Frost Giant’s December update gave us a ton of new information and game art. Most notably, the team expanded on Stormgate’s SnowPlay engine and the kind of things it can do. But what exactly is SnowPlay and how does it affect players? Let’s take a look.
What Exactly is Stormgate’s SnowPlay?
Stormgate is being built with Unreal Engine 5, which will power outward-facing elements like inputs, graphics, and sounds in the game. However, the Frost Giant team is also building their own engine, SnowPlay, which will power the gameplay itself.
In the December update, Tim Morten explains the need for SnowPlay. It will be used to help Stormgate reach the extremely high standards set out for the RTS title, enabling the game to “deal with high unit counts and low latency networking [which is] necessary to facilitate a really great Real Time Strategy game.”
In short, it’s a custom engine made specifically for Stormgate to help the game run smoothly, responsively, and overall just be enjoyable to play, in terms of the game working and running well.
What Makes SnowPlay So Impressive
We received some details about Stormgate’s SnowPlay from Frost Giant’s Chief Architect, James Anhalt, in the latest update and, overall, it was pretty mind-blowing.
Mass Unit Support and 60 Tick Servers
First off, Stormgate aims to smoothly handle more units than other RTS games by simulating matches based on player inputs, rather than the traditionally used unit states. In addition to this, the game servers will operate at 60 Hertz (aka a tick rate of 60). This means that the game information will be updated 60 times a second, which should make the game feel smoother and more responsive.
For comparison, other popular RTS titles operate at a much lower tick rate. Starcraft 2 servers operate at 22.4 tick and Age of Empires 4 operates at 8 tick. Even Dota 2 runs at just 30 tick. As a side note, this is a separate thing from monitor refresh rates, which are also measured in Hertz.
Another revolutionary feature of SnowPlay is the implementation of rollback netcode. This should massively reduce the overall amount of lag in game, both from poor connections, as well as cross-server gameplay. Some RTS community members even theorize that it may be possible to have fair and quite smooth games across the globe, such as Europe vs Korea.
The way rollback netcode works is that the game will predict what each player will do, then make adjustments based on what is actually done.
Another amazing part of Stormgate’s SnowPlay is mass spectating and generally how spectating and replays will work. For fans of Dota 2, Stormgate will essentially feature DotaTV. This means it will be possible to jump into and spectate live games, as well as easily (and quickly) rewind and fast-forward games and replays.
Best of all, Stormgate will simulate games based on just player actions, meaning that spectating live will have no impact on the game that is being played. Instead, the game will essentially be generating a separate copy of a match for spectators to view.
Faster Editor Iteration
SnowPlay also gives a huge boost to all the map editors out there. It will be possible to iterate updates while never leaving the game. This means maps can be updated and viewed instantly, rather than having to load up the game every single time like in traditional RTS games.
How Does Stormgate’s SnowPlay Impact The Average Player?
Overall, SnowPlay is pretty revolutionary and a massive boost for any RTS fan. The engine looks like it will make Stormgate the smoothest and most responsive RTS in history.
Both 60 tick servers and rollback netcode will make the game a lot more enjoyable to play, simply due to there being less delay, information being processed much more often, and a lower impact of lag than any other RTS title.
If you’re a fan of the Blizzard classics like Warcraft and especially Starcraft, you’ll no doubt feel at home in terms of game quality and may even be shocked that another RTS will feel even better to play than those.