Lavapotion is putting in the extra effort so that Steam Deck owners can play Songs Of Conquest too (Picture: Lavapotion)
GameCentral speaks to the CEO of Lavapotion about the challenges of Steam Deck optimisation, as they get ready to launch their debut game Songs Of Conquest.
The Steam Deck launched in February 2022 to high praise and since then a host of portable computer devices have hit the market, such as the Asus Rog Ally and Lenovo Legion Go.
Despite the influx of devices and their popularity – with the Steam Deck 2 set to come out as early next year – a lot of games aren’t optimised for the portable consoles and quite a few games aren’t playable at all.
That won’t be the case for upcoming role-playing game Songs Of Conquest, however, as CEO Magnus Alm reveals how Lavapotion, a Swedish developer, made sure the game is as playable on the Steam Deck as it is on PC.
Songs Of Conquest will be Lavapotion’s debut game – their brainchild seven years in the making – and is a turn-based strategy role-playing game inspired by 1999’s Heroes Of Might And Magic 3.
To go to the lengths of making it Steam Deck compatible, however, seems like an unnecessary extra step for an indie developer about to ship its first game ever. But Alm, who co-founded Lavapotion in 2017, says it’s a statement of intent.
‘Doing Steam Deck, on paper, is not something that equates to a huge amount of extra sales, like doing a Switch version, for instance. But what it does – I hope – is to clearly communicate to our Steam players, and Valve, that we mean business.
‘This is not a release and forget kind of game. It’s our passion, our rumour and ultimately our legacy as developers we are talking about,’ Alm says.
So the tumultuous journey to make Songs Of Conquest Steam Deck verified began, and unsurprisingly there were quite a few challenges along the way.
‘First step is to analyze the game from ground up, what works on a small screen and with button controls, and what doesn’t? Then you break down all the major areas that need to be addressed into smaller chunks of work.
‘Sometimes in game development you really want to fix one thing, but it is kind of intricately connected with something seemingly unrelated. This can cascade into unforeseen consequences. You need to plan for the unplanned headaches that will occur when you start supporting a new platform.’
Issues with making the game run well on the Steam Deck, which is less powerful than most computers, and optimising the game for the handheld’s weak battery followed.
Lavapotion will hope to catch the Baldur’s Gate 3 wave (Picture: Lavapotion)
‘We’ve also introduced new tooltips and tutorials specifically designed for the Steam Deck. Due to our traditional mouse interaction, as with most strategy games, we’ve made sure to explain the game interactions for the players accessing the game on their Steam Deck.
‘To ensure the game runs smoothly on the Steam Deck, we’ve done significant tweaking and optimisation, which also benefits the game as a whole. For example, we’ve streamlined terrain rendering and implemented a battery-saving system.’
The biggest challenge was fitting everything on a much smaller screen, despite the Steam Deck’s 1280×800 resolution.
‘A huge issue with adapting the game is readability, due to the size difference of the handheld devices’ screen compared to a computer screen. The Steam Deck has great resolution, but just using the same font sizes and UI [User Interface] elements equals a very eye-straining experience.
‘Some people, like myself, have a hard time seeing small text on screens. So, we had to scale up all UI elements, and of course at the same time increase the font sizes,’ Alms says, and adds:
‘If you take into account that we also support 13 different languages it is a lot of work with testing and making sure the game looks great on all screen sizes, resolutions and for all languages. Some languages have longer sentences than others – I’m looking at you Italy – and well, it makes for a lot of work to make it all coherent.’
Lavapotion consists of a core team of 10 employees and five freelancers, and Songs Of Conquest has been in early access since May 2022.
The reception Alm and the rest of Lavapotion have received since then has been encouraging, and reviews for the game are classed as ‘Very Positive’ on Steam.
Alm says they’re about ready to release the game in full, aiming to launch Songs Of Conquest ‘around late Q1’ in 2024 (first quarter is between January through March).
They’re a small team with big ambitions, who are simply making a game they want to see in the world. Considering the surprise success of role-playing game Baldur’s Gate 3 last year, they might be just in time as demand for similar games might increase.
‘We truly wanted to play this game ourselves, but no one was making it, so we decided to do it ourselves. That sentiment has been picked up on and acknowledged very positively when we pitch the game to anyone who grew up playing strategy games in the late 90’s and early 00’s.
‘There’s still a demand for these types of games. It’s not Call of Duty or Diablo, but the market is so huge that it is very possible for a game like this to thrive with a reasonable budget and team size.’
To submit Inbox letters and Reader’s Features more easily, without the need to send an email, just use our Submit Stuff page here.
For more stories like this, check our Gaming page.
Sign up to all the exclusive gaming content, latest releases before they’re seen on the site.