Another great Microsoft Game Camp project is Thunder League, a multiplayer game about unstoppable Vikings! We had the change to talk to the team behind it, Hellion Studios.
Who is Hellion Studios? Can you talk a little about your team, and how you got together?
We are a group of nine people who got together during the first half of 2015. Many of us have collaborated on projects prior to forming Hellion Studios but we’ve never developed any prior games with this exact team.
What we want to achieve with Hellion is to create a game company that truly respects the player, something that we think is rare in this business unfortunately. This means for example that we create free quality content for our customers for post-launch, because we will never divide our multiplayer player base with paid DLC, nor do we want to waste their time grinding for unlocks – which also puts them at a disadvantage in competitive multiplayer against seasoned players (who are most likely ahead in skill anyway). We believe in making polished, well-designed products which keeps the player’s interest over time not because of unlocks but because the core mechanics of the game itself are addicting and also leaves room to grow one’s skill; a more natural way of progressing over time rather than arbitrary unlocks and achievements.
As for our games we specialize ourselves in a broad genre that we call minimalistic multiplayer. Besides the obvious focus on multiplayer this means that we create games focused on the core mechanics that make them fun, and we do them really well. By concentrating our efforts on the absolute core we allow ourselves to develop our games faster and can in return make them more accessible to the player, by lowering the complexity as much as possible without sacrificing depth. Our first game Thunder League is an embodiment of this.
Tell us about your project, Thunder League. How did you came up with the idea and what is the feeling you want to convert with this game? What platforms will your game be for, can you tell us a bit of technicalities (game modes, gameplay etc)?
In short Thunder League is literally a game about unstoppable Vikings; it’s essentially a cooler multiplayer version of the classic Snake but with Vikings, and instead of getting longer the players are getting faster!
Thunder League started out as a game jam back in February earlier this year, called Berzerkerz back then. It wasn’t intended to become a full-fledged product initially, as we were planning an entirely different commercial project for Hellion Studios. That changed however when we neared the start of production in June and decided to develop a full product based on the game’s core mechanics instead, the main reason being that we deemed it to be a safer bet than our other project. We expected that developing a commercial game based on the game jam version – what is now shaping up to be Thunder League – would take roughly half the time of developing our postponed project, and with Thunder League we didn’t have to create a prototype either as we already knew that Berzerkerz was a whole lot of fun!
What we want to achieve with Thunder League is to create the ultimate party game, inspired by minimalistic games such as Acthung die Kurve. We’re creating a game that’s extremely accessible and fast-paced, with clear objectives and with merely two buttons used for controlling your player character – but at the same time a game that is not easy to play – and that’s part of what makes it great! It’s absolutely hilarious to see your opponents gain more speed than they can handle; crashing into a wall and getting stunned – turning them into sitting ducks. In fact it’s actually fun to do it yourself even! Comeback-mechanics like that, were the hunter becomes the hunted, are part of what defines Thunder League!
Thunder League is intended be released on Steam in Q1 2016.
Are you committed to launch Thunder League? And if yes, in what stage of development are you and when do you hope you will launch?
Thunder League has been developed from the start as a commercial game and is intended be released on Steam during Q1 2016, followed by free content updates for at least another six months after launch – therefore we’re all extremely committed. Currently we’re in the early stages of development but we’re happy with our progress thus far!
What is your involvement with Microsoft Game Camp? How does this initiative help you with your team and project?
Game Camp has been an opportunity for us to get going and invest a lot of time into working on Thunder League without having to worry too much about needing financial support. Other than that we’ve all found the seminars to be very exciting and a big inspiration, you deserve a lot of credit for booking people such as Niklas Åkerblad, Tor Frick and Armin Ibrisagic. Also Oscar Rydelius from Soundproof was an excellent addition. Getting a varied group of AAA, Indie and freelancers to Game Camp allowed us to get a good overall picture of the industry at large and what we can come to expect from our future careers. Since we develop primarily for Steam we haven’t gotten any use from the Xbox One devkits, so I can’t really comment on those.
What do you think about Microsoft Game Camp so far? How do you find the workshops, is there anything you are missing from Game Camp?
As previously stated the seminars were excellent. There were some confusion when some seminars switched times however (we would have appreciated a place where we could find clear up-to-date information – as that would have made Game Camp even better!). We also feel like it would be great to make some more general hardware available for game camp attendees next year. We’ve found that the school hardware can be a challenge to cooperate with sometimes which is why we chose to work mostly from home. As for the workshops we’ve found it to be highly valuable to get feedback on our game from industry people after their respective lectures – it’s exhilarating to say the least!
Is there anything else you want to say about Thunder League, Hellion Studios, game development and games in general?
One of our greatest tools at Hellion Studios is that we have an internal culture of constantly providing feedback. That way we’re making sure that each component implemented into the game have been viewed from multiple angles and not merely by the person creating it. We’re not a fan of design by committee though, we respect our individual abilities – but our shared knowledge and enthusiasm overcomes what each of us could achieve on our own.