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Friday, July 19, 2024
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Staying alive is all the victory you can hope for in The Forever Winter by Fun Dog Studios

Video games are no stranger to the power fantasy of a lone hero who single-handedly turns the tides of war and saves the day, world, or universe. This is not the case in the upcoming four-player sci-fi tactical survival horror shooter, The Forever Winter. In this game, war is definitely hell, and all you can do about it is… well, nothing. Just trying to survive another day is all the victory you can hope for. 

“We wanted to turn the typical team-shooter on its head and create a game unlike anything else in the shooter genre,” says Fun Dog Studios CEO and Creative Director Miles Williams. “We’ve created almost an ‘anti-shooter’. If you’ve watched our trailers and gameplay you know that literally every shot you fire is a ring of the dinner bell. And every enemy you down makes an exponentially more threatening reply from the warring factions, who might take a small break from their own fights to hunt you down.”

The Forever Winter takes place in a bleak future where massive armies are locked in perpetual war, aided by giant war machines that casually take enemy lives during the day and harvest the dead for their organs at night. Players take on the role of scavengers, or scavs, that have no allegiance to the fighting factions. All they want is to survive in the crumbling mega city. By teaming up and moving under the radar, players can sneak and loot their way to another day. Just remember, your character is not the chosen one determining the course of the war. They’re a mere mouse in a maze, scrounging for scraps.

Or die trying

The team at Fun Dog Studios developed a dynamic combat system that keeps NPC enemies constantly fighting each other. It deploys specific tactical teams based on how the enemy (or the player) responds to threats, looting valuable gear or supplies. The factions will shift their attention to the player if they interfere in any way. “The PvEvE system is the driving force behind ensuring The Forever Winter is not a static game,” explains Williams. “Enemies are intelligent, with their own goals, personalities, and tactics. They react to each other and to the scavs. And the more powerful units are deployed to take on the most powerful threats. The player has to constantly adapt their strategies to match the situation at hand. Or die trying.”

Fun Dog Studios was founded when a team of 30 veteran devs came together to build their own dream game. Team members have worked on games like The Witcher 3, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Mass Effect and other well-known triple A titles. The Forever Winter is the studio’s debut title, but far from the first game for its developers. The studio is located in Olympia, USA, but the team operates globally with a remote work model. 

Incredibly painful

Coming from a background of large teams building multi million dollar games, it’s been hard for Williams to break out of the mindset that that’s the only way to do game development. “It’s been incredibly painful actually, and combining that with our team being global, communication and misinterpretation has been a real challenge. That said, the biggest enemy has been ‘Development Caution’ and killing that mindset with a hammer as many times as it takes. These are the biggest challenges the team has faced, but luckily it didn’t crush us yet.”

Due to the relatively small team size and the game’s grand scale and ambition, each team member carries a significant amount of responsibility.“We try to make sure all our squad leads are chipping into the thing they are making, which means there’s a ton of hands on,” says Williams. “Jeff G (Design Director Jeff Gregg) is not a talker, he will go into the game and make an idea a prototype reality, and the art team will go from rough concept, to hands on in the map to make damn sure it kicks as much ass as possible. It’s challenging sometimes because something might be at a safe 80% of what we’re trying to push but that extra 20% to take it to a 100 is the difference. If a mech is off, I’ll cad model a new one, if an environment needs to be pushed, Rich (Art Director Richard Dumont) will go into Unreal and make it happen. We couldn’t do anything we’re doing without our squad mates.”

Scope and enemy scaling

Visually, The Forever Winter is stunning. Set in the mega-city of Lost Angels, the world has become a ghostly wasteland of twisted steel and shattered concrete. The remnants of megastructures that once housed millions now loom ominously over the war-torn streets. The sun, permanently obscured, casts an eerie glow over the desolate landscape. Williams names Children of Men, Dark City and The Animatrix as big inspirations for the setting of the game. 

“The original vision was always to play with scope and enemy scaling. You are small, and everything reflects that, from the massive entrances and impossible geometry to the 40-foot mechs towering overhead trying to kill each other – and sometimes you!. The world is constantly being destroyed as collateral damage of this forever war, and then rebuilt by a deteriorating AI by night, meaning a lot of the original architecture is warped, twisted or too strange to interpret.”  

Roaming the battlefields are the warmachines, the giant mechs, that serve just one purpose: to search and destroy. “We wanted all the mechs to be unique from one another. There’s a full combat ecosystem. Each machine ranges in scale, weaponry, and personality. Some are shy, some are aggressive, and some are just plain mean. The one thing they all have in common? They’re all death machines the size of skyscrapers.”

You can wishlist The Forever Winter here.

Eric Bartelson
Eric Bartelson
Editor-in-Chief of PreMortem.Games. Veteran game journalist for over 20 years. Started out in 1999 for game magazines (yes the ones made of paper) such as PC Zone Benelux, PlayNation and GameQuest, before co-founding Dutch industry paper Control Magazine.
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