So far, what we’ve been distributing to playtesters wasn’t a demo, or an alpha version, or any sort of release of the game. Since February 2022, what’s available to those who registered to the playtest is a sandbox showcasing basic mechanics. We exposed what would be the very bare bones of the game in terms of mechanics with very little gameplay. Then, we gathered feedback, comments, bug reports and ideas and watched hours of gameplay by various playtesters. All this data oriented the development and informed us on what was being done wrong or right. Some things were very unnatural for gamers (playing with mouse and keyboard), some other things seemed odd to real life plow operators (no floating plows). So for the last year, we fixed a lot of that, and reoriented priorities according to feedback. Most importantly, we needed to set things right with the very simple sandbox so we know what will work and what won’t work for the future of the game. Accordingly, as we slowly shift towards developing the future of the game, we have a clearer picture of what systems will be carried over, and what will be scrapped. The vehicle controller has already been scrapped and replaced. The roads system will be scrapped and a new one is already under development. The snow system will be carried over and enhanced. The weather system will be carried over. Etc, etc.
Shifting to what?
As I was looking for a title for this dev blog, I asked myself this question: what is the big focus right now, at this point of the development? What has been happening in Fifty North studio for the last few weeks? And the obvious answer is: shifting the development towards the future version of the game, slowly moving away from the sandbox.
What does that mean exactly?
Right now, testers are playing the sandbox mode on the sandbox map. Basically, very limited gameplay on a very tiny map. That’s on purpose. Obviously, the main game will be much more than that. The goal is to have multiple game modes (snowstorm: endless, snowstorm: challenge, career) in an open world (free navigation through several sectors of the city). And for the last few weeks, I’ve shifted development towards the creation of content for this future version.
When we do get our first version outside of the sandbox, in other words the first update that includes the open world, we’ll refer to it as the Alpha version which will be version 0.1.0.
Creation of new content has already started. The roads are being redone with a much higher quality, 4K textures, and better adaptability to the game’s specific needs. The assets a being overhauled with better shaders. And the new world map is being created. It will take a little while before we can push version 0.1.0, since so much still needs to be done. But most of the work is now oriented towards that developement.
This means that the playtest, as you currently know it, will receive less updates until we release version 0.1.0, as efforts are being made on that version. This doesn’t mean there won’t be any updates in the meantime, but they will be smaller, as major endeavours will be oriented towards the Alpha.
This being said, at the time of writing this blog post, we are about to release version 0.0.15. It might already be out by the time you read this. This update brings several corrections, graphics updates, and vehicle enhancements which will be listed in the changelog. The grader gets it’s front wheels leaning again! The vehicles textures are being remapped, and interiors have been modeled (low quality) to be seen through the windows. Yes, this paves the way for high quality modeling and 1st person driving. Vehicles behavior and mechanics simulation have been tweaked and enhanced. Final touch: tires now have a soft and squishy look when they touch the ground.
I’d like to reiterate the status of the playtest right now. I sometimes read comments on our various platforms which make me feel like some people think this game is out but getting little love. Their arguments: updates are not coming often enough and in-game content is minimal. We could be developing this game without showing or sharing anything until the launch date. But we chose to have a playtest going. That’s for two reasons: we want to gather feedback from players in order to develop a better game, and we want to share it for free with the community while we work on it.
Let me offer a few definitions of a playtest:
Playtesting is a method of quality control that takes place at many points during the video game design process. A selected group of users play unfinished versions of a game to work out flaws in gameplay, level design and other basic elements, as well as to discover and resolve bugs and glitches. (technopedia.com)
A playtest is the process by which a game designer tests a new game for bugs and design flaws before releasing it to market. (wikipedia.com)
The title song of the game, the one you can hear in the menu, is only a placeholder for now. It is a licenced song used under the proper rights. But Ian is in the final stages of mixing the real thing: the official, homemade, Snow Plow title song. It will be featured in a future update.
Vision for the game
The way I see the future for Snow Plow Project: A simulation game crafted with attention to details, with enough realism to make it immersive while keeping it enjoyable by everyone as a game. I want the trucks to be accurately modeled, well simulated, and fun to operate. I want the world to be immersive, vast and magnificient. And the gameplay of the game to be relaxed but engaging.
It sure is a slow process for what’s mostly a one-man show, but we’ll have a fun journey if you stick around for this adventure as the project constantly evolves and takes shape.
Stay tuned for more!
Eric, project lead