It’s almost showtime! PAX West 2019 kicks off next week in Seattle, Washington, and we’re excited to see what this year’s show has in store for the gaming community. We’re particularly jazzed to share the new demo for Stormland, the latest action-adventure game from Insomniac, scheduled to debut at this year’s show.
The new hands-on experience promises a fresh look at exploration and combat, plus the first real taste of multiplayer gameplay through a co-op treasure hunt. “We want players to feel like they are a part of an epic struggle alongside the rest of the player community,” says Insomniac Games Lead Designer Mike Daly. “We think the whole experience is more interesting when you have shared encounters and can talk about them with other players.”
PAX attendees will get the chance to play as one of Stormland’s heroic androids and work together with other players to find three hidden keys. Each key is tucked away somewhere in the shifting cloudscape, and attendees will need to use powerful abilities and old-fashioned sleuthing to uncover them all.
As fun as that sounds, there’s much more to Stormland’s multiplayer than treasure hunts. You can play the entire game cooperatively, and there’s even raid-like “Challenge Realms” that’ll test even the bravest of robot heroes out there. “I can’t wait for the community to sink their teeth in and work together to discover what the world has to offer,” says Daly.
To learn more, we caught up with Insomniac Games Lead Designer Mike Daly to chat about Stormland’s social gameplay and new demo experience.
Can you tell us about what players can expect from the new demo?
Mike Daly: The demo is about using your traversal and combat skills to experience an open-world treasure hunt. You’re tasked with recovering three keys to unlock an enemy vault, but you only know potential locations for the keys. Some of these locations have scanners that help you deduce where the keys are located. As you investigate areas, you’ll need to use your proximity sensor, spatial audio, and sharp eyes to zero in on these critical containers and scanners.
To get to all of them, you’ll need to use a suite of traversal abilities; slipstreaming across the clouds, jumping and climbing to high points, and gliding down to areas. Tempest forces occupy the region, some guarding the keys in question. It will be up to you to figure out how to deal with them. Will you search out a stronger set of weapons, sneak past them, or use the abilities built into your body to give you an edge?
How would you summarize the game’s co-op and multiplayer features?
MD: Stormland features drop-in, drop-out two-player co-op throughout the entire story campaign and ongoing play so that you can experience everything in the game by yourself or with a friend. We make it easy for players to work together in-game, too; you can warp to them at any time, revive them if an enemy downs them, and coordinate movements by placing way points for each other on a shared 3D map.
How does social gameplay in Stormland differ from other VR games like Echo Arena or Space Junkies?
MD: Stormland offers a large persistent world from the start, and we try to avoid segmenting. Rather than waiting in the lobby to start an arcade-style game mode, you start exploring, and the multiplayer aspects of the game integrate into that seamlessly. If you want to play with a partner, we support matchmaking that runs in the background while you keep playing. This goes for friend invites as well, so you don’t have to wait for people to play.
Being exclusively cooperative makes a big difference in how the game feels. You can take your time and enjoy exploring rather than deal with constant pressure from human opponents. This makes it easy to pause and converse with your partner as well, giving players space to switch into a more social mindset whenever they feel like it, rather than waiting for brief interludes between matches. If you want to discuss the game with the community, we encourage players to join the Insomniac Stormland Discord.
What role will the greater Stormland community play as the experience unfolds?
MD: The world of Stormland changes on a cycle, and each new world is the same for all players. This means the entire community gets to be there when the new world arrives and can share their findings about it.
Each new world is vast and has a lot of nooks and crannies, some of which are very valuable, so there’s a good reason to share information with the player community. Discord is our recommended media for this type of discussion since it lets everyone discuss focused topics.
How will playing the campaign with friends cooperatively differ from playing solo?
MD: Enemies have the same stats whether you are playing single-player or co-op, so your skills and weapons all still feel right while fighting enemies. However, once another player joins, the Tempest reinforces with additional forces. These larger groups are more dangerous and require coordination between players to combat effectively.
Although players will need to share weapons and ammo, all other resources are automatically shared when playing co-op, so there’s no squabbling about who gets the stuff that contributes to progression. Everything else about the game is consistent between single-player and co-op. You get to keep your resource and story progress while playing co-op.
When working together, a team of players can opt to multitask their missions. This coordination can help them advance through the game’s strata more efficiently. One of the most significant differences when playing co-op is how combat feels. Although it’s the same weapons, enemies, and mechanics, the number of strategic options you have available when planning to attack a group of enemies together increases dramatically. There are a lot of options for complementary vantage points and opening moves that can give a team an edge and deepen combat strategy.
Can you share some info on the “Challenge Realms” and what role they’ll play in social gameplay?
MD: This is now formally called “Terminus” in the game. Terminus is the highest stratum in the Stormland and represents the peak challenge available in any given cycle. Completing Terminus is how all your efforts in the lower open-world stratums pay off. It’s an intense battle that stresses your skills in traversal, navigation, combat, and progression in a big “raid” environment.
Like the rest of the game, Terminus can be played single-player or co-op and has a different layout and enemy composition each cycle. Unlike the rest of the game, Terminus is scored and lets you compete for performance against the rest of the community. To stand out as the strongest in the community, you need to be experienced, skilled, and highly adaptable.
Terminus uses separate leaderboards for single-player and co-op, and once you’ve unlocked it in a cycle, you can replay it as many times as you want.
What’s something about Stormland’s multiplayer you feel will surprise players?
MD: The first thing you notice when you start playing multiplayer is that the other player has a fully articulated full-body avatar. Their gestures and body language immediately feel that much more real and you get an even stronger sense that the other person is present. It takes social immersion a step forward.
Is there anything you’d like to tell the player community anticipating Stormland’s release?
MD: When you can move anywhere through an open world with android speed and strength driven by the precise and nuanced motion of your hands, that freedom brings exploration to a new level, not just within VR but across all games.
To live up to that potential, we’ve created an exotic alien world that hosts many secrets and mysteries. I can’t wait for the community to sink their teeth in and work together to discover what the world has to offer.