Upcoming RTS Stormgate will use an engine that incorporates rollback netcode, the tech that has become a standard in competitive fighting games over the past few years. In a new video talking about technology and revealing some new concept art, Frost Giant Studios talks about their RTS engine SnowPlay, and how it incorporates modern tech like rollback in order to make the game more responsive.
“Rollback allows us to reduce the lag a player feels playing the game over the internet,” says Frost Giant’s Chief Architect James Anhalt, “Rollback works by allowing us to simulate the game, even in the absence of player input. And if we receive input later, we can roll back to that time that the input happened and then simulate forward really quickly to catch back up.”
“It’ll be the most responsive RTS game I’ve ever worked on and I’ve worked on a few great ones,” says Anhalt. Anhalt is a veteran developer, and worked on the network programming for Diablo 2, Warcraft 3, and World of Warcraft before becoming first a programmer, then a lead engineer, on Starcraft 2 and several of its expansions.
Rollback has become a major feature in fighting games, turning a genre where online play was disliked into one where it can be relied on as fun rather than frustrating. It’s so popular that developers are greeted with cheers when announcing it for years-old games, or delaying games entirely to implement it.
Stormgate was announced earlier this year at the PC Gaming Show, a game set in a future where a technological Human Resistance battles the demonic-alien Infernal Host to save Earth. It’s a cooperative and competitive RTS that wants to revive excitement for multiplayer and singleplayer in what many see as an increasingly niche genre that has stumbled to stay on its feet in the last few years. Frost Giant, the studio behind Stormgate, is composed mostly of ex-Blizzard developers who previously worked on RTS projects.
Earlier this year, our Fraser Brown cited Stormgate as one of the reasons the RTS is back from the brink of death.
Rollback Netcode sounds weird, but is generally accepted as being much better than its high-latency, input-based predecessors. Rather than waiting for both players’ input before proceeding, your input is shown immediately while the other players’ is predicted. If there is a discrepancy between the predicted state and the actual state of the game, it rolls back the game state to a previous point in time. That enables faster and smoother gameplay, even over long distances or with high latency.
If that’s too much to parse, just trust me: That the extremely competitive fans of finicky and precise, timing-based fighting games have embraced rollback netcode means it’s going to be great elsewhere as well.
The video from Frost Giant closes out by showing off some intriguing concept art intended to flesh out the mood of the Human Resistance and Infernal Host factions.