After our appearance at Eurogamer Expo, the Mode 7 team knuckled down to get the Frozen Endzone beta into shape for release.
One big challenge was the 3D outcomes: Endzone has a complex camera and animation system which attempts to cope with any plan that the player is able to throw at it. That led to a not inconsiderable number of bugs which needed to be ironed out before we could viably release a beta to the public.
On top of that, the usual bug-hunting and fixing was a big challenge, involving all members of the team at one point or another.
Something we learned from our closed beta testers was that players needed a lot more guidance to get into the game early on. With that in mind, we embarked on a much more detailed tutorial as well as a series of tutorial videos, all of which will be available in the initial beta.
The beta itself has shaped up nicely: there will be single player challenges alongside four different multiplayer modes, all of which showcase the core of the game. As we did with Frozen Synapse , the main point of the beta is to provide something that is a really solid experience which simply needs more content adding to it.
Although our original plan was to release a “pre-order beta” this month, we've had to hold things back until the first week of December. This is just simply to give ourselves some more time on a couple of things, as well as dodging the two major console launches which are preoccupying a lot of the games media at the moment.
Getting attention for your game, especially at an early stage, is a massive challenge. New titles are being Greenlit all the time and there are more indie games in development than ever before: it's an extremely competitive market out there. We hope that Endzone is fully-featured and unique enough to succeed at the beta stage, enabling us to fund the rest of development.
I mentioned the closed beta earlier: this has been a huge help in motivating us this time around. At early stages of development, the only responses from the gaming community you get are those which have emerged from your earliest marketing efforts. No matter how much you try, you can never completely convey what the actual game is like from screenshots and early trailers, particularly when a lot of assets are missing. Also when half of the comments on something that you've spent two years working on are by people who think they have invented the same tired “LOL FRENDZONE” gag, you realise that you're probably looking in the wrong place for information.
Having a closed beta has enabled us to see exactly which aspects of the gameplay are working and which need some more effort. People seem to get deeply into the tactical side of the game, but there is still the desire for a bit more progression.
With that in mind we have started working on introducing stats and team customisation into the game, providing another strategic layer on top of the more tactical movement-based stuff. This is a really exciting stage for us and should help the game develop into something special.
We hope that you'll see a lot more of Frozen Endzone in the games media next month when the beta kicks off. One of the things we're really hoping will happening is that the streaming and YouTube communities will get behind the game and people will start getting into watching it as well as playing: time will tell.