The process of creating a game is difficult, long, and often stressful, but it's one that can reap many rewards alongside actually seeing your ideas come to life.
No matter the size of the game or how long it ultimately takes to make, each new title involves a lot of hard work, tough decisions, and a little bit of luck before it even gets out the door and onto devices. And in the current mobile and handheld games market, that's only the first step to making the title succeed.
To highlight all of the extensive work that often goes on unseen in the background, PocketGamer.biz is reaching out to developers to learn more about the general rigmarole of releasing a video game, with our 'Making Of' series.
PocketGamer.biz: Can you start off by telling us about Rivengard?
Wilhelm Österberg: Rivengard is a new tactical RPG using the evergreen turn-based mechanics made famous by classics such as Heroes of Might and Magic. We’ve done our utmost to perfect them for mobile play.
We started out with just two people conceptualising the idea in early 2017, followed by an extensive prototyping phase while slowly growing the team.Wilhelm Österberg
Players collect characters for use on the 'Hex Battlefield' and progress them from common folk all the way up to legendary heroes. A big part of the tactics is all about choosing the right line-up of heroes for the right challenge, as well as finding the perfect synergies and combos of abilities.
Where did the initial idea for the game come from?
Our core team at Snowprint’s Berlin studio has worked together on mobile turn-based tactics and strategy before. Although there are some examples of well-executed niche games, we felt that there was still a segment that was under-represented on mobile. Rivengard is our first attempt to address this opportunity, and we’ll probably keep working until we make it happen.
How long did development take, and how many people worked on the game?
Just like a good whiskey, it took far too long. We started out with just two people conceptualising the idea in early 2017, followed by an extensive prototyping phase while slowly growing the team. By the end of that first year, we were still just nine team members. Now we have 14 people in the Berlin studio, all dedicated to Rivengard.
In addition to this, we have been working with a few choice freelancers and outsourcing partners. We’re also benefitting from cooperation with our Stockholm studio and our rapidly growing shared tech platform, that we call Floe.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome during development?
Snowprint Studios launched its first game, Legend of Solgard, in the middle of Rivengard's production. After operating the game for some time, the Solgard team realised that the character progression system would have to be completely revamped. The redesign was successfully carried out and led to an absolutely astonishing uptick in metrics.
We immediately carried over that revamp to Rivengard, leading to a sudden and massive new construction site in a production that was otherwise on the rails. However, the team quickly reformed and executed it all correctly, which there’s no doubt was the right thing to do for the game.
At what stage in development did you feel you had a game that you were happy with?
This happened unusually early in Rivengard’s development. My long-term design partner Francesco Tosato nearly built the entire game single-handedly as a prototype in Game Maker Studio. This allowed us to find the fun and feel the magic really early on. To a large extent, we could later even use the prototype as a design doc when making the actual game in Unity.
Why did you feel this was the right time to launch globally?
There’s always more than can be added and another improvement to be made, but at some point, you just have to ship the game and let people play it. With strong engagement metrics, positive feedback from players and a good amount of features and content, we felt we could press the button.
Who do you find to be the game's main audience?
At Snowprint, we often talk about the 'everyday gamer'. This is someone who is perhaps playing complex games on PC or console or has done it earlier in life when there was more time.
It was clear in our minds already when starting the project that we needed to build every system with live ops in mind.Wilhelm Österberg
This is where Rivengard fits in with a battle taking only a couple of minutes, yet there’s real depth to the tactics and you’re making the same type of choices you would in Panzer Corps, or when attacking in Civilization VI, for example.
Was the game soft-launched? If so, what did you learn from the soft launch period, and what were the biggest changes you enacted as a result?
We did. The first one was in south-east Asia before later adding in a couple of small European countries. As always, this led to quite intense learning and iteration on our part. No huge changes were made, which I attribute in equal parts to our extensive prototyping and to the high experience level in the team. There were hundreds of smaller metrics-based improvements, though.
Has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted ongoing development in any way?
Very little, thankfully. I feel that productivity and focus have not been affected negatively at all - something I wouldn’t have guessed before the pandemic. I suppose the one thing we haven’t really seen yet is how this impacts people's mental health and other things such as team spirit, cohesion and vision alignment in the longer-term.
How are you approaching live ops?
It was clear in our minds already when starting the project that we needed to build every system with live ops in mind. This is also an area where the Rivengard team is helped by the Solgard team having blazed the trail. That said, we’re learning every day that we're in contact with the players.
What can you tell us about your plans in terms of updates?
Right now, we’re deep in patch-land. With the sheer number of players piling into the game throughout the few last days, there’s a lot of issues popping up. Nothing game-breaking though, and I’m actually amazed at how sturdily our engineers have put things together. Coming up next is our large in-game event - The Festival of the Walled Kingdoms, which kicked off on January 31st, 2021.
Can you provide any download or financial data? Any DAUs or other stats?
We’ve been very happy with how featuring on the app stores have played out and there are certain metrics that make our eyes water; even with 10 plus years working with the free-to-play genre. That said, it's very early days, so we’re of course wary of drawing too many conclusions this early on.
What can you tell us about your future projects?
Our main focus in the current team is to give Rivengard all the support and momentum it needs, and boy, do we have a long list of stuff we want to add! There’s also something very exciting about to kick off at Snowprint though, which involves a pretty well-known IP, which I'm personally excited about. For this new project, we’ll likely have to grow both of our studios a bit more later this year.