#Heistuesday 11: Your Best Questions Answered

Hi friends!

Remember the t-shirt contest a few weeks ago? The three winners each gave us one SteamWorld Heist related question that will be added to the official SteamWorld Heist FAQ. But what are questions without answers? Nothing. So we sent the entries to our in-house SteamWorld lore master (CEO Brjann), who gave them the answers they deserve. And here they are!

1. What was your main influence to set the game in space?

It started while Brjann was away at a game conference somewhere, dead set on the fact that we were making the prequel to SteamWorld Dig (after completing Dig itself). But when he got back the entire office had conspired about a new game, and our lead designer Olle Håkansson took Brjann aside when he had enough to pitch it. It was a game of much bigger scope than the prequel, and Brjann thought it sounded awesome. Brjann’s only condition was that we could weave it into the SteamWorld universe somehow. And it fits quite snugly.

SteamWorld Dig is the third game on the SteamWorld timeline.

We thought we’d make a SteamWorld Dig prequel before we shifted gears and went with SteamWorld Heist…

The main inspiration was our stance on games. We love turn-based strategy games. Everyone in the office loves to play board games of all kinds. As a complete and helpless chess addict, Brjann for example thinks all games should be turn-based. Well, maybe not exactly all… but turn-based games are very interesting to us. And we’ve found a unique angle in Heist.

2. Do I need to play the first SteamWorld game to play or understand Heist?

No, you don’t – but we think you would benefit from it. Although the SteamWorld games are standalone, they follow a timeline. The lore, the driving force behind the steambots and some enemy factions, is easier to understand if you’ve played Dig first. Which in turn means that people should also try SteamWorld Tower Defense (more on that below). That said, Heist is a completely different type of game and gameplay. We’re not sure everyone who loved Dig will like Heist as much. But we think more people will love Heist than Dig.

3. Where does SteamWorld Heist take place on the SteamWorld timeline?

The preconditions of the game meant we would have to set Heist in the SteamWorld future relative to Dig. So we put the prequel and the game between Dig and Heist on hold to make Heist first.

We don’t see a problem in doing so. George Lucas made the second Star Wars trilogy first, and apparently had the first one in mind the whole time. It’s not like this strategy ruined the first trilogy (that was entirely Jar Jar Binks’ fault along with the strangeness of having better tech “in the past”).

The SteamWorld series actually started in 2010 with SteamWorld Tower Defense.

The SteamWorld series actually started in 2010 with SteamWorld Tower Defense for Nintendo DSi.

SteamWorld Tower Defense was the first, and SteamWorld Dig was the third. SteamWorld Heist will be the fifth game in the series. Or that is the plan at this point. We could very well have to fit more games into the timeline, but we know for sure that there is a prequel to Dig and that there is at least one game that connects Dig with Heist.

SteamWorld Tower Defense was an interesting and relatively small effort. We didn’t realize until afterwards that the game raises some cool meta questions:

  • Why has humanity been reduced to literal cave dwellers?
  • Why has the world been taken over by steambots uninterested in power?
  • What could possibly have happened for this future to come about?

Dig barely hints at the answers, but that doesn’t mean that the answers are blowing in the wind. We have a clear picture of what has happened and will happen. Interestingly, Heist will be more of an ultimate showdown than a time for revelation, which will have to take place “earlier”. The deductions are present in Heist, which will be one monster of a game. But we’re also itching to tell the entire story in the “second” and “fourth” instalments of SteamWorld that will come in the future.


Awesome, right? We sent SteamWorld Heist shirts to the winners:

And to all of you itching to get your hands on t-shirts of your own: We’re working on an online t-shirt store. It’s just a slower process than we initially thought. Please bear with us until we fix it. It’s gonna be totally worth it 😉

Question: What was the most interesting thing you learned in today’s blog?

SWH platforms

#Heistuesday 10: SteamWorld Heist is coming to all platforms!

Update: We have now put the Xbox and Android versions of SteamWorld Heist on hold. Check out this blog update for more info.

Original post:

Hi all,

Happy news! We have received the official warm embrace from all major platforms owners, who are all eager to see SteamWorld Heist on their flagship consoles and devices. That means we’ll release Heist on all their current platforms, which logically should mean PC/Mac/Linux, Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, PlayStation 4, Vita, Xbox One. The exact order is yet to be decided.

As with SteamWorld Dig, we are planning to self-publish Heist on all markets available to us. It means going worldwide again, and that we’ll localize Heist into a multitude of languages. Curious fact without any intent of bashing: only Nintendo Japan wants us to either go through a local publisher or open our own office in Japan. Our programmer Ulf has volunteered to move to Tokyo and set up shop, but we love him too much to let him go… so we’re leaning towards the first option.

ulf-and-japan

We’ll apply the so-called staggered release strategy, meaning we’ll bring Heist to one (maybe two) of the platforms on day one, then release it for the next platform, etc. It makes a lot of sense to a small developer like us, since we don’t have the muscles to release on all platforms at once. At least not if we want to keep our games optimized, full of Easter eggs and free from bugs, and we take pretty big pride in doing that.

Is SteamWorld Heist coming to iOS and Android as well?

We’re hoping to bring SteamWorld Heist to mobile platforms as well. The game’s input controls should make it a dream game for any tablet owner, and like many games it may be too detailed for playing on the phone. Most likely SteamWorld Dig won’t ever make it to mobiles or tablets, mainly because of the game controls: They’re perfect for gamepads and less stellar for touch input. Mobile development isn’t new ground to us: we’ve had great success on iOS with our game Anthill. We think everyone should get Anthill for either iOS or Android, and marvel over our incredible versatility as a studio. 😉

So it looks like you’ll be able to play Heist on your platform of choice. Or dare we say ‘platforms’…? Because some people can’t seem to get enough. Last week we sent a t-shirt to a splendid guy who calls himself @WhimsicalPhil on Twitter, for distinguished multiple dipping. He owns SteamWorld Dig on all available platforms to date (that is 3DS, PC, Mac, Linux, Wii U, PS4 and PS Vita).

Today’s question: On which platform do you want to play SteamWorld Heist first?

Yes. Steam Powered Giraffe are characters in SteamWorld Heist!

#Heistuesday 9: Steam Powered Giraffe!

Happy #Heistuesday, everyone!

spgiraffelogoToday we can confirm the steamy rumors: we ARE working together with our friends Steam Powered Giraffe, probably the most steam powered band in the world. SPG are making the soundtrack and in-game music for SteamWorld Heist!

And in terms of gaming experience it will be something quite out of the ordinary, because SPG will also appear in the game – as themselves. That could have been dull or even inappropriate, had they been any other band. But they aren’t just anybody: the quirky San Diego-based gang, who parade as steam-driven, singing automatons in real life, will be featured as a robotic troupe on an everlasting space tour that Captain Piper and her crew encounter in bars as they recruit.

This was what we were hinting at in last week’s #Heistuesday post. While brainstorming ideas for the Collector’s Edition of SteamWorld Dig, the formidable James Morgan at IndieBox asked Steam Powered Giraffe to make a bonus song for the Dig soundtrack included in the Collector’s Edition. Being Dig fans, they promptly agreed. When James told me I nearly exploded with excitement, and in June we met at E3 and sealed the deal on the entire SteamWorld Heist soundtrack.

The Spine, Brjann and Hatchworth at E3. As you can tell, a most formal occasion.

I love their music, and have to admit I was a bit starstruck at the initial handshake. But we’re very much alike: childish and pretty resourceful. At times they wear a bit more makeup than we do, is all. SteamWorld Heist is a game about fictional steam-driven robots, featuring a real-world band of steam-driven robots. It’s a perfect match.

“When asked if we would like to collaborate with Image and Form on their next SteamWorld game we immediately said yes!” says David Michael “The Spine” Bennett of Steam Powered Giraffe. “We loved SteamWorld Dig, and a steam powered robot band making music for a steam powered robot game? Count us in! We thought it was a match made in heaven and we’ve always wanted to try our hand at making music for one of our favorite pastimes, video games!”

On the collaboration, David says “Working with Image and Form has been a unique and enjoyable experience for the band. There is definitely a ton of passion going into the game, from them, from us, it’s a labor of love and we personally can’t wait to share our contributions to the game with the world.”

As a preview of coming attractions, we’ve made a music video of “Prepare for Boarding”, which can also be heard on the SteamWorld Dig Collector’s Edition soundtrack. While the SteamWorld Heist main theme is yet to come, “Prepare…” is an excellent introduction to the game, performed by Steam Powered Giraffe in all of their steam-driven glory, both real and animated. Enjoy!

steamworld_dig_collectors_edition

#Heistuesday 8: Thinking Inside The Box

Hi all,

We’re proud to reveal that a childhood dream or ours – if there are such things as collective dreams – is about to come true: our first boxed game. And we’re not talking a modern plastic excuse to contain a DVD, but an old-school, ultra-cool cardboard box full of goodies. A true Collector’s Edition of SteamWorld Dig. Dig it!

steamworld_dig_collectors_edition

It’s the fabulous folks over at IndieBox, headed by the jovial James Morgan, who back in May offered to box SteamWorld Dig for us. For those of you unfamiliar with IndieBox, their idea is to take exceptional indie games and create something really special and exclusive – every month! Past highlights include Brütal Legend, Luftrausers, MouseCraft, Forced, Escape Goat and Teslagrad.

Sign up for their subscription service before November 21, use the code “SecretDig” and get 15% off on this wonderful edition of SteamWorld Dig!

These are the contents of the SteamWorld Dig Collector’s Edition:

  • Custom Box
  • Soundtrack CD featuring the world première of a new, previously unreleased track from SteamWorld Heist!
  • USB Drive with a Custom USB Sticker, containing DRM-free PC/Mac/Linux versions of SteamWorld Dig
  • Game Manual
  • Newsletter
  • Exclusive Collectibles / Custom Goodies:
    • SteamWorld Dig Tourism Tin
    • SteamWorld Dig Playing Cards designed by our very own art director Tobias Nilsson!
But wait – what has this got to do with SteamWorld Heist? How does the Collector’s Edition of SteamWorld Dig qualify for a #Heistuesday post? Well, incidentally (or accidentally?) James came up with an idea that took Heist in a new direction. We’ll announce this as next week’s #Heistuesday.
Question: What do you think it could possibly be?
Stay tuned!
Jakob is a multi-talented graphic artist and animator. Just look at him go! :D

#Heistuesday 7: Speed Painting + T-shirt Winners!

Happy #Heistuesday, friends!

A few weeks ago we interviewed our level designer Markus about his contributions to (you guessed it) the level design in SteamWorld Heist. Today it’s time to look at other important aspects of the game, namely graphics and character design.

In the video below our multi-talented graphic artist and animator Jakob shows you how to create a steambot from scratch. So without further ado: Jakob, take the reins!

Cool, huh? What he drew is one of the baddies in SteamWorld Heist, a member of the Royalist faction. But more on that later. Now it’s time to announce the winners of our t-shirt contest from last week. We’ve chosen the three questions we thought would fit best into the FAQ section at SteamWorldGames.com/Heist. And the winners are…

Martyn Mercer! Question: “What were your main influence to set the game in space?”

Robin Sparkles! Question: “Do I need to play the first SteamWorld game to play or understand Heist?”

Josiah Jones! Question: “Where does SteamWorld Heist take place on the SteamWorld timeline?”

Congratulations! Our in-house lore master will sit down and answer them. You will receive an e-mail from us with info on how to claim your t-shirts. And big thanks to all of you who entered the competition. We had a blast reading all your creative entries.

Question: What role do you think the Royalist faction plays in SteamWorld Heist?

#Heistuesday 6: FAQ-ing Great T-shirt Contest

Hi folks!

If you follow us on Facebook and Twitter you know we at Image & Form LOVE clothes with our own brand logos printed on them. Especially t-shirts. Yes, we’re the most egocentric and narcissistic boasters in the industry (we actually installed a widened front door to be able to get our inflated egos inside the office).

And a few weeks ago we tweeted this:

You said yes! So this week we’d like to give away THREE of these t-shirts in an exciting t-shirt contest. And it’s a FAQ-ing great one. You see, at the official SteamWorld Heist website, we have a section for Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ for short). But it’s not that exciting. So we’d like you to add your best questions to it to make it more spicy and fun to read.

To enter the contest and get a chance to win an official SteamWorld Heist t-shirt: Ask us anything you’d like about Heist in the comments below. It doesn’t matter if it’s serious or crazy. We’ll then choose the three questions we think are the “best”, answer them and add to the FAQ section at SteamWorldGames.com/Heist.

You have until 3 PM CET this Friday November 7th to ask us your question. After that we’ll choose the winners and sort out stuff like shipping address and shirt size/color. The winners will be announced early next week.

So get your groove on, and ask away! 😀

#Heistuesday 5: The first REAL glimpse of SteamWorld Heist

Hi folks!

This week’s #Heistuesday is short, but it’s a real doozy! It’s the premiere of the first ever gameplay screenshot of SteamWorld Heist. The pic below shows the moment just before Jack the Crippler is blown to bits by a well-aimed bullet from the gun of Captain Piper, the protagonist of Heist. Enjoy!

Captain Piper is firing her gun at Jack the Crippler.What do you think is going through Jack the Crippler’s head right now? Tell us in the comments below 😀

#Heistuesday 4: Steambabies? This Is How Steambots Are Made

Steambots (just like any other species) have to reproduce in order to survive. Because steambots age, you see. And not always gracefully. Take Cranky from SteamWorld Dig, for instance. Just by looking at him you see that he’s way past his prime. Just like with human doctors, there are limits to what repairbots can achieve. That’s why steambot-kind invented a way of “breeding” steambot babies, illustrated expertly by our very own Amanda Elm in this gorgeous infographic.

Steambots have parents just like you and me!

Who knew, huh? Now the question is…

What role does reproduction play in SteamWorld Heist? Give your guess in the comment section below 😀

#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.