Snooker Nation Championship 2019

Snooker Nation Championship 2019

A friend of mine, James, A.K.A. Copper Ice and I have been playing Snooker Nation Championship, originally released in 2016 for almost three years online. We play online because we are on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean, which makes in-person gaming somewhat troublesome as you’d imagine.

James and I have always liked the game, which should be obvious as we have played it almost weekly for three years. But, it does have a few issues, the first of which is the AI, which frankly is barely intelligent. For example, in one game, on the hardest AI level, it took the same shot, a simple snooker escape, more than 40 times, giving me the frame without me potting a single ball. In general, the AI would miss so many simple shots, giving me chance after chance, after chance with absolutely zero safety play.

The other issues were related to online play, first of all, no matter what settings you used, the guest, non-hosting player would have “Snooker Nation” overlaid on the table, which was highly distracting. Another issue was a weird echo through the guest players headset like a secondary, delayed mic feed was being sent through the Snooker Nation game while using Skype. And, finally, the game would randomly crash, indicating to both James and myself that it was the other players turn, leaving the game hung.

Now, yesterday, in our usual Friday chat and game, there was an update, which we immediately downloaded and installed from Steam. Immediately upon loading the game, the experience was much more polished, no more coming soon placeholders, which had been ‘coming soon’ for three years.

The differences in online play are that all the things mentioned above have been fixed, and we experienced no crashes, although the 3 – 5 second pauses after each shot made me nervous.

Gameplay changes are mostly related to mechanics and physics, the ‘cloth’ is much faster, making it possible to hit the ball more than twice as hard. A new, what James and I have dubbed the black hole, appears on the table, which we soon worked out was where the cue ball would end up, assuming there was no contact with another ball, and we found this to be accurate. The shot guides are less accurate than previously, it’s harder to assess shot power, which I do not mind, it makes the game more interesting.

Finally, the AI is improved, it now feels like a challenge, especially at the higher levels, like the semi-final, and final, during the first round games, the AI is still dumb, like the pre-patch game. I played a best of 11 frame match and the AI, set to hard level in the final, and the AI won 4 out of the 10 frames played, including three clearances, not allowing me back on the table after I made a mistake. The safety play from the AI is also better, but still not great in my view, after 3 – 4 safety shot exchanges, the AI would break up the pack, leaving multiple balls on. The AI still leaves me wanted an uber setting for us better players.

So, overall, after a three-year wait, I’m very positive about the changes, I want to play single player now, which was not the case before the update, because it was stupidly easy to beat the AI and win the championship. I also like the new physics, making me have to work harder to win frames, allowing for the potential for mistakes because it’s not so easy to predict what will happen when you strike the cueball.

So, a shout out to Cherry Pop Games for the update, it was a long time coming, but it was worth it. That said, I cannot finish this write up without mentioning that I believe this unexpected update was a reaction to the release of Snooker ’19, which I tested and wasn’t very keen on, so I got a refund from Steam.

Read James’ remarks about the changes on his blog, Copper Ice, Blogger, Gamer, Nerd.

UPDATE [May, 9 2019, 12:38]: There has been a further update to Snooker Nation Championship 2019, which has rolled back some of the changes, including the restoration of shiny balls and the cloth speed, back to pre-patch levels. Which is kinda annoying as I had gotten used to the new cloth speed. The table brightness has been fixed, although, at least on my monitor, it feels too bright [click for screenshot], and room lighting has been improved, which might be why the table seems brighter. None of these changes really changes what I have written above, us players just have to readapt to the table speed.

UPDATE [May, 10 2019, 20:10]: After playing just one frame of Snooker Nation 2019 online with my friend, James, after the 5/9 update, we abandoned playing, as the game was so buggy playing over the Internet. First of all, the Snooker Nation logo is overlaid on the table for James, who is my guest, with me hosting as I have the superior upload speed, regardless of decals setting. This was previously fixed in the 4/30 patch, only to be undone in the 5/9 update. Second, is the glitchiness, the balls appear to be moving sluggishly, and between shots, even for the same player, there was a 3 – 5 second delay, with the game displaying, ‘waiting for other player’. I think a little more internal testing by Cherry Pop is needed..

The glitchiness was bad enough for us to roll back to the 2016 version to have a truncated best of 5 frame game as we had lost so much time faffing about rolling back to the previous 2016 version. I appreciate that Cherry Pop is trying to improve the game, but it seems they are having an issue with premature release, the game should get better, not worse, I had high hopes, but feel disappointed instead.

Here are my friend, James’ views of the 5/9 Snooker Nation Championship 2019 update.

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