The term “free to play” is starting to emerge from the cocoon of doubt that once encompassed it. Many developers have begun to pursue the medium, offering substantial gameplay to go with the free content, while the overall quality of the medium has risen. Yes, you still have the occasional microtransaction-hungry, grindy titles but you also have games like Poppermost Productions’ SNOW. This free to play title allows players to engage in Winter sports across a huge, snowy open world. It’s not something you see every day, looks great and is also surprisingly full of depth.
With SNOW heading to PS4, GamingBolt spoke to the development team at Poppermost Productions to learn more about the title and its future direction.
"SNOW is the ultimate sandbox experience: We place you on a massive open-world mountain and you decide where you’d like to go and what you want to do."
Usually when we see free to play titles, they’re MMOs or ARPGs. What motivated a free to play snowboarding (update: SNOW is currently a free-ski title but snowboarding and snowmobiles will be offered in the future) title?
We saw an opportunity in the market, as winter sports and action sports in general are underrepresented. Since we are all big winter sports fans, we wanted to create that ultimate experience we were missing in video games.
For us, free-to-play, is the business model that suits the best with our vision. We want to offer a sandbox, à-la-carte type, experience with constant content updates and free-to-play offers that flexibility and the live service options we were looking for.
When deciding whether the game should go into Early Access, what were the pros and cons of this decision?
We always saw Early Access as a great way to show our game to players and get feedback from the community to make improvements alongside the entire development.
I think the only con is that you offer an unfinished product and it can backfire sometimes if your audience doesn’t understand where you are in the development. That’s why we always try to communicate as much as possible about our development plans and thinking.
Can you tell us about the activities that SNOW offers along with its different modes?
SNOW is the ultimate sandbox experience: We place you on a massive open-world mountain and you decide where you’d like to go and what you want to do. We haven’t created any single player story mode for example because we didn’t want to force our users to follow pre-defined roads. Instead we offer a selection of modes and features that you can complete if you want to:
- Free Roam: Riding on the mountain with no time or trick pressure, this is the best way to explore the mountain
- Events: Structured time or point-based competitions with leaderboards
- Challenges: Small tasks to complete on the mountain to extend the exploration of the mountain
- Multiplayer: Free roam multiplayer experience. In the near future we will also offer competitive multiplayer
This liberty of choices continues also with your character customization. You can choose between several hundred clothes and equipment items from more than twenty different winter sports brands and customize your rider the way you want. If we look further down the line, we want to go even further and offer players the option to place jumps and props dynamically on the mountain.
How did you go about realistically depicting the weather and physics for SNOW?
Currently it’s always nice weather in our mountains but eventually we’d love to offer snowy or foggy days too. At the moment we are using a feature available in CRYENGINE, the game engine we use, that lets you dynamically change the time of day.
Physics is a whole different story. We have almost custom create an entire physics system just for SNOW. We want everything to be as dynamic as possible and we push the physics system to its limit. But now it’s starting to feel really nice when you play the game.
"At the top of Sialia, you have a lot of cliffs and rocks. The middle sections are more covered in alpine forests and at the bottom you find more men-made areas, like villages or snow parks."
There’s quite a bit of variety in how players can explore routes in SNOW. Can you explain your courses and the different routes they offer?
SNOW is an open world mountain, so you can basically take any route around you. But we structured this massive mountain and created separate areas with unique looks and landmarks to keep the gameplay interesting and break any potential visual monotony from looking at too much white and snowy texture.
At the top of Sialia, you have a lot of cliffs and rocks. The middle sections are more covered in alpine forests and at the bottom you find more men-made areas, like villages or snow parks.
What new features can players expect in the immediate future?
The number one request from the community is snowboarding. So this is what we’ll be focusing on.
Are there any updates on when the PS4 version of SNOW is coming in?
We still haven’t announced a release date but we hope to be able to launch a Closed Beta in the next few months.
What are your resolution and frame rate targets for the PS4 version?
We are aiming for 1080p and 60FPS but we can’t confirm at the moment that this will be the case in the final build.
SNOW looks beautiful on the PC. What kind of graphical options can players expect in the final version?
The current Beta version is already offering a whole set of graphical options like V-sync, texture, particle, or shadow quality. You can also change volumetric effects, motion blur, and depth of field.
"We currently have an exclusivity deal with Sony and will investigate a potential release on X1 once this exclusive period is over. The reason why we haven’t looked into an X1 release is because of bandwidth reasons."
Are there any plans to release a DX12 version of the game in the future?
We want to work on SNOW for at least a few years, so of course we will offer a DX12 version as soon as it’s possible.
We recently played the open beta and were quite pleased with how it’s shaping up. But what the biggest feedback you received during the open beta and what kind of fixes and tweaks are you working on currently?
The two most recurring requests are a more robust multiplayer experience with additional modes and features and of course snowboards. That’s why we are currently working on multiplayer improvements and at the same time try to implement snowboards, because our players what them really bad!
Are there any plans to release an X1 version in the future or for that matter why isn’t an X1 version considered for now?
We currently have an exclusivity deal with Sony and will investigate a potential release on X1 once this exclusive period is over. The reason why we haven’t looked into an X1 release is because of bandwidth reasons. We are only ten people working on SNOW and need to focus on fewer platforms as we still developing new features and adding content.
As SNOW is free to play, what’s next? Aside from new features, what kind of post-launch content can we anticipate?
We have partnered up with more than 30 partners from the winter sports industry. This is a very dynamic industry with new products launching every year. We will continue to work with these brands and make sure we can offer their latest products each year in SNOW too.
Is there anything else you want to tell our readers about the game?
SNOW is a great and atypical gaming experience. It’s super relaxing to play but also offers some really cool gaming moments. And it’s free so there’s no excuse to not download it.