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Interviews

How Developers Created Alternate Worlds in Iron Maiden’s ‘Legacy of the Beast’ Game

We spoke to Game Director Hamish Millar about the process of creating Iron Maiden’s new mobile game.

All images courtesy of Roadhouse Interactive

While the world seems to be tumbling further into an abyss of politics and conflict, millions of people are turning to mobile gaming for an escape from reality. It’s true; the current craze of Pokemon GO has turned the streets into minefields of zombielike Americans searching for a Gyrados. But for metalheads that don’t feel like risking their actual lives while picking up some new pocket monsters, Legacy of the Beast, the new Iron Maiden inspired RPG, is a pretty kick-ass alternative. Just months after band released its 16th studio record, The Book of Souls, and embarked on a global tour, fans now have the Maiden experience at their fingertips.

The game, conceptualized by a Vancouver based mobile gaming company called Roadhouse Interactive, is available now for free. It’s the first official video game to encompass the world of Iron Maiden since the release of the Ed-Hunter in 1999. But a lot has changed in the world of gaming since the guys put out the computer game, and Roadhouse knew they needed it to be modern, and accessible to a global audience. Legacy of the Beast’s gameplay is an interactive journey through the eyes of the Maiden’s beloved skeleton mascot, Eddie. It transports you through time and space in the discography and realms inside the world of Iron Maiden. The challenge the team faced wasn’t small: it’s a tall order to live up to what is arguably the most theatrical and narratively-driven trajectories in music.

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Game Director Hamish Millar, who formerly practiced law in Australia, has come a long way from property transactions. After working on games such as Need For Speed, FIFA, and Crash Bandicoot, he’s honored to add Legacy of the Beast to his resume. We spoke to Millar about how he and his team created the alternative universes in which Eddie roams and battles.

Noisey: Can you give me some background on how this game came together?
Hamish Millar: One of the reasons we ended up making an Iron Maiden game is because our CEO is an absolutely obsessed die-hard Iron Maiden fan. He had an opportunity to pitch them on the game. They’ve rejected many game proposals over the years, roughly about 30, to the point where it was quite clear that Maiden were not interested in making another video game after Ed-Hunter many years ago.

I’d imagine it’s a risky thing for any established metal band to make a video game because there’s a fear that it could be corny. Do you think that was a reservation? I mean, they did do the Ed-Hunter game…
That was really innovative at the time, so that was pretty risky too. I think that the caution is definitely around quality, if you look at some of other bands and their brand extensions, they have compromised. With Maiden, a lot of the conversations with them were around how they didn’t want to do that. They grew up just before the video game generation kicked in, so I grew up with a Commodore 64, I got that in ’83 when I was five-years-old. They missed out on that, so I imagine there’s some reservation. Although, Bruce Dickenson has a huge passion for war-gaming. The band came to visit the studio, so we hung out with them and walked them through the game. They’re on board and they understand what it is we’re making, Bruce especially has an understanding of game design, not specifically to video games necessarily but he understands the principles we’re working with.

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If you think about the music and theatrics of Iron Maiden’s performances, it is all very plot-oriented. It does make sense…
I liked Maiden but I had no idea until I started the project just how much they’ve built in terms of backstory. All of the worlds they’ve created actually transcend the albums. You have songs coming from different albums, crossing time periods, they have characters that they continually go back and refer to. They’ve been doing it for 40 years before we even got a chance to touch it. It was a huge privilege for us to have so much content to then go and interpret in the form of the video game.

Is that challenging or helpful because of fan expectations?
It’s both. Part of that is there is such mystery and that gives us lots of flexibility in terms of how we want to implement some of it into the game. Given that they gave us the chance to reinterpret their law, it’s worked really well. One example of that is the character in the game called “The Clairvoyant.” While Eddie has appeared as a Clairvoyant character, we reinterpreted it as a female mystic guide for Eddie through the early stages of the game. That’s been really well received so far.

A lot of band inspired apps and games tend to suck. What does it take to make a game like this that’s actually good? This is an RPG style game right?
About a year and a half and over 30 people. It’s very ambitious for a mobile game. I came to Roadhouse to make really compelling RPGs, so we wanted to do that at first, and it’s just such a huge privilege to work with Maiden on top of that. It’s a party battle RPG, so character focused; turn-based action with a skill component. Core gameplay, think of a drastic evolution of the old Final Fantasy games, but free to play and operating as a live service.

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What will we experience in Eddie’s world?
Without giving away any spoilers, I can tell you that the game picks up where the trailer was heading with Eddie flying through space, he confronts a mysterious force and his soul is shattered into many pieces, which each represent the forms of Eddie. One of those Eddies comes crashing down to a planet that may or may not be Earth, he finds himself in a weakened state, and accompanied by the mysterious Clairvoyant. He doesn’t know what’s going on but he knows he’s in a world that represents the world portrayed on The Wicker Man cover. They’re cultists who are trying to get, he needs to fight through them and confront whoever is leading the cult to reclaim a missing piece of his soul.

So that’s chapter one. Were you trying to go chronologically or are there too many albums? Aside from The Wicker Man, what other references will we recognize?
We didn’t want to be limited by that, so we went with the time and space theme that is pretty prevalent throughout a lot of Maiden. The four worlds we are launching with should be instantly identifiable to any Iron Maiden fan. Those are The Wicker Man world, Powerslave world, A Matter of Life and Death, and hell from The Number of the Beast.

What was it like when you had Iron Maiden come and visit you at the studios?
It was like the highlight of my career! [Laughs] They all turned up and had a big security dude with them; there was a lot of long hair and leather. You could certainly see that they were quite out of their element, in that it’s not something that they’d ever done before coming to a game studio, but we have a metal culture here at Roadhouse with a lot of the music here, so I think the atmosphere we created made them feel at home. They were really blown away not only by being walked through the game by the people who made it but also seeing how the game is made.

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I walked them around the team, which sits in a giant circle, we went from concept art through to programmers who build out systems and really are the architects of the game, not as much to see there because it’s really a bunch of 1s and 0s. I had designers show them a live scene in our game engine. Then we stepped through character creation. From that point of view, you’re seeing someone who comes up with the idea of a character to having that character fully realized and brought to life where it can unleash a devastating attack.

So there are multiple people involved in designing one character?
First one person will concept it, it’s painted in Photoshop. One person will model and create the 3-D object of the character and texture it, then one person will animate it and another person will add effects to it. In the background, the designers need to say what it is the character can and can’t do, and the programmer needs to make sure that anything the designer thinks of can be made possible. For example, we’ve got an Eddie in the game from A Matter of Life and Death, the designer says, “When he performs his special move, I want him to roll into the arena on a giant tank!” There’s gotta be a lot of conversations around how we actually do that. [Laughs]

Were they engaged, or just sort of wide-eyed?
They absorbed a huge amount of information in a very short amount of time. They were fascinated by what we do, and I think blown away by how many people it takes to build a game like this. Then we got to stand around and have a Trooper beer with everyone!

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Did the band try the game?
Bruce Dickenson tried it and the rest of them were watching. He immediately understood it. He sees it as sort of an evolution of a lot of the war games he played when he was a younger guy. He would play the physical games where you actually had to move the models around and calculate the angles of the cannonballs and you’d have a whole room full of pieces. In a modern RPG, it’s just automated, I think he found that quite fascinating.

Hamish Millar gives Iron Maiden a tour through the game studio

A lot of Iron Maiden’s album artwork is really intricate, did that make integrating it difficult?
A lot of the Eddies are very detailed in the album art, one of the challenges was to make the Eddies read well from a camera that’s pulled out, while still providing that detail when you go in and inspect that Eddie up close. One example of that would be the bandages on Powerslave Eddie. Samurai Eddie has a huge amount of detail in his armor.

Were there any weird anecdotes in the production of the game?
Rod, the band’s manger, historically, he’s the creator of Eddie. Eddie started out as a picture on the wall behind the drummer. When Eddie became an actual character live on stage, Rod was Eddie. He is very particular about Eddie’s teeth. So we had a number of iterations that needed to be made to make sure that his teeth were exactly how Rod wanted them. [Laughs] There’s an anecdote for you!

If there are four worlds, are there only four Eddies? Do they ever interact with each other?
No, there are a lot more than that. But collecting Eddies is part of the long-term game. Interact, only slightly, one of the rules of the law is that outside of a player vs. player environment, Eddie is one guy. You can’t have an army of Eddies, but in order to add as much variety at possible, what we’ve done is create a feature where players can swap out different aspects of Eddie in a battle. You can bring up to three Eddies in a fight and swap out and use different abilities as they fight through the worlds.

Do you have a favorite part to the game?
The Somewhere in Time Eddie looks absolutely phenomenal. That’s definitely my favorite Eddie. In addition to that, as an example of what the band is allowing us to do, in the A Matter of Life and Death world, we had a dog model as one of our character in the game, which can also be collected as an ally for your team. One day, the artist who paints the characters just stuck a machine gun on top of the dog; everyone thought it was so cool that we just built it. The band saw that and thought it was hilarious. Then they did a rocket-launcher dog. There’s a hell dog that’s on fire. There are a lot of cool characters in the hell world too.

Are there any other Maiden characters in the game?
The Nomad. I think I’ll leave it there… there’s another big one at the end of the game!

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