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Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Snowtopia - First Look!


Snowtopia is a game that seemed to come out of nowhere in the past few weeks.  I hadn't seen or heard anything about it and suddenly videos for the game appeared on YouTube.  The game is very early in it's development, having been developed from an initial prototype in March 2018.  It is being developed by French team Tea for Two.

The game sees you take control of a ski resort, starting with only a small village at the bottom of a mountain.  Currently the game is in what they are calling 'open alpha' so is feature limited.  With the knowledge that this will have a Kickstarter campaign early in 2019, it is probably more accurate to say that the game is more a proof of concept at this stage.  Saying that, I've been having a lot of fun with it over the past week.

The open alpha/demo was released via the itch.io page in early December and is currently available for Windows, Linux and MacOS systems, with a release date TBA (expect more details during/post Kickstarter).  As I noted above, the game is currently feature light and only has about 20 minutes of content before you complete the goals, although you can continue to play the game as long as you wish.

The landscape available for your resort   

Currently you have access to two lift types (chair lift and gondolas) and two ski run types (medium and large).  From the UI it appears that there are some form of facilities/buildings planned, an additional lift type (a surface lift which I suspect may be similar to a button tow) and scenery items.  

The goal in this demo is to welcome 150 skiers to your resort.  Developing your resort is quick and intuitive.  First you'll want to place a lift and then a couple of runs back down to the base of the mountain and into your resort village.  As soon as you have done this, the skiers will start to arrive.

Our first chairlift with a basic and slalom type run

Your resort will need to be appealing to 4 different types of skiers - Beginners, Slalomers, Daredevils and Experts - and you will need a variety of slopes to cater to these types and their enjoyment of your resort.  Thankfully the slope placement tool is both very flexible and informative.  It uses a colour coding system, green-blue-red-black, to show you the difficulty of the segment of track you are building.  It then calculates an overall difficulty for that run.

Building a slope showing some simple and intermediate areas

They have also included a useful visualisation layer.  This allows you to show the difficulties of all of your runs together, rather than just the currently selected run.  This is useful for planning where your next run is going to be placed, and what kind of run it should be to ensure a balanced resort.  The menu also has an additional checkbox with not functionality which suggests there will be further visualisations available later in development.

The resort with the slope difficulties layer off (L) and on (R)

You can really go to town with your resort layout too.  The AI is clever enough to know that they may need to take multiple lifts which are chained, to reach the slope they wish to use.  You can also branch additional routes off of an existing run, and even have a slope end at a chairlift below the village and use that to return to the hub of your resort.

A view up the mountain showing chairlifts partway up the mountainside

Whilst definitely very much a demo and early alpha, the game feels like it will be worth keeping an eye on.  The performance is generally good and the actual gameplay is enjoyable.  As to be expected there are some issues such as animations which still need to be added and the occasional bug like skiers getting confused and stuck on the mountain if you delete the run they were heading to.  

If you want to give it a go you can download the open alpha via the Itch.io page for free and sign up to their newsletter from the same page to keep up to date with the development.

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