I’m not sure when, or even if, DayZ creator Dean Hall sleeps. Not only has his New Zealand-based game studio, RocketWerkz, updated its survival game Icarus (opens in new tab) every week for 68 consecutive weeks, but it continues developing space station management game Stationeers (opens in new tab) and upcoming transport tycoon game Art of the Rail (opens in new tab).
Hall himself is also still an active modder, creating popular mods for games like Project Zomboid and this sweet two-person submarine for Barotrauma (opens in new tab). And he’s always excited to talk about the other games he’s playing, from Space Station 13 to open world survival game Eco to the Frostpunk board game.
I guess that’s not enough to keep him busy, because when I talked to Hall at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco last week he was quick to open his laptop and show me something new he’s been working on.
It’s called Torpedia, a submarine colony management game. “Basically Torpedia is RimWorld,” he said. “And you’re making a submarine.” In Torpedia, you manage your crew’s health (both physical and mental) and send your submarine on missions in a perilous ocean. You’ll gather resources and loot from shipwrecks and other flotsam, and build and customize your submarine, growing it from a rickety, leaky wooden submersible to a high-tech multi-level steel vessel.
I’ve been playing a build of Torpedia this week, and for a game so early in development that it doesn’t even have a Steam page yet, it’s surprisingly playable. The tutorial teaches me the basics of fueling the word-burning generator to charge the ship’s battery, how to steer the sub and empty the ballast in an emergency, and how to send my crew swimming out of the airlock to salvage shipwrecks, hunt fish for food, and manage basic repairs. Then I visit a port to swap resources with traders, accept missions, and hire new crew members (one of them is half-man, half-shark, and thus becomes my favorite), and set out into the sea on my own.
I get my crew killed more or less instantly. While at port I’d added a hatch to my creaky wooden sub, in hopes of soon building a second level onto it. Unfortunately I’d forgotten to wire the hatch to the ship’s power generator so it immediately flooded the sub with seawater, causing it to sink like a stone and drown my crew.
In another session I’m chugging along the surface of the sea so I can run the sub on wood-burning power (when you submerge, you have to rely on the battery) when I’m warned of an approaching ice storm. I expect the temperature to drop, making my crew uncomfortable, but instead the surface of the water freezes over, immobilizing my sub in ice. By the time the ice melts, my generator has run out of power and again we sink. Lesson learned: dive when the water gets cold enough to freeze.
I experience more horrible Barotrauma-like deaths (opens in new tab) in Torpedia. While out collecting seaweed, my sub slowly drifts down on top of my scuba diver, pinning him to the sea floor. Dead. I send a diver to collect wood from a wreck and he’s attacked by piranha. Dead. And my wooden sub floods again after colliding with the seafloor, rupturing the hull and drowning my little dude before he can bail out the ship. But with each death I learn something, and I’m confident I’ll eventually live long enough to see how my crew member’s personalities (they can have attributes like Greedy, Empathetic, or Psychopath) clash or agree with each other.
I’m also keen to complete enough missions and find enough loot to build a bigger submarine, or maybe buy one at port: there are a few massive, three-level ships for sale. The submarine build menu shows advanced machinery like uranium-fueled reactors, jet engines, escape pods, radar stations, and torpedo racks. You can even fit your mobile base with a min-sub dock. A little sub within my big sub? That’s some The Hunt For Red October stuff.
As for how Torpedo came about in the first place, Hall told me it was due to his work on Stationeers. “I wanted to get our water simulation better and I couldn’t,” he said. “My maths isn’t super great. I just couldn’t figure it out in 3D. So I made a 2D water simulation. And here we are now.”
I nod knowingly, as if to say Yes, naturally, when you want to figure out a water simulation for one game you build an entirely new game.
Again, there’s no word when Torpedia will be available to play, and I can’t even give you a link to look at apart from the RocketWerkz official site (opens in new tab). I really like what I’ve played so far and I hope it won’t be too long of a wait for others to try it: I don’t want to be the only one dying horribly at the bottom of the sea.