GDC 2018: Hands-On With Frostpunk

GDC 2018: Hands-On With Frostpunk

Frostpunk is a forthcoming game that hybridizes the city building and survival genres. It is being developed by 11-bit Studios, the same developers as the gripping This War of Mine. Frostpunk takes place in a desperate setting in which a small colony of people band together in a dire attempt to survive. These survivors cling to life amid deadly conditions and freezing temperatures. In order to help these survivors, the player must make heart-wrenching challenging decisions. With its gritty detailed visuals and constantly changing circumstances, Frostpunk is an unpredictable enthralling experience full of danger at every turn. We got to try the game, and Patryk Grzeszczuk of 11-bit studios spoke with us about its numerous features.

Patryk shed some light on the history of the game. Whereas This War of Mine embodies 11-bit studios’ desire to make a game about about civilians during a time of war, Frostpunk is about society’s decisions and capabilities when pushed to the absolute limit during an end-of-world scenario. 11-bit studios considered questions such as “What would people do,” “What would you do as the leader of those people,” “How far would you go”, and “Which choices would you make.” The team subsequently sought an appropriate genre to translate their ideas into a game, and they wanted to find the best way to showcase the story.

At its core, Frostpunk is about making decisions to keep the colony running against daunting weather conditions and dangerous circumstances. The colony has a generator that provides some heat, but it is up to the player to set up infrastructure that can actually hold up against ever-changing weather conditions. During our playthrough, we tasked villagers to gather resources strewn around the colony. Villagers visually walked through the snow in order to reach their destination, and we could sense considerable hardship during the process. We then tasked villagers to construct structures in order to expand the colony and bolster its efficiency. The challenging part is how weather can drop to life-threatening temperatures, and one must prepare in advance in order to keep villagers safe.

“We didn’t want you, as a player, to treat your people as an additional resource,” Patryk explained. “We wanted you to treat them as humans. So, they have their needs, their wants, their shared opinions on you. You do not have to listen to them, but it would be wise to do so”. Not delivering on promises can cause even more dire consequences than simply ignoring requests. The colony has a “hope” level that represents the humans’ belief in their survival. The meter increases or decreases as the player makes decisions. When asked about the benefits of having a high hope level, Patryk stated, “It allows you to shape your society even further. Basically, you would want to try to avoid a low hope level because people will abandon you and you can expect some “weird” behavior from your people. High hope will make your people work properly and be quite fond of everything they are working around.” Frostpunk allows players to send scouts in an attempt to rescue those lost in the cold as well. These scouting journeys can take a fair amount of time, but successfully rescuing people can bolster the colony’s numbers. However, the player must conduct research and then build the appropriate scouting vehicle, which takes preparation and resources.

Frostpunk’s hallmark is that it challenges the player to consider the real human toll of each decision. The game provides a Book of Laws. The player can pick between laws and each one has consequences. One decision may be less resource intensive but may undermine villagers’ morale. Its counterpart decision may be more humane, but it will require additional accommodations and resources. Given that resources can be scarce, it can be tough to make decisions to keep everyone happy all the time. Patryk demonstrated a Child Labor law, and passing it would naturally bolster efficiency at the cost of decreasing the colony’s morale. He also mentioned how studying history in 19th century Victorian era England helped inform these laws as well.

We asked Patryk which Frostpunk feature he is proud of: “In my opinion, my favorite feature is the system of the laws because this is the first game as far as i know deals with survival at that particular scale. Survival games are very popular right now. Many of those survival games are first person and different mechanics and what not but, usually those games are focused on a single person. What we wanted to do was to make a survival game based on society.” Furthermore, he mentioned that survival games are often difficult but fair and fun to play. During Frostpunk’s development, 11-bit studios also wanted to create an experience that was quite challenging. However, they wanted to be transparent about what challenges the player will face and how to deal with them. Patryk believes that the team managed to pinpoint and implement this transparency in Frostpunk, and he hopes players will agree.

Patryk made references to the game’s replay value. Even though Campaign Mode follows one story, players have the ability to respond to situations in rather different ways. Players can finish the game with a flourishing colony with plenty of villagers, or they can complete the game with only a few survivors. The colony can become iron fisted or technological. Even though the game is difficult and players may encounter failure, Patryk and the rest of the team at 11-bit studios hopes that players will understand what led to such failure and will be able to use their knowledge in successive playthroughs.

ConFreaks & Geeks is incredibly excited for Frostpunk, and we can’t wait to experience its unique take on the survival genre. Frostpunk is slated for release on Steam on April 24, 2018.

Vincent Lai

Vincent Lai

I'm a gaming enthusiast who enjoys a variety of platforms! I also love wisps, rainbows, and gardens!

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