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INTERVIEW: Shield Break Studios

Last week, I had the opportunity to play Bierzerkers, by new comer Shield Break Studios’, which landed on Steam Early Access last Thursday.  The game takes you to ‘Brewhalla,’ the land where Vikings go after death to drink beer and fight for eternity.  This week, I had the opportunity to chat with the team at Shield Break and find out more about the game and their inspirations.

Gaming Conviction:  What was your inspiration behind the game?

Shield Break Studios: We were inspired by the idea of a competitive melee multiplayer game. There are a lot of competitive shooters out there already so we thought we could find a nice niche for ourselves in the melee space.

GC: What led to the Viking theme?

SBS: Naturally Vikings are some of the most iconic and legendary fighters to ever exist so they came to mind immediately. Additionally, we wanted to make a game that didn’t take itself too seriously and there are already a lot of stereotypes and overblown ideas about the Vikings out there. With that in mind it made sense to over­emphasize those for comedic effect and keep the game cohesive in its theme.

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GC: Tell us a little bit about the characters and how you came up with them.

SBS: All of the characters have risen from gameplay and design needs, with their theme and personality to follow. We started with the Raider, who was designed to be the most straightforward character. From there we had some ideas of the roles different characters in the game would play (Support, Crowd Control, harassment, etc.) and started to prototype their gameplay. While we prototyped gameplay we would spit­ball personality and art ideas for the characters until we found one that fit the gameplay and theme of the game.

GC: Why did you choose Unreal engine?

SBS: Given Epic’s history with networked multiplayer games we felt confident that we would be able to take advantage of a lot of the engine’s built­-in networking without having to re­write or add tons of code. We also had the opportunity to take an early look at UE4 and were able to get a prototype up and running very quickly. Once that was up we knew we were going with UE.

GC: Who is your target audience for the game?

SBS: Our target audience is ourselves. When we started the studio one of our mantras was ‘Make games we want to play’.

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GC: Can we expect to find any easter eggs in the game?

SBS: Absolutely! I’m not going to spoil any here.

GC: When we first saw your gameplay footage from PAX our first thought was that graphically it looked like Team Fortress 2. Did that game play a part in the inspiration?

SBS: TF2 is definitely an inspiration for us artistically. Pixar animation is another one. For Bierzerkers we wanted to go with a stylized look with saturated colors to emphasize the idea you are in Viking heaven.

GC: How long has the game been in development?

SBS: We started pre-­production toward the end of 2013.

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GC: This is your very first game as a studio. What kinds of experiences as a team have you had so far?

SBS: Well we’ve had a lot of ups and downs as a team, but the thing that stands out the most was our debut at PAX Prime 2014. The game went through some radical changes leading up to that show and we all attended to support it so it was a great moment.

GC: One of the things that we’ve seen with MOBAs and MMOs in general lately are ‘Pay2Win’ systems such as micro-transactions. Will we be seeing anything like that in Bierzerkers?

SBS: We are exploring some ideas in micro-transactions but nothing that is ‘Pay2Win.’ Any micro-trans[actions] that we do will be more in the vein of CS:GO or Dota2 which is to say purely aesthetic and not affecting gameplay whatsoever.

GC: How much beer has been consumed so far in the making of the game?

SBS: We haven’t been keeping count but if want to send us some I’m sure we can use it!

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