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Three Moves Ahead Episode 63: Frozen Synapse

May 5th, 2010 by Troy Goodfellow · 14 Comments · Indie Games, Podcast, Three Moves Ahead


Tom and Bruce are absent again while Troy, Julian and Rob dissect the still in beta Frozen Synapse, a small team tactics game from Mode 7. Troy finds it too difficult, Rob loves the potential for story telling, and Julian digs the puzzles. Listen as we talk about tactical games, the union of art and design, indie game marketing, a digression on Ancient Trader and an apology from Troy on his terrible mailing skills.

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Frozen Synapse
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14 Comments so far ↓

  • Schalken

    Sounds like a good one. The only trouble I have with this and the other so-called X-Com clones and successors is that most of them totally forgo the management and research aspects that made X-Com the brilliant game it was.

  • rsm

    Taleworlds used the same business model for their game, Mount and Blade, as Frozen Synapse are using. It’s a very good model if you have a decent game, that’s at the point where you can start developing a fanbase, but it’s not ready for a publisher or commercial release. Basically the early, and low, opt-in price gives you access to a good, but unfinished game that you have some (major or minor depending on your engagement) input on the development of, in return for helping keep the game capitalized and afloat until it’s ready for wide release. Usually the small studios who produce these games cannot afford to pay the number of beta testers you need to find all the bugs and balance issues before release, so they trade some future potential profits for players who are willing to help evangelize, beta test and essentially assist in the polishing of a game. It’s a good trade-off.

    The reasons this model is not acceptable for a major studio are at least two fold: Firstly they’re not charging $25, $29, $19 or $15 for the game they’re charging $60 + extra for the ‘beta’. Secondly even with the paid for betas and high price points they release with bugs and don’t really take ‘input’ from the player base.

    Mount and Blade when it finally released at around $30 iirc with Paradox it had gone through multiple major iterations (4 or 5 after I bought in, and several before that), each with bug and balance fixing as well as full mod support. Oh, and it also came with a free demo that would let you play up to a certain level.

    It can be a great business model, if you have a decent product that needs a cash infusion, but if you screw it up the first time, you’re never going to get a second shot.

  • James Allen

    I challenge anyone to a game of Frozen Synapse…just send a challenge to:

  • Yoyo

    BTW, it’s on sale for today only.


    From NOW until 1pm UK time on May 7th 2010, if you enter the coupon code “WELLHUNG” when you pre-order Frozen Synapse, you’ll get a MASSIVE 20% off! Make sure you play the game if you’re sitting up at night watching dull election coverage as well….

  • Nikolaj

    I haven’t played the Frozen Synapse beta, but in my opinion, the whole discussion about giving people beta access if they pre-order, depends on whether the company actually accepts bug reports and gameplay suggestions from those people.

    I pre-ordered Elemental a while ago, and while I haven’t played it much, I do check the forums once in a while, and it seems that the people who pre-ordered and got beta access have quite a bit of influence on the development of the game, including fundamental game mechanics.

  • Tim McDonald

    Frozen Synapse is lovely. Pre-ordered awhile back and I’ve been playing since. Oddly, I’m perfectly happy to just play against the AI – it’s not the sort of thing I sit down to spend hours with, but if I have ten minutes to spare I’ll pop on and have a match or two against a computer.

    In some ways, it’s perfect for me: much as I love (and miss) X-Com’s management, this gives me some surprisingly clever and deep tactical combat that I can enjoy in short bursts, without masses of micromanagement or the need to remember what the hell I was doing a few days later. I also love that it requires some second-guessing and even bluffing with movements, particularly with human players.

    Weirdly, despite my predilection for simplicity, I still find myself working out a plan and then (before confirming my turn) setting up the enemy to do exactly what I don’t want them to do. I find holes in my own schemes and adjust for them, and then do it again, and again, and only then do I send my turn. There’s no time pressure, and the ability to plot out enemy movements to see what would happen if they do X is fantastic.

    The interface certainly needs work, but after an hour or so I could comfortably use it. The actual maths running it the game is hidden away, but the art-style and lack of pretense helps in terms of making the game understandable; there aren’t seven types of shotgun. There’s just one, it’s called “Shotgun”, and it does exactly what you’d expect. Likewise, having cover highlighted in a different colour and knowing that you can duck behind it, or get a combat bonus for shooting out from behind it, stops me from having to second guess the game instead of the enemy.

    As for the sound design, the music pack included as a pre-order bonus is brilliant. I’m just saddened it’s not in the game yet.

    I’ll shut up now. But yes. I love this.

  • Javier-de-Ass

    definitely do try to jump into multiplayer, it’s not such a serious and tense environment as some people seem to think. or that’s the impression I’ve gotten from a lot of people. the best way is definitely to do it like rob suggests, coupled with the way you already play it, you start up 3-4 games at the same time while you’re doing something else on the computer and just do the next turns as they come in or as you have time for. honestly, having many games running simultaneously really helps it

  • SohumB

    And yea, I just wanted to mention – it’s not true (or, at least, not true in the latest build) that you can hit play and watch your moves assuming your enemies stand still. You can input orders for your enemy as well – your best guess as to what they’ll do.

  • Fencey

    Silly question but, since this game is so multiplayer focused, how is the community? I’m getting tired of being called “noob” and various racial slurs and expletives in other multiplayer oriented games.

  • Paul

    Was surprised that nobody mentioned ‘Robosport’. Very similar game in terms of mechanics from the 16-bit era. It utilized a ‘we go’ format, where you issued commands for a team of armed robots in 5 to 15 second blocks. The game was a little on the obscure side… But this is the podcast for obscure games!

  • Gunner

    So how about those mighty 400, Julian?

  • Lawlerz

    Yeah sounded like he was a bit tipsy with that martini there.

  • Dirk Knemeyer

    Maybe I’m doing something wrong – such as missing a difficulty setting or something – but I find the AI version to be incredibly simple to beat. I’m not a great player in multi, win more than I lose but not excessively so, but I think I’ve only lost to the AI once and often don’t lose a unit.

  • James Allen

    The AI is a placeholder (I hope) as of right now. I did not find them challenging in skirmish matches also.