The Winter is a short and simple game about a shaman who must defend his village from an insurmountable foe. A foretold winter brings a demonic comet to the forest which begins to grow, threating all those around it. You must use a combination of quick wit and the ability to call upon firey guardians to save the day.
The game was made for Ludum Dare 34, a competition to develop a full video game in 48 hours that meets the two themes 'Growing' and 'Two Button Controls'. All of the game's content was created in that 2 day period except for a small collection of framework code.
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From the very beginning of the competition I knew that I wanted the entire game to feature on a single screen with the only opponent dominating the player's view. This kept the game simple but also meant that the player could easily lose the shaman avatar. To avoid this I made him darker than the snow and gave him a lantern to put him at contrast with his surroundings.
The effects in this game go a long way to selling the atmosphere. Many small effects were necessary to show the player that the environment is cold and harsh. The characters footprints impress the depth of the snow and the brightness of the flames as well as the shadows that extend out from light sources help to show warmth and draw the player's eyes to key elements.
As the core element of The Winter, the combat needed to be solid and not frustrating to the player while remaining fresh and interesting as the game progresses. The player is given two key mechanics: the ability to dash anywhere on the map and the ability to plant a seed which will eventually grow into a guardian and attack the demon.
Without much space to teach the player the basic gameplay they are instead given a long warm-up time during which the single enemy in the game is very passive. This allows the player to learn the controls in a safe(-ish) space. Here they will learn that staying near the totems (an intermediate phase between seed and guardian) will heal and revive them.
To avoid the player from simply camping near totems, the demon will infrequently use an attack that creates an explosion and damages the ground near the player, encouraging them to learn the dashing technique as a way of avoiding harm.
This conflict between staying near sources of safety, such as cover and the totems, and remaining on the move to avoid damage is the core element of The Winter's combat tactics. Towards the end of the game the demon unleashes a vast wave of power which the player must quickly avoid. As this wave takes up nearly the entire screen they may be forced to completely abandon locations they previously thought were safe.