SNOW arrives in Open Beta for PC on Wednesday, January 27. Visit snowthegame.com for more details.
We've been following open world piste'em up SNOW ever since it first slipped onto the icy slopes of Steam Early Access two years ago. Now the game has hit another major milestone. Starting this Wednesday, Jauary 27, the game is entering Open Beta on PC, so if you haven't had a chance to check out arguably the most ambitious ski sim of all time, now's your chance.
However, as Poppermost Productions marketing manager Thomas Joubert tells Red Bull in an exclusive new interview, that's just the start for the Swedish studio.
There are video editing tools, an in-game drone, even virtual merchandise from all the biggest brands to deck your rider out in. A small of team of just 10 have been hard at work preparing the game for a similar Beta testing phase on PS4 as well, and, if all goes to plan, we may even see the game on Xbox One some day too. Oh, and did we mention snowboarding is finally being introduced? Yep, that's happening too. Read on for the full scoop.
Tell us about what's changed with SNOW in your own words since we last spoke.
Based on the amount of new content, features and improvements we've made to the game, I would argue that SNOW is almost a totally new experience compared to what we launched this time last year. We've reworked the entire physics system, added many awesome features, like a player-controlled drone and replay manager, redesigned the entire user interface and have partnered with several big events to bring their courses into the game. So yeah, we've been busy!
The game is poised to launch in Open Beta, but tell us what you've had to do reach this stage. How many people have been testing it in Closed Beta?
The goal for us has always been to launch Open Beta with a product that offered a solid overall experience. We had a roadmap fleshed out from very early on, with a minimum set of features and gameplay elements that needed to be included for Open Beta.
During the Closed Beta we released half a dozen big game updates that have included some of these core features, along with overall improvements to the game. With our final Closed Beta update (0.7.0) we now feel confident about how the game looks and plays, and are happy to remove all restrictions to access the game.
Our Closed Beta was hugely successful. We saw more than 100,000 players join the Beta over the course of 2015, and many more still wanting to get access all the way up to our Open Beta launch. We've collected a lot of feedback from our community and discussed the game directly with many of our players to better understand what we should focus on and how we should tweak the game in the future. Our community has been immensely helpful and we are extremely grateful for this.
There are now many more mountains. How do you create new slopes and runs and what does the process involve? Are all of them drawn from real life resorts?
Our main mountain, the open-world level called Sialia, is a fictional place. When we design new areas on this mountain we decide on a specific theme and get inspiration from real-life places, but at the end of the day, everything is created from scratch. After discussing the concept of an area, our level designer usually makes a rough block out using simple shapes and other assets that might fit his purpose.
Once a general gameplay flow has been found, our art team will create all the necessary assets to fill up the surroundings and make sure the area is believable and compelling for the player to ride around in. Finally, our level designer and art director will go back into the area and make sure the gameplay still works as intended, and all the small details are in place so that the area looks polished.
Next to Sialia, we also have a series of smaller levels, all based on real places, or event courses we have partnered with. We have, for example, recreated three different events happening in France, Italy, and Sweden – B&E, Nine Knights, and the Jon Olsson Invitational. We usually try to gather topographical data from the surroundings and work directly with the event designers to recreate everything as close as possible to reality.
Tell us how free roam multiplayer will work. How many gamers can ski together?
Right now we will be allowing up to 10 players on a server. This isn't a hard limit, but for now we're happy with how this feels. We decided to keep Free Roam multiplayer as simple and as straightforward as possible, at first allowing players to ride around the mountain with each other. During the Open Beta we will begin implementing new multiplayer modes and features to give players ways to challenge and compete against each other.
What about props? When will we be able to place these? Will people be able to share courses and freestyle parks?
This feature will be implemented at some point during the Open Beta. First we want to add snowboards and snowmobiles to the game, since this is the number one request from our community. Once this is in place, we will start focusing on other features, like dynamic prop placement and the creation and sharing of user-generated content.
The in-game drone for planning your route seems like an awesome idea. How can players use it?
Our open-world mountain is huge, and packed with different environments and places to explore. To put it in numbers, it's 65 cubic kilometres of totally open-world mountain terrain. We realised early on that the players would need some tools to help them scout the terrain ahead and explore the mountain around them.
Drones have become an essential tool in action sports, so we thought that it should be a core element to the player's inventory. In the future we will also look at letting players purchase different types of drones.
What about the video editing mode. Are you planning to add any extra options to it in the coming months?
SNOW delivers a very unique visual experience. We always saw a huge potential for players who also like to show and share their lines and tricks in video edits, a bit like you'd do in real life with your GoPro. Since launching the feature we've seen over 400 new edits submitted to our website, and hosted several fantastic competitions with our partners.
Our replay system records your entire session, no matter how long you're playing. Then, whenever you want, you can enter the replay manager and rewind to your favourite bit. You can select different camera angles, settings and effects and playback your favourite trick, line or shot, however you want. Combine that with video recording software, and you can capture and edit your session, share it on our website and with the entire SNOW community.
In the future we plan to add more camera options to really provide video makers with advanced filming and editing tools.
You guys have said you struggled originally for sound effects in the game, so tell us how you went about getting all the recordings for SFX.
Winter sports is not a very popular genre in video games and there is no comprehensive sound library for this type of game. Thankfully the successful launch of SNOW on Early Access put us in a position to send a crew of sound engineers to the mountains and have them record sounds for us with some professional skiers. They attached mics everywhere – on the skier, on the rails, on the jumps, and I think you can really hear how genuine it sounds when you play SNOW.
You're hoping to tap into the hat economy with cosmetic purchases. What sort of items can people buy, how much will entry to premium events cost and what will the incentives be for doing so?
Players can customise their entire character, from head-to-toe with more than 700 clothing and equipment items from real-life brands, like the official Russ Henshaw helmet from Red Bull. In total we have 10 different item categories for player customisation, and lots of different price points. Players can also purchase bundles of items for a discount.
More competitive players can purchase access to some of our premium events. All players can play the event level for free, but if they want to access the leaderboards and receive the exclusive gold medal reward, then they need to purchase access to the actual event.
The gold medal reward is for players who are able to beat the high score score we've set. Doing so will reward them with an exclusive item that cannot be purchased in the store. Event prices will vary between $0.99 and a few dollars, depending on the size of the event and the reward we are giving out for it.
Snowboarding must have been your most requested feature. You've now confirmed it's finally coming. Can you say when yet, and just what the challenges were in implementing it before now?
Snowboarding is indeed the most popular request and it's coming, hopefully within the next few months. It will be one of the first big tasks we tackle once Open Beta is live and stable.
Technically it's not very challenging actually, because in our virtual world, the physics between snowboarding and skiing are similar. The reason it has taken until now to start working on it is that we wanted to ensure the skiing experience was polished before being able to apply it to snowboarding. In the meantime, we have also developed a new rig, which will allow us to greatly improve all of our animations in the future.
We will take the same approach as with skiing to make sure it follows the same authentic path. That means including the biggest brands, athletes and trendsetters from the snowboard industry.
When is the game coming for PS4? If it’s a success, could we see a similar launch on Xbox One down the line?
We hope to launch a Closed Beta on PS4 in early spring. Now that SNOW is in Open Beta on PC, we can start to focus more on the PS4 version. We have a working build and have shown it at a few shows, but needed the extra time to make sure it was optimised for a console launch.
If SNOW is successful on PS4, we will of course look into an Xbox One launch. We love the Xbox but had to focus on one platform at the time due to our limited resources.
Tell us about virtual reality support. When will this arrive?
When we began development of SNOW, we realised that the game worked quite well from a first person view. It really made you feel like you were on the slopes, with the tips of your skis peeking out below you. We see a great potential for VR in SNOW and will try to support all the different VR devices on PC and PS4, as soon as they are released to the public. The PC version of SNOW already supports Oculus and we do our best to spend time improving it when we can.
If resource wasn't an issue, what features would you add to the game next? What's on your wishlist?
Dynamic props placement for sure. I'd love to see what the community could do if we let them tweak the mountain we've created. I think it is always fascinating to see how creative players can be. We've already seen players using the game's physics and mechanics in ways we could never have expected, so opening this up further would be amazing.
What's your favourite thing to do in the game, and your favourite spot or run?
I've recently discovered a great line on the South Summit, next to the Observatory. This is one of my favourite aspects of the game; finding a good series of jumps and then trying over and over again until I set a perfect line with all the tricks I have in mind.