Space Dragon: Unchained is a new offering from 3lb Games. In addition to being an intergalactic good time, it debuts what could become every streamer’s new favorite widget. I talked with CEO, Robin Moulder, about how the game came together and where it’s going next.
“Space Dragon: Unchained”
In addition to building immersive training solutions for enterprise clients, 3lb Games makes fun and moving VR games like Slime Rancher and Vault of Stars. In 2017, the company released Space Dragon for PCVR. Space Dragon: Unchained, is the new release of Space Dragon for Quest 2.
Play as Not Just One, but Two Fire-Breathing Dragons
Space Dragon is an arcade-style shooter. Each hand controls one dragon, both capable of launching fireballs at various targets throughout the game. Both controllers can also help to control movement within the space setting of the game.
“The game was born out of the movement system. The flight mechanic was a huge favorite in the game,” said Moulder. “That kind of led us into [the idea that] we should be flying because flying is cool. Why would we want to walk? I can walk in real life.”
Playing as both dragons, the player begins the game escaping from a mysterious facility. Once out, the player encounters planets and space dragons that have been similarly contained. The main action of the game is freeing these planets and space dragons by destroying robot satellites.
Of course, the robots shoot back. Your dragons begin to grow darker and visibly take damage when hit. When your dragons die, the level restarts. At the end of each level is a boss that behaves differently and is guarded by different degrees of enemies.
The World and Inhabitants of Space Dragon
Reading releases and other material about the game gives hints about the plot. A player can choose to fly through the levels destroying everything and wrap the game up relatively quickly but taking more time to explore the levels gives other hints about the universe in which the game takes place and about the creatures that inhabit it.
“We talked a lot about the backstory of Space Dragon,” said Moulder. “We really wanted to tap into letting the player come up with the why. … You start thinking and making up your own version of reality.”
One update to the game has already gone live since its initial release in November, and Moulder said that there are plans for an upcoming multiplayer mode. While she says that a multiplayer title would focus less on the story and more on the gameplay, it would likely give us a bit more food for thought.
Plenty of food for thought is already provided by the level and character design of the game. The levels are beautifully animated and each of the boss characters has its own drastically different nature in appearance and movement. Each level also has its own original metal score written and performed by Moulder inspired by the boss of the level.
“The space whale is more funky because he’s got bigger, wider movements,” said Moulder. “For the phoenix, I took a different approach – it’s very time-dependent … that gave me this tick-tock kind of more pensive feeling.”
Playing “Space Dragon: Unchained”
Playing Space Dragon: Unchained is a delight. I played through the tutorial and the first level in relatively short order and got stuck on the second boss. For the first time in a long time, I found that I was thinking about the game with the headset off – trying to come up with a strategy for how to defeat the boss while I wasn’t actually in the game.
I realized that I was under-utilizing the motion controls (before Moulder told me that the motion controls were the inspiration for the whole game). With that idea in mind, I went back the next day and got to the penultimate stage where I got stuck again, this time lost in a surprisingly intricate level design.
With another gem that Moulder told me in our interview, I’m pretty sure that I can get through that obstacle as well. I’m looking forward to conquering Space Dragon: Unchained as it is now, as well as revisiting it with future updates. The VR game is currently available for $8 on the Quest Store ((through App Lab).
A Game-Changing New Tool
One feature of Space Dragon that could have huge potential beyond the game itself is a new widget that displays a Twitch chat live on the gamer’s in-game view. The widget was inspired by Moulder’s own affection for the game streaming platform.
“It threw me back to the days at the arcade when you put your quarters in the machine and everyone gathered around and cheered you on. That’s Twitch,” said Moulder. “We’re definitely going to add this to every game we produce … if we’re able to put this out as a Unity asset, we will. If it’s too much pulled together, we’ll probably write a blog telling everyone how to do it.”
The widget, in whatever form it takes in the future, has a huge potential not just for gamers but for designers. Streaming platforms like Twitch (and Twitch content streamed or uploaded to other platforms like YouTube) contribute to the hype and discoverability around VR games in a major way. Bringing Twitch and VR together through this integration could be huge.
The Arcade Gamer’s Arcade Game
“Arcade” kept coming back up in our conversations. From the style of level design, to the way that the controls and strategies stick in your head, to the Twitch integration, and even to Moulder’s metal soundtrack. Space Dragon: Unchained is a seemingly simple but rich and beautiful game definitely worth the $8. I mean, that’s really just $4 per fire-breathing dragon.