Steel City Interactive, the studio behind eSports Boxing Club, held a community playthrough event in Spring 2022. SCI has now ended the embargo on its ESBC footage from this past April. Check out the breakdown below.
ESBC April 2022 Gameplay Impressions
Gameplay is a complex topic to preview without hands-on impressions. However, we can evaluate the animations, collision detection, locomotion, and momentum. The latest footage from Steel City Interactive demonstrates a tighter-looking fight system. The punches are snappier than before, with sharper starts and finishes. This is a bit of an improvement over the previous iterations of builds we have seen. The older footage bore punches that lacked pop; the weak punches still show up from time to time. These glancing shots can be weaved into the game for fatigue purposes, making them much more palatable. And this is exactly what SCI has done.
On the downside, the fighters appear more rigid. Perhaps SCI took the feedback too far, going from a fluid locomotion system, and tightening the game up to be too stiff. I say this because when fighters throw a punch, their lower halves seem to get too heavy. The feathery, light feet from other game iterations are less noticeable. What happened to velocity momentum? The momentum engine was an essential improvement over a game like Fight Night. The water-like quality we saw from the fighters as they explored the canvas in previous footage defines what we want from next-gen sports gaming. In comparison, this gameplay footage is all about exchanging blows in the pocket. While I’d like to see a bit more emphasis on the footwork in and out of throws the gameplay still shows promise.
Again, there are far fewer weak punch animations that lack speed and precision. The throws appear to be more targeted, which is a welcome improvement. When fists make contact, they look more impactful. The rumor is that the collision detection was a bit buggy at the community event, but this latest build does not show such clipping or glitches that were key points of complaint by the community. If ESBC — at its peak -can look and play like this alpha footage build, then this is a game with promise, no question.
One last area that could improve is the fighter’s reactions to taking power punches. Power punches should slow fighters, and their response to get back to a fundamental guard and stance should show fatigue or injury. The demo’s fighters absorb serious hits and get back to guard as if nothing happened. I think these details can help bring the fighters to life and add some more realism, differentiating the game from EA’s series.
Overall, the studio is making changes to tighten up the fighting in the pocket, and it is reassuring that SCI is still tuning gameplay. The animation library is in place. The locomotion engine has shown what it is capable of. Now, SCI needs to continue to fine-tune the cohesive, final product.
What more can be said? The game looks beautiful and appears to run smoothly. The gameplay footage looks to be the highest quality footage yet. Perhaps even at 60 frames per second. Sweat flies when gloves connect. Hair flips back after fighters try to absorb powerful shots; shoe-laces bounce. The lighting remains dynamic.
A nice touch of detail is the cornermen and cut men. Each fighter’s team can now be seen in the background, sporting their fighter’s gear and branding, and it looks good.
Presentation-wise, the cameras seem to be unchanged. White light flashes when power shots land, adding a subtle Fight Night element to the game. An element of motion blur lends a sense of hand speed to the action.
ESBC is set to feature over 36 punch variations. While this is welcome, perhaps it is overambitious and led to the aforementioned collision-detection and clipping issues. The April 2022 footage does not appear to feature signature style or animations. The fighters look a bit too robotic in their punching style. Perhaps this was a conscious decision to simplify the game to correct the clipping issues. And this is okay for an alpha build. I’d like to see a bit more style without impacting the gameplay.
Lastly, ESBC needs added game design elements to guide players in a match. I am a huge proponent of in-game badges and cues that can simultaneously guide players and reward them. The devs’ visual and audible cues can help players become better boxers, whether timing-based cues or rewards for an excellent counter. Doing so helps players achieve a state of flow while playing, creating an enjoyable gaming experience. If done tactfully, in-game badges and cues will cue dopamine hits for players and keep them coming back for more, building the ESBC player base.
ESBC is on the right track. There was a worry when the studio went dark for months in 2021, followed by the news that the community gameplay testers walked away from the QA testing unimpressed. The ESBC April ’22 footage gives us hope that the game is on track and that boxing will return to sports gaming.
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