Vikings of Thule Interview: Vikings Are Real
Questions by Vincent Haoson, OnRPG Journalist
Answered by Iris Andresdottir, Senior Producer, Gogogic
Vikings of Thule is an up and coming facebook-based browser game from Gogogic that puts you in the seat of a Viking in the medieval ages of Iceland. Your goal is to become part of the 39 authorities of the land. To know more about the game, we got the opportunity to talk with the Iris Andresdottir, Senior producer at Gogogic to give us the juicy info about the game.
OnRPG: Hello and thank you for giving us this opportunity to talk with you guys! With Vikings of Thule operating for nearly a year since its open beta last September 2009, how is the game faring so far?
Vikings of Thule offers a new experience within the Facebook ecosystem. It is an attempt to fuse a browser based MMO with social game mechanics and casual play patterns. This enables users to control how and when they play the game. We wanted to be careful with introducing the game so we could study the initial response to it. We basically wanted to make sure that the concept worked and made sense. That is why we have been slow to advertise it. After listening to our users we are pleased with the way the game has evolved over time. It has become one of the few really immersive Facebook-based titles on the market. It now has as a new single player quest system, which was added in response to player feedback, but initially the game focused on PVP duels, “empire-building”, trading and bartering with other players, along with the ability to arm and equip your Viking avatar. The dueling system is very popular and with the expansion we feel the game is ready to be heavily promoted. And of course we hope that the time spent on making the game better will pay off in the long term.
OnRPG: How large is the current game population and are you guys satisfied with the numbers you have right now?
In terms of Facebook numbers, the game currently has a small following, but we are very happy with the reception the game has gotten. From the very start, we had a hard-core group of players that have been really devoted to the game and this group has been growing steadily. So far the growth of the game has mostly been based on word-of-mouth. We haven´t really advertised or promoted the game until now. We don´t see a lot of games on Facebook that offer similar gameplay or artwork as Vikings of Thule does and the underlying numbers indicate that it will attract and retain a strong player base.
OnRPG: Are there any big changes to the game recently? Why or why not?
We try to base as much of our development efforts on the conversation we constantly have with our players. They wanted quests, more stories and something to do by yourself, so we combined these elements into our Quest System, which will support future quests with more content, mini-games and other neat stuff. The first quest is called “Vikings of Thule – Chapter 1: Slayer of Wyrms”. We would like to continue adding more quests, but the frequency and size of future quests really depends on player reaction. We have also redone the game’s main map to make room for new features and improve its overall look and feel. There is actually a long list of cool new things that we want to do for Vikings of Thule, including the improvement of our PVP system.
OnRPG: Why did you decide to make Vikings of Thule a Facebook game when some MMOGs of the same kind opted for browsers only?
We have always been interested in creating experiences that are supported by some sort of meta layer that allows players to interact. We wanted to leverage the social nature of the Facebook platform to do just that. This makes it easy for us to allow players to play against their friends. You can duel against them or try to advance faster in the game than your friends do. You can loot their resources, so the more friends you have translates into potential extra resources for you. Additionally, the trading system in the game enables you to barter goods, resources and the in-game currency with your friends and other players. The game facilitates social experiences and interactions, both with existing friends and even new ones. At the end of the day, that is what makes the game richer, more immersive and perhaps a bit more meaningful. This is the reason why the integration of games with social-media platforms adds tremendously to the in-game experience.
OnRPG: Why did you use Iceland as the setting for Vikings of Thule when other games opt for fantasy lands or worlds as a backdrop of their games?
Iceland has a rich history linked with the Viking settlement in the ninth century AD and the subsequent feuding and clan-rivalry that culminated in a civil war in the 13th century. This unsettled, untamed and resource-rich island on the edge of the artic-circle with its fiercely independent and hardy settlers is ripe for being featured in a game. We also draw heavily on Norse mythology so successful players will receive special favors, in-game items and riches from the gods.
OnRPG: Does this mean players are playing as a Viking in Iceland’s Viking days? Is this part of the game’s immersing experience? Why do you say so?
The players do indeed play the role of a Viking-chief. The game clearly offers players the opportunity to really get lost in the atmosphere of the Viking era and explore the fascinating history and myths associated with it.
OnRPG: Wouldn’t the game be pretty limited if it is heavily rooted on a historical facts or information?
We actually feel that this gives the game a good grounding in a period and mythological universe that are rich with ideas and history. We don’t feel that this setting limits the game in any meaningful way. All games are set within some universe that conditions the gameplay, look and feel, but the real limitations are really with our imagination as we design the game. Perhaps we won´t give the Vikings guns to shoot with, but since they can fight or interact with each other with the assistance of the gods or the Icelandic mystical creatures called the ´Wights,´ there are a lot of cool things we can add to the game.
OnRPG: Why is the game’s parliament only set to only 39 players? What exactly can members of the parliament do in the game?
The original Icelandic parliament which the Vikings founded in 930 AD had 39 district chiefs (´Godar´ in Icelandic). They were the leading chiefs of the day, so this is a historical fact that is reflected in the game. As in the original parliament, our 39 players on the Althingi are the most respected and brave chiefs in the land.
OnRPG: What do you hope to achieve with the implementation of the parliament system in Vikings of Thule?
This serves as a reward for the elite players. Unseating them may be hard but it is certainly worth a try! Going forward, we hope to introduce new ways of measuring strength and status within the game. Parliament might become more reliant on who you know, how you treat them and what you do. But at this point it is all speculative and nothing is set in stone. We would love to get more player feedback on that.
OnRPG: Couldn’t it be problematic in the future where new players will find it hard to become a member of the parliament when they’re already too far behind the veterans?
In-game balance is obviously a key area to look at and that is why we have thought about different ways to compare and compete. We haven´t had a problem with this so far but will of course continue to look at this issue and others within the game. Ultimately, we would like to get the players involved with how we implement any changes, additions and expansions.
OnRPG: Can you give us more details on the gameplay elements present in Vikings of Thule?
The game has multiple elements. At the start the player selects his or her gender, a name and a home on the island of Thule. The player can then invite his or her friends to play the game.
The main elements of game are the following
– A very rich and immersive PVP duel system that heavily relies on skill and allows players to directly engage with other players or their avatars, if friends happen to be offline.
– Management of your Viking ´Empire,´ each player can claim land and recruit his or her personal retinue of freemen, peasants, jarls, huskarls and witches. Each class of follower brings a unique set of benefits and costs.
– A dynamic trading system.
– In-game items ranging from clothes to spells and weapons.
– A robust Quest System that allows players to explore the world on their own.
OnRPG: What do you think is the game’s defining feature that separates it from the other MMOGs of the same kind? Why do you think so?
It is a true multiplayer game, where players are actually playing with other people while also enjoying the added benefits of social features that are seeded within the game. You can trade with your friends, duel or loot resources from them and boast about your exploits either by using the in-game messaging system or by using the ´Post to Facebook´ feature. We believe that Vikings of Thule offers users of Facebook a fully immersive experience not often experienced on that platform.
OnRPG: Is the game tailored to be more competitive or more social centered?
It certainly has elements of both. The more friends you have, the more resources and additional benefits the player will see. You also get more respect and resources for defeating these friends in duels. Even if you lose a duel, you are not seriously affected so we would have to say that it is slightly more socially centered than competitive.
OnRPG: The game’s battles seems to be using a variation of the battle system of trading card games, is this an accurate observation of the game? Or is it more rooted on RPG-like battles?
You are indeed right, the dueling system is card based. Players can obtain different offensive and defensive cards in the game and use them on the battlefield. As you can only carry a limited number of cards into battle, a player must be careful to have the right mix in a fight and strategically play them.
OnRPG: As the last question, what’s in-store for players of Vikings of Thule in the succeeding months ahead?
We have just launched a new single player quest and, depending on the response we get from the players, we will probably create more quests or add to one that is already there. Apart from that we don´t want to give away too much. There is much more coming, so please stay tuned for more on our website. And if you want to try the game, head to Vikings of Thule on Facebook.