Interview: Arrowhead Studios on Magicka

March 24, 2011

Arrowhead Studios and Paradox Interactive’s Magicka is a lot of things. It’s bizarre. It’s frantic. Mostly, it’s a lot of fun. Now, the team’s working on an expansion, Magicka: Vietnam. Yes, Vietnam. We got some answers from Arrowhead’s Patrik Lasota about the expansion, the team’s development process and their future plans.

(If you haven’t played Magicka, check out our review. If you haven’t seen the trailer for the expansion, check that out too.)

Snackbar Games: Okay, we have to start with this one: Magicka: Vietnam. How the heck did you come to the decision to make that?

Patrik Lasota, Arrowhead Game Studios: Well, it started with our sound guy playing around and making the sound for the M60. It wasn’t in the game at the time, but he made it anyway. When we heard the sound, we all said, “let’s put an M60 in the game.” And we did. It turned out to be so hilarious that we spent the entire day at the office that day just shooting goblins with the M60. Around the same time, DICE announced BFBC2: Vietnam, and we jokingly said, lets do Magicka: Vietnam, and then we realized, why not? So here we are, our first major DLC being Magicka: Vietnam.

SBG: Compared to the original release, how long is Magicka: Vietnam going to be?

PL: It is not as long as the original by far, but we are adding some new elements to it to make sure it has higher replayability. It is always important for us to make sure that our community feels like they get enough value from the DLC. It’s supposed to be worth it, not just a cheap way of making more money.

SBG: There are many nods to classic gaming in Magicka. Are there any games in particular that served as inspiration for the game, and in what way?

PL: Many, many games. We are all gamers, so in a way it was in our blood already, but some games, as you say, were bigger influences. Moonstone, for example, is an influence to why the game is so gory. The isometric view and the graphical style, well we ourselves want to attribute it to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Then of course there are the combinations from the Tekken style of games that, in a way, inspired us for the spellcasting system.


The game makes many references and has lots of interesting elements stuck in here and there. What was the team’s philosophy when deciding what to include and not include?

PL: If someone has an idea, we introduce it to the rest of the team. If they agree, we try to put it in the game. It’s that simple, really. The reference humor is sort of our style of gaming. Our lead programmer, Anton Stenmark, mentioned in the developer playthrough we did recently that we all speak fluently in references. I think that the reference humor is simply the kind of humor you get when you reach a critical mass of nerds.

SBG: After putting tons of effort into development into Magicka, you release the game and find all these previously-unknown glitches and bugs. Now that everything’s patched, we were wondering: what was the team’s reaction when this happened?  

PL: Well I wouldn’t say that all bugs are gone yet. We still have some patching to do. But at the time of release, it was mixed feelings of joy (people loved our game), horror (all the bugs!) and a future feeling of hard work in the air. We realized very early when the forums started filling with bugs that this was a disaster. We had to do something immediately, and we made the commitment to patch every day for two weeks.

It was tough times. Fourteen-hour workdays every day, even weekends, but we felt like we owed it to the community to fix the game, that was, well let’s face it, pretty broken. We feel like we did a good job, though our inexperience as a studio was somewhat visible with a few patches. 

SBG: How much more new Magicka content can we expect? Any hints about future expansions?

PL: We have big plans for Magicka. What they are I cannot say at this time, but rest assured, there are some surprises up ahead. We will, of course, patch in the promised PvP. It is high on our priority list. Currently a member of our community, KreitoR, has taken it upon himself to arrange unofficial Magicka PvP tournaments using his own modded XML challenge. It is very fun to watch and it brings a lot of replayability, so that’s definitely coming up.


Has the team talked about what to do after Magicka? Any plans?

PL: We have some plans, but none that we are ready to share anytime soon. We have our hands full with Magicka at the moment, but it is clear to us that we don’t want to become “that studio that made Magicka”, even though we are very happy with how it all turned out.


We appreciate Patrik taking the time to answer our questions. We’ll have more on Magicka: Vietnam as its release approaches.