Protecting an item or an object has worked well in Virtual Reality. The idea that it’s all up to you to protect a person, place or thing with your life on the line as enemies are coming after you for the one thing that you are trying to protect. It can make our hand-eye coordination skills improve without thinking about it. So when I heard that Shocktopus Games newest game was involving goblins, I really had to know more. So I reached out to and co-founder Tom van Dijk to give us a closer look at their newest game, Now There Be Goblins as well as talk about Virtual Reality.
Interview with co-founder of Shocktopus Games, Tom van Dijk
Welcome to THE VR DIMENSION. Would you please introduce yourself and what you do at Shocktopus Games?
“Hi, my name is Tom van Dijk and I am one of the co-founders and the main artist at Shocktopus games. My work includes, but is not limited to, 3D modeling, making shaders, particle effects and lighting. As the main artist of the studio I design most of the visual elements of the game and try to work together very closely with other team members to achieve a polished and unified look.”
For those that may not be aware, what have been some of the projects you have worked on in the past?
“Now There Be Goblins is actually the first game that Shocktopus Games is developing, but outside of that I’ve been working on a VR arcade game named Cops VS Robbers where I mainly worked as a technical artist. I’ve also worked on a lot of VR school projects which kind of got me into VR development in the first place.”
Now There Be Goblins, looks to be a very interesting one. What can you tell us about it?
“Now There Be Goblins is a game that balances between a ‘tower defense’ and ‘hack and slash’ game. The main goal of the game is to defend the objective, in this case, the statue of your king, against the enemy, the goblins. You’ll have to place down defensive and offensive structures as well as engage in combat with the goblins yourself. You can use your mighty hammer to strike them down or use weapons found in levels/dropped by goblins.
Completing levels and achievements gives you points that you can use to unlock structure-upgrades, hammer-upgrades, or even player-upgrades to try out more difficult levels and difficulties.”
So really, Now There Be Goblins, is a smack and smash tower defense hybrid?
“To be honest it’s a bit of a weird genre mashup. Now There Be Goblins really has a tower defense feeling at its core, but is not quite a ‘traditional’ tower defense game. That is because we try to also lean into the, what we call, ‘smack and smash’ style kind of genre because that’s where our game really shines in VR.”
What can you tell us about the traps and structures that can be used in the game?
“At this moment we have developed 4 main structures into the game; the Barricade, the Cannon, the Repeater and the Ballista, with more structures coming in the upcoming months. We want to introduce a new structure for every new level you unlock and we want that structure to work really well in that particular level. But we also try to achieve a unique playstyle or mechanic for each structure and the possibility to synergize different structures with each other.”
One of the weapons, the chained hammer looks like it can do some damage. What can you tell us about the hammer and some of the other weapons that the player may be able to use?
“It’s kind of funny because the hammer was one of the first things that we ever prototyped, and it was so well received by people playing and testing our prototype that we build the first iterations of the combat system around the hammer. We later introduced some mechanics that allowed the player to pick up and use the weapons and shields of slain enemies.”
Some of the particles of light that are used look as they will really pop in Virtual Reality. How important are the details such as lighting, when it comes to the immersion of VR?
“As an artist I believe that lighting is always an important part of the look and feel of a game, but sometimes you have to make compromises, especially with real time lights. We still managed to get really good looking and stylized lighting by creating our own custom shaders and visual tricks. But yes, I think that lighting can be a very important part of the immersion of a game in VR, especially when you’re making a stylized game like ours.”
Will there be leaderboards or challenges within the game?
“We haven’t totally worked out the scoring system as of yet, so for now there are no plans for a leaderboard. But I think that a leaderboard would be a nice addition to the game, so maybe in the future.
There will definitely be challenges of some sort, though we are not sure yet how we will incorporate these into the game. One form of challenges which are going to be incorporated in the game for sure is steam achievements, including some hard to get achievements for the real hardcore achievement hunters ;).”
What is it about VR do you feel really draws the player in ways that normal gaming cannot compare to?
“I think that the name Virtual Reality kinda speaks for itself. VR gaming isn’t quite anything like normal gaming because you’re getting really sucked into another reality and you’re getting the feeling that you’re really there which makes you kind of forget the real world and its surroundings (which can sometimes cause some damages).”
Has there been anything that has really surprised and challenged you when it comes to making games in VR?
“For me one of the most challenging and surprising things about VR is scale. In traditional games you don’t really have that sense of depth and height which in VR you do, and sometimes that’s really great because you can then create really impressive looking scenery, but it can also be a pain in the arse when it comes to designing levels.”
If you could tell your younger self the top three things that you know now, what would they be?
The first thing I would say to my younger self is to start planning more in depth and more often. Especially in a small team like ours with a really big project like Now There Be Goblins. I sometimes found myself doing things that I was passionate about and thought would be a great addition to the game, but didn’t quite fit within the scope of our project so we had to drop those ideas in the end.
If you could tell your younger self the top two things that you know now, what would they be?
“The first thing I would say to my younger self is to start planning more in-depth and more often. Especially in a small team like ours with a really big project like Now There Be Goblins. I sometimes found myself doing things that I was passionate about and thought would be a great addition to the game, but didn’t quite fit within the scope of our project so we had to drop those ideas in the end.
The second thing would be to take some time for yourself every once in a while. It can be really tempting to be working on your game 24/7, but it can end up in a lot of piled up stress and makes the days feel longer and less productive. Just take an evening and a weekend for yourself and start the next day/week fresh.”
Do you feel that we are still in the beginning stages of VR or do you feel we may have reached a certain level that needs the technology to advance in order to get to the next phase of Virtual Reality?
“This is a really good question, and one I think I will not be able to correctly answer. But if I had to guess I would say that right now we are somewhere in the middle. We still have some areas which could use some major improvements like screen resolution, field of view, lens glaring and weight, but we also could use some innovations and technological advancements to make VR really something special, for example in the controller departement.”
I know you are still working on Now There Be Goblins with it releasing on PCVR. Are there plans to release Quest/Quest 2 and PlayStation VR versions of the game?
“Right now we are mainly focussed on developing and releasing the game on PCVR, developing for platforms such as Quest and PSVR would require a really big rework we don’t have the time for at this moment. Once we’ve released the game for PCVR we will be looking into porting the game to other platforms.”
Is the release still planned for Q3?
“Yes, but no. We strive to still aim for a release date somewhere in Q3 this year. But with the pandemic and some unforeseen circumstances the release date will probably move to Q4 of this year. However, we do have the release of a closed alpha planned for somewhere in the next few months.”
With the library of Virtual Reality growing, what would you say to someone on why they should experience Now There Be Goblins?
Personally, what I think makes the game really fun is that it’s an active and clumsy game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, yet gives you this polished traditional-like gameplay feel that a lot of VR games still miss.”
I really want to thank Tom for taking time out of his busy schedule to give us a closer look at Now There Be Goblins as well as talking about his thoughts on Virtual Reality.
Now There Be Goblins will be releasing on Steam later on in 2021.
To learn more about the game, please visit the site, follow them on Twitter, and follow them on Instagram. To learn more about Shocktopus Games, please visit their site and subscribe to their YouTube channel.
In case you missed the trailer, please enjoy.