Supercell’s Floodrush: First look! UA & game design review

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This article was written by Jakub Remiar & Matej Lancaric!

Floodrush is an interesting mix of battle royale with clash royale style unit placement and controls. It seems as if SuperCell was iterating on the idea of multiple unit entities, as this is in both Squad Busters and Floodrush. In contrast, as the player’s power grows during the match, his army also grows in unit size.

One of the main differences is the slow reduction of the play area into a small circle, the sinking mechanic, which is much more impactful here than in Squad Busters. Even though Squad Busters has the wine mode, which does the same, it is missing in its main mode as in Squad Busters; players are incentivized to hold on to their gems rather than kill enemy players. This makes the incentive for PvP rather questionable. Here in Floodrush, it is very obvious and rewarding as you directly consume the power of your opponent; therefore going after weaker players is very meaningful. The other main difference is the unit spawning mechanic.

In Floodrush, units are summoned on the battlefield; similarly to clash royale, players spend the Taika bubbles and pay the unit card cost, and then the unit appears on the battlefield. This can be done at any time, which changes the combat dynamic compared to Squad Buster, as you can get new squad units only through chests, and you can’t summon multiple units very fast. In Floodrush, it is completely normal to summon multiple units during the fight as you collect the Taika bubbles (unit spawning energy) from the dead units on the battlefield.

The fights can get very intense this way as you are trying to move your hero around the battlefield, collecting bubbles, using abilities, target spells, and summoning more units simultaneously. Worse case is that if you misclick a unit card laying on the ground, it asks you if you want to switch it with your other unit cards, which blocks your control. This can be very frustrating during that intense battle sequence and needs tuning. 

Don’t get confused by saga map visuals, there is actually no saga map. It’s a visual representation of a reward track, similar to Squad Busters, where you get rewards with scripted unit upgrades and soft currency. The only difference is that there is no battle pass yet and that you can unlock long-timer chests, giving you the same resources as mentioned before. It is also the game’s main reward mechanic. Like Brawl Stars, you can farm the Taika energy, which regenerates over time. If you don’t have it, you can still play the game, but won’t get any rewards on the reward track. 

Another similarity is the progression of characters. In both games, Supercell is trying the new idea of abandoning the selected deck dynamic altogether. You don’t choose your characters as in Clash Royale or Brawl Stars before the match. It will all depend on the roll of the match. This creates an upgrade incentive to upgrade all of the characters, as you never know which one you will be forced to fight within the next game, which can be a nice monetization pressure. It is accompanied by a drastic lowering of randomness in both games. You have scripted level rewards that give you all of the characters and, on top of that, currencies/ chests where you can manually pick any character you like for an upgrade.

Looking at both games, each one has its positives and negatives. Squad Busters is definitely longer in development by the looks of it but its PvP mechanic suffers from a lack of incentive. On the other hand, Floodrush’s PvP feels excellent and intense, you can easily evaluate the power of your opponent, which is again problematic in Squad Busters. On the other hand, controls and gameplay flow is much more polished in Squad Busters mainly to the thumbstick controls. In Floodrush you need to do all of the things that you would do in Clash Royale plus some more with the same finger.

Soft launch approach!

This game was soft-launched in English-speaking geos:

US, UK, CA, NZ & SG

This game is developed by a different CELL than Squad Busters

Let the Hunger Games begin! Only one game can survive, right?

Anyway, let’s get back to Supercell’s soft launch formula. Before we compare Squad Busters with Floodrush and their approach, let’s take a step back and look at what is possible on Android for soft launching your game. I took few slides from my last year’s presentation at DOF & Google with Nimrod.

In Pre-Launch, you move gradually from one test to another, from Tech to Engagement, Monetization to Soft Launch testing.

  • In each step, you have benchmarks for specific KPIs that help you understand if the game shows potential
  • If the game is underperforming, you have the opportunity to improve and continue testing

Different Pre-Launch tracks to help developers test and optimize games before releasing globally.

  • Each track has its own benefits and limitations, and you can easily control them in the Play Console
  • The main idea behind these tracks is to help you test and optimize the game in a safe environment

The CLOSED BETA we saw with Squad Busters is one of our most used features for testing mobile games, especially for bigger game developers or those who work with a big IP. This track:

  • Allows developers to test their new game with an INVITE-ONLY COMMUNITY of users (emails/100K or google groups/unlimited)
  • And these users are able to provide private feedback to developers both before and after the launch

Important: Although this track is commonly used by developers, they usually also use the other tracks such as Open Beta and Limited Production, in order to get more users & data and decrease the risk of issues during global launch.

Please pay attention again to words – bigger game developers, big IP!!!!

An extremely popular track is a more public track, called OPEN BETA (Unreleased mark in the store).

  • A game in open beta is publicly discoverable in-store – Users can find & install your game directly from your store listing (no invite needed).
  • But while you can distribute your game to entire markets like in Production Track users CANNOT leave public ratings or reviews (IMPORTANT)
  • Another advantage is install capping for each market!

Usage:

  • This track is very popular to test (1) Tech Performance, (2) Engagement and (3) Monetization. Usually in a mix of GEOs such as the Philippines and Nordics/Poland, United Kingdom/Germany, etc .. 
  • At this stage, you can also use user acquisition to direct users to the store listing!

User Acquisition fun stuff

Soooo … When installing the game, I saw an ad in google play for FloodRush. See the difference? Closed Beta = no UA (Squad Busters), Open Beta = UA (Floodrush)

Flood rush feels very not-supercell-ish. If I didn’t know this is from Supercell, I wouldn’t say it is. Not sure if this is good or bad. But I know something for sure. If you don’t use a Supercell IP, you need to run UA to get users! And guess what? They run UA for this open beta on Google & Facebook! 

Thank you mobileaction for providing the insights! The only tool where I found the creatives!

Yeah I know, only 10 live creatives.

It was a mix of static images & videos. You can get away with 10 creatives for a limited amount of time in the open beta from May 29 – June 7.

I really like the “mass battles” scenes in the creatives. Next time please use at least 2-3 creative concepts and all the resolutions. You might get better marketing KPIs. I know that wasn’t the main goal for this open beta, but hey. It won’t hurt! 

Player Feedback

  • I absolutely hate the controls and camera scheme. The camera automatically rotates around as you move and is, to me, vomit-inducing. Also not a fan of tap-to-move + portrait mode. The whole point of portrait mode is one-handed play, but because you need to tap to move, you need two hands to play.
  • Characters feel sluggish, similar to the failed Boom Beach Frontlines.
  • The battles are very chaotic with so many units, and it’s hard to determine whether your unit selection has an impact.
  • Overall just not fun (to me)
  • Strange controls. Why not joystick? I’m in control of a single character after all.
  • Minions were hard to understand: Their characteristics, behaviors and abilities were not obvious, and because there were so many of them at once it was difficult to observe what was going on. They’re not as orthogonal as Squad Busters.
    The octopus is a shotgun unit apparently! Who would tell!? You need to go to a submenu to understand that!
  • Gameplay felt slow and passive: Minions behave automatically and their positioning didn’t seem to react to my character movement, contrary to Squad Busters, so I couldn’t reposition them during combat.
  • Despite the variety in maps, the pattern felt repetitive: Loot and then clash in the center. I didn’t feel there were many mechanics in the maps to master, contrary to League of Legends map monsters.
    And because the maps change, it didn’t encourage mastery.
  • Additionally, it’s quite challenging to understand what elements in the map are intractable/destroyable and which don’t… they all look the same. A barrel is destroyable but a box next to it that looks the same isn’t OK. The drops seem quite arbitrary as well.
    If I understood correctly, the expected dynamics is to observe the opponents buildup, and then adapt yours consequently for the end clash. I think that’s cool but the range of options during the match to do this is fairly limited.
  • Combat is not fun, or at least I felt they weren’t as fun as Squad Busters. Moving doesn’t move your troops or reposition them, there’s no tradeoff between moving and attacking. And skills are limited. So people just stands there until one dies.
  • Battle Pass looks like a ship traveling through islands but this is unrelated to the islands of the gameplay. Confusing.

We also asked our good friend Javier Barnes & guess what:

Javier prefers Squad Busters

I didn’t enjoy the Floodrush beta too much.
There are some interesting ideas in Floodrush. But I believe most of them – if not all – are currently executed way better in Squad Busters.

Among the reasons why I didn’t enjoy Floodrush are:

  • PVP combat is too passive and lacks enough skill factor. The actions available (summon more troops, skill, item…) are limited and don’t seem capable of turning the tide. So whoever had the bigger army wins the combat. In Squad Busters, despite the fact that combat is also automatic, there is a layer of mastery around repositioning troops, and disengaging doesn’t cost you the match thanks to the option to sprint.
  • Team building is not as exciting as it could be. This happens because unit choices happen less often and are not as impactful to gameplay as in Squad Busters. Additionally, players do not find each other early in the match, making the resource gathering process lack danger, and feel slow and boring.
  • The match structure is too simple and repetitive. The main randomness is the spawn of chests and its quality, which is not enough to make matches feel truly different and interesting. In Squad Busters, the map has more elements triggering over the course of the match, gameplay modifiers, and unit choices change the gameplay a lot.
  • The match allows no comebacks. Disengaging from an unsuccessful combat is extremely punishing and renders the player unable to rebuild their army. In Squad Busters, escaping from combat is fast and troop costs are dynamic to allow comebacks.

In my humble opinion, in its current state Floodrush lacks enough gameplay intensity to be mass appeal and competes too directly with Squad Busters to shine on its own.

To succeed, Floodrush needs to take some steps back and rethink how to fulfill its promise of delivering a mobile-friendly RTS.

Our Floodrush rating for this closed beta:

Ad monetization

0/10

Chance for a global launch

8.5/10 + 9/10

Player experience 

8/10

Game design

7/10

What do you think? 

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