In­ter­view: Josh Holmes

Josh Holmes resur­faces af­ter leav­ing Mi­cro­soft be­hind, es­tab­lish­ing brand new stu­dio Mid­win­ter Games

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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, ses­sion-based game in which play­ers com­pete to ex­plore, loot, level up and es­cape a frozen, win­terised world. It’s set in the notso-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, low-la­tency 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.

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