Impulse Gear Devs Discuss Community, Steam VR, Characters, and Roadmap

Impulse Gear very recently released its second title Larcenauts, a 6v6 hero-shooter in first-person for VR platforms like Oculus and Steam VR, and it is the first of its kind. The studio’s first game also was a VR title by the name of Farpoint, which was very successful thanks to how innovative it was for VR, and thanks to the release of the VR aim controller for PlayStation shooter games. Game Rant spoke to Greg Koreman and Seth Luisi from Impulse Gear about Larcenauts and what this new game has to offer.

There are not many games like Farpoint, but with Larcenauts being the very first hero-shooter specifically for VR, there’s a certain allure to it. The game is comprised of a cast of very diverse and unique characters, and many players have already put plenty of time into Larcenauts, so much so that the community is rapidly shaping the game with its feedback. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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Q: What was it like for you to work on Farpoint as your first project?

Koreman: Farpoint was excellent, it was a really fun project. We started the company with the sole intention of creating virtual reality games for core games, and when you look at Farpoint it was a great example of doing something new in virtual reality that people hadn’t done before. At the time nobody had really created many first-person shooter games or bringing that genre over to virtual reality was a really fun challenge for us. I think there’s a lot of other things when you’re growing a new studio that were very rewarding in that game. Fans really enjoyed that game and they keep telling us they loved it, and I think that was a really special time for Impulse Gear. We learned a lot from Farpoint, it was a very good experience.

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Q: What are the lessons you learned from Farpoint that made it into Larcenauts?

Luisi: From working on Farpoint we really learned a lot about how players would interact with a VR game, how the design, the levels, make it comfortable for a number of players. We focused a lot on the control schemes and we actually worked with Sony on developing the aim controller as well because it was a key part of how you would play Farpoint and interact with the game. And we looked a lot into how to tell an interesting narrative for a single-player game and take advantage of VR in terms of immersion and interacting with those players, experiencing the story from a first-person perspective.

When we started working on Larcenauts we wanted to take a lot of those in-game mechanics further. A lot of things we experimented or started on Farpoint we took further into Larcenauts with how you move into the environment, navigate the environments. Lots of things were focused on movements, and maintain that unique personality we got in Farpoint as well, where we have very interesting characters that were fully realized, so we got across the personality of each of these characters in the game. You really feel their identity and that’s really important to us in a game like Larcenauts where it’s all about having those heroes, making it a hero-shooter.

Q: Larcenauts is the first hero-shooter for VR. What’s the story behind this decision? Did you purposefully make it the first of its kind?

Koreman: When we were working on Larcenauts we were focusing on what we did want to do next. We wanted to focus on these game mechanics and we wanted to make something that was going to be a competitive multiplayer experience and doing that, we wanted to take advantage of some of the things unique to VR and have these characters with unique personalities and abilities. We found out ourselves that we were making a hero-shooter because we were focusing on what made each of these characters unique and how they would all fit together, and that was definitely more of a hero-shooter kind of thing.

That was a big part of how we started out on Larcenauts as we were experimenting on what was working well, some of the things we were interested in, and some of these different mechanics that we were interested in, we thought it would be interesting to support these other ones so they’ll look different, create these different characters with different abilities and how it would all work together.

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Q: What were the games or other media that influenced your work on Larcenauts?

Koreman: When you’re making a new game you like things from all over the place. The entire team brings their experiences, their own ideas to a project, and those inspirations can come from anywhere. We’ve got a game where we have a plague doctor bird character that uses leeches to heal others, and I think the inspiration for that character can come from a wide variety of media and there are lots of different intersections of concepts there, but when you look at the gameplay itself I think there’s a huge amount of depth of experience in creating this game for many years.

Also, there are great examples of games that are out there already that are doing wonderful things in the VR space with first-person shooters with other experiences they bring to people. We wanted to take a look at what they were doing and then bring something a little different to the table, something very accessible for new players, something that could show you can just jump in there and play right away, and that was something that was really important to us. In terms of other influences, I think we got them from all over, there’s no one thing that we thought this is the way to go, it was a combination of a lot of different things.

Q: Were there specific influences, like Apex Legends, Overwatch, or Valorant?

Luisi: I don’t think there were any specific influences. Obviously, we’re creating a hero-shooter, so it’s its own specific genre and we look at other titles and what they do with that, but we really want to focus on what makes this game unique or take advantage of VR, what makes these characters different, abilities and specialties. That was our main focus, to come up with these characters, coming up with a team composition, how they work with one another, and creating this cast of unique characters that we have in the game.

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Q: The characters do seem unique and very different. Which ones are your personal favorite and why?

Luisi: This is like choosing who is your favorite child in many ways. When I play the game I play as all the different characters, I think they all have something unique about them, and it’s a lot of fun playing in these different roles. If any, I really like Evander a lot. He has this cloaking ability, he can lay down traps, he has a sniper rifle; he’s a lot of fun to play, and with his personality, he’s cookier and funnier because he finds himself to be overly serious. They’re all unique characters and I love playing as all of them.

Koreman: I think Arc L6 is a blast. He’s a robot, but he’s super maneuverable, he’s a lone wolf assassin type of guy. He can use his power slide ability to flank enemies and there’s a lot of tactical ability that can aid in your team composition, especially when you look at the game modes we have, like Uplink, where we have fast movement and also the ability to lay down traps so if the enemies are chasing you, you can lay down some proximity mine they can stumble upon. There’s a lot of cool stuff. Like Luisi was saying, everyone’s gonna have their favorite right at the beginning, but I think once you play each of them for a little bit longer you’ll realize each of them has a very different way of playing.

It makes the game much deeper to understand not just one character, but how one character works with another character. The obvious ones are our healer class, Chi, mixed with a heavier class like Thal. In addition to that maybe you look at two maneuverable characters, like Calima and Arc L6, and using them in a way where you’re totally flanking enemies and get around to be behind them to take out that healer and take out that Thull combination. There’s a lot of depth into how you don’t just choose your own character but choose the other characters as well.

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Q: What was your approach to balancing characters in regards to possible team compositions?

Koreman: Lots and lots of playtesting. We playtest the game all the time so we’re playing the game, we’re trying things out, we’re trying different compositions, we’re doing a lot of stuff like that. That’s the only way to do it, you gotta think about how people use it and do a lot of playtesting.

Q: Are you planning on future balance patches?

Koreman: Yes, I mean, you start with something, and then you are always surprised when people use it in a particularly unique way. There will be tweaks and tuning along the way for sure, that’s part of any game like this. We really want this to turn into a competitive game where people are hosting tournaments and things like that. We want to make sure that that balance continues to stay fresh, and we want things to evolve as we go.

Q: You mentioned tournaments. Is this something you thought of ahead of releasing or is it something you’re thinking of right now?

Koreman: When we released the game the first step was to build a playerbase and have them learn how to play all the characters. I think right now it’s very funny because we got a number of players who played many hours of the game even though we just released this week. They’ve played non-stop and they have all the characters, they’re already playing with all of them, learning their strategies.

But, at some point, you’re going to play as or against a new specialist and you’ll think maybe “Oh, this one is overpowered” or “This one needs something,” but then you learn how to take down that character and all of a sudden that strategy that you’ve developed makes it that much easier to take down an overpowered character, or maybe you find a new strategy with a character that you thought was weak that builds this up and makes it a very competitive character.

Right now, the community is learning all of these things so we need to get through that phase where everybody is trying all the new things out and experimenting with it before we can run a tournament, but I’m looking forward to when we get to that phase. Just watching these people play through these livestreams they’re getting extremely good at the game very fast as you’d expect, and it’s going to be good to see all the competitive teams get together and take each other on head to head.

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Q: Can you tell me more about the lore of the game? What was the world-building process like for you?

Luisi: The Larcenauts are a group of characters that have come together to pull off intergalactic heists in the Solar system. Their leader is Captain Cass, she’s voiced by Jane Lynch, and she’s the leader of the crew, she gets them together, and they’re going through these different heists. Everything in the game is lighthearted, fun, and a little bit tongue and cheek. They rob as they go through these different activities. We want to build a lot of backstories where the game takes place, the systems, the heists, and getting everything together.

When you play the game you start out in your ship, you can see the interior of the ship, and then you visit all these locations in the Solar system for where you would do these different heists. Definitely a rich background, we have tons of background on each character and a really diverse cast of characters that you can play as, and they’re all a group of misfits. None of them is too serious as stone-cold killers or anything like that. Definitely a bunch of goofballs who are trying to do these heists together, and it’s lighthearted in that way.

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Q: Are you happy with the reception of the game?

Koreman: Yeah, we’re just happy to see people play the game and enjoy it so much. We have a very active Discord with people who are learning so much about the game. That’s something we expected, and when people are starting a new game there’s so much to learn. When you hop into the game you start with one specialist, and this was very intentional to have one character available that you can play with from the very beginning because even learning a single character takes a little bit of practice and learning the ropes of the game. Then, you quickly unlock more of these characters as you play, then you start learning the game modes and all the systems.

Each specialist has deployed gear, quick skill, two weapons, so there’s a lot with each specialist, but also learning how all these systems work because it’s really exciting to see the Discord community figure out how all the things are upgraded, like power slide system and things like that. Watching the game as it slides is a lot of fun, and I think there are a lot of opportunities for people to get in there and try it out. Also, right at the beginning, there was an expectation regarding how the game’s systems work, and one of the things we did right away was that we were listening and reacting to the community, which we are very passionate about, and there was this concept of the sprint mode that we had.

People wanted to use different types of sprinting mode when standing up and we were actually able to react to that very quickly. We got a patch up that enabled this other way to sprint and we had a huge reaction on this from the community from people who were really excited about this. For a lot of people, it changes the way they play, and they see it as an even more competitive game now. It was a good thing for us to release the game and get the early feedback and then be able to act on it so fast. It improves the game in a very dramatic way so we can see that these people have been very passionate about the game.

Q: Considering players’ feedback, are you planning on introducing alternative reloading methods as well?

Koreman: When people get into the game right away they feel like they would need a different way to play the game, but the more they play it they like that. However, on our side, we do think there’s a huge opportunity here to do a manual reload system, and that’s something we have in our very short-term roadmap to add to the game. I think people will enjoy the possibility to do either one.

We get very strong feedback from people that really want that button reload because they don’t like fiddling around with the reload mechanisms in some other games, so that’s something we consistently get good feedback on. Then, other people like learning the weapons, learning how they work, and using this manual reload to enhance their gameplay. We’re very excited that we can react to the community so fast. We’re planning on having this feature up very soon.

Q: What are your plans to solve the Steam VR issues that the game is currently facing?

Koreman: We have our engineering team on it right now. This is an issue that came right before launch and we found there’s a movement issue. You’ve probably seen a lot of people try it, which I don’t recommend. We’re fixing the issue, don’t try it, please. Yet, a lot of people have. There’s a movement issue we’re tracking down and we will have a fix up very soon, but unfortunately, we had to pull back from launch and we were not able to launch at the same time as Oculus. It’s a really unfortunate issue because we do love the Steam platform and we love the Index and the other headsets on this platform. It was really a disappointment for us that we weren’t able to do that. We are very actively fixing this issue.

We hope to have very good news very soon, that’s all I can say on that, but we’re working really hard on it. We want people’s first experience with the game to be good, and unfortunately, they purchased the game when the game is not ready yet for their headsets [Steam VR’s]. It’s very disappointing for them and I hate to see that because it’s not at all what we wanted to see. You look at the experience that everybody is getting on the Quest platform, they’re having a lot of fun and I can relate to that, you want to get in there and try it out. We will have it ready for them soon so we feel really bad that they aren’t able to play it yet. Stay tuned for an announcement and we will let you guys know when it’s ready, but yes, soon.

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Q: Why did you decide not to include microtransactions in the game and how has this affected your approach to cosmetics?

Luisi: When we released the game we decided to make it a fair, even playground for all players, so we didn’t include any type of microtransactions. We are looking at something like that for skins in the future, and it would be only cosmetics, so it wouldn’t affect balancing or which maps are available. It’s important to us that all of those core gameplay features are included in the heart of the game. At the same time, we want to keep adding skins and cosmetic items and those would be available for an additional fee.

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Q: How did you come up with the current system where the loot boxes are free?

Koreman: It’s a very interesting way to roll out content to people. What we found was that if you start the game and have all the characters unlocked it’s almost overwhelming. It’s too much choice right at the beginning. People may not say this now, but when you’re trying a new character there are lots of different abilities to learn. Having this progression track as you unlock these new characters gives you always something new to try. The rollout of the characters is actually very fast. Within two games you unlock your second specialist. A couple of games later you will have unlocked another loadout for your specialist.

You will get your first four specialists very quickly, and probably a couple of the other remaining four that you randomly unlock always in the first couple of hours in the game. The rollout is very quick, and the boxes give us a good chance to find new things like skins. The Power Slate system is very extensive and figuring out the best way possible to find and use all those Power Slates is a big part of the game. I think it’s going to be really cool to see people continue to play and get those free boxes, the reward boxes, and collect them all.

Q: Which is your favorite feature and why?

Koreman: That’s a good question.

Luisi: For me, it’s always coming down to all the different characters and all the different abilities, how they work together. It’s not a singular feature, but it’s great to have such diversity of play in a single game. You get a completely different feeling playing Salters, who is a grenadier than you do playing as Bosun, who has armor and a turret. It’s nice to play the game and switch it up very fast and just choosing a different character that uses a whole different playstyle. For consumers, it’s also a whole new set of abilities to learn to master. Just having all these different characters and abilities is, to me, my favorite feature in the game.

Koreman: If you look at the game, if you want to play, if you love hero-shooters this is the game for you. This has got everything you would want from a hero-shooter and it’s in virtual reality, and it’s the first of its kind. There’s a really cool opportunity for people to try it out and get in there and play it, the opportunity to have new specialists and new maps is huge. Even right now, hopping in there, if you want to play a hero-shooter in virtual reality this is the game for you.

Q: Do you have plans for DLCs or battle passes, maybe?

Koreman: If you look at the long-term support of the game there’s a lot of cool stuff we can do, and the battle pass model might fit nicely in it. At the moment there’s a lot of content for people to get in there and play already. That will be an idea for the future.

Q: Is there anything you might want to add that I didn’t ask with my questions?

Luisi: We’re really excited to have Larcenauts out there, in front of people. We’ve have been playing it a lot over the past year-plus that we’ve been developing it. Everyone on the team plays it nearly every day. A lot of effort has gone into developing it and having a good time while developing it. We’re really excited to see the reception, always looking at what the feedback is from the community and finding how we want the game to evolve, We definitely see this as an evolving product that takes feedback from the community and look at where we want to take it, what seems to be overpowered, where to improve the game, and that’s definitely the plan for this title.

Koreman: It’s built from the ground for virtual reality. From the beginning we wanted this to be a competitive game and a virtual reality game, and if that speaks to you you got to try it to see if you’re any good, get your crew together and good people to get into a match with good team composition. I think it’s pretty exciting to see where people take this in the future as well.

[END]

Larcenauts is available on Oculus and Steam VR.

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