What’s your favorite video game zone? Green hill zone? Marble zone? Aqua lake zone? When Rend comes out, players will find that zone biomes are more than just environmental set dressing — they’ll feature greatly into one’s chances of survival.
The team spent some time yesterday discussing the first few environments that players will progress through in Rend. These include the lush Valley, the pockmarked Center, the cold and black Cave, and the freezing Eternal Wastes. As players progress, they’ll find that each subsequent biome is tougher to survive yet offers better rewards.
The description of the Valley is an example of how the team imagines gameplay becoming steadily more challenging: “The further you get away from your Divinity Stone, the more dangerous the environment becomes. Traveling to the local watering hole is generally a safe bet, but if you’re feeling adventurous, you should probably be well equipped and bring a few friends. Spiders scuttle among the trees, wolves prowl the hills, and beautiful but mysterious elk look down their regal noses at all the other creatures in the Valley.”
Snooty elk, people. You don’t stand a chance.
Frostkeep Studios has another dev blog out this week explaining how Rend will improve on traditional survival sandboxes. How? Factions.
The studio’s Jordan Leithart argues that “one of the biggest draws of survival games is the community,” which is great and all for super social people and extroverts. But a lot of potential players will find themselves overly intimidated by a game where most of the people who meet would rather kill them than take the time and risk to become BFFs. Consequently, the studio is adding joinable factions — three of them, in fact, which’ll sound familiar to MMO players who consider themselves Dark Age of Camelot and Camelot Unchained loyalists.
“My favorite part about factions (along with some other systems that we have in place) is that there is a spot for everyone to help with,” Leithart writes. “If you don’t want to take part in the Reckoning, that’s great. You can spend the time leading up to it gathering resources and crafting the necessary gear to help the faction survive the night. If your idea of fun is to protect your hunter gatherer’s from roaming bands of opponent factions, then you’re needed for the faction to thrive.”
If you’ve ever been responsible for interacting with a toddler for any length of time, you’ll probably have some idea of the nature of the “why” practice implemented at Frostkeep Studios. Essentially, the idea is that when someone asks for something, you ask “why” five times to get at the core reason behind it. It might sound childish due to its specific similarity to one of the more annoying games children play with authority figures, but it also informs one of the central philosophies behind developing for Rend to hopefully improve upon the whole survival genre.
The official post explains is that for every element within the game, there needs to be a reason to include it more robust than “these other games have it as a core feature.” It has to be a feature that is, fundamentally, fun for players in this game and something that works well for this design. Whether or not the philosophy will work out in the long run remains to be seen, but it’s certainly a good place to start.
I was pretty well taken by multiplayer survival sandbox Rend as soon as I saw it at this year’s PAX East 2017, as I wrote yesterday. The concept immediately spoke to me as taking a lot of the cool ideas from other survival games while making the game as a whole into something very different. But I also entirely understand that sometimes you can look at the game and wonder what makes it so different. After all, it’s hardly the first time that we’ve had a game using a lot of the building blocks. So why am I over the moon about Rend but not its obvious inspirations and close cousins?
The answer is that in some cases, I am over the moon about its close cousins. But it’s also important to understand the distinction and the fact that Rend is not, say, Crowfall or Conan Exiles or any other game. So what makes Rend different? Not necessarily better, but how does it stack up to the obvious points of comparison?
I don’t really like survival games, typically — I understand why a lot of people do like them, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t care for them myself, for a whole forest of reasons. To make a survival game that I want to play, you have to really come at the genre from a side angle, which can be hard to do while retaining the things that people like about the genre.
At this early juncture, I can’t say that Rend (official site) will do all of that. But I can say that the groundwork is in place for something that might be worth getting excited about.
I was incredibly fortunate to be granted one of the first meetings with Frostkeep Studios and a first look at Rend itself, in a conspiratorial PAX meeting on the second floor of a fish restaurant on the Boston piers. It felt a bit as if I were being shown something that should not be seen, some artifact of great power that had been hidden away from prying eyes. Perhaps that’s as it should be.