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Game had up to 14,000 concurrent players over its first weekend
The dream of any video game developer is to work on original ideas.
When an idea is successful, it’s icing on the cake and the cake at Other Ocean Interactive has pretty thick icing after releasing Project Winter on Xbox Game Pass earlier this month.
To be featured so prominently on one of video gaming’s main online storefronts is amazing, said product director Ryan Hale.
“Loading up Xbox Game Pass right now and seeing your game front and centre on the top carousel is really cool.”
What is Xbox Game Pass?
- The subscription service is most easily described as Netflix, but for video games. Players pay a monthly subscription fee and gain access to a large library of changing games.
- Each month, new games get added to the collection.
- The benefit for developers is that they don’t have to rely on uncertain sales. Instead, they receive a chunk of funding, a position at the top of Microsoft’s online storefront along with all the associated marketing Microsoft puts behind the monthly releases.
- Project Winter was one of seven games added to Game Pass for February.
Project Winter is described by Hale as a combination of two genres that excited the team.
The first was social deception board games, like Werewolves and Mafia. Players are assigned roles and pitted against one another in teams. The catch is, no one knows who else is in what role and some have to lie to win. The other was online multiplayer survival games.
Project Winter drops eight players in the wilderness. Six survivors complete a series of objectives to escape while contending with survival elements like the cold, wolves and bears. Two traitors pose as survivors and try to stop them.
The concept is similar to Among Us, a game that became popular last year, but the concept was a fresh one at the time Other Ocean started production.
“That’s why we sort of jumped at this idea because it was new and innovative," said Hale. "It has all the elements of the games and board games that we love as a team, so we just jumped in and made Project Winter from that.”
Since its 2019 PC release, the game has continued to evolve, using player comments and videos for suggestions, he said.
“The game that we released then compared to the game now is very different. One of the things we take very seriously is interacting with our community.”
Additions have included assigned classes and a new category of player who choose their team, which has resulted in a deeper game, said Hale.
“This creates interesting ways for people to interact, which goes toward one of our design goals where we try to give players as many tools to have social interactions as we can.”
The plan from the beginning was to get the game on as many platforms as possible and for the last eight months, the team has been working on just that. The Game Pass release is the first step and it has gotten a lot more eyes on the game.
While the huge influx of players is exciting — from around 800–1,000 concurrent players up to 14,000 over its first weekend — it also means a lot of work for the team.
“Oh, it’s a little stressful, but it’s a good thing,” Hale said with a laugh. “When you inject that many people into a game, especially on a brand-new console … some bugs come out in the process of that, so we’ve been scurrying to fix everything we can as fast as we can.”
Even without the Game Pass deal, Project Winter has been Other Ocean’s biggest success to date, said Deirdre Ayre, head of Canadian operations.
“I don’t think this is going away. This project, this license, has got some longevity in it and we’re delighted not just for the success of the company, but the success for all the members of the team and how it makes them feel.”
The success should also demonstrate the opportunities available in P.E.I., said Ayre.
“(Game development) is a dream many young people have and they can realize that dream and they don’t need to go away.”
- Project Winter was developed at Other Ocean Interactive, a Canadian-American video game developer with studios in Charlottetown, St. John’s, NL and Emerville, California.
- The St. John’s studio holds a game jam, giving developers an opportunity to riff on new ideas not associated with current projects.
- Summer 2016, production on Project Winter starts at the St. John’s studio. Production is quickly ramped up to include most of the developers at the Charlottetown studio as well.
- February 2019 the game releases in early access — think extended beta — on Steam for the PC.
- May 29, 2019, the game enters version 1.0 and is officially released.
- Summer 2020, the team begins work, getting the game ready for other platforms.
- Feb. 4, 2021, Project Winter releases as part of Xbox Game Pass
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