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