Frostpunk will be mod-friendly and very cold

frostpunk-mods-1

Hello from the Game Developer’s Conference, where every building comes with a blizzard-spewing air conditioner. I’ve just been to see Frostpunk, the societal survival game set in a pseudo-Victorian hellwinter, from the developers of This War of Mine. The frosty management game will support modding, they say, and there are plans for “additional scenarios”. That means both smaller, free updates and bigger packs of paid DLC. Although mod support “probably won’t be from day one”. And the developers haven’t decided what these later scenarios will contain.

I saw a demo similar to the one Adam covered here and can confrim it looks like Good Stuff. Little men and women make trails through the snow, struggling to collect wood as you lord it over them as the leader of a crater full of shacks. Eventually, more buildings arise. Coal extractors, food kitchens, steamworks, sawmills, huntering shacks. All the while problems popped up, threatening to imbalance the settlement’s two sacred meters of “hope” and “discontent”.

It never got to the point were the citizens started rioting – something we’re told can happen – but a small child did get injured working in the food production building. He got the rest of the day off, thanks to the benevolent demo-player from 11 Bit. I would have gone for the other option: “Scold him and tell him to be more careful”.

All this we know. However, the promise of mod support is new. They’ve opted to let people tinker with the game despite being mod-phobic about their previous work, This War of Mine. That’s down to the setting being more outlandish, they say. You see, they once toyed with the idea of opening up This War of Mine to modding, but decided against allowing silly mods into a game that’s mostly about civilians trying to survive a brutal, realistic war.

“We didn’t want a zombie mode,” says marketing man Patryk Grzeszczuk as an example, “because it would impact the feeling of the game.”

Probably for the best. But Frostpunk, being an alternative history in which you can chop people’s frostbitten arms off and replace them with pneumatic limbs, was more suited to letting modders take a punt, and opening it up to Steam Workshop.

“It allows us to be more flexible,” said Grzeszczuk. “We’re more open for people to modify the game.”

They also spoke about the game’s relatively limited nature when compared to other open-ended management games. Many event pop-ups and problems will differ between players,  but there is still a concrete story with a firm “climax point”.

“There is a time limit of sorts,” said Grzeszczuk, “but it is a part of how the story plays out.”

That’s probably a race to find a city that’s rumoured to exist nearby, where your people can flourish, before some disaster or game-ending event occurs. A skilled player will be able to complete the game in 60-80 in-game days, he says [Update: Nope, it’s 30-40]. To put that into perspective, our demo was about an hour long, in which 6 days passed. But it’s important to note you can speed up or pause the passage of time at will. Although it’s more likely that the generator will explode under too much stress, or your people will revolt and overthrow you – two conditions that will also result in a ‘game over’.

Given those limits, it’s unsurprising they want to add post-release “scenarios”. These will present the player with a new story to follow. When I asked how far-fetched those scenarios will be (this is a game with robot automatons and something on the tech tree called “flying hunters”) Grzeszczuk said they probably wouldn’t drift too far from the gruff, harsh tone of survival and tough decisions.

“We didn’t want it to be wacky,” he said. “The tonality of the game is quite serious. That said with all the options… you can make some weird cities, weird societies.”

They also once toyed with adding strange new scenarios to This War of Mine, he said, but again decided it against when an in-house version of the war-torn survival sim featuring giant rats didn’t quite work.

“We have some serious guys,” he said.

Frostpunk is out on April 24

8 Comments

  1. Phantom_Renegade says:

    Pity that 30 dollars seem to be translated to 30 euro’s when it should be 25, but otherwise very excited for this, I’m skipping “Surviving Mars” which, based on the RPS review, seems to have been the right call. Usually my goto citybuilder is Tropico, but this is decidedly less silly.

    • PseudoKnight says:

      In the US products are advertised pre-tax. As far as I understand it, in the EU products are advertised post-tax. That should make up the difference.

      • Zanchito says:

        Tax does not add up. Furthermore, different countries in the EU have different VAT rates for videogames. This explanation has never sounded plausible at all to me.

        • KastaRules says:

          Stuff in the EU is almost always more expensive. Just take a look at the Fanatec gear from Germany, it costs considerably more in Euros than in US dollars… and that’s from a European company !!!

    • Erayos says:

      If I’m not making any mistake, and I don’t think I am, GOG does ‘give you back’ the difference between US pricing and Europe pricing in the form of funds in the GOG wallet to make up for it with the next purchase, which is why I usually go for their version when I have a choice between them and Steam.

  2. Someoldguy says:

    I’m not sure I’m ready for another limited time span settlement management game after Surviving Mars. I like the idea of interesting events and the tone is intriguing but if the game is good I want some replayability. This is probably me trying to have my cake and eat it, since my single successful run through SM after a couple of false starts will add up to about 50 hours once I get the last couple of wonders built, but I can’t say I’ve enjoyed the time spent with SM so much as just endured large chunks of waiting for research to happen or resources to accumulate before being in a position to do a few more interesting clicks.

    I hope it will do better than SM at making the people you look after feel more real. That game makes a big point about the traits and quirks of the colonists but after your first founders survive the trial period and your first baby is born they lose all individuality. They are born, schooled, housed, trained in a specialism, work and die without any further notice being taken. Particularly inconvenient when it turns out all your specialists have retired and nobody thought to tell you that your key workplaces are now abandoned. I miss the sort of Paradox information log where minor items would pop up discretely announcing events taking place without interrupting game play.

    Still, there are some big games looming on the horizon with PoE 2 and Battletech imminent, so I can afford to wait and see how it shapes up and what DLC does to spice up the Mars experience.

  3. Ethalis says:

    I know I’m a bit off-topic there but isn’t it a bit weird for a city builder game to have such a short timespan ? I mean, isn’t it a little bit odd that we’re able to build entire blocks in less than 80 days ?