SSVR: The Last Hope Lead Designer, Davor Hunski, Recaps Early Access – Part 2

Read the first part of the blog here.

Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope was released just two weeks ago on Steam and Oculus store and quickly became one of the must-have VR titles. While everybody at Croteam VR is thrilled with the reception and continues to work on updates, Davor Hunski remembers there was a time in the development of the game that felt somewhat… less rewarding. 

Back in April, Croteam VR was making great progress. Planets Shaanti and Valtos were already released, each with four different levels and a unique boss fight, and the team just started the work on Arcadia Minor that would bring the total number of planets in the game to five. It was at Reboot Develop conference that the team suffered its greatest setback.

As defending champions of the traditional football tournament, Croteam only managed to take the third place but that wasn’t the worst of it: during the finals, Hunski sustained a shoulder injury that required surgery. “Look, I won’t go into the whole ‘are videogames art’ debate here.” Hunski says, rubbing his shoulder and grimacing “I’ll just say that I suffered for mine. A lot.” Another Croteam veteran developer, Davor Tomičić, broke the bone in his right arm during the same match.

A bronze trophy was placed in the office that all of sudden seemed empty, with two key members of Croteam VR absent. And things looked even more bleak when looking at the planned Early Access timetable. But both Davors miraculously respawned at the office pretty soon after the injury and finished the work on Arcadia Minor and Arena updates on painkillers.

Can an elevated pain threshold explain the mysterious increasing difficulty on the final planets?

Hunski’s next project. “I’ll show you but please don’t post the picture.” You got it. “Promise?” Yeah, sure.

“The only things meds bring to the game is bugs.” Hunski dodges the question and deflects “Ok, maybe some more jovial enemy designs, but you’ll have to talk to Mario (Kotlar) and Toni (Boghetta), our gameplay designers. They have the good stuff.”

The real answer to the difficulty design lies in the GDD (Game Design Document). After the latest Skills & Power Ups update, Sam was finally granted access to high-end weapons and tech like tactical orbital lasers and holographic decoys. The ability to unleash an army of spiders to fight for him or even slow down time itself completely transformed the gameplay, and swarms of enemies were always designed with Skills and Power Ups in mind.

“Yes, the game is hard, even on Normal, if you don’t master the gunplay AND the power-ups. It was hard for me too, reading all those comments on the difficulty curve on our forums during Early Access” Hunski says “Everybody was right. Sort of. We announced the Skills and Power Ups right from the start, but just couldn’t disclose what are they, not until we knew what works.”

The Last Hope ended its Early Access with five difficulty settings – Tourist, Easy, Normal, Hard and Serious. Which one is right for you?

“As I said: the game is easy to pick up for, but hard to truly master.” Hunski explains. “But what do I know: even I can’t get my name on the leaderboards any more. It’s that shoulder injury, you see…”