After years of high-profile teasers and investments, this month’s Summer Game Fest gave fans their first taste of Stormgate: a free-to-play real-time strategy (RTS) game from Frost Giant Studios. Full of StormgateThe details of , including a wild and futuristic future filled with mechs and demons, are eye-catching, but the real promise lies in the impressive history of Frost Giant Studios: some of Blizzard Entertainment’s top megahit RTS developers. Starcraft 2 have come together under one roof to bring Stormgate to life.
Leading this zerg rush of ex-Blizzard developers is Frost Giant CEO and co-founder Tim Morten, who was the production manager of Starcraft 2. Talk to NMEMorten says that while the team at Frost Giant “firmly believe that the best days of the RTS genre are ahead”, they know that Blizzard’s formula – games that balance large-scale macro decisions with smaller micromanagement – is “timeless”.
“Fans of the genre will attest that there’s nothing else like it in gaming,” says Morten, who described Stormgate as feeling like “an evolution of Blizzard RTS games” in 2021. It’s a design approach Morten credits in part to the game’s SnowPlay engine, which he says will deliver “best-in-class pathing for hundreds of units”, but there are bigger changes for the current genre.
“We also see opportunities for innovation in making RTS more social and accessible. Real-time strategy games have largely been solitary experiences – you’ve usually explored the story on your own or locked into a 1v1 competition against an opponent,” which, according to Morten, “can be nerve-wracking and a negative experience – getting steamrolled could easily put someone off wanting to play the game again!”
Morten adds that “team games and cooperative modes like Starcraft 2The popular Cooperative Commanders mode has solved this problem to a certain extent”, but Frost Giant thinks “there is a lot more room for evolution” in this department.
“On the one hand, we’re looking at ways to make our story missions playable both solo and co-op. We’re also very excited about our three-player open mode against the AI. This mode will feature a variety of playable leader characters, meta progression, and ways for players to customize their armies and discover powerful synergies to take on even tougher AI opponents. […] We are also working on lowering the skill level of our game by providing easier ways to perform certain actions, such as building our equivalent of a barracks.
On the subject of manufacturing Stormgate easier to learn, Morten compares the approach of manual cars to that of automatic cars: “The automatic car is simpler, requires less attention from the driver and works very well for most people. The manual gives you more control and better performance, which is optimal for competitive riders looking to extract every ounce of performance. Likewise, we’ll have easier ways to execute certain commands, but you can also do things the old-fashioned way if that leads to a more accurate or optimal result.
Making Stormgate more accessible doesn’t just undermine the reputation of the mountainous learning curves games love Starcraft 2 have – Morten says this explains why RTS games haven’t kept up with the public popularity of games like Fortnite and League of Legends.
“There has never been a real decline [in RTS player numbers], there was just a massive increase in the popularity of other genres. What the genre lacked, compared to FPS, MOBA and battle royale [genres], is a modern free game with strong social features that can reach an even wider community. We believe that Stormgate may be this game, which can break down the barriers that have kept some gamers from experiencing the fun of RTS, and bring the RTS genre back into the spotlight where we think it belongs.
Although Starcraft 2 was perhaps the greatest source of inspiration for StormgateMorten reveals that in terms of the setting – which he sums up as “epic conflicts with kickass mechs battling space fiends” – Frost Giant tapped into a much wider pool of influence for the game’s setting.
“We pretty much play all RTS and we also draw inspiration from other game genres and media. When we thought about our game setting, we explored all kinds of ideas, from superheroes and westerns to sci-fi and fantasy. We were particularly inspired by what the Marvel Cinematic Universe was able to create – this world supports all kinds of stories and characters, so we created a science-fantasy world where our designers and writers can have the freedom creative to explore all kinds of unit designs and stories without feeling constrained.
Morten adds that for many Frost Giant developers, Stormgate is their first opportunity to “work from a clean slate” with a new IP address. “We have been honored to work in wonderful game worlds and universes like Starcraftof the Koprulu sector and Warcraftis Azeroth, but now we’re building something from the ground up and exploring ideas that we never could have done in those previous games. It’s really exciting!
Morten and the team at Frost Giant aren’t the only people excited about Stormgate. The studio has already raised £18.4m in funding, with giants like Riot Games (the developer behind League of Legends and Valorant) and PUBG publisher Kakao Games is participating. Morten says these investors believe Stormgate can “bring new players to the RTS genre”, and on an appropriate note, explains.
“For many of us, it was more than the pleasure of playing RTS that attracted us to this genre, it was also the community. Many members of the Frost Giant team come from the RTS gaming community before becoming developers, either as modders or part of the esports scene. Many of us have been connected to professional gamers, casters, esports organizers, and gamers in the RTS community for over a decade, some our entire professional careers, and we’re here to do something for them. and who could bring even more of us together for years to come.
Stormgate is expected to begin testing in 2023, and registrations are available here.