Mode Seven Explain Why Frozen Cortex Left The Frendzone

Frozen Synapse developers Mode Seven have been quietly talking about changing the name of their exceedingly clever but regrettably-titled strategic robo-sports game Frozen Endzone for some time now. Tired of all the friendzone puns and concerned about how much it overstated the American Football aspect, they’ve only gone and done it. Frozen Endzone is no more: as of today we have Frozen Cortex. Or, Frendzone is no more: now we have FroCo.

The name isn’t all that’s changed. As of any minute now, Frozen Cortex also boasts a new, more heavily sci-fi look, revamped AI, a big performance boost and Mac/Linux builds. This is a major update, not a mere rebrand. I had a chat with Mode Seven’s Paul Taylor and Ian Hardingham about why they’ve changed so much after so long – including their reasoning for (and risks of) that rebranding. Read on for that and a glimpse of the new-look game.

First, let’s do a wee list of those changes, and then have a watch of a new trailer for this reborn tactical futuresports game:

– OSX and Linux versions
– New pitch, ball and animations
– Completely overhauled AI including much faster performance and much more intelligent play
– Five new stadiums
– Significant performance improvements: frame rate should be 50-100% improved on most hardware
– Big loading time improvements

UI improvements:

– Throwing UI improved
– Intelligent interception-radius rendering
– indicator for whether a move location is “safe” or not
– Minor rules changes to reduce the need to “keep playing when the match is clearly over”; other gameplay improvements
– Quite a few new gameplay options to play around with in the Custom Game editor.
– Significantly updated in-game commentary text
– Other minor changes

And here’s how Frozen Cortex now looks and sounds:

Right then. Time to find out a thing or two about why this has happened…



RPS: Don’t you know that you can never escape the friendzone?

Paul Taylor: My love for you will never die, Alec.

Ian Hardingham: Well… Ross did escape the friendzone. So I disagree with the premise.

RPS: In seriousness – what do you expect the name change to affect, other than your own discomfort? And is there any risk that rebranding after so long could be harmful?

Paul: We’re changing the name as part of some general changes to the aesthetic, including the look of the ball and some elements of the pitch: it’s probably not the most significant change to the game in those terms.

Looking at it in isolation though, I think naming something is an odd conjunction of how the creators feel about that thing, and how they want the world to perceive it. So, I can’t say definitively “changing the name will have this specific effect”: that would be presumptuous. We wanted to address the fact that some people think the game is an American Football simulation when it’s a turn-based strategy game with entirely different rules from football that are much easier to understand. The word “endzone” probably wasn’t helping, so we thought we’d take care of that and get rid of a massively silly name at the same time.

We’re in Early Access and that’s the right time to make changes that bring the game into line with what we want to make. I think there could be some minor confusion over the name but we’ll make sure you can find it by searching for the old name as well: I’m not expecting this to be too much of an issue.

Ian: The name change is personal preference for me – I ended up hating the original name, and that’s not cool for a thing I’ve put three years of my life into. I don’t think the original name was hurting the game particularly – it just wasn’t something I wanted to ever have to say again.

RPS: You mentioned that Early Access has gone well, but how do you feel about that system overall now? (I know you kinda did your own version of it with Synapse, but presumably it’s been a bit different?)

Paul: Early Access has functioned really well for us as an interim stage between our own beta and full release. To be honest, I do slightly wish people would use it more in that way: we tried to get big problems ironed out early on with a smaller beta and then move onto Steam when we wanted a bigger audience with the game in a more robust state.

One of its oddities is that, for certain types of game, I think it can encourage a much longer development period than they otherwise would have had. For us, it’s more about helping to fund the game, building the community and helping us push forward to actually releasing it properly.

We still have a lot to do while in Early Access, including releasing the major part of the single player game, so I’ll be in a better place to judge it after that. Having said that, I think we’d definitely do it again.

Ian: I just think Early Access is better for both the developers and the players. It forces us to release regularly, which is incredibly beneficial to us; and I just think it straight-forwardly makes our games better. Being exposed to paying players’ feedback (which will always be more critical and representative) early in development is basically invaluable.

There’s a lot of drama over the nature of Early Access as a product – a lot of talk about pricing schemes and business models – which I think overshadows the fact that this is for our fans to really help us make the best game that we can. When it’s working like that, I think it’s a brilliant thing.

RPS: How comfortable are you with people continuing to call it a ‘sports’ game?

Paul: It really depends on whether you think Speedball or Blood Bowl are sports games: I don’t mind this particularly as long as it doesn’t lead people to think that it’s a sports simulation. Mechanically, it’s a strategy game, but if you want to call it a futuresports game then we’re definitely fine with that.

Ian: On the one hand, I want to say that it’s none of my business what people choose to call something. On the other hand, I’m here changing the name of this game, so I can’t really say that.

What I wanted to make, and what I believe Frozen Cortex is, is two things. Mechanically, it’s a game quite like Frozen Synapse, but faster to play and with (even) more of an emphasis on predicting your opponent and making calls. Aesthetically, it’s a fantastical fictional sport played by weird robots in the future. That’s what I see when I look at the game, and that’s what I want other people to see when they look at it.

Honestly it really isn’t any of my business what you choose to call it – it would just make me really happy if people didn’t think it was a sports simulation.

RPS: The look the game has now – what are the key influences there? And how sure are you that this will be, essentially, the game’s final look?

Paul: Aside from polishing, which will be pretty comprehensive and take a few months at least, the game will definitely continue to look like this. The changed ball, animations and pitch stuff in this version were pretty much just things we wanted to try out, rather than being dictated by particular external influences. We did have a long discussion about different shapes of ball which is too painful to recount here.

Rich Whitelock (Lead Artist): The aim is to communicate a large amount of gameplay related information and reward the intense planning with satisfyingly brutal outcomes, not just for the players but also any spectators who are watching. Our aim for the polishing stage is to push the replays to be not only as exciting as possible but also comprehensible from closeup on a PC screen and when spectating at an event.

Martin Binfield (Lead Animator): When a robot and a robot hate each other very much they are animated.

RPS: Do you have an approximate ETA for the singleplayer stuff?

Ian: We should be getting a reasonably feature-complete beta of the single player campaign out to people in September.

Paul: We’re putting a lot of work into this behind-the-scenes: it’s a giant league with AI coaches who all have different personalities. There will also be random events during matches, bits of backstory for the different teams and a load of other stuff. It’s really fun to play around with at the moment but this isn’t something we want to do piecemeal in public (partially owing to the story elements), so it’ll likely come out as a big update.

RPS: Thanks for your time. You may now exit the Frendzone.

Frozen Endzone evolved into Frozen Cortex today, and is available- complete with new art and AI – either direct from the developers or via Steam Early Access.


  1. Gap Gen says:

    The problem is that having escaped the frendzone it’ll inevitably seem dated.

    That almost worked.

    OK it didn’t.

  2. shinkshank says:

    I can’t help but think slightly less of everyone who sees the change and said ” It doesn’t have a football thing in the title? I’m instantly more interested “. Because that just makes your like/dislike decision process look pretty goddamn shallow.

    • Post-Internet Syndrome says:

      I think the nuance they are hunting for is “this sounds like a sports game, let’s have a lot of preconceptions about that” versus “this sounds like a game, potentially with similarities to frozen synapse (if I’m familiar with that one)”.

      I don’t think this will have a lot of impact on people who already know about the game, but I guess they want to make a different first impression from what they’ve been making so far.


    • Distec says:

      I’ve never cared for sport games, so yeah, anything that’s making a reference to a football field or a soccer pitch in its title is unlikely to get a second look from me. Am I being shallow? I don’t think so. I just have a lot of games to play already and precious little time/interest in thoroughly researching every game I come across to find some mislabeled gem.

      There’s a lot of games I don’t pay further thought to after first impression because they don’t strike my fancy for whatever reason. Pretty sure the same could be said of most people, including you.

      • shinkshank says:

        Of course, I won’t go super deep into researching every game I look at, examine devblogs, etcetera, but I’ll usually look at a screenshot at the very least, or a trailer if there’s one out, before just completely disregarding a game.
        Maybe I’ve got a few minutes more on my daily browsing schedule so that I can spend time looking at potential purchases, idunno.

      • Lusketrollet says:

        I actually think that does make you slightly shallow, Distec.

        • Distec says:

          What exactly makes that shallow? The developers themselves said they thought the original name was misleading. They said it implied a football-esque sports game; I don’t care for those kinds of games; therefore I never looked at it again. But somehow this is a failure on my end? Nope.

          You have one time to make a first impression, and then most people move on. That’s not shallow or narrow-minded. That’s the inevitable result when people have millions of other things to do, gaming or otherwise. Nobody is obliged or should be expected to “do their homework” on every title that they are exposed to day after day, especially ones that caught a fraction of their attention for whatever reason the first time around.

          If the game has some legs and gets good press further down the line, it might be worth revisiting to see what all the fuss is about. But you can’t honestly be digging at people who passed on a game due to it: 1) Having a sports-inspired name, 2) Looks like sci-fi sports, quite honestly.

    • karthink says:

      Guess I make shallow decisions, then.

      But it’s pretty much as Distec says.

    • Wytefang says:

      Very well said.

    • Phasma Felis says:

      I don’t think it’ll change any minds of people who already knew about the game. For people just encountering it, though… Nobody has time to investigate every single new release; we make snap judgments at every step to decide whether to investigate further.

      Like, the first time I became aware of the band Modest Mouse, I immediately assumed that it consisted of two very skinny white dudes, one of them playing an electric guitar with $800 worth of gizmos designed to make it sound exactly like an acoustic, the other doing his best to sound like a seven-year-old girl singing a funeral dirge. Their music would sound exactly the same with the bass knob turned all the way up or all the way down. At shows, they would both stare fixedly at their Chuck Taylors from the moment they walked onto stage to the moment they left. And that’s not what they’re actually like at all! It’s important to pick a good name.

    • Philotic Symmetrist says:

      It used to have a football thing in the title?

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    Earl-Grey says:

    What’s this Frendzone rubbish?
    I thought everybody called this game Frozen Arses, or something to that effect.

  4. Sparkasaurusmex says:

    The ball used to look a lot cooler.

  5. JFS says:

    Will the next on be called Frozen Myelin? And when will they finally come out and change their studio name to Brainfreeze – can’t tell me they’re not planning on that since the beginning.

  6. Drake Sigar says:

    Damnit, so close to froyo.

  7. Tei says:

    I played the original whatisname, and trough a full game would be good, so I bought it, but then I never played it. I trough the game feel like a porn movie: all sex, no romance. It happends that I like the settings, I like steampunk nazis, or cheesy mindcontrolled aliens. Also, maybe I am bad at videogames, and this one looked like a sport, and I am nobody food.

  8. povu says:

    Not entirely sure if I’ll end up playing this, but I’m definitely buying the soundtrack. I loved the Frozen Synapse soundtrack, especially from the Red expansion.

  9. Wytefang says:

    Why would they need to change the name? It matched what it was perfectly. The first game used the term Frozen and this one was a football-type of game. Bizarre.

    So they changed it because internet nerds gave it a lame nickname. Who cares? People who don’t enjoy 3rd-grade humor didn’t care about the nickname, they just liked the game itself.

  10. sharkh20 says: