There may be lots of VR shooters out there to choose from already, but one major missing piece for the genre that fans have been waiting patiently on is a big, flashy hero shooter. Well, the wait is finally over. Larcenauts is a boisterous and colorful competitive team-based shooter blasting its way onto Quest and Rift today for $29.99.
This latest effort from acclaimed developer Impulse Gear features a diverse cast of eight different Specialists and four different game modes. Each character utilizes a unique weapon with specialized abilities so you can always be sure your team composition is different each and every match. It’s aiming to be the ultimate 6v6 competitive heist of the summer for launch, followed by an initial Season 1 competitive series spinning up in the months to come.
Developing a vibrant multiplayer shooter isn’t easy and doing it in VR is even harder, but that didn’t stop Impulse Gear. Below you can read over insights from Impulse Gear Co-Founder and Lead Engineer Greg Koreman, who will share the story of Larcenauts’ extraordinary development conditions and the inspiration behind the vibrant design that drives the game. And for some hands-on impressions, click here.
First, the name. What even is a “Larcenaut?”
Greg Koreman: Larcenauts is a combination of "larceny" and "naut," which comes from the Greek word for sailor, or traveler. So you're a traveling thief. A Larcenaut!
What inspired you to create a hero-based multiplayer shooter after your success with the single player, story-driven Farpoint?
GK: We started Impulse Gear to make VR shooters, so it's in our DNA. During the development of Farpoint we kept saying to ourselves that VR is where competitive shooters are meant to be played. That's really where Larcenauts came from. Our desire to bring our take on a competitive team based shooter to VR. When we started prototyping Larcenauts we didn't actually know it was going to be a hero shooter yet, just that it was going to be team based and very competitive. It was only after we prototyped the first three characters and saw how unique and fun they were that we realized that we had been making a hero shooter all along.
Who is Captain Kas and why is she voiced by Jane Lynch? Was it her role in Wreck-It Ralph that made her a natural fit?
GK: Captain Kas is the leader of the Larcenauts and the captain of the ship, the Palinurus 2. She hand-picked the crew for the heist, selecting each "acquisition specialist" with an eye for the specific talents they bring to the table. She is tough, but fair. Jane Lynch is hilarious, and her commanding presence made her the obvious choice for the role.
Can you talk a little bit about the different game modes?
GK: Larcenauts features three different game modes: Refuel, Uplink and Team Deathmatch.
In Refuel the Larcenauts are out of rocket fuel and the only way off planet involves stealing the remaining Ucaultium fuel in a high-stakes, zero-sum game mode. In Refuel matches, players compete to control areas in a territories style match. Three fuel points are up for grabs. The Larcenauts can capture a fuel point and the Palinurus 2 will begin fueling while the area is controlled.
Uplink is a capture-the-flag style game mode where the "flag" is a surveillance drone. You have to get to the drone before the other team and bring it to your uplink station where Captain Kas can remotely upload the surveillance data. This mode gets crazy. Not only can you throw the drone around to your teammates while trying to get it to the uplink, but then you also have to hold it at the uplink station while Captain Kas downloads the data. To make matters worse, uplinking causes the drone to go into it's self-destruct sequence and after 30 seconds it explodes. You don't want to be holding it when that happens.
Then we have Team Deathmatch. A classic. You can't have a shooter without it.
What sorts of weapons and perks do the various Specialists have? What are the team’s favorites?
GK: The weapons range from alien leech powered healing beams to a sentient mushroom's armor clad fists. We also have shotguns. In all seriousness there is a lot of variety and the weapons (like the Specialists who use them) are selected to fulfill a specific gameplay role. ARC-L6 has a marksman rifle and his quick skill is a power slide. He's the commando that uses his maneuverability to get behind enemy lines and pick off the healers in the back. He may even deploy some proximity mines as he power slides away, leaving a nice treat for anyone who follows. Generally, each Specialist has their own main weapon, quick skill, deployed gear, and custom grenade.
Each person on the team has at least two or three favorites, so it's hard to call out one that's the best. Except it is Chi. He's the best. Don't tell the others!
You’re in the San Francisco Bay Area—which means you’ve been working from home since March of 2020. What impact did that have on Larcenauts’ development?
GK: We were in a position where everyone on the team was able to transition to remote work very quickly, so from a technical perspective it wasn’t an issue. From a game development and testing perspective the remote working environment actually allowed us to test the game in a much more realistic setting, both with the play spaces we were in and the network conditions we were playing under.
Morale is the ultimate game-killer. How did your studio stay resilient while developing in lockdown?
GK: The Impulse Gear family has grown substantially in the last few years and the daily team meetings frequently have baby guest stars! Babies and puppies. What better way to start the day? We still have other events like our remote team lunches, and getting together every day to playtest the game is a lot of fun, but I think more than anything else it has been the constant support of our families that has kept us (mostly) sane throughout the last year.
What has it been like adapting such a well-known genre (the hero shooter) to VR? How do you make characters and abilities stand out when everyone is using the same motion controllers to embody the avatars?
GK: This is a really interesting question and may not be immediately apparent when you play Larcenauts. Each Specialist is a different height, and the difference between the shortest character and the tallest character is at least a few feet. Normally this would be an issue since as a player we don’t want to make you stoop down to play a shorter character, or wear platform shoes when playing a tall character. Instead, we scale the entire world around you! This means that when you’re playing a tall character you actually feel tall. I find this is most apparent when you play a short character for a while and then you switch to a tall character and all of a sudden you feel like you’re towering over the rest of the players.
Are there plans to ever return to narrative games again? What’s in store next for Impulse Gear?
GK: We love working on narrative games and that’s definitely in the cards for the future. We are also planning on extensively expanding upon the Larcenauts universe with new Specialists joining the crew and new maps and game modes to explore. We’re just getting started!
What’s the one thing you hope players don’t bring up in their reviews?
GK: “I used to think Larcenauts was a lighthearted game, and then I saw the sentient mushroom blink. That is the stuff of nightmares.”