Former executive producer on the Halo franchise, Josh Holmes, brings a new indie studio called Midwinter Entertainment out of stealth mode today. Its first project is called Scavengers, and it will be the spiritual successor of the Warzone game mode from Halo 5: Guardians.
In Warzone, 24 players fought over a massive Halo 5 multiplayer map. Players were divided into two teams, battling each other and AI-controlled enemies to earn points and control the map. In the promotional video for Scavengers, embedded above, Holmes said that his team had a lot of plans for Warzone in Halo 5, but was ultimately limited by the Xbox hardware.
Holmes explained Scavengers as a multiplayer survival shooter “co-opetition” where multiple groups of players will have to compete against each other and powerful AI-controlled enemies for scarce resources. Holmes told Polygon that the game is set in the not-so-distant future, when an asteroid has shattered the moon, pushing our Earth into a new ice age. Complicating things is a mysterious disease that has begun to infect the wildlife on the planet.
Scavengers’ gameplay will be session-based, but the length of the rounds and the number of players is still up in the air. What is certain, Holmes said, is that each session will have a kind of spine with a beginning and a middle and an end. It’s just that groups of players will experience that session very differently from one another.
Say that you’ve started a session with a large group of players, maybe a clan of 20 or 30 players all on one side. As you move toward your objective in the game world, your group may come across a much smaller group — say, two to four players — going about a completely different task. At that point your clan leaders have a decision to make.
“I’m immediately asking myself, ‘What threat do they pose to us?’” Holmes said, “‘Is there an opportunity here? Should we deviate from our goals and try to take them down because they have something of value that we can carry forward with us, that can help us within our session objective?’ Those kind of free-flowing and emergent gameplay opportunities are things that we’re really excited about as a team and we’re exploring.”
Survival games right now inhabit a kind of spectrum between the cartoony, low-stakes scenarios provided by Fortnite and the hyper-realistic, high-stakes scenarios found in Escape From Tarkov. Holmes said that the goal is for Scavengers to be more near the middle of that spectrum, leaning ever so slightly toward the Tarkov side of the scale. But there are lots of things up in the air right now.
“Personally, this is the earliest that I’ve ever spoken about a game that I’m working on,” Holmes said. “So that’s exciting, in part because we want to involve our players and our community much earlier in the development of the game.”
No release date or platforms have been named.
Scavengers will be built on the scalable SpatialOS cloud-based game development platform. Midwinter is the first developer to receive funding directly from the platform’s maker, Improbable.
This isn’t the first survival shooter to announce it will be built on the SpatialOS platform. Automaton, an “innovation-focused” developer based in the United Kingdom, recently announced Project X (later renamed Mavericks: Proving Grounds) would also use the cloud-based platform for its 1,000-player battle royale-style game.