Expeditions: Viking Interview
Farflame interviewed Logic Artists' Creative Director Jonas Wæver about their next installment of the Expeditions series, Expeditions: Viking.
RPGWatch: Lets start with a general question. What do you like or don't like in RPGs nowadays? Do you miss something in RPGs nowadays?
Jonas Wæver: It's difficult to miss anything in the genre what with all these modern day old-school revivals like Wasteland and Pillars of Eternity. If anything, I'd say I miss something about the audience (including myself) which is that our expectations were different, we had much lower standards for detail and content density. What with the Infinity Engine games being revived by Obsidian and InXile recently, I've been wishing for a modern version of Might & Magic VI, but that sort of game just couldn't exist these days - it's too big and scarce, it'd feel empty.
RPGWatch: Kingdom Come showed that there is pretty solid interest in historical games (at least if these games uses CryEngine :-). Design of this game is strongly focused on depth and credibility. If finished and KC will be successfull, do you believe it will inspire more developers to offer more depth in their games too? Or will there be no impact on other games?
Jonas: The games industry is a pretty small world, so I'm sure other developers will take note if Kingdom Come is a success. It'll be interesting to see if they manage to hit the sweet spot between narrative/drama/entertainment and simulation/accuracy so they get both the RPG fans and the historical simulation lovers on board. Personally I'm pretty far over in the narrative camp so I'm a little worried they'll lose me, but I remain cautiously optimistic!
RPGWatch: Now to Expeditions: Viking... My initial impression was that the game will be about numerous raids into Britain + other isles. But from previews it looks like its mainly about one raid when you explore the whole of Britain. So I wonder - do you do more raids in Britain? And can you raid also other countries like small islands around Britain or seaside of Frisia? (there were wars between Danes and Franks over Frisia at the time)
Jonas: The war with the Frankish Empire is sort of the backdrop of the game. Just like in history, it motivates several of the things the player will be asked to do throughout. But yes, Viking focuses purely on Britannia. It's not so much one raid as a campaign, and you don't actually have to do any raiding. Your goal is to improve the prosperity and power of your clan in Denmark, and the main way you can do that is by acquiring riches or creating alliances. Gaining allies will require taking sides in the simmering war between Northumbria and Pictavia, essentially through mercenary work (which is also something the Vikings were greatly known for). Acquiring wealth can be done in a variety of ways, including raids on in-land churches and monasteries or coastal villages.
RPGWatch: How much depth and C&C could we expect from quests and events in Britain? Regarding defense - I would expect better defense in the lands that I invade a second or third time. Regarding quests - for example, if you choose to help some nobleman to become a king, does it mean that he is done for the rest of the game (=no new content there) or do you get new events and quests as consequences of your previous deed?
Jonas: It's hard to quantify choice and consequence, but I'll say you can expect... a fair bit? A lot of it comes from just ensuring that the narrative remains consistent no matter what the player does. The different questlines in Britain are underpinned by a faction reputation system, which naturally changes things depending on who you've endeared yourself to and who you've pissed off. The overall game uses Power and Prosperity as aggregate values to track your progress and your decisions throughout the whole story, and these values can trigger new quests and change the outcome of things, in addition to their main function which is to determine how the game ends for you.
One of the trickier things about Viking is that we do a lot of branching in the background - ie. the game responds a fair bit to who lives and who dies in a fight, whether a fight is won or lost, which quests you've done previously and which characters you've met, and so on. A lot of the time these changes happen without the player even noticing. We try not to rub it in your face with a giant on-screen pop-up when something has happened because of something you did or didn't do several hours earlier.
RPGWatch: Could you establish outposts in Britain and leave some men there? (in order to avoid spoilers you can just hint there are some surprises :))
Jonas: Not in any systemic way. You can take control of Orkney quite early in the Britain campaign and use it as a mustering ground for your army. New people and ships will join you there as your Power grows, and new content will sometimes pop up for you when you return. It's like a second Homestead that more or less manages itself.
RPGWatch: Did you use some historical events or persons as inspiration for the story or some quest?
Jonas: Yeah of course! All the kings and bishops and other people of note are taken from history, and a lot of the things the player can find and do are inspired from real events. We have a lot of creative license because the period is quite poorly documented, but we've managed to get a lot of inspiration from the real history of the period.
RPGWatch: Can we upgrade our ship for some reason (for bigger cargo or more space for slaves or something)? We already know there are events while travelling by sea (global map) but I'd like to ask if you could meet an enemy and fight him on sea? And by saying that I mean simple hex fight on boards of two ships. (I dont expect real naval battles here)
Jonas: There are no sea battles. Once you've constructed and named your ship, it has the stats it'll have for the rest of the game. Those stats are mostly one-shot boosts that play into the story and random events, it doesn't play a particularly important role in the game systems.
RPGWatch: Hero creation looks nice. Initially I had teh impression that clothing in Exp Viking is as much elaborated as the clothing system in Kingdom Come... even if it's not (poorly hidden compliment :-). But it brings my question - is clothing in your game more important than in most other RPGs? For example do you need warm coats in very cold areas? Or fancy tunic when you are going to negotiate with some british king?
Jonas: Clothing is purely cosmetic, and as soon as you equip a suit of armour, that shows up on top. You won't be commissioning a fancy dress gown for your meeting with the king, you'll have to show up in your blood-soaked hide armour like the filthy barbarian that you are.
RPGWatch: I noticed some praise about your writing. Do you have some basic methods or rules how to create interesting, lively or stand-out characters (in general, not just for this game)? Most Vikings probably don't talk much so its harder to let them "shine" in dialogue, am I right?
Jonas: Eh, Vikings are just people like everyone else, and even the most battle-hardened warrior will have accumulated a few quirks in his lifetime. Making a random side-character like a merchant or a bandit leader stand out as interesting is definitely a challenge, particularly when the needs of the gameplay often take up "screen time" that might otherwise go to character development, but the best way I've found is to think about what kind of situation the character might be in. It doesn't necessarily have to be a super unique and complex character to be interesting, as long as you meet them in an interesting situation.
One of the greatest challenges has been to justify certain RPG mainstays in the context that you're a foreign heathen warrior roaming about the English countryside. I mean how are you going to get a side quest going? No God-fearing Christian is going to ask you to solve any of her problems when you walk down the street brandishing axes and spears. We've had to get pretty creative about that - a lot of the side quests are prompted by observations and suggestions from your own party members, or situations you just happen to blunder into. When people do offer you work, it's usually because they assume you have no moral qualms what-so-ever, being a Godless pagan, so those jobs can be pretty nasty.
RPGWatch:There are successfull TV shows like Vikings or The Last Kingdom. The Last Kingdom has one strong element - it shows how a pagan Viking hero can be stubborn, proud or stupid in a christian society that expects different behaviour in public. Did you design some intriguing situations like this in the game? Are there some social skills (or knowledge) that helps to deal successfully with christian nobles?
Jonas: Well you've got your Diplomacy skill to give you an advantage in such situations, but to the extent that the locals put up with you, it's typically because they think they can use you to their advantage. Sometimes that works out for them. Sometimes not.
RPGWatch: Spears can attack targets two hexes afar but is there some significant difference between other melee weapons - axes, swords and single-bladed daggers (scramasax)? Could heroes be overloaded in fight if they carry too much?
Jonas: Both spears and dane-axes have reach. The differences between sword, axe, and knife (we use the Old English word seax in dialogue) is in their stats and the abilities you unlock with them. Each weapon skill has its own set of abilities that require you to be wielding that weapon. Axes have somewhat utility-style abilities that let you mess with enemies' shields or weapons. Swords have abilities that focus on individual combat. Knives are all about being a sneaky, stabby bastard.
There is no encumbrance in the game. Each character has two weapon sets that they can switch between in combat, any weapons not equipped in one of these sets cannot be used.
RPGWatch: Your superstition mechanics is very good and fresh idea imho. There is also the witchcraft skill. When I would have the right potion or circumstances combined with superstition could this lead to rare illusions in the game? For example - you are lost in dark land, you drink local dirty water and suddenly you are attacked by humans in wolf skins. Now your deluded heroes wont see humans but rather humanoid beast with wolf heads. Heroes with higher superstition will have penalty in fight because they will believe they fight beasts. And if enemies will bring big dog or wolf with them your deluded heroes will see giant wolf that must be offspring of mythical Fenrir. :) What a fight that would be! :)
Jonas: We do a few things in that vein, but nothing quite as elaborate.
RPGWatch: The last question is both a suggestion and a question. While thinking about a potential next Expeditions game, I got a few ideas so I wonder what you think about them - if you like some setting or idea more and some less etc.
1. suggestion - Expeditions: Normans - you start again as Viking but you try to establish yourself as a ruler of Normandy and adopt christianity. Interesting is that initially you will be hated by all, including your former Viking brethren.
2. suggestion - Expeditions: Persia - you are a Greek commander who leads his men into the heart of Asia Minor and the Persian empire.
3. suggestion - Expeditions: Hannibal - Hannibal's legendary campaign (expedition) against Rome. With elephants. With Celts. Through the Alps. Against an almost invincible Roman empire with the best army in the world. But now you could change the history. :)
Jonas: Expeditions: Normans would be a bit too similar to Viking. It's a good idea, but we like to shake it up more from installment to installment. Persia and Hannibal would be great ideas :)
RPGWatch: Thanks for your time and good luck with the game.
Jonas: You're very welcome, thanks for your questions :)
Information aboutExpeditions: Viking
Developer: Logic Artists
Regions & platforms
· Platform: PC
· Expected at 2017-02-01
· Publisher: EuroVideo Medien