This week’s exclusive interview is with Brjánn Sigurgeirsson, the CEO of Image & Form on their recent announcement for their upcoming game, SteamWorld Heist. SteamWorld Heist is a turn based strategy game about space adventures and survival with, you guessed it, robots.
In this 2D side scroller, your character’s mission is to recruit a team of rag-tag robots to explore and scavenge the remains of a destroyed world. But that doesn’t mean you won’t encounter enemy ships along the way! Defeat enemies in randomly generated missions and plunder their goodies to upgrade your items. This game has been announced for spring of 2015 and we’re excited to talk to the man behind the curtain.
Thank you for your time, Brjánn.
Where did the idea for a space themed game come from?
Hi there! It started out as most things do here at Image & Form, that is, in the middle of a lunch-break conversation, someone threw out “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” and then the snowball started, well, snowballing.
I wasn’t involved from the start this time, and I suspect that the gang took pains to have a really well-founded plan before presenting it to me. I loved it immediately, and raised the single condition that the game would take place in the SteamWorld universe. The idea they presented was a general space game, perhaps featuring – *shudder* – humans. And we can’t have that.
Why did you decide to go with a turn based game? If we take a look at your previous releases, SteamWorld Dig was a platformer and SteamWorld Tower Defense, as aptly named, was a tower defense variation.
Very many of us are board-game freaks, or at least fans of turn-based games. I for one have been a total sucker for chess all my life. But it’s also a core decision that’s been with us ever since we started with the SteamWorld series: we want to make games that span over genres but are set in the same universe. It may not be totally unique, but we think it’s a very cool idea – a small dev that makes the games they want to make, but with a thread of recognition. We didn’t want to make the next SteamWorld Dig immediately after the first one.
What’s the backstory for SteamWorld Heist?
A few hundred years have passed since SteamWorld Dig. Quite obviously, since our fairly simpleminded cowbots have figured out how to build spaceships since Dig. An earth-shattering event – known to the initiated as “The Earth-Shattering Event” – has forced them to take to space. Since the Earth is no more, water is very scarce – and the steam-driven cowbots need water to operate in pretty much the same way we need air to survive. Water is hogged by a lot of different bad guys who don’t feel like sharing. Sharing is caring, and therefore unsharing is uncaring; these bad guys must go.
Why are the characters referred to as “cowbots”?
The cowbots are steam-driven robots that have been operating in the Wild West, which shows in their cowboyish style. Most likely, the humans that used to supervise them probably dressed them up in Western attire to make them fit in, or to make the robots seem less alien. Strip Rusty of his Stetson hat and scarf, and he suddenly looks a lot more robotic.
All steam-driven robots are called steambots. But just like with herrings and fish – all herrings are fish, but all fish aren’t herring – there are other steambot factions that you will encounter in SteamWorld Heist.
Can you give us some insight into the different robot personalities? We know Captain Piper is manning the crew and we’ve seen several other rag tag characters including a skinny robot with a blue pauper hat, a thug-like robot with a shotgun and a tanky turquoise robot wearing a top hat.
There will be a lot of characters in the game, and also different character classes. What you’ve seen so far are just examples. We’ve given them names like Joe, Valentine and Seabrass, but they are all subject to change. They share a will to survive in a world gone bad, and a vision of life where survival doesn’t have to be a day-to-day struggle.
How many crew members can you have?
Good question. We’ll see. It depends on how many you will practically need in really large combat situations.
What are some interesting upgrades your crew and ship can get? We’ve read that if you have the proper engineers, you can take apart and steal an engine from an enemy ship to help upgrade your own. This same technique can also be applied to gaining better shields.
Well, that’s one or two! There will be other practical ship upgrades, but perhaps also cosmetic ones. For the characters, there will be similar upgrades to tools and weapons. But possibly also aesthetic upgrades as well.
Aside from heists, rescue missions, takeover missions, stealth missions and defend your ship missions, how many different missions are there in the game? Which would you say are the most difficult?
There are many different missions – just the ones you mentioned here are plenty, considering that no mission will ever be the same: we’ll randomize the ship layouts enough for you not to be able to adopt one killer strategy for each enemy ship type.
Hopefully we’ll be able to balance the difficulty so that each mission will be difficult in its own peculiar way. Right now we’re trying to balance the difficulty levels within one and the same heist type – before boarding an enemy ship you will know roughly what kind of difficulty level to expect.
Can you save and quit in the middle of a mission?
I’m actually not sure how we’ll treat that, but it’s not impossible. It would be strange if you’ve embarked on this juicy heist, only to be called away for dinner and return to find that it’s gone. 🙂
How many of the SteamWorld Dig tools made it into SteamWorld Heist? Some of our favorite tools included the steam punch that required a water supply to function and the handy drill.
Since we’re not going to mine anything in Heist, these tools don’t really serve a purpose in the game. The only thing I can think up is to use them as artifacts, tools that can double as some sort of weapon.
What are some ideas from SteamWorld Dig that made it onto the feature shit list and didn’t make it into the game? Are there any items on the SteamWorld Heist feature shit list that you’re really hoping they get released with the game?
You’ve really read up on how we work! ;D The Shit List is a terrifying thing, and its contents change from week to week. You could really say that the beast is alive. The Dig Shit List eventually ended up including 2-3 worlds that we wanted to include in Dig. Really cool worlds, too. Seeing them set in stone on the Shit List was a sad, sad thing.
Yes, there are a few things on the Heist Shit List at the moment that I’m praying will end up in the game. Won’t discuss them yet, they’ll probably have a way petrifying if I do.
Is a co-op version of SteamWorld Heist in the works?
Can’t say, really. All forms of multiplayer would be cool – as always, it’s a matter of time, resources and shitlisting. 😉
There was a mention of a 2nd secret game to be released right after SteamWorld Heist gets pushed in 2015. Can you give us a hint as to what it may be and would it also run on the same consoles as SteamWorld Heist?
Hm! We actually have a few games at various stages of completion – or non-completion, is probably a better term. The console answer will be our standard one: we’ll hopefully release all our games on all platforms. We know how to do it, but it’s obviously also up to the platform owners.
What is one lesson that you’ve learned from your previous games that you would like to integrate into SteamWorld Heist?
The biggest lesson is this: don’t make the games too short. Which raises another problem: if the game isn’t too short, is it interesting all the way? It has to be. It’s like French food: they make sure you’re not at the point of barfing when you leave. Rather, you feel like you could eat the same thing again, pretty much immediately.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers? Any shoutouts?
Yes, thanks for asking! It’s this: follow us on Twitter (@imageform), that’s where we’re at. We’ll be posting every Tuesday from now on until release; #Heistuesday will be our tag.
Let’s give a round of applause to some of the team behind SteamWorld Heist!
From left to right: Olle Håkansson (Lead Designer), Tobias Nilsson (Art Director), and Agnes Mikucka (Character Designer)
Thank you for your time, Brjánn and thanks for checking out Gamer Compatible! If you want to know more about SteamWorld Heist, you can follow Image & Form on Twitter: @imageform and Facebook: @imageform. Of course, the best way to stay updated is by checking out their awesome site. If you want to know more about our upcoming gaming interviews, you can follow us on Twitter: @gamercompatible or on Facebook: @gamercompatible.
Game on! And signing out.