Caught in our fiendish and elaborate trap, Johan Pilestedt of Arrowhead Games had no choice but to answer our questions on the ’80s action movie infused brawler, The Showdown Effect. We also grilled him on crafting Arrowhead’s identity, why he’s pro-DLC and, er, horse meat, before he managed to escape while we were explaining our grand plan.
I think the last time I really got to see The Showdown Effect was back in May last year, and I guess this is quite a broad question but, what would you say are the biggest things that have changed since then?
In that build, I think we still had the dodge mechanics in the game, but we’ve removed those since and we’ve shifted the focus so that the player has to have his cursor on the opponent to actually hit him. So we got the same effect as the dodge system that we previously had, but without having to explain that extra mechanic. Instead, we just allow the game to be more skill based for players that appreciate games such as Call of Duty or Quake. We have weapons that could definitely be used by people who are really skilled at aiming to get those rail gun-esque shots.
That’s probably the biggest feature that’s changed since that build, but other than that we’ve tried to streamline the weapons as well. Instead of having an enormous amount of weapons, what we’ve done is rather keep to archetypes and have different visualisations.
Those two things are probably the biggest ones I would say. It’s been such a long time since I played that build I can’t really say for sure! But, as with any Arrowhead game, we just go with the flow of the game. So we play it all the time and we make little changes and tweaks and eventually we end up somewhere, maybe not exactly where we intended to go, but at least in the spiritual sense of where we intended to go.
That’s sort of like a philosophy we have at the studio, we don’t really write design documents and work off of those. Instead, we write a document where we write our intentions behind the game, the goal and the vision and just let the details handle themselves during development.
Did you already have that approach in place when you did Magicka as well, or did that come about from the changes you made to that game?
No, Magicka is the same as well. Magicka was a base idea: let’s make spellcasting a lot of fun and let’s give the player the option to conjure and create whichever spells they like. In the beginning, Magicka was only intended to be a survival mode, but then we realised that we could make the world a bit quirky and humorous.
Considering the success of Magicka, I think some may have expected you to go to work on a sequel, but why instead did you decide to go for a completely new game?
It had to do a lot with Magicka being such an extremely long development period. We started work on the game in 2007 and it was released in 2011, so that’s around four years. Even though game development is great fun it really wears you down if you’ve been doing it for far too long, especially if you’re on one project for several years. I think it would have been difficult to do justice to Magicka by doing a sequel straight after the game was done. I don’t think that we could have done that without losing our sanity.
The Showdown Effect was more or less a game that we had talked about during the development of Magicka. Like, it would be nice to have this small, tightly packed, neat package that we could just get out of the door pretty quickly and also do a game that is sort of outside our comfort zone, but something that we would enjoy playing.
During the development of Magicka we played a lot of Smash Bros. – I mean just… a lot. Certain days we just got into the office and instead of turning on the computers, we were sitting in front of the Wii and playing that game instead for the entire day and then went home! That naturally got into our system and we watched a lot of ‘80s action movies, and those two combined in a pretty good way. It’s action movies and it’s Smash Bros. and it sort of works!
That’s the main reason, but I mean we’re still looking at doing many different projects and a sequel to Magicka is not a definite one yet. It’s definitely something that we want to do, but we don’t want to be seen as a one brand studio either. Looking forward, I can probably say that we are going to return to our co-op roots because that’s the sort of game mechanic that suits us well.