The best and worst uses of ice and snow in video games – Polygon13 min read

https://www.polygon.com/essentials/2021/2/11/22268302/snow-ice-levels-games-best-worst-sonic-tomb-raider-star-wars-hoth-metal-gear

Winter implies various things to various individuals all over the world, but I matured in Ohio and Kentucky. For me, winter season means riding sleds down huge hills, making snow angels, and staying home from school relatively once a week due to snow days. Snow and ice specified my youth when it pertained to winter season, however video games may be the only experience of wintry weather for lots of people worldwide.
Snow and ice are remarkable tools when it comes to game design; they have so many uses! Ice may make a level slippery, so players have to change how they navigate the world.
Or, perhaps talented artists put some snow in a scene even if its pretty. There are no incorrect answers here, outside of how ice was utilized in Ecco the Dolphin. That was incorrect.
With that, I d like to present the 10 necessary video games that include ice and/or snow in fascinating, notable, or even simply visually pleasing ways. This includes examples in which snow actually destroyed the game, or at least a portion of it, in a method that became notable.
If your preferred snow level isnt on this list, let me know what it remains in the comments; Im constantly on the lookout for better powder in my entertainment.
Metal Gear Solid

Take our mittened hand and let Polygons Winter Games bundle for 2021 guide you through the play area of wintertime games– whats great, whats not, and what interesting features await you in the games coming out in February and March.

Image: Konami Computer Entertainment Japan/Konami via Polygon

There have actually been a lot of games with snow or ice before 1998s Metal Gear Solid– anyone who has suffered through a slippery level in an NES-era video game will inform you that– but Hideo Kojima & & co. were one of the first strings to use snow in a method that didnt simply look excellent or alter how long it took your character to stop. The snow in Metal Gear Solid actually affected the stealth mechanics, which looks like an obvious addition nowadays, however felt like a big dive forward in game style at the time.

Its a disadvantage that could be turned to your advantage, and it was among the fun little style developments that assisted make Metal Gear Solid among the best-loved video games of the PlayStation age. Snow: It can straight-up kill you if youre not careful.
Red Dead Redemption 2

Making footprints in the snow would give the guards a method to track you, even if seeing those marks didnt always trigger an alarm by itself. This could be a weakness, because you needed to make certain the guards couldnt follow your footprints right to you, but you might likewise utilize it as a way to control their movement, getting them out of the way or simply eliminating any guesswork from where they might go next.

Image: Rockstar Games

Red Dead Redemption 2 tells a long, twisting story about an altering world that might not have much room for professional hooligans anymore. Which story begins in the snow.

Its not just any snow. The games opening scenes introduce us to a gang on the pursue a job goes badly, and a blizzard is yet another barrier in their course. While the rest of Red Dead Redemption 2 includes a temperature mechanic that forces you to dress appropriately if youre going to experience out in the cold, these moments are content to let the perfectly recognized frigid environment speak for itself.

The characters are unpleasant and desperate, and the snow impacts go a long way toward offering that reality. Its managed so well I seemed like I required to get a coat to keep playing.
Every single Hoth level

Image: 20th Century Fox

And a Hoth level in Shadows of the Empire.

George Lucas treated worlds in Star Wars as if each one had a single biome, or at least made sure the important scenes from each location had a strong main idea. Hoth is a frozen hell where tauntauns freeze prior to they reach the very first marker.

Hoth is apparently nothing however ice and snow as a planet, and the designers of Star Wars computer game utilized to put a Hoth level in practically every game.
Theres a Hoth level in the NES Empire Strikes Back title.

Hoth level in Rebel Assault? Of course!

This isnt even scratching the surface. There are more Hoth levels than I d care to count, but I cant blame anyone for going back there one more time when making a Star Wars game. Everything about the Battle of Hoth was aesthetically apprehending, from the opening moments in the trench cut into the snow, to the very first glimpse of the AT-ATs, to Luke Skywalker determining how to take them down with a tow cable television. Its ideal for video games, and designers still dont appear to be finished with attempting to do it a little much better.
Snow-bowling

And a Hoth Level in the first Battlefront.

A Hoth level in Rogue Squadron.

Battlefront 2? Oh yeah, there was a Hoth level.

And a Hoth level in Rogue Squadron 2.

Image: Ferry Halim

Ferry Halim created a timeless site of calming, gorgeous video games called Orisinal back in 2000, and it was one of the best locations to find video games with nonviolent styles and relaxing music. It was wonderful, but the death of Flash means that the games can no longer be played, although some still exist as iOS apps.
This is currently the only tweet on the Orisinal account:

While the general tone of Orisinal was serene and harmonious, Snow-bowling was unusually mean-spirited. There mored than happy individuals ice skating in front of you, and your difficulty was to strike them with huge snowballs, thus destroying their day. Whichs it! Strike the contented skaters with your snowballs, see the number of points you can get, and be imply for no factor while being surrounded by tranquility. It was a strange tonal shift for the website, however Ill always remember it.
Lost Planet

Its the end of 2020 and also the end of Flash Player.I still remember making my very first Flash video game, “Apple Season”. Good times.– Orisinal (@OrisinalGames) December 31, 2020

Lost Planet was released in 2006, and its one of those rare third-person action games with strong production worths that isnt connected to any existing residential or commercial properties. The hero is a worker on a colonized world called E.D.N. III, which is in the throes of a ruthless ice age.
The story takes some unusual twists and time dives, however the essential style of the game reveals the power of utilizing cold well. And the white of the games environments offers a terrific contrast to the radiant red and orange of the Akrid.
The things that are supposed to be cold in the game appearance cold, and the important things that are supposed to be hot look hot. Making everything temperature-based enabled Capcom to use a color palette thats instantly easy to understand to almost anybody who plays it.
Lost Planet wasnt a best video game, however it showed there was still plenty of life left in the idea of utilizing snow and ice as the main environment for your video game.
SkiFree

SkiFree was very first launched in 1991 as part of Microsoft Entertainment Pack 3, or a minimum of, thats what Wikipedia informs me. The reality is that I keep in mind SkiFree just kinda being everywhere when I was maturing, consisting of on school computer systems. These were the days when any video game you discovered on a computer in class was a huge offer, and every moment of SkiFree was seared into the brains of people who matured around this time.
The point was basic: You use the arrow keys to ski down a hill, taking dives, preventing obstacles, and going as quickly as possible. You can kinda win, I think, in that at some point a mutant yeti eats you. I guess theres simply no method to make it through a run? The creator of the video game released this breezy and terrific history of it, including his preferred piece of fan mail:

Date: Sun, 11 Feb 1996 11:28:22 -0400
Topic: ski free!
Please tell me why the foolish fucking beast if this is the right person
comes out from nowhere and consumes my main guy before he gets to the bottom of
the hill. Absolutely nothing individual, however this is Sunday early morning & & I truly did not
like the idea of getting consumed by the monster this early. What I am truly
attempting to state is fix the program or stop making video games for the similarity me,
who cant win. Really, you destroyed my day. Have a nice one,
THE WOODMAN

Anyway, you can play it once again for yourself. Its excellent for about five minutes worth of nostalgia before you recognize youre not a kid anymore and you most likely have access to practically any game you desire on any device because youre an adult and the instructors cant tell you to stop squandering time on video game over and over, despite the fact that those “ridiculous games” are the only thing getting you through the majority of days.
Its great. School was fine.
Gears 5

Image: The Coalition/Xbox Game Studios

” This type of feature, that is both a visual and gameplay focus, strikes practically every discipline on our team,” campaign design director Matt Searcy told Polygon in an interview. “Design, animation, VFX, audio, and developers are all included in understanding the ice effect from the earliest gameplay prototype to the finished refined state.”
All that work, simply for some splitting ice. It appears like a small thing, but when I started considering the usage of ice and snow in games, this entered my head initially. In some cases it actually is those little information that turn a good video game into a fantastic one.
SSX Tricky

Among the very best features of AAA games is that with teams that big, and budgets that substantial, functions that may get brushed aside in smaller games are in some cases offered much more care and attention. Such is the case with the ice breaking impact in Gears 5, which you can utilize to drop opponents down into the freezing water, eliminating them, prior to you get to view the ice re-form. It looks, sounds, and feels remarkable, and is another case of a designer utilizing ices core attributes as a mechanic.

SSX Tricky was generally SkiFree, however with snowboards instead of skis, and David Arquette instead of a yeti. So, essentially, whatever was upgraded.
The subsequent sequels kinda drove the series into the ground, however for two terrific video games, ending with Tricky, SSX simply couldnt be beat when it came to snow sports video games of any kind. It was that excellent.
I imply heck, remember when the PlayStation 2 launched in the U.S. and the initial SSX was practically the just good game for it? Which wasnt even much of a problem, since buying a PS2 simply for SSX would have been a fine financial investment in your future.
Rise of the Tomb Raider

Image: Crystal Dynamics/Square Enix

It might be a little unusual to have your snow impacts be among the larger draws of your game outside of the franchise itself, however 2016s Rise of the Tomb Raider included some of the very best snow effects to date, and they still stand up when determined versus more recent video games.
” This isnt sarcastic, Im really floored by the snow,” one Steam commenter mentioned. “Its the finest I have actually ever seen. Remaining in PA and just going through that enormous blizzard, its uncanny how they nailed it, from the way you stroll in deep snow, to the path you leave, even the powder that blows up in the wind as you walk.”

Like with Gears 5, snow this excellent doesnt just occur– it takes a great deal of time and effort. Even if the snow impacts worked on their own, the designers likewise had to ensure that Lara Croft interacted with the snow in such a way that felt genuine. Nobody walks on or through snow the exact same method they stroll across anything else, which provides its own difficulties.
Lara might move through the world with ease, unconcerned to what she was communicating with,” Mike Oliver, technical art director on Rise of the Tomb Raider, stated in a blog site post about the innovation. Lara would now slow down and struggle through deep snow, grounding her in a believable world.”
Ecco the Dolphin

Spelunky creator Derek Yu explained the appeal of ice levels as a designer during a current interview with Kotaku, and the points he made tip at where Ecco the Dolphin went so wrong with its Ice Zone:

Eccos Ice Zone narrows the games experience to a series of thin passages, and likewise limits the locations where you can leave or go into the water. Its like somebody made a bet that nobody could make something as bad as a water level and an ice level integrated, and after that somebody else won that bet by creating Ice Zone.
Simply in case this wasnt horrible enough, the zone is choked with enemies, which offered me similar claustrophobia to the water level from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on NES, with its absurd difficulty and lethal environment that needed precise motions.
Ice Zone doesnt take too long to finish if you understand exactly what to do, which is a true blessing, but it does eliminate almost whatever that made Ecco the Dolphin such an enchanting video game.
Which is most likely the finest lesson we can end this list on: If your ice level, or your snow result, does not serve some sort of practical function– if there isnt an excellent “why” for it– its most likely best to leave it out.
The reverse can be said for David Arquette, however thats a completely various conversation.

And I have to be truthful: I type of feel like a lot of game designers add ice levels not particularly because they actually like the slippery ice, however more due to the fact that snowy, icy locations– its simply sort of a significant biome in reality. I think it also brings with it a great deal of colors we do not often see in other biomes, and those are things we think about.
To include it is to consist of a kind of range that, in a method, is sort of difficult to pass up, since its right there. I would not say that designers include them for the ice. I d say the ice is possibly more of, like, sort of a side thing that simply takes place to come with the snowy or icy biome, which is the more interesting part for designers.

Snow and ice specified my childhood when it came to winter, however video games may be the only experience of wintry weather condition for numerous individuals around the world.
Snow and ice are interesting tools when it comes to video game style; they have so lots of usages! There are more Hoth levels than I d care to count, however I cant blame anyone for going back there one more time when making a Star Wars game. One of the best things about AAA video games is that with groups that big, and budgets that substantial, functions that might get pushed aside in smaller games are often given much more care and attention. It appears like a small thing, but when I began believing about the usage of ice and snow in games, this came into my head.

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