Splitgate Season Preview: Boldly Going AAA

1047 is Taking Big, Bold Steps Forward

by J.R. Waugh

Splitgate-Beta-Season1_2-1280x680

Splitgate is exploding onto the First-Person Shooter scene and we’ve got the latest details from the preview for their next steps: releasing the Season 1 Open Beta, and shifting from a viral indie shooter hit, into the next AAA sensation.  I was fortunate enough to attend a sneak peek at the content and was not disappointed, so be sure to check out the details here!

Splitgate Season Preview: Boldly Going AAA

A Quick Recap – What is Splitgate?

splitgate

For those not yet familiar with the game, Splitgate is an FPS which released as a beta back in 2019. To set itself apart in a saturated market, the game’s key twist is that while it shares mechanical cues with Halo and visuals from the likes of Overwatch and Valorant, the most distinctive influence as a multiplayer experience is the incorporation of Portal mechanics.  The result of this is a creative fusion of tight shooter action and instant, satisfying terrain traversal for fast-paced gameplay, and has been an incredible hit with players worldwide.

Splitgate has quite a success story you can read all about, growing from an $11 million project poised for a smaller release in July 2021, to a $100 million AAA gameIn light of this increased budget, more employees were added to the project, now counting 50.  It’s safe to say, the legion of players are excited for every next step this game takes in the genre.

So It’s a Hit – What Happens Next?

Splitgate_20210906130140

The success of the game resulted in growth scaling 100 times over, and with that came server issues that made launch riskier.  After all,  this was seen as simply an opportunity to refine the game even further, and with that came the delay just shortly before the scheduled release in July.  This was what Ian Proulx, CEO of Splitgate developer 1047 Games, saw as an opportunity to turn the title into something larger than a typical indie debut while adding stability tweaks.  His initial vision for the game came from his idea of putting portals into FPS games years ago, and upon beta release, he originally set grounded expectations of 1000 concurrent players starting.  But seeing this massive growth and meeting it with a larger development team and greater investments backing the game, 1047 has been working to realize this scope for the past 6 months.

Since July 1047 has been adding features tailored toward an infinitely scalable backend, meaning the ability to handle large amounts of traffic.  They have spent these 6 months evolving Splitgate both mechanically and visually into a AAA game, utilizing their larger team to push further into this territory.  This meant more than the backend, like enhanced graphics, new modes, Battle Pass Rewards, even a Map Creator. It was at this point that Proulx led us through a visual tour of things to come and what his team has been doing to sharpen the graphical presentation of this game.

All the Bells and Whistles

Splitgate-Beta-Season1_1-1280x669

Proulx was pleased to give us a showcase of the game’s increasingly impressive visuals, including backdrops with gorgeous worlds just beyond our reach in Foregone Destruction.  We were treated to in-game footage with striking lifelike lighting effects, and a great deal of care given to maps accented by white, gray, and gold in their motifs, or generally bright and striking color schemes like in the Simulation Hotel Map.  But Proulx had more to show us than simple visuals alone and talked to us about the game mechanics as they’ve been working on them.

Splitgate-Foregone-Map-1280x720

The first feature highlighted was the new mode, Evolution, an elimination mode where you have to take down the enemy team in 6 rounds to win the match.  The hook, however, comes in the form of the loadouts advancing gradually as your team racks up wins each round, from the worst loadouts up to the best, so endgame matches are often a flurry of Railguns and Rockets.  The results are hectic and chaotic for sure, in the best of ways.

Splitgate-Evolution-Moment-1280x720

Another mode 1047 tackled is an FPS mainstay, Capture the Flag.  With the use of portals in this game, there was a unique development challenge in balancing the experience for those attempting a capture versus the defenders.  Proulx was happy to say they got a variant they were happy with in the form of round-based, 1-flag matches.  The idea behind these matches is that the team seeking a flag is freely able to portal around, but once you have the flag, you are pushed to sprint and run back to base.  This revision creates a challenge for both sides, particularly the players going on the offensive as it makes them more vulnerable.

Additionally, Proulx covered ground on Ranked play, such as winning tiered rewards like weapon skins with the coolest skins being rewarded to the players who performed the best across 10 games.  He also discussed the Referral Pass, which is meant to reward players who tell their friends about the game: you refer a friend with a unique code, they use it, and go to level 10 while you also get some unique rewards, such as skins.  Finally, he went over the Battle Pass, which runs a standard 100 levels you can attain in Beta Season 1 pushing the new AAA art style while staying thematically consistent.  Equipment like the Portal Gun and Jetpack appear to feature designs with almost gilded, celestial-inspired themes.   He insists the goofy fun skins will stay, though.

Create Your Dream Map

Map-Creator-Splitgate-1-1280x720

The greatest addition 1047 appears to be boasting though, is the Map Creator 1.0.  The demo footage he showed us was impressive and represents lots of possibilities for the game, also beating Halo Infinite to the punch.  The team was careful to make it a flexible tool tailored to fan expectations based on feedback, and is intended to be updated without blindly adding features.  One nice feature discussed was the ability to build along with your friends on the same map live, and supports bots for testing.  There’s even support in Custom Games for being able to play other peoples’ maps, opening up a server for anybody in the world to join, and save your map if they like it.

One thing Proulx highlighted was the approachable UX format used for the Map Creator, making the feature easy to use for any player without the need for much technical knowledge.  They streamline the process to create your dream map and even provided a quick timelapse video of players who had never used the feature creating this concept featured here.  The result is a desert pyramid concept laden with ramps and vantage points, allowing quick traversal by portal anywhere you need to go.  You can even do an overview and get some beauty shots to preview the map.

Map-Creator-Splitgate-2-1280x720

Q&A

It was at this point our presentation ended.  Proulx concluded with notes on how this is all step 1 to 1047 becoming a AAA studio, and there are many great things to come.  He opened the floor to any questions, mine being how the franchise looked to differentiate itself especially in light of Halo’s multiplayer making headlines and other big FPS titles.  He stated that the differences begin with the portals, but to push that further, the studio wanted to emphasize the art style and identity.  He stated it was natural to create something familiar to start with, but going forward in development was where it became truly unique.  I was personally satisfied with this answer.

Other questions included whether there was an anti-cheat, which he answered by saying it’s an ongoing battle for any developer and often not one met with a permanent fix.  He was also asked about the future for the game including sequels but stated that no fundamental changes nor any sequels are likely anytime soon.

Final Thoughts

This was an exciting experience for me.  I’ve been following this success story and much like everybody else in the past summer, I was swept up in the craze for Splitgate.  I’m encouraged and enthusiastic to see what Splitgate and 1047 make for themselves, and it’s inspiring to see this passion project turn into such a massive success.  But perhaps most importantly, while I’ve seen it all, my opinions will ultimately be influenced by experiencing firsthand how stable the game is with these features next week, on January 27th.

This concludes our story, Splitgate Season Preview: Boldly Going AAA.  Be sure to check out more stories on Splitgate below!

 

Trending on AOTF