When one is creating a world for a videogame, we try to design a broad universe, which allows us to build endless stories and that is visually very attractive. The medieval fantasy and science fiction occupy a very important place in the imagination of the creators, but we want to focus on a concept full of steam and gears, we are talking about Steampunk.

Steampunk was born as a literary subgenre within science fiction, but it has evolved into a genre of its own merit. An inspiration of authors like H.G Wells or Jules Verne, over the years, has spread from literature to reach all media among which video games are. It’s characterized by being developed in settings where steam technology is still the main one and is usually located in the Victorian era. The main peculiarity of these worlds is that in them we find futuristic tools imagined by the context of their time. Could we talk about a ship to go to space? Yes, but what if you go with charcoal and moving it with pedals?

There are many books that are inspired by these steam worlds. We recently talked about videogames based on books, but in this article, we are going to focus on how video games have embraced the genre for themselves and have taken advantage of it in a wonderful way.

Narratives written in copper ink

While aesthetics is an indispensable part of the steampunk movement, it’s very important to know how to exploit the stories that can be created in such a context. The possibilities of what kind of societies could be formed in a world that revolves around these steam mechanisms are practically endless. From the ostentatious Columbia, from Bioshock Infinite, to the decadent world that appears to us from Deponia.

The possibilities of what kind of societies could be formed in a world that revolves around these steam mechanisms are practically endless.

Games like They are Billions, from Numantian Games studio, even dare to mix this genre with others that seemed impossible, as is the case of the zombie theme. In a world in which the apocalypse has caused a severe technological regression, the few surviving humans unite under the aegis of a new empire formed by fortified colonies connected by means of a railway network. Meanwhile, they must organize to create a personal army with which to manage the thousands and thousands of zombies that do not stop attacking in droves these small colonies.

A great example of how to turn around and take advantage of the advantages and characteristics of genres, initially antagonistic, to bring fresh games and new ideas.

In brown and copper tones

The browns, reds, and greens immediately lead us to think of a medieval world. The gray, blue and phosphorescent ones move us to the distant future. But brown, yellow and copper are, without a doubt, the colors of the steampunk. Large metal planes moved by large charcoal-powered gears. A good example of this color palette is in games like Deponia.

In Deponia we follow the steps of Rufus, who decides to leave his home to travel to the idyllic floating city.

steampunk color palette compared to the game Deponia

The colors used in Deponia follow the usual line of steampunk aesthetics.

The scenarios of this game are a clear example of steampunk atmosphere. Large cities that seem to be built with the remains of industrialization, with metal plates propped up in wood. Robots and appliances that squeak and move as they try to keep their pieces together, which someone has fixed with a piece of tape. In a world that seems built on the premise that everything is reusable, it seems that the Deponia universe is embedded within a large ship of rusted metal.

Miscellaneous objects and gimmicky weapons

The design of weapons is another point to be developed by the steampunk creators. A world on horseback between swords and pistols open to the imaginary for the creation of disparate devices with which to fight with our enemies. An example of this type of weapons is the Sky-Hood that appears in the world of Bioshock Infinite. This hook with a gun handle is a fundamental weapon throughout the game. First, because it is the main meleé defense, being able to attack the enemies with the forcefulness of a solid piece of metal that also keeps turning. And second, because it’s a contraption that allows the player to move around the huge city of Columbia, through a wiring system that they use as rails to transport goods through the air.

Concept art of Sky-Hood from Bioshock Infinite.

Concept art of Sky-Hood from Bioshock Infinite.

Another example would be the hand crossbow that we find inside the Dishonored saga. This weapon is hidden inside the sleeve of its user, who can activate it with a hand movement that activates the mechanism of gears that shoots the projectile.

This imaginary can be transferred to contraptions of varied functionality, as we can see from the hand of the thieves of The Swindle. In this game, we put ourselves in the shoes of a gang of thieves who train for 100 days to give their big blow. A game of stealth and strategy set in a steampunk city. The game offers the player a large number of tools to help him with his plans: rudimentary bombs, leeches and steam mechanisms that allow him to hide and become invisible for a few seconds.

The ingenious use of the resources offered by the steampunk atmosphere can give rise to any tool and weapon we can imagine, from simple pressure steam guns to enormous time machines. Your imagination is the limit!

Traveling with steam

Steam trains are the main source of inspiration when talking about transportation methods in steampunk worlds. However, the creators have managed to use this concept in numerous inventions to ensure transport in their worlds. For example, The Howler is a game set in 1905, in the city of Vilnius, where people move in steam carriages, airships and hot air balloons. While these are not crazy inventions in reality if that is to imagine it as a usual method of transport. As Phileas Fogg in ‘Around the World in 80 Days’, in The Howler we will pass the 16 levels that make up the game mounted on our globe, which uses sound as control, making the noise make it rise, and the silence make it down.

Image from the videogame The Howler

In The Howler we travel mounted in an aerostatic balloon as if we were Phileas Fogg.

If we want to go a step further, we can always think of the famous 'flying boats' of the Final Fantasy saga that, although in many of the deliveries of its saga are practically spaceships, in case of Final Fantasy IX they honor its name being huge ships that stay afloat thanks to giant propellers that take them through the skies.

And you? Do you have any steampunk idea in mind? Any revolutionary game? We want to hear you! Send us your thoughts to our Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. If you are interested, you can read our previous articles on black and white and the theory of red color.


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Marta Gil

Marta Gil

PR, Product Manager & Social Media in Gametopia. FemDevs Regional coordinator.
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