RoW

Rise of Winterchill is a moba that captures the impressive teamwork, shot-calling, and decision-making seen at the highest level of moba play, and targets that as the core gameplay experience for everyone.

About the game:

  • Players are given as much influence as possible over the game’s outcome, undiluted by randomness or getting stuck with a hero/role that can’t close out games.
  • Classic hero roles like carry/support are replaced with Mutual Support, where working together unlocks crazy new tactics.
  • The Ghost Talent system allows heroes to experiment with a huge number of builds, choose their own timing windows, and innovate as a team.
  • Teamwork is based on empowerment of allies, rather than dependence on them. Good players pull the rest of their team up.
  • No pay-to-win features.

The Rise of Winterchill project began 10 years ago as a mod, and is currently in active development.

Help, what's a moba?


Characters

Every moba has its way of doing heroes. In RoW, the first step is:

  1. Every hero gets a pivotal innate.

Pivotal means you can't play without being conscious of it. Here are some examples of working and balanced innates in RoW:

Fellowship Icon

Shatterproof Aura

Allied heroes and buildings within a radius of Ogake cannot die; they will be left with at least 1 life. Passive.

Infamy

Infamy

Rasputin is visible to enemies through fog of war at all times. He also blocks enemy sight like a wall, so they can't see past him. Passive.

Bamboleo

Bamboleo!

Nadir's default movement speed is more than double that any other hero(!), but he takes increased damage from all sources. Passive.

Rewind

Rewind

Eph jumps back in time to where she was 3 seconds ago, damaging enemies along her path of travel. No cooldown or charge limit.

Heroes with abilities like these could be turned into super-specialists, but the second step for RoW's heroes is reining it in, and not binding heroes to fixed roles. They get to have something pivotal (which secures them a distinctive play-style and strategic purpose), but the rest of their kit ensures they're flexible picks.

Flexibility and meaningful choice are big themes in RoW. In that spirit, the game has:

  • No stuns (as these lock players out of their choices)
  • No randomness (it dilutes the value of player choice)
  • No 'out-of-mana' (but further casting incurs penalties)

Choice is deeply ingrained in hero abilities. Instead of binary "hit-or-miss" outcomes, RoW abilities aim to produce a gradient of outcomes depending on how they're used.

For a simple example:

Attract Icon

Attract

Stars fall from the sky along the dragged line (of variable length/direction). The stars deal more damage the less area is covered.

Gradient Abilities have been one of RoW's most consistently popular features over the years. They allow players more opportunities to create variance in fights: turning around ganks, or innovating mid-combat with clever and unexpected ability usage.

Combined, these features change how fights develop. There aren't any '1-shot' assassins, or chain-stunning to take heroes out of a fight early; engagements involve more dialogue between players, and have time to let the game's deep interactions unfold.


Economy

Growing stronger over the course of a match is a good feeling, but all too often, our own allies get in the way. They want a share of the last hits, or hold us back by not soaking enough experience elsewhere on the map.

In RoW, you don't limit your allies, and they don't limit you. Everyone gets all of the experience that they earn, and the highest-earning player on each team passes on experience to the rest of their team at no cost to themselves.

If one player is doing well, it pulls the rest of the team up.

This reshapes economic thinking in competitive environments, while in regular matchmaking players are in a better position to be enablers for their team: supporting them implicitly!

Sometimes one player can contribute a large portion of a team's income. The highest earners on each team are clearly marked, so teams can mobilize and gank  high-priority opponents. This creates an extra challenge for players who merit it, such as the stronger players in matchmaking.


Advisors

Customization is a huge part of what makes mobas so replayable and deep. But despite tons of items and options to choose from, the number of viable builds can turn out to be deceptively low.

One of the big culprits is multipliers, where buying certain items together is so good that it eliminates other choices.

Chart showing +damage, +attackrate, and +crit producing exponential growth.

When you can buy these categories of item together, you almost always should. That sucks diversity right out of the system.

RoW has a new system called Advisors, which are a full replacement for items/talents. They're not just tips and hints: each counsel you heed represents a new power or passive, just like a talent or item would.

The Advisor system is built to solve multipliers, and every other problem with equipments in one neat package. A quick overview:

  • Counsels which multiply are available, but you pay more to pick them together. This keeps the high-power builds as an option, but means the talents are viable on their own too.
  • You decide whether to peak early, late, or in-between.
  • You decide whether to focus on a role/purpose (roaming, initiation) or maxing out a mechanic (healing, mobility).
  • Take counsels in any order you like.
  • All heroes learn from the same Advisors, which minimises memorisation and keeps things accessible.

Even with all that choice, the system is well laid-out, easy to pick up and use, and player choices are communicated clearly in-game. Nice!


Teamwork

We mentioned that gold gets around in RoW, and with this the classic "poor support" role vanishes. We also said roles aren't decided in advance by hero kits: no hero has a dedicated support kit. What does this mean for supports?

RoW introduces the concept of Mutual Support, where heroes support each-other to enable new tactics that can't be accomplished alone. The below counsels represent part of that philosophy:

Fellowship Icon

Counsel - Fellowship

Your hero's default Teleport ability now brings along nearby allied heroes.

Gank as a pair, then teleport home, and back out at full within 5 seconds!

Regenerative Healing Icon

Counsel - Regenerative Healing

Healing allied heroes also heals you for 30% of the amount.

My kingdom for an AoE heal...

Compass Icon

Counsel - Compass

Points in the direction of the nearest enemy hero.

Two players can try to use this to triangulate an exact position.

The sheer efficiency of these tactics makes working together beneficial for everyone. Mutual Support creates new opportunities for you to lead your team to victory.

It's the difference between "let's gank top", and "let's gank top, and I'll give you a free ride".

Leadership and cooperation already win games at a high level of play. RoW's mechanics make that coveted atmosphere realistic for players of all levels. And in doing so, the foundation is laid for RoW building the strongest community of any moba, because the game itself makes reaching out to people and cooperating so worthwhile.

RoW will ship with an officially supported co-op survival mode, whose easy setting offers new players a comfort zone in which to get started without having to know what enemy heroes do just yet.


And more...!?

This is only the beginnings of what Rise of Winterchill has to offer. "Chess Laning", decisive new mechanics for towers, hero resources, and ultimates, foreboding map objectives, and many more details are yet to be unveiled.

RoW is being developed by a small team using Amazon Lumberyard®, for PC/Mac/Linux, and is tentatively scheduled to enter closed beta in late 2018. If you're interested in helping out, get in touch!

Until then: keep in the loop with the RoW Design Articles, where individual features from RoW will be explained and analysed. We're also sharing our journey on the Dev Blog, which is updated at least monthly.

Updates are delivered via the mailing list below, or catch us on twitter!

Thanks for reading!