Stormgate is an RTS designed for 1v1, co-op, casual, esports and, well, everyone


Stormgate is an RTS designed for 1v1, co-op, casual, esports and, well, everyone

With its sleek sci-fi/fantasy aesthetic, monstrous enemies, and mech-clad heroes, you’d be forgiven for mistaking Stormgate for a new Blizzard real-time strategy. And in a way you are right; Stormgate may not be from Blizzard, but it is from some of the brightest minds at the company. Now at Frost Giant, a new studio built from the ground up by a collection of ex-Blizzard developers, they have an ambition to take some of the best ideas from StarCraft and Warcraft to the next level.

One of those minds is Tim Morten, the soft-spoken former executive producer of StarCraft 2. Today he is the CEO of Frost Giant and still directs the production of a multi-faceted real-time strategy game. Stormgate, he tells me, was born, at least in part, from a desire to evolve one of StarCraft 2’s most successful modes: co-op.

Co-op play was an “afterthought” for StarCraft 2. “It really wasn’t something that we expected would resonate so much with players,” says Morten. “But it actually became the most popular mode in the game after we released it with Legacy of the Void. It is clear from this that there was a desire to play more socially.”

“Social” is an important word for Frost Giant, and Stormgate is designed for multiplayer. As you’d expect, there’s the classic 1v1 competitive battles, but these are backed by a tournament system built right into the game. Forget forums, Twitter or Discord; In Stormgate itself you can create leagues, teams, friends and rivalries.

But co-op isn’t considered a side casual mode. It’ll pull through everything, so much so that it feels like the game’s flashship idea. Story-driven campaign missions will be playable with a friend, and three players can take on AI opponents in cooperative “3vE” mode. Even competitive multiplayer will have a cooperative offering via 3v3 team fights.

Beyond the competitive and cooperative modes, Stormgate will also feature an in-game editor, which Frost Giant hopes will allow a creative community to thrive as it shares new maps and modes. “Literally every part of the game is designed to provide a more social experience,” says Morten.

While Frost Giant is a brand new venture and Stormgate is the studio’s debut, the team is already armed with tons of valuable research from previous projects. For example, working on StarCraft 2’s co-op mode provided Frost Giant with a lot of useful information for developing a game focused on cooperative strategy.

“The lesson learned from the cooperative mode in StarCraft 2 was that players prefer to build their own bases and armies rather than a shared base and army,” explains Morten. “So we’re going down a path where players can all control their own characters. At the same time, we build the missions and also design the heroes for the cooperative mode in such a way that it is not an isolated experience. You don’t stand in a corner playing an experience while someone in another corner is playing their own experience.”

Literally every part of the game is designed to provide a more social experience.

Working alongside Morten is Tim Campbell, President of Frost Giant and Game Director of Stormgate. Having previously worked on Warcraft 3, he knows a thing or two about making a good strategy game. However, making this work across two or three armies playing in tandem is an ongoing process.

“We tried to look for opportunities to work more closely throughout the tech tree, in our ability design, in overall gameplay, and in objectives,” he explains. “We’re doing a lot of iteration and experimentation with gameplay right now.”

With all the talk about social play, it’s easy to assume that Stormgate is a casual RTS. And you’re right, to a small extent. Frost Giant wants everyone, regardless of skill level, to have fun in Stormgate.

“We’re really trying to take that core experience that we all know and love about traditional real-time strategy and find a way to bring it to more people,” says Campbell. “We’re providing ways for players to bring their friends, play together, have that great, positive social experience regardless of whether they’re at different skill levels, and just try to support that goal throughout our gaming experience.”

Screenshots of Stormgate – Movie Trailer

Still, Campbell says we can expect all of the traditional RTS elements that genre die-hards demand. “From day one, it was important to us to develop a core RTS experience,” he says. That means gathering resources, building bases, producing troops, upgrading trees, and learning how to do it all in tandem.

“Nevertheless, we believe there is a lot of room for innovation in this area,” Campbell continues. “[We’re] Let’s look at how we’re designing the abilities and the units in a way that’s conducive to team play. We think there have been some really great opportunities to keep it feeling fresh for the players.”

Frost Giant’s commitment to making Stormgate a game for all skill levels means that aspiring esports players are not ignored. “There’s an audience that’s very passionate about high-skill gaming, so 1v1 competition is the mode [where] We made a tremendous effort to keep the balance,” assures Morten.

Despite Frost Giant’s plans for all skill levels, there’s no escaping the fact that RTS is one of the most intimidating genres in all of video gaming. For many, curiosity alone is not enough to justify the price. But Morten and Campbell have already developed plans to bypass this barrier: Stormgate will be free to play. No firm decisions have been made as to how it will be monetized, but Stormgate will feature a range of free and paid content. This approach has allowed Frost Giant to think differently about how it will approach the post-apocalypse storyline that drives the campaign.

We’ve already mapped out the storylines for the next five years.

“We want to be able to share stories in this game world for years and years and years to come,” says Campbell. “So in addition to the stuff we’re building for launch, we already have the next five years of storylines mapped out and ready to go when we focus on that.” It seems like developers like Destiny and Fortnite have the way and Changed the way developers think about storytelling, regardless of genre.

“We had an opportunity late in the development of StarCraft 2 to experiment with delivering content in smaller chunks with the Nova Covert Ops campaign,” explains Morten. “That really resonated with the players and allowed us to tell a little more personal story in this case. But it allowed us to tell a story over time and we’re really excited to take that to the next level with what we’re doing with Stormgate.”

This story begins with the newly assembled shield featured in Stormgate’s first cinematic trailer, revealed at the Summer Games Fest Showcase. “[The shield] has a constellation of locations on it,” reveals Campbell. “It’s practically a cornerstone of a map used by one of the factions in the game to identify locations to go to in order to salvage other relics that have been hidden for thousands of years. Halfway through the campaign, these actually become objectives for you. They will go on these missions to recover these relics.”

This cinematic trailer may be short, but it communicates a lot. This is a real time strategy game that values ​​world building and story. Hopefully that means a campaign with a narrative backbone, something that paved the way for StarCraft 2’s incredibly experimental approach to mission design. Producing a campaign designed for co-op only opens up more interesting possibilities in this space, and I hope Stormgate will remind us all that while the legacy of the RTS genre was esports, its most exciting innovations were found when developers blazed new trails to challenge us in campaigns.

Warcraft 3 introduced heroes and StarCraft 2 took concept missions to new heights. Will Stormgate add another memorable piece of RTS design to this list? We’ll find out when Frost Giant collects all of its minerals and the open beta arrives in 2023.

Matt Purslow is UK News and Features Editor for IGN.

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