Interview with Frost Wars founders: Austin Hice and Carlo Eugster
QUESTION: First of all, thank you for giving us the possibility to interview you about Frost Wars: The Rise of Fatty Sparkles. Would you be so kind to introduce yourself to our readers?
Hi! We’re Austin and Carlo, and thanks for taking time to talk with us about Frost Wars. We started making Frost Wars with a few friends in our basement a couple years ago, so we’re really excited to show off the game it has become, mostly thanks to a few hundred awesome gamers who’ve tried it out and given their input.
QUESTION: How would you describe Frost Wars to someone who has never heard of it before?
It’s epic strategic combat set deep in the Arctic. Basically you choose your favorite Hero – It could be a giant mutated bunny, poison-spewing robot, a lost Russian Cosmonaut, or tons more – Then assemble a custom squad of tanks, riflemen, grenadiers, spies, and other unit types to support your hero. And also you can equip them all with a bunch of different elemental weapons for different play-styles. Then you go head-to-head against bots, friends, or strangers in 2 or 4 player games on different maps and game modes.
It gets really competitive, but with a much nicer community than most team games we’ve played. The community is sort of what makes the competition so much fun at this stage, so it’s something we pay a lot of attention to.
QUESTION: The game has a very casual and fun cartoon style. Why did you choose to give this aesthetic to the game?
We just figured that there are enough gritty FPS clones and fantasy knock-offs. We decided if we were going to travel into a mysterious war in the Arctic, it was an opportunity to really go for it and create outrageous characters and weapons. Pushing the art style in this direction allowed us to explore some really dark ideas in ways that still felt approachable and… Just pure fun, really.
It also helps that the game is on PC/Mac browsers, iOS and Android. We don’t have to worry too much about following the same old PC/Console looks, and were free to just try something new. Some people love it, some people may hate it, but either way we think we’ve created something unique.
QUESTION: Which is the background story of Frost Wars?
Frost Wars is still in early Beta, so the backstory will come out as we continue to evolve the game and add new content, but basically you are dropped right into the middle of a war in the Arctic. A strange goo has erupted from the ice, and is causing weird effects – It gives your squad the ability to re-spawn when they’re killed, stuff like that. Each Hero has their own origin story that led them to the Arctic, but the thing that ties them all together is that the war has been orchestrated by an arms-dealing polar bear named Fatty Sparkles. The Eskimo elders refer to him as a “demon bear” because, well, he is definitely up to something. Especially since he’s the guy who sells you all your cool weapons.
QUESTION: By what we’ve gotten to know so far, Frost Wars is a turn based strategy game. Could you tell us what sets it apart from the rest of that genre?
We definitely set out to capture some of our favorite elements from some of the classic TBS games, like Final Fantasy Tactics and the original Fall Out, but then combine them with some elements from board games like Risk and Chess, and add in a little touch of modern games like League of Legends and DOTA. As we approach our open Beta, a really unique game has come out of the process. We should say though, the success of the game is owed mostly to all the players who’ve jumped in along the way and contributed their ideas to the game.
We also wanted to make it free to play, but the good kind of free, without all the annoying timers and ads. On top of that, we set out to make it seamlessly cross-platform. The idea being, you can play anywhere, any time. You can take one turn on your phone in line at the café, then get home and take your next turn on your PC. You can play against people on other types of devices, or even literally get up from your computer halfway through a turn, log into your phone or tablet and walk away without missing a beat.
We just really believe that in this age, gamers shouldn’t be tied to any one device. And also you should be able to get real strategy games, really deep experiences on your phone. That was always our goal, and I think it shows in the game overall.
QUESTION: It is true that the game was designed to have an asynchronous play style, but you added a game mode called Speed Play because the players wanted a faster-paced game mode?
Yeah, that was a big addition for Frost Wars. The current players still usually play the asynchronous mode, actually, but we think that will change once we start bringing more people into the game and matchmaking gets easier. But yes, it was an interesting story. Our earliest players were playing the asynchronous mode, where a single turn can be as short as a minute (or as long as you want to think about your strategy), but you can play as many battles at once as you want. A bunch of people sent us messages saying they liked how easy it was to play on breaks at work, or in short bursts, and they were playing between 3 and 30 battles at a time, but they said they ALSO wanted to be able to fight whole games from beginning to end, all at once without waiting. We originally had no plans to build a synchronous mode, but we realized the players were right and that the game could support both types of play. It added a few months to the schedule, but now you can play 2-player synchronous duels from beginning to end any time, or 4-player asynchronous battles spread over time. It’s interesting to see how players switch between the two modes, and who prefers what type of play. We’re just happy to be able to support both types of players and schedules.
QUESTION: Which other changes suggested by the community have you have added to the game?
Wow, almost every single part of the game came from player feedback. We literally had strangers playing when we were still experimenting with paper prototypes using dice and Legos in the basement. I think it’s safe to say there is no part of the game that was not influenced by players. Heroes, elemental weapons, specific rules in the game – It all has been a community-driven process.
QUESTION: Can you give us some details about Frost Wars turn based combat system? How does it look like?
Each squad unit has some of the basics you would expect – Unique move/attack ranges, dmg with strengths and weaknesses, terrain modifiers… Then where it starts to get really interesting is that each Hero has multiple attacks with totally unique effects. So the way you combine your squad with your hero is really important. You might choose a healer Hero who needs heavy firepower from her squad to be effective, and that combination plays completely differently from a slow behemoth creature that does crazy damage but needs a mobile squad to cover terrain your Hero can’t make it to.
Then on top of that, equipping your squad with fire, ice, poison, or shock weapons makes the strategy even richer. None of the weapons are pay-to-win or anything like that, but they enable a variety of play styles from super aggressive and risky, to methodical and calculated. You really have to strategize about how you will engage each fight in a unique way, so no two games ever play out the same way.
Also, don’t forget your squad respawns after they’re killed, and a skill tree let’s you buff up your Hero and squad to your liking within each battle, so the field is evolving every round. You need to play smart to go after vital units and take out an enemy Hero.
Now we’re adding blood sacrifices, altars, potions, and all kinds of other features to keep growing the game in cool directions, so who knows where it will go from here.
QUESTION: What can you tell us about Frost Wars social features?
We are old-school gamers, so we honestly don’t think too much about social features or gimmicks. We think if you just make an awesome game, people will want to play with their friends. So we put in some basics like a friends list and in-game chat to enable players to play together easily, make treaties in-game, even betray each other... If players want more social features, we’ll absolutely keep adding them.
QUESTION: In what languages and regions are you planning to release the game?
We built the game in English, obviously, but we are looking at ways to publish across Europe, Asia, South America, and some other places. If we can find a way to get it to people all over the world, we’d love to do that. We think this genre definitely has fans in every country.
QUESTION: Do you plan Frost Wars to be a free-to-play game? Which currency will be available in the game and how will it affect the game dynamics?
Yeah, as we mentioned that a bit above, we just think it makes sense for games to be free so everyone can play them no matter what your circumstances. The main goal for us is to keep it fair and competitive even if you don’t spend money, and to not let any free-to-play gimmicks get in the way of the gameplay. I think we all agree the free to play walls can be really annoying, so we try to stay away from the bad behavior. Honestly, at the moment we aren’t even actively trying to monetize because of that – we’re just focused on making a great game.
That said, you do collect the mysterious goo as you play. It has special powers, so it is a prized item in the Arctic, and will buy you some fun new toys as we add more content.
QUESTION: Thank you for all your answers. Would you like to add something?
Just thank you again, and we’d love to have you try out the game and tell us what you think. It’s still in development, so many features are still being added, but we really think the game will be amazing with the right community input. See you in the Arctic!