Worbital design lead explains how a heavy dose of chaos can spice up interplanetary warfare.
Hello! It’s Sasu Kemppainen, Team Jolly Roger’s design lead, happy to pronounce our gravitational space artillery game, Worbital, finally releases today on Playstation 4!
To celebrate, I thought to take a step back and look at the one element that makes Worbital Worbital and, basically, started it all: COSMIC CHAOS!
Worbital is a real-time strategy game where players control their planets, build artillery and target shots through the solar system in hopes of destroying their enemy planets. Gravitational hijinks and explosions galore.
The idea is actually ripped from our previous game, Interplanetary — a realistic planet-to-planet combat game with a hard sci-fi aesthetic. It was a long project, and by the end, I started to feel exhausted with the game’s serious nature. Can’t I have a superturbo laser and fire a hole into that planet, causing a chain reaction destroying the solar system? No, that wouldn’t be realistic.
But, it would be fun.
Enter Worbital, the chaotic space artillery game where we could put anything we had previously held back on! Planet explosions, spaceships, collisions, black holes… Same premise, different perspective! You could call it “cathartic game development.”
We wanted to unleash our creativity, so we set up a rule for the new project: fun above all. If a weapon is fun, it goes in, no matter how weird. A conflict between game balance and fun? We decide in favor of fun. For example: I decided early on that players should be able to use specific tactics to derail any planet from their orbit, causing them to drift freely in the solar system. Planetary collisions, ahoy!
Of course, this would come with a mechanic that allows high-recoil weapons to steer their planets while derailed, making it also a valid offensive option. To this day, derail tactics are strong, but so fun! We’ve since developed even more ways to counter them, and despite our “rule of fun,” Worbital has kept surprisingly well balanced.
After early testing, it became clear that the loudest screams of excitement came whenever something unexpected happened; a clear sign that we could use more of this “randomness.”
We wanted to surprise players at every turn and create many elements that could work together to cause surprising results and, therefore, hype. Our two main ingredients: the weapons and the solar system itself.
The solar system is ruled by its gravity. Any projectile, debris, asteroid or derailed planet drifts towards nearby gravity wells, such as other planets. The amount of drifting asteroids steadily rises as the match goes on, increasing chaos. These things can blow up a planet. And the drifting planet fragments might destroy another planet. Maybe even the sun? Hope you have your defenses ready.
Or, you can use your weapons to take advantage of the chaos! You have ways of redirecting asteroids and planets at your enemy, so overwhelm them and bind them into explosive chain reactions! As an added layer, your weapons interact not only with the solar system, but with other weapons as well. Sure, you can shoot down enemy projectiles, but what happens when you cross your laser beam with theirs? How about using your Flamethrower to “fire up” a Mist Dispersion? Just… don’t activate an Overcharger built right next to another Overcharger…
As a sort of a sandbox with mechanics playing together to unexpected results, Worbital has often managed to surprise even us developers. I wonder what strategies will be discovered as we launch on PS4?
Worbital is out today on PS4. It’s available in English, French, German, Spanish and even Finnish!