It's been a while since we last checked in about our progress on Frozen Endzone, so here's an update.
The beta release went well: from a financial point of view, things are ticking along nicely with the game generating around twice as much revenue as Frozen Synapse did at an equivalent stage.
Although we're nowhere near the same league as a Prison Architect, DayZ, or Starbound, we feel like the game has been doing fine for the last few months.
The reaction from critics and fans has been absolutely great: we don't think our confidence in the gameplay has been misplaced. The idea of a somewhat faster paced, less turtly and anal Frozen Synapse has really hit home and people who might initially not have liked the futuresports aesthetic are being quickly won over .
In the months since the beta launch, we've been working on some significant new features. Players now have stats, ranging from speed to strength and interception radius. The long-form “Handball” mode (now called “Full Match”) has been adapted to this, meaning that you can play the game in a much more freeform way and really make use of your varied players.
Our Lead Designer Ian Hardingham in particular believes that this has brought that “extra something” the gameplay was missing.
We also wanted to add more personality to the game: you can now name your teams, players, and home stadium. Also, a new big feature is commentary. We decided to keep this text-based to give us lots of flexibility: that means we can do things like have the AI analyze your play and comment on it. This kind of thing is underutilized in games and it's amazing to see it in action: you throw a pass to a player and then the commentator will flag up how risky he thought it was in the context of the defense. Feeding back the player's actions to them in that way is really fun and makes for some amusing responses.
The upshot of all this is that you feel more attached to your team and this is exactly what we wanted from both the gameplay itself and from all of the personalization options. There's a lot more to do on this side of things now, but we feel like the building blocks are in place.
On top of that, we now have a early version of the Pitch Editor. This allows you to create all kinds of terrain and play custom games on it: it'll be very easy to use and we're looking forward to seeing what people come up with.
Currently, we're bug-fixing in order to get a build that we're happy to put up on Steam Early Access. The release is now scheduled for the 10th of March : this is a huge deal for us as it's our first Early Access title. We really don't have much of an idea how this will do and we're relying on revenue from it to take us right through to the end of our full scope of development in 2014.
Frozen Endzone is a huge project with a lot of facets. We're planning a really in-depth single-player campaign that will see you get involved with league intrigues, manage difficult players, build your team up from nothing and generally experience life as the coach/owner of a big futuresports franchise. A lot of work has to go into this, from all of the simulation side to game design, to world building and dialogue writing. On top of that, we have all the customization stuff to do as well as new stadiums and a lot more animation: the team is going to be busy!
Life doesn't really get easier when you move from a successful game onto a new, big project. Everyone is feeling the pressure at the moment and it can be very stressful at times. Personally, I still count myself hugely lucky to be involved with such a talented team and I really hope that the game continues to resonate with people as we press on towards the full version.
Follow Paul Taylor on Twitter: @mode7games