SteamHammerVR takes you back in time to a Victorian London that’s a little different than you might remember. We spoke to Mark Bellinger, Executive Producer, to discover the world of SteamHammerVR: The Rogue Apprentice.
Tell us who you are and what you do, in relation to SteamHammerVR?
I am Mark and as far as the game credits go, I am listed as the Executive Producer, however, like everybody in the small core team we have all worked on multiple elements in the game.
Principally I am the owner of Showstorm Ltd and therefore the guy who funded the whole game. In truth I have gone ‘all in’ and put every asset I own on the line to get this project finished.
When my team saw VR on the HTC Vive for the first time back in April 2016, we knew one thing, we wanted to be involved in creating something for VR. At that point we were experienced software and content developers, but we had never made a video game… and never used Unity.
I tasked the team to brainstorm as many ideas as possible and then we chose one, the steampunk idea which became SteamHammerVR was something that universally excited everyone, it would be a long hard road ahead so this was extremely important.
What kind of VR experience is SteamHammerVR, and why would someone want to check it out?
SteamHammerVR – The Rogue Apprentice is a VR experience that will appeal to all sorts of people. It’s a unique opportunity to go back in time and visit Victorian London. How cool is that?
You’ve chosen quite a different setting, given that it’s Victorian but also has a steampunk feel. What inspired you to go in that direction?
When we started the project we knew we would have to make something that played to our creative strengths, so everything was molded around a complete story arc with character back stories. In SteamHammerVR the journey is two-fold – a journey back in time set in the streets of Victorian London and a journey to discover the tragic story of ‘The Rogue Apprentice’.
There are eleven missions in ‘Story Mode’, each completed mission unlocks other missions, upgraded weapons and a piece of the back story revealed in an audio diary playable on the Edison phonograph in your Airship Command Centre.
There are some famous London locations in the game too. Did you strive to make them accurate to real life, or did you make ‘fantasy’ versions?
To accommodate the gameplay I believe we have recreated, to reasonable accuracy, many iconic London locations. I guess that in an ideal situation with a proper budget we all had an Assassin’s Creed type look and size in our heads, what we came up with was a compromise of the time and budgetary limits. I’ll be honest though, I have never been into London’s sewers, ours probably smell nicer!
Then of course there is the gameplay – we set out very purposely to not have a game with bloody violence, there is plenty of that out there already… and definitely no zombies! So in this game you never die, but need your exo-suit repaired due to damage. Your enemies are clockwork automatons so the gameplay violence is all directed towards them as your quest to defend the people of London Town. Speaking of the people, where are they?
We did not have the budget to fill the streets of our London with people, so the devious solution we came up with was thus; the streets are teeming with clockwork automatons. People have fled for their lives, some are held up in their houses and surrounding buildings; cries can be heard from the alleyways and darkness. The people of London are heard, but never seen.
Tell us a bit about the weapons on offer, which look quite unique.
Recruited by Doctor Obadiah Springhorn, an eclectic inventor, the player is the main protagonist. They are the SteamHammer, wearing an exo-suit and wielding 19th century weaponry. Again, here we wanted to sway away slightly from a straight up shooting game and really utilize the amazing physics available in VR.
As such you have six types of weapon which you can use in varying combinations. First there is the Rail Gun, with a sniper sight. This is steam powered, so not a rapid firing type weapon, but good for ranged attacks.
The Magnet Beam is one of the most useful weapons which allows the player to pull and push anything that has metal on it.
Your Tesla Ray is just straight up badass. Who wouldn’t want to wield force lightning? Coupled with a blast of steam from the Steam Cannon you can electrocute enemies.
The titular weapon, the SteamHammers, are great for bashing anything that gets close, or pulling them in with a magnet and pummeling them mercilessly.
There is also a Rotor Saw, it cuts stuff… useful later in the adventure!
In Story Mode you start with all your weapons on level one, as the story progresses and the missions are completed they will all eventually reach maximum power on level three.
There’s some voice control in SteamHammer. Why go with that? How easy was it to implement?
Implementing voice commands was pretty simple, there are some obvious combinations people would instantly want and in testing we realized that some people with less dexterity were struggling to change weapons in the fray of battle.
So now, for example, you say “Attraction” and immediately you will have a Magnet in one hand and a Hammer in the other. Be careful though – Doctor Springhorn is listening for your commands but he is also keeping an ear out for players with potty mouths!
The magnet technology is also used as the device for movement in the game. Using the SMART system (Springhorn MAgnetic Rapid Transport), our theory is that you wouldn’t be able to walk in a heavy exo-suit so you can pull yourself around the locations instead – a juxtaposition between fantasy and physics!
You’ve described SteamHammerVR as a ‘brave shooter’ – what does that mean? What makes it different to other wave shooters?
So, the gameplay involves story, exploration, tower defense, strategy and destroying hordes of enemies with unique weaponry – this is what we like to call a ‘Brave Shooter’.
What is wrong with calling it a ‘Wave Shooter’? Nothing really, but wave shooters in VR have come in for a bit of hard time, despite some of the best VR games being wave shooters, but for pure proper wave shooting we created ‘Seek and Destroy’ mode.
So tell us about ‘Seek & Destroy’!
Seek and Destroy is a full on ‘Arcade Style’ time based ‘Wave Shooter’ version of SteamHammerVR linked to global scoreboards… how competitive are you?
In Seek and Destroy all weapons are set to ‘Maximum Power’ and players can score bigger if they play on the hardest setting and use all the kill combos available. Your friend here is the ‘Golden Rat’ – destroy one of these beauties and another thirty seconds gets added to your time. Golden rats are released based on you score, so there is no time to wait for enemies to come to you – GO, SEEK & DESTROY! This is a wave shooter after all.
What’s the next project you’re working on?
GamestormVR are currently working on a VR experience called Grand Cruise VR. Imagine the live entertainment of a cruise ship, but in VR. This ship sets sail early in 2019.
Thanks for talking with us, Mark!
SteamHammerVR: The Rogue Apprentice is now available in Viveport Subscription.