Frozen Endzone, the American football-based strategy game from Frozen Synapse dev Mode 7, is limbering up for a public beta later this month. The beta will feature "several multiplayer modes," with purchasers receiving the full game when it releases and a free game code to give to a friend.
It's been some eight months since Mode 7 announced Endzone, and the switch from tactical shooting to tactical sports still seems a strange one to me. Or at least it would, except after talking with Endzone creator Ian Hardingham at a recent UK expo, it's hard to imagine his next game being anything but a celebration of pigskin. When you mention football to Brits like myself, you'll typically lose us to talk of spheres, nets, and penalty areas. Not Hardingham, though.
"I just fell in love with American football about ten years ago," he told me. "It's so exotic, it's so tactical. I love how everything is cast off into these individual plays, and you can spend forever really analyzing each play.
"The way that Americans throw everything into their sports, I find that relaxing. It makes me forget about the horrible things that are going on in the real world."
Hardingham talked plenty and passionately about his love and knowledge of the sport, something I don't share as a fan of the other type of football. But for all his fondness for Super Bowls and NFL Sundays (is that right?), his simultaneous turn-based strategy game isn't intended to be a detailed reflection of the real-life sport. Why Endzone makes sense as a successor (if not a sequel) to Synapse is because it's based around the depth of individual plays, and the tactical variety that comes from the phases of those plays. While the final version will feature more minutiae than what I played - things like upgrading different attributes such as strength and speed - the game's core is based around the basic concepts that define most team sports: where players are, where they're going, and where the ball is. Simply considering those three elements, integrated with teams of 5 and futuristic wall-laden maps, was appreciably testing.
And, as Hardingham professed, I didn't need a love or knowledge of American football to quickly understand what I was supposed to do. I was encouraged by how simple it was to plot my players' runs, attempt blocks, and make passes, before finally previewing how all those moves would play out against what I thought my opponent was going to do. Of course, my opponent - one of Hardingham's fellow designers - proved far cannier than I could ever give him credit for. Nevertheless, with each mistake I made I was learning what I should've done and, maybe just a little, understanding Hardingham's love of American football.
Still, there's an undoubted risk in switching from shooting to sports, even if it's not necessarily the guns that defined the first Frozen game. Hardingham told me Synapse is now up to "almost 500,000" copies sold, a figure that must've tempted Mode 7 to pursue a potentially lucrative sequel.
It's those near-500,000 sales that provide the safety net rather than any temptation to the designer; Mode 7 has budgeted so that if Endzone doesn't meet expectations, the small indie studio is still in plenty of health. Besides, the PS3 and Vita ports of Frozen Synapse Tactics, developed by Vita specialists Double Eleven, will surely add to the game's all-star sales performances.
"I definitely didn't want to make a sequel to Frozen Synapse," Hardingham stated, "But I definitely wanted to make a game that was also simultaneous turn-based, where we could use all the server technology that we had already put in, because that took an awful lot of time to do properly."
Vita owners hoping for Endzone to receive the same treatment should be encouraged; the portable is Hardingham's favorite console at the moment. For now, Frozen Endzone is busting a gut towards the 0-yard lines of PC, Mac, and Linux in 2014.
Welcome to the future of sports...
TUESDAY 5 NOVEMBER, 2013 -- The next game from Mode 7, creators of the highly successful indie hit Frozen Synapse, will open its exclusive beta to the public at the end of November!
Frozen Endzone combines the strategic depth of the multi-award-winning Frozen Synapse with an elegant interface, completely original creative gameplay and a thrilling futuristic aesthetic. Two teams face off in a randomly-generated scenario. You must design a play to get the ball into your opponent's endzone, using the stadium's terrain to your advantage.
The full game will be released in 2014 for PC, Mac and Linux.
• Full single player (Skirmish and Season) and multiplayer (various modes)
• Unique simultaneous-turn-based gameplay
• Randomly-generated situations and terrain for instant action
• Selection of teams and stadiums; customisation options
• Expressive art style and high-quality animation
• Trance and electronica soundtrack by nervous_testpilot
• Several multiplayer modes, as well as randomly-generated singleplayer challenges.
• A full soundtrack from musician nervous_testpilot and a host of other goodies.
• Purchasers will receive the full version on release as well as a free key to give to their friends, much in the same manner as Mode 7's previous title Frozen Synapse.