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#Heistuesday 3: Meet Piper Faraday.

piper_concept_final3piper logoPiper Faraday is a steambot that has been forced to go her own way, and is the protagonist of SteamWorld Heist. Formerly a pilot in the Royalist Space Force, her hardwired – and quite experimental – moral fiber sets her apart from her peers.

Piper’s flight skills have put her on a rising trajectory within the Royalist Order, although she’s fairly uninterested in a military career or politics in general. She’s quite content piloting her Space Force cargo ship – a state-of-the-art steam-driven vessel that effortlessly spans distances and runs supplies from one shard to another.

Piper - head conceptsHer existence pretty much amounts to loading, off-loading and talking to other steambots in the docks. She’s friendly and popular among the locals pretty much wherever she lands. If asked about her career choice, she would answer that sure, the Royalists are harsh, but after The Blast the world needs order more than anything else.

Piper - body conceptsThis blissful existence could have amounted to her livelihood until new steambot versions would have replaced her, but it comes to an abrupt halt one day. She’s ordered to drop her payload from the air onto a village where “something is brewing”… Royalist military jargon for a suspected rebel hideout. She realizes that her cargo consists of powerful explosives, and is faced with the choice of either bombing a village that possibly contains smallbots… or to fly away, to become a deserter, forever fair game for Royalist troops.

Piper - pose conceptsAt the end of the day, it’s a simple choice for a steambot wired with moral fiber. In the back room of a bar on a familiar shard, robotic hands are shook in grim resolution, and ships are traded. Goodbye, Royalist cargo ship. Hello, the Déjà vu… Strict order cannot come at any price, and so begins the fight of a lone, righteous steambot versus a system that has been rotting from the inside.

Piper – Final designIf the characteristics of Clint Eastwood was the basis for Rusty, we’ve modeled Piper after Katharine Hepburn. Headstrong, independent, fair and tough as nails.

Question: What do you think of our new protagonist?

Heistuesday – Interview with Level Designer Markus Månsson

#Heistuesday 2: The Level Design of SteamWorld Heist

Welcome to #Heistuesday! Every Tuesday until release, we’ll introduce something new from our coming game SteamWorld Heist.

This week I’d like share with you the first juicy bits on our level design. While we’re preparing to show you the first gameplay, I (Julius) sat down with our five-star level designer Markus Månson and had a chat about the challenges when working on SteamWorld Heist. In the game you recruit a team of rag-tag robots, board enemy spaceships and fight baddies in a unique variety of turn-based combat.

Julius: What’s the biggest challenge when designing levels meant for turn-based combat in 2D?

Markus: The biggest challenge when it comes to Heist is not that it’s in 2D. It’s the side perspective. In a strategy game it’s all about interesting choices. The choices are often about movement and placement of your troops.

With the side perspective we chose, the player naturally have fewer spots to move the troops to in each room. This is because you can’t move them freely in a vertical direction since that would include flying. You’ll have to find a ladder (or the equivalent) to move vertically, where in a top-down game you would just move across the ground both horizontally and vertically. So a big challenge when making levels for Heist is to give the player enough choices despite the fewer amount of walkable tiles.

That being said, this also leads to possibilities that are impossible with a top-down view. Finding and utilizing these elements is what will make the levels in SteamWorld Heist great.

J: What’s the most important: Making a level that’s fun to play or designing a believable ship interior?

M: It depends on how far into the level creation process I am. At the early stages of creation it’s all about the gameplay. I try to make the level play well with one single type of tile. It’s really just like any other kind of sketch. It helps me to get a hang of the level’s size and pacing.

When the basic layout has been playtested and works fine we start to decorate it. And that’s when a believable ship interior gets more relevant. While decorating, small tweaks are done to the level without affecting gameplay too much. These changes make the level more believable.

But in the end, I must admit that it’s the fun factor and gameplay that’s the most important.

SteamWorld Heist screenshot

J: How long does it take for you to design a complete level?

M: The exact amount of hours put into one level is hard to estimate. This is mostly because when one level has come to a stage where it’s playable, but still not finished, I usually start building another level and take it to the same stage. Then I have a number of levels taking shape simultaneously and I jump between them to keep all levels on the same stage. So instead of creating one level one day and another one the next, I create a number of levels during a longer period of time.

Another factor that makes it hard to determine time spent is gameplay testing. Testing takes a lot of time and I count that into the level creation process. After testing, new tasks always arise which means I have edit the levels again.

But to give a shorter answer I’d say it takes a few days for the whole process.

J: How do you prepare for a new level design? Do other games inspire you?

M: When starting work on a new Heist level I usually prepare with some really quick pen and paper sketches. It’s probably the fastest way of finding an interesting shape or layout. But I rather quickly move on to constructing the level idea in our level editor.

In the early weeks of the Heist production I actively looked at other turn-based strategy games to draw inspiration from. Just to have something solid to lean back on. The next step was to stop looking too much on other games and begin trying to find what was a good level for Heist. I needed to find the elements that make up a good Heist level in order to reproduce the fun into multiple levels. But of course, I’ve always got other games in the back of my head as inspiration.

steamworldheist_ships

J: Which magic tools are you using?

M: In this project I am only using our in-house level editor. It’s basically the same editor that was used for SteamWorld Dig but with some cool new features. The editor is really fast when it comes to prototyping a level.

J: When are you happy with a level?

M: I’m happy when anyone who plays the level can finish it without hassle. It should also contain the right amount of interesting and strategic choices for the player and perhaps a few secrets that not everybody will find… But that’s also a secret, I guess?

J: Thank you, Markus!

M: It was a pleasure!


Want to ask Markus a question of your own? Ask it in the comment section below or chat him up him on Twitter. His handle is @Mawnsson.

Introducing: SteamWorld Heist!

The cat’s outta the bag! Welcome, SteamWorld Heist! It’s the next game in the SteamWorld series and we aim to release it in spring 2015.  Platforms, price and release date are yet to be determined. We’ve been hard at work since last year and we think it shows. Earlier today, Brjann said with typical modesty: “It will be full of surprises and probably the best game ever”.

Here it is!

Cowbots in space

So what’s SteamWorld Heist about? In short: space adventures and survival. You’re the captain of a team of ragtag robots who explore and scavenge the remains of a destroyed world. You board enemy ships and command your crew in a unique variety of turn-based combat. I was in shock the first time I heard about it!

Taking place some time after SteamWorld Dig, a cataclysmic event has shattered the planet and forced its population into steam-driven spaceships. It’s a robot-eat-robot world out there, and water is desperately hard to come by. Heisting other ships and bases – bad guys fortunately, the lot of them – is their only way to remain in operation.

Heist isn’t a sequel to SteamWorld Dig. But it’s set in the same universe and the cowbots are still the heroes. A lot has happened to SteamWorld since then, and we want to give you a game that is radically different. Partly because we really wanted to make a turn-based strategy game, but also because it felt like a clever move. The obvious follow-up would’ve been Dig 2, but we wanted to surprise you instead.

Did we succeed? 😉

Thank you for spreading the love!

All our success with SteamWorld Dig comes from you, our awesome and cheerful community. Without you guys we would be nothing. If you want to continue spreading the love, we just launched the official SteamWorld Heist website where you can read all about the game and share the game with your friends. We have also prepared a special kit with images and art from the game. You can download it here and create your own SteamWorld Heist pictures in minutes!

Love,
Julius

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