Knockout City best dodgeball strategy: Pass, roll into a ball, win
Playing around in a single-player sports title, sure, I’m the super star all the time. Multiplayer, when my abilities, or absence thereof, are out there in genuine time with no do-overs, I hang back into an assistance function. You’d be shocked what sort of a colleague grade you can acquire in NBA 2K21 simply by rebounding and setting choices. And I don’t do such things reluctantly; I’m grateful they’re there to offer me a job.
This is why I’m fired up for Knockout City’s launch next month. Velan Studios’ dodgeball derby — the schoolyard staple as sport-of-the-future — appears to have actually been made with support-minded folks in mind. There’s constantly something I can be doing to assist my team, even if I’m not holding a ball, and none are generating within sight.
“We see this sort of interesting progression: Players are playing on their own, just learning how to throw and catch,” Velan co-founder Karthik Bala stated after Knockout City finished up its multi-platform beta at the start of this month. “And after that, they find out how to pass.
“Just that takes them to a whole new tier, in terms of team-based dynamics,” Bala stated.
A tutorial motivates you to pass, since it charges up the shot, and can even result in a one-hit removal (3 basic hits are needed to get rid of a challenger). Gamers actually need to see that in action to get it. More specifically, you need to see another group working with death, swarming your side, removing you or your colleagues prior to anybody can gather their ideas, to comprehend its significance.
Passing doesn’t need any precision, simply tap the left bumper, and it’s going to the nearby colleague. You’re rewarded as much for making the additional pass as you are for following the play and remaining in position to take it (instead of going off, alone, to hunt for a ball generate).
With its weapon generates, and deathmatch-style playlists, Knockout City looks like a multiplayer shooter as much as it may a sports title. However Karthik Bala and his sibling, Velan co-founder Guha Bala, understood in their earliest styles that dodgeball would be required to utilize the ball as something to be passed and captured, not simply tossed as a projectile weapon.
“With that, we could actually open up a new kind of team play,” Guha Bala said. “And then people could really explore it.”
Knockout City’s other staple of support play is less intuitive. In my first few hours with the game, during a press preview and then a closed beta five weeks prior, I didn’t really understand rolling myself up into a ball. I thought it would be some kind of edge-case advanced tactic that was best dabbled with after I locked down other basics.
Wrong, it is a basic of winning play. Throwing a rolled-up teammate into an opponent is always a one-hit elimination — with credit to thrower and throw-ee. It’s also a critical option for a sport played on a large map, where opposing teams can engage each other far from sight of a ball spawn. In basketball, my constant objective on offense is either to get open or get a teammate open. In Knockout City, my constant objective is either have a ball in my hand or get one into my teammates’ hands. Anything in between, I can’t help the team score.
This is the a-ha moment I was looking for, and didn’t really find, in a hurried press preview where I was more concerned with looking like I understood what I was doing, rather than doing it. But as players discover the fundamentals to an all-new sport, the Balas have seen truly advanced tactics emerge — playmaking that they hadn’t conceived of in their original design.
“I saw moves in the game that I never saw in four years in development,” Karthik Bala said. “Players doing stuff that I have never seen before. And that was thrilling.”
Pressed for an example, Karthik Bala gave this: In 3-on-3 Team KO (team deathmatch, basically), he saw Player A for one side utilize an “ultimate throw” with Player B. Ultimates take a while to charge up, and launch the rolled up player high into the air, to make a kind of orbital strike on any foes below.
Except, at the apex of the throw, Player B broke out into glider mode (players can open a glider after jumping, for fast-travel purposes). Now they hovered above a nearly full view of the map.
Then Player C rolled up, and Player A passed them to the gliding Player B. Passing one rolled-up teammate to another automatically charges them into the Ultimate state — no waiting.
“Then they took out, you know, double KO, or it was even a triple KO. They wiped out the whole team,” Karthik Bala said. “They were able to take command of the map. I’m like, ‘Well, that’s a new move.’ We have physics in the game that lead to emergent play, and in combination with the moveset, these combinations can have some really unique outcomes.”
Players shouldn’t worry about how they can coordinate, especially among strangers, these kinds of sophisticated attacks. The action is so fast-paced in Knockout City, such stunts usually come together in a very happenstance, opportunistic way. This team may not have even intended to pull off this move at the outset.
But players won’t need a headset or voice chat to deploy basic teamwork, either. Without a ball in hand, the left bumper makes you shout for a pass; rolled up, it calls out for a teammate to throw you. Passing to others is automatic (like the throw attack, it’s aim-assisted within a cone of view from the player), and you can always roll yourself into a teammate’s hands, replacing whatever they were holding, because a rolled teammate is always the superior shot.
Other touches in the game’s design show how players are encouraged to take an extra step. The flip and spin moves by themselves don’t do much; paired with a shot, though, you get a lob or a weaving curve shot that disrupts your target’s timing, if they’re trying to catch your throw. (All attacks can be captured with proper timing — even the special Sniper Ball. “The best is when you see a player catch the Sniper Ball,” laughed Guha Bala. “Then you’re like, you know, ‘Get me away from this guy.’”)
“Because this was a very different type of play style, we wanted to return to the very basics, and look at that throw, pass, catch loop. It required us to ask players to behave a little differently, and very early, to make sure that the payoff is there for passing,” Guha Bala explained. This is why passing is aim-assisted, and nearly automatic. “So we made it more about position and timing. We also realize that position is not simply about your player position, but where your teammates are positioned. So if your teammate’s rolled up, it’s not only to use them as a weapon, but also maybe to toss them to a spot where they need to be positioned, or to get into position to flank, and then pass them another ball.
“It’s a matter of balancing these sorts of things, but also giving subtle incentives to say ‘Take the riskier route,” Guha Bala stated. “It has a tactical payout.’”
Thinking about Knockout City for the last couple of hours it took to write this, I’m kind of frustrated I can’t go down and play it, to try out some of the things the Balas described and see how my teammates respond, or just to see if sticking to these fundamentals gives my team any advantage over those who haven’t discovered them yet. It’s hard to tell what the experience level is after two betas. The very first was closed on PC only; the second was fully open across all platforms, seeing a million downloads and 116 million minutes played, so, an average of two hours per player, roughly.
Knockout City, published by Electronic Arts under its Originals label, launches May 21, on everything — Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC (via Epic Games Store, Origin, and Steam), Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. The video game supports cross-platform play and progression. Players will get a free trial with the complete video game, with any development they make rollovering if they select to purchase.
Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.