Snowman, the creator of ultra-chill snowboarding game Alto's Adventure, is keeping busy lately. In addition to the sequel Alto's Odyssey, it is also working with studio The Game Band for Where Cards Fall and partnering with Australian studio Slingshot and Satchel to build Distant. That's an ambitious workload for a small studio, but that isn't stopping Snowman from announcing yet another new title in development: Skate City. The all-too-brief trailer and Instagram clips show it to be a side-scrolling skateboarding iOS/Android game with the same chill vibe as Alto's Adventure.
As with the studio's other current projects, Snowman is working with a partner on Skate City, the Oslo, Norway-based Agens. Ryan Cash, one of Snowman's co-founders, says these partnerships have been essential in helping the small studio juggle multiple projects. "We don't just want to find people and hand them money and publish their game and take a cut," Cash says. "The approach we decided to take was we work on [outside] projects just as much as we work on any of our own stuff."
That means Snowman and partners like Agens essentially work together on games as if they're a single studio. "We're not sitting there building tools in Unity, but we're involved in every major decision: music, art direction, testing, mechanics," says Cash. "It doesn't feel any different from the way we worked on Alto's Adventure."
As for this new game, Cash says he and Snowman co-founder Jordan Rosenberghad been thinking about a skateboarding game since shortly after they started working on Alto's Adventure. Both Cash and Rosenbergare avid skateboarders, as are the developers at Agens who came up with the Skate City concept.
Skate City will share some of the visual style Snowman games are known for, but Cash stresses that this isn't Alto on a skateboard instead of a snowboard. "What Skate City shares most with Alto is the sense of distilling the sport down to the simplest form -- but with Skate City, the game is quite a bit more complex in terms of the tricks you can do," Cash says. "The new game is more true to skateboarding that Alto's Adventure was to snowboarding." It might not be quite as frenetic as the excellent side-scrolling Olli Olli games that inspired Agens, but it sounds like this game will in some ways be more complex.
In a first for Snowman, fans can expect the development of Skate City to be a bit more public than with the studio's other games. Rather than keep things mostly secret up until launch, a new Instagram account will highlight videos straight from the game, showing off various locations and tricks. "We don't have too much to hide this time," Cash says. "We want to save a few surprises for launch, but in general we want people to see what the gameplay will be like."
With four games now in progress but none released since Alto's Adventure first launched in early 2015, it's fair to ask whether Snowman is spreading itself too thin. But by virtue of the partners it has working on most of these games, the six-person Snowman team now has help from another 20 to 30 people -- enough so that keeping four games going seems feasible. Cash assures fans that the company isn't interested in churning out games for a quick buck either. "Even if it feels like we're doing quantity over quality, we're making sure that everything we're doing is unique," he says. "We've had to turn down quite a few other opportunities that came our way to keep focused."
Indeed, Cash says fans should have something new to play soon. "I think I can say that Snowman will be releasing something this year," he says, though he declines to specify which title it will be. It's probably too soon for Skate City -- but ever since I tried Alto's Adventure, I've wondered what a similar game done with skateboards would look like. Based on Snowman's track record, it's one that will be worth waiting for.