First of all an important detail that our readers should know (if they didn’t know yet): Who, where and when did Arrowhead Game Studio members know each other?
Most of us got to know each other from the school we all studied at. Some of us didn’t know each other before the company was formed, but we all knew someone in the company.
How did you get the idea of doing Magicka? And why this genre of game?
The idea for Magicka was originally the spell casting system. The point of the game was to implement a system of casting magick similar to what you would imagine a real wizard doing. From there it grew into a game, and then into a company.
Now that many new development teams tend to develop games for mobile or consoles … Why did you choose PC?
Because the game we wanted to do could simply not be played on a mobile platform. Keep in mind that the development of Magicka started over 2 years ago, almost 2 years before the iPad was released.
But do not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s say someone does not know anything about Magicka: How
would you describe your own game so this barely informed gamer could get a right idea of what
Magicka is an action adventure game with lots of humor. It is a game for up to 4 players and it is most fun played with friends. The unique part of Magicka is that it requires imagination to create all the possible spells you could need, and if your current tactic gets you killed, you need to think of a new one.
So you began working on Magicka and the game won the Swedish Games Award of 2008. How
and why did you decide to start the development for a commercial release?
The win at SGA 2008 was an amazing opportunity, and we just decided to take the leap to a company and work with it. It was a big decision but it felt right at the time, and even more so now.
The time we spent in the SGA also gave us a lot of good contacts in the industry.
Which are the main differences between the commercially released Magicka and the version that
won the 2008 award?
Oh wow, they are many. When we won the SGA we sat down and looked at what we had now and what we wanted it to become. We decided to remake the game entirely in 3D, for several different reasons. The spell casting system also changed somewhat. In the old system each element required its own gesture with the controller stick, representing the hand movement of the wizard, but it ended up being streamlined away for gameplays sake.
Which were the hardest times of the development? And the most rewarding ones?
Not getting paid for about a year, it was probably the hardest time. We did not know if we would ever get paid either, everyone was living on their savings.
The most rewarding one was probably the release. It was a boost to hear all the praise the game got, even tough we got a lot of criticism as well.
Finally the game development ended and went on sale by digital distribution. Wich are the benefits?
And you found any downside?
The benefits with digital distribution are huge, and to numerous for us to mention. A large part of it are costs of course. The cost of printing each individual CD case is small, but they have to be shipped, they need shelf place in the stores and they need lots of logistics. Digital distribution means a bigger cut for us developers and that we can keep a lower price for the customer and better margins. It would not have been possible to sell the game at a price of $10 if we would have made a boxed release only.
Another benefit is the closeness to gamers. We get really close to our community and we can push patches daily if we want to. For any game, the community is important, but more so for indie games.
What do you think about the digital distribution? Can be the future or is it a stepping stone to
something yet to come?
Gabe Newell mentioned in a recent interview that Steam is very profitable and that it could theoretically be used as a platform for music and film. I personally think that this is something that we will see in the close future. Maybe Spotify built into Steam? Maybe a Spotify for movies and Series?
I would love a way to subscribe to some television series for a small price, and get them streamed in good quality right into my home whenever I feel like it.
And what do you think about systems based on the cloud like OnLive or Gaikai?
I have not tried it myself yet, but it is an interesting idea. I think that services that force you to be online at all times are inherently flawed, and even tough services like Steam are built on the foundation of being online, they do offer an offline-mode. I think that it will never replace having the game on your hard drive.
Magicka is selling really well. Did you think you were going to achieve a success of this kind?
We hoped we would, but the actual numbers has been quite overwhelming. We are happy that people love our game, that is what counts most.
And how do you perceive the reception that Magicka has achieved from the media?
The reception has been really good. Most of them have given us a hard time about the buggy state in which the game was first released, but rightfully so. You can sense a sort of pure joy from many of the reviews, people saying they will play this for a long time.
We know you are working really hard to let Magicka as polished as it can be. But when you finally
end with that, what’s next for Arrowhead Game Studios? Continue with the world of Magicka or
something completely different?
Currently we are working on DLC and patching for Magicka. We have no intention of just leaving the game, we will support it for as long as we can. Regarding new projects, there really isn’t much I can tell you at this time.
And tucked in the industry with a first game … How do you see the video game industry from your
point of view as developers?
The video game industry, much like the movie industry, is a risky business with high costs. Developing a game is expensive and takes lots of time, and if the game doesn’t sell well, then you are looking at a big loss. The upside with indie games are that they are developed by smaller studios, studios willing to risk their money for an idea they believe in. We hope to continue the path of the indie developer and make games that offers great value for their price, and to do things that have previously been unexplored.
Jonathan Blow, creator of Braid, has said that social games are evil. Do you see the dark side of that
kind of games too?
Well, social games such as Farmville are not really that social – when the social part of gaming is using your friends as tokens and klicking on them to send them spam and receiving benefits.
I generally think that games that use sort of a benefit/reward system as the main point of attraction is degrading the gaming scene – the main fun part of a game should always be the actual game play.
A game based around tedious grinding to in the end get an item or a reward you’ve been looking for isn’t good design, no matter how hard you strive for that reward.
Good design is when you feel like you’ve had a blast, and in the end, when you at last find your precious item – feel content. Sort of when you finish a quest at the end of a Pen & Paper RPG session, the actual gaming during these sessions are often very fun-filled and thrilling, and a good conclusion to that really leaves you satisfied.
What advice you would give to someone who wish to become a videogame developer and that is
reading you now?
It is better to finish something small, then to start something big. Also, there is never as much time as you planned for.
We know that some will still have not purchased Magicka because they are hesitating. Any final
allegation why they should become little wizards?
Because flinging magick around has never before been this much fun