Introducing Trudy’s Mechanicals

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Today I’d like to introduce you to Radek Koncewicz of Incubator Games, an indie video game company from my home city, Toronto. He and the rest of the Incubator Games team are currently working on a steampunk strategy that is still in development but already looks beautiful.

Check out the trailer:

Want to know more? Read the actual interview:

Can you tell us a bit about Trudy’s Mechanicals?

Trudy’s Mechanicals is a turn-based strategy game set aboard a giant steampunk dirigible. In the world of Trudy, the surface lands have long ago been abandoned due to severe pollution from coal-burning furnaces. The survivors fled above the toxic clouds, mechanizing themselves in the process — replacing various body parts with machinery — in order to survive in the oxygen-poor environments.

Over the ages, a strife developed between the lower class Mechanicals and the nobility who remained “pure” and human. Despite strict rationing and enforced labour, the magnates enjoyed a lavish existence while the poor toiled with no rewards in sight, and a great gulf developed between the social classes. Throughout the course of the game, the player fights in ever-escalating battles between the two sides in an attempt to topple the oppressors, reveal the airship’s true origins, and discover the fate of the surface world.

How did the idea for Trudy’s Mechanicals first come about?

Initially we simply wanted to create a strategy game, but limit it to something a small team could develop. Setting the action aboard an airship seemed like a good solution, and once we got to that point, making that airship a ramshackle, Steampunk contraption was a natural fit.

Secondly came the Mechanicals. For gameplay purposes, we needed a logical reason to imbue various fighters with unique abilities. Well, one day when I was coming home late from work, I rushed to a streetcar already waiting at its stop. As I ran up to the entrance, the driver turned to look at me, and then proceeded to close the doors and drive away. Furious that I now had to wait in the cold winter night for god knew how long, I began to muse over various revenge fantasies for the callous TTC employee. Eventually I came to the conclusion that a suitably grotesque punishment for someone so smug and petty would be to physically fuse him to his little seat of power, forcing him to operate the vehicle for all time.

As I calmed down, I realize that such a grotesque fate would actually be quite fitting for a Steampunk setting. Taking into consideration the harsh life that must exist aboard an overcrowded and resource-poor airship, we came up with various ideas for these Mechanizations. Some were fairly straightforward, like the Bruiser whose arms were replaced with pneumatic hammers to work on assembly lines, while others definitely more outlandish, like the Waspmonger whose torso was turned into a hive of insects constantly secreting precious serums and narcotics. This approach not only gave us the perfect excuse for various unit types, but also provided us with a motivation for the combatants themselves, i.e., rising up to topple the gentry that forced them into such fates.

Why did you decide to go with such a painterly art style for Trudy’s Mechanicals?

There were various technical, monetary, and marketing considerations that made us lean toward the style, but the major reason was much simpler: it was in line with our awesome artist’s personal style, and it effectively brought to life our somewhat unusual and offbeat ideas.

What makes Trudy’s Mechanicals different from other steampunk games?

I suppose the main difference is that not only did we embrace steampunk exclusively — there’s no typical fantasy/magic elements in Trudy — but that we also looked to more Slavic elements for the setting. We replaced top hats and brandies with fur caps and vodka liquors, and used Eastern European slang, traditions and customs as the backbone of society. Easter Egg like designs decorate the currency, music from accordions and balalaikas fills the streets, and the general “flavour” is more Slavic than Victorian.

What has been the biggest challenge of developing Trudy’s Mechanicals so far?

By far the biggest difficulty we’ve encountered is scope. Once we got the ball rolling on ideas, it was hard to stop despite the entire game being set aboard a single airship. Job types and economies, scientific theories and inventions, repurposed and newly-built locations, secrets histories and conspiracies, etc. We probably came up with a large enough lore-bible to last a couple of games!

With that said, the large pool of ideas helped to flesh out Trudy while keeping only the most fitting and impactful concepts. Even with our paired-down list, though, it was difficult to finalize various elements — there was always an extra visual effect to add, a texture to polish, etc.

Who are the steampunk artists/writers/creators who inspired Trudy’s Mechanicals?

Keith Thompson was definitely a huge visual inspiration for Trudy. His work on Scott Westerfield’s Leviathan series is simply breathtaking, and other pieces from his portfolio parallel the grotesque-steampunk look we imagined.

Tetsuya Tanaka is another artist our original illustrator recommended, and his detailed, ramshackle environments and fusions of man and machine helped us define our own concepts.

On the literary side of things, there’s tons of writers who dabble or specialize in steampunk — China Miéville, Cherie Priest, etc. — and a long history of the genre’s originators like Jules Verne. However, I don’t think there’s any specific leads or inspirations we took from their works. Instead, we basked in the genre of steampunk that they collectively helped to create. The single exception to this is Ted Chiang’s short story Exhalation. It’s a fantastic and intricate tale that takes a single concept and logically expands on it in a realistic fashion; something that’s a little rare in steampunk. It really struck a chord with me personally, and I tried to subtly emulate this approach in Trudy.
What do you think is the most interesting thing about the steampunk genre?

I imagine that everyone who’s a fan of Steampunk adores its aesthetics, but the more concrete elements that interested us the most were the failed theories and sciences. Aether and phlogiston are two popular examples, but there were many more: the odic force, recapitulation theory, phrenology, and so on. These concepts illustrate a world of possibilities that so greatly characterizes Steampunk, and we definitely indulged in treating these theories as fact. The endeavour made for some truly bizarre extrapolations, but also a certain internal consistency to the game world.

When can we expect to see Trudy’s Mechanicals available for sale?

Game developers are notoriously optimistic when it comes to completing milestones, so I’ll refrain from putting my foot in my mouth at this time.

You can sign up to be informed when Trudy’s Mechanicals comes out here.

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