Feature Interview: Rimelands: Hammer of Thor
Finnish Developers Dicework Games are currently in production of their second game to be released in the AppStore. Rimelands: Hammer of Thor will be a new RPG set amongst the alternative history of a post-apocalyptic world where creatures of myth roam the land. Explore mysterious vaults and frosty landscapes littered with treasure and fearsome enemies, playing as a young treasure hunter exploring abandoned vaults to appease her grandmother's seemingly endless appetite for riches, while struggling to find more about her dead parents and shrouded past.
I caught up with Arto Koistinen, CEO of Dicework Games to answers some questions about Rimelands.
Callum: Arto, what are players going to expect from Rimelands: Hammer of Thor?
Arto: I think the most important thing is that we're treading into new ground with the game. It began as kind of a roguelike with puzzle elements, but has been slowly taking more and more steps into the direction of a more story-driven roleplaying game. We have a dual approach for the game currently. In addition to a very engaging story, Rimelands: Hammer of Thor has very strong Gameplay and tactical combat elements. Gamers will be engaged right from the start with a fantastic storyline and immersive game play.
Callum: Why did you decide to go the RPG route?
Arto: We always wanted to do an RPG. We wanted to design an RPG for iDevices from the ground up. We began to work on the project mid 2009 when most of the RPGs in the App Store were still ports from other mobiles or clones of existing PC/console games. We wanted to make a game that was originally designed for the device.
Callum: What was the inspiration for Rimelands?
Arto: The games that inspired Rimelands: Hammer of Thor included roguelikes such as Nethack and Final Fantasy games and World of Warcraft, as well as board games like HeroQuest and Descent: Journeys in the Dark. Personally I've been playing Chrono Trigger a lot during the production, so it has had some influence in particular.
For the setting Fallout is an obvious one, as we're also having sort of a post-apocalyptic world with vaults and all, as was the relatively obscure Amiga game Transarctica. Ghibli animations such as Laputa and Nausicaa also inspired us, especially on the steampunk side of things.
As for the story we've been looking more into pulp adventure than into the traditional fantasy games that so often influences RPGs. Indiana Jones is an obvious example of that, of course. Longest Journey and Dreamfall are something I look up to as games that have excellent portrayal of female protagonists (I admit being somewhat a Ragnar Tørnqvist fan) and a great story.
Naturally, we've been digging a lot of Norse lore and European myths in general for all things related to the magical creatures and monsters in the game, rather than having the usual Tolkienesque troupe.
Callum: I see from the back-story that this is a new fantasy world, could you describe a bit about it?
Arto: It's not actually a fantasy world per se. It's an alternative history, where rampant advances in technology in the 18th and 19th century drove the world into a new ice age, that lasted for a thousand years. During the ice age, people lived under the ground in gigantic vaults. When they finally re-emerged, they found a world populated by creatures of myth.
The game is set in a small part of this world, surrounding the most prosperous of the vaults, Asgard. As you can see in the map on the website, the area in the game is roughly equal to northern Europe.
Callum: The world looks to be fairly expansive and well developed, could you explain the process for the development of the back-story?
Arto: The world has been developed concurrently with the game. We had already sketched out ideas for the setting for a previous prototype, and started taking it further when the basic premise of the game was born. It has been growing slowly and been iterated multiple times, as the requirements the game evolved.
So, basically, the process was driven by the gameplay and its needs, though after a point the world started living on its own and now incorporates all sorts of things not directly related to the game.
Callum: I understand that there will be some puzzle elements of the game, what are we to expect? And will there be side quests?
Arto: Yes, there will be some light puzzle elements, but we haven't nailed down all the specifics yet, so it's too early to go into them in any particular depth.
And yes, there will be sidequests, and they are something that we're looking to extend upon in the later (free) updates.
Callum: Will there be a choice of characters to play, or just the lead girl?
Arto: No, just the lead girl. We were originally aiming for an "anonymous" main character, but decided against to concentrate on a deeper and more involving story with a predesigned, well-crafted protagonist.
Callum: What sort of customizable features will be available for the characters (i.e. equipment, armor, weapons)?
Arto: The game elements are immersive and feature rich. There is a large variety of weapons, armor accessories to choose from and a blueprint system that will enable you to build items out of resources.
Callum: Will characters be able to learn new skills, and will there be a leveling system?
Arto: Absolutely. We have dozens of talents spread through 3 different talent paths, which you can mix freely. The game has levels but no set character classes, so you can have a character that's, for example, a melee specialist with a touch of magic abilities.
Callum: Are the games environments in full 3D and did you purposely choose to show the levels in isometric view of any particular reason?
Arto: Yes, all the environments are full 3D. The isometric view was actually inspired by the computer version of the HeroQuest board game, and because it's an effective way to have great looking tile-based environments.
Callum: Are there plans for social networking features like Openfeint or Facebook?
Arto: Not at this point. We're possibly integrating Apple's GameCenter later on, but now we're concentrating on the single player experience.
Callum: Are there plans for a lite version of the game?
Arto: We have discussed it, but there's nothing concrete yet. We don't want to make a "demo" lite, which would be just a short version of the game, but something that could co-exist with the game in its own right. One idea was to make a "vanilla roguelike" version of the game as the lite, but that's still to be decided on.
Callum: Do you plan to have frequent updates? Will they be free?
Arto: Yes, we're planning a full stream of free updates. There are still some features we'd like to have, but which are not essential to the core experience, so we don't want to use the development time on them at this point. We're also going to have some extra content, as mentioned above, in form of sidequests.
We're also listening intently to feedback we get from our beta test community and making it better based on that.
We haven't made any decisions on paid DLC yet.
Callum: Are there any plans to bring Rimelands to the iPad?
Arto: Absolutely, but for now we're concentrating on the iPhone/iPod version. The game's production began long before the iPad was announced. We don't want to make a hurried iPad conversion just to get it there, so it'll take some effort to make a version that plays on the strengths of the larger device.
Callum: The concept artwork featured on rimelands.com is brilliant; will it be featured throughout the game?
Arto: The art on the website (as well as the art of the upcoming video) was done by our concept artist Nelli Telkkinen, and yes, we'll have more of her art in the game.
Callum: Could you explain the collaboration process between Diceworks and Crescent Moon Games?
Arto: In addition to publishing the game, they're helping us with animations, testing and commenting the game as it progresses. It's been really cool working with them, and the game's certainly gotten a lot better with their help.
Callum: It sounds like we have a continuing series of games to look forwards to, do you have long term plans for a Rimelands series, and if so, will they be chapters, quests, expansions, or individual stories?
Arto: Yes, we are planning to grow the Rimelands brand by producing more games in the future. We'll probably have more games with same engine (the codebase we've build on Unity3D for the game), in addition to games in other genres. We're also looking into expanding Rimelands to other media (I'd love to make a comic, actually), and will release more information on this soon. We already have the general idea for the next chapter of the story as well as the story, but for now want to finish up Rimelands: Hammer of Thor.
Callum: Is there a scheduled release date and price for Hammer of Thor?
Arto: Currently, no. Personally, I'm hoping to get the game ready by early June, but that might be a bit optimistic estimate. We want to polish the game until it shines, and it's hard to estimate how long the finishing touches, ironing out all the bugs will take.
Callum: Do you have any future projects in the works?
Arto: At the moment we're concentrating 100% on Hammer of Thor. There are some ideas floating around, of course, but it's too early to talk about them yet.
Keep an eye out for future developments for Rimelands. We'll have more information and hopefully some previews as the release date comes closer.