The Oculus Quest 2 just turned one, which means that all of its launch window titles are celebrating their first anniversaries, too. Among them is one of the platform’s most enduring multiplayer shooters, Population: One.
And what a year it’s been for the battle royale shooter. There were ups and downs for sure: developer BigBox VR abandoned its Fortnite-aping Battle Pass model in favor of free events after just two seasons, but the game’s popularity proved significant enough for Facebook to acquire the studio just a few months ago. And the team continues to mix things up with new limited-time modes, including the launch of a much-requested Solos option arriving today.
“We’ve learned a ton over the last year!” Chia Chin Lee, BigBox VR’s Head of Studio says in an email Q&A. “Our daily playtests along with listening to player feedback is so important. With that information, we can recognize when things aren’t working as smoothly as they should and work quickly to fine tune features and items.”
One of the biggest changes came with Kingdom Age, a new theme introduced a few months back that Lee says “represented the culmination of our internal discussions on how to make POP1 more fun and accessible for everyone.”
Kingdom Age saw Pop One ditch its $5 Battle Pass, which gave players access to free cosmetic upgrades while a larger free update introduced new mechanics and weapons. The developer hasn’t shared stats on the uptake of those passes but given that, unlike Fortnite, the game isn’t a free-to-play shooter, it’s easy to see why some players might’ve been put off of the idea. Instead, BigBox VR has stepped up how regularly it’s doing events with the opportunity to unlock new skins without having to pay anything.
The studio says to expect this trend to continue. “At BigBox VR, one of the things we enjoy the most is learning from players,” Community Manager Eric Morrill notes. “The feedback has been positive and for now, we plan to continue with an events-driven approach.”
The latest event is Solos, which runs until November 2nd (though it’s been available in custom room options for much of the year). It supports 24 players in a match competing to be the last player standing. “That feeling of being alone and ready to strike as the zone shrinks is even more amplified because we’re launching it during our Halloween event,” Morrill explains. “Plus, night mode is on. It should be an exciting event filled with spooky solo matches!”
While it’s definitely great to see Solo being implemented into the game, it’s easily one of the most requested features and some fans will be disappointed that it’s only for a limited time. Morrill says this launch is a test, adding: “As long as it doesn’t compromise the social foundation of POP1 and players are having fun, any new mode or content drop we introduce could come back again in some form.”
As for highlights from year one? “We are happy to celebrate the fact that over 5 million friend connections have been made in-game since launch!” Lee says.
“We’d like to offer a big thanks to our community. Our goal is to always make sure the POP1 community has fun, can play the game the way they love to, while always keeping the core values of POP1 alive and well.”
Expect to see more events and updates carrying into 2022. BigBox VR is coy on plans for the new year, including the impact the Facebook acquisition has had on its future plans.
Oh, and, PSVR players? We asked, but Lee’s response doesn’t seem too promising: “At this time, we are focused on building the most compelling POP1 experience for the platforms that we already support.”