Blaseball, the absurd horror fantasy sport that gained a cult fan base, is back after a year-long hiatus - IGN

Blaseball, the absurd horror fantasy sport that gained a cult fan base, is back after a year-long hiatus – IGN

“Moments ago on Blaseball dot com, The Coin melted and a black hole swallowed the universe.”

So said Stephen Bell, designer of The Game Band, when I asked him, along with creative director Sam Rosenthal and head of game design Joel Clark, to remind me what the most important events were. latest in the world of Blaseball. Bell eagerly volunteered to provide this explanation, saying he had “practiced.”

Of course, “a few moments ago” in the world of Blaseball was almost exactly a year ago when the “age of expansion” came to an explosive end. The rest of the context doesn’t really matter. A black hole has swallowed up all that Blaseball was, and now The Game Band is ready to bring Blaseball back so its audience can decide what it was. will be.

Expansion, under contract

As Rosenthal described it when I interviewed him last year, Blaseball is an “absurd horror take on fantasy baseball”. It involves a group of fictional baseball teams with names like the Canada Moist Talkers, Kansas City Breath Mints, and Charleston Shoe Thieves playing fictional simulator-run baseball games over the course of a week.

Its audience “plays” Blaseball by placing bets (in play money, with no real money involved) on the outcome of those games. Their winnings are exchanged for votes in a weekly election, where the community decides new rules for future games. Then the week begins again, with more and more ridiculous matches. Past rule changes have introduced things like player incinerator umpires, fourth basemen, and even a giant god-like peanut. For those who have been able to keep up with the increasingly ridiculous storylines, everything has been great. But by the end of the 2021 expansion era, Blaseball had become so cumbersome and complex that many old fans had dropped out and new fans weren’t arriving as easily.

But The Game Band wants to change that, hence the one-year hiatus (or “Grand Siesta” in gaming parlance)

“More than anything, we were using it as a space to take a step back and figure out what we want it to be in the long run,” Rosenthal tells me. “If we kept going at the pace we were at, we had a good idea of ​​where it was going… We had a harder time bringing new people into the fold, [hearing] the same refrain again: ‘I feel like I missed the boat, there’s so much going on here all the time, it’s so hard to catch up.’

At our mercy

It was perhaps inevitable that The Game Band would find themselves in this situation. After all, Blaseball was never intended to be the overnight cult hit it quickly became when it launched in 2020. It was originally conceived as a goofy side project while The Game Band determined what what their next full game would be after the release of Where Cards. To fall. But it took off unexpectedly, forcing The Game Band to pivot its studio strategy to maintain it. It was a lot of sudden and unexpected work for a team that numbered about six developers.

Game Band’s development team has since grown to 27 members, and now they’re launching Fall Ball: A Prologue to the Next Era of Blaseball. Over the next few weeks, various players from Blaseball’s past will fall from the aforementioned black hole (Get it? FALL Ball?), randomly landing on different teams. Meanwhile, the public can register via email for “memorial rewards” which will be unlocked by the entire fan base when they reach a certain number of registrations. There will be no games during this time, but those are coming on an unannounced date after Fall Ball.

It used to be that Blaseball was a completely browser-based experience, but no more. Alongside Fall Ball, The Game Band is unveiling an app for iOS and Android that will launch alongside the new era. The app will have full parity with website functionality, as well as push notifications, giving Blaseball the flavor of a more traditional sports app like ESPN.

This dovetails nicely with some of the changes audiences should expect to see when Blaseball returns for its new era. It’s still the same structure – one week of matches, one league, one vote on Sunday – but Rosenthal says they’re aiming to make it friendlier to people who can’t stare at the site all day watching matches. . He won’t share specific details yet, but says it will be easier to bet on games in advance. Community social features are also coming, making it easier for teams to collaborate on voting strategies without individuals having to log into a specific Discord or Twitter server.

Amid all of this, Blaseball will remain free-to-play. But whereas it was previously funded largely by weekly sponsorships from various companies, the coming era will see the introduction of optional paid transactions. The team reassures that nothing with real money will have an impact on the game of Blaseball itself – everything is related to elements that will allow individuals to personalize their user experience, especially in conjunction with the elements Blaseball socials.

We had a lot more time to plan, so we thought a lot more ahead of time. But part of that leaves room for improvisation.

More importantly, Blaseball remains at the mercy of his fans. The year-long nap allowed The Game Band to play what Clark calls “the space of possibilities” much further ahead than before. The team is moving away from the big overarching storylines that characterized the first two eras in favor of a more “monster of the week” format that allows fans to dive in and out without reading pages of wiki articles about what happened months ago. But the stories told from week to week will remain in the hands of the sim and the fans.

“We had a lot more time to plan, so we thought a lot more ahead of time,” Clark says. “But part of that allows space for improvisation, with the nature of simulation being essentially an emergent narrative driver. You have to improvise, right? There will be things the sim will do that we can’t expect, there will be stories that fans will tell around the sim that we can’t expect. And there will be things they find they can do that we can’t expect. So we design the space of possibilities and try to give ourselves the tools to be able to improvise and have them ready in advance, so we don’t build things on the fly, but we have things that we can bring in if needed. “

An era of sustainability

With that comes the hope (if not the promise) that Blaseball will end with year-long naps like this. It’s about durability, the team tells me – something they’ve discussed in the old days. Clark acknowledges that The Game Band has learned a lot about what exactly sustainability means over time. Rosenthal, meanwhile, is optimistic about Blaseball’s prospects now that he has a much bigger squad to back him up and a ‘much more stable base’.

The trio add that their internal processes will likely still need fine-tuning. After all, many of The Game Band’s 27 members were hired last year and never made the team during games, fans vote on decisions, and Blaseball moves under everyone’s feet. world. It’s daunting, but it’s also an exciting creative challenge for the team.

This push for sustainability extends not just to the team, but to the community that creates Blaseball history with them.

“I think that’s all we keep coming back to, because we’ve heard that and we’ve felt it through two eras of people saying, ‘That was interesting to me, but I missed it. or I can’t find my way,” Bell said. “So [success would mean] keep the Blaseball energy, keep doing the weird, chaotic stuff that we like to do, but don’t block the door on new fans.

Blaseball’s Fall Ball website update is underway, with the first player set to fall from a black hole on October 28, and the Blaseball app set to launch at the same unannounced time as the next Era.

Rebekah Valentine is a reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.

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