Interested in learning what’s next for the gaming industry? Join gaming executives to discuss emerging parts of the industry this October at GamesBeat Summit Next. Learn more.
Frost Giant Studios unveiled Stormgate, a real-time strategy game with social elements and a sci-fi and fantasy theme.
Unveiled at the Summer Game Fest, Stormgate will feature multiple cooperative modes and powerful social connectivity. The beta test opens in 2023 and players can sign up now at playstormgate.com.
Irvine, California-based Frost Giant Studios was founded in 2020 by former Blizzard devs Tim Morten and
Tim Campbell, who helped create some of the most acclaimed and best-selling PC games of all time–as well as some of the most-watched esports–including Blizzard Entertainment’s WarCraft III and StarCraft II.
“We are building Stormgate for the real-time strategy community–past, present, and future,” said Morten, CEO and production director at Frost Giant Studios. “Our vision is to create a social experience that breaks down the barriers that have kept people away, to welcome back players who have been waiting for the next great RTS, and to prove that the RTS genre can thrive once again.”
RTS games are in the midst of the revival. Age of Empires IV launched in the fall. Sunspear Games is creating Immortal: Gates of Pyre. Last year, Gearbox Publishing and Blackbird Interactive revealed the first gameplay trailer for their upcoming RTS game, Homeworld 3. Shiro Games is working on Dune Spice Wars. Sega’s Relic Entertainment is working Company of Heroes 3.
“It just speaks to the total potential to be creative within realtime strategy. It’s huge. And we’re excited to play all those other games. But we’re ourselves very focused on continuing the tradition and the heritage of RTS that started at Blizzard,” Morten said. “This feels like a really exciting time for the genre. And for players and fans have it and we’re excited to be a part of it.”
Stormgate is coming to Windows PC via Steam and will be free-to-play. Players will be able to take part in a wide range of game modes and activities including story-driven campaign missions, playable solo or with a friend. It will have fully-integrated in-client esports, including 1v1 ranked matches on the
competitive ladder and team-based 3v3 with unique win conditions.
The game will also have a cooperative 3vE (three players vs. AI) mode, featuring meta-progression and ways to customize army abilities to create powerful synergies. It will also let players express their creativity and design skills with the in-game editor and play custom games created by other members of the community. Players can also spectate matches and level up IRL with enhanced learning tools.
Frost Giant Studios has dedicated its initial engineering efforts to Stormgate’s core mechanics and gameplay fundamentals—the building blocks of any great RTS. Its custom-developed SnowPlay simulation technology enables crisp, responsive gameplay with smart pathfinding.
Built in Unreal Engine 5, Stormgate will support high-resolution HD visuals in 4K and hundreds of unit models in epic, large-scale wars across a variety of maps and tilesets. The user interface is also being designed to make RTS more approachable by eliminating unnecessary inputs, automatically assigning units to control groups, and streamlining gameplay.
“We have our own technology that exists independent from Unreal Engine 5,” said Campbell, president and game director at Frost Giant Studios. “Snowplay handles the simulation for the hundreds or even thousands of units that are necessary to support real-time strategy game battles. We’re really trying to play to the strengths of Unreal but also provide that high quality and responsive gameplay that Blizzard RTS games are known for.”
Campbell said that the scope of the single-player maps is not tied to the engine. Unreal Engine 5 helps with things like lighting, animation, and better visual effects. The assets are built in a 3D perspective, and the developers will be able to move the camera around for better esports perspectives. But for games, the camera will stay at a prefixed perspective.
Stormgate’s in-game editor is getting a lot of engineering attention. And it arms creators with the same tools that Frost Giant is using to build the game, in a creator-friendly ecosystem where creativity and effort will be rewarded.
Campbell said that strong UGC development tools can lead to a flourishing community around games, just as Blizzard’s tools led to the Defense of the Ancients (Dota) mod and that led to multiplayer online battle arenas like Dota 2 and League of Legends.
“I’ve seen how with Warcraft III that strong tools have led to a community around those tools that really flourished and developed things that was way beyond what the development team could conceive of at the time,” Campbell said. “You saw entire genres springing out of that like tower defense and MOBAs. As the RTS genre has continued to evolve, those tools have generally skewed towards more and more power users. And what our vision for the tool is, is to really treat them the same as the game which is allow that skill ceiling to still be high but to lower the skill floor through a focus on approachability and focus on ease of use for new users.”
“The Stormgate universe’s combination of science fiction and fantasy, along with our focus on character-driven narratives, will provide years of storytelling opportunities for our players to enjoy,” said Campbell. “Our team is building a best-in-class real-time strategy game that will continue the RTS tradition of high-skill competitive play while innovating in areas such as user interface and co-op to make the genre more approachable than ever before.”
Stormgate takes place in an all-new post-apocalyptic game setting where science fiction and fantasy collide. The story begins hundreds of years in Earth’s future, following the near-extinction of humanity. The great calamity was caused by the Infernals—a playable alien race of demonic invaders hellbent on claiming this planet for their own.
These otherworldly demons emerged from Stormgates—seemingly dormant portals that began pouring out demons during powerful solar storms. As the Infernals return to threaten humanity once again, humans must gather their courage—and climb into their 20-foot tall mechs—to save the world.
Much of what the company is doing is inspired by Blizzard’s RTS glory years with the Warcraft and StarCraft franchises. They’re evolving from those games though, as players felt those were very solitary experiences. Frost Giant Games is trying to make RTS games more social. Everything from the onboarding to the game campaign will be playable as co-op with up to three players. And the new tournament system will enable you to form social connections with other players who you’re competing with.
“Every mode of the game is meant to be more social and a better experience in terms of connecting with other people,” Morten said.
The company is also releasing its tools for user-generated content, Campbell said.
“We’ve taken a bunch of advancements in that area to make it easier to edit easier to test and easier to share the maps and mods that you work on with other people, for example,” Campbell said. “Our editor is integrated with the game client. So it’s not a separate application that you’d have to fire up as a standalone thing. You can toggle in between gameplay and editing mode with a single press of a button. I can’t wait to see what the community does with it.”
RTS fans who have been waiting for this announcement won’t have to wait long to learn even more. Stormgate will be featured on PC Gamer’s PC Gaming Show, which kicks off on Sunday, June 12, at 1:00 p.m. Pacific time.
Stormgate is currently in the pre-alpha development stage and is scheduled to commence beta testing in 2023. To learn more, visit playstormgate.com, where you can sign up to join the beta test and be among the first to play.
In the cinematic, a futuristic human warrior finds an artifact and interacts with it. It turns out to be a stargate, or I guess Stormgate, which is a portal that creatures from another world use to attack Earth. The creatures come through and the fighting begins. The creature that comes through is a like a powerful flying demon. This leads to an apocalyptic invasion of Earth.
“We’re going to join the story at a point where mankind is starting to figure things out. So it’s a hopeful time. It’s not meant to be a dark and grim post-apocalyptic story,” Morten said. “It is meant to be brighter, and more full of hope. But at the same time, there are stakes. The story that we’re telling is certainly filled with scary monsters and moments of uncertain future but we do want to maintain that sense of optimism and hope.”
The company has about 35 full-time employees and another 15 or so contractors. To date, the company has raised $34.7 million.
The team has a roadmap for campaigns and other content that reach five years into the future. It has new story arcs and characters and factions. With the campaign, you’ll be able to see the action and story from the perspectives of different factions.
“As we’ve been developing the lore and the factions that that inhabit our universe, we don’t want one dimensional factions that are purely evil or purely good or are centered around just one thing,” Campbell said. “We’re working a lot of gray into the factions so that you can root for whichever faction connects with you.”
Closed testing is starting soon, but the beta program will hit around mid-2023.
“We want to be transparent with the community and interact with them and get their input,” Campbell said. “We’re launching as early as we are specifically so that we can start talking with the community directly about the game, the game setting, the features, the IP that we’re creating, and really get that back and forth to help make the game better than it would have been without that community input.”
That suggests that the company will be more engaged in delivering games-as-a-service, rather than with one-time purchases where the community often doesn’t have a chance for much input.
StarCraft and Age of Empires matches often turned into long duels as both sides build up fortresses. StarCraft multiplayer matches had a sweet spot of 20 minutes or 30 minutes.
“The game experience is very much a core RTS experience,” Morten said. “You would be doing every facet that you would expect from a Blizzard RTS. You’ll be harvesting resources, you’ll be constructing your base, you’re training workers, producing an army, fighting, controlling that army on the battlefield — the whole nine yards.”
While Frost Giant Studios aims to balance the game, it is trying not to overwhelm players with tasks to do and it is trying to get the pacing right so players can juggle tasks and have a fun experience, he said.
“That’s something that we have been iterating on for a long time already. And we’ll continue iterating on up until and even beyond launch, actually,” Morten said.
The team is also trying to improve on the RTS formula with more co-op play. The story mode will be playable solo or in co-op mode.
“In order to facilitate players working together, we’re wanting to support the casting of buffs and debuffs and healing and the ability to send reinforcements,” Morten said. “All of those things have to be factored in when we’re looking at tuning the pacing of the game. We don’t want matches that are battles where you lose half your army in a split second, for example. But we also don’t want games that are slow and drawn out. And so we just play, we find the fun, and then we iterate on that fun to get it really dialed in.”
There will be some base building missions, or base assault missions, as well as missions where the players’ forces are on the run. Players will also be able to provide that feedback and then the company will dial in on that.
Frost Giant wants to accommodate a lot of different play styles.
The hope is that there will be a bit longer “time to kill” so that players can react to an attack and actually have a chance to react in the middle of combat.
“If you’re a fan of StarCraft, or you’re a fan of Warcraft III, this will be right in the area that you’re expecting,” Campbell said. “We need to give players that window to react, to help each other, to interact with each other, or else you’re effectively going to wind up with people just playing parallel solo experiences in the same matches.”