The world could always use more Diablo clones but Games Farm’s Vikings: Wolves of Midgard, an action RPG slated to release next year for Xbox One, PS4 and PC, is more than that. Taking inspiration from various Vikings-related properties, this game will see players venture into wintery landscapes to do battle with the Jotan and the giants under their command. How much of Vikings is purely inspired by Diablo and how much is original though?
GamingBolt spoke Peter Nagy, CEO and Head of development at Games Farm, to learn more about Vikings: Wolves of Midgard, including its potential performance on the PS4 Pro.
"We considered a lot of different features to implement and we also implemented a lot of original ideas."
Can you please give us a brief overview of Vikings Wolves of Midgard?
Legend has it that when the coldest winter descends, the Jotan, the giants of the Outyards, will take their vengeance against the gods of Asgard, thus herald the start of Ragnarok – the war to end all things. But when the Jotan began to unite the Fire and Frost Giants under their flag, they crossed paths with an outcast clan of Vikings called the Ulfung, the Wolf Clan. And this marks the point in time when the fate of even the gods fell into the hands of one mere mortal.
Vikings: Wolves of Midgard is isometric skill based action RPG in a Vikings settings. You can battle fearsome giants, terrifying barrow wights, and the dark creatures that lurk in the shadows as you strive to survive the growing cold that threatens to end all life forever. You can master your weapons to unlock fearsome Battle Powers, and earn Blood in battle to offer in tribute to the gods to acquire and enhance devastating Spell Powers as well as intriguing Gifts.
How will the game differ from the previous games you’ve developed?
Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms was more complex RPG isometric but its potential was not yet fully utilized as we couldn’t finish the game due to problems with our previous partner. Fortunately Vikings was developed with very reliable partner – Kalypso – who supports us greatly with our creative ideas and vision. We also utilized a lot of experience we gained during development of Shadows.
So unlike Shadows,Vikings: Wolves of Midgard is more action skill based RPG developed with unique ideas. We focused a lot of attention to combat in Vikings and a lot of players who played it during tests enjoyed it greatly already so I believe that we have made some right decisions here. You can look for fast and dynamic battles, powerful foes and vast world to explore.
From a gameplay perspective, what were your biggest inspirations behind Vikings Wolves of Midgard?
We cannot deny inspiration by Diablo as the genre defining game. I remember we spent sleepless nights running through the dungeons in first Diablo with our friends so it certainly made some mark on our minds. Some inspiration is also coming from Vikings series and other Vikings oriented movies and literature.
But we don’t want to create a simple clone of any of our inspirations.We considered a lot of different features to implement and we also implemented a lot of original ideas.To say the truth some of the ideas had to be abandoned or modified during the development when the gameplay experience was not working as expected. Though I believe that Vikings managed to keep a lot of original ideas and unique touch to it. But we leave it up to players and reviewers to evaluate how much we succeeded to achieve our goal…
"We designed the entire controls to easy to understand and use so even players who have never held a controller should be able to grasp the controls very quickly."
For someone who plays a lot Diablo, do you think he/she will be able to adjust to the play style of Vikings Wolves of Midgard?
Oh yes! We designed the entire controls to easy to understand and use so even players who have never held a controller should be able to grasp the controls very quickly. Any Diablo player should be able to adjust to Vikings play style within minutes while still benefiting greatly and having fun with different gameplay experience and familiar controls…
The game is primarily designed for a single player experience but co-op is confirmed to be a part as well. What can you tell us about it?
We wanted to give players multiplayer experience already at the beginning but we were not sure if we could make it on time with the original schedule. Fortunately, Kalypso agreed to extend the development schedule to make the game even better, so we were able to implement co-op mechanics in the end…
Co-op gives players the opportunity to play with friends and thus experience more intensive gameplay. We had to make some difficult decisions regarding coop multiplayer as some coop features influence in turn also single-player…
Any chance of local co-op?
We spent a lot of time discussing how to make local co-op on a single machine possible. Unfortunately, this would bring us a lot of challenges and we could further extend the development schedule. We hope to bring local coop in DLC extension, or future games. But it all depends on players’ responses and feedbacks we will get from Vikings’ audience…
The game has a fantastic art style, both from a level and character designs perspective. What kind of challenges did you went through to nail this direction?
Thanks, we are really happy to hear you like our visuals. Our team is very precise and pays a lot of attention to the details. The simple fact is that we were missing any Viking’s game with more realistic art style out there. While I have to say that this art style fits perfectly to Vikings settings. This art style also very smoothly and naturally combines with action RPG genre. So itjust somehow naturally evolved into this direction where we could have utilized our experience from Shadows, fantasy and talents of our great designers and artists.
There were some discussions if we shouldn’t do more cartoon-like game; but this actually pretty quickly dissolved when we delivered the first playable and it was looking and playing beyond expectations already after very few months in development.
"One of our unique features is Exposure which expresses the hostility of the environment and weather effects."
Weather is stated to be a dynamic factor in the game. How will it affect the moment to moment gameplay?
One of our unique features is Exposure which expresses the hostility of the environment and weather effects. There are multiple exposure types – heat, cold, and others. This brings some unique implications into the gameplay where players have to plan their actions more carefully to avoid freezing to death, or dying from heat… There are some locations where player is more exposed to Exposure (freezing and windy bridge) while there are other locations where player’s exposure is reduced (fireplace for example).
Can you please tell us more about the weapon, skills, talents and upgrade system? Is it going to be a simple progression system or are you making some unique changes to the formula?
There were several revisions to the skills system already and current implementation is the best system we came with so far. It features several unique points but it also is transparent and easy to understand. Players sacrifice Blood earned from fallen enemies to Gods and is rewarded with a new level. With each new level the player is granted Gift points which can be used to learn new Gifts or improve existing Gifts. Each God favors different combat style and depending on active combat style the player can use different skills granted by a particular God.
The player can also improve existing weapons by engraving Runes into the weapons and thus improving their properties. Mythology is essentially connecting all fragments of skills, weapons, Gifts and level up system into a single consistent mechanic.
What can you tell us about the Berserker Rage?
Berserker Rage is important feature of the game. It can be tactically used during the combat and can move the scale of battle when triggered in the right moment. The player can adjust Rage effect via passive Gifts and thus improve the effect of Rage by bypassing enemy block, gaining Exposure immunity, increasing critical hit, etc. The player can customize the real effect of Rage, or can ignore it and try to accomplish the game without using Rage at all…
In a previous comment it was confirmed that Vikings Wolves of Midgard will run at 1080p and 30fps on the PS4 and Xbox One? But will it be the same for the PS4 Pro? Do you have any plans to update the game to run it at 4k/30fps on the Pro?
We are still evaluating our options with performance. We definitively want to deliver the best gameplay experience on both consoles but the fact is that Vikings is heavy on performance because of its visuals. We aim to deliver a great gameplay experience in the first place and we are doing our best to get stable 1080p/30fps on both consoles. But we need some more time to confirm this is possible without staggering at some places. PS4 Pro will definitively support 1080p/30 fps. Unfortunately we may not be able to squeeze 4k/30fps from PS4 Pro; but we are still evaluating our possibilities with PS4 Pro.
"We developed a lot of games for Nintendo back in the days so I am quite excited about upcoming NX."
With the PS4 Pro, we now know the machine’s specs. What do you foresee being the biggest bottleneck to game development on the improved console? Would it be the CPU, which was always hamstrung even on the original PS4, but is even more so now, relative to the rest of the machine?
The major problem for us as the developers is that there is going to be line-up of different but still same consoles with mandatory backwards compatibility. So it only adds more requirements we have to take care of instead of focusing on the development. Tuning the game to a single platform is well possible; but tuning the game to multiple performance wise different platforms is very annoying and requires additional costs without any real gameplay benefits beyond some visual improvements. I understand that incoming VR and 4K has different needs but the market may become a bit over-populated with income of XBOX ONE S and Project Scorpio.
I consider CPU and memory as primary drawbacks for PS4 – we already experienced certain performance issues during Vikings: Wolves of Midgard development… This did not improve a lot with PS4 Pro.
What is your take on Sony’s Checkerboard technique for 4K rendering versus native 4K rendering that Microsoft are espousing with the Scorpio? To the naked guy, what will the difference be? And what are the differences from a development and programming perspective?
This may be quite difficult question at this time. A lot of developers uses 3rd party engines who handles this low level access instead of developers themselves. Thus we will not see much of a difference I think. But we didn’t come across this point yet to be honest, so unfortunately I don’t have a lot of experience to share here…Overall I like the innovations which can help the development in any way and if the new checkerboard technique proves viable, I will be more than happy…
What are your thoughts on the Nintendo NX? Presuming the rumors about it being a handheld-console hybrid are true, what are the unique challenges a system like that would pose for game development?
We developed a lot of games for Nintendo back in the days so I am quite excited about upcoming NX. I have to admit that we are completely swamped with finalizing Vikings development and there was not really a lot of time to consider upcoming NX for our future projects.
It may appeal to a new type of player and bring something new to the existing gaming community which is definitively a good thing. I have to admit that I favor revolution above the evolution but unfortunately revolutionary ideas often fail… However I definitively keep my fingers crossed that NX will fall into successful revolution category.
"But regardless of PC comparison where consoles inevitably fail Scorpio will be something solid to work with and definitively the most powerful console on the market."
Connecting home-gameplay and portable gaming is a good thing; but how this will be implemented is hard to predict at this moment. We may see that people still prefer 4k + VR at home while use portable device (smartphone) when travelling… To change this NX will need to offer something more than just merging those two different approaches. Without detailed specs and controls in hand it is very difficult to say anything reasonable about NX from developer’s point of view…
6 TFLOPs naturally means that the Xbox One Scorpio has an extremely powerful GPU. Assuming that the rest of the specs also see similar or comparable bumps, what are the kinds of graphical improvements developers will be able to deliver on Scorpio?
Well, yes and no. It may look powerful now; but it shall be out on the market at the end of 2017 (at least that’s what they have on site). Also, it is important to note that GPU is strong but CPU and memory are also essential for games development. So the standpoint cannot be taken only from GPU point of view but has to consider also other components. Strong GPU says that the console will be able to target 4K and VR; but it says not much about the gameplay itself. Currently 1080 GTX offers 9 TFLOPs and until end of 2017 there will be at least another generation of graphics card released. So at the time it will hit the market it will be on par with average new gaming PC, or below.
But regardless of PC comparison where consoles inevitably fail Scorpio will be something solid to work with and definitively the most powerful console on the market. It will certainly allow developers to utilize new visual and gaming features in larger scale and develop visually more stunning games. We hopefully will be able to use more extensively dynamic terrain tessellation, better looking shaders, improved lightning techniques and at last (but not least) finally start with really working with 4k resolution which is in the moment tricky.