Scavengers: A new breed of FPS
Josh holmes resurfaces after leaving halo behind and establishing a brand new studio, midwinter games format: PC | Publisher: Improbable | developer: Midwinter games | release: TBC | Players: TBC
You left 343 Industries back in 2016; what’s been going on, Josh? I’ve been pretty stealth for the last year, haven’t I? I’ve been hunkered down in a little group…
Midwinter Games established in late 2016! How has it been?
There were four of us – three of us came from the Halo team at 343. Throughout the course of 2017 we have been working on the concept for Scavengers and building the team out; now we are about 17 people and I hope we can peak it out around 25. We are trying to build a small tight-knit group of developers that are all passionate about the game that we are building.
Talk to us about Scavengers… what’s the deal?
Okay, so Scavengers is a multiplayer, sessionbased game in which players compete to explore, loot, level up and escape a frozen, winterised world. It’s set in the not-so-distant future where a cataclysmic event has plunged the world into a new ice age.
What are we talking genre-wise, a shooter? The core mechanic of the game has a basis in shooting, yes. You know, a lot of us come from a background in the triple-a action-shooter world, where we have worked on things like Halo, Battlefield, Battlefront and Call Of Duty. We are trying to build an experience that brings together elements of PVE and PVP where teamwork and collaboration is really key – where killing other players isn’t the only way to win a game.
How important has working with Improbable and its Spatialos technology been for Scavengers?
We are trying to build this really large, vibrant, living world; it has many players, and AI entities are certainly a part of it too. One of the biggest challenges with this is scale: how do we deliver this level of scale while still maintaining that fast-paced, lowlatency shooter experience? Spatialos was an awesome solution for us.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered in attempting to realise this ambitious project?
We quickly run up against the limitations of what you can simulate on a single-server instance. This is something that we dealt with very intimately on Halo 5’s Warzone mode. We were constantly having to balance the maximum number of players, the maximum number of AIS and how sophisticated their behaviours can be, for example. As we started thinking about Scavengers, we knew this would be something we would have to address and find a solution for very early on… as a small team, having the ability to leverage something like Spatialos to solve those problems is a huge boon to us.
How have you found the leap from triple-a to smaller scale development?
They both have their strengths and advantages. When you are working on a massive-scale project, I think the things that you can accomplish as a team are pretty incredible – but everybody can get very compartmentalised and there’s almost like a factory assembly-line method to the production. That’s just a necessary way to operate when you have that many people, so that it doesn’t devolve into chaos.
For us, as a small team, it’s much more like a band jamming. We are building on inspiration from one another and it’s like we are discovering the game as we go. It’s a little more organic and, as a small team, you can be more nimble to react to some of the ideas and thoughts that emerge through that process.
Above: as executive producer of halo waypoint and Halo: Reach, as well as creative director for Halo 4, holmes played a massive role in the migration of halo from bungie to 343 industries from 2009 to 2016.
if you played halo’s warzone mode then you may have some idea of the direction Scavengers is going, but this is playing out on a much bigger and bolder scale.