Interview: Game of Thrones Beyond the Wall’s Daniel-David Guertin
Game of Thrones Beyond the Wall is slated to hit Apple’s App Store on March 26th and the Google Play Store the following week on April 3rd.
Developed by Montreal’s Behaviour Interactive, Game of Thrones Beyond the Wall is a story-driven RPG, with system mechanics drawn from grid-based RPGs like Final Fantasy Tactics and mixes elements from Hero collector games like Marvel Strike Force. Behaviour Interactive has partnered with HBO to develop a game expanding on the hit series, shedding some light on events taking place before the series begins.
Game of Thrones Beyond the Wall takes place 48 years before the beginning of the HBO show. It largely centers around the disappearance of Brynden Rivers otherwise known as Bloodraven or Three-Eyed Raven. Your character, a Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, must track him down beyond the Wall and face White Walkers and other enemies.
In addition, Beyond the Wall features additional modes to collect heroes, many of which are beloved characters from the show. Inspired by the Greensight ability introduced in Game of Thrones, players can take part in key moments of the show’s timeline to unlock characters like Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, Jamie Lannister, and Tormund Giantsbane. Since many of our favourite characters change over the course of the story, Behaviour Interactive has made multiple heroes based on a single character to reflect those changes based both on looks and traits.
The crux of the gameplay follows a similar structure to Final Fantasy Tactics and XCOM. You’ll take your character and a small group of units to fight enemies on a grid-based battlefield. You’ll be able to upgrade hero traits, ranks, weapons, and other abilities. Units can also be upgraded throughout the campaign.
On top of an original story, Beyond the Wall also features a challenge mode and PVP elements. In the Arena Mode, players can set a squad of units and a hero and face off in an asynchronous battle against a squad put together by another player.
PVE elements will also be supported. In one special event dubbed World Boss Challenges, Behaviour Interactive spoke about having a giant attack the Wall and all players are encouraged to take their units to defend it and defeat the giant. Once the event is completed, a tally of total and individual damage output is collected and the top players will be recognized.
Behaviour Interactive built a lot of recognition from 2016’s Dead by Daylight. The studio has also been supporting other developer studios and has been a contributing part of such titles as Halo Wars: Definitive Edition, Fallout Shelter, and Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor.
Today, I sat down with Daniel-David Guertin, the creative director of Game of Thrones Beyond the Wall at Behaviour Interactive. During our discussion, we discuss the approach to crafting a new narrative within an established series, Beyond the Wall’s gameplay mechanics, and how players can expect to unlock beloved characters from the acclaimed show.
Steve: What are the requirements to unlock beloved characters? Are they tied to mission progression? Can they all be found in a storefront? How did Behaviour Interactive decide how to approach this aspect of the game?
Daniel: The process is fairly simple. The characters of our story are unlocked through the story. [Characters] from the show are all unlocked through Legendary Events. When an event starts, you fight through, like I said, a main part of the show. Sometimes we have events based on our characters as well. All of these have a special storyline attached to them that’s encapsulated in the event. Once you finish some of the early fights, the character will be yours.
Then you can keep playing to get more rewards from the event. Unlocking the characters is the first step. If you want to increase it in power and reach its full capability, you will have to gain Shards for that character. That’s when you need to invest a bit more. Having the character in your roster is fairly simple, but if you really want to invest in them there is a lot of time that can be spent.
Steve: Behaviour Interactive has worked on many games in different genres and Beyond the Wall seems to be inspired by grid-based RPG titles like Final Fantasy Tactics. How did the studio transition towards a story-based RPG and what experiences from previous games helped make that transition easier?
Daniel: I have been with Behaviour for over eight years now and we tend to make a lot of different games, but we also work in the shadows. There’s a lot that we learn when working on our games and other people’s games and working in the shadows with other studios. We have gathered a lot of knowledge on almost every type of game you can think of.
I would like to say we have a roster of designers. We have people from all over the world with all sorts of backgrounds and experiences. So within the design family, we work together, share our knowledge a lot to make sure that everyone gets a lot of knowledge from everyone else.
When making Game of Thrones Beyond the Wall, the reason we went with that tactical strategy approach with the narrative was that we felt that was what represented Game of Thrones the best. When we think about the main characters, they all end up on the battlefield, supporting their troops. They all end up guiding armies of people and that felt like the natural way to go with the gameplay. The true personalities of these characters are reflected in how they fight on the battlefield and treat their enemies in the end. That’s what we wanted to reflect in the game and that was the first thing that came around.
We love the narrative of Game of Thrones and wanted to expand upon it. It kind of meshed together. It wasn’t a thing like we needed to do this genre and figure out how to make it around Game of Thrones. We wanted to make a Game of Thrones game first because we love Game of Thrones and thought there was a nice place for a good Game of Thrones game out there. That’s how it gelled together.
What we learn from all of our games, we try to find ways to share our understanding of game design. It’s something I can really vouch for. How good games are made, are played, and how players want to interact with games is universal.
Steve: The studio launched an early access period in late 2019. What was the reception like and what kind of feedback were you given from the players?
Daniel: The reception was good. We got a lot of feedback and, of course, like all the early launches and early access periods, there were things we wanted to work on. We wanted to take time to answer all the issues players were reporting. We also wanted to take time to polish the things that they loved. So it wasn’t just a time to fix things it was also a way to make things better. We had a nice pool of feedback and wanted to make the most of it so the version that launches will be reflective of that.
Steve: Finally, what are some key aspects of the game you’re looking forward to players seeing?
Daniel: To us, it’s really about the story mode. We worked with HBO to make it authentic. I think there’s a lot of effort to make a story that HBO would be happy to share with the players and that we would be happy to share as well. Creating new characters and expanding that universe, that’s our main focus on this one. Game of Thrones had a lot of stories to tell. We are fans of the TV show so we wanted to expand on that. The story element was something we really pushed. Our story is about emotion and we tried to be as emotional as possible.
Game of Thrones Beyond the Wall will be available on iOS on March 26th and will be available on Android April 3rd.