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Winter
Developer(s) n-Space, Inc.
Publisher(s) TBA
Platform(s) Wii
Release date(s) Development hell
Genre(s) Survival horror
Mode(s) Single-player

Winter is a survival horror video game by n-Space that was in development for the Wii game console, but is currently stuck in development hell due to a lack of publisher interest. Originally announced in 2007, it was created in hopes of both reinventing the survival-horror genre and introducing a darker, more mature game to the system that reaches a demographic beyond the hard-core. The game was initially hinted at heavily on the website IGN for months as a "dark game in development for the Wii" until the game was officially unveiled on the website itself on January 20, 2009. However, due primarily to troubles locating a willing publisher, the development of Winter is currently at a stand still.

Contents

Premise

Winter is set in a town where an unnaturally powerful snowstorm has settled. Players take control of Mia, a young women who awakens within a wrecked ambulance and is stricken with amnesia. The initial goal of the game is to help keep Mia alive, a task made difficult by ever-decreasing temperature and rising levels of snow, while trying to figure out what exactly has occurred. As the game progresses, she begins to realize that there are very ominous entities that lurk within the snowstorm, which she is somehow connected with.

Game play included a mixture of different elements, many of which utilized the Wii Remote in different manners. For close-up exploration and engaging enemies, players use the Remote for point-and-click interface. Many items located in the game take advantage of motion controls for different lifelike actions, such as tapping the Wii Remote against your hand to reactivate your dying flashlight. Movement meanwhile was controlled with the Nunchuk.

A main element of the game was searching for heated areas and different methods to produce warmth, such as lighting a trashcan on fire, all of which allowed Mia to avoid freezing to death. While exploring the village, Mia must also engage many enemies, ranging from common wolves to abnormal entities.

According to the n-Space's studio creative director, Ted Newman:

"The basic premise revolves around an unnatural snowstorm that has settled over a small town in the Midwest, effectively closing it off from the outside world. The main character, Mia, begins the game inside a wrecked ambulance with no recollection of how she got there. As she treks off towards the small town, she starts to see signs of something monstrous that is traveling with the storm. At first the player is tasked with simply keeping Mia alive, and this involves sheltering her from the ever decreasing temperature and the rising level of snow. We wanted to challenge the player to think, "What would I do in this situation? Where would I go to get warm? How would I start a fire or create heat with limited resources?" Soon we learn that Mia has some connection to the storm itself and the creatures that begin to appear. Meanwhile the entire town is being transformed by snow and ice - doors that were previously accessible are now blocked, forcing her to climb through second story windows or walk on rooftops. The snowstorm is as big an enemy as anything in the game and ultimately we find out what IT is and why it is here."

Concept

The concept behind the game was thought up by n-Space's late president Erick Dyke, who wanted to create a survival horror game that took the genre back to its roots and not the action heavy focus that has been seen in titles such as Resident Evil 4.

One of the game's biggest focuses early on would be to survive the harsh environments brought on by the mysterious blizzard. Players would have to find buildings in which to take shelter in and warm Mia before succumbing to frostbite to hypothermia. The Wii Remote and Nunchuk would have acted as an extension of the players hands and the game would have contained various realistic interactions with objects as possible.

Development

Winter’s first announcement, as well as its first demo, came around March 2007. As mentioned by Ted Newman, n-Space’s previous president desired a survival-horror game that truly forced survival:

Winter started with Erick Dyke, our late President, wanting to take the survival horror genre and return it to its roots. Lately the genre seemed more about action and combat and less about actual ‘surviving.’” – Ted Newman

At most, the development team consisted of roughly 12 members, who managed to create an early demo of the concept and game play within just six weeks, which was met with great acclaim by critics and publishers alike. Regardless of the praise, however, n-Space had an incredibly difficult time locating a publisher who was willing to invest in such a dark and mature game for the Wii. According to current president Dan O’Leary,

In almost every case we got hung up with the sales and marketing groups. They simply could not get behind a survival horror title on the Wii. In spite of great sales for Resident Evil 4 and the Umbrella Chronicles, these groups were unable to support the projections required to create a viable P&L for the title.

Another problem that made third-parties sceptical was the fact that Winter was an entirely new IP, which increased the risk of investment in the game. After tireless search, n-Space then attempted to turn Winter into a more recognizable, already licensed product. This also proved fruitless, and the game quickly failed to develop any further without publisher support.

Technical Aspects

In accordance with n-Space’s desire to make one of the better looking games on the Wii, Winter incorporated many graphical effects that pushed the console’s hardware. These included dynamic lighting effects and detailed environments. According to creative director Ted Newman, the demo of the game was created with six week’s work, and that the game would’ve utilized even more graphical advancements had it found a publisher. In a recently updated demo of the game, graphics were reportedly enhanced, with textures shown to be upgraded, more realistic snowfall, and an upgraded flashlight trail. Also, the game now supports Wii MotionPlus for upgraded gestures.

Cancelled?

Despite the game not being picked up by a publisher, n-Space has expressed that they would like to continue working on Winter. Wii owners who have expressed interest in the title have already begun fan petitions and have even started to contact publishers like Sega to see if they are interested in picking up the game.

Some believe that due to the announcement and release of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories another survival horror game for the Nintendo Wii that is strikingly similar to Winter, Lone player character exploring a snow covered town filled with monsters, both use a flashlight, both have very little to no combat, was one of the reasons why the developers wanted to hold Winter back from release, into the hype of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories dies down to avoid competition between the two games.

Possible return

In January 2009, when asked whether n-Space would still release Winter for Wii if a publisher was willing to back it, Dan O’Leary commented that they would love to pick up with where they left off with the game. He also noted that Sega’s recent backing of the Wii’s potential for the hardcore gamer is an encouraging sign that perhaps publishers are beginning to support darker and more mature games for Nintendo’s wide-range system. At the 2009 Game Developers Conference, Ted Newman revealed that they had reassembled a small team and improved the demo, adding Wii MotionPlus support and improved graphics and effects, also noting that some publishers showed interest in picking up the game.

Notes and references

  1. "IGN: Wii's Lost Game: Winter"
  2. "IGN: Things We Saw and Heard at GDC '09"
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