My go-to expo question when speaking to a developer, particularly and independent games developer, is "What itch does your game scratch?" Windforge, by Snowed In Studios, gets to a very hard to reach place—the one for gamers who really want to play something like Minecraft and Contra at the same time.

As the game's creator, Evan Hahn, explained Windforge's concept, I watched him leap from the steampunk hot-air flying machine—essentially a flying house he'd built—to board another airship, whose interior was a cut-away platform, almost a flying mini-level full of foes firing on him. As Hahn boarded the ship, his vessel's guns kept firing, targeted onto the cursor

The game's environment doesn't distinguish between crafting and combat, of course, so anything you can mine can also be shot away—this means cover (as well as the walls of the ship.) Theoretically you can craft a new platform or patch a hole in the floor during combat, too, though Hahn said it may be difficult to do so under fire.

After taking over the hostile airship, the adventurer soared to the upper reaches of Cordeus, where giant whales fly. Hahn hunted one down, killed it, crashed its corpse into the surface of a floating island, then attached giant ballons and fans to the body, making it into a temporary airship as he harvested its guts. Whales are enormous resource targets; their oil and blubber are valuable commodities in the game's continuity.

"We tried to improve the graphics and controls over Terraria," Hahn said, acknowledging that sidescrolling combination of genres as an obvious influence for Windforge. The game is primarily a sandbox RPG with scripted quests, though exploration and crafting for their own sake are also the big gameplay attractions. Windforge will feature more than 500 craftable items, from weapons to interior decor for your airship.

The world of Cordeus is supposed to have no boundaries, though tremendous up- and down-currents at the edges and the center define its regions, and hazards at the top (meteors) and bottom extremes (deadly gases) keep the player from pushing too far in either direction. Hahn said half of the game's quests and explorable spaces will take place in the bare atmosphere, aboard a flying ship, with the remaining half on foot on the surface of large floating islands.

Hahn said crafting engine itself is being used to develop in-game content—"It's almost an editor in that way. Windforge is listed on Steam Greenlight, though it doesn't have a release window any more definite than "when it's done."

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