Forge is a new kind of game, made from pieces of an old kind of game. Several old kinds of games, actually. And it's running hot on Steam.
Forge was conceived by indie developer Dark Vale Games in San Diego, California, and completed with the help of our own Digital Confectioners in Christchurch. It outwardly appears to be a high fantasy MMO - if you've ever played an MMO you'll recognise the strip of nine abilities at the bottom of the screen that take time to charge up after you fire one off, and when your character spawns into a large, cinematic fantasy environment you'll feel right at home. But if you've never played a shooter in your life and you can't aim down a crosshair... well, you might struggle.
The Kiwi lads at Digital Confectioners have been running the company for a couple of years now, and have done the coding for Forge, as well as some of the technical art. The company consists of three guys - co-founders James Tan and Sam Evans, and Neil Reynolds.
The company was called in to work on Forge six months ago. Previously another company had been hired to do the programming, but "basically there wasn't enough getting done", Reynolds told PC World over Skype.
Digital Confectioners was chosen for its expertise with the Unreal game engine, and James Tan even once worked for the engine's creators, Epic Games. In six months, Reynolds and Evans programmed the entire game - Reynolds the gameplay and Evans the user interfaces.
"We basically started from scratch on the programming side of things," Reynolds said. "We have done all of the programming."
The game's artwork was done by a third studio, SuperGenius, which is based in Portland, Oregon.
When the game launched on 4 December it was missing some features. At the time of writing, it was only possible to choose a random game type, rather than pick a specific one such as team deathmatch. ("We held off on allowing people to split between different servers based on gametype as we knew that though being forced to play Random could be frustrating to some, it paled in comparison to the frustration of playing on servers that seemed empty," said Dark Vale Games.)
Some of the community features were also missing. Upcoming features also include Steam achievements and stats, a new map, and an 'Arena' mode where players will have but one life to live.
Despite those missing features, the game has garnered a positive critical reception, and a user rating of 8.5 on review aggregator Metacritic.
"We've been pretty lucky. I think people have been cutting us a bit of slack for the fact that we are a smaller indie group, so we can't launch with everything, feature-wise, already done. So that's been kinda nice," said Sam Evans.
"If we had the $100 million budget of a much larger team obviously there'd be a lot more features [at launch], but a lot of stuff is still planned to come over time."
But Forge almost didn't get off the ground at all. The game began its public life as a failed Kickstarter project - Dark Vale Games asked for $300,000 to finish development and users pledged only around $76,000. Despite that setback, Forge appeared on Steam Greenlight, where users of the digital distribution service Steam vote on which games will be sold. The people voted; Forge went on sale.
And since the 4th, it's consistently been in the top ten best-selling games on Steam. It sat in the number two spot for a couple of days, too - right below triple-A title Far Cry 3.
Forge will eventually cost gamers a one time fee of US$40, but right now costs US$20 for two copies of the game.