In July 2021, Blaseball was sucked into a black hole. This was the end of Blaseball's second era—Expansion—a tale of excess; of gods and finance and increasingly complex mechanics stacking on top of each other to build something absurd. Now, finally, Blaseball's third era is on the way. First, though, the universe needs to rebuild itself.
Today, Blaseball launches Fall Ball, a prologue to the new era. "We're dropping players from a black hole, onto teams," says creative director Sam Rosenthal. "So this is a way to witness the reforming and birth of a new Blaseball universe." The countdown that's currently live on the site is ticking down to the first player drop. When it ends, someone from Blaseball's roster will emerge and land randomly onto their new team.
It's a cosmic draft, essentially, that will redistribute the players across the league's 24 teams.
Already, as a fan, I'm nervous about the possibility of seeing my team's players scattered throughout the league—although the end of Expansion left plenty of rosters almost unrecognisable. For The Game Band, though, it's an important chance to hit the reset button. "When our last era ended by being swallowed by a black hole, we specifically ended on that note so that we could start fresh and shake loose some of the… maybe baggage isn't the right word for it—but to let us get started anew," says game design lead Joel Clark. "This is our first opportunity to do so. I think it's gonna feel really fresh and new to even our existing fans. And I think you'll all appreciate it. Like we wanted to bring in new fans while still honouring the old and letting the old spirit of Blaseball still be there. But in a lot of ways, what we're doing is very much a reboot of Blaseball. We're trying to find that balance between the two, and I think we found it."
What state those players land in should tell us a lot about Blaseball's third era. Expansion's glut of mechanics pushed up the number of modifiers attached to players and teams higher than ever before. And the inflation of star ratings and their underlying stats meant players were better at the game than ever before. This new era, then, is a chance to rebalance the books.
"Star creep got out of control," says Clark. "And there were so many mods, so we're going to have to remove quite a bit of those on both counts just to have a fresh starting point. If we even just kept the mods, we would be starting with a glut of systems. So it's going to be pretty fresh. How fresh? Well I won't say exactly. Things will look different, for sure. I will say… we've had to rebuild a lot. So even the core sim has undergone huge changes. And it's going to feel very different in this era, and it's going to have whole new systemic depths to dive into."
"It'll look very new too," Rosenthal adds. "It's getting a huge fresh coat of paint as we redid the UI completely. Part of that was just really reconsidering what playing Blaseball is actually like, and how we can bring a lot of the choices and actions that the players are doing more together, so it feels less like everything is on a separate page. We thought a lot about how fans organise and play together outside of Blaseball, on Discord and on Twitter and such, and wanted to bring some of that spirit into the game so that when you join you realise that this is a game that a lot of people play together. And you don't have to go join a bunch of different external servers and social networks to get a feel for that community experience. And then also, we're launching on mobile for the first time too, so we wanted a UI that at the very least would not be the same on both, but have a consistent visual styling, no matter where you're playing."
It sounds like part of the aim for this new era is to have Blaseball be easier to follow for new fans, and less time intensive for existing ones. Towards the end of Expansion, I attempted to summarise some of the story up to that point, but eventually gave up when it became clear that, each week, the rules would dramatically change, sometimes invalidating that everything came before. Instead, after the era ended, I wrote a tribute to the Philly Pies, and their trials and tribulations during the season when they were the best teams in the league, but wins turned into losses.
"Oh yeah, because the Pies were finally really good that season," says Clark as I explain all this to the people responsible for my heartbreak. "But actually they were really bad that season. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry about Nerd Pacheco. That was another devastating one. We were really like, 'how far can we push this?' It was a learning experience."
whatJuly 26, 2021
A consequence of the way Expansion worked is that it was hard to catch up mid-era. If you weren't there when it started, you needed to do a lot of research just to figure out why sharks were biting players, or why a home run could give your team a negative score. To solve this problem, The Game Band are planning a new structure for the third era.
"Definitely some elements will be kept," says Clark. "We get to reevaluate everything we had from Discipline era, all the way through Expansion, and see what works the best. What can we cull away and what can we keep? What can we redesign? This new era, you're going to see our first attempt at that. Expansion was very much about that accumulation of systems. It was the natural conclusion of the structure we had set up, of every week you get to add a new rule or add a new something to Blaseball. We've reevaluated that, so our new structure is going to be more week-by-week. Each week will be like a 'monster of the week'—its own little arc that you can dive into. Even if you don't have context of previous seasons, you can dive into the current season and just see what horrifying or mysterious things might be happening that season. It gives us a little mini reset each season, which I think is going to go a long way."
I am the Blaseball CommissionerJuly 27, 2021
"The new structure lets us really curate the mechanics a lot more as well," says Rosenthal. "Like Joel was saying, that Expansion was just this constant accumulation meant that when you jump in, it's kind of difficult to know what to focus on. Systems were never removed, features were never removed—everything was always there, all the time. So we've actually, internally, talked a lot about Super Mario Galaxy when designing this era, where every galaxy was its own self-contained thing that had one or two mechanics they explored quite a bit and then discarded as you went into the next one. We've been trying to move more into that style of design where we can really highlight a system or mechanic for a week—tie it all in with the theme and the character—and move on to something else."
Overall, then, the new Blaseball aims to be more accessible, and more respectful of fans' time. This coincides with it being available on more platforms, where it can reach more prospective fans. This is why part of the Fall Ball period will also act as a recruitment drive for the third era. By registering, the community will collectively work towards attendance goals that will unlock rewards that hold secrets to Blaseball's universe, past and future. The Game Band aren't yet saying what, exactly, those rewards will be, but they'll be tied into the new on-site community features.
"So we're going to actually have to make a little bit of money this time around with Blaseball," says Rosenthal, "so we are going to have what we think are cool things to buy, that are very much in the spirit of the game. We've spent a lot of time thinking about monetization, how to make it ethical. We certainly aren't going to let you pay to make the Philly Pies win. But the rewards are going to be really cool free versions of what we're going to be ultimately selling, and the experience. They're cosmetics and they will interact with some of the new community features that are there. That's all I'm really able to say about it right now."
There's no date yet for the start of the third era, and much of The Game Band's plans are still under wraps. "When we left off, we melted the Coin, which was the big boss of Blaseball," teases Clark, "and that left behind a power vacuum. And so a lot of this era is going to be about the ramifications of that, and the ramifications of the black hole—so two sort of vacuums—how do we resolve that? How do we fill that void?"
"We talk a lot about what creates interesting, funny outcomes in sports," says Rosenthal. "And once the ball is in play in baseball, all sorts of things can happen. Previously in our simulation, a small amount of things could happen. So we've spent a lot of time trying to figure out, 'how do we widen that space and bring some of the interesting, funny outcomes from the real sport into our world, and spice them up a little bit in the way that we usually do?'"
Fall Ball is live now.
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Phil has been writing for PC Gamer for nearly a decade, starting out as a freelance writer covering everything from free games to MMOs. He eventually joined full-time as a news writer, before moving to the magazine to review immersive sims, RPGs and Hitman games. Now he leads PC Gamer's UK team, but still sometimes finds the time to write about his ongoing obsessions with Destiny 2, GTA Online and Apex Legends. When he's not levelling up battle passes, he's checking out the latest tactics game or dipping back into Guild Wars 2. He's largely responsible for the whole Tub Geralt thing, but still isn't sorry.