being free for now seems like a really great idea, also makes it easy to test out different builds.

The stats themselves work really great and are very close to how the original was on FT (as well as the improvements made to DEX and especially STA).

I just feel that the stats are getting too good on the higher spectrum (100+). Some might argue that having a lot of one specific stat will put you at a disadvantage on other stats, which is true to a certain point. I didn't get to test the stats that much sadly, since the test run was only 4 hours.

I'll definitely test some more with stats on the next test run we get.

Some small suggestions:

The Chat bubbles that appear when someone is typing in-game are neat, at the same time I feel like there should be an option to turn them off. If you talk with your mate in team chat in-game and nothing appears in all-chat this might be off-putting to some. I like to talk with my mate in team-chat not necessarily about the match itself but rather some theories on the game itself. Always feel like I'm talking behind the back of our enemy (which theoretically I do I guess, but you know).

Now this one is a bit specific and it might not be the time to implement this or it might not get implemented ever, but I'd like to mention it anyway.

Turnarounds in FT: there was a little dust-cloud that appeared as you changed direction, that way you could see if someone charged a ball in a certain direction once they made a turnaround. However this only happened when you pressed the left/right key and then changed direction without first letting go of the left/right key. If you let go you got set back to the "initial" idle pose so there would be no dust-cloud. As such this behaviour was able to be abused, it made for a whole new mind-game factor in FT like doing a turnaround with dust-cloud, starting to charge but actually not charging towards the side you just did a turnaround to since you pressed the opposite key once again before the charging. Or well the obvious one to just not have the dust-cloud appear cause you let go of your keys before the turnaround. This technique also made it faster to turnaround by a small amount I believe.

I could see why there aren't any dust-clouds in here since the tictacs are actually flying, so how would they get a dust-cloud off. Maybe it could be implemented in the future in case we get actual models, just an idea.

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Widukind
Posts: 5
Joined: Sat Feb 08, 2020 11:41 am

Re: [devblog] Singleplayer, guard breaks, rankings and more

Post by Widukind »

Fantastic patch, love the new stuff. Testing time was obviously too short to say too much about gameplay changes.

The game feels much smoother in general with the small improvements like the Online Player List, Automatic Updater and Ping Stats making a huge difference!

Lags have gotten better to the point where I almost forgot about them. With very few exceptions. Lags might have been the single biggest issue for a lot of people in FT, so improvements there are much appreciated.

Single Player is a neat feature and works great to pass the time while waiting for games. I've played only to level 15 or so, but so far it seems a bit too easy. Obviously with high stats its easier, but I've seen no real difference between the level 5 and Level 15 Bots. For example if you perfect serve from right to the left, the bot will miss the ball almost every time on every level. Maybe that's intended for lower levels. (no idea how many levels there are) Still great addition.

I wanted to comment on Hit Lag and STA changes, but its too early to tell. Once more players have reached higher stats, we can test it out. Like having a full STA player in a Front/Back Strategy MIGHT be too good atm, but having 100+ points of any stat is pretty strong I guess. (; STA definitely brought more depth so I'm all for it.

I agree with the point Zoe made about the chat icon feeling weird when talking in Team Chat. For the opposite team it must feel like you're talking shit behind their back. I'd suggest the chat icon showing only when in All Chat.

Again, amazing stuff. For better feedback we need more time tho.

PS: Make Long Slices hard again.

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Seikk
Posts: 4
Joined: Thu Feb 20, 2020 11:52 am

Re: [devblog] Singleplayer, guard breaks, rankings and more

Post by Seikk »

This is what I call a perfect patch. Too many new features, I like it.
Thanks for your hard work and keep up the good work!

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WongKit
Pixel Tennis Developer
Posts: 193
Joined: Sat Jan 27, 2018 3:07 pm

Re: [devblog] Singleplayer, guard breaks, rankings and more

Post by WongKit »

Thanks for your feedback!

The chat icon issue is fixed for the next version. If you are in team chat, the icon turns blue and is only visible for your team.
Pixel Tennis Team Chat Icon.png
Pixel Tennis Team Chat Icon.png (12.13 KiB) Viewed 1884 times

The idea with the dust clouds is quite interesting. I never actively noticed that in FT, but it sounds like a nice detail to me. No implementation yet, but I keep it in my backlog.
Somehow related to an online tennis game.

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