In one of The Creators Project's earliest documentaries, we unleashed our inner gamer with Mark "Messhof" Essen, a videogame designer with a soft spot for DIY, low-tech creative sensibilities. We showcased a variety of Essen's odd, 8-bit heavy games, including Jet Pack Basketball, You Found The Grappling Hook, and Nidhogg. The latter, a sword-focused adventure epic that plays like a mix of Assasin's Creed and the earliest Super Mario, was just re-released this week on social gaming platform Steam. It's Nidhogg 2.0, that was achieved with help from developer Kristy Norindr.
For the casual gamer--your average high school kid trying to kill time in study hall--Nidhogg hits a sweet spot. It's easy-to-learn without being dulled down, action-packed (and a little violent) without being silly, and supported by an epic soundtrack by Creators Project favorite, Daedelus. If you can manage to get this game on your phone, your future subway rides will be forever consumed by Essen's addicting, pixelated worlds.
Steam is a videogame distribution platform (developed by Valve, of Half-Life and Portal fame) that also provides users with social media features like friends lists, groups, chat rooms, and other ways to connect to people threatening your dominance of Nidhogg. Talking trash at (or getting tight with) other underground videogame fans has never been so easy.
Essen spoke with The Creators Project about why a social platform is premium for next-level gaming, and why he chose Daedelus to make the beats--see below!
The Creators Project: How did collaborating with Kristy Norindr change the development process or add to the Nidhogg re-release?
Mark Essen: Working with Kristy really helped to provide focus to the project [on the re-release]. She has a background in project management in games, which was really helpful in speeding along the process. No matter how focused and determined I am, working alone and making good decisions all the time is impossible. Kristy helped me to think about how to work more efficiently, as well as helping me to work through design directions. We just really have a lot of fun talking through ideas together.
What are the top benefits of using a social gaming platform like Steam? What does it offer that Reddit or forums can't? Is there a lot of trolling or trash talk on Steam?
My goal was to make Nidhogg the most fun game for me to play with my friends. Going to conferences and events has really helped to test the game with different kinds of players. Design changes and adjustments really happened slowly, and the social interaction between myself and the gaming community was very fluid.
Some players will like what changes I made, and some won't. There will always be people that like or don’t like the choices game developers make, but I try not to focus on bad press or “trash talk.”
Why did you pick Daedelus to soundtrack the re-release of "Nidhogg"? What about his beatmaking complements the game narrative?
Kristy and I were really on the mission to find someone that made timeless and soulful electronic music. We knew that we already had some indie game momentum, but wanted to collaborate with someone who was similarly pushing the boundaries of where electronic music can go.
Kristy referenced three musicians as styles we were looking towards, and Daedelus was always on that list. We just lucked out that our mutual friend Lee went to High School with Alfred [Daedelus]. It was a perfect fit and Alfred is amazing to work with. He came up with a lot of the mechanisms for mixing the music procedurally based on positions and actions in the game and we spent a lot of time getting that right. We wanted the music to enhance the action, but keep the tension in the hands of the players. Every level can get pretty subtle if there is nothing going on, or multiple drum tracks could blast if you are in a chase and leaping around and throwing swords.
Do you think you'll ever develop a game with a more modern visual aesthetic, or is it 8-bit for life?
Quality rules everything around me.
Check out the award-winning Nidhogg, and go deep into The Creators Project archives with our profile of Essen. It's about time we unleashed our videogame love again.