AMA with Iceflake Studios - Creators of Surviving the Aftermath

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Lasse_IFS

Registered Developer
Oct 8, 2020
5
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iceflake.com
Hey there! My name is Lasse, co-founder and the Studio Manager/Game Director at Iceflake Studios. This week we are doing an AMA where you can ask anything from us. We are answering all your questions for the entire week all the way from Monday to Friday. We have a diverse crew from Iceflake covering almost all aspects of game development. In addition to me our AMA team includes our Producer Emmi, Senior Game Artist Jarmo, Game Programmer Anssi and also two familiar faces from game streams Game Designer Matti and QA Manager Joanna.

- Ask us anything about Iceflake or our newest game, Surviving the Aftermath!

- We'll be answering your questions from today till Friday

- Don't forget about our amazing Razer giveaway!


Currently there are 22 of us in total at Iceflake and almost everyone are in the picture.



Before we go into questions, let me tell a short story about our origins and how two modders from Finland ended up founding a company, making nearly 20 indie games and eventually becoming part of Paradox Interactive.

So let's start from the beginning, or at least from the late 90's. That is when me and Tapani, our Technical Director and co-founder of Iceflake started making games together. We met in a small team where we made small independent projects for fun. We had our own game engine that ran 3D graphics, which was not that self evident at the time. There were a couple of projects that got a bit farther than others. A classic RPG game as well as a sci-fi themed racing game, but none saw the day of light outside our computers.

The team eventually fell apart, but the two of us continued to work together in a project that was started in 2003. The project was called FinnWars, a total conversion modification for Battlefield 1942. We wanted to make a realistic modification of Finland in World War 2. We had a superb team with us and through the years the modification grew to be one of the biggest mods for the game. It is still played even today by the most enthusiast fans.

The modding in those days gave a lot of the lessons important in game development. The development tools were not that easy to approach and looking back at it, developing mods was not that much different of making games with Unity.

Encouraged by the success of many years in the modding scene, we decided that it was time to do games for real. Iceflake Studios was founded in 2007. The first years went by attempting to do our new game engine, because why not. As everyone can imagine, making a game engine and games at the same time is not that easy, so progress was slow. Fast forward a couple of years. Smartphones were starting to rise, as well as our own game engine that was rewritten from many parts and repurposed from PC to mobile.

Soon we had developed and self published several games that had millions of players worldwide. It was a really exciting time to see so many people enjoy our games. Each project we did was a bit larger and a bit more ambitious, but we managed to grow our team slowly at the same time. After few years of developing mobile games we wanted to go back to our roots and start again with PC and consoles, but even dipped our toes to VR with ice fishing game Ice Lakes.

After a few more games for PC and consoles, we wanted to notch up again and make a game that had been on our minds for a long while. The game was Surviving the Aftermath, or the early version of that game. We knew that making a game of this magnitude would be very difficult alone. We were a long time fans of Paradox so when they were eager to start working with us we were super excited, or as excited as a Finnish person can be! Our cooperation has been great throughout the project and our ideologies how to make games, but also how to support them even after the release were very much the same. So when Paradox proposed that we could be part of the family, it felt a natural next step to join Paradox. The future looks super interesting :)

This was only a super brief overview of everything that has happened. So don't hesitate to ask us anything about our history, about game development, or about us. We are happy to share our stories, give some insight and have fun.

All the best,
Lasse and Iceflake Studios team
 
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Dec 9, 2019
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Hello!

I am a huge fan of Ice Lakes. It remains the only ice fishing game I have ever played and I want to first thank you for making that exist. It is extremely nostalgic to me and genuinely quite fun.

Can you talk about what inspired you to create it, and how you went about developing game mechanics for a genre that really did not exist yet?

Thanks!
 
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Oct 20, 2020
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Hi Iceflake team!

(In First, I'm sorry if my English is not very well :giggle:)

About me...
I think you already know me... for the others I'm a big Modder from Surviving Mars and currently I'm creating a lot of mods for Aftermath. I started the modding in 1997 with Total Annihilation (Yes, it's old :eek:)! where I have a big success with my mods.

With the Modding on your game, I discovered Unity and C# language, this tool is very fantastic. This last year I passed a lot of times to learn Unity (10 to 14 hours by day!) to create mods and small plugins to help me for the modding (notably a dependency system for Aftermath).
Since 2 weeks I started a new big project, create my own game! (I'm alone and I m'not sure to finish it!:ROFLMAO: but it's my dream since a lot of years!). I would like to work in game studio, but there are no job in my region. Impossible for me to move elsewhere for some reasons.

Questions for you...

1) What are your plans for the modding?
Currently the mod support is limited to add custom events, custom buildings, custom specialists, logos... What will be the possibilities in the future? And when ? (for the end content update or after the release?)

2) Cities Skylines is probably the best exemple to create mods on Unity and offer a large possibilities to create complex mods, the game recompiles each DLLs and assets from the mods before to launch the game. Why didn't you recreate the same mod support for your game?

3) This year you joined the Paradox Family, and Paradox = 4X Games. But Paradox launched a new franchise with Surviving Mars and Surviving the Aftermath. In the future (after Aftermath), has Paradox planned for you to create new Surviving Games?

4) I follow your Early Access since the first day, and it's very interesting to follow the game development. If the game has a good success, Have you panned any DLC and various free contents ?

Have a nice day!
 

Joanna_IFS

Registered Developer
Oct 8, 2020
2
4
15
1) What are your plans for the modding? Currently the mod support is limited to add custom events, custom buildings, custom specialists, logos... What will be the possibilities in the future? And when ? (for the end content update or after the release?)

2) Cities Skylines is probably the best exemple to create mods on Unity and offer a large possibilities to create complex mods, the game recompiles each DLLs and assets from the mods before to launch the game. Why didn't you recreate the same mod support for your game?

3) This year you joined the Paradox Family, and Paradox = 4X Games. But Paradox launched a new franchise with Surviving Mars and Surviving the Aftermath. In the future (after Aftermath), has Paradox planned for you to create new Surviving Games?

4) I follow your Early Access since the first day, and it's very interesting to follow the game development. If the game has a good success, Have you panned any DLC and various free contents ?
Heya Silva!

Glad to hear you have been enjoying Unity, we have been so excited over here for all the mods you've created so far! So really a big thanks for them!

Now as for answering your questions:

1) We do have big plans for modding - our goal is to have almost anything and everything in the game be moddable eventually however I cannot provide any exact timetables on when this is happening at the moment.

2) Cities Skylines has been developed by a different studio, so I do not know exact details of their development cycles and methods however as our game was released as an Early Access game, this has affected what we have been able to provide to our modders from the beginning. We have our own solutions for modding based on how our game has been developed (the structures, functionality, etc) and we are aiming to improve them and include more things to mod in the game in the future.

3) and 4) have the same answer: Right now we are focusing on Surviving the Aftermath at its current development stage. As for DLC and free content - nobody can really know the future however Paradox does have a history of supporting their games after full release with DLCs and free content updates.

Thanks for your questions!
 
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Jarmo_IFS

Registered Developer
Oct 8, 2020
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Will you be able to customize and/or name each building in a colony?
Hello Frindis and thanks for your questions!

You can rename your colonists and specialists but building renaming is currently not supported. The idea is nice however so while such a feature is not in plans yet, it should be doable if there is demand for it. No promises though :)

We’ve had discussions about building customization but no decisions have been made so can't share any details yet unfortunately. If you want to take customization to the next level you could always take a look at our modding tools and add your building in that way. Current mod tools don’t support all the features we have in game but we aim to improve them as the project continues.
 
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Frindis

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Thank you for the fast response @Jarmo_IFS. I can see how the modding community would be an excellent asset for such an extension. Renaming colonists will be cool, and I see myself naming them with names from the Mad Max movie :p Good luck with the development and I hope you will have a smooth transition to the Early Access.
 
Oct 20, 2020
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Are you planning on putting a mod manager in the game its self on console (Something like in surviving mars), it would be less cumbersome than going to the website on another device all the time.

Thanks for the great work you have done so far!
 
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Lasse_IFS

Registered Developer
Oct 8, 2020
5
27
50
iceflake.com
Hello!

I am a huge fan of Ice Lakes. It remains the only ice fishing game I have ever played and I want to first thank you for making that exist. It is extremely nostalgic to me and genuinely quite fun.

Can you talk about what inspired you to create it, and how you went about developing game mechanics for a genre that really did not exist yet?

Thanks!
Hey!

Really nice to see Ice Lakes fans and thank you for your question! That was a really special project to make and I have very warm memories of that game. The subject was close to our heart as ice fishing is a very common sport around here and something I've enjoyed since my childhood.

As you said, there haven't been that many ice fishing games out there even though fishing games in general have been relatively popular. Going fishing during wintertime has its own unique appeal since you need to use completely different techniques and equipment compared to fishing during summer. These two factors made it a very intriguing project that we wanted to do.

Our goal was to make this exotic form of fishing into a game that would be enjoyable to anyone familiar with the sport. Key pillars were that if you know how to do ice fishing in real life, you could apply those same tricks and techniques into the game and be successfull in it. We also wanted the game to be fun in general, so it can be played even without prior knowledge of ice fishing. Looking back at it I think we succeeded in that goal fairly well since it became quite popular and the feedback has been super positive from the veterans of ice fishing as well as from those who got their first glimpse of the sport through this game. It has been a humbling experience to see people from all walks of life play the game, even those that do not normally play games.

At first we focused on making the gameplay the way the ice fishing is done in our corner of the world. The key principles are pretty much the same everywhere in the world, so we thought that nailing the core gameplay in that sense was the best way to start and see if the game would work. For instance this includes mechanics on how to find good fishing spots from the sandbox maps, making holes into the ice, choosing between fishing equipment and of course mechanics how to use them on different fish species that have their individual behaviours, which might change during different seasons and so on.

This was pretty much the first version that was released on Steam. After the initial release we were surprised how much popularity the game got around the world. This gave an idea of expanding the game to include other cultures with their own ways of ice fishing, but also new species around the world. It was fascinating to do research on how fishing is done elsewhere. It was also fun for us to change the scenery so to speak. But we also came very close to our home as we literally made two maps of our home town Tampere. During the two year post-launch period I think there was almost 20 major content and feature updates. I would roughly divide the content half and half between Finland style and "around the World" style content. The global ice fishing is definitely something that I would have liked to explore even more in the game. There is so much that we had not time to do back then, even an almost complete update that would have taken players to Antarctica.

New features were also a must have even after the launch. Some of them, for instance fish fights made the core gameplay deeper, but some of them were just made out of fun like the battle royale mode. One noteworthy sideproject was the VR version of the game. The platform is very challenging as the same methods do not apply to VR that can be used in traditional game platforms, but making a fishing game felt natural. The game is played just as you would do it in real life. Drill a hole with your own hands, pick up the fishing rod and wait for the first bite. It was heartwarming to hear how VR version of the game gave a chance for people living with restrictions to experience ice fishing again, something they had enjoyed in real life as well.

I could talk about this game for hours, but hopefully this gave you some insight behind the scenes of Ice Lakes. There are tons of ideas, new game mechanics and content we did not have time to implement into the game before we started working on Surviving the Aftermath. I would gladly get back to this subject some day, but it makes me happy to see that the game is still played so much even today. So thank you for playing the game and being part of the community for all these years!
 

Lasse_IFS

Registered Developer
Oct 8, 2020
5
27
50
iceflake.com
Are you planning on putting a mod manager in the game its self on console (Something like in surviving mars), it would be less cumbersome than going to the website on another device all the time.

Thanks for the great work you have done so far!
Hey! Mods on consoles is an interesting topic. We have a very strong modding background ourselves, so we are eager to keep modding part of our games and be part of the evolution how mods are done. On PC it has been a pretty standard feature as long as there have been games, but consoles have just been starting to experiment on this during this generation.

So I can't give an definite answer to this yet, but this is something we've been looking into.
 
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Anssi_IFS

Registered Developer
Oct 8, 2020
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What is the strangest bug you (Or your team) have ever experienced in one of your games?
Hello! Oh, this is a fun question that got me thinking and going through all the projects that I have been working on. These probably weren't the strangest bugs I have encountered, but entertaining ones. Gotta ask around if someone remembers some really strange ones :)

When I was programming the first version of the combat mechanics for StA, I had the calculation for enemies damage little wrong and all animals had pretty much 100x damage. So when I tested it and spawned a rat inside my colony it just went through the place downing everyone who got into its path with single hit without breaking a sweat. So that was fun to watch, never lost my colony that quickly before!

In one of my previous game project, before joining Iceflake, I had slot machine that you could play inside the game. It was VR game and you had gold coins that you could insert the machine, if you won it spitted out more coins as a reward. During development there was a mistake in code that caused error to happen in the background making the coin spitting part to repeat per frame without end so it became money printing machine drowning the VR player in gold coins. Made you feel like Scrooge McDuck for a short while.
 
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Joanna_IFS

Registered Developer
Oct 8, 2020
2
4
15
What is the strangest bug you (Or your team) have ever experienced in one of your games?
I don't really know about the strangest bug however a lot of funny bugs come into mind from Surviving the Aftermath.

One was a situation where the colonists would intentionally avoid using roads. So when I had a crossing in the road, they would walk a diagonal route dodging each and every part of the road to get to the other side and if anything had been built so that it had roads on all sides, they simply would not go there.

Another "bug" (or as the programmers like to call it, a feature) also regards the roads - it was discovered that when a wild animal was close to roads, they would actually also use them just as the colonists and gain the slight speed bonus. This of course lead to us constantly building zig-zag roads everywhere close to the animals just to watch them walk on those instead of roaming naturally :LOL:.

Thanks for your question! :)
 
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Emmi_IFS

Registered Developer
Oct 8, 2020
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What is the strangest bug you (Or your team) have ever experienced in one of your games?
Thanks for your question!
It didn't happen in the game, but once one of our artists was working on the colony view in the editor. The terrain was broken, greyish-white, and it looked kind of like ice. In addition to this, the colonists' movement was broken. Their walking animations were extremely slow, but they were moving forward at the regular speed, so it looked like they were ice skating.
 
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Oct 22, 2020
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Hi, hello!

I'm in love with the artwork for the concept art and loading screens of your game!

Who are the artists? Can we hear some about their career, how they got into the team, the tools they use, maybe comments on brushes and workflows they love?

Thanks for this AMA!

-Alex
 
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Lasse_IFS

Registered Developer
Oct 8, 2020
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iceflake.com
Hello Lasse and Welcome! What do you think about the mobile gaming (on a mobile phone)? Best Regards!
Hey alexBG and thank you!

Personally I mostly play games on consoles and on PC, but I'm not a stranger to mobile games either. I always have a few games on my phone as well. I have to admit that the most played mobile game for me is Pokemon Go. For me mobile games are not competing from the same time with other games on "bigger" systems. I just play them on different occasions compared to other games.

Professionally they are also very interesting to follow since I feel that understanding games as a whole is super important for every designer. Even if the gameplay and mechanics are different, they still spark an imagination and help to solve different kinds of issues on other platforms as well. Since mobile platforms have much more restrictions what comes to controls and usability, they often can be quite clever in taking the most out of the few things that they have available.

At Iceflake we have developed almost 15 mobile games during our early years. Some of them being relatively successful, for instance Premium Pool with 20+ million downloads. Usually they are relatively quick and focused projects projects to make, but of course, if they become successful they are not so small after all. Premium Pool for example was developed several years after its initial release with new updates and features. But personally I like to stay on projects for a longer period of time, because I believe that iterative development is the best approach to reach the best possible outcome. To achieve revolution through evolution as there is occasionally said among designers.

Mobile games are usually considered to be relatively straightforward and simple, but I don't feel that they must be like that. In our case we've done two mobile games that are on the more complex end of the spectrum. These are also one of my favorite projects we've made. The second one was the mobile version of Ice Lakes, which admittedly was a PC game ported to mobile. However, the other one was a game called Target Horizon. The game took place in WW2 and in the game the player starts by planning and building air defences on the ground. After ready, they use them against enemy air raids by assigning fire sectors for each unit and trying to achieve different goals depending on the mission. Commands were given by using a multitouch system where each finger on the screen represented their own target vector. As the game progressed, the air defences could be upgraded and there were different kinds of reinforcements the player could call in. I think we still have a trailer of the game on youtube to give an idea of what it was about.

Mobile games are also a great gateway to other games to people, that usually won't consider themselves as gamers. So in general they are a positive phenomenon for the games industry as a whole.

Thank you for the question!
 
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Jarmo_IFS

Registered Developer
Oct 8, 2020
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Hi, hello!

I'm in love with the artwork for the concept art and loading screens of your game!

Who are the artists? Can we hear some about their career, how they got into the team, the tools they use, maybe comments on brushes and workflows they love?

Thanks for this AMA!

-Alex
Hello Alex!

Thanks for your question.

I’m glad to hear you love our concept art & other visualizations! We do have our own concept art team but due to the amount of illustrations needed, some of the paintings have been finished and done by various outsourcing partners and freelancers. The whole visual coordination is done by Art Director Matti.

In general the workflow with these paintings starts with the design team coming up with the subject of a new image. Then our concept art team paints several quick sketches and one of them gets tweaked further until it is approved by Matti. Next it is either sent to our outsourcing partners with some additional reference material or the artist continues with the painting until it reaches the required level of detail. In case it goes to outsourcing they will send several work in progress updates and the concept team & Matti send them feedback and they tweak the painting accordingly. It is an iterative process. Sometimes it goes quickly and sometimes a bit more time and effort is needed to achieve desired results. In case the image is especially important some final polishing may be done in house by our concept artists.

Concept art is not just illustrations. A lot of work remains unnoticeable like the concept art for buildings and ingame environments. During pre-production process concept artists also work with the 3D team and the nature of presentation changes a little bit. It starts with the design brief and design approval but main focus is to make it functionable, so that the 3D team would have good time modeling it.

I’m more of a 3d guy so I asked our concept artists to tell a bit about their careers and workflow/tools. Our AD Matti isn’t around today but I’ll write a few words about him as well.

Here you go:

Matti:

Matti has almost 10 years of experience in game development and he has worked on several mobile and pc games, some of which have been in similar genres to Surviving the Aftermath. Currently Matti is our main UI designer as well as Art Director. He has a culture & art degree from Tampere university of Applied Sciences. He mostly uses Photoshop for art he makes.

Anastassia:

Thank you!

I've always focused on concept art ever since I found out about it. I have a Bachelor's Degree in Audiovisual Media Culture from The University of Lapland and additional Diploma in Industrial and Entertainment Design from FZD School of Design. After graduation, I have been working for various projects as a concept artist for 4 years now.

I joined the Iceflake team almost 2 years ago during the busiest concept production phase and jumped right into the building concept grinding. During the project I got to design not only buildings but also creatures, vehicles, characters, environments and scenes. This is exactly why I love concept art so much!

My creation process starts often with linework and for that basic round brush works just right. I do use a lot of reference pictures to add believability to the concepts, especially because in a way Surviving in Artermath is exploring human ingenuity in harsh conditions. After the initial set of sketches AD picks the best one to refine the linework or turn it into a painting.

ArtStation: Anastassia's Artstation

Nelli:

Hey!

Nice to hear our game's art is giving some nice impressions! What Jarmo wrote above is very much what happens. Our game is very illustration-heavy and indeed the two of us concept artists couldn't possibly draw them all in time. There are some illustrations from me (and some character art) but mostly I have been doing some basic concept design (like building sketches for 3D to model).

I work as a concept artist in Iceflake and have been around in the game field almost 10 years, doing some UI, concept art and other game artist jobs. My background comes from graphic design and comics, but somehow I ended up finding games much more interesting to work with. I have been with Iceflake almost 6 years, so as soon as they wanted to be a proper game company, I was invited in :)

My usual tool at the moment is Photoshop. I am very much driven with music when it comes to painting and I prefer to have just a certain type of music to match the image I am doing (which might mean listening one song like...8 hours straight :D ). I also sketch mostly in color nowadays. I feel it speeds up a bit when I don't have to think about them later on and try to fit them then on a black and white sketch. It was at first quite daunting as colors were somewhat a wild card but after tons of colored sketches I have found it very rewarding. They bring the mood of the image straight away for the viewer. Plus, I like doing them :)

I don't have a large variety of brushes I use, they almost can be narrowed into 5-8 I mostly use (including that almost basic hard round brush with some pressure sensitivity :D ). Most of the brushes are self-made and tweaked to my liking (or then I use a brush for skin blending to do some mist and clouds...). As long as I have sharpness and focus where I want it, the rest can be made basically with any brush.

My Artstation is new and yet little to show, but if you want to check it out, here it is:

Nelli's Artstation

Veli: Veli is a freelancer who has worked on several paintings such as the main loading screen with the gate and most catastrophe visualizations. His portfolio & ArtStation can be found here: Veli's portfolio , Veli's Artstation
 
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