At this year’s Gamescom in Cologne, I got the chance to meet up with the team from Poppermost Productions, a small development team from Sweden who are mad keen on throwing themselves down steep slopes strapped to planks of wood. Snow is the company’s debut title and promises an innovative mix of exploration and freestyle skiing. What’s more, it’s slated to support the Oculus Rift.
Skate, Meet Snow
Snow‘s an ambitious title that aims to dispense with genre conventions and instead drops you on a carefully crafted mountain with nothing but your skis and a desire to hurtle at breakneck speeds down said mountain. Snow is about freedom and giving you, the player, the space to do whatever you fancy. Choose where you’d like to be dropped and you’re off, free to carve your own route, pulling off as many tricks as you like whilst utilising the varied terrain along the way.
The game takes some of its inspiration from EA’s seminal and acclaimed Skate franchise, a game which at the time its release eschewed the increasingly outlandish parlour tricks of the then hugely successful Tony Hawk’s games and instead opted for a more technical style. One that tried to capture the essence of actually using a skateboard.
When you pick up the gamepad to play Snow, that heritage is definitely in evidence. However, whereas Skate could be at times obstructively difficult to pick up and play, Snow was refreshingly immediate. Having said that, even after my short time with the early Gamescom demo, you can tell there’s depth here waiting to be unlocked. And after my 4th or 5th rag-doll spill down the mountainside, it was clear this was a game that would be challenging to master. The gameplay has a reassuring weight and momentum to it which makes pulling off manoeuvres that more satisfying.
Poppermost are proud of the level of control they’ve given player of Snow. Player’s must mind and control their speed to negotiate tricky sections and in order to maximise points gleaned from tricks, they can ‘claim’ them by performing a post-trick celebration. Encouraging creativity and freedom in tricks is enabled by free rotation of your character in flight and control of left or right hand grabs with the triggers. It’s a comprehensive series of measures that highlight Poppermost’s real focus here, the feel of the game.
Winter Never Looked This Good
The first thing that strikes you about Snow is that it’s not an ugly game. In fact, it’s probably the single best looking winter sports game I’ve seen. The second thing that strikes you is that it’s big, really big. The final thing, there’s not a ‘Start’ or ‘Finish’ line in sight.
Snow is powered by CRYENGINE, Crytek’s current cutting-edge game engine and it looks great. Snow has a great sense of wintry scale. The mountainside is rendered completely with no discernible pop-in covered with subtly glistening snow. It’s one of the first games on the engine to attempt Oculus Rift support too. After an encounter at Gamescom 2013 with CCP’s EVE: Valkyrie, the team decided very quickly that virtual reality support was something they wanted to be a part of Snow.
I got to try a very early version of the game running on an Oculus Rift DK2 and despite a somewhat disconcerting FOV issue, the experience was somewhat of a rush. The feeling of speed was palpable and glancing around the scenery whilst hurtling along was cool. My time with the DK2 here was brief though and I do wonder how the team are going to square the circle of VR and spinning freestyle tricks, a recipe for nausea I’d have thought. It’s a brave move and it’s great to see a genre underrepresented in the VR world, and from what I saw at Gamescom, that visceral feeling of speed will be unmatched in the standard build of the game.
On top of all that, the team are keen to emphasise Snow‘s online multiplayer aspects. Join your friends on the mountain, dropping marker to set courses and competing for the best times sounds it could be a great deal of fun.
Steam Early Access and M4 Alpha Release
Steam’s Early Access program has been a lifeline for independent developers struggling for visibility and legitimacy in a crowded market place. Snow’s now been available to early adopters since last year and is now pushing for it’s first alpha version, codenamed ‘M4’ due for release soon. It brings with it a host of new features including official DK2 support, so those wishing to try their skills on the mountainside in VR will get their chance soon enough.
Snow was also used in Sony’s Gamescom keynote presentation showreel as the company recently announced their intentions to bring the game to PS4. As to whether Snow will also support Sony’s forthcoming VR headset ‘Project Morpheus’ well, as you can hear from the interview above, this is certainly a possibility.
Our thanks to the Poppermost team for their time at Gamescom, you can find more on Snow by visiting the game’s Steam early access page here, and the official website here. We look forward to seeing more.