The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games and life converge

Tag Archives: Boundary

Boundary: Killtaculars During Another SteamFest Demo and Reflections on a Year of Progress

“仰觀宇宙之大,俯察品類之盛,所以遊目騁懷,足以極視聽之娛,信可樂也。” –王羲之

A year ago, news of a highly innovative first person shooter reached my ears through SteamFest: this news was regarding Studio Surgical Scalpels’ Boundary, a tactical shooter set in the final frontier of outer space. In the demo, I found a remarkably engaging title that made full use of its environment to provide a novel experience, one in which players must be mindful of, and capitalise upon, a full six degrees of freedom in their movement to flank foes and complete objectives. Amongst the complex structures, and occasional wreckage of semi-futuristic space stations, players duke it out in an environment unbound by gravity. Ultimately, I found Boundary to be a remarkably unique experience; the game mechanics are polished, with movement handling in a fashion consistent with what one would expect from a space shooter, and moreover, the aesthetics in Boundary are on point: if the world had suddenly invested vastly into space exploration and defensive forces in space, the installations and technologies seen in Boundary appear feasible within a few decades’ worth of progress. In particular, the weapons look amazing and feel like contemporary firearms adapted for use in space. From a gameplay and art design standpoint, Boundary is very playable – in fact, the game had been quite ready for launch since last year. However, Studio Surgical Scalpel has instead taken the past year to ensure that the game is at its absolute best when it does launch, and the most noticeable changes in the game have been the redesigns to the maps. Although their fundamental layouts remain the same, some of the maps have been given overhauls and sport a very different look. The planets in the skyboxes are no longer barren-looking Neptune-class planets, but instead, they are now Earth-like worlds with well-defined surfaces. While Boundary still doesn’t have a story yet, it’s not difficult to imagine different factions struggling for control of precious resources as they strive to keep their operations going, or mercenaries fighting on behalf of corporations.

Beyond the cosmetic adjustments to the maps, Boundary‘s other changes include significant improvements to the UI and UX. Menus are now easier to navigate than they had been previously, being intuitively laid out. Players have easier access to their progression, and this makes one’s next unlocks far clearer than things had been in older builds. The in-game HUD has also been improved: player velocity and status are now denoted as a part of the compass, reducing visual clutter without reducing the amount of information available. Moreover, a radar is now present, giving players a rough sense of where nearby foes are. Certain actions, like engaging one’s thrusters or firing one’s weapons, will increase one’s presence, and one can automatically spot enemies by firing in their vicinity or using special ordnance, putting them on the radar. The addition of a radar provides players with improved spatial awareness, and further encourages tactical play – it is not always feasible to leave one’s thrusters and jet across the map, and similarly, certain classes may employ gadgets to decrease their visibility on the radar, or even remain impossible to spot altogether. The inclusion of a radar alters gameplay, forcing players to make split-second decisions: during a match, one might ask themselves of whether or not risking being spotted while rushing across the open to reach a capture point is better than equipping a class that can sneak around at the expense of survivability, and act accordingly. Threat indicators have also been improved, no longer taking up a large portion of the screen. While Boundary has seen considerable changes that bolster quality of life and makes gameplay smoother, there remain a handful of issues. Boundary is generally smooth, but there have been a few moments where the game stutters, and connectivity has occasionally been spotty – I’ve been forcibly dropped from a match on a handful of occasions, and the earliest symptom of this is seen when friendly and opposing players both suddenly freeze in place. Beyond this, Boundary is in an excellent state – if the game launches with enough content (namely, weapon, map and mode variety), it could end up quite successful. So far, we’ve seen a fair selection of weapons, reasonably varied maps and only a handful of game modes; if Boundary could improve on map settings (asteroid bases hold a lot of promise, for instance) and add a few high-stakes modes (like bomb defusal, survival or extraction), there could be enough to keep players entertained.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The last time I played Boundary, it was last year’s SteamFest, and I vividly recall it being an especially busy time because I’d been in the process of moving house. Workdays were actually the more relaxing times of week for me because those days were relatively structured, and in evenings, I was always guaranteed time to unwind. On the other hand, weekends were very busy: I would spend afternoons driving over personal effects, books and the like to the new place, as well as doing some preliminary cleaning. While it had been quite hectic, it was also a good experience overall; moving was something I ended up looking forward to.

  • At around this time last year, I was in the process of getting my internet services set up, as well. We’re a year into the term now, and I’ve been very satisfied with the service, which has been, admittedly, a little more powerful than I actually need. A gigabit fibre connection is spectacularly fast, and my ISP has excellent upload speeds, as well: the theoretical maximum data transfer rate is 120 MB/s. In practise, however, I’ve found that most services only reach 30 MB/s with any consistency, and while I’ve seen EA’s servers push 90 MB/s, for the most part, I actually don’t need a connection that powerful.

  • In about eleven months, I’ll need to decide whether or not it’s a good idea to step down to the 300 Mbps plan. I’m not sure if Boundary will be fully released by then; the game was originally scheduled for a 2022 release, but a year following my trial of it in SteamFest, the game remained in “coming soon”. This isn’t to say the developers shouldn’t take their time with it – Boundary has received some incredible updates in the past year. The UI/UX is especially improved, and I have noticed that the quality of life has also gone up.

  • From a gameplay perspective, reduced muzzle flash and improved reticules make it far easier to keep track of a target. On-screen, the status of a player’s space suit is now denoted to the left, and velocity and state is given on the right. Players also gain access to a radar that gives a rough indication of where foes are, as well as how easy it is to spot them. An actively moving or firing player will emit a signal, while stationary players have a reduced presence. Firing at a player with a high presence will 3D spot them for a brief period of time.

  • This aspect of Boundary addresses a problem the game’s 2022 build had; because Boundary chooses to render sound realistically, players can only hear their own weapon fire, any impacts to their suit and their own thrusters. Players of first person shooters typically use sound to help them track a foe, and whether it be the report of gunfire or footsteps, sound is an integral part of spatial awareness. By eliminating sound to fit the environment, players have one fewer tool they can use. Although the players’ space suit will emit a sonar-like pulse for detecting nearby enemies, this feature does not give any information on where one’s foes are precisely.

  • Thus, the inclusion of a radar means that players now have one additional tool to help with locating foes. This is especially useful in close quarters environments, especially when one is capturing a point. In the domination game mode, capture points are located inside a space station, and the narrow confines of a space station’s interiors mean that depending on one’s loadout, one must be careful in how they approach things. Boundary‘s latest demo gives players access to three classes: assault, sniper and close-quarters.

  • Armed with the GSW-PSR or GSW-DMR, longer-range weapons, for instance, I would not feel comfortable rushing into a control point and capturing it, at least, not without knowing if anyone were present. On the other hand, a long-range rifle is ideally suited for picking off foes from across the map. A well-placed headshot is a one-hit kill, and here in Boundary‘s latest build, the emergency inflatable capsules that deploy when a player is downed have been removed from most modes. Players reported that these capsules looked a little strange. While from a world-building perspective, they make sense (a suit that suffers enough damage will deploy these until a friendly player can repair the suit, equivalent to reviving a teammate), modes that don’t have revive mechanics don’t technically need this visual element.

  • During this year’s Boundary trial period, I’ve been scoring multi-kills with a nontrivial frequency. A year ago, I managed the occasional double kill, and owing to how medals are displayed in Boundary, I only showcased one of these moments in my post. In this post, I’ve got numerous double kills, and a handful of triple kills, as well. While difficulty in capturing screenshots resulted in a similar situation, I was doing well enough in matches so that there were more moments to try and capture screenshots from. Here, I managed to score my second triple kill (the first of this post) using the GSW-SG, a shotgun that excels at close quarters combat.

  • Overall, I believe that my experience in Boundary now is a consequence of my returning to PvP after almost two and a half years of stepping away. Since Battlefield V‘s final update, I drifted away from playing PvP games and, during the lockdowns accompanying the global health crisis, I focused primarily on single player experiences. The reason for this was primarily because after that update, I migrated over to playing The Division 2 and began The Warlords of New York. By the time I’d finished the Faye Lau hunt, I picked up DOOM Eternal and also had spun up my own private World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Litch King server. By the time Battlefield 2042 released, I’d been quite removed from the multiplayer scene, and had little incentive to return simply because by then, it had become clear that I wasn’t going to get playable frame rates in a PvP environment from my previous desktop.

  • Even The Division 2 was giving my old machine some trouble; I found myself frequently crashing because I was running out of RAM. My machine was simply not able to keep up. However, in the month before my move, I decided that, especially in response to rising tensions in Eastern Europe and an increase in NAND memory prices after a manufacturing mishap, it was probably a better idea to build a new PC there and then, versus waiting for better hardware. I believe my decision was a fair one: between inflation and other factors, building a computer in the present is costlier than it’d been a year ago, even though there have been improvements in the hardware, and moreover, building a new computer last year meant that I’ve already gotten a year’s worth of mileage out of my current build, versus struggling with decade-old parts for another year

  • The differences are night and day – my gaming experiences have been much improved and I’m not dropping frames. This had been the biggest problem I previously faced: low frame rates makes it significantly to track what’s happening in game and respond accordingly. In Battlefield 2042, choppy movement meant I was seemingly dying to nothing, and firing on what my client thought was an enemy player gave the impression I was doing no damage whereas in reality, I was shooting air. Having said this, when I played Boundary a year ago, I was running the GTX 1060, and the game was reasonably smooth, but the additional frames the RTX 3060 Ti was noticeable, enough for me to score multi-kills with a much greater frequency.

  • Between better framerates and a renewed mindset for playing PvP, I found myself performing much better than I did during the last SteamFest. Although I’m fond of saying how a skillful operator will beat out someone with superior hardware, I admit that having better hardware makes a considerable difference. With this in mind, there were a few moments in Boundary where I landed in matches that had me on the ass end of an ass-kicking, and I found myself wondering if those players had a hardware advantage over me: 1080p is still a decent resolution in the present, but I’m running monitors with a refresh rate of 60 Hz, meaning that the maximum frame rate I effectively have is 60 FPS.

  • Monitors with a higher refresh rate can give an advantage by displaying things more precisely, and similarly, 1440p and 4K monitors provide a shade more detail than their 1080p counterparts. Folks with sufficiently powerful hardware see noticeable gains with more expensive monitors – higher resolutions and refresh rates provide more detail, and in a game like Boundary, this could be helpful because the astronauts blend into the wreckage. A 1080p monitor may render a distant astronaut as a couple of blurry pixels, indistinguishable from the scaffolding of a space station, but at 1440p, that same distant astronaut may stand out just enough for one to determine it’s time to aim down sights and fire a few rounds off.

  • Before going any further, I’ll explain the page quote: it’s a poem from the Chinese calligrapher and writer, Wang Xizhi, and in English, it reads “Looking up, I see the immensity of the cosmos; bowing my head, I look at the multitude of the world. The gaze flies, the heart expands, the joy of the senses can reach its peak, and indeed, this is true happiness”. For most matches I played, Boundary did inspire happiness: I had fun more often than I experienced frustration. Overall, Boundary is in an excellent state, and it does feel like the only things that really need to be addressed is server connectivity and the occasional bit of stuttering. Beyond this, the core of Boundary‘s mechanics are solid, and this allows the developers to focus on adding new content and modes.

  • During SteamFest, Boundary offers players with a sizeable collection of maps, featuring different space stations over different planets. There is a decent amount of map variety even though all of the existing maps have been set around the concept of a single space station, but there is a lot of potential for exciting new maps. Following in the footsteps of Shattered Horizon, there could be maps set on a single, large hollowed-out asteroid that’s home to a mining facility and complex tunnel systems, or a cluster of smaller asteroids with communication outposts. Orbital elevators could provide opportunity for vertical gameplay, forcing players to think in new ways as engagements occur on the unorthodox z-axis. Ships parked in a large orbital dockyard, whether it be a space terminal or construction site, can be used for symmetrical game modes, and some maps could even be set in the cavernous interiors of large ships under construction.

  • The possibilities are actually quite varied, and with the right creativity, Boundary‘s maps could be revolutionary. Similarly, one other thing I’d love to see are more creative environments. A binary or multiple star system could create a scene with interesting lighting effects, and fighting for dominance in orbit over a gas giant, or in orbit surrounding a planet with a ring system creates atmospherics that are quite unlike what we are familiar with. In conjunction with a greater variety of maps, there’s no real limit on what’s possible; a good art team could easily bring these environments to life, and good map selection alone would make Boundary enticing as a long-term experience.

  • On weapon variety, Boundary‘s demo has proven quite promising. So far, there’s two clear families of weapons: firearms inspired by Soviet Bloc designs that have been adapted for use in space, and the more futuristic-looking GSW line. Both the Soviet Bloc and GSW weapons are fun to use and reliable. Here, I’ve unlocked the GSW-PDW for Spike, a speedy class intended for close quarter combat. The shotgun was a fun weapon to use, but overall, I prefer having an automatic weapon for medium range engagements.

  • Although I’ve gotten a triple kill with the shotgun (its stopping power at close ranges is undeniable), and the sniper rifles are similarly viable, during my play-through of the demo, I found that the GSW-AR, an alternate assault rifle for the assault class, proved to be an incredibly versatile weapon: even with just the iron sights, I was able to consistently hit distant targets with confidence, and the GSW-AR’s hipfire was quite reliable. During one match, I spawned in with the aim of testing this out, and quickly found myself stomping the server. While hovering around the central module, I scored a triple kill. However, moments later, I achieved I’d thought to be impossible for a player as unskilled as myself.

  • This is the coveted “Quadra Kill” medal, awarded for the equivalent of a quad kill, or in classic Halo terms, a killtacular. After the demo last year, the only instance I’ve seen of anyone getting a killtacular was in a demo video of someone who’d been using a weapon resembling the AMHR, which I’ve never unlocked. To put things in perspective, even YouTube players like LevelCap and JackFrags were not shown getting anything higher than a triple kill in their videos. Granted, it is much tougher to get a multi-kill in the other modes, and TDM’s inclusion in Boundary means a larger number of players are in closer proximity on some maps.

  • An interesting element in Boundary‘s 2023 demo was the fact that players now have a maximum of twenty available slots in their loadout, and different items occupy a certain number of slots. In this way, one can equip a range of equipment and weapons to fit their play-styles, but otherwise, cannot just fill all of their slots with the best weapons available. This forces players to be mindful of what they pick. For instance, if I chose to equip two primary weapons, this prevents me from carrying a second piece of equipment. On the other hand, if I equip a sidearm, I can run with both a smoke launcher and EMP charges.

  • The choice of what to bring into a match thus matters: depending on the game mode and map, certain setups might be more viable than others. In the domination and invasion modes, equipping the explosive launcher or EMP would be a good idea, since it allows one to soften up capture points before closing in and capturing it. Conversely, in elimination and TDM, smoke or a decent primary weapon in one’s second slot would be a better choice. The slow weapon switch times mean that this act is actually one that requires a bit of caution, but on the flipside, being able to carry a marksman rifle alongside an assault rifle can prove handy.

  • The space M53 Mosin-Nagant was one of the most iconic weapons of Boundary during its demo last year, and it was quickly unlocked for players to use. This bolt-action rifle is modelled after its real life counterpart, which was originally developed in 1882 and entered service in 1891. Becoming one of the most widely-produced rifles in history, the Mosin-Nagant is still in use today despite being superseded the AK and SKS rifles. Boundary‘s M53 doesn’t hit quite as hard as the GSW-SR and its muzzle velocity is slower, but it has better handling and a higher rate of fire, making it a suitable choice for maps where there are more close range engagements.

  • Over the course of the demo, I also ended up unlocking the SVD, a space-ready variant of the Russian Dragunov rifle. As a marksman rifle, the SVD is an excellent medium range weapon, and shortly after unlocking it, I scored a double kill with it. While I made fair progress with the classes in Boundary during this demo period, I was unable to unlock the GSW-AMR, a powerful anti-materiel rifle that was featured in the previous demo. Also absent was a light machine gun that the support class had access to. These weapons were quite entertaining to use, but at the same time, they’re also more situational; the available weapons in this demo period were more versatile.

  • It should be clear that in a year, Boundary has seen some impressive updates, and I would imagine that the developers have also accrued a year’s worth of experience, allowing them to improve the game further. In software development terms, a year is a considerable amount of time for making progress – over the past year, I learnt how to do voice recognition and synthesis using AVFoundation, and it was in the past month that I got over my apprehension about using Core Data, Apple’s persistence framework. Although I’d previously used it, Core Data has always given me the willies because the NSFetchedResultsController can be a bit temperamental – if one tries to update a table view without synchronising the table view to the managed object context, the app will crash.

  • Learning to write a table view that correctly uses the NSFetchedResultsController without damaging an existing app’s function was a nontrivial task, and with this done, things have lightened up a little for me, enough for me to capitalise on the warmer, sunny weather to go grab a Flamethrower Grill Burger from the local DQ. DQ’s burgers have a distinct char-broiled taste about them, and the Flamethrower’s sauce gives the burger a pleasant kick. I’ve not had one of these burgers in quite some time, and eating one of these was a trip down memory lane: the flavours remind me of that hot summer day nearly a decade back, when I stepped out for a burger on Canada Day after spending the morning working my summer project for the lab to take my mind off the Great Flood. I recall playing Vindictus during that afternoon; I’d finished my work, but I still found myself wishing I could go out to the mountains despite the knowledge that the bridges had been washed out.

  • This time around, things were decidedly more relaxed, and I found contentment in enjoying lunch under perfectly blue skies. On the topic of the Great Flood of 2013, it is not lost on me that we are approaching the ten-year mark to the day that things in Calgary, and there are some thoughts I’ll be looking to share as we approach June. Back in Boundary, the double kills I got on this map here are one of the most cinematic: I absolutely love the play of light on the golden solar panels and the sun illuminating the planet below. The scene has a distinctly Gravity-like vibe to it. In the double kill above, I equipped a holographic sight on the GSW-AR, while here, I decided to have another go at using the SVD.

  • The SVD handles similarly to the GSW-DMR – these weapons have a longer range than the assault rifles, but don’t have the same muzzle velocity or damage as the sniper rifles. They’re excellent options for the assault class, although as a sniper, I find that equipping a sniper rifle and becoming comfortable with the sidearm is the best option. During the course of my time in the Boundary demo, I came across a number of interestingly-named opponents, and while rolling with the SVD, I encountered one player that had an uncanny ability to continually reach my team’s spawn points despite only mere seconds having elapsed since I took them out.

  • I will yield that Boundary‘s demo for this year’s SteamFest does offer several mobility-enhancing aids, including a grappling hook and afterburner, allowing players to accelerate across the maps on very short order. I didn’t make extensive use of these abilities, but players with greater familiarity for these tools could capitalise on them to move swiftly around the maps. I respect the highly mobile play-style, since it represents a willingness to play for the team’s sake, but admittedly, there is also some merit to the practise of camping in a tactical first person shooter: if one is already holding a capture point, it makes more sense to stick around and defend it. In Boundary, camping on an objective can be countered with the explosive or EMP grenades.

  • Towards the end of my time in this year’s SteamFest Boundary demo, I ended up playing one final game of TDM. By this point in time, I had a decent set of sights for the GSW-AR, and this match, I completely shredded, going 28-18 and ending the round as the MVP. Throughout this match, I continuously slaughtered a player by the name of “Octavia Melody”, which helped with my performance. During the course of my time in the Boundary demo, I didn’t run into anyone that was a streamer, unlike last time. It does feel as though interest in Boundary during this SteamFest was diminished, resulting in a quieter experience all around.

  • I’ll conclude this revisit of Boundary with my second killtacular, which I scored after shooting Octavia Melody in the helmet and reflect on the suddenness of this year’s SteamFest. Like last year, the window to give Boundary a whirl came up unexpectedly: I had originally planned to publish a post today on Lycoris Recoil, which I’d just finished. My thoughts on this series, a contender for best anime of 2022 (but a claim I disagree with), will be published at a later date. My original plans to write about Kokoro Connect remain unchanged, and I aim to complete this post just in time for Valentine’s Day. In the meantime, I do believe that now, when one does a search for Boundary and what the elusive Quadra Kill medal looks like, one shan’t be disappointed.

The biggest question on my mind at present is whether or not Boundary is something that enters my library. On one hand, the game has proven very enjoyable and shows great promise: it represents a step into an environment I’ve always wanted to try ever since seeing 2009’s Shattered Horizon, and moreover, represents an instance of zero-G combat done well. While there are minor inaccuracies with movement to ensure the game is enjoyable, the aesthetic and general attention to detail means that Boundary feels immersive. The gameplay itself is consistent and compelling, and every match is filled with the thrill of uncertainty. On paper, Boundary should be an easy decision, and the developers absolutely deserve the support. However, there is one main factor that precludes my immediate decision to pick things up: as with all of the games I look at, how things handle post-launch is usually what impacts my choices. If a game has a solid launch, with a good balance between quality of gameplay and variety in its content, then it is worth picking up. In the case of Boundary, the demo is known to have consistent and engaging mechanics, so all that’s left is to iron out the minor performance issues. The other factor is variety in content: the demo has already shown that there’s a fairly extensive progression system, and while we’ve only seen space station maps, the space environment offers plenty of potential. If the full game brings out asteroid bases, orbital elevators and shipyards, there’d be enough content to keep experiences novel and exciting. After launch, I’ll have a chance to see how Boundary‘s handles, and provided the game both handles well and has a good selection of content, I see myself picking up Boundary. With this being said, thought SteamFest, I’ve been fortunate to be able to try Boundary out not once, but on two separate occasions: Boundary‘s gameplay is engaging and innovative, providing an alternate experience to the more conventional first person shooters I current play. I will require a bit more information about this game before I can make my decision, but this time around, armed with a combination of renewed familiarity with PvP and better hardware, I was able to focus on improving my game, as well. I like to think I’ve fared a little better this year – in a title where the setup pits five players against one another, and as someone who’s still rusty with PvP, earning a pair of killtaculars (quad kills, or here in Boundary, Quadra Kill) isn’t bad by any stretch.

Boundary: Reflections and Impressions From the SteamFest Alpha Demo

“For the wise man looks into space and he knows there is no limited dimensions.” –Zhuangzi

While perusing through a copy of PC Gamer back in 2008 at the local supermarket, I came upon an intriguing featured article detailing a game that had been particularly novel. The premise was that a mining accident that rends the lunar surface, sending billions upon billions of tonnes of lunar material into near-Earth space, damaging infrastructure and threatening to destroy the moon itself. Amidst the ruins, the International Space Agency (ISA), who enforce stellar law, and the Moon Mining Cooperative (MMC), a massive corporation who sought to profit from space mining operations, find themselves spiralling towards an inevitable armed conflict as the ISA seek to bring the MMC to justice and control the limited resources to ensure their survival. Players take control of soldiers and fight with full freedom of movement in a zero-gravity environment. Built for the most cutting-edge PC hardware of its time, Shattered Horizon represented a bold new direction for first person shooters, and despite providing six degrees of freedom with respect to its movement, the game proved intuitive, enjoyable and challenging for players. The only real downside was that one needed heftier PC hardware of the time to play the game (a Core 2 Quad Q6600, GTX 260 and 2 GB of RAM); while the game was counted as lacking in a single-player mode and AI bots to train against, overall, Shattered Horizon was praised for its movement system, unique atmosphere and engaging mechanics. A future update did end up adding a campaign and AI bots, but in 2014, Shattered Horizon was stricken from the Steam Store: the game’s developers, Futuremark, was bought out by Rovio Entertainment, and Futuremark announced that their inability to support the game meant it was unfair to players who picked the game up late in its lifecycle, as they would receive no new updates or content. Attempts to bring first person shooters into space had proven quite unsuccessful: 2013’s Call of Duty: Ghosts, and 2016’s Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare represented bold stabs at elevating interest in zero-gravity firefights, but were met with cold reception. However, in January of last year, Studio Surgical Scalpels announced a ground-breaking new project called Boundary, and in its trailer, heavily-armoured astronauts were shown flying through the depths of space, engaged in a harrowing firefight amidst the super-structure and narrow corridors of a space station while debris filled the space from the flying bullets. The aesthetic conveyed in this trailer immediately brought to mind Shattered Horizon, as though the game had been resurrected and given a makeover to capitalise on graphics and visual effects resulting from over a decade of advancement. Although intriguing, Boundary fell from my mind until last Wednesday, when I caught wind of the fact that Boundary would be participating in SteamFest, a time of celebrating upcoming games.

After installing the client, joining my first match and winning thanks to beginner’s luck, I spent the past several days playing through Boundary‘s alpha demo to gain a feel for things. Out of the gates, the roughest aspect to acclimatise to was getting stuck in the level geometries. There were moments where I would land on a surface, then attempt to peek a corner, only to get stuck there. Only a frenzied alternating between engaging the thrusters and rising would dislodge me from this surface, and on several occasions, this led to my getting killed. Similarly, after I latched down on a solar panel and prepared to snipe a target, inconsistent movement would lead me to unexpectedly stop aiming down sights, and the foe I’d been tracking would disappear from sight by the time I found a position from which to aim down sights again. Both faults in the movement system resulted in my dying to a player who was doubtlessly enjoying my predicament. Besides the janky movement on surfaces, Boundary‘s UI and UX are very rough. The user interface is cluttered. Menus are difficult to navigate, and it is difficult to determine what one can interact with. Button text fails to describe what a button does, and sometimes can be downright misleading: I accidentally joined the wrong game mode on more than one occasion. In game, the HUD is messy, with elements being difficult to read, and a massive alpha banner covers the lower left-hand side of the screen, blocking one from spotting enemies from that side. Similarly, directional indicators cover the entire screen, obscuring the enemies themselves. The user experience is also tricky in places; switching one’s loadout requires numerous button presses and diving into menus to change out weapons or attachments. The font sizes are on the small size, making things difficult to read, and menus are filled with text. In terms of gameplay, enemy visibility is limited, and the game offers very little in the way of identifying where foes are coming from. On more than one instance, I spawned into the map, only to die instantly from a sniper, or found myself shot in the back before I could respond. In close quarters environments, raising a weapon up to aim down sights is sluggish, as is changing out my weapons – trying to combo ordnance usage into using a primary or secondary weapon to finish a foe off is not viable, and running out of ammunition mid-firefight can be a death sentence, since swapping over to my sidearm is slow. However, enemy visibility and postion identification, together with the slow ADS and weapon swap, is very much a part of the tactical shooter experience in that one must take full advantage of the environment for cover, and understand their gear’s limitations to determine when is an appropriate time to change things up. Further to this, because Boundary is in alpha stage, the UX and UI can still be improved: compared to game mechanics, UI and UX elements are often the easiest to change. Similarly, the movement and environment geometries could also be updated to be a little smoother in places. While it looks like I’ve rattled off a long list of problems, it is quite telling that most of my gripes about Boundary are either related to UI/UX, or my own lack of familiarity with the mechanics. Indeed, once I began feeling more comfortable with things, I found myself having fun – towards the end of the demo period, I had a positive KDR and was winning more games than I lost.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • There were three playable classes in Boundary‘s demo: Sergeyev is the default assault, featuring high health and decent mobility. Armed with an AKM, Sergeyev is a good all-around class for attack and defense. All classes are equipped with two ordnance options, as well as two special abilities, and by default, players start with high explosive grenades and EMP rounds. The former can quickly make short work of foes at the expense of having a long switch time, while the latter disable enemy movement for a brief period and can make for follow-up shots.

  • When a player is “killed”, their spacesuits have suffered enough damage to become punctured. In this state, an emergency balloon inflates around the player to keep them alive. In this state, players can be revived by allies, although this act leaves them vulnerable to enemy fire, and during the six hours I spent in Boundary, I was never once revived, nor did I feel comfortable reviving a downed friendly player because of the prospect of being fired upon. In the end, it was much easier to just respawn and keep going, although this only worked because I was playing the Domination mode. The other mode that Boundary‘s demo offers is Elimination in a Counterstrike or Rainbow Six: Siege like mode. The lack of respawns make this mode punishing, and I opted to play Domination for the fact that one could get back into things after being killed.

  • Initially, I did have some trouble adjusting to the AKM’s recoil, but once I did, the weapon did become more manageable to use. In discussions, some have wondered how automatic weapons could work in space: while it is possible to fire a gun in space because the ammunition contains its own oxidiser, and a quick look around finds that both recoil and gas-operated mechanisms could work in space. Recoil operated weapons continue to function because the act of firing a bullet would adhere to Newton’s Third Law, and the chemical reaction between the oxidiser and propellant in a bullet would produce the gas needed to cycle a weapon. Special modifications would need to be made in order for the weapons to operate efficiently, but this is not outside the realm of possibility with existing technology.

  • Despite knowing that the “space” environment is merely a very well-rendered skybox, this hasn’t stopped the visuals in Boundary from being gorgeous. All of the maps look stunning, and here, I score a kill with the AKM on a foe while I traverse the solar panel on one of the maps. The sun and a planet are visible below, and more impressively, reflections can be seen in the solar panel mirror. Boundary has support for real-time ray tracing, although an RTX 2060 or better is required to make full use of the graphics, but even on the GTX 1060 6 GB model, Boundary is a beautiful-looking game whose aesthetic is definitely worthy of Shattered Horizon.

  • Alexandra is the second class available in Boundary; by default, she carries an LMG with sixty rounds, and of all the classes, has both the largest health pool and highest armour amount. In exchange, her mobility is greatly reduced. I found the LMG to be a decent weapon for closer range engagements: at medium and long range, one needs to tap-fire to reduce bullet spread. Having the extra armour and health is nice, especially since one can get attacked from all directions. Over time, as I levelled up each of the classes, weapon attachments became available to me, and I found that Boundary allows one to try out new attachments in a firing range that is accessible from the weapon mod menu.

  • This part of Boundary was excellent design: one feature missing from modern first person shooters is the ability to immediately try out their weapons with the latest mods to see how handling and performance has changed. In this area, Boundary has absolutely nailed it, and games like Call of Duty and Battlefield could take a leaf from Boundary‘s book. After experimenting, I found one sight that proved particularly fun to use for the GSW-MG, Alexandra’s starting weapon. Firing from the hip is not too effective with the heavier weapons in Boundary, but in a pinch, one can do well enough in extreme close quarters; the large circle here indicates the region in which bullets fired will land, showing the extent of spread when hip-firing.

  • After unlocking Sergeyev’s second weapon, the Mosin-Nagant bolt-action rifle, my experience in Boundary changed completely, and here, I scored a double kill with it. Throughout my time in Boundary, I would go on to earn several more double kills with the GSW-MG and later, Yao Yi’s submachine guns. However, in a manner reminiscent of my Halo 2 Vista days, capturing the double kill badge proved quite tricky: even with Steam’s screenshot function, badges disappeared before I could reach for the button, so this ended up being the only double kill badge I captured. Because Boundary‘s games are five-versus-five, multi-kills are a bit of a feat, so one could say that double kills are a sign of improving in the game.

  • The combination of unlocking good ranged weapons and attachments, coupled with my becoming more familiar with the mechanics in Boundary, meant I would begin performing better in later matches to the point where I was going KD-positive and contributing to my team’s ability to keep the entire map locked down. On the other hand, during some matches, my team either did not care for playing the objective or otherwise, was simply outperformed.

  • Unlike Shattered HorizonBoundary only has local sounds audible to the player: one’s own movement and gunfire can be heard, but beyond this, other players cannot be heard at all. Shattered Horizon had gotten around this by keeping sounds and stating that complex processing allowed for sounds to be simulated. In tactical shooters, players must depend on audio cues to determine their foe’s position, and since this is absent in Boundary, it does create for gripping moments where one has no idea where the enemies are coming from. I do not think Boundary will add mechanics for helping one determine where enemy players are, since one could also use this stealthiness to their own advantage.

  • Here, I experiment with Alexandra’s GSW-TAR (I’d hazard a guess that this stands for Tactical Assault Rifle), a burst-fire weapon carrying a maximum capacity of twenty-five rounds and one more round in the chamber by default. This weapon proved fun to use, handling like Halo 2‘s battle rifle, and although I didn’t get around to unlocking it, there is a forty-round extended magazine available if one ranks Alexandra up far enough, which would turn the GSW-TAR into a battle rifle more closely resembling Halo 2‘s.

  • Domination matches are short and intense, lasting a total of ten minutes; at the halfway point, the opposing teams switch spawns so the match is a little more fair. Maps aren’t symmetrical, and the developers do this so any advantages one gains in one half the map are offset by playing on the less favourable side, bringing to mind how in ice hockey and beach volleyball both have teams switching sides to offset any advantages the weather might confer. However, during lulls in the combat, one can really appreciate how well-designed the maps are, as well as admire the scenery: it strikes me as curious that the planets appear to be different on some of the maps, and here, on one of the larger space stations, it would appear as though I were orbiting a desolate, uninhabited planet.

  • Alexandra’s GSW-AMR (Anti-Materiel Rifle) is the most powerful weapon in Boundary‘s demo; per its name, it does the most damage per shot and is limited to a three round capacity. While immensely powerful on a per-shot basis, the weapon is hampered by the fact that it obscures half the screen when equipped, and together with a low rate of fire in addition to its small magazine capacity, the GSW-AMR is actually less effectual than Sergeyev’s Mosin-Nagant, which has a larger capacity, slightly faster firing rate and the fact it doesn’t obstruct half the screen.

  • The Boundary demo ends tomorrow at 1000 PST, but I’ve decided to call it in early: while I’ve had no shortage of fun with this demo, real-world circumstances meant that I have increasingly less time to game. Yesterday, I spent the day clearing out bookshelves and wall units to get everything packed up ahead of the move, and ended up picking up dinner from our favourite Cantonese restaurant (seafood fried rice, sweet and sour pork, Chinese broccoli and seafood, deep fried oysters and mushrooms, Buddha’s Delight, and a chicken and seafood medley cooked in a clay pot): nothing beats a hearty meal after a day’s work. It was surprising as to how quickly an afternoon disappeared.

  • Today, my morning was directed towards assembling the new ergonomic task chair I’d picked up last weekend. A proper task chair is leagues ahead of a “good gaming chair” in terms of comfort, and the chair I ended up going with offers fully adjustable seat height, armrests, and a mesh back rest that fits the contours of my back (the back rest itself is fully adjustable). Altogether, the task chair runs rings around a gaming chair in terms of comfort, practicality and aesthetics; I’d much rather have an inconspicuous and functional chair for my home office space, versus something whose ability to elevate my gaming and development prowess is little more than an urban legend originating from the internet’s less scrupulous corners.

  • The third and final operator, Yao Yi, unlocked on Friday – she’s the fastest moving class in Boundary, sporting the highest mobility at the expense of health and armour. By default, Yao Yi is equipped with the GSW-SMG, a solid close quarters submachine gun with high RPM and solid hip-fire performance. I ended up getting a double kill in close quarters whilst clearing it of foes. Excelling in close quarters scenarios, Yao Yi proved to be extremely fun to use, although with her, it’s advisable to stay near or inside structures, since her weapons are all about short-range engagement.

  • Yao Yi also comes with a shotgun, but I never found this quite as effective as the GSW-SMG: during the first match I played with Yao Yi, I was absolutely shredding with the GSW-SMG despite having no attachments unlocked for my weapons. Traditionally, I’ve preferred close quarters environments as a result of being ineffective with snipers; in my Halo 2 days, I always found the most success by getting up close and personal with foes, whether it be using the battle rifle and melee to stop my enemies, or picking up the power weapons optimised for close-range combat. Battlefield led me to become more comfortable with sniping, and nowadays, I freely switch between long and short ranges depending on what the situation calls for.

  • One mechanic I found to increase the tactical piece in Boundary was the fact that one could patch up their spacesuit if they’d survived a firefight narrowly: the process takes a set amount of time (Yao Yi’s light armour means she can repair sooner, while Sergeyev and Alexandra both take a longer since their armour is heavier), and during repairs, one cannot use their weapons, so players are forced to make a split-second decision on whether or not they want to repair before entering their next firefight. Because of the lack of motion trackers and other means of determining the positions of hostiles, the few seconds it takes to repair can be quite suspenseful.

  • As I became increasingly familiar with Boundary‘s mechanics, sniping became increasingly enjoyable. I found that it was best to hang back from the combat if one were using a slower-firing weapon and pick foes off from a distance (resulting in a Long Shot badge here); if one continues staring down a foe, they become automatically spotted for a while, and their position is revealed to the opposing team. To let players know of this, a test indicator warns players if they’re spotted, giving them a chance to get to cover and wait things out.

  • I believe that overall, there were four maps available to players during Boundary‘s demo: a solar power station, a large space station with a pair of shuttles docked, a partially-assembled space hotel and a linear facility resembling the International Space Station. Each of these maps have a unique aesthetic and are fun to explore, but unfortunately, Boundary‘s demo did not indicate to players which map they were joining after successfully match-making to a server. Knowing the map can impact one’s choice of loadout, and in all shooters I’ve played previously, the loading screen makes it clear which map a user is joining.

  • For instance, on the International Space Station-like map, I prefer equipping the Mosin-Nagant because there are long sightlines, and very few obstructions, making the weapon highly effective; after unlocking the 8x optics for the Mosin-Nagant, I was able to pick enemies off from across the map. While the Mosin-Nagant is slower-firing, using the high explosives ordnance or sidearm, modified to fire on full automatic, allowed me to hold my own in situations where enemies had managed to close the distance on me, and here, I landed a satisfying headshot on an enemy while the planet’s curvature is visible above.

  • Boundary features a full-featured customisation system for both weapon attachments and cosmetics: using an operator unlocks more weapons, attachment and customisation options, while match performance also yields credits that can be used towards player customisation. For most of my run, I ran the default appearances for most everything: all of the guns in Boundary start out with an astronaut-white finish, matching the spacesuit that I had. However, the accumulated points would allow me to pick up different spacesuit textures, accessories for my helmet and even a shoulder badge. These have no impact on gameplay, but admittedly, the weapon skins and accessories do look quite nice.

  • Studio Surgical Scalpels, the developers behind Boundary, is a Chinese company located in Shenzhen, Guangzhou Province. They were originally founded in 2015 by four experienced game developers and have since expanded to ten employees. The Chinese origins of Boundary are apparent in some of the assets and artwork used in the game: patches with Simplified Chinese characters are common, and I actually found myself running into a host of players with handles consisting of all Simplified Chinese characters, including an unfortunate player here that I ended up shooting in the face.

  • Seeing Chinese players, and the occasional Japanese player, led me to wonder what things are like on the other side of the world; I’ve previously read that in China, internet cafés are popular amongst the technologically-inclined crowd, who enjoy them for providing reliable high speed internet and act as hubs for socialising with other users. South Korea and Japan also has a strong internet café culture: in South Korea, gamers are fond of hanging out here, while in Japan, internet cafés offer patrons services like dining and showers. The range of services offered by Japanese internet cafés has created a social phenomenon called “net café refugees”, homeless individuals who have no permanent address and find accommodations in internet cafés owing to their low rates.

  • This phenomenon is touched upon in Makoto Shinkai’s Weathering With You: after Hodaka arrived in Tokyo, he resided at internet cafés until his funds ran dry, and luck sent him on a path towards Keisuke Suga and Hina Amano. In North America, internet cafés fell out of popularity in the late 90s as homes became wired with increasingly capable connections. Here, in a moment of pure luck, I shoot the lights out to a fellow who had been picking off teammates on server I was on: shinobaeTV is a Twitch streamer who specialises in FPS and primarily plays Escape From Tarkov.

  • While I’ve occasionally run into some streamers during my online escapades, I’ve never actually encountered my favourite Battlefield YouTubers before. There is little doubt that folks who make their living making videos about first person shooters would be uncommonly skilled with them; by comparison, I can be said to “dabble” in video games, playing for my own enjoyment above all else. Admittedly, I was wondering if I should participate in Boundary‘s demo at all because over the past few years, my inclination to play multiplayer games have dropped considerably, and from disuse, my skills have evaporated.

  • Playing through Boundary‘s demo, however, I quickly learnt that while my reflexes are certainly not what they were, patience became my greatest asset. I did the best in matches where I anticipated my opponents’ movements and positioning, and then reacted accordingly with the tools available to me. While my speed and aim are no longer enough to out-perform someone younger, I can capitalise on things like flanking and map knowledge to nonetheless hold my own. Indeed, it was in this way that towards the end of my time in the demo, I was able to consistently go KDR positive.

  • One thing that might need to be dialed back for the final release is the fact that the ordnance players have access to are exceedingly powerful: a volley of high explosive grenades can wipe even Alexandra out, and here, I got hit with an EMP barrage. EMP rounds disable one’s thrusters, leaving them to float helplessly in space, but in spite of this, I managed to turn Yao Yi’s GSW-PCC, a weapon resembling the P90, against this foe, surprising them: just because one is drifting doesn’t mean they’re defenseless, and determined players can still survive even when their ability to move around is significantly degraded.

  • One thing I did notice (and found hilarious) was the number of kill-trades I had in Boundary: a “trade” occurs when both players act in a way as to defeat one another simultaneously. In one particularly unusual match, I ended up with a KDR of exactly 1:1 because every death I incurred, I traded with my opponent. In games, trades are usually considered to be a sign of weak netcode or bad design; Battlefield 4 had been notorious for kill-trades back in the day, although numerous patches and updates to the backend rectified the issue. Here, I narrowly managed to avoid a trade on virtue of having heavier armour while playing as Alexandra.

  • Having now roughly put in about six hours into Boundary, the lingering question is whether or not this game will join my (considerable) library of other titles. While I did have a handful of frustrating moments initially while learning the mechanics and map layout, once I became more familiar with the game, I was having quite a bit of fun. There is no denying that Studio Surgical Scalpels have done a phenomenal job of bringing 2009’s Shattered Horizon to life in Boundary, and this has certainly been a worthwhile game to experience. My verdict at present is that this game is something I’d like to see a little more to before I make a concrete decision: Boundary has all of the right things in place, and for now, having a bit more information will help me out with said decision.

  • Altogether, I am glad to have taken the time to try out Boundary, which allowed me to experience a space tactical shooter (something I’ve been longing to do since reading about Shattered Horizon years earlier); the idea of a proper space shooter is one that still remains relatively unexplored, and it is fantastic to be able to play a game that is very much grounded in reality. With this post in the books, we exit the last weekend of Februrary, and here, I will close off with two remarks. First, I will note that I’ve got one more post lined up before the month is over, for the #AniTwitWatches Girls und Panzer revisit, and second, Boundary came up a bit unexpectedly. With the SteamFest demo over, I will be returning my efforts into Project Wingman as I aim to move towards the game’s halfway point.

Overall, Boundary‘s greatest strength is in its aesthetics. Everything about Boundary conveys the feeling of an authentic tactical space shooter; the astronauts themselves wear bulky, heavily-armoured spacesuits and make use of a large, highly-evolved version of the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) that NASA utilised in 1984. The spacesuits provide the astronauts with access to a pair of ordnance launchers and other equipment, as well as additional functions that specialise each astronaut type in its role. The environments are similarly detailed, feeling as though they are the types of facilities that are extensions of what current space programmes can already construct. Interiors of space stations feel like slightly more sophisticated versions of the International Space Station or Tiangong, while exteriors make use of the same scaffolding and solar panels as seen in reality. The slow, methodical movement systems gives players a sense of mass despite the apparent weightlessness, and the weapons themselves feel realistic; they resemble modern firearms modified to work in space. The movement system and six degrees of freedom, coupled with the chaotic space station environments and lack of motion trackers, mean that players must constantly keep their heads on a swivel – foes can come from any direction, and similarly, one can utilise full freedom of motion to ambush unsuspecting players. The weapons themselves feel modestly powerful, and the in-game explanation for how spacesuits survive damage from firearms is grounded in reality: the spacesuits themselves are vulnerable to fire, but players wear varying amounts of armour that absorb and deflect bullets. Careful aim is needed to hit weak points (for instance, a single shot to the helmet will take a player out of the fight), and hitting the MMU or armour plates deal reduced damage. The mechanics also forces players to be strategic in how they approach firefights; if one comes out of a firefight alive, they must also find a safe place to patch up their spacesuit, during which they will be vulnerable to enemy action. In the time I’ve spent with Boundary, it is clear that the tactical aspect of this tactical shooter is well-thought out, and the core gameplay elements are solid. Further to this, despite looking amazing, Boundary does run well on even older systems. Altogether, Boundary has succeeded in bringing Shattered Horizon into the 2020s – the game looks great, handles reasonably well and only has a few areas where it needs improvement. Beyond this, Studio Surgical Scalpels have done an incredible job with Boundary, and while I’m still on the fence about whether or not this game will enter my library once it is launched on account of my erratic schedule, the game has proven to be very promising and has what it takes to set itself apart from the giants of the industry.