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The story behind the $4 'lightsaber' VR game

One developer couldn't find the game he wanted to play, so he made it

Andreas Hager is a German Java programmer who was frustrated that he couldn't find a good lightsaber game for his HTC Vive. So he made one.

But how much Star Wars can get you get into an indie VR game before Disney shuts you down? "I have really no idea," he said with a laugh. "I thought it was something a lot of people may want to try. But of course if Disney says that's over the top, remove this game, I will remove the game. That's obvious."

How this happened

There was no grand plan or design document; Hager just started to create the sort of lightsaber game he'd like to play.

"I had one lightsaber [working] and its was really cool, just on a single tile of ground in nowhere space," he explained. "So I just added little things to it. I'm not a professional games studio, I have programmed games since I was a little kid, but very basic stuff."

The beta version of the game, called Lightblade VR, is on sale now for $3.99 on Steam. Hager sent Polygon a few codes so we could try it, and I'm embarrassed to admit how much time I spent just igniting my lightsaber and waving it around in virtual reality to hear the sound effects. The sabers flash when you spark them against each other, and I found myself making "cool" Jedi poses in my basement as I played.

The game allows you to unlock five blade colors and four hilt designs, but for now the action only takes place in a single corridor. Some challenges have you deflecting the blaster bolts, while others ask you to dodge them or knock them back at the droid. It's pretty simple stuff, and relies on the fun that's inherent in pretending to wield a lightsaber.

He admitted that people have complained it's so barebones, but he has many ideas, and he's listening to feedback. Hager is planning another level that takes place in a desert where the drones don't just come at you from a single direction.

"It would be an environment where you can use the 360 degrees and look around you, and the drone flies towards you and gets within distance so you can hit it or deflect the lasers while it's approaching," he said. "That could be a bit more sophisticated for the next level."

When your game blows up

He had hoped for maybe a thousand sales, if he was lucky. To date around five thousand people have purchased the game, which is a pretty good return on his investment of a few weeks of work in the evenings or the weekends.

Still, a few people have noticed an odd limitation of the game: Hager had balanced the need to keep Lightblade fun but also at least somewhat challenging, but the lightsaber's rather large hitboxes allow you to beat most of the challenges by holding them next to each other directly in front of your face.

It's not fun, but you can play in this manner if you just want to unlock all the colors and hilts.

"I worry about it, because I didn’t catch it," Hager told Polygon. "During development I played the game a lot and I always swung at the lasers and tried to do cool Jedi-like moves. It was much easier than it is right now initially, then I had a few friends over who weren’t into Star Wars, and they said it was really easy and they didn’t move that much, and then I kind of made everything a little faster. But I really didn’t try just holding the blades like they did."

He experimented with reducing the size of the swords' hit box to decrease the ability to just hold the blades up, but when you played it "right" it didn't feel as good due to the increased difficulty.

"Maybe it’s OK if the initial training we have right now is easy to a point if you want to, you can ruin the game play," Hager says. "Maybe in the upcoming levels it will get a bit more intense if the drone is moving more and there is an environment where you don’t just have one corridor."

Players may find ways to destroy their own fun, but for now the game has a "very positive" overall rating on Steam after 103 reviews, and Hager's expectations were more than exceeded by the game's 5,000 sales after only a few days. You may be able to play without moving, but why bother?

It's much more fun to be pretend to be a Jedi.