In this issue of Mr. PSVR’s Interview Corner, we take a closer look at SWARM. A game that makes you feel like you are Spider-Man with swinging, leaderboards, and the intense fast-paced action that is coming to PlayStation VR soon.
Interview with the founder of Greensky Games, Peter Le Bek
Welcome to The PlayStation Brahs. Would you please introduce yourself and what you do at Greensky Games?
“I’m Peter Le Bek, the founder of Greensky Games, I’ve been working in VR since the DK-1 was released.”
Growing up, what type of games did you play and what was that one game or experience that made you want to do this for a living?
“The games I played most growing up were Guild Wars, Halo, GTA, Call of Duty, and Age of Empires. I’m drawn to video games more out of a love of making things than a specific game. To me, games still feel like mostly unexplored territory as a creative medium, even more so in VR. That’s very exciting to me.
I started Greensky Games because I wanted to build the kind of VR games I was dying to play; games that were intense, physical, and couldn’t possibly exist on any other platform.”
What was it about Virtual Reality that hooked you in?
“The first time I put a DK-1 on, I immediately saw that VR was the future of gaming, and computing. I think the immersiveness and physicality of VR will fundamentally change what a ‘game’ is, bringing ‘gaming’ to a massive audience, far beyond what’s now considered the ‘gaming market’. Which is what I’m excited about.”
Your newest game, SWARM is going to be released this year. What can you tell us about the game?
“Swarm is vibrant, intense, and fast-paced. The title’s 25 levels and 5 dynamic zones are presented with brilliant cel-shaded graphics, plunging players into colorful worlds overrun with cunning robotic enemies they’ll have to outmaneuver, then blast. Paying homage to classic arcade shooters, Swarm is both relentless and rewarding, where survival requires twitch reactions and strategic thinking. You really feel like you’re Spider-Man with a gun.
In the game, you move by swinging with a grappling hook, which is this really satisfying physical motion, which is only possible in VR, and it’s intense. Anyone who plays SWARM will immediately notice how the grappling feels; it’s fluid, it’s fast and there’s realistic tension, so it’s intuitive.
But there’s also a really high skill ceiling because SWARM’s Smooth Grappling System kind of makes you into a Pendulum: as you plummet towards the ground you build up momentum and if you pull up at just the right moment, it’ll all transfer into your next swing. And if you let go at the top of your arc, all that potential energy will let you hang, almost motionless in the air, while you rain down death from above or plan your next swing. It’s really exhilarating.”
One of the things that caught my eye is competitive leaderboards. What can you tell us about those?
“Every level in Swarm is designed to be replayable and allows you to compete against the global leaderboard for a high score or challenge friends. Just like Beatsaber and Pistol Whip. We’re also going to have weekly challenges, with prizes, where you can compete against others on a specific level, or a set of levels with different modifiers, like unlimited slow-mo.”
Visuals can really help with the immersion. The art style also caught my eye. What can you tell us about and was this always the style SWARM was going to have from the beginning?
“We’ve always thought VR is uniquely good at immersion. When you put on a headset you really feel like you’re somewhere else. And if you’re entirely shutting off the outside world to be immersed in a VR world, you should really enjoy it. You should really enjoy spending time there. So you’ll find SWARMs environments are bright, colorful, and beautifully cel-shaded.
The overall look and feel were definitely influenced by Borderlands, Jet Set Radio, Gundam style Anime, and comic books.”
When developing the game, what were some of the challenge points you encountered that you were not expecting?
“We drew inspiration from Spider-Man and Titanfall and spent 4 months iterating on grappling. We had a breakthrough when we gave the rope some elasticity and tension simulation – suddenly it felt like we had more control and power, more like Spider-Man. From there we considered building a 3D platformer, or a racing game, but we settled on the strategic arena shooter because swinging through explosions and plunging down on enemies was just ridiculously fun!”
Was there something that you knew was going to be difficult, but actually turned out to be easier than you thought?
“We thought it was going to be really difficult to teach people how to grapple in SWARM. It’s very physical, but it’s also unfamiliar, no one knows how they should be swinging around. It’s something we’ve only ever seen in movies and TV. And you need to use your momentum from your previous swings to maintain your height and float above enemies. You know, there’s just a lot to it, and we thought it was going to be very difficult to teach anyone, especially people new to VR.
But once we started testing with people, who had never been in VR before, we were shocked to find that it’s actually really intuitive. There’s something about the physicality of the swinging combined with the physics that just makes sense, and almost anyone can pick it up in a few minutes. We’re still not sure exactly why!”
SWARM was originally supposed to come out last year and of course, the way 2020 went down, things, of course, changed. Do we have a release date for the Oculus Store and Steam? Will the Oculus Rift and Quest versions be cross-buy?
“Yes, we were planning to release SWARM in September 2020, but we saw an opportunity to really bring SWARM to the next level with another six months of development. The Quest and Rift versions come out on April 8th! And cross-buy will be enabled.”
Are there any plans on bringing SWARM to PlayStation VR?
Yes, we are planning to bring SWARM to PS-VR before the end of 2021.
If you could go back in time, what would be the top 3 things you would tell your younger self?
“That’s an interesting question. I would probably tell myself that it’s OK to love games, one day you might be doing it for a job and all those hours will help you out 😅”
So what is next for Greensky Games?
“So, SWARM is launching with competitive leaderboards, for async multiplayer. I can’t share any specifics right now, but I can tell you true Multiplayer will be coming in the near future. Stay tuned ;)”
With the continuing growth of VR, what would you say to someone on why they should experience SWARM?
“If you want to know what it feels like to be Spiderman in VR, you should play SWARM.”
I want to thank Peter for taking time out of his schedule and for giving us a closer look into SWARM and for also talking about Virtual Reality.
SWARM is coming PlayStation VR before the end of 2021.
In case you missed the trailer, please enjoy.