Frontiers - All News
Wednesday - February 14, 2018
Frontiers - The State of Frontiers
Frontiers is a Kickstarter from long ago. Our last news post was from 2015 however the game is still in development and has received an overhaul, which you can read all about in this rather long Kickstarter update.
End of Year Update
Strap yourselves in - this is going to be a long update! We've got almost 6 months of development to cover, and I think you're going to be surprised by how much has changed in that time.
The State of FRONTIERS
As you all know, FRONTIERS has undergone an overhaul. It's now keeping pace with the latest Unity version (currently using 2017.3.0f3).
After upgrading to Unity 2017 many, many pieces of the original architecture became irrelevant, as they were in place to overcome Unity 4.x limitations. With those limitations gone I could remove a great deal of complexity, and with it, a great number of bugs. So what does that actually look like, in concrete terms?
Let's start with the first big change - the new Item system, which spearheaded the game's new look. The new look will probably be controversial (as would any major change made so long after release) but after reading I'm sure you'll agree that it was necessary.
State of FRONTIERS: In Conclusion
FRONTIERS is in a pretty decent place, given the risk of upgrading at this stage. This overhaul has enabled me to incorporate all the things I've learned from the other titles we've worked on. It always felt a little unfair that all the games you guys didn't back would benefit most from the early failures on this project. So I'm glad I can bring that knowledge full-circle.
Summarizing all these changes and going over all the ways I've saved work for myself has been energizing - it's easy to forget how much I've actually accomplished given how stressed out I've been these past months.
Tuesday - June 16, 2015
Frontiers - Generating Revenues By Developing Other Games
The Frontiers Kickstarter page saw an update a few weeks ago that explains a new path the one and only developer on the game has taken to further the development of Frontiers. He works with others on the development of new small games and the revenues from those games, once released, can be used to aid development of Frontiers. Currently three such games are in development, all of them using virtual reality.
Virtual Reality is turning out to be a weird new medium. It's not what most people expect it to be, which is 2D video games plus immersion - my implementation of Oculus support in FRONTIERS was a lesson on that score. No, it's something entirely new. Trying the tech demos for the VIVE prototype is what really convinced me of this. There's a massive design space out there waiting to be explored, and each new idea will have to be implemented simply & on a small scale. Perfect for our purposes - and the best part is there's absolutely no risk of these games failing! Just kidding it's risky as hell. But it can't possibly be worse than mobile, and even failures have a decent chance of breaking new ground.
The upsides of diving into a new medium are self-evident. The downsides are numerous, and the biggest downside of all - namely that the number of people playing VR games is currently tiny and will stay that way for a while - is obviously at odds with the goal to support FRONTIERS. So for a while it would be wise to choose ideas that are playable without VR until those numbers can support exclusivity. Other downsides include the strict requirements for simple controls and near-perfect performance / optimization, but this has a silver lining: simple controls means simple gameplay, and that plus good performance makes VR games contenders for post-conversion to mobile devices. (So I guess in the long run I may end up dipping my toe into mobile games after all...)
Thanks Couch for refering to the article at Cliquist.
Tuesday - April 07, 2015
Frontiers - April Update Released
Developer Lars Simkins released his April update for his funded kickstarter game Frontiers that has more information on backer rewards, Oculus support, and the OSX version.
Hello, everyone! Hope your April Fools was enjoyable. I briefly considered announcing that FRONTIERS would be moving to the Unreal engine as a joke, but I decided that would be too cruel. (If I'm still in development next year - god forbid - I'll make up for it with something even worse, hehe.)
Tuesday - March 03, 2015
Frontiers - Trapping & Fishing Update
Lars Simkins latest kickstarter update for Frontiers has information about how he will focus on updating the game from now on, and he talks about Trapping & Fishing.
New Approach - Focus Updates
FRONTIERS is a big game - I've cut a lot of features since the Kickstarter, but it's still really big. And until we can grow the team some more most features can only be worked on one-at-a-time, so I get a lot of messages asking 'Hey, are you working on this or that or the other thing?'
Those questions gave me an idea. I can't work in parallel so why not embrace linearity? Starting today I'll announce which feature I intend to focus on. I'll still work on major bugs & performance along the way of course, but overall that feature will get most of my attention until it's finished. And you can help me finish it faster by focusing on it along with me.
The next time you launch FRONTIERS you'll see a little popup window that tells you which feature I'm working on. You'll also be given a cheat code - eg, if I'm working on the bow & arrow, the code will give you a bow & some arrows. Some of you will play normally, some of you will use the code, but either way I'll get a whole lot more reports on that one feature than I might otherwise - and you'll know at a glance what I'm working on at the moment.
We'll see how it goes!
Tuesday - February 03, 2015
Frontiers - New Patch Released
Lars Simkins latest update for Frontiers has information about a new patch.
First off: Is it dead, you ask? Is the Big Bad Bug dead? I'm pretty sure it is... but I'm waiting for its corpse to stop twitching before I make it official. So until then here's balance update #2:
A lot of you have been playing this game for 2, 5, 10, or even 50+ (!) hours. The prologue can be a fun bit of orientation the 1st, 2nd, maybe even 3rd time... but for grizzled veterans it must feel like that un-skippable skyrim cart intro (aka the 'on second thought maybe I don't want to start a new game after all' sequence).
But never fear! I've revamped the New Game dialog to let you skip the bits you've memorized by heart. And you can customize your game along the way!
Sunday - January 25, 2015
Frontiers - No More New Programmer
Seems te programmer that Lars hired did not last long according to a new update on Steam. Such are the pitfalls of indie development, and contracted for work hires.
I'm sorry to announce that Dustin has left the team. It wasn't anything major, he just had time constraints put on him by prior commitments and he didn't want to hold up the flow. I've been there before so I can appreciate his quick decision. Best of luck Dustin, sorry to see you go so soon!*
This turn of events really sucks but it's not the first time the project has lost someone to prior commitments mere moments after they joined. Remember our first lead writer Adi having to bail before the Kickstarter? That was pretty rough too. Of course the silver lining was that it led to Ryan joining the team, and he's responsible for some of the best parts of the game, so you never know how these things will turn out.
Wednesday - January 21, 2015
Frontiers - A New Programmer Hired
Developer Lars Simkins has released a new update on Steam for Frontiers with information he has hired a new programmer to help deal with the various bugs.
Hello, everyone. Outstanding news - we have a new programmer on the bug squad! His name is Dustin Sims and he's going to help me whip this game into shape.
So in the coming weeks if you see a bug get fixed: that's all me. If you see a bug not getting fixed, blame Dustin. Thanks Dustin!
Seriously, though - it's a relief to have him on board. His first order of business is sorting out those pesky disappearing buildings. Wish him luck!
Sunday - January 11, 2015
Frontiers - New Control Update
After getting over a holiday cold Lars Simkins has released a new update for Frontiers. You can find all the details in a new post on the Steam forums.
What's that? Quests are breaking? Refining doesn't work? Well you're in luck - now you can experience those and many more bugs with a wide array of game controllers! Here are the controllers that are officially supported:
- Xbox 360 controller on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android and OUYA
- Xbox One controller on Windows
- Playstation 3 controller on Windows, Mac, Linux and OUYA
- Playstation 4 controller on Windows, Mac, Linux and Android
- Playstation Vita PSM
- Apple MFi controller on iOS 7 and above
- OUYA controller on OUYA, Windows and Linux
- Amazon Fire Game controller and remote on Amazon Fire TV
- Logitech F310 on Windows, Mac, Linux and OUYA
- Logitech F710 on Windows and Mac
- Logitech Dual Action on Windows and Mac
- Logitech RumblePad 2 on Mac
- Moga Pro on Windows, Mac, Linux and OUYA
- Mad Catz FPS Pro on Mac
- Speedlink Strike on Windows and Mac
- Samsung GP20 on Android
- Executioner X on Window and Mac
- SteelSeries Free on Windows, Mac, Linux and OUYA
- Playstation 2 controller on Windows (with adapter)
Other controllers may work but I can't guarantee it. Also know that I'm limited in what controllers I can physically test with so even the officially supported controllers may have a few quirks.
Sunday - January 04, 2015
Frontiers - New Updates on Hold
Lars Simkins latest update for Frontiers has information on Steam about new updates for Frontier will be slowing down due a X-Ms Virus he caught on the holidays.
When your wife warns you that you'll be spending the better part of Christmas in a house with four sick family members, you take some precautions. You wash your hands. You avoid doorknobs. You pray to the gaming gods for protecton so this crucial phase of your game's development doesn't get interrupted by a bad head cold.
I thought my prayers had been answered when I escaped apparently uninfected by the holiday cheer, but really, the moment I stepped into that house it was too late. It was always too late.
So. Until this blows over you won't see me in the forums & you won't see any daily updates. Sorry. Blame the holidays. I know I do.
Thursday - January 01, 2015
Frontiers - New Balance Update
Lars Simkins latest update for Frontiers has information about a new Balance patch.
- Food & Water - Even the hardcore survivalists agreed these were punishing. So at normal difficulty you can now survive while drinking only once every three days & eating only once every week. Many new water sources have been placed in the game to make finding water easier, and you can now drink from lakes. The Civilization bonus you get from following paths and staying in populated areas is more potent so eating / drinking isn't a concern until you're in the Wild. (Note: In the future you'll be able to reverse these changes using custom difficulty settings.)
- Temperature - This system has been overhauled. Temperatures are milder in general and more consistent with climates. Structure interiors are always comfortably warm and cave temperatures are now suitable for shelter. Clothing can no longer cause you to overheat.
- Clothing- Shirts, pants, boots & gloves have been added to the game, and more varieties are incoming. You'll start the game with a basic set of clothing and you can craft more.
- Crafting - You no longer need to select blueprints before crafting. Several items have been reworked to be less expensive to craft (like the Canteen). You now start the game knowing how to refine metal and I've placed forges in the University area for public use. Charcoal is dropped by nearly all burnable items.
- Money - It's a lot more scarce. Purses contain considerably less money than before. Luminite no longer respawns indefinitely. Your cash is automatically converted to base currency when buying things.
- Animals - You're far more likely to find leather on dead animals. Many creatures are easier to kill in general. You can shear sheep for wool, pluck chickens for feathers and milk cows.
- Reputation - Damaging another person's goods will cause reputation loss. The rep system will play a bigger role now that money is more scarce.
- Paths - Several more arterial paths have been laid down in the South. More are coming.
He also mentions what bugs he is fixing for the games Beta.
Major bugs I'm still working on:
Not really related to balance but I might as well give you an update.
- The post-prologue crash is still happening for some of you. I'm still seeing more success cases with every build, and your reports have helped me pinpoint the exact cause, so thank you for that. I'll keep at it.
- Darkness Issue - The game is unplayably dark on a handful of machines. I'm frankly mystified by this one. I've made no real progress in figuring out the root cause. Hopefully the new brightness settings will help in the meantime.
- Disappearing buildings - the cause is known so now it's a matter of fixing the problem without causing more bugs in the process. I'm still seeking / interviewing programmers who can focus solely on this issue while I handle everything else. (Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you're interested.)
- That one bug you really hoped I'd fix in the next update because it's way more important than balancing hunger, and besides how hard can it be to fix anyway? Yeah, that one's still in there. But seriously: don't assume that time spent on balance means bug [x] is getting forgotten or ignored. I know it sounds weird but that's not really how it works. A lot of these bugs have to get fixed a little bit at a time so the fixing doesn't break everything else. It's a l̶i̶v̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶n̶i̶g̶h̶t̶m̶a̶r̶e̶ long and difficult process. (Just kidding it's not so bad.)
And with that I wish you all a Happy New Year as news is scarce this week.
Sunday - December 21, 2014
Frontiers - New Developer Posts
Lars Simkins posted a few new updates for Frontiers on the games Early Access page. The first one is a Warning to not buy the game for a Christmas present this year.
A lot of folks have told me: I'm buying this game for my kid/friend/spouse for Christmas, they love exploration games! And I say the same thing every time: DON'T!
The only people who will love it are players who seek it out for themselves, because it's NOT FINISHED. Your kid/friend/spouse will just be annoyed with you. I'm proud of this game, and with everyone's help I believe it's going to be great - but it's not great yet, so in the meantime get your kid/friend/spouse Dragon Age or The Binding of Isaac or something, trust me.
The December release date unavoidably puts Christmas gift in people's minds. That's why I'm only releasing a trickle of press copies till after the new year. People are prone to impulse buy right now, and you don't want people impulse buying an Early Access game, especially not for others.
His second post talks about adding the option to only save in campsites.
I've been mulling over this one for a while. Another couple of bug reports convinced me to bring it up.
Saving inside of structures is dicey and often ruins save games. The safest place to save is on top of solid empty terrain. It will get better in time, but it's going to be a while before we iron out the kinks.
One way to prevent ruined save games is to limit saving to campsites. Campsites can only be created on solid empty terrain, and they can't be created inside, so if you had to be in a campsite to save, boom problem solved. (The requirement for a nearby water source would be turned off.)
In the future when saving inside of structures becomes more stable this can become a global setting like 'SaveOnlyInCampsites,' which can then be toggled using difficulty settings.
Pros: This would 'fix' the save game problem. Wouldn't take long to implement.
Cons: Losing the ability to save anywhere might cause some rage due to general instability. People are already clamoring for a quicksave options so I can't imagine they would love this.
Friday - December 19, 2014
Frontiers - Early Access Launch Update
Lars Simkins takes a look back at his funded kickstarter game Frontiers. The main point of the update is about what he has leaned from the game on Early Access.
1,000 days later: Early Access launch (and beyond)
The first piece of FRONTIERS code that I can find - code written for the actual project, not just for noodling with Unity - is dated March 14th 2012. It's from a test scene where I implemented an inventory square.*
So here we are 1,000 days later. (1,008 but whatever.) That's a lot of missed birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. A whole lot of unreturned phone calls from friends and family and bill collectors. A whole lot of VFX jobs turned down. Sometimes I ask myself: was it worth it? Was it worth all the insane late nights and frustration and answering hundreds of emails and forum posts and sending out press info and - oh, right, working on the game, at least when I'm not butting heads with this god-forsaken engine?**
Yeah. It was. Maybe I'll feel different by the time the game is actually finished (we should start a backer pool on how many more days that will take) but right now I'm looking at the FRONTIERS logo on the Steam home page and thinking: yeah it was worth it. Seriously look at this:
When I started this project I could barely write an inventory square, and now two campaigns and a Greenlight backer-blitz later, we've got a game on Steam! That's nuts!
Saturday - November 15, 2014
Frontiers - November Beta Bonanza!
Lars Simkins released a new post-funding update for Frontiers with information about when the beta version will be available for testing, and talks about what is included.
In a few days - we're just sorting out key distribution. Once that's taken care of I'll send out a backers-only announcement going over how to claim your beta key.
The first few days after release are going to be chaos - thousands of people are about to play the game for the first time. As we work out tech issues and Steam key issues and so on please be patient and don't feel ignored if I can't get back to you immediately.
Here's what you need to know right now:
- Just so we're crystal clear, the beta is only available on Steam. (This is why we pushed so hard for Greenlight - it's the fastest available way to distribute rapid builds.)
- The beta is currently Windows only - Mac and Linux builds will probably be added later, but I can't promise anything. If / when that happens I'll send out another update so Mac & Linux players know it's available.
- Regarding YouTube / Twitch - you will have 100% permission to record play throughs and to monetize them if you like. Bugs and all. This is in writing on the official site as well.
What's in the beta?
FRONTIERS' story is divided up into three acts. The beta will give you access to the first two (and to a brief prologue.) It also gives you unrestricted access to the entire main continent.
Be warned: The beta is a mess. But it's kind of a glorious mess. It's the mess of a game being born. Quests may break. Inventories may asplode. Characters may glitch. If that kind of thing bugs you (heh) you may want to skip this version, or at least wait a few weeks until I've gone through a some rounds of bug squashing with playtesters. To those that take the plunge: I really hope you enjoy it.
Friday - October 10, 2014
Frontiers - October Update Posted
Lars Simkins posted his long awaited progress update for Frontiers.
I'm still not announcing a release date, but I can give you a tangible sign of progress: I've started sending the beta out to more individual testers, mostly people who were on the dev team at some point. They're helping me to decide what I need to polish up before sending the beta out to backers. They're also helping me weed out any massive game-stopper bugs that would make a large-scale distribution a waste of time. (So far we've found several...)
Ryan is also helping me clean up the story elements and get the first two acts in working shape. At this point I don't really care if the rest of the game is twitchy for the beta - that's what the beta is for, right? The same isn't true of the story elements. Those have to work the first time out.Snazzy!
Overall progress is... fine. Boring word, but the most appropriate. Not amazing, not horrible, just... fine. Stuff's getting done. Slowly. But not horribly slowly. Just... fine-slowly. OK moving on.
Oculus - The Good, Bad & Ugly
I've been running into issues with the Oculus and I wanted to share them with you. Stretch goal features are under the microscope more than others and I don't want any surprises.
First, the GOOD: overall VR in FRONTIERS is fun, if not always as playable as it is in 2D. There are still some scale issues and the interface remains an unsolved puzzle in places but there's undeniable glee in mining Luminite in a dark cave.
The BAD: After working with the Oculus for a while now I've come to the conclusion that games like FRONTIERS - open world with lots of freedom of movement - aren't very well-suited for VR. Games where you're confined to a small space and have a minimal interface are far more appropriate and immersive. Who knew? But that's a stylistic issue, not a technical issue, so I will continue to implement Oculus support as best I can. I still think it's enjoyable even if it's not ideal. (The beta will have Oculus support in case you were wondering.)
The UGLY bit that's spoiling this fun is dropped frames. FRONTIERS runs a lot better than it did in the alpha, which lurched along as 30fps on a decent machine. Now it's 60+fps in most areas, with dips to as low as 50fps to 45fps in some areas at max quality. I think I'll be able to bring those areas up to 60fps at max settings by release, which is good because you absolutely cannot use the Oculus with less than 60fps.
So I'm walking around, looking at things, and suddenly a chunk has to load, and I drop from 60fps to 5fps for a moment while I stream chunk data into the terrain system. Just a hitch when you're playing 2D, but when you've got the Oculus on? *HUURRK* Instant motion sickness. I had to rip it off my head once it was so bad.
The obvious solution is to make chunk loading faster but that's... difficult. It's tied closely to the Unity terrain system which is unfortunately a bit of a black box. So the only workable option right now is to make the screen entirely black while chunks load (perhaps with a centered logo so it doesn't feel like you're floating in space?) and there's no way to do that without annoying the hell out of players.
But then again - who knows? The chunk loading code (the non-terrain part, anyway) will be open so maybe one of you will be able to suggest better method during the beta. Anything is possible.
Thursday - August 21, 2014
RPGWatch - Frontiers Interview
An in-depth interview with creator Lars Simkins and author Ryan Span questions that transcend both space and time. Such as, tea or coffee!
Lars Simkins and Ryan Span graciously agreed to answer questions in an interview at the beginning of the month. I compiled a lot of questions, stacked the ones that seemed similar enough to only ask once, held by breath and started asking. Some of the questions I chose not to ask have been covered extensively in Lars' personal Kickstarter VS IGG Blog.
Wednesday - August 20, 2014
Frontiers - August Update Released
Lars Simkins released a new August update for his kickstarter game RPG Frontiers.
This update was a bit delayed, partly because I'm making a game (have you heard?) but also because every damn kickstarter updates around the 1st resulting in an inbox avalanche. So in an effort to be a cool and non-conformist snowflake I'm going to do mid-month-ish updates from now on. (At least until I'm 2 weeks late and update at the start of the month again, in which case I'll play it off like that was my plan all along.)
Saturday - July 26, 2014
Frontiers - Update - Input Requested.
I will also be asking questions of Ryan Span. Author, writer, gamer. He wrote the majority of the story and dialogue for Frontiers. Feel free to ask opinions on writing for games, RPG's etc. My favorite line from Ryan so far in this process has to be on his reasons for joining Frontiers.. "Lastly, there was talk of writers being used as _writers_, not glorified level designers. My decision was practically made for me. I had to be on this team."
Both of them have said they are OK with questions not specifically related to Frontiers. Ask away. I've collected some via email/PM but can always use more.
I am requesting input, questions, ideas, etc. Anything you've ever wanted to ask these guys. Lars has ran a very open kickstarter campaign and has kept backers in the loop. One of the rare campaigns that has regular & honest updates. Brutally honest.
Check out the trailer here.
Please PM me or post on this thread anything you can think of.
Interview will happen second week of August.
Monday - June 23, 2014
Frontiers - Anniversary Update Released
Lars Simkin has posted the Anniversary Update for Frontiers that contains new music, three new videos, and a few images. Here is a small breakdown of the update.
Anniversary Update Video
Don't be alarmed by the length of my beard - I'm not homeless, I just decided on a whim that I won't be trimming it until the game is done. (We'll see how long it takes me to regret that decision...)
Lots of videos are coming your way. Today you'll get the Glider video, and then tomorrow & the next day I'll post videos about the Guild University and Trapping. The glider is one of my favorite parts of the game - sometimes I'll even choose this method of travel over the more efficient fast-travel. Here's a peek of what it's like:
Soundtrack Selection - Highlands
Steve has just delivered the entire soundtrack - complete with custom night tracks for several regions! - so I thought I'd celebrate by sharing one of my favorite new tracks: Highlands (Day & Night):
Tuesday - May 20, 2014
Frontiers - Game Release Update
Lars Simkin has poosted a development update on the Frontiers forums about the games release date. He mentions it may release at the end of Q2 2014, but he is not sure.
Will the game be delivered end of Q2 2014?
Maybe. I have no idea. Here's why:
Back up a year or so. After Kickstarter I thought I was going to be a badass when it came to project deadlines. You'll find I don't brag often, but I'll brag my mismatched socks off when it comes to work ethic and self discipline. My level of devotion to a project is unusual even among fellow workaholics. I simply do not stop. I've never missed a deadline professionally, not even on the really crazy jobs.
So with all that under my belt I figured I'd waltz onto the indie scene and show folks how it was done. Okay maybe not quite that dramatic, but I was pretty sure I'd beat par. Lots of people (especially other devs) warned me that deadlines would slip, and that it might be wise to avoid announcements, but whatever - there's always someone saying I can't do such-and-such and they're usually wrong. So I ignored advice on this particular point.
Well, they were right. Don't ask me how because I still don't know - it could just be lack of experience in this industry, or maybe it's something intrinsic to the industry itself, or maybe it's just karma for murdering all those poor innocent deadlines in the past - but I haven't made a single major development deadline on this project since the Kickstarter ended. Doesn't matter whether it was internal or publicly announced. Sometimes I've been a week late, other times several months. Anything farther out than a day and I might as well be using a magic 8 ball. You can imagine how much this gets under my skin. Then again, maybe you can't.
So the only true answer to the Q2 2014 question is: No idea. It doesn't seem impossible, and I'm going to be as pragmatic and disciplined and brutally realistic as always, but if it happens it'll be less well-planned inevitability than glorious surprise. I've (sort of) come to terms with the fact I'm not directly in control of when this game will be finished. It's a little like white water rafting. There's no question that I'll reach the end, but when that happens is up to the river - my level of control is limited to avoiding rocks and not tipping over.
Monday - May 19, 2014
Frontiers - Anniversary Update In-Coming
Lars Simkins has a new update for Frontiers that talks about the upcoming Anniversary Update, and shares some infomation on what he calls forum stuff.
Anniversary Update Coming Up!
Hello, everyone - do you realize that it's been almost one year since the Kickstarter launched on June 17th? Because I just did.
One whole year! I've decided to do a mega-update next month to mark the occasion. It'll have video, it'll have audio, it'll have tons of goodies wrapped into a big fat spectacular anniversary bash.
In the meantime there's some stuff happening on the forums. I recently posted a devlog in response to all the requests for info about release dates. It goes over where I'm at with deadlines. And if you're curious about mods, I've started a modding thread where I'm dumping info and game data, including some C# classes.
I'll save the rest for the mega-update. See you then...
Sunday - April 27, 2014
Frontiers - Preorders & No Early Access
Lars Simkins has a new update for Frontiers that talks about how you can pre-order the game. He also mentions the game will not be available on Steam Early Access.
Hello, everyone! Warning: text-heavy update. If you don't know someone who cares about preorders, feel free to skip this one.
Early Access? Nope.
About a week ago I posted my thoughts about offering FRONTIERS for early access. (You should probably skim it so you don't feel lost.) I was conflicted by the whole idea and wanted a little feedback. The response wasn't unanimous, but the stories I heard - both in the forums and during the fact-finding I did on my own - convinced me that early access at this stage would be a nightmare.
But I was also reminded of a head-smackingly obvious alternative - preorders! All of the benefits and none of the downsides. So I've decided to go that route. Here's the Humble Bundle widget to prove it: Click to see the widget on the main site at explore-frontiers.com
Why didn't I think of that earlier?
Preorders were constantly suggested to me by various outlets immediately after the Kickstarter was over, and I turned them down every time. My feeling was that Kickstarter backers understood that they were participating in something risky, but some random person pre-ordering the game would have every right to assume a guarantee of delivery. At the time I couldn't offer that - I believed I'd finish the game, of course, but believing and knowing are hardly the same. So I ruled out preorders and basically forgot about them.
But the early access discussion reminded me, and at this point the game is looking good. You can install it, load it and play it, and it basically resembles the final product. It has its issues* and still has a ways to go but if someone wants a guarantee that they'll get what they paid for I can offer it with confidence.
Is early access really all that bad?
You would not believe some of the horror stories I dug up during my fact-finding. All of the warnings about the crazy demands of players and avalanches of bug submissions gobbling up development time appear to be true. This is all on top of my misgivings about the system in general.
There may come a time when early access is appropriate - presumably when first impressions aren't as critical and I genuinely need the feedback from much, much larger groups of people - but I'm steering well clear until those benefits outweigh the many, many downsides.
Friday - April 18, 2014
Frontiers - March Update about Textures
Lars Simkins has posted another post-funding update for Frontiers with his next monthly development update were he talks textures, and a few problems using Unity.
March Update - Case Study: Textures
Hello, everyone! Some of your suggestions for update topics back in February were:
- Architecture / iteration
- More tech stuff in general
I'm dealing with a problem right now that falls into the tools / tech stuff categories: Texture management. (This is exactly the kind of thing I would assume is too boring to write about, but hey you asked for it!)
Unity is a great tool. An amazing tool, really. But it has limitations. The biggest is that it assumes you'll be using 'levels' in your game. This doesn't rule out open world games, but if you were playing by their rules it would be something like Metro: Last Light where the world is carved up into discrete regions with maybe two or three entrance/exit points, plus loading screens in between them. You load a level and everything in it when you enter an area, then unload everything when you leave. Sure some minor stuff like enemies might spawn and despawn while you're there but the general rule is: load all the things / unload all the things. (Including any textures used in the level.)
FRONTIERS isn't like that. There aren't levels - there's just a world. I have exactly one 'level' that's loaded on startup. After that I load and unload individual objects - characters, rocks, terrain tiles - into whatever area the player needs to see.
This was the root of the problem I faced last year - how do I organize content so that I can load and unload it as I move through the world? How do I avoid loading too many objects at once, or too few? I came up with some decent solutions. It'll never be as seamless as a truly streaming open world like Grand Theft Auto, but it works.
Unfortunately this approach prevents also me from using a lot of Unity's built-in tools - stuff like pathfinding, occlusion culling and (apparently) texture memory management. (Note: I keep hedging when making statements about Unity's texture memory because the truth is, I have no idea what's going on under the hood, and no one else seems to either. Google this problem and all you'll find is lots of unanswered questions & educated guesses.)
Sunday - April 06, 2014
Frontiers - Greenlit on Steam
Lars Simkins shares news in the latest kickstarter update for Frontiers that the game has been Greenlit on Steam in just one week.
He also released a new video last week I forgot to post.
Well That Was Quick
5 days, nearly 10,000 'YES' votes and an unbelievable 87% yes vote ratio. And we finished in the #7 spot. My head is still spinning.
A couple of articles are responsible for that last-minute bump:
And the rest was all you guys. This entry could have languished for weeks or even months below the top 100 threshold - Greenlight is far from a perfect system, and I had prepared myself for that miserable possibility - but instead I swear we made some kind of record. Thank you for all the votes and shout-outs. They made this happen.
So... yeah. Guess I'd better finish this thing, huh?
Tuesday - April 01, 2014
Frontiers - Post-Funding Update #47
Lars Simkins has posted another update for his game Frontiers. The update has more information on how the game is doing on Steam Greenlight.
The Greenlight page is exploding!
And way earlier I expected! But before I get into what happened, here's a link to the Greenlight page, complete with updated trailer. Enjoy, and don't forget to vote! :D
Okay, here's what happened:
Last night I decided to do a stealth launch on the Greenlight page. I figured I'd post the trailer and launch the page and just not tell anyone, then do the official announcement today. Why? Because I was tired of website updates & wanted to finish the main site and press kit with links to the greenlight page & new trailer, etc. It was 7pm on a Saturday night, I figured maybe 10 people would stumble across it by morning.
About an hour later I noticed the Greenlight page had a hundred votes already. Huh. Turns out that stealth launches don't really exist on Steam. And the voting ratio was roughly 70% 'YES' to 30% 'NO.' Pretty decent, but not amazing either. Wuh oh, I thought, what if it goes down further?
So stealth launch suddenly became soft launch - I posted on Facebook and Twitter and the forums that Greenlight was live, hoping to drive that ratio up a bit. I figured we'd see a small bump, then I'd bring out the big guns tomorrow with the Kickstarter update,Two hours later this is where we stood.
Friday - March 28, 2014
Frontiers - Post-Funding Update # 46
Lars Simkins has posted a new post-funding update for his game Frontiers with news the game is coming to Steam Greenlight on March 30th. Here is the information.
FRONTIERS is coming to Steam Greenlight on March 30th!
Hello, everyone - on March 30th FRONTIERS will be going live on Steam Greenlight! (Don't know what the heck Steam Greenlight is? Click here.)
And I need your help. I plan to distribute the game on GOG and Humble Bundle as well, but getting on Steam is my number one priority right now. Why? Because Steam's free tools will help me to distribute and rapidly patch the pre-release beta. The beta is a massive undertaking, and every minute I don't spend packaging and distributing and wrangling the next build is another minute spent squashing bugs and balancing gameplay.
Here's the Plan
Remember how much we kicked ass on Kickstarter? A big part of that was the early influx of backers. That pushed us into the top ranks, which generated interest, which kept us in the top ranks. I want to pull the same trick with Greenlight, which is why I'm doing a pre-announcement. If every backer with a Steam account plus even a fraction of the 10,000 from the Steam Concepts page votes YES on the FIRST DAY it ought to raise a few eyebrows.In other words, the plan is lots of votes really fast. IT'S JUST CRAZY ENOUGH TO WORK.
Media gods willing I might even be able to swing a bit of press. In the meantime, you can help by telling everyone you know who might even have a passing interest in FRONTIERS (and a Steam account) to get ready to vote. I aim for a quick, decisive victory!
Tuesday - March 04, 2014
Frontiers - Febuary Development Update
Lars Simkins posted a new Development Update for Frontiers.
Final Book Kit
If you pledged for a book kit, keep an eye on your Kickstarter inbox. The final kit will be sent out within 24 hours. It's a major step back in terms of complexity (I axed the standalone program thing and went web-based) but a major step forward for flexibility, formatting and (eventually) translation into different languages.
Get this - that's the very last kit. They're all done! Can you believe it's been five months since the first kit was released? I can't. (Seriously it feels like two months tops. It's freaking me out.)
Plans for the beta are firming up. I'm not going to mention any dates or deadlines - I've learned my lesson there - but I will say that a beta release is officially an active goal, not just 'something we'll eventually get to.' I've spent the last two weeks mass-building main quest assets - structures, characters, books, letters, etc. Meanwhile Given is taking everything we've learned about terrain generation and applying that know-how to the creation of our final endgame landmasses. Once that's all wrapped up I'll be releasing one final alpha to stress-test distribution, followed immediately by the long-awaited beta. That's right, you'll get a main quest right out the gate!
Taverns & Shops & Inns & Recipes & Plants...
There's one thing I DO know you'll want to hear about - your in-game assets! Along with the main quest assets, I've also started building everyone's custom content in earnest. Your shops, taverns, inns, engineer structures and so on have been bumped up the priority queue and they're looking fantastic, if I do say so myself. Once again I'd like to thank everyone for taking your submissions seriously and giving them appropriate (and inventive) names & descriptions. I haven't had to ask for a single name or concept to be modified.
I'm also continually reviewing everyone's recipes and plants, and I'm finding those equally fun. I can't promise there won't be revisions there because I haven't processed them all yet, but I'm loving everything I've seen so far.
I was warned repeatedly that giving backers direct input like this was dangerous and potentially a major time sink but so far you've proven the naysayers completely wrong. (They know who they are. Neener neener, told you so! Hehe :D)
Sunday - February 09, 2014
Frontiers - January Development Update
Lars Simkins posted a new January Development Update for Frontiers.
I know you've all been waiting to see more of the game in action so I'll get right to it. Here's a quick video of our character creation system, plus a glimpse of the prologue sequence. (Note: all the standard disclaimers apply - still in alpha, still has glitches, etc.) Enjoy.
We also get news of a new hire to work on the multiplayer
We have a multiplayer programmer
Remember how annoyed I was about our lack of a multiplayer programmer in my last update? Well Matthew Davey has joined the team and he's working hard to turn that frown upside-down. He's chipping away at a multiplayer implementation and making good progress. In fact if he keeps moving at this pace we may see multiplayer *mostly* finished within a month. (I'm as surprised as you are.) Huzzah!
I have more news but I'm going to save it for the next Doom Ray Special bit that's coming up - I expect Kyle and I will go over Steam Dev Days (including my experience of Valve's VR demo) and a ton of other fun stuff. Once that's online I'll post another update.
In the meantime keep submitting your Botanist / Building / NPC / etc. kits because I'm having a blast reading them - the Building kits in particular are a lot of fun.
Monday - January 06, 2014
Frontiers - End of the Year Update
Lars Simkins has posted a new post-funding update for Frontiers with a new video on the games development, and includes a new guest update.
Wondering how the project is going? Wonder no further - I've got an update that covers the state of the project in exhaustive (some might say unnecessary) detail.
Sunday - December 22, 2013
Frontiers - Year End Wrap-up
In the latest post-funding update for Frontiers the games developer Lars Simkins gives a progress update. and answers a few questions.
Year End Wrap-up: You've got questions, I've got answers
I'm working on a big end-of-the-year KS update where I go over the trials and tribulations of 2013 in excruciating detail. (Yes, this is an update about an upcoming update.) It'll be a full-on video update this time, not just a text update. And I want to answer your questions!
Post your questions in the comments below
Feel free to ask me or anyone else on the team anything from specific questions about FRONTIERS development to general questions about creating a first game to inappropriate personal questions that make us all feel awkward & uncomfortable. I'll pick the most interesting posts and answer them as candidly as I can. If you need some inspiration I recommend you check out the FRONTIERS dev logs.
Thursday - December 19, 2013
Frontiers - Looking for C# Programmers
The developers of Frontiers are looking for a few C# programmers. So if you have the skills and want some part time work head over to the games forum.
Hear ye, hear ye!
This post will be shotgunned all across the web very shortly but I'm posting it here first so FRONTIERS folks have first dibs. I've had really amazing luck working with you guys on game art - here's hoping I can repeat that experience with game programmers.
I'm looking for C# programmers to help with a variety of odd jobs for part-time contract work. Familiarity with the Unity engine is a plus but not required. Familiarity with any one of the following packages also a plus, but again these are NOT required:
- Programmatic manipulation of Unity Terrain
I could post a lot of boilerplate stuff about wanting self-motivated types, etc. etc. but let's just skip that nonsense shall we? If you think we would get along send me an email at email@example.com that includes the following:
- A code sample or demo of your work - doesn't have to be pro, just robust and functional.
- Your hourly / daily rate
- Your working schedule / availability over the next 2 months
I'll be pairing people up with tasks that best match their skill sets and rates so don't be shy about telling me what you're good at and how much your time is worth.
Looking forward to hearing from you guys. Feel free to post questions below.
Wednesday - November 27, 2013
Frontiers - November Wrap-up
Lars Simkins has posted a new development update for Frontiers in the games latest post-funding update, and included two new guest updates also.
Hello, everyone! I'll be on the road this week - holidays and all that - so I'm posting our end-of-the-month update a bit early. First up: Mushrooms!
Okay, now that mushrooms are out of the way I've got two guest updates for you guys. First is Daniel Bishop - he has created a new language called Obex and he's got a brief lesson for you. Then we have the next chapter of Kilian Jornself’s Tale of Five Warlocks by Harrison Hall. (Part 1 can be read here.)
Friday - November 01, 2013
Frontiers - Happy Halloween & Guest Update
Lars Simkins the developer of Frontiers has a new post-funding update with a progress update, and a new guest post.
Last week Ryan turned over the complete main quest outline, which means every quest in the game is finally down on paper. We still have dialog to write, and that'll be a hell of a process, but the hardest part is complete. (By the way, if you missed our story Q&A you can read the transcript here.)
Given methodically chips away at the terrain as always. Working with Given is like working with a running generator. Once in a while I'll stop working and think "Hey what's that sound? Oh right, that's Given diligently generating content as always." He's spent the last couple of weeks working on Apple Valley and the region is really starting to come together.
Meanwhile the alpha has been thrown into the ring with our testers and they're tearing it apart like a pack of wild dogs. It hasn't exactly gone smoothly! We've got everything from floating rocks to frying pans that won't leave your inventory to fire that burns you through walls and cooks food from ten feet away. The bug reports can seem overwhelming at times but their hilarity mostly makes up for it. If you see one of these brave testers here or in the forums tip your hat to them - every bug they suffer through brings us that much closer to final release.
(I'll be announcing the second round of alpha testers shortly, so keep an eye on your KS inbox.)
Multiplayer has been... frustrating. Oh sure, I'm making progress and some simple tests have shown promise but the whole thing has been going way more slowly than I'd like. The good news is that after weeks of searching I've finally made contact with some new potential team members who can help me shoulder the burden of implementing it. If my good luck holds, next month's update will show you some co-op in action. (Don't hold me to that, though!)
Sunday - October 20, 2013
Frontiers - Story Q&A and Guest Update
Frontiers has a new post-funding update with news about a new live Q&A,and a guest post by Ryan Span.
Story Q&A this Sunday - Guest update by Ryan Span
Story Q&A - Sunday 20th
4:30pm PST / 6:30pm CST / 11:30am GMT
The internet is truly amazing. Apparently it's so advanced that we can all 'chat' in real-time using this thing called an Internet Chat Room (or 'IRC' as those in the know like to call it).
Prepare your questions ahead of time if you like! In fact, if you already have some you'd really like us to answer, feel free to post them here and we'll give them priority during the session.
See you on Sunday!
Remember it's still saturday in the States on the time of this post.
Friday - September 27, 2013
Frontiers - Delays and a Guest Update
Frontiers has a new post-funding update about delays, and a new guest update.
Delays, Delays, Delays
A lot of you saw this coming, and a lot of you already know via the forums, but it's time to make it official: The Alpha is delayed until mid-October. To quote myself: "The delay is due to some typical development stuff (interface refactoring taking longer than expected) some real-life stuff (a family wedding that I'm on the road for as I type this*) and some unexpected stuff (the departure and replacement of my head writer). No one thing was enough to bog me down but together they've set me a week or two back. These delays may also affect delivery of the remaining kits I had lined up for this month, though I may still pull through with those."
(*Congrats Ken & Carla!)
I'm still keeping the kits listed as September releases on the Backers Calendar just in case I can pull it off but they're looking more and more like an October release.
On the Plus Side
Delays aside, things are going well. Some recent achievements:
- ALL of our side quests are written (a whopping 160+ pages of fun-tastic material)
- Ryan has stepped in to finish the main quest and he's doing great
- Given continues to kick ass on the new terrain
- The official site has gone live (still needs tweaking, but it's coming along)
- As of tonight the interface back end is much more Oculus and Controller friendly
- Other things that are cool but it's time to get to the Guest Update
Guest Update - Erik Dinnel
Lastly, I've asked several people on the team if they'd be interested in contributing a fun story or a unique perspective (a la Steve Barnes' Update of Happiness,) and Erik Dinnel was the first to turn his in - I'd expect no less from the guy who shot and cut both our campaign videos in in a matter of days. I had completely forgotten about both the land sharks and the white 'X' so this was a treat to read - hope you all enjoy!
Tuesday - September 03, 2013
Frontiers - Backerkit Deadline
Frontiers has a new post-funding update reminding every backer you have one week left to add add-ons to you pledge.
Hello! If you've already managed your add-ons in Backerkit then this update doesn't apply to you. I'll see you next time!
For everyone else, this is a friendly reminder that you have ONE WEEK before the Backerkit deadline on Sept 8th. (I've pushed the deadline back a few days due to popular request.) That means you have one week to do the following:
- Submit your final info for your Bar / Shop / Inn
- Submit your final info for your Headstone
- Choose your butterfly companion type
- Add / swap / change your add-ons in general
After Sept 8th all of this information will be locked down. (And if you've purchased additional add-ons, Sept 8th is when your cards will be charged.) Go to frontiers.backerkit.com to log in and/or to send yourself another invite.
Friday - August 30, 2013
Frontiers - August Update
Frontiers has a new post-funding update, or as the developer calls it the August update.
Hello, everyone - time for a video update! Behold our fancy new terrain, now in proper HDR.
Sunday - August 11, 2013
Frontiers - Here comes Backerkit!
Frontiers has another post-funding update dealing with the Backerkits.
Much as it pains me to ask you to use another system to complete your Kickstarter journey, Backerkit really is the way to go. (Take note Kickstarter - this is how it's done!)
- If you filled out a KS survey we'll send a Backerkit invite to your Kickstarter email.
- If you over-pledged for add-ons, Backerkit is how you'll make your choice. This is also where you can get after-the-fact add-ons, or swap them out for something different, etc. (Don't assume I already know what add-ons you want, even if you messaged me!)
- Finishing the survey is how you get your invite. If you haven't finished your KS survey yet, do so. (If you lost your survey email, here's how to find your survey without it.
- If you don't have/want any add-ons then this whole step is optional. (If you have a physical reward it's still helpful to confirm your shipping address, though.)Got questions about Backerkit? Here's an FAQ for you. It's all pretty straightforward though; just follow the link on your invite when you get it and you should be fine.
Friday - August 09, 2013
Frontiers - The Results Are In!
Frontiers has the results of the survey in this new post-funding update.
Seasons walked away with this one easily and Archaeology wasn't far behind. Gigantic Ruined Tower (!) and Dynacamp were a bit closer, but don't let that 0.3% fool you - there were still nearly a hundred votes separating the two. A decisive victory on all counts. Hooray! *throws confetti*
I personally liked Gigantic Ruined Tower but I never thought it would be a top contender. Similarly, there were some I thought would get way more traction, eg Gardening. Surprises all around. I look forward to picking apart what happened and figuring out who voted for what in the coming days. :D
Thursday - August 08, 2013
Frontiers - Survey Reminder and Artwork
Frontiers has a new post-funding update to remind backers it's the last day for the surveys, and shows off a little artwork.
Just a friendly reminder that you've got less than 24 hours to submit your surveys / Serious Business feature votes. At 5pm Pacific tomorrow I'll be locking down the results, then announcing the final three a few hours later. (What will they BE? I'm so curious.)
I've also updated the Backers Calendar to reflect that Backerkit invites will be sent out on August 8th. You'll finally get to add / swap / change your add-ons, whee! That's all for now - look for the final announcement tomorrow.
Make sure to stop by the Gallery once in a while - new artwork gets added all the time!
Thursday - August 01, 2013
Frontiers - Survey Incoming
Frontiers has a quick update letting the backers know surveys have been sent out.
Alrighty - all the Amazon Payments are in and I'm sending out the long-awaited surveys tomorrow. I'll keep this short and sweet (Please read the entire update!)
- If you want to vote on the SERIOUS BUSINESS feature requests, do it in the survey - this is your only shot!
- If your reward includes Beta access and you want in on the Alpha, vote 'YES' to Alpha access in the survey - even if you've already applied!
- All surveys need to be completed. We can only send the survey out ONCE!
- Add-ons will be handled in Backerkit, so you won't see them in the survey. DON'T PANIC! You'll get your chance to choose/add/swap your add-ons later.
After most of the surveys have come back I'll send you info about Backerkit and announce the winning SERIOUS BUSINESS features.
Saturday - July 27, 2013
Frontiers - One Week Later
Frontiers has a new update on it's kickstarter page. It's basically a status update for backers about the games forum, and other misc topics.
♫ What a difference a week makes... 168 little hours... ♫
Why haven't you joined the FORUMS yet? It's where all the action is happening! What's that? You're not into the whole smilies thing? Ah, okay. Well in that case here's a good old fashioned Kickstarter update for you:
What's going on with FRONTIERS?
So much I don't even know where to start!
- We've got a small team of artists chipping away at assets.
- Given is making fast work of the revamped terrain and it looks spectacular.
- Lore masters Ben & Harrison are filling in the details of the world at an alarming pace. Seriously it's freaking me out.
- Resident linguist Daniel is creating a new language from scratch using (I kid you not) proprietary procedural language generation software. It's awesome.
- I'm making steady progress on laying the foundations for mod support.
- Steve continues to write awesome music.
♫ Communication Breakdown ♫
If you're having trouble reaching me and getting your questions answered, it's likely due to the fact that I'm now communicating across a couple of different platforms. Chat, email, the forum, kickstarter, even steam - it can all get a little overwhelming, especially when your usernames aren't the same!
I'm not a fan of saying read the FAQ - everyone's situation is a little different, so when you ask a question I try to answer it. But I will ask you for a favor, not just for my sake but everyone else's too: Please only ask your question in one place. It may seem like contacting me at all of the above locations will ensure a response - but what ends up happening is the total number of messages I need to chew through just quadruples, and that means more fall through the cracks. Thanks for understanding, and no harm done, we're all muddling through this as best we can!
Sunday - July 21, 2013
Frontiers - Post Campaign Q&A!
And we didn't just stumble across the finish line, either. We launched over it in style. The last three days brought in over $30,000 from almost 1,000 new backers! That means we've got a really interesting mixture of old and new blood here, ranging from the grizzled IndieGoGo veterans who've been with the campaign since before it began, all the way to folks who stumbled across the campaign in its final moments and got in under the wire. (Lucky you!)
I'm running out of ways to say thank you, so I'll just go with a heartfelt, sincere THANKS to anyone & everyone who helped make this happen. Thanks to Erik Dinnel & his team, who worked hard hours to shoot the interview and promo video. Thanks to the backers who promoted the campaign tirelessly and brought in backers by the dozens. Thanks to the folks who bumped their pledge every time an add-on was released just to get us to the next stretch goal. Many thanks to my wife for keeping backers organized and making sure I ate and slept. And thanks especially for the supportive and upbeat attitude that everyone maintained throughout the entire campaign - it transformed what could have been a really stressful process into a genuinely fun experience for myself and (I hope) for everyone else.
And The Q&A
Alright, let's jump right in:
I missed the deadline! Can I still pledge / get an add on?
The answers you seek are in this update: CLICK HERE TO CHECK IT OUT
When will [x] be happening? / When will [x] be sent out?
For information on what's happening when, keep an eye on the backer's calendar. I update it frequently: CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE BACKER CALENDAR
When are the forums launching?
How about now? Kickstarter's been fun but its comment system is abysmal. So apart from backer's updates (which I will continue to send out) I aim to spend more time answering questions over at the forum, which I encourage you to visit: CLICK HERE TO SEE THE FORUMS
Saturday - July 13, 2013
Frontiers - Interview @ Worlds Factory
Worlds Factory has an interview with Lars Simkins about his kickstarter Frontiers.
How did you manage to be both a VFX artist who worked on stuff like Hunger Games, Priest, Breaking Bad, Hawaii Five-0, Lost, Fringe, Flashforward and Revolution (most of which I’ve seen and loved, by the way) AND an indie developer who’s doing a Daggerfall-like game all by himself? You’re some kind of genius!
Ha! Ask my wife if I’m a genius, she’ll laugh. I’ve been a filmmaker all my life so getting into VFX was just a (long) process of teaching myself the skills and slowly building up the connections to get on good projects. After college I was lucky enough to meet an amazing VFX artist named Eric Chauvin. He taught me the bulk of what I know about matte painting and I got some of my first jobs doing overflow work for some of the shows he was working on.
Thankfully his supervisors liked what I was doing, so that led to more jobs. Along the way video games and game development have always been hobbies – most of my friends in college were more into gaming than movies and a lot of them went on to work at some pretty cool game studios. It wouldn’t have taken much to push me onto that career path. So a few years ago when I decided to start working on FRONTIERS alongside my day job it felt pretty natural.
Onto Frontiers. You said that exploration is the main focus of the game, but there’s a big question to be asked here – do you plan to reward it with actual powers, items, skills etc. or do you intend it to be a reward in itself? Because for some that would be enough, while others are always looking to get something out of their invested time, so they probably wouldn’t like to spend a lot of time exploring some land and getting nothing in return.
Rewards are essential. My first thought when I started working on it was the most obvious thought – remove *everything* not directly related to exploration. But I found that this resulted in the most boring game imaginable. There’s the urge to see what’s around the next bend, but that’s not enough on its own – over time I found that exploration has a lot more to do with choices than I originally thought – while walking in the woods I’d pay close attention to what interested me about one direction vs. another, and I found that I was always making calculations.
Can I get back before it’s dark? Will my boots hold up to that mud? That’s when I started introducing survival elements into the game, and the fun started to reappear. The trick is knowing when to stop, and knowing what kinds of choices facilitate exploration vs. stifling it. I think a lot of the choices developers made in the TES series stifled exploration.
Tuesday - June 25, 2013
Frontiers - Project Funded
I also have an new article from PCGAMER.
In keeping with its focus on discovery, Simkins wants Frontiers’ quests to constantly direct the player towards something new and exciting – rather than what he calls the “FedEx exploration” of picking up an item and couriering it somewhere else. “It’s hard to eliminate those entirely but I try very hard to link them to some interesting lore or to a unique village or something the player wouldn’t have a clear incentive to find on their own. I try to take the same approach to temples/ruins and give the player something to do once they get down there – a puzzle, or a unique item, or a cool machine.”
This also applies to the story. The game starts as your home is destroyed by an ‘Orb’ – the latest in a string of increasingly frequent attacks that continue as dynamic encounters throughout the game. If that wasn’t enough, your uncle – a famed explorer – has disappeared across the “Rift”, an impassable barrier to the South. Finding an answer to these mysteries is high on your to do list.
Unless it’s not. After creating your character, you’ll be given a history, profession and series of “expectations that are placed on you”. But as the player, you’ll be free to decide your own path. “The choices you make from that starting point will take you different places,” Simkins reveals. “You can choose to quit your profession, or simply ignore it altogether. The story and the game world will progress with or without your intervention.”
Beyond your initial choices, you’ll be able to progress your character down a number of skill trees. Pathfinding, for instance, improves path creation, and also gives you access to different modes of travel, including horseriding and hang gliders. “I love hang gliding,” Simkins enthuses. “I love walking up to a cliff, equipping the glider and leaping off, then drifting gracefully down to the rooftops of a city miles away.”
Survival ties into the need to replenish your hunger bar. “You can’t die of starvation,” Simkins says, “but it will keep your health low, and this makes it difficult to use skills and magic.” By investing in Survival skills, you’ll be better equipped to hunt, gather and identify the food you collect, as well as gain bonuses to health. “These types of skills sort of replace the stats you find in a typical RPG.”
Saturday - June 22, 2013
Frontiers - New Gameplay Video and Interview
What are paths? How do they work? What's our purpose in life? I answer 2/3 of these questions in this video.
Friday - June 21, 2013
Frontiers - Interview @ JaceHallShow
Lars Simkins the man behind the kickstarter Frontiers has been inteviewed by a site called JaceHallShow.
JHS: Is there some kind of quest system planned here? How does the story progression work in Frontiers?
LS: There’s a central story about war brewing between regions that you’re free to follow or ignore as you choose. There’s also a personal story involving your Uncle being lost in the Uncharted Lands, which you’re also free to ignore. The story progresses through a combination of quests and real time events which take place independently of your involvement. In general quests are as exploration-focused as everything else, whether they’re side quests or are tied to the main story.
JHS: Can you break down the gameplay in Frontiers for us? What does it mean to emphasize “exploration above all else”?
LS: The gameplay is very similar to other first person RPGs – you travel, gather information, go on quests, and so on. There are a few exceptions. First, it’s more relaxing because there isn’t the threat of death around every corner. Combat happens occasionally but it’s not a central mechanic. Second, there’s slightly more emphasis on the survival elements. You’ll be expected to find food somehow, whether it’s picking it or hunting it or stealing it. Staying fed is necessary for using skills – it sort of plays the role of manna.
Emphasizing exploration just means that when I put an obstacle in front of the player, I try to make sure it encourages exploration instead of making it more difficult. A lot of times in games you’ll hit a wall in the gameplay where exploration no longer becomes the solution – you’ll hit a closed gate, say, and you can’t explore until you’ve talked to a bunch of characters in the immediate area. In FRONTIERS, if there’s a gate you can’t get through, I make sure there’s a mountain pass and an underground cavern you *can* get through.
JHS: Can you tell us more about the game’s unique fast travel and the path creation ability?
LS: Path creation is the solution to a lot of problems in the game. If you’ve found a good place for trapping animals you can lay down a path to that area, making it easier to set and check traps. It takes less food to climb a mountain using a path than it does without one, so they’re useful for getting to places like the Highlands. You’ll often run across NPCs who need a clear path through a mountain pass or a wolf-infested forest and as a Pathfinder you have the ability to lay one down for them, or to repair / reroute an existing path. As you create paths the world becomes more and more connected and fast travel between regions becomes easier & easier.
Thursday - June 20, 2013
Frontiers - Interview @ Polygon
Game developer Lars Simkins of the kickstarter Frontiers was interviewed by Polygon.
Simkins says he feels almost "uncomfortable" calling the game an RPG, as its elements are heavily simplified. There are no classes in Frontiers, and players instead start as an apprentice in an organization known as the Pathfinders Guild. Experience is gained by exploring new regions and exploring paths. Frontiers does feature an RPG-based combat system, with players being able to upgrade weapons with magic skills or crafting. Other abilities are picked up from NPCs or books and range from magic attacks to hang gliding.
"The player's here to explore, not to grind."
"I make a point only to include mechanics if they don't discourage exploration," Simkins said. "If I find during testing that I'm being held back by some mechanic or other I alter it or remove it altogether. The player's here to explore, not to grind."
Natural threats will play as much of a role as animal threats, but players should still be wary of wildlife. Bears pose a pretty nasty threat, Simkins said, and the game's seas are plagued by Lovecraftian-inspired Leviathans. Humans pose a definite danger as well, but in a different kind of way.
"Human threats ... are resolved with dialogue, so you'll have to think your way through them," Simkins said.
Survival is the darker half of Frontiers — a force that pushes players to recognize their own mortality. It's a driving factor in real life, but a difficult one to convey in virtual territory.
"In real life, if I want to see over the next hill I have to decide if it's worth the effort of getting muddy or losing a shoe, and if it's worth adding that distance to my trip back," Simkins said. "Maybe it's getting dark, maybe I'm hungry — I have to take in and process a lot of information to make that choice, so I'm totally engaged. But if I could just teleport over there, all that brain activity would shut down. I might as well just stay home."
"Unless you're reckless it's pretty hard to die in the midst of civilization," Simkins added. "But head out into the wild and it's as simple as twisting your ankle at the wrong time. It puts things in perspective."
Wednesday - June 19, 2013
Frontiers - Audio Interview @ Futurilla
This week's Doom Ray is something a little different. In a two-part epic interview we talk with Lars Simkins, designer of the the incredible-looking Frontiers. An awe-inspiring open world exploration game lovingly created by one man. Lars has a background in VFX with credits that include The Hunger Games, Breaking Bad and the stunning Pushing Daisies. Now he has turned his considerable talents to games design and the results look nothing short of breath-taking. If you're as blown away by Frontiers as we are, check out the Frontiers Kickstarter and consider backing it. Thanks again to Lars for his time and for giving us a glimpse behind the development of this stunning game.
Tuesday - June 18, 2013
Frontiers - Explore, Discover & Survive
Today we have another kickstarter to showcase and we can all thanks Joxer for bringing it to my attention. FRONTIERS is a one man ambitious project that is described as a massive relaxing open world that emulates classic first person RPGs.
Video Update 1 - Structures FAQ
Hello, I'm Lars Simkins. I'm a VFX artist by trade and an indie game developer by passion. I'm here to make that first person exploration/survival game we've all been dreaming about.
I can still remember the first time I played Daggerfall. Yes, it was uglier than a monkey's armpit and controlled worse than a bumper car on a frozen lake.
But it also created the feeling of a world that lived on even after I'd stopped playing, and that feeling still sticks with me all these years later. A world where you could spend hours searching every pixelated nook and cranny. A world of potential. A world of EXPLORATION...
...and then a Dragonling would chomp my face because I hadn't spent ten hours grinding in the easy regions. Arg! So frustrating!
Other games have touched on that elusive feeling, especially Elder Scrolls and early Fallout games, but as fun as they are and as much as I love hardcore RPG mechanics, I've always dreamt of a game that emphasized exploration above all else.