Ah, the age-old (and possibly exploitative) method of using canine-powered transportation in snowy terrain. It’s not something that has featured too heavily in video games over the years, but development collaborators Dan Fitzgerald and Liska_B intend to put this right with their upcoming game Dog Sled Saga. The game is set in the highly competitive world of sled dog racing, and intends to capture the spirit of the sport via simple arcade gameplay dynamics. It is slated for a 2013 release on Windows, Mac, Android and iOS.
Interestingly, the player is not given direct control of the dogs’ movement in Dog Sled Saga. Instead players are positioned as the human rider, trying to maintain and optimize the performance of their dogs in order to secure first place. This is where the game’s core gameplay comes in —the primary challenge is to keep the balance between the dogs’ hunger level and their finite food supply in check by continually feeding them throughout the race. There are food restock points along the way, but if you use all of your food for a short term speed boost immediately after restocking, your speed is likely to be hindered by hunger before the next restock point. It is essentially a risk vs. reward dynamic, with a focus on strategy and timing.
As the rider, feeding the dogs is no simple task either. The food needs to be thrown across to the dog who needs it, but this is fraught with potential issues — the presence of wind can significantly alter your trajectory arc, and thrown food will also ricochet off any in-range trees. Whilst dealing with this, there are also some boulders which need to be jumped over during the race, dealing out hefty speed reductions to those who fail to avoid them. In this regard, the game seems like a kind of action-packed example of on-the-fly resource management, without any of the complicated or tedious connotations.
Dan and Lisa are boyfriend-and-girlfriend collaborators (awwww!). Dan is responsible for all the technical aspects of development, as well as the audio side of things, whereas Lisa is responsible for the Dog Sled Saga‘s retro visuals. The pair seem keen to point out that the art is very much in progress, so the screenshots featured here may not be representative of the final game. Nonetheless, I think that its current state is rather pretty. Below is an example of Lisa’s work, a .gif of the dog’s running animation.
Strangely enough (as if anything else about the game is normal) Dog Sled Saga won’t be released in the traditional manner. In the “Arcade Version”‘, which is scheduled for a release in Quarter 1 of 2013, players will be presented with a series of steadily more difficult races and challenged to win their way to the top. Some kind of “endless mode”, with leaderboard support, is also being considered. Following this initial release, the developers are planning to release ‘Saga Mode’, a game type which seems to echo the ideas of sports management simulators by putting the player in control of the management, money, and morale of their team over the course of a season. This mode offers more depth and longevity than the initial “arcade” release, and a 2013 completion is predicted.
If the FIFA and Madden franchises aren’t pleasing you this year, why not give a lesser-known sport a try? You can keep up-to-date regarding all things Dog Sled Saga by following the official devlog. You can also find Dan on Twitter: @Dorkus1218, and Lisa: @Liska_B.