Lights, Camera, Action! It’s hard to think of anyone getting ‘bored’ of Magicka, not in the least the developers themselves, but everyone must move on eventually and the lovable Swedish studio is itching to move on to bigger and better things. One of these things is their new multiplayer-action title, The Showdown Effect. We talked to the lead game designer Emil Englund to find out more...
Strategy Informer:So, with regards to the game’s name, what is ‘The Showdown Effect’ in your view?
Emil Englund: Well, I think in our minds it’s the moment where two people meet and they just know, they get that look and they just know that they have to fight. And it breaks out and everyone just starts fighting and it’s just, like, their purpose.
Strategy Informer:Obviously your previous game – Magicka – did phenomenally well, put you guys on the map… are you trying to replicate that success or is this just something you’ve wanted to do anyway?
Emil Englund: Honestly this is really just a break from Magicka. The one thing really new that we had to do was something completely different from Magicka, and we kinda assumed that this won’t really do as well as Magicka, if it does it would be really really awesome, but we don’t expect it. It’s just a means for us to explore new avenues, side scrolling, different settings etc… and a PvP game as well. Some say Magicka is a PvP game, but it wasn’t meant to be at the beginning.
Strategy Informer:What drove your decision to make The Showdown Effect a multiplayer-only game?
Emil Englund: One thing we learned when making Magicka is that story, and story-driven content takes huge amounts of time. Just talking about AI, writing story, recording voices, all that… it takes a lot of time, and it kind of takes focus away from gameplay, in a way, and we just wanted to focus on something that was mainly gameplay driven more than anything else. Magicka was also gameplay driven, but we had to spend a lot of time on the story as well.
Strategy Informer:You mentioned this showdown effect – will you be doing anything to really bring these over-the-op characters to life before they fight?
Emil Englund: You get a welcome screen when you enter into the match, and we’re going to do some kind of animation suitable to the character, and also when you choose your load-out and character you get a small bio, and everyone has their own unique voices and one-liners. So the ‘Stolen Identity Guy’ is all like “Who am I!?” and the ‘Tired Cop Guy’ is all like “I’m getting too old for this”.
We don’t really want the characters to be direct rips of characters from movies, but we do want them to represent a collection of movie characters, so the ‘Stolen Identity Guy’ could be both Arnold and Harrison Ford.
Strategy Informer:You’re in pre-alpha at the moment, and looking at the code you’ve got the basics in play… but what’s the final vision for the game? What else do you want to put in?
Emil Englund: We’re working on getting incentive into the map, so that one room is important to a lot of people, so people will meet up there, a lot of cover, shooting, a lot of waiting for the right moment to strike. And you can choose to be either a walking weapons platform, really slow and heavily armoured. Or you can be a ninja – really fast, mêlée orientated etc… and when two people fight, there has to be some kind of slowdown effect so that there’s a really good atmosphere.
Strategy Informer:You’ve got this modern setting, very reminiscent of 80’s/90’s action movies, but you’ve also mentioned that there’s going to be a medieval setting as well. Is that doing something specific? Do you want to recreate the epic Hong-Kong martial arts films?
Emil Englund: The general idea is to show people that we’re going for some width here. The medieval setting is actually set in England, and it’s more of a Robin Hood thing, and the weapons you’ll find are swords and crossbows, etc… You’ll still be able to bring modern weapons in with you, but when they run out of ammo that’s it. It’s more about creating ambiance than anything.
Strategy Informer:You mentioned how this game is essentially a break from Magicka – does that mean then that you won’t be providing any post-release content or anything like that, regardless of how well it sells?
Emil Englund: We really want to move on and do other things non-Magicka, we have a third un-announced project in fact that we really want to work on and we’re really excited about it. We are going to support The Showdown Effect, it’s going to be pretty DLC heavy, and we’re going to produce some of that content as well. That’s the fun part of development, coming up with wild ideas like Magicka Vietnam. I’m really looking forward to making themed DLC’s, whether it be in Space, or World War 2, or Hong Kong, whatever…
Strategy Informer:So what are we talking about here, Showdown Effect: Saving Private Private? Showdown Effect: Moonraker?
Emil Englund: Yeah! Pretty much anything is appropriate in this context, we could do anything. We won’t pass on the opportunity to do some of these things ourselves. When you put so much effort into something you want to see it through. I can understand though people feeling like we’ve just abandoned our project and moved on to something else, but as a developer you have to move on at some point. You never truly leave something behind, but at some point you have to step down and focus on other things. We’re such a small studio so we can’t keep that many projects going at once.
Strategy Informer:What lessons did you take from the development of Magicka – obviously QA was a big issue, but anything else you learned from?
Emil Englund: We learned so much… I think the one thing we failed at really badly was planning. We failed to plan or estimate how much time the development would consume. Also focusing our ideas at the right places… I really loved the Magicka concept, and I wish I could keep working on it, but the complete game wasn’t all that we wanted it to be, because the enemies to me are kind of boring. I wanted to create more interesting monsters and encounters, not just damage sponges.
You grow as a developer and a designer all the time – the first project will always be the biggest learning process… but yeah, also with QA, especially when it comes to multiplayer games… Magicka worked fine in local co-op, but when it came to online… it was just abysmal. We’re really going to have to do this the right way this time.
Strategy Informer:Do you think the rough development of Magicka is what held you back in breaking onto the console scene?
Emil Englund: At first we were disappointed, when we were first told we weren’t going to be on XBL… but as time went by we realised that that wasn’t really our goal anyway. It’s just about getting your game out there… I’m still sad that Magicka isn’t on the console, as that was part of the plan, but not necessarily Microsoft. There are varying degrees of difficulty working with different people, and Microsoft is a huge colossus to try and reach.
Not just publishing rights, development rights too… you have to make sure everything works fine on consoles as well as PC, and they’re two really different approaches to development – do we plan for this really tight set of hardware, that’s really complicated to reach and make everything work? Or do we try and be as broad as possible and really try to make the PC version work.
Strategy Informer:Have you stopped chasing that console release then?
Emil Englund: I don’t think so… We’ve kind of stopped hoping, as a developer… stopped trying so hard… but you never really give up. If we get given the chance to do it, of course we’re going to do it, but we’re going to focus more on PC/Mac for now because we feel we can do much more with our games. It wouldn’t be fair to the game itself if we tried to push it into something it might never be anyway.
Strategy Informer:Also, you’ve mentioned a little bit how they are going to be ‘Villains’ in the game? How is that dynamic going to work?
Emil Englund: Well the Heroes vs. Villain Dynamic isn’t really a gameplay mechanic. You can amongst yourselves say, “hey, we’re a group of heroes and we’re going to square off against you, a group of villains”, but we don’t have any game modes or mechanics based around it, it’s all cosmetic. You can play as a badass if you want, but it doesn’t really affect the game at all.
Strategy Informer:Just wrap up then – since the game is meant to evoke classic action films... what’s your favourite?
Emil Englund: I think, not counting my actual favourite film which is Aliens, the most memorable movie for me is Die Hard. It’s the most iconic action movie… it kind of defines the game… but if you ask the rest of the team they’ll give you different answers.
Thanks to Emil for taking the time to talk to us. There’s still a long way to go yet until The Showdown Effect will be released, but don’t forget to check out our preview for more impressions.