Everyone is starving. The fire is out, the mega blizzard sapping all that remains of your warmth. Desperately clinging to life, you wonder where it all went wrong. Where did the poison come from? Who killed off Kaz? Why did we trust Turtle? Was escape ever truly a possibility? Your eyes glaze over and your body goes limp. The traitors have won.
Only this whole time, they were already iced. Mauled by wolves and bears half an hour ago. Everyone was just too paranoid to actually complete the objectives. There’s a collective sigh from everyone in the lobby as they hit the rematch button. Red this time eh? Best get started early then.
Trust me, I’m trustworthy.A certain traitor winding up his axe.
Other Ocean Interactive’s Project Winter is an 8 player social deduction game with unique survival elements. You and seven others are stranded on a frozen mountainside working towards escape. To call for help, you need to work with others to complete a series of objectives while surviving harsh winter conditions.
The frigid weather, starvation and mountain fauna aren’t your only concerns. There are two among you who wish for failure, two among you who have turned traitor. Their task is to stall and cause as much chaos as possible. They sabotage objectives, kill off survivors and aim to make your escape as miserable as possible. If all survivors die or fail to escape, it is their victory.
So begins half an hour of paranoia, short lived friendships and rampant backstabbing. Who do you trust? How can you be sure they won’t turn around at the last moment and put a bullet through your skull. In all honesty, you can’t trust anyone.
Wolves, players who make their traitorous tendencies obvious, are easy to condemn, but what if they were framed? And what of the sheep? Those that only show their true colours far later on, stalling you from within. Without any easy way of distinguishing the two from survivors, everyone else may as well be traitors.
Thus uneasy alliances are born, everyone is on edge and ready to turn friend into foe at a moment’s notice. So really what can you do to prove your innocence?
The Invisible Meter
If there’s one thing you can use to your advantage, it’s the invisible meter. Player trust is the most important element to manipulate by far and large. While the linked guide goes far more indepth, I’ll attempt to paraphrase.
Every action you take in Project Winter, so long as it is visible or audible (via proximity or radio) to other players, affects your trust with those observing players. Take suspicious actions in front of them and they’ll be less likely to believe you. Pander to their whims and benefit them on the contrary, and you’ll start building rapport.
Of course, it isn’t quite that simple. You yourself should be keeping tabs on every other player. This interplay between player’s trust will form the backbone of most sessions on this Winter mountainside and manipulation of it is key to victory on either side.
Enter Da Wu
Now while I consider myself rather competent at these sorts of games, eventually becoming a key player in my circle of friends. I am by no means an expert on social deduction games, Project Winter is one of the few entries I’ve found myself invested in and most of my perspective strings from that alone.
So let me introduce Daniel Wu (Da Wu for short), fellow is a friend of mine studying out of Sydney University and something of a fanatic of this genre. Often he runs games of Werewolf, One Night, Blood on the Clocktower and others for community groups and clubs. I asked him a few questions about Project Winter and his experiences with it, and this is what he had to say.
What drew you to Project Winter?
“Vtubers were collabing and playing Project Winter. Being exposed to one in particular, Hoshimachi Suisei, I ended up watching her highlights and enjoying them quite a bit. When I figured it out to be a social deduction title, it got my interest all the more so and a timely free weekend and sale had me picking up the game in a flash.”
So who should you play Project Winter with?
“There’s only one way to play it I find, and that’s with friends. The one time I opted to include randoms, they were rather unpleasant. Perhaps they were a bad crowd that time, but for the most part I go around different groups of friends from various universities and discord servers. I’ve hooked some people into this game as well, they went ahead and bought it too.”
From my own personal experience, I’ve found friends to be ideal as well, as with randoms, the dynamics can often be woefully unpredictable. Whereas you can work on pre-established trust and relationships with friends, getting to know and then trust randoms within the short span of a game session is a much steeper hill to climb.
“I mostly play with people I know, but it’s always fun to play with different people. I love these bluff games because it is a different game with every new group. The same ruleset can change entirely with a different crowd. There’s new options for outplay and odd quirks that come with each group after continued play.”
Do you feel that the game is balanced?
“One disparity I find with this genre of games is always player skill. In Project Winter, it’s usually an issue when two experienced players are traitors and the rest of the survivors are beginners. Where the traitors can essentially toy with the newbies, the newbies themselves may have no idea at all what to do and thus get stomped.”
“As for balance inherent to the game’s mechanics, certain objectives are definitely easier than others, and some are more well designed than their counterparts. Examples being cyphers and part retrieval. Where as part retrieval has plenty of interplay built in between survivors and traitors, whether through sabotage, escorts or ambushes, cyphers are often uninteractive and difficult to play around for both parties.”
“Opening up bunkers and seeking out codes can often take a really long time and usually ends in brute forcing the combination to finish the objective. And whereas with part collection, the traitor sabotage results in the need to just top up parts again, the cypher sabotage forces players to go out all over again and redo half of the objective. The punishment thus ends up far more costly for the survivors and levies a pretty severe imbalance to that particular objective.”
“In an ideal scenario, there’s enough tools on both sides to succeed, objectives and sabotages are clear cut and there’s plenty of ways of solving complications. Survivors can farm and safely complete objectives, traitors can go out and do their suspicious activities if need be, but certain objectives hinder these a fair bit giving off a lesser experience.”
So what would you recommend new players to do?
“Please play the tutorial. If someone tells you to jump in blind, don’t listen to them. You really won’t know what you’re supposed to do, so definitely go do that.”
“Playing with veteran players isn’t the worst experience possible, but I would definitely recommend playing with new players. As an aside, I would recommend playing the game different to the way it was intended. Throw the idea of traitors out the window and learn the objectives with a new group. When everyone is comfortable, that’s when the game really begins.”
“Stick to your own playstyle. Pick something that you like doing in this game and so long as it works, feel free to stick to it. Go ahead and rob the objective of its parts, if no one realises what’s going on, you can keep going ahead. Focus on getting good in one particular part of this game whether it be exploration, hunting, or gathering, just find ways of optimising it and getting good at it.”
“If you claim that you can’t play well because you can’t lie well… Neither can I. If you’re bad at playing a bad guy, you can method act as a survivor, or even just play so suspiciously every game that your clique can no longer tell whether or not you actually are traitor or not.”
“Be wary of the quiet ones. It either means that they’ve got something to hide, or they have nothing to add. Eitherway, if it’s not cleared up it could potentially bite you back far harder in the future.”
“Last be wary of the player count. Strategies can change drastically depending on how many players are in the game. In groups of six or more, there’s two traitors, so groups of three or less are inherently much less safe. In that scenario, a closely knit group of four becomes a power house that can avoid traitorous actions much easier. Adjust accordingly and you’ll see rather interesting results.”
While Da Wu could possibly go on and on as far as strategy and tactics go regarding social deduction games, this particular piece has gone on for quite a while now. In future when covering this genre, I’ll likely be pulling him in for his thoughts. Now as for the reason behind this particular article’s title, I found this little gem the other day while browsing the store page reviews.