“A while ago on Blaseball dot com, The Coin had melted and a black hole engulfed the universe.”
That’s what The Game Band designer Stephen Bell said when I asked him, creative director Sam Rosenthal, and game design director Joel Clark to remind me of the most recent happenings in the world of Blaseball. Bell eagerly volunteered to give that explanation, saying he was “practising.”
Of course, “Moments Ago” in the world of Blaseball was almost exactly a year ago when the “Expansion Era” came to an explosive end. The rest of the context doesn’t matter though. A black hole swallowed everything that was Blaseball, and now The Game Band is ready to bring Blaseball back so the public can decide what it will be.
As Rosenthal described it when I interviewed him last year, Blaseball is an “absurdistic horror version of fantasy baseball.” It involves a bunch of fictional baseball teams with names like the Canada Moist Talkers, Kansas City Breath Mints, and Charleston Shoe Thieves playing fictional baseball games run by a simulator over the course of a week.
The public “plays” Blaseball by placing bets (in fictitious currency, without real money) on the outcome of those games. Their winnings are exchanged for votes in a weekly election, where the community decides on new rules for future games. Then the week starts all over again, with increasingly ridiculous games. Past rule changes have introduced elements such as player-burning umpires, fourth bases, and even a giant divine peanut. For those who have been able to follow the increasingly ridiculous storylines, it was all great. But by the end of the 2021 expansion era, Blaseball had become so vast and complex that many former fans had left and new fans weren’t coming in as quickly.
But The Game Band wants to change that, hence the years-long hiatus (or “Grand Siesta” in the game’s parlance)
“We mainly used it as a space to step back and figure out what we want this to be for the long term,” Rosenthal tells me. “If we just kept going at the pace we were at, we had a good idea of where it was going… We had a harder time getting new people into the herd, [hearing] same chorus again: ‘I feel like I’ve missed the boat, there’s so much going on here all the time, it’s so hard to overtake.’”
At Our Mercy
It was perhaps inevitable that The Game Band would end up in this situation. After all, Blaseball was never intended to become the overnight cult hit it quickly became when it launched in 2020. It was initially conceived as a goofy side project as The Game Band worked out what their next full game would be after the release of Where Cards Val. But it unexpectedly took off and forced The Game Band to change their studio strategy to keep it. It was a lot of sudden and unexpected work for a team of about six developers.
The Game Band development team has since grown to 27 members and now it launches Fall Ball: a prologue to the next era of Blaseball. Over the next few weeks, several players from Blaseball’s past will fall out of the aforementioned black hole (Get it? FALL Ball?), landing randomly in different teams. While that’s underway, the public can sign up via email to receive “commemorative rewards” that will be unlocked by the entire fanbase when they reach a certain number of milestone signups. There will be no games during this time, but they will come at an unannounced date after Fall Ball.
Previously, Blaseball was a completely browser-based experience, but not anymore. In addition to Fall Ball, The Game Band unveils an app for iOS and Android that will launch along with the new era. The app has full parity with features on the website, as well as push notifications, giving Blaseball a taste of a more traditional sports app like ESPN.
This ties in nicely with some of the changes the public can expect when Blaseball returns for his new era. It’s still the same structure — a week of competitions, a championship, voting on Sunday — but Rosenthal says they’re aiming to make it friendlier to people who can’t spend all day staring at the website for games. He doesn’t want to share specific details yet, but he says it will be easier to bet on games in advance. Community social features are also coming, making it easier for teams to collaborate on voting strategies without having to call individuals to a specific Discord server or Twitter.
Amid all this, Blaseball continues to be free to play. But while previously it was largely funded by weekly sponsorships from various companies, the coming era will see the introduction of optional paid transactions. The team assures that nothing involving real money will affect Blaseball’s game itself – it’s all tied to elements that allow individuals to customize their user experience, especially when combined with Blaseball’s social elements.
We’ve had a lot more time to plan, so we’ve thought out a lot more ahead of time. But that also includes room for improvisation.
Most importantly, Blaseball remains at the mercy of his fans. The years-long siesta has allowed The Game Band to expand what Clark calls the “possibility space” much further than before. The team is moving away from the grand, overarching storylines that characterized the first two eras in favor of a more “monster of the week” format that allows fans to pop in and out without reading pages of wiki articles about what happened months ago. has happened. But the stories told from week to week remain in the hands of the sim and the fans.
“We’ve had a lot more time to plan, so we’ve thought a lot more ahead of time,” Clark says. “But part of that is allowing room for improvisation, as the nature of the simulation is essentially an emerging narrative engine. We have to improvise, right? There will be things the sim does that we can’t expect, there will be stories that the fans around the sim will tell that we can’t expect. And there will be things they discover they can do that we can’t expect. So we’re designing the opportunity space and trying to give ourselves the tools to be able to improvise and have it ready ahead of time, so we don’t just build things, we have things that we can bring in as needed.”
An era of sustainability
With that comes the hope (if not the promise) that Blaseball is done with years of siestas like this last one. It’s about sustainability, the team says, something they’ve discussed in the past. Clark acknowledges that The Game Band has learned a lot about what sustainability means over time. Rosenthal, meanwhile, is optimistic about Blaseball’s prospects now that it has a much bigger team to back it up and a “much more stable foundation”.
The trio add that their internal processes probably need some fine-tuning. After all, many of The Game Band’s 27 members have been hired in the past year and have never been on the team as games are played, fans vote on decisions, and Blaseball shifts beneath everyone’s feet. It’s daunting, but it’s also an exciting creative challenge for the team.
That drive for sustainability extends not only to the team, but also to the community that creates the Blaseball story with them.
“I think that’s the one thing that we keep coming back to because we heard that and we felt it through two eras where people said, ‘This was interesting to me, but I either ran into it or I can’t find my way around’ Bell says. “So [success would mean] Keeping Blaseball’s energy, still doing the weird chaos stuff we love to do, but not blocking the door for new fans.
Blaseball’s Fall Ball website update is now available, with the first player to fall out of a black hole on October 28, and the Blaseball app slated to launch at the same unannounced, upcoming time as the next era.
Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.