Gamescom SteamWorld – Sweden builds up a head of steam

SteamWorld Heist | Photo (detail): © Image&Form

Image & Form is a small game studio in the Swedish city of Gotenburg. With approximately 20 employees CEO Brjánn Sigurgeirsson managed to reach into the big player’s territory and achieved top notch ratings, beating established top brands, with his SteamWorld games.

My first contact with Image & Form was a coincidence. I just bought myself a new Nindendo 3DS console and checked out Nintendo’s digital game catalogue, as I stumbled across SteamWorld Dig. You play Rusty, a little steam-powered robot, who lives in a kind of wild west world and has to dig for several secrets.

First a gold digger, then a space pirate captain

Delighted about the visual style and gameplay of the game, I found myself quite sad as I reached the game’s end in about 4 hours. I almost forgot about the Steamworld, as the Goethe Institut’s project Faites vos jEUx gave me the opportunity to visit Gamescom 2015’s business area where I found Image & Form’s booth.

Linus Völkner and Image&Form Linus Völkner and Image&Form | © Image&Form Together with his collegue Julis Guldbog, Brjánn promoted SteamWorld Dig’s successor, SteamWorld Heist, which I was able to test. Reluctantly I realised, that I was now no longer digging in the Wild West with Rusty, but raiding space ships and saving the universe, alongside space pirate captain Piper Faraday, while I must not forget to collect as many hats as possible. But it was the same love for detail and the unique visual style I loved about SteamWorld Dig that I found in this game. Piper and her crew are also steam-powered and Julius hinted that Piper and Rusty would live in the same universe and that we might learn about the connection of their fates in a future game.

We said each other goodbye and Julius provided me with SteamWorld goodies and a business card. But it was not until the end of the day as I realised that there was something else special about the SteamWorld.

The community is always present

While SteamWorld Heist was further developed, the Twitter community was always included. Almost daily infos, screenshots or concept art of SteamWorld Heist was posted. Fan questions were always answered on the same day. And there were the so-called Steamworld Ambassador Challenges: Fans were actively included into the process of gamedesign as they were able to decide over the names of space bars and were even able to draw hats, weapons and everyday items present in the game. The best contributions were always included into the game and the respective contributors were declared SteamWorld Ambassadors. Thereby they got access to even more pre-release info about the game, as well as free copies of the SteamWorld games, which they were also allowed to share with friends.

The concept comes together

SteamWorld Heist is a real community-project. Everybody is able to contribute something and is thereby able to feel as part of the game. International reviews confirm that this interactive concept is the right way to go: SteamWorld Heist gets positive reviews throughout and was even possible to lead 2015’s New 3DS charts, beating Monster Hunter and Xenoblade, both games with worldwide fan communities.