Frost Giant Studios debut mixes Starcraft with Diablo

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Studio Frost Giant, Created by former Blizzard real-time strategy masterminds Tim Morten and Tim Campbell, it has finally unveiled the trailer for its first game. Storm Gatewhich will go into beta on Steam next year. The trailer gives an idea in the feel of this upcoming return to real-time strategy.

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However, this first look was just a teaser, so I met with two key Frost Giant employees, writer Mickey Nilson and assistant art director Jonathan Ryderto delve into the game’s backstory and learn how Frost Giant plans to follow in Blizzard’s footsteps without repeating its mistakes.

Low quality science fiction
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First moments Storm Gate the trailer makes me feel Star Craft. It’s the ghostly blue tint of a holographic projector, the subtle muttering of an AI assistant, and the thunderous appearance of a massive sci-fi mecha suit. Instead of a purely retro aesthetic, however, the trailer mixes high-definition contemporary art with a raw, lively feel that defines Star Craft franchise. This extends to the game itself, which is built on Unreal Engine 5.

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“When it comes to design and art, when we see something futuristic, whether it’s a vehicle or a bauble on a map, you should be able to tell what the thing’s function is by looking at it,” says Neilson.

Human technology in Storm Gate defined by bulky armor, bags, and useful but imperfect holograms. Weapons fire bullets rather than lasers, and armored suits fly the old-fashioned way: with a rocket pack. This reflects not only the atmosphere of early Blizzard games, but more broadly, inspiration for this studiosuch as board war game Warhammer 40K, Alien franchise and 1997 cult sci-fi film. Starship Troopers.

However, this does not mean that the Frost Giant approach is stuck in the 90s. Jonathan Ryder, Frost Giant’s assistant art director, says the team is updating the low-fi aesthetic by understanding the impact of recent scientific discoveries.

“MIT created These are bacteria that can create an electrical charge in a battery.“, says Ryder. “So we thought about what 50, 60, 70 years of innovation would look like if we used it for cleantech?” This assumption helps the team change the laws of physics without losing touch with reality.

The trailer also shows the Infernals, a completely different second faction of Stormgate. These creatures take inspiration from another Blizzard franchise. Diablo, and bring in an unexpected dose of high fantasy. This would seem to contradict the speculative realism of the human faction, but Storm Gate hopes to keep infernals the same logic, crossing the line between science fiction and fantasy.

“They use magic, so these questions always come up,” says Neilson. “How many are artifacts or how many are innate? Sometimes magic and science can overlap a bit. If you cast a frost spell, is it drawn from the moisture in the air to create this spell?

It’s a toy chest
Courtesy of the Frost Giant

Stormgate mixture Star Craft as well as Diablo reminds me of a box of random figurines I often dived into as a child. Yes I could just play with ninja turtles or transformers separately, but it was more fun to mix them together.

“With this sci-fi and fantasy backdrop, we can do an endless amount of things,” says Ryder. “It becomes like a toy chest for us artists to be able to invent things, work with storytelling, work with design.” Ryder, clearly passionate but also forced to keep details under wraps, says that conversations about how the game’s themes will play out in art and design continue within the company. The trailer is just the beginning.

This flexibility affects Stormgate storytelling and gameplay. While the details of its monetization are yet to be settled, Frost Giant Studios plans to offer the game as a free-to-play game with quarterly updates. The mixture of opposites of the setting makes it possible to introduce unusual new missions, maps, races, units and game modes.

“We wanted to create a world where we could say yes to anything,” says Neilson. “We wanted a huge sandbox where we could really give freedom to designers, give freedom to artists, and say yes to the best ideas.”

This extends to heroes, a key element that any real-time strategy player craves. From Star Craft to Dawn of Warhero characters help move the story forward and provide players with a close character they can identify with.

The trailer’s protagonist, a human explorer hunting for rare artifacts, is the only hero shown so far, and he’ll play an important role in the story. But players will also encounter heroes from the playable Infernals faction and other races that have yet to be introduced.

“In terms of characters, it will be an ensemble,” says Neilson. The player’s point of view on the world will change throughout the campaign, when he will be in the shoes of both factions – well, or in what among the demons is considered shoes.

Stepping Out of Blizzard’s Shadow
Courtesy of the Frost Giant

It’s impossible to discuss Storm Gate without mentioning his ties to Activision Blizzard. Ryder and Neilson, like the co-founders of Frost Giant, spent years there before moving on to Frost Giant. But recent Blizzard issues that include multiple allegations of sexual harassmenttarnished the studio’s once-unbeatable reputation and forced fans to look elsewhere.

Ryder says Storm Gate the team hopes that all players can find a home in their new game. “We want people to feel like we invite them,” he says. Beyond demonic conflict, dusty ruins and jet packs, Storm Gate hopes to hook players with an inspiring vibe based on past hits rather than repetitive ones.

Here the game conveys the themes of the later Blizzard game, Overwatch. Despite beautiful videos of friendship and trust, Blizzard’s competitive shooter never got a proper in-game narrative or game mode – and instead gained a reputation for terrible player behavior.

The frost giant wants to avoid this mistake. Bye Storm Gate will draw on the esports roots of the RTS genre, it will invest equally in non-competitive modes. This includes the “Comp Stomp” co-op mode, which pits teams of three against increasingly nasty AI opponents. This mode, inspired by cooperative missions in Starcraft 2should be of interest to players who are more interested in building a friend’s base than in destroying it.

“We’re trying to give it a hint of hope,” says Ryder.

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