Active development on Deuce came to an end early in 2016. I’d started work on a prototype racing game and ultimately, after showing this prototype to a bunch of people it became clear that it was already more fun and showing stronger potential.
So, what went right? I think Deuce had and still has quite a lot of potential. The core idea was good and the further we got with the game, I think the better the idea for the gameplay actually became.
I think the art looked pretty decent. Initially it wasn't optimised at all and ran pretty poorly on low end PCs and consoles, but visually it looked nice and felt pretty polished. It had a definite and recognisable style. We managed to get builds running on Xbox and PS4 and always felt that it was at home on consoles.
The main issue I felt with the game is that gameplay-wise it never felt quite right. We kind of fell into a trap of just pushing forward with more content, more characters and courts rather than taking a step back and evaluating the core gameplay. It always seemed functional but not quite fun. We were making a design-heavy almost beat-em-up style game with 20 characters that all needed balancing but there were not the resources to do this. So we ended up with 10+ characters half finished but nothing that really progressed the gameplay.
I’m very fond of the game and I still find myself putting an hour or so of dev time every so often. Most recently I ported what we had to the Switch, just for fun. If you play Deuce and then any other tennis game it does hold up quite well, it just lacks... something.
I’ve always been a fan of tennis games. My very first industry job as a programmer was working on a Gameboy Tennis game for Ubisoft. A couple of months after joining Facepunch I decided to have a go at building an arcade style tennis sim. I’d been enjoying Virtua Tennis on the PS Vita and Mario Power Tennis on the Wii at the time and thought there wasn’t anything like that on Steam. Valve was talking about Steam boxes and Steam controllers and I really wanted to exploit these new technologies. Initially we built a small prototype that consisted of one player model and a very basic court. Alex joined Facepunch and we worked together for a considerable time trying to build a decent animation system. After fighting with Unity’s new mecanim system we had a functional tennis game.
Matt and Jason joined the project in August 2014 as artists and together we started working through a bunch of gameplay ideas and character designs. Initially the game used the standard tennis scoring mechanic; Love, 15, 30 etc but this was something we wanted to move away from. We replaced the usual rules with a Street Fighter style health bar scoring mechanic. As rallies progressed the amount of damage that would be inflicted on your opponent increased should you win the point. We also tried out various methods for acquiring and triggering special moves. Initially we had powerups spawn on the court surface that would randomly give you a special move, Mario Kart style, but we felt that specials should be rewarded for good play rather than the player just being in the right spot. We added special meters and tried out several different mechanics for filling these meters. Some early work on a multiplayer mode, gameplay mechanics per court and a replay system was also undertaken.
In January 2016 active development of Deuce ceased. Following a prototype week I decided to focus on a different game. Ultimately Deuce always seemed functional but never felt like you wanted “just one more go”. If you are a fan of Mario Power Tennis then you’ll probably find some enjoyment in it, but for us, other ideas seemed to have more appeal.