Steam Hammer designer Konstantin Semenov on the survival game's steampunk inspirations
Like cyberpunk before it, steampunk started on the printed page before crossing over to game consoles and PCs. So it should come as no surprise that the upcoming steampunk survival game Steam Hammer—which, fittingly, is available for PC through Steam, via Early Access—was inspired by steampunk novels and stories. And in talking to Konstantin Semenov, the game's producer and lead game designer, we found that it was also influenced by some steampunk games that came before it, as well as his passion for history.
"Any creative work is the result of reinterpretation," he explained, "and to me, Steam Hammer was my way of looking back at the steampunk world in general. This is an industrial, colonial, and to some extent a Victorian-style world, the world of uncharted territories and new horizons."
Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan novels
Released annually between 2009 and 2011, the three novels in Westerfeld's series—Leviathan, Behemoth, and Goliath—formed a trilogy set during an alternate version of World War I. As for how they impacted Steam Hammer, Semenov says, "The atmosphere and appearance of Steam Hammer's world and its objects were inspired by Westerfeld's novels, especially his books' illustrations. Thanks to these, we have airships with large envelopes on top, merged flesh and mechanical parts, and steam jetpacks. This is particularly noticeable in our Grand Airships, turrets, and steam jackals. As for the Acribos' natives, not only can they fuse together metal and living flesh, but they also create bio-mechanical items and even buildings."
H.P. Lovecraft's The Shadow Over Innsmouth
Written in 1931, this novella comes from a horror writer whose influence can be seen in such games as the Dead Space series, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, the Megami Tensei games, and many others. As for how Lovecraft, and this novella, inspired Steam Hammer, Semenov explains that, "The image of the mysterious Acribian islands, as well as their indigenous people, was partially created under this story. Acribians from the world of Saol lived in complete isolation from the outside world. They worshiped solemn Ancient gods, and used bio-technology which is totally unfathomable for the Imperial scientists. Acribians could create living machines using the sap and pollen from a tree called celebrium, which only grows on the islands. Its pollen is lifted into the air and gets carried away, often causing dense fog on the islands. Anything can happen in such fog. People have been known to enter it and never to return. Remind you of anything?"
While works of fiction clearly had an impact on Steam Hammer, so too did history. "The history of building the Empire and the Acribos' colonization in our game heavily relied on the real history of colonization of America and occupation of India," Semenov explains. "In this regard, it is particularly captivating to follow this story of a mighty industrial power with all the latest innovations in airship and weapon design based on steam and Tesla technology, invading lands of a different nation with the only aim of obtaining celebrium, a highly valuable resource. Naturally, this leads to a terrible catastrophe. You can find out more about the history of the world of Saol from local newspapers, which we prepared specifically for this release."
Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura
While we've talked about how fiction and reality were a big influence on Steam Hammer, it, like all games, was also inspired by that which came before. Especially, Semenov notes, a certain game that was also steampunky. "Speaking of the overall style of the game world and its crafting system," he says, "Steam Hammer is closely related to this old-school RPG. Though Steam Hammer is a survival game with an open world, not an RPG with a fixed storyline, in many ways we were trying to evoke that feeling when you create increasingly sophisticated and unorthodox types of technological weapons and armor, as well as competing steam and bio-technology."
Steam Hammer is now available for PC through Steam Early Access.