Start small and slowly build your way up. Few companies exemplify this approach as well as Frozenbyte, an independent game developer based in Helsinki.
The company released its first game, the sci-fi shooter Shadowgrounds, in 2005 and has since then gone on to develop a broad range of games, with genres varying from rogue-like strategy to fantasy action. It is perhaps best known among gamers for the Trine series, a trilogy of fantasy adventure games that combine platforming and puzzles, the first of which was released in 2009.
But compared to its previous projects, the company’s upcoming title is clearly its most ambitious to date, offering hundreds of hours of playtime and including support for massive multiplayer gaming.
For now, the company is keeping further details about the game under wraps and has not even revealed its name yet, saying only that it will be set in space. But if the technology that powers the game is anything to go by, gamers should prepare for a truly novel experience.
Shooting for the moon
What has allowed Frozenbyte to take on a project of such massive scale is its updated game engine, the software that the company uses to create its games. The new version of the engine, which was developed with funding from Business Finland, includes advanced tech the firm calls “vertex/voxel hybrid rendering”. This, in simple terms, allows for an entirely dynamic damage modelling that enables the game world to change extremely precisely and in real time when, for example, spaceships collide.
Frozenbyte’s CEO, Lauri Hyvärinen, had in fact come up with the idea for the game years ago, but only now technology has reached the point where creating it is possible. “Thanks to our engine, the production values of our new game will be comparable to any AAA title,” says Kai Tuovinen, marketing manager at Frozenbyte.
The game will be ready for an early-access release by the end of this year, and when the final version launches (date to be confirmed) the company is confident that it will make a splash.
“What we’re doing is something completely new, and we’re sure that the gaming community will be excited to try it out,” says Tuovinen. “We expect that already the early-access version will get at least hundreds of thousands of players, so we really want to hit the sweet spot in terms of content and timing.”
The changing gaming industry
With this project in the pipeline, what does the current gaming landscape look like for an independent game developer such as Frozenbyte? According to Tuovinen, two parallel developments are shaping the industry currently.
“Multiplayer games are clearly a huge trend, and especially battle royale games such as Fortnite are all the rage right now,” he says. “But at the same time, many players yearn for strong single-player experiences.”
With a team of 120 employees, Frozenbyte is a relatively small game developer considering the scope of its latest project. When the new game launches, however, the company plans to increase its staff “pretty massively”, Tuovinen says. But at the same time, the firm wants to hold on to its very distinct philosophy.
“We try to let employees choose freely what games they work on,” says Tuovinen. “We’ve noticed that having this freedom is a great morale and motivation booster, so we aim to develop this policy even further in the future.”
Good News from Finland is published by Finnfacts, which is part of Business Finland.