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June 21

v0.33 Retrospective

Welcome Hunters

Welcome to our retrospective for Steel Hunters v0.33! For those of you new to our community, this is a recurring format where we revisit the last playtest, look at what went well, what needs improvement, and discuss some of your most important feedback. Please note that this is not all-encompassing; due to the huge volume of feedback, I can only pick some things to discuss here.

With that disclaimer out of the way, let me officially welcome all our new Hunters – it’s been a fantastic few weeks with you, and we hope to keep you with us up to and past release!

First, let’s talk playtests – because there were a lot of them for v0.33. We started with Steel Lab in April, moved to our first public test with a smaller-scale marketing initiative, and finally reached our longest playtest to date on May 23rd.

A big shoutout to everyone who joined us for the preparatory tests and endured the multiple wipes as we prepared to welcome almost 50,000 new Hunters to the game!

FYI: We aim to keep the number of wipes to a minimum and avoid them if we don’t need them to test changes to leveling or onboarding!

Usually, we take some time to talk about new features in the version – of which there were a few – but since so many of you are new, this retrospective will be a bit more general and encompassing.

What went well

"The good"

The Hunter Trials

We are very happy with how our Hunter Trials event ran and received mostly positive feedback from the community about the milestone event, as well as from those of you (and us - did you spot the devs?) who competed for a spot on the illustrious Leaderboard to claim the personalized wallpaper pack. It was great to see so many of you pushing during the last weekend to unlock that final milestone. There is now a permanent Hall of Fame available under the same link, where the players who made it to the leaderboard have been immortalized. But we also want to shout out the biggest contributors to our milestone event – you guys are crazy (in a good way)!

Player Total Points Contributed
boba0928 1028
thevio1etarcher 1016
soulyplays 851
nguoilaidonan 731
whitewolf_uk 639
wrapitupcowie 615
ginryu_shimotsuki 603
klovos 601
vendoom 592
sexyburny 579

It was our first time running an activity like this for Steel Hunters, where our publishing and development teams collaborated to bring you an event that updates in real-time, delivers rewards automatically, and allows for an unlimited number of participants. Suffice it to say that we will be re-using the code we built for this in future events. If you have any suggestions on what these could look like, we’d love your feedback in the #suggestions-and-feedback forum on the official Discord server.


It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows – we had a little issue crop up that some of you pointed out to us. Our shiny “B.E.S.T. Uniform” skins, which were the reward for this event, ended up looking lackluster – and more importantly – different from what we presented to you in our marketing and promo materials.

We learned a valuable lesson about workflow and communication here. When the skins were initially developed, our team created the glorious artwork that you saw on the event page. However, ongoing changes were made to the skins prior to the version being finalized, resulting in a mismatch in design between what we showed you and what you received. Additionally, due to some technical work on game shaders that affected all skins, they didn’t render very well in the game and, as a result, did not have the visual impact we wanted.


What now?

We are making an online game that we hope will have a long and illustrious future, which is only possible with a great core community that has trust in the game and the development team – something we care deeply about. So, as soon as we discovered this mistake, our art team went to work to fix it. We are happy to announce that a rework of all the B.E.S.T. skins will be deployed in v0.35 to bring them in line with what we showed you. This includes tweaking the shaders, the return of some decals, and a change to the previous patterning, especially for Razorside. We hope that you take our commitment – even during Alpha – to keeping our promises seriously.

This is what they will look like in the game

Core Gameplay

Overall feedback on our basic game loop, the “fun” factor of the game, and your enjoyment of it was great, and we’re glad to see that the majority of players love what we built. However, we received many valuable comments on the lack of appeal of PvE encounters, wishes for more variety in mid-game events, consumables, and gameplay approaches. These items are very high on our list of things to tackle, and we look forward to showing you what we’re working on soon!

What needs work

"The bad"

Game Performance

It would be easy to just say “we’re in Alpha” so don’t expect optimization – but that would be incorrect. While our primary focus right now is on adding new features, we are mindful of performance impacts with every change and addition to the game. We conduct performance testing to ensure new features don't negatively affect gameplay. However, your feedback has shown that optimization is an aspect we need to concentrate more on in the future. Rest assured, we plan to dedicate more time to improving performance as we shift focus from new features to enhancing the smoothness and visual quality of your gaming experience.

Server Performance

Many of you noticed and commented on the intermittent server freezes and associated rubber banding that we experienced in the second week of playtesting. After much investigation, we found that the culprit was our Crash Analyzer Tool – which is, of course, very important in an Alpha – sending its data to another internal service that was not responding quickly enough. Somehow (I’m just the pretty face here, sorry) this caused the entire server cluster to take a quick break from running the games, and everything froze. We're doing our very best to get this resolved as soon as possible!


The balancing of an online multiplayer title is an ever-changing thing, and Steel Hunters will be no different. Many of you noted that some Hunters, like Ursus with her punishing rockets, Fletcher with his high DPM arrows and small weak spots, or Taurus with a cooldown reduction build, may be too strong. We will be looking at their performance closely. You can expect to see the next set of balance changes coming to the game in v0.35! But having said that (and as someone who played a lot during the playtest, I can confirm) our data shows that the current state of balance is decent and that all Hunters can be viable in the right hands.

Steel Hunters: Bear Edition

Missions & Economy

Apart from the obvious need to fix the display of bonus missions, you noted that several mission requirements (i.e., Achieve Drone Hunter status) were hard and frustrating to complete. We will take this feedback onboard for future iterations of our mission system to try and provide missions that are challenging without being frustrating. For those of you who played many battles in a day, Credits became a real bottleneck once you had completed all of the daily missions. While the some of this balancing was intentional to ensure players don’t unlock everything in one day, we recognize the need to provide more opportunities for earning Credits.

We will be looking closely at the new player experience and the balance on rewards given from Account Level progression and the onboarding missions. Additionally, we are going to rebalance the Hunter level XP requirements and the cost of upgrading the skill tree, making it cheaper at the start and more expensive later on. This should help new players progress smoothly without facing early credit issues. As you advance in the game, we will continue to provide engaging and rewarding daily missions to ensure you have multiple ways to earn the resources you need.

Onboarding & Progression

The new onboarding system did its job in introducing elements to new players in a controlled manner, but based on your feedback, we know that this wasn’t universally liked. Many of you remarked that the initial onboarding was too slow and didn’t work for experienced online gamers who really just wanted to dive straight into PvP. Our approach (Tutorial -> Scripted First Battle -> PvP games with multiple bot teams) needs to be revisited to adapt to different player expectations in the future. Part of that will also be to make missions accessible earlier and to ensure you can squad up with other players earlier.

The same can be said for our progression system, which was present in its first iteration during this test. It served its purpose but could be more intuitive, visually appealing, and offer more impactful choices for crafting your build while you level up your Hunters. We will work on these aspects and re-test them with you prior to release!

Sportsmanship Rating

It’s important to ensure that players commit to a match once they launch it when you are developing an online PvP game – there is nothing more frustrating than having AFK teammates or enemies. This was the reason for implementing our sportsmanship system, which is reduced whenever someone leaves a match prematurely or goes AFK in a fight. Unfortunately, the combination of being in Alpha, where game crashes are still more frequent, and the fact that our re-connection feature is not quite ready yet, meant that some of you were punished for experiencing a game crash. We also received many comments from players who suggested more positive reinforcement of good behavior alongside the punishment for leaving games. We hear the feedback and will work on adjusting the system in the future!


Ah Colossus... much like oysters, marmite, or durian – you either love it or you hate it. It has always been one of the most polarizing features of Steel Hunters, and one that hasn’t stood the test of time in many ways. Colossus started out as its very own Hunter (named Ajax), back in the days when the game had vast differences in size between Hunters and has been a feature of the game ever since. We have our own list of issues that we want to address alongside the ones we got from your feedback, among them the lackluster feeling of the main guns, the frustration of landing melee hits, problems with navigating across the map, and the sheer terror many players feel when they are confronted with an enemy Colossus for the first time.

While we don’t have a concrete plan to share regarding Colossus yet, we’ve got plenty of ideas and will let you know once we decide on a direction!

What did not work

"The ugly"

The B.E.S.T Resolution

Humble pie is for sure the worst kind of pie – and we had to eat plenty of it when we realized we were not able to deliver results for a competition that many of you cared deeply about. During Alpha, we are not just working on the game, but we are also building processes and structures in our team to ensure we can launch a live-service game, which is a challenge (I have a knack for understatements). After the contest, we discovered that the amount of detailed battle logs that were being saved had been scaled down to only 25% of all reports to help with server stability. While this was sufficient for our overall analytics purposes, the team did not know that our community contest relied on these logs to give the detailed metrics that we had envisioned to keep this contest fair and competitive. Try as we might, the data was not recoverable as it had never been saved in the first place.

We have apologized on Discord and have drawn a clear lesson about internal communications from this to ensure it doesn’t happen again. We will try to re-run this contest in a future playtest to make it up to you!

Invisible Hunters

Some of you encountered invisible Hunters during the playtest, which led to a lot of confusing moments and some frustrating losses. Some of the invisible Hunters were reportedly also flying, which made the situation funnier, but no less fun. Game development is hard, and even though the team has done extensive bug-hunting, we were not yet able to reproduce this bug in any way. We mention this bug here only in case you encounter it in the next version. Please send us lots of details with the bug reports, so we can finally squash this annoying one too!

What's Next?

For the next update (first playtest on the 28th of June), we will be welcoming back two fan-favorite Hunters to the roster: Fenris and Trenchwalker are both ready to get back in action now that their System trees and progression have been finalized.

Starting from v0.34, you can expect a new version every 6 weeks, with a 3-week cadence of playtests that will usually run from Friday to Sunday. While the focus of our big test was on longer-term engagement and progression, we're now going to concentrate on implementing your feedback, polishing existing systems, and finishing the development of new maps, Hunters, and many other features. Your involvement will be very important as we want to ensure that everything works while being fun and balanced. Closer to autumn, we expect to host a few more larger playtests before locking down our release date.


A word of thanks

Finally, we want to specifically call out the thousands of you who left feedback on Discord, participated in discussions in voice chat, asked questions in the Dev Q&A, and filled in our feedback survey. You are the real MVPs of this playtest and have definitely helped shape our development direction on the road to release!


And with that, I’m wrapping this retro up – I could keep talking at length about other aspects of the feedback, but it would never end. If you feel like it, you can always catch me on Discord during one of our upcoming playtests, and I will gladly debate you on the finer points of Ursus balance – or indeed the flavor of durian. This has been my first retrospective in a while, and I hope you enjoyed it.

Yours truly,