The renowned developers of classic game franchises like Wasteland and The Bard’s Tale, as well as VR dungeon crawler The Mage’s Tale, are unveiling their next VR-exclusive project: Frostpoint. This is a change of pace for inXile Entertainment, being a first-person multiplayer shooter instead of an RPG, but it’s shaping up to be something worth keeping an eye on.
Frostpoint (not to be confused with PSVR-exclusive VR shooter, Farpoint) is an upcoming multiplayer VR shooter from inXile that aims to deliver an innovative PvPvE experience. This means that while fighting against other players to control points and win competitive matches, there are monsters in the environment wreaking havoc and causing chaos at the exact same time to really flip the genre on its head.
Earlier this month I got the chance to speak with Brian Fargo, Studio Head at inXile, and Pete Mayberry, Lead Designer on Frostpoint, to chat about the game, its development, and what players can expect. It’s a detailed interview loaded with juicy details. You can watch the whole thing in a video embedded farther down this feature, or continue reading for the highlights.
What Is Frostpoint?
Frostpoint is a AAA-caliber multiplayer VR shooter focused on competitive team versus team combat. Comparisons to Battlefield were made in the interview and I can see the likeness and inspiration in the trailer and screenshots, albeit with a sci-fi post-apocalyptic spin.
When loading into Frostpoint you’ll matchmake with other players, get sorted onto one of two teams, then hit a bunker with a wall of weapons, armor suits, and gadgets to pick from. There is no class system, it’s just based on the gear you bring with you.
“We’ve got a suite of realistic weapons with attachments like scopes and second hand grips,” says Mayberry. “We also have a suite of sci-fi weapons that are really interesting to play that change the dynamic of the game. In terms of going out and finding loot, there will be locations where these upgrades happen, they become hot points of contention between teams. So out in the world there are guns available but be very wary about going to get them.”
Since Frostpoint is not class-based that means you’ll change your style of play based on the armor suit you wear and weapons you carry.
“It’s a free-form class system,” says Mayberry. “You as a player, your class is really based on what tools you’re grabbing from the wall, paying in-game currency to upgrade, and then the suits add a certain level of class-like features. Some suits have players running faster, better protection, cut down on gun recoil, there are certain things that change. If you want to be a heavy you can be a heavy, if you want to be a scout you can be, or if you want to be pure support you can.”
There are two game modes planned right now: classic team deathmatch and domination, both will be up to 10 v 10. Domination works just like in Call of Duty or Destiny in which teams vie for control of waypoints on the map and accrue points based on how long they can maintain control. Mayberry also confirmed bots will be in at launch as well so you can play by yourself and still have fun, or just with a small group of friends as a co-op only experience.
But that’s not all. In addition to fighting the other team, every game mode on every map also has a bunch of hostile creatures that attack anyone and everyone. This creates a relatively unique PvPvE experience that is sure to keep everyone on their toes.
“Then there’s a whole second layer with the PvE element,” says Mayberry. “There’s a constant threat of these biomechanical creatures coming out from every direction. You’ll be fighting against the enemy team and turn the corner then you’re faced with these hulking creatures. It’s a great dynamic to deal with those things and then deal with the other team and try to win the day against these two forces.”
Mayberry goes on to describe these creatures as a “resource” that players will seek out, likely to loot for currency that can be used to upgrade and improve gear during matches.
“The layer of the PvPvE element is very cool, it changes the dynamic of the battlefield greatly when you’re playing,” says Mayberry. “Our artists did a fantastic job, it looks really nice for a VR game and even for a non-VR game it looks beautiful. We layer in the lite sci-fi element so we can introduce things that are less realistic. For example, energy weapons are a blast to use, sorry for the phrasing.”
From The Mage’s Tale To Frostpoint
“Some of the most fun I’ve had in years playing games has been in VR,” says Fargo. “Whether it be Arizona Sunshine, Survios titles, and even our own Mage’s Tale, I remember one time I was playing VR, playing, playing, and playing, then I took off the headset and it was dark outside with all the lights off in the house.”
Fargo has deep roots in the early days of the video game industry, from founding Interplay in 1983 to working on classic PC RPGs and adventure games like The Bard’s Tale, Wasteland, Neuromancer, and the first Fallout. In many ways, he’s the forefather of post-apocalyptic video games.
Recently, inXile released The Bard’s Tale IV after VR RPG The Mage’s Tale and they’re currently set to release Wasteland 3 later this year. It’s also worth noting that, in November of 2018, Microsoft announced its purchase of inXile.
“I like the medium…from an immersive perspective it’s hard to beat, you’re right there,” says Fargo. “We wanted to do another title after Mage’s Tale, that’s part of the background, but the other part is that one of the tings I found fascinating at the time was watching a lot of the emergent gameplay systems pop up. Whether it be Rust or DayZ and those types of things, seeing the videos people were putting out of themselves having this incredible time that wasn’t based on scripted events.”
If you’re familiar with Fargo’s body of work, you’d know that emergent gameplay based on unscripted content isn’t what his games are usually known for. Branching paths and sandbox-style interactions that can result in a wide-range of outcomes, sure, but not fully emergent gameplay. His best work is always extremely narrative-focused with mostly linear paths from start to finish. Frostpoint isn’t that at all, but there are still similarities.
“I’ve always done post-apocalyptic games and they’re about asking, ‘How would the worst of the worst behave in these situations when there are no rules?’ Well, watching a lot of those videos you got to see how they would behave. It was like emulating a post-apoc world, and a mean one at that. So I thought, “What could we do to that end and then bring VR to it?’
Over a year ago I actually went down to the inXile offices and played a very early build of Frostpoint. Back then it was a mixture of battle royale-style giant maps, survival mechanics inspired by DayZ and Rust, and a bunch of other nuances that aren’t in the game anymore. The reasoning for the shift is that, after extensive testing, they realized people genuinely enjoyed the combat elements far more than the otherwise tedious moments in between.
“We started working on a product that was, originally, going to be more of a survival game,” says Fargo. “But as we watched people play, more and more, where we always heard the shouting and fun…we leaned more into the combat side of it…it’s what people really gravitated towards.”
Ever since the Oculus Rift first released back in 2016, Fargo and the other developers at inXile have been VR fans and genuine consumers of popular content. VR games like Arizona Sunshine, Pavlov, Onward, Zero Caliber, Boneworks, Raw Data, and more were all cited specifically in the interview as inspirations and points of key research during Frostpoint’s development.
“Titles like Pavlov and Onward scratch a similar itch and even Boneworks shows how rewarding it is when you do weapons correctly, but it’s a whole different conversation when you have to see 19 different people all doing things in real time, in VR,” says Fargo. “It’s one of the most technically challenging things we’ve ever done at the company to make it work correctly and look good at the same time.”
Open Beta and ‘Play To Own’ Campaign
Frostpoint will have a free, Open Beta period in September to get people in and trying out the game. During that period, the first 10,000 players have a chance to win a free copy of the game during what inXile is calling its “Play to Own” campaign.
“We’ll seed the beta with the first 10,000 or so players and whenever they meet a certain criteria, whether it be number of hours or number of matches or whatever we decide, we’re going to just give them a copy of the game to recognize that they’ve put all this effort in to help us make a better game,” says Fargo. “So hopefully what that will do is create a playerbase from day one [at full launch].”
Since Frostpoint is a competitive shooter without a story mode, this is new territory for inXile. However, it doesn’t mean the lore is something they haven’t given thought to.
“With most all of our other games we make them, we ship them, and then we’re done at that point really unless we do DLC,” says Fargo. “I thought it would be fun here to create a world where we are adding on things over time. So we actually have a lot of deep stuff written that will tell a story over multiple years. The idea is, assuming there is success, that we continue building upon this world. First we needed to nail the core systems because unless the game’s fun no one is going to care about the lore, so we wanted to get those parts done first and then we can layer that other stuff on later.”
Brian Hicks isn’t with inXile anymore, but he was for a few years and was a key part of this game’s early vision. Hicks was Creative Director on DayZ for multiple years and has a deep background in online shooters. His expertise is what helped inXile lay the foundation for crafting an online multiplayer FPS — so the nuts and bolts should be sound.
Since what I played is no longer existent as a game concept, I’m eager to see what the current iteration of Frostpoint is like. The survival elements were intriguing before, but the massive map sizes and empty layout would certainly have been a chore. Streamlining things and really emphasizing combat with a mixture of dynamic PvPvE elements sounds like a lot of great ingredients, so hopefully it turns out to be a recipe for success.
Full 30-Minute Frostpoint Interview With inXile:
Frostpoint is slated to release for PC VR headsets (Rift, Vive, and Index specifically) later this year, price to be determined. Full index support, including finger-tracking, is specifically mentioned. No plans for Quest at this time.
An exact month is not set for release, but the plan is to release it in 2020, but a free Open Beta period is coming in September. During that play period is when testers can earn a copy of the game with the “Play to Own” campaign. More details on all of that to come closer to Beta launch.
Let us know what you think of Frostpoint, inXile’s ambitious new multiplayer VR shooter game down in the comments below!