It was just the other week that Zoink Games announced Zombie Vikings - a four-player co-operative beat 'em up featuring undead vikings that had been resurrected by Odin as he wants them to retrieve his missing one good eye (Loki has managed to steal it away). A very different game to their breakthrough title, adventure game Stick it to the Man!, but the characteristic artstyle and humour appears to remain.
We had a chat with Zoink Games' Klaus Lyngeled and learned more about the new game that's set to arrive on Steam and PlayStation 4 in July next year (it will arrive on more platforms later on).
"The team and me had a few different concepts that we wanted to try out after Stick It and one of the ideas that floated around was a co-op game," explains Lyngeled when asked how the concept for Zombie Vikings came about. "A lot of us really like playing together at the company, there is something really special about couch-play (must be the screaming). At the same time it just seems easier to be creative when you try something new you haven't done before and that forces you to grow. It's not that we don't want to make Stick It to The Man 2, or something similar to that kind of gameplay, but right now we just needed a break from that."
The beat 'em up genre saw its golden age in the early 90s, but has lately seen something of a resurrection. Clear design and bags of humour are key to Zombie Vikings, but what is key to a successful co-op walk and brawl?
"In Zombie Vikings we want to focus on co-operative moves between the players," notes Lyngeled. "I noticed that in a lot of co-op fighting games you are battling on the same screen, but don't really care what each player does. I want players to do moves together, for example in Zombie Vikings you can carry co-players (and enemies) on their swords and throw them against enemies. Timing the throw together makes you more powerful. The special moves are also designed to work better together, for example Caw-kaa (the crow girl) who can fly, can pick up fellow players and drop attack with them."
"And as with all fighting games the moves have to be super fast. The response time, feeling and handling of the character punches is crucial. We are spending a ton of time on that. Being 1-4 players on screen also means that the camera has to be really smart, that has given us a lot of headache, the camera has to show what's interesting to the players and always keep all four players on screen - it sounds simple, but that turned out to be quite hard to get right, but now it feels really good!"
Speaking of Caw-kaa and the rest of the cast, we asked Klaus Lyngeled to tell us about one special character that he feels stands out...
"It's been really fun coming up with the stories for each zombie viking and through your journey will discover their background and how they died, it's a quite important part of the game, so I won't spoil too much about that. But the gang also meets all kinds of characters, early on they meet a kind of spiritual zombie guide called Wade. Wade is like a surfer-hippie character, a real mellow dude who teaches you - The Way of The Zombie. He believes he is kind of guru on the subject. But I'm not sure, cause when you meet him he has actually lost his own body to a really annoying maggot, so he is just this head jumping around following you and you have to help him get his body back."
As the case was with Stick it to the Man! Zoink Games are teaming up with a writer to help them deliver the best possible dialogue. This time they've teamed up with Zach Weinersmith (Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal), and we asked about how the creative process plays out between the studio and the writer.
"Me and Andreas Beijer are the ones who come up with the main story, we go into a dull room and bang our heads against a wall, scream, cry and eventually laugh insanely," says Lyngeled. "It's not always pleasant, but mostly it is. I then write a quite rough script, which we then send over to Zach. Zach then adds his magic dialogue and lots of jokes to it. We then bounce it back and forth a few times until it feels polished. It's a process we developed when developing Stick It to The Man. For us it's really good to work with another comic writer who isn't too close to the game and who has English as a first language. Plus Zach is an amazing writer and he sees things we would never think of."
Obviously Zombie Vikings is a big deal for Zoink Games, but the studio has always had a lot of projects (usually smaller in scope) and there is no shortage of ideas.
"We are releasing Zombie Vikings in July next year on PS4 and Steam and I hope it's going to go really well," says Lyngeled. "Later in the year we want to release the game on other consoles. We already have two other great concepts that we would like to do. So I hope we will have another game in production in 2015, maybe even release two games next year."