Fever Fray: First Fray Screens, Interview

By Quintin Smith on July 1st, 2011 at 3:29 pm.

Fray, you can be my hex-girlfriend

Indie squad tactics game Fray seems purpose-built to secure a place on RPS’s radar, and since we have impeccable taste, that means you should be keeping an eye on it too. Not only is it going to offer top-down squad strategy, they’re appealing to RPS’s love of paradoxes- that same squad strategy will be real-time and turn-based. Don’t think about that too hard, because (1) you’ll get a headache, and (2), we’ve got an interview with French developers Brain Candy explaining just what Fray is after the jump, as well as the first ever screenshots.

Before we get started, you may want to take a look at the two promotional videos Brain Candy released for Fray up till now. I liked them both quite a lot, the first because it had heart and a sense of humour and basically showed what happens when indie devs get their hands on tens of thousands of euros worth of mo-cap equipment, and the second because it was as shiny and professional a bit of viral marketing as I’ve ever seen come from an indie studio.

And with that, on with the interview with Monsieur Alexandre Avenard, lead producer at Brain Candy.

RPS: Greetings! So, simultaneous turn-based strategy? You’d better explain how that works, before the heads of our readers cave in like rotten fruit.

Alexandre Avenard: Bonjour RPS! Simultaneous turn-based strategy… Quite a mouthful isn’t it?
In traditional turn-based games, players take turns to give orders to their squads, armies or characters, one after another. While this system works wonders in single player games, it can be a problem in a multiplayer context, where a game can drag on and on.

This is where we believe simultaneous turn-based strategy truly shines. By allowing every player to choose their actions at the same time, we can create a very dynamic strategy game, even with a high number of players, since you don’t have to wait for your opponents. Once everyone in the match has given their orders or a fixed timer has run out, you then witness how your actions pan out in a cinematic fashion. With this system in place, Fray is much more action oriented than traditional turn-based strategy games. You have to anticipate the enemy’s actions, put yourself in their shoes, and lay out traps and ambushes, with virtually no down time, rather than just reacting to their actions. It is a very different feeling that just has to be tried!

RPS: How tense is each turn’s time limit? Is it enough time for some chin-stroking and second-guessing, or do you often send off orders in a blind panic?

AA: We are aiming for a turn to last between 40 seconds and a minute. This is of course being playtested to know if it is the right amount of time. The whole point is to give players enough time to issue orders, while not letting them think on them for too long. We want Fray to be fast paced, we want players to be tense! Time taken to micro manage one character is less time for issuing orders for the other three, but sometimes he is the most important in a given situation… It is really a choice in the player’s hands, and they get to choose how to manage their time. Also, we have incentives to make people play faster than their opponents ;-)

RPS: Presumably if you’re asking players to send if orders quickly, you can’t have any wrestling with the UI. Do you guys have an innovative control scheme in place?

AA: David, our lead designer, used to work as a usability expert and designed interfaces for many different products. When working on Fray, he wanted to streamline the way orders are given and ease the players as much as possible, letting them focus more on the gameplay and have less fumbling around with different options. We looked at how interfaces in RTS’ are managed, since they also are fast paced, and created our own little melting pot that will allow players to issue orders swiftly and efficiently. The UI seen in the screenshots is still a work in progress but gives an idea of what we are aiming for, with rapid selection and recognition of each squad member and quick issuing of orders.

The gameplay is also tuned in this sense, taking cues from action games and FPS, focusing more on the strategy and the fighting, rather than micro-managing the team, which will take place outside of a match (assigning weapons, skills, equipment etc).

RPS: What did you guys think of (or learn from) Frozen Synapse?

AA: Frozen Synapse is an awesome title that we really recommend to RPS readers, paving the way back to great turn-based strategy games on PC. We discovered it a few months into our own development and we were surprised to see that Mode7 was designing a game with similar design principles to Fray. It really comforted us in our choice of simultaneous turn-based in a multiplayer situation, truly speeding up the pace of the game, creating new and intense situations, while retaining the core aspects of what makes turn-based games so successful.

Both games are however quite different in flavor, as we had decided on many different design choices in Fray prior to hearing about them, such as different character classes, a persistent evolution system for your team, more akin to an RPG, with XP, levels, weapon and equipment unlocks that allow players to fine-tune their team as they progress in the game, players will focus on one game at a time rather than multiple games at once as in Frozen Synapse, and our rounds are timed, forcing players to make quick decisions, similar to what they would do in an RTS or an action game.

Despite our differences, we believe that innovation in gameplay is the key and Frozen Synapse has proven to us that players are hungry for new ways to play strategy games. Being an independent developer allows us the freedom to take these chances with new forms of gameplay.

RPS: What would you say is the core of squad-base strategy? Why is it proving so hard for the games industry to recapture what made people fall in love with the classics- Jagged Alliance 2, X-Com, and so on?

AA: The major challenge for a player in a squad-based strategy game is to find out how to interact with several different characters, each with their own equipment or abilities, and create an effective strategy against opponents that possess similar or different squads.

To be successful, the player must create team-play between his different characters, using their unique qualities and the combat environment in order to anticipate or react in the best way possible to the enemy squads’ actions.
 
Traditionally, squad-based strategy games have used turn-based mechanics. The problem is that their design is very close to that of a board game, imposing gaps in the game’s rhythm in order to give your orders to each character, and let the enemies play.

In the era of X-Com and Jagged Alliance, this type of gameplay was common, it was the beginning of 3D on computers, and consoles were still a small market. But with increasing processing and graphical power, games became more and more fast paced, and technological evolution was pushed through real time games, where the majority of players have their interests.

The biggest problem with today’s gaming industry in regards to squad-based strategy, is that real-time is not the right fit for the genre (although Dawn of War 2 would say otherwise), and they are traditionally turn-based, a genre which scares the big majors, as it is considered too niche.

That doesn’t mean that the genre is necessarily dying, new titles come out each year, but its public is unfortunately limited, mostly because most gamers don’t even know of the genre, having discovered gaming in the past ten years. Gamers must therefore count on independent studios to satisfy their tactical needs, to challenge their reflection after a fast paced action game, where twitch mechanics rule. With Fray we hope to introduce FPS gamers to strategy games, with an action packed game that also requires some thought.

RPS: Your favourite squad-based strategy game! GO!

AA: The team will answer in unison: XCOM!!!

Although I personally have a soft spot for Final Fantasy Tactics, but shhh! That’s heresy here!

RPS: I saw in a preview that you guys said you wanted to use Fray to, in part, show that Unity can be used to create indie games with near next-gen graphics. How’s that working out for you?

AA: Unity is an awesome engine, quite underestimated by a lot of people. With the pro version, you have access to many of the tools that would be available only in top-end game engines such as the Unreal Engine 3 or the CryEngine 2. 

Maybe not that high standard from the get go, but with a good programing team, you can get close to their quality. Since in Fray, the game camera can get very close to characters and the environment during the cinematic resolution phase, we wanted to have the best graphics possible with our small team of 10 people. Thanks to our programmers, we managed to create many different shaders to enhance the visuals of Fray, such as global illumination, ambient occlusion, custom glow, depth of field etc. Combine that with the Beast light mapping engine (used in Mirror’s Edge) available in Unity and you get quite a pretty game! 

Of course, it is not simple, it requires many hours of work, tuning and tweaking everything, creating all the art assets and building the levels, but with commitment, Unity is one of the best engines out there, and definitely the one that has the most bang for your buck.

RPS: Thanks for your time.

__________________

« | »

, , , .

95 Comments »

  1. johnpeat says:

    That looks super – will follow it with interest :)

    Unity has enormous potential – my only concern is that the developers seem to be stretching themselves a bit thin with lots of platforms and features but some lack of attention to the details (which can drive you NUTS when you’re trying to make things work).

    They’re relying on the community coming together to resolve this stuff and for the most part it seems to work – I just have a slightly foreboding about that approach…

  2. Vexing Vision says:

    I like these guys.

    I will purchase Fray.

    They won me over with loving Frozen Synapse.

  3. Jim Rossignol says:

    This looks amazing.

    • JB says:

      Sounds intriguing too. Firmly on my one-to-watch list.

    • BooleanBob says:

      Looks great, sounds good, and Avenard comes across as a top bloke too.

      All in all, a very nice piece of promotion indeed. Possibly a case of DRTFA here, but is there word anywhere of an estimated release date?

    • BrainCandy_Yshaana says:

      Hi guys, thanks for all the kind comments and thanks to RPS for the interview. We are currently aiming for a beta in september/october, and we should be showing some gameplay soon!

    • El_MUERkO says:

      Looking at the screenshots: if no one told me what they were from i’d have guessed a modern take on Syndicate.

  4. Schaulustiger says:

    Wow, this sounds promising. Now when will we be getting something playable like a beta?

    • torchedEARTH says:

      I believe you got that answer a little over 90 minutes after you asked!

      Hows that for internet speed!

  5. RaytraceRat says:

    Sounds and look really good. Different classes + char progression is something I would love on top Frozen Synapse gameplay.

    • Vexing Vision says:

      For Singleplayer, YES. For multiplayer, no.

      Frozen Synapse and Fray will both please me very, very much simultaneously. And turn-based.

      This is a good year!

  6. zergrush says:

    Wow, hadn’t really paid attention to that game but it looks and sounds awesome. I’ve been wanting a squad-based skirmish tbs for quite some time and this one seems to be as close as it gets to that. The only way it could make me happier would be being an official Infinity adaptation :P

    Also, nice to see FFT mentioned, a shame it has to carry the “Final Fantasy” name as it’s essentialy a Tactics Ogre title and it’s easily one of my favourite turn-based games.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      yea, there are at least some good games which essentially get ignored because they’re “only final fantasy spin-offs”.

    • Ralphomon says:

      Speaking as a self-confessed (some might say heretical) Final Fantasy lover, the Tactic series have become my favourites. I love the squad-based tactics games – I keep willing myself to play more X-Com even though it’s so demoralising when half your team dies every mission. Also I’m really bad at it.

    • Chris D says:

      The Final Fantasy series is great. Anyone who has a problem with that can taste my unfeasibly large sword. Actually, that sounds much ruder than I intended now that I think about it… Moving on.
      Fray looks great. I will almost certainly give them my money. Here’s hoping this is the start of a new turn-based renaissance.

    • amateurviking says:

      I must also share the love for Final Fantasy Tactics. I’m currently getting my turn-based tactical RPG fix from FFT Advance on the GBA, which is fantastic. I really dig this genre and wish there were more games of their ilk about.

      It seems to be the preserve of some pretty hardcore/hard to get in Europe JRPG series FFT, Fire Emblem, Disgaea etc) and ther hasn’t been much done with the genre on PC for what seems like an age. Good to see this and frozen synapse and a few others coming through now though!

    • Wizardry says:

      Maybe if people stop praising Mass Effect and Oblivion for modernising the RPG genre we’ll get turn-based tactical RPGs in the west again, just like we had in the 80s and early 90s.

    • subedii says:

      FFT was awesome.

      Really wish that the War of the Lions remake was available on more than just the PSP and iOS.

    • zergrush says:

      The remake is a lot better than the original, the animations and specially the corrected translation are great. Tactics Ogre: Wheel of Fortune is also pretty amazing.

    • Ralphomon says:

      I’m probably in the minority when I say FF Tactics A2 is my favourite. I like the fact that it doesn’t have too much of an overarching story. I feel like I’m managing the clan going about its daily business without too much ‘save the world’ or high drama to get in the way. Also your characters can’t die permanently, which is good because I build emotional connections with my clan members like a motherbitch.

  7. Tei says:

    Needs more [Live JPG Girls] ads.

    • BrainCandy_Yshaana says:

      How about some Live GIF girls? That would be an upgrade !

    • Daiv says:

      I like my girls like I like my .psd images. Layered.

      I like my girls like I like my .jpg images. Heavily compressed.

      I like my girls like I like my .gif images. In 256 colours, and dithered.

    • Tacroy says:

      I like my girls in .png images, with transparencies in all the right places :)

    • Ralphomon says:

      I like my girls the way I like my .eps images: easy to put into LaTeX.

  8. Wizardry says:

    Simultaneous turn-based combat doesn’t really exist. It’s just real-time combat with a planning stage. Turn-based means each player or each character takes it in turns to perform actions. If characters move at the same time it’s just an implementation of real-time gameplay.

    • BoboDaHobo says:

      Humbly disagreed. I feel like a game is only truly Real-Time if you’re making decisions in Real-Time. Simultaneous Turn-Based games preserve the most important element of turn based gaming (being able to take an indefinite amount of time to decide upon your actions) even though action resolution is done in real-time.

    • cybernomad says:

      I would think that Age of Wonders and Civilization are clearly simultaneous turn-based strategy games. You have turns, every player can spend his actions allowed for one turn simultaneously and when every player has ended his turn the new turn begins.

    • gwathdring says:

      Not really. In Civilization, you go one after another and most of your actions are resolved in real-time (move the warrior and he carries out that order instantly). Simultaneous Civilization would cause a bit of an issue with the Civilization combat system because there’s no order queing–units and cities make changes as soon as you give out instructions. It’s definitely a straight sequential turn-based game. Having a limited number of things you can do each turn doesn’t really change that, so I don’t follow. Or is Civ 5 different?

      Simultaneous turn-based games allow all players to take their turns with the same starting scenario–whether they make their moves with limited resources but real-time resolution, or in the manner of Diplomacy (the board game) and Frozen Synapse, or something in between. If you start your turn with a different game state than other players because they play before you and change things, it’s not simultaneous.

    • Keith Nemitz says:

      The developer should not decide the amount of time for giving orders. They should provide a range that players pick from before playing. So if you’re a hot shit set of gamers, dial it down to 30 seconds. Newbies might need 2 minutes or more! This method can also be used to hook-up players of the same ability.

      Back in 1999, my starship game (demo), Flagship: Champion used a similar method.

    • Wizardry says:

      It doesn’t really matter when players pick their orders. What really matters is how the combat is resolved. If characters perform simple actions without any other unit moving on the battlefield, then it’s turn-based. An example of this would be throwing a grenade at a group of enemies and hitting them all because they don’t get the opportunity to move out of the blast radius. If, on the other hand, all other units on the battlefield move and carry out their own actions while your character performs the action you told him to do then it’s real-time. Using the grenade example again, while the grenade is in motion through the air the enemy units can disperse in time.

      They both require different skills from the player. When actions are happening in a real-time arena, the player is required to anticipate the movement and timing of the enemies, as well as take into account things like enemies moving in and out of cover as they move, as well as traffic control issues with the AI. When actions are happening in proper turns, the player doesn’t have to anticipate timing as such, and can concentrate on making the best possible move for each character in each static situation.

      I’m not really sure how this game works, though, as it’s not clear from the interview. It seems to me that all players get to issue orders in one universal planning stage. But when the actual turn is played out? I don’t know. If all actions are performed simultaneously (in real-time), much like Frozen Synapse in many ways, then that would work quite nicely for a multi-player game. However, bringing back my original post, that wouldn’t be true turn-based combat as the way enemies are moving around and performing actions in the real-time section has an effect on the outcome of the actions you’ve given to your own units.

    • gwathdring says:

      Wizardry, I’m a bit confused. Why can’t we define “turn based” as “a game in which things are broken down into turns?”

      By this definition, if you aren’t able to move out of turn (say, you’re limited to a certain number of actions or have to wait for a real-time resolution phase to complete before acting) the game is broken down into turns and that is sufficient to call it turn based.

      Saying that the realtime phase altering the course of how your units behave seems a bit irrelevant to whether or not it’s turn based. Technically, in King’s Bounty, having my units killed off by bees, environmental effects, or the enemy units before finishing the movement order I queued up interrupts my plans as well. I would consider Frozen Synapse turn based despite your opponent being able to drastically alter your plans based on their own.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      There’s a large cracking noise that occurs when you break away from gameplay mechanics that could plausibly be replicated with a board game.

      Call it what you will, but there’s a huge difference, and it’s not really helpful to lump the two sorts of games together except under the broad umbrella of “strategy”.

    • Wizardry says:

      @gwathdring: So you define turn-based games as all games that you can pause and think in? That seems odd to me. Turn-based to me is where, say, one of your characters get a turn, you then use up their action points or whatever, then perhaps an enemy gets a turn, and they use up all their action points, then another one of your characters might get a turn… Alternatively, something like X-COM where you cycle through all of your units and then the enemy cycles through all their units. That’s turn-based too. A universal planning phase on a shared game state, with real-time resolution is not turn-based because, well, there are no actual turns. Nothing is taken in turns. The game is not turn-based.

    • gwathdring says:

      Er …. no. Not at all actually. I define all turn based games as games with turns. I’m pretty sure that’s what I said. Pausing is not a turn, because it is not mandated by game mechanics.

      A shared planning phase IS a turn because if follows the exact same rules you applied above. You are limited to a certain amount of time or action points and can only perform so many actions in a single “segment.” Once these segments are finished, orders are carried out and you start again. Diplomacy, a rather old board game, works the same way: everyone writes up orders in secret while negotiating and talking with each other and then the orders are carried out. You can only do so many things in a turn (no one unit can perform more than one action per turn), so you are limited in precisely the same way as during asymmetric turns. Then everyone’s orders are read and resolved, people start shouting bloody murder at being stabbed in the back and the next turn begins.

      How is that not a turn based game?

    • Wizardry says:

      How is that not a turn-based game? Because nothing is taking turns!

    • gwathdring says:

      You are taking turns with each other through a proxy. You take your planning turn and then the game engine takes a turn resolving your plans. The game engine resolves everyone’s turns at the same time, but in some games (unlike Diplomcay) there is a turn-order precedence which makes this proxy more evident by taking every instance in which any direct conflicts are solved as though orders had been given in strict turn order. The turns are technically played simultaneously, but you can just as well pretend that they are played blind in most cases. I guess I don’t understand why the philosophy of a turn-based game requires you to take turns, one after the other, with an opponent real or artificial. Why can’t it exist on a spectrum between real-time and turn-based? You’re essentially excluding from categorization any games with obscure or asymmetrical designs that severely alter the strict turn order plan you lay down without ever really becoming a game of direct action/reaction.

    • Wizardry says:

      I’m excluding nothing of the sort. Games in which each character has their own speed attribute to influence turn ordering on a per-character basis are still turn-based games. Why? Because when a character gets their turn, complete actions taken during that turn will take place according to the current game state. Each turn happens within a snapshot of the game. If a character gets 10 time units to spend on actions, no one else gets to move about during the spending of those time units. If no enemy unit is overlooking a courtyard, you can safely run across it if you have enough time units to spend doing so. If things are resolved in real-time, not only do you have to check if no enemies are overlooking the courtyard, you have to estimate whether or not the enemies can get to the courtyard before your character has fully made it across. It’s an estimation. You estimate the passage of time. It’s not the same.

      Things like reaction fire work fine, though, as they are ingrained into the game mechanics. You’ll treat the possibility of reaction fire from an enemy rifleman in the same manner as environmental hazards like taking damage from toxic fumes.

    • gwathdring says:

      You logic seems inconsistent to me. I don’t get how your description of a turn excludes games like this and Frozen Synapse from being turn based. Perhaps I am missing something, but for example you said things happening in the “real time” resolution step alter the course of the game making it no longer turn based. But technically these steps are happening as part of a turn, one at a time. The players simply have the turn dictated to them by previous decisions–philosophically I don’t see it as any different from a game with turns in which you only have one legal move left due to the position of the pieces and thus must perform that action.

      Either way, I think you’re splitting utterly unnecessary hairs. I don’t think we have to have a fixed definition of a turn. My understanding of a turn is perfectly fine with turns being simultaneous and turns being queued up blindly before hand for a joint resolution phase.

      When defining gameplay genres and basic gameplay turns I tend to lean towards colloquialism and open-ended definitions. A lot of people consider simultaneous turn-based games possible regardless of how the resolution step is handled. You seem to have a different approach, which is fine, but I believe we’re going in circles for the moment so I’m going to leave it at that.

    • Wizardry says:

      How can my logic be inconsistent? All I’m saying is that taking turns makes a turn-based game. Having some universal pause to allow for everyone to issue orders, only for the game to resolve itself in real-time is simply not turn-based. No player takes turns. No characters take turns. The game isn’t based on turn-based mechanics. It’s not turn-based.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      Yes, simultaneous turn-based isn’t turn-based, it’s simultaneous turn-based.

      This is the archetypal Wizardry discussion. All hung up on those little words.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Yeah sure, blame Wizardry because other people insist on being wrong.

      It’s in the fucking dictionary: “a time or opportunity for action which comes in due rotation or order to each of a number of persons

      Turn does not mean “planning phase”. It very explicitly requires an order (your turn, then my turn, we’re taking turns), so “simultaneous turn-based” is an oxymoron. Think about the use of the word in any other context.

    • Unaco says:

      Dictionaries can be wrong or not encompass all meanings of a term, and words and meanings can change over time. Simultaneous turn-based is still turn-based to me, because it still has giving orders while paused or whatever (so not in real time), and, most importantly, you give orders that will be followed for a limited period, or turn, with no chance to change those orders during the turn and a chance to give new orders after the turn. Here turn isn’t referring to the ordering or sequence of giving orders, but that the full ‘encounter’ or situation is split into multiple phases, or turns.

      So what if you don’t take turns one after the other… it still has the essential feature of turn based games. As Malawi says, saying it isn’t turn based is just arguing over semantics, and ignoring progress and evolution of the genre.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      I actually agree with Wizardry’s definition of simultaneous turn-based. The word for me just never had anything to do with actual turn-based systems because I understood what was meant by it.

      Words often make no sense if you dissect them and find out their original meaning, and for me only what meaning it has taken on at this moment is of any relevance.

      This probably means that I find the discussion itself superfluous. Well okay, don’t mind me then.

    • Strac says:

      The way I understand it, simultaneous turn based is not turn based simply because the game is paused and actions are made, but because a limited amount of actions can be made in that time. Although the developers are placing a time limit on the turn phase, there is still only so much that you can get done in the turn phase before the turns are acted out. Unlike games such as Age of Empires or StarCraft your actions per minute do not matter, because you have a TURN. In this way disparities in mouse abilities are negated while abilities in strategy are brought to the foreground. I have to agree with the above point that if the game was real time, decisions made during the planning phase would be able to be altered mid shot or mid movement, but they cannot be… as far as we know. The decisions are carried out as they were ordered during your turn.

    • Wizardry says:

      This is infuriating! A shared planning phase cannot make something turn-based. Why? Because the actions you set out for a particular character to perform between turns is affected by the temporal unknown, the actions set for opponents during the same period of time. In one of my favourite turn-based games, Pool of Radiance, when a character gets their turn they are given a number of movement points. You can then work out where you want the character to move to with those movement points. Enemies can take a swipe at your character during movement through mechanics like attacks of opportunity (or reaction fire in games like X-COM), but they are based on rules and you can take enemy positions into account when calculating your character’s movement for the turn. You don’t have to take into account what the AI will do while you are moving your unit, because it’s your turn and the AI doesn’t get to act. It’s turn-based. When things move simultaneously, you have to also anticipate the actions of each enemy unit during the next period of play in order for you to work out the best orders for your own characters.

    • Vinraith says:

      I have no real interest in arguing semantics and definitions here, but I will note that by this definition of “turn based” the board game Diplomacy would not qualify, nor would any AGEOD strategy game, as both use secret simultaneous orders (which makes a lot of sense, in a military history game).

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      Forget everything I said in this thread. This issue has become too deep for me. I don’t even know what a turn is anymore.

    • unimural says:

      Turn-based is one of those terms that are hopelessly lost in a multitude of meanings. That’s what happens when people start using a language. It does sort of annoy me, but I’m too old to be truly annoyed these days.

      It seems to me that for most people, turn-based means: I can take my time giving orders. That the order phase is not real time. It’s what makes games tactical, instead of actiony. From this point of view, action resolution is an entirely separate system.

      A game where every player performs their order phase at the same time, is a game where everyone has their turn of giving order simultaneously. To clarify: imagine a game, where everyone has a turn for giving orders. Next, the orders are resolved simultaneously. Ie, the first order of every player takes place at the same time in the resolution. Is this game turn based? If it is, then there can be a ‘simultaneous turn based’ game. You may disagree, but it is kind of logical, even if it is technically a misnomer.

      In general, I would prefer if people would more clear about the difference between the action resolution and planning (or the order phase).

  9. Kaira- says:

    Oh for crying out loud, I had an idea just for a game like this after hearing about Frozen Synapse. Damn those French bastards with mind-reading abilities and time-traveling to start making the game before I thought about it.

    • mickygor says:

      Haha, my friend had the same reaction when he heard about Frozen Synapse. He’d just finished building the engine for an identical game xD

  10. P7uen says:

    I don’t know why turn-based strategy ever died down. American Football is mainstream and popular, and that is basically turn-based sport.

    • Bhazor says:

      Nobody makes a decent turn based game so nobody buys turn based games so publishers say there is no market for turn based game so nobody makes a decent turn based game so nobody buys turn based games repeat to infinity.

      It’s the same theres no market for dodo burgers and pet dinosaurs. Lots of people would buy them if they were available but they can’t because they aren’t.

    • Wizardry says:

      It’s the same reason all CRPGs are real-time now. The people don’t want turn-based games because the big publishers tell people that they don’t want turn-based games. It’s simple.

    • fitzroy_doll says:

      @P7uen – yes, American football is turn-based, while football (“soccer”) and rugby are real-time strategy.

    • gwathdring says:

      That’s not a very good example. I find american football incredibly dull but I love turn based strategy games. I also really wish we called it something other than “football” because that makes things confusing when going from talking with Midwesterners to talking with Europeans.

    • fitzroy_doll says:

      American football is very turn based, right down to changing the deployment of units based on the situation. In football (soccer) you only get new units every now and then, and sometimes lose the ability to field a full team, if your units have behaved badly.

    • gwathdring says:

      My point was not that it isn’t turn based, just that it’s a bad example of why turn based games should be more popular than they are. As a turn based fan, I’m not an american football fan. It doesn’t appeal to the same demographic, whether or not it fits the technical definition. Thus my calling it a bad example.

    • subedii says:

      I don’t know, I think turn based in general is just niche really.

      Valkyria Chronicles started off on the PS3 and was a rocking turn based strategy title, but it sold too poorly to warrant the kind of production values of a full fledged release on a current gen console.

      In the end the series shifted over to the PSP. Lower production values, but it sells well enough to maintain the franchise at that level.

      Basically, I think TBS games are always going to be fairly low key sellers. There’ll be the odd breakout title that’s the exception, but in general, strategy games tend to sell less than action games, and turn based strategy games even less than that.

    • RCGT says:

      Speaking of football, Madden solved this whole “simultaneous turn-based” problem years ago. It’s called the play clock.

  11. skyturnedred says:

    Looks very nice. Haven’t gotten around to playing Frozen Synapse yet, but will get it as soon as I can scrounge up some money to do so.

  12. Bhazor says:

    No gratuitous music link after a pun like that? Kieron would be spinning in his grave.

  13. Rii says:

    I’m sure this article’s proximity to the latest XCOM piece is entirely coincidental. ;)

  14. The Innocent says:

    Looks great!

    Where do I insert my coins to preorder?

  15. Rii says:

    So the main difference between XCOM and Fray appears to be that these guys are faithfully translating old-school mechanics to the shiny 3D presentation standards that Kids These Days™ expect, whereas XCOM is adapting them. Now the former approach is certainly more calculated to please the Old-Timers but is it actually the correct one?

    Would a slavish translation of the Council of Rivendell actually have made Fellowship of the Ring a better film? It would certainly have made it, oh, about six hours longer. Closer to home, remember that fling RTS games had with 3D way back when being 3D was a selling point? It didn’t take long for gamers and the industry to discover that it added absolutely nothing but headache to the traditional RTS experience and we saw the genre evolve in two distinctly different directions: a return to fixed or limited isometric views for more traditional RTS games like Age of Mythology and significant gameplay adaptations in the case of those games – such as Ground Control – that did stick with Full-On 3D.

    Hopefully my concern here is misplaced and Fray will be as intuitive as ye olde games of yore – or, indeed, Frozen Synapse – yet I can’t help but think that this is one marriage of gameplay and presentation destined to please neither partner.

    • gwathdring says:

      That’s a very interesting point. Well put. I guess we’ll see, won’t we? I like their attitude. I’m optimistic.

    • subedii says:

      So the main difference between XCOM and Fray appears to be that these guys are faithfully translating old-school mechanics to the shiny 3D presentation standards that Kids These Days™ expect, whereas XCOM is adapting them. Now the former approach is certainly more calculated to please the Old-Timers but is it actually the correct one?

      I’d actually say this game looks to be shaping up to be very different from X-Com.

      Even leaving aside the massive meta-game elements of gameplay that X-Com had, the gameplay model here isn’t sticking to “old school”. They’ve taken the turn based model of the original made it simultaneous turn based with timed turns. It’s a much more fast paced style of gameplay with less time for in-depth planning of each turn. It’s a different take on the genre in the same way that World in Conflict tried to evolve Real Time Strategy by effectively making it what Massive Entertainment called “RTS meets Counter-Strike”.

      Realistically I see this as an evolution along that path in the same way that Frozen Synapse was, just another branch off. From the way the devs talk about the mechanics at play and the style of gameplay they’re trying to espouse, they have a pretty solid idea of what they’re going for. Actually, I’ve heard FS described as “TBS meets Counter-Strike”, and this seems to want to follow that line as well.

    • Bhazor says:

      This isn’t X-Com either. But crucially it isn’t claiming to be nor is it a slavish carbon copy of a 16 year old game.

      It’s just a good turn based strategy game. Which is great.

    • subedii says:

      Yeah it does sound awesome. Much like Frozen Synapse, this is striking out in its own direction.

  16. HeavyHarris says:

    Fever Ray is a great musician. She does crazy much better than Lady Gaga.

  17. Choca says:

    Shut up and take my money.

  18. LazerBeast says:

    I like that there is a fresh crop of turn based squad games coming out, hopefully some of them end up being worth my time. This one definitely looks like it could be.

  19. Daiv says:

    Actually all this talk about real-time and turn-based has given me an idea.

    A system like this with a planning phase, then a real-time execution phase in which the planned orders are carried out… But the player can change the orders in real-time during the execution phase.

    That way the player gets all the advantages of planning elaborate maneuvers, but still has flexibility to adjust to real-time changes in situation.

    To the C#-mobile!

    • zergrush says:

      At a decent enough skill level you would have an rts with pauses.

    • remillard says:

      I don’t know. I think there ought to be an advantage to thinking tactically and out-guessing your opponent. Being able to alter your decisions mid run would diminish this angle.

      However, there might be something fun in each side having a very limited amount of interrupts. Perhaps once every ten turns or so (or maybe once each game!), you are allowed to interrupt the play at some crucial point and reissue commands. Of course at that point the opponent should be allowed to do that as well, so you may not have bought yourself anything.

    • gwathdring says:

      The most elegant way to do that I can think of is to have a “hero” unit controlled by the player that doesn’t require orders to move. You’d still only have however many seconds the rest of the units have to move, but could react in real-time. The trouble with this would be balance. The hero unit would have to have very limited equipment or be up against an “unfair” AI for the game not to be decided too easily on the shoulders of the hero unit. Of course, another way about that would be to given the hero unit environment altering abilities instead of weapons. Throw up an unexpected barricade by tugging the ground upwards in front of your unit and giving him cover in a place your opponent thought was too dangerous for your unit to move through. You could even make sure none of these abilities are lethal and make the hero unit somewhat weak to force the player to be careful.

      In addition to, or instead of, that the hero unit could have some very, very basic commands. Things like telling a unit to retreat to base, or to the hero unit canceling it’s current movement set or to take cover and hide for the rest of the turn, or maybe to charge without specific orders. Very general and/or limited survival type orders that are more about keeping units alive when you realize you screwed up than giving you an edge killing your enemy. They could even be made general interrupts that go out to the whole team, and be limited to one or two per turn or round or something.

    • Daiv says:

      Or a “leader” unit who allows you to give orders to the troops in real-time, but the orders are delayed by distance from the leader? Sort of an in-game representation of the player’s focus.

      Hmm…

    • gwathdring says:

      @remillard

      That’s a cool idea. Along similar lines, imagine if you had a bunch of overlord power-ups like that. For instance, getting to see your opponent’s squad orders (very slow to recharge, perhaps even once per game), getting to lay down a second set of orders that you can switch to in real time (for when you have two options that are either really bad or really good depending on what your opponent does and nothing in between), and maybe a few others. They should all be rare enough that games usually aren’t decided based on their use, but common enough that they can still decide close games when used at the perfect moment.

    • Chris D says:

      I think once you start allowing actions with real time you might as well just go for RTS with a pause button. I’m not sure what advantages a hybrid form would have.

      Traditional turn based means you’re acting on a fixed situation. Simultaneous is more about anticipating your opponent. Once you remove both those elements by allowing real time changes the only point to the turns is extra thinking time, which you get by pressing pause.

      That said, I’d be more than happy to be proven wrong.

    • gwathdring says:

      By creating a series of discrete planning phases you are doing several things: you are allowing for a basic turn-based mechanic to be laid out, you are creating “thinking time” as you mentioned, you are also putting a hard cap on what how much can happen between phases and your opponent knows about how far you can get during your turn, and perhaps most importantly you create an element of bluffing and trying to figure out what the opponent is going to do next. This creates some interesting situations a full spectrum RTS simply doesn’t. RTS games allow you to take broader strokes and also don’t require you to guess what your opponent is doing as long as you can see them.

      So why even add real-time elements? It’s a matter of taste. Think of it as a spectrum between real time and turn based. We’re already working with simultaneous movement which creates the above mentioned poker tactics and makes play more symmetric and uncertain. Now, supposing you want to also tone down the number of times your plans don’t engage with your opponent’s and you both sort of statically head in different tactical directions with maybe a bit of gunfire being exchanged on the side? You can make your tactics interact more directly with your opponent’s in a few ways: one is by having smaller, shorter, more concise turns. Frozen Synapse is an excellent example, even letting you simulate your opponent’s turn give you a better chance of interacting with him or her (an hopefully gaining the upper hand in the process). Everything is snappy enough that if you both miss each other, it doesn’t feel as disruptive.

      But you can also allow some real-time interruption. This adds an element of chance that has to be very carefully balanced, but it also allows you to redirect things when the two players aren’t interacting well enough. This means you can have longer turns, with more actions being performed without losing player interaction.

      I guess beyond that, I would say that you can’t really make a multi-player pause button. It would feel disruptive and unfair a lot of the time and I just can’t imagine it feeling right. So to get turn-based tactics crossed over with real-time elements you’d have to have some sort of a turn system with a time limit or some other resource limit on the real time actions to get the result of a pause button without making the players feel too much out of control of when the game pauses and when those thinking breaks come.

    • Chris D says:

      Ok, that sounds reasonable. I stand corrected. Looking forward to seeing more turn based games with real time elements

  20. abremms says:

    for some reason those screens have me positively nastalgic for Incubation. Somehow I missed XCOM in my youth, but I sunk countless hours of supposed-to-be-homeworking into Incubation.

  21. Stardog says:

    “show that Unity can be used to create indie games with near next-gen graphics”

    Err, Unity is capable of next-gen graphics, not near next-gen.

  22. remillard says:

    I have to admit, this whole fascination with “simultaneous turn-based” play and touting it as something new is pretty amusing. I used to play Stars! way back when. It was a very numbers oriented 4X kind of game, however it worked exactly like this. You issued your orders to your little empire, and the turns were resolved by the server. Combat was also resolved.

    It’s nice to see it come into tactical sims, but the fundamental idea has been around a long time. Not that I’m complaining. I’ve been missing my X-Com for a very long time.

  23. squareking says:

    I want a turn-based game like this (meaning Kids These Days graphics), but with ghastly, creepy monsters and big laser guns.

  24. subedii says:

    Haha, I love how he throws in that DoW2 mention. And I’d say he’s right. :)

    Listening to these guys talk about the core concepts they’re going for, they have a really solid idea of the mechanics at work and what they’re trying for.

  25. Juan Carlo says:

    Fever Ray reference FTW!

    That’s pretty obscure, so kudos to you for having good taste in music.

    For anyone who is confused, check it out:

  26. edit says:

    Nice. Consider it bought.