Developer Iron Mountain Interactive bills its new game, Steel Circus, as the solar system’s largest sporting event. That said, picture if you will a sport that marries Mario Strikers with Rocket League and even the obscure PS2/Xbox/GameCube era release, Sega Soccer Slam, and you’ll have an idea of what Steel Circus is all about, where Champions with unique abilities race up and down fields tackling opponents and playing off their unique abilities to score goals.
After watching footage of the game, we can definitely envision long hours spent in front of our monitors crushing the competition and giving high fives to our virtual teammates. We spoke to Peter Ehardt, Lead Producer of Steel Circus at Iron Mountain Interactive, to learn more about the game and get a better idea of the studio’s long-term plans.
What inspired you to create Steel Circus?
Steel Circus' game design changed over the course of the development, which we started almost two years ago. Helmut Hutterer, Game Director at Iron Mountain Interactive, pitched the initial idea as: "Huge mechs flying around, chasing a ball in an arena in third person view".
At Iron Mountain Interactive we have an extremely iterative approach when it comes to designing a game or a prototype. While testing and evaluating ideas we discard the bad designs, keep the good ones, and build on top of proven gameplay mechanics, which morphs the game into something of its own. Along the way, we wanted to add more personality and character to the actual in-game characters. That's when we decided to abandon the idea of mechs and started giving our current champions faces and backstories by adding lore to the game. At the end of the day, Steel Circus is a group effort of the team at Iron Mountain Interactive. A lot of people are involved in design decisions and tests.
What are the game's biggest selling points?
We feel Steel Circus has a strong position with highly competitive matches featuring the excitement and teamwork of professional sports in the context of Hero-based characters and a gamer-friendly sci-fi setting. With three players on a side and an objective of getting the ball into the goal using any means necessary, it’s easy to understand the gameplay objective—but there’s a tremendous amount of skill and strategy that adds depth to the game the longer you play. Once people start playing, there’s a “let’s play one more match” sentiment that develops very quickly once the adrenaline begins firing.
What were some of the challenges that you experienced while developing this game?
We wanted to focus on the core gameplay for as long as time would allow. We didn't want to offer a full game at Early Access that contains different modes and a lot of content just for the sake of having more variety. We think if the core mechanic of a game isn't fun and not worth coming back to, it won’t matter how many features the game provides.
Designing a game like Steel Circus, which draws inspiration from many different genres, makes it a bit difficult to develop when you do not have a clear vision. We needed to establish core principles, such as that Steel Circus is—first and foremost—a sports game. Running around, positioning and shooting and passing need to feel good. Goals must feel satisfying, the game needs to be very skill-based, etc. Defining those principles and sticking to them certainly wasn't easy, but helped to us navigate through the project.
What are your plans for Steel Circus post-launch?
Once the core mechanics have proven to be fun/good/satisfying enough, we are going to add more features, modes, and content. We have tons of ideas, and we think we've only unleashed a small portion of the big potential we see in the game. We think that further down the line, Steel Circus can offer many different, funny modes with new champions, different group plays, challenges, ranked seasons, etc. We are proud of our community and are happy to listen to what they say and suggest. Needless to say, many decisions are heavily influenced by their feedback.
What are your long-term goals for the game?
Naturally, to have a sustainable player base to keep the game development going, ideally, for years. We would also like to add more content, features, modes, and champions.
Further, we’d be lying if we said that we don't care about esports and a Steel Circus esports league. However, it's nearly impossible to "design" an esports title. It sort of happens for games that are competitive and have a big community. In a way, we have had this topic in the back of our heads, but our focus was and still is to make the game as fun and competitive as possible. Once the game is available 24/7 we are going to evaluate data, opinions, and developments along the way, and if we see the first steps happening in that direction, we’ll put more focus on it.
You can play the Early Access version of Steel Circus on Steam right now!