It has been a few days since I put Winterfall on Steam Concept and the interest and support have been considerable. It is a very humbling and encouraging thing, after so long working more or less entirely in the dark.
Today, I would like to address some of the chief questions and concerns expressed in the Comments and also tell you a little more of where things are at. I briefly touched upon it in the previous blog post on the website but it may be important to re-frame this project's situation a bit. The Steam Concept status may muddy the perception, letting one think that this is just a bunch of nice ideas and not an actual product in development.
So, Winterfall at this stage is quite a fair bit beyond the Concept stage. The core platform is in active development, some components are well playable and various systems and mechanics have been in the works on and off for about 3 years now. It's a bit of a funny story.
It was December of 2012 when I decided I really wanted to start this project after so many years thinking about it. Nobody was making the game I really wanted to play, I realized nobody ever would anyway, so I went ahead.
By March of 2013, in a basic form the game allowed several players to log on to a play platform where they could generally walk around, harvest resources, loot chests, wear equipment and kill each other. It was brute but it worked and things were well on the way. At that pace, the following 3 months looked like they were really going to be great and it wouldn't be long until the game could be brought to a successful Kickstarter campaign. Or so I thought.
Various events, external and personal, sent my plans up in flames back then. One of the main ones was the announcement of Shroud of the Avatar and its subsequent Kickstarter success. More about that another time, but it was a bit of a broadside because many concepts in SotA seemed similar to concepts in Winterfall. Ultimately, SotA took a wildly different direction on similar concepts, Winterfall has had evolutions of its own and the two games don't have anything in common anymore, but back at that point, the damage was done.
I had always wanted to present something solid to Kickstarter, not just "ideas" but actual work. After all, not only am I a complete nobody without any street credit, but I'm also a perfectionist and I'm really uncomfortable with empty promises anyway, even when driven by the best intents. So I figured I needed to take all the risks and work really hard to make sure Winterfall would be a reality, not a concept, before getting out there. Especially after that SotA episode. Following that period of time, what had once looked like a less-than-one-year prototype development cycle turned into a 3+ years romp through the wilderness.
For all the distance walked since then, the project has lost and gained a lot, so have I, but we're both much stronger, sharper and healthier for it, and now, thanks to you people especially, we have much, much more to look forward to already. So let me address some key questions regarding this project:
- From the past 3 years of work, we have working systems in the following departments mainly:
personality simulation, social interaction, relationship development
horse-riding and basic elements of mounted combat
vital needs and basic survival
ARPG combat featuring dodges, blocks, combos, and bot AI with many personality factors
day & night cycle and environmental/weather factors
inventory & equipment
A lot of the work currently on our desks and ahead of us involves salvaging or upgrading some of those systems from older platforms and dev builds, as well as laying the groundwork for some new systems. Construction & decoration come to mind, although Combat has really been a core focus for the past couple of months (the videos don't yet quite do justice to the work).
- Winterfall is really meant to be an immersive RPG with lots of things you can do. Not quests and artificial objectives but instead, the idea is to offer the player many ways to interact with the world, let the world respond, and let those interactions have consequences. It's basically a long-range, open-ended RPG that helps you generate your own gameplay. If you keep on fighting people, it'll ultimately give meaning, cause and reasons for your future fighting. If you keep on making friends, it will give you things to do to protect, nurture, affect or otherwise test those friendships. And so on. It's not just a "do stuff until you have consumed all the content" or "do all the stuff until it respawns", but instead is meant to offer a long-range build-up in meaning and consequence.
- Thanks to the tools available in this day and age, we are able to put together VERY large environments. Of course it's always a matter of balancing what we CAN do, what we SHOULD do and HOW we should do it, but the ability to literally get lost in that world, and playing 50+ hours without having even seen the totality of one of the available play regions is very important to me. I basically want an experience where some people may want to be explorers who travel across the world and will never see all of it, and where some others may decide to stick to their patch of countryside without ever needing to venture out.
- The Winterfall itself is definitely part of the play experience, not just a gimmick or some score menu. It's first of all a change to the environmental conditions in the game, therefore also a change to the challenges and events, availability of resources and so on. The world of Winterfall is very lush and abundant, you can literally pick food off trees in the Wilderness and people don't need to mind each other if they don't want to. The Winterfall turns that upside down and brings a sense of impending, epochal doom. So, yes, definitely gameplay to be found in there.
- Combat in Winterfall is ARPG timing-based combat where you can perform different types of attacks, manually dodge, shield-kick, take down, block and so on. As each fighter has a personality made of a number of traits, the idea is that the flow of combat and a fighter's actions have pull over each trait. So it's not equipment-based where great equipment and poor skills will still make you win, rather it'll be about coming up with a good mix of playstyle and character personality, and managing your resources to open up tactical options at key points. It's not 100% hardcore though, as I want slower players with poor reflexes to enjoy the gameplay and get to perform well rather than be hopeless fodder.
- Customization of all kinds is crucial for me as a design focus. Right now, for instance, the work that has recently begun on Construction has for a goal to enable players to build and extend their own homes and structures not necessarily from scratch, but in a modular way, using portions and segments and additional rooms and facilities, that you can snap together as you like. Customizing your House (as in Household and so on) follows the same imperative: no two Houses should be similar since you will be making choices to determine mood, history and legacy, not to mention who populates it and so on.
- Currently, the game is being developed primarily for Windows. I'd love to be able to promise a Linux and OS/X release but right now it'd be a promise backed by no facts. As I'd like to make Winterfall available for as many people as realistically possible, we'll keep that goal in mind though and hopefully we can make it happen not too far along the road.
Thank you for your interest, support and comments! I must reiterate how passionate and resolute I am about all this. For me, Winterfall is a shot at making the open-world RPG many of us always wanted to play and that nobody's making. No matter how challenging the process can be at times, I am unstoppably determined to take this project home.