Flying Through Frostfall
How Gamemode One made their Marketplace monster!
A stunning landscape of frosted mountains and frozen seas. A castle, huge and imposing, set by the water. Reflecting the castle’s own beauty right back at it are the shattered sheets of ice that lay gently crackling below. Wow! I can’t wait to explore this place!
Oh. Actually, I'll have to explore later. Because I appear to have been grabbed by an enormous flying dragon.
A dragon! A dragon in the Overworld! A dragon that is blue and shiny and not at all like the Enderdragon - this one has a definite taste for fashion. And me, I suppose.
This awesome beast is the work of Gamemode One, a team that works on making content for Minecraft via the Marketplace. I had time to chat with Gamemode One founder Sean Davidson just before I was swooped away by this crystalline creature.
Sean, previously a manager on Blockworks, started Gamemode One, a team that “ [does] our best to tackle all [aspects] of game design and bring that philosophy to Minecraft.”
Which is how Frostfall came to be. The team wanted to make something different - something bold and totally unique. But that requires a lot of hard work.
“The dragon of Frostfall was nothing short of a war to get to a state we were happy with,” says Sean. “We had a vision and plan from the start, but it was both a mechanically and visually challenging project.
“For the flight mechanics, we invented an entirely new system to allow the player to ride and control the dragon.” Wait, I can ride this thing? Flappin’ heck!
“It needed to feel natural,” Sean continues, “and we weren’t prepared to stop at anything short of that.”
The team used some “sneaky tricks with levitation and… chicken floating.” The end result being a dragon that you can control, steering it just by looking in the direction you want to go!
“The dragon model itself went through half a dozen complete reworks and hundreds of iterations before we landed on the current version,” says Sean. Then there were behavioural issues, which, as a dog-owner, I am not surprised by.
Sean thinks it took no less than 50 hours to create the Frostfall dragon. To be honest, I’m surprised it was that quick! Mostly because you can not only tame the dragon, but you can also breed it. Yes, that’s right, there are more than one of these terrifying reptiles!
Gamemode One members Cade Anderson and Adam Brady helped implement a lot of the aforementioned dragon behaviours, and also with developing the behaviour of the dragon eggs. “We [gave] breeding some cool and unique interactions,” says Sean. “If you manage to find another dragon in the wild - they spawn in and around villages, and hunt passive mobs - you can breed them and get a dragon egg entity.”
This egg can be incubated with a blaze rod, and the growth process can be sped up by placing fire around it. They even added animations to the egg, making it swell, grow and shake before eventually hatching into an adorable/deadly baby dragon.
Sean explains that one of the major reasons they chose not to use the Enderdragon model to base the Frostfall dragon on was because, to do so, they would end up replacing the Enderdragon with the Frostfall one. This is the case for creating any new Minecraft mob as part of an expansion or mod - Marketplace partners and add-on makers have to remove one mob before they can replace it with another. And Gamemode One didn’t want to replace an existing Minecraft feature as substantial as the Enderdragon.
(Plus the Enderdragon’s behaviours are mostly hardcoded and are very, very difficult to change - sorry about that.)
At first, the team thought the parrot mob would be a perfect sacrifice. In their original concept, the dragon had both flying and walking animations, something the Minecraft parrot has. However, as Sean explains, “a lot of its rotations [are] hardcoded.” Again, they’d hit a wall. “Our options boiled down to a stubby tail, a rooster-looking dragon or a hunchbacked one.”
Sean says they created plenty of “derpy-looking” dragons in this way and, while they had once considered a more ‘cutesy’ approach, it simply didn’t fit in with the visual style of the Frostfall world.
“We ended up scrapping all of our progress,” Sean tells me, “back to square one. We decided to shift our focus elsewhere and gave the bat a shot instead.” This, thankfully, worked out in their favour!
Meanwhile, work was being done on the home of these scaley serpents:
I don’t think there’s anyone who wouldn’t love to immediately strike up a friendship with the Frostfall dragon! But for all you readers who HATE DRAGONS (who, er, presumably haven’t been enjoying this article very much), Gamemode One have good news. For the last four months, they’ve been working on a new project - something completely different - and Sean says that Frostfall pales in comparison to it.
The ambitious Dwarven Mining Company is an underground mining, exploration, looting and adventure game where you acquire and control your very own dwarven machines. Drills, excavators, surveyors, explosives… the list goes on. According to Sean, it even has a custom resource pack with over 20 new mobs, including NPCs, goblins and plenty of dangerous creatures. “It’s a full sandbox game inside of Minecraft that you can lose yourself in for hours,” Sean tells me. This is Gamemode One’s most ambitious project to date and it’s coming to Marketplace!
I can’t wait to be enthralled by the beauty of their underground world, only to swiftly be whisked away by another one of their terrifying creatures. Until then, I guess I’ll just take in the Frostfall view from the back of my new best friend.
Renders by Antoine B and Alex Bruijniks.