I recently had the chance to field some questions to Arrowhead Game Studios, better known as the makers of the new hit game Magicka, which released on January 25th of this year. Patrik Lasota, Arrowhead’s PR and Community Manager, was kind enough to take some time out to answer those questions and give us some insight into the developer, and how things have been since the release.
Magicka started as a student project in 2008 while the team was studying at Lulea University of Technology. Did you always intend for Magicka to be a retail release, or did the game just do so well during the Swedish Game Awards that you decided to see how far it could go?
From the beginning it was just a student project, but when we won SGA 2008 we saw it as a stepping stone into the industry. There was lots of people at the contest telling us what a great opportunity this was, that we really should take the chance and go for it, and that is what we decided to do.
I suppose as an extension of my last question, have you been surprised at how well Magicka has done? I would say selling over 200,000 copies in a little over two weeks is a hit considering most people on this side of the ocean largely hadn’t heard of the game, but were the sales below or above your expectations?
In the back of our heads we always hoped that it would sell well, it is nice to see that we can compete with the big brand games, just by having a great idea for a game. In a way I guess you could say it was above our expectations. Mostly we are just happy that people are enjoying the game.
Has there been anything interesting in the life of the development team now that Magicka is out? Have your found yourselves instant celebrities with rabid fans, stalkers, and people asking you annoying interview questions (haha) everywhere you go?
Any surreal stories from any members of the team?
There has actually been a few people wanting autographs and pictures with us, but the reality is that we are just people like everyone else. We aren’t rock star celebrities, we are game developers. There has been a lot of interest with interviews and people wanting us to participate in different events, but its more about the studio than the people working here.
Was Magicka ever a more serious game, or was it always a hilarious satirical romp?
The humor in the game is really just a mirror of how we are, its grown naturally into the game. I don’t know how else to describe it really, I usually say its the kind of humor that you get when you reach a critical mass of nerds.
How did the magic system evolve during the course of development? Were there any unexpected issues or things you had to leave on the cutting room floor that you might revisit in the future?
It looked very different from today in the early versions. For one every element was an entire gesture with the controller stick, and as soon as you started casting you couldn’t move. During the course of development the casting system was streamlined a lot and we all think that was for the better. We did have to cut some spells from the game, and time will tell if we ever bring them back.
How far along did online multiplayer enter the equation of Magicka? There were some bugs upon release (that you guys smashed quickly, thanks for that) that created issues with the online side. Were they the products of unforeseen interactions with Steam or coding problems, or was it just hundreds of thousands of players banging on the door all at once?
It was always in the plan that multiplayer would be there, but the coding process didn’t start until later in the development. In retrospect we should have spent more time on it, but this is our first game. Safe to say that we learned a lot for the future, more stable and better network code for one.
In fixing some of the bugs that arose (like in multiplayer) you guys were pumping out updates at an insane rate that I haven’t seen from developers twenty times your size. With a team of about 8 devs how did you manage getting out new substantial updates almost every day after release?
Loooooong hours, most of us worked 12 hour days, and we even worked during the weekend. But it was worth it, we had released an unacceptably buggy game and we needed our community to see that we were working on it immediately. We are very happy with the fact that we managed to keep up the tempo for 2 weeks.
You recently released patch 184.108.40.206 and the free DLC ‘Mea Culpa’, which seemed to be a tongue in cheek reference to the updates we just mentioned. Will we be seeing more DLC in the future now that most of the patching seems to be behind us? Are there plans to have more free DLC, or will we see paid DLC in the future as well?
You can expect both free and paid DLC. Some things, like the promised PVP will be free, others like the Magicka: Vietnam expansion will be paid DLC. In addition to that we will continue to patch Magicka for as long as possible.
I’ve noticed there’s a couple of job openings at the company. Do you find yourselves ready to expand now that you’ve made your mark, or is it so some of you can finally get some rest? Are there any delicious tidbits you can tell me about the next game you’re working on? And if not a new game just yet, what else is on the horizon for Arrowhead Games?
We are always looking for talented people and new opportunities in the business. It is however not an expansion, we would rather grow slowly and safely and not expand just to have to fire people after a project.
Regarding what is on the horizon, there is a lot more coming for Magicka. We are working on our own ideas as well as looking at what the community, those that actually play our games, wants.