Knockout City: One Year Anniversary

A look back at our first year

Hey brawlers!

It’s me again, Jeremy, Game Director on Knockout City. Man… Year 1 was the wildest, most rewarding, most difficult, and most FUN year of my 19-year career in the game industry. I have trouble remembering all the birthdays of my own children, but I’ll never forget May 21, 2021. As we wrap the first year of Knockout City and enter a truly brand-new chapter of the game as we go Free-to-Play for Year 2, I wanted to take a look back at what made the last five Seasons (and the last five years!) as special as they were.

Launch day was truly a milestone moment for Velan Studios. We had been working on Knockout City for four years already, starting with just about 10 developers and a small nugget of an idea, then iterating and crafting it into the novel, polished experience you know today. For most members of the team, we had never worked on a “live” game before, but we felt we had something special on our hands. It defied categorization. It had elements of shooters, fighters, sports, physics… All wrapped up in a lightning-fast competitive online multiplayer game. There was no way to know how it would be received because there was nothing else like it to compare it to. Then May 21st hit, and the rave reviews came flooding in along with over 5 million players in the first two weeks! Not bad for a brand-new IP in a genre that defies definition. The past four years of development was instantly validated. Then the REAL work began!

Season 1 was an intense learning experience for the dev team. While all of you were perfecting your fake throws, developing team strategies we hadn’t thought of (AC-130!), and discovering the self-pass, the dev team was busy hooking up analytics, improving our use of servers, planning the next seasons, and reacting to player feedback (like, NEVER take away Team KO, duh!). If Year 1 was the toughest year of my career, then Season 1 was the toughest two months for sure. But holy hell was it worth it, because you can thank the education we got in Season 1 for the stellar Season 3, Season 4, and upcoming Season 6 you all got to experience. More events, crazier playlists, cooler bundles, more intro/outro poses, leaderboards, etc. The difference between now and Season 1 and 2 are like night and day, and Knockout City has more to offer today than we ever imagined before launch.

The interaction with the community has been the most rewarding aspect of the past year as well. I always laugh a little when I hear a community member thank the dev team for our transparency and interactions, because I always feel so thankful to the COMMUNITY for the interactions we get to have with them! Near constant feedback through Discord, bug reporting that allows us to quickly make fixes, fantastic in-depth discussions on strategy or new tech, and of course all the fun we have on our livestreams. My personal favorite interactions has been the live discussions we’ve been able to have with small groups of players in different pockets of the community, from the hardcore competitive crowd, to the super dedicated causal players, to the Creator Crew. I also have a meeting every week where we review the top issues being discussed in the community, which directly leads to how we prioritize our feature roadmap. Oh, and let’s not forget the KO City superfans we actually HIRED to work at Velan! While Knockout City in May of 2021 wouldn’t have been what it was without the amazingly creative and hardworking development team we have here at Velan Studios, Knockout City in May of 2022 wouldn’t be what it is without all of you and your participation in the community.

Lastly, the best part of the last year for me personally was getting to be a fan of the game myself. I’ll let you in on a little industry secret… The vast majority of the time, developers don’t play their own game. It makes sense if you think about it, it’s tough to work on something 40 hours a week for multiple years and then still be excited to play it in your spare time. But Knockout City has been a totally different experience. Nailing a long-distance Curve Shot is still just as satisfying as it ever was. Taking on a full team of 3 after the rest of your team wiped is just as thrilling. And to this day I still dare you to find any moment in any game as satisfying as tackling an opponent into a speeding train to win a match at 9 to 9 in Round 3. The dev team and I have been right there with you each night, hooting and hollering as we chuck players into Basketbrawl hoops, land untargeted Bomb Ball shots, nail Triple KO Revenge Ultimates, make narrow escapes on UFOs, and coordinate a team “koooo!” “KOOooo!” “KOOOOO!” singing Taunt. Playing Knockout City has been an absolute blast, and knowing everything we have planned for Season 6 and the rest of Year 2 has me just as excited as a player as it does a developer!

To the hardworking and amazingly talented KO City team at Velan Studios, I want to say congratulations on wrapping an amazing first year of creativity, technical achievement, and (most importantly) learning. To the incredibly dedicated community of brawlers, I want to say thank you for the tough competition, the hilarious fun, the insightful feedback, and the overwhelming positivity and support unparalleled in any other game community I’ve seen. And to everyone out there, now it’s time to look forward, flip that FREE-TO-PLAY switch, and dodge headfirst into Year 2!

Jeremy Russo
Game Director

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