Interviewing Frostkeep’s CEO as Rend announces July 31 early access
Are you looking for a new way to survive? It’s coming. We’ve watched as Rend wandered down its closed alpha path since May, but now the unique survival game is inviting everyone to join in the journey as it makes the turn to beta. Starting on July 31st, Rend launches on Steam early access. Those who want to try the three-faction, pet-taming, base-building, win condition experience can grab the buy-to-play title for $29.99 and dive right in.
What will that one-time purchase get you? I sat down with Frostkeep Studios CEO and co-founder Jeremy Wood to talk a bit about the experience players will have jumping into early access.
Feedback = fun
Just last month our E3 coverage of Rend emphasized that Frostkeep Studios took player feedback seriously, making adjustments (like removing the wipe-entire-faction aspect of base capturing) to improve the fun factor of the game — especially where PvP is involved. That trend has not diminished. Wood said, “With the feedback we’re getting it been very easy to react to issues that the players have.”
Wood illustrated this by describing another recent change from feedback: preventing folks from camping an enemy base. Previously, a faction could stand right outside the forcefield of a base and slaughter anyone who came out. As of last week, if you get too close to an enemy base then a giant beam of light will highlight where you are as well as apply a big debuff that reduces your damage and increases the damage you take. Although the game is designed around PvP, the devs want to make sure that those who aren’t there to engage/don’t feel like engaging can still participate in gameplay. Wood said it’s all about “striking that balance between lots of PvP for people who like it and not just insanely punishing gameplay for those who are just trying to chop down trees.” Capture point mechanics have changed so to better facilitate the natural PvP, giving better announcements of what is happening when.
Wood also noted that while the twice-weekly Reckoning is obviously a big PvP (and PvE) moment, capture points offer the opportunity for more team-based PvP objectives.
“There are these server-wide PvP firefights breaking out at known locations all throughout the day all over the place, so people who are looking for organized, team-based PvP will find it as they’re playing, not just during Reckoning.
Wood told me the alpha is now seeing lots of activity, including a great deal of PvP. Although the PvE side of the game had been solid for a while, Wood admits there hasn’t been much natural PvP happening. So for the past month, the devs have put focus on improving that gameplay so that players wanted to do it and enjoyed it, and Wood says they have seen a good response to that. He also explained that the team is working on (invisible) mechanics so people cant skyrocket to victory– a situation that makes the game less fun. “We’re working on kind of behind-the-scenes mechanics to rubberband teams back toward each other so that it stays more competitive throughout the game,” he explained.
Say hello to the spirit realm
The spirit realm in Rend is becoming even more important. “It’s one of the cool features that really stands out for us and we want to emphasize it more,” said Wood. We learned last year that players would need to travel there to tame their pets (and anyone know knows me knows that the pet-taming aspect of the game would be a main focus for me in Rend!) I’ve been intrigued by this mechanic, but it turns out that the spirit realm is much more than that.
What else is the spirit realm good for? Wood noted how it has been expanded upon and is utilized in many ways, even for PvP. The Mystic abilities in particular, he said, use this realm. For instance, players can use it as a stealth mechanic, popping into the spirit realm, moving behind a target, and popping back out for a surprise attack. Everyone will have access to the spirit realm in some form, be it creating a portal, drinking a potion, or whatnot. Some people, however, will have better, easier access. If that’s where the pets are, I know I’ll need to be one of those people!
Another aspect of Rend that may be very different for players is that fact that it is a temporary game. No, Rend itself isn’t going anywhere, but each instance of the three-faction warfare has a beginning and an end. Right now, games last about a month and a half before the win condition of filling up your faction’s soul stone is reached and it ends. Wood did point out that there is no longer a lose condition: Wiping a faction during a Reckoning does not wipe a faction from the server.
One game ending, however, does not mean that a player loses everything. The meta system, now known as the Ascension system, allows players to earn points to spend on their character development that will carry into the next game they delve into; players will be able to export all their Ascension progress from one official server to another. Points are earned throughout gameplay and a larger bonus amount will be awarded at the end to help incentivize folks to play the entire game. “If you want to get fully rewarded, you need to stick the whole thing out,” Woods cautioned. Winners, of course get a little more on top of it all, but seeing it through holds the bigger reward.
Getting points as you go also allows players to unlock as they play, so even those who don’t win are getting rewarded for play. What can you unlock? It won’t be super powers for the next rounds, but there will be a number of convenience things (like a small buff to chopping trees) as well as new ways to play (like different class builds). Wood stated,
“We definitely want to avoid things that give you raw toe-to-toe power,” Wood said. “That’s a dangerous mechanic that sets the have and have-nots apart. Every power you get there is situational or temporary. Mostly what you are getting is convenience and cosmetics, or even just options to ways to build your character.”
So basically players can get a head start on getting out in the world and exploring. “It’s the kind of thing you are going to be happy about but is not going to tip the scales of balance,” Wood said. “We don’t want it so that if you’ve been playing for mine months you’re just going to kill new players because that’s not fun.” The one that has me most excited is the ability to buy the ability to retain favorite pets (who will go back to level one but won’t need to be retamed). This ability actually quelled my biggest hesitation about the temporary nature of Rend; I get way too attached to my pets and can’t bear to lose them!
“Most people are OK with it because they feel like, especially at this point of the game, ‘Oh, when we start over I know so much more about the game that I’m going to be able to do it way better,’ or ‘I’m going to try out this other class, I’m going to do something different.’ That’s enough to keep people going in the early stages, and then the Ascension system layered on top of that is also a big draw for people.”
Being able to do something that will benefit you for the next server session is definitely a bonus, and since players are in complete control of what they spend their points on it is fully customizable. Wood said that the Ascension system is very close to implementation and it will keep evolving into the future.
What players see on day one of early access is definitely not all they will be seeing; the game will continue its development and keep relying on player feedback. In fact, there is already some PvP and PvE content planned for release right after the early access launch. Additionally, player mods will become possible sometime after this beta beginning. Along those lines, private servers are in the works to help folks make a more personalized experience.
What if you would rather play on a server that is only populated with other new players? Or maybe a power server with only real veteran players? Wood said those were interesting ideas, but at the moment they do not have the technical capabilities to enforce something like that. As time goes on, it might become possible.
Want to see more? To watch the game in action keep an eye out on OPTV for a first look stream coming soon. Thanks so much to Jeremy Wood for chatting with us!