This interview is the first in a series of developer discussions that share details on the upcoming collectible RPG Game of Thrones: Beyond the Wall, to be released on iOS and Android later this year.
This week, we talked to Justin Jones, the project’s Creative Director, about the game’s design.
What is Game of Thrones: Beyond the Wall about?
Justin: The game is focused on the Night’s Watch and the mysteries beyond the Wall. Players take command of a castle of the Night’s Watch to defend Westeros, recruiting unique characters from the Seven Kingdoms and beyond.
We set the game’s narrative during a fascinating time in Game of Thrones history - just after Lord Commander Brynden Rivers, a character also known as Bloodraven (and whom, as fans know, goes on to become the Three-Eyed Raven) disappeared while ranging beyond the Wall. Player experience the quest to find him through the original story.
We wanted players to feel both the darkness that the Night’s Watch faces in the region beyond the Wall, and the distinct regional identities of the Seven Kingdoms (and even some of Essos) in a Game of Thrones experience that encourages players to explore a bit more every session, every day. There is a great deal of depth and intricacy to The Known World that we wanted to capture in the form of a strategy game, and we believe we’ve done that.
Describe the gameplay.
Justin: The player takes on the role of Lord Commander. so the heart of the moment-to-moment gameplay is building a roster of Night’s Watch characters and leading them into squad-based combat against Wildlings, creatures, Giants, and other dangers of the North. Because characters are recruited from different regions, they each bring unique traits, strengths, and abilities to help meet the game’s challenges.
There is also an important meta layer to the game, where players not only recruit characters to the Night’s Watch but also send their ravens far and wide fetching dozens of unique items, tactics, traits, and abilities to strengthen their roster. Across different game modes, players can explore the Haunted Forest in search of weirwood tree knowledge or do battle in special events to fill their castle library’s codex with power.
Finally, all of this takes form in PvP where players can deploy their favorite heroes and squads against other players.
Tell us more about the game’s narrative.
Justin: We’re very excited to tell a story about the origins of Three-Eyed Raven character we see in the show. After he disappears from the Night’s Watch, players follow his footsteps into the dark mysteries beyond the Wall to learn why through the eyes of original characters First Ranger Alvar Spyre and his right-hand man Dramon Blackwood.
We wanted all the classic Northern themes of weirwoods, greensight, ravens, and Night’s Watch rangers to come through in an authentic way using a full cast of original characters. There are darker themes than what players have come to expect from mobile games because we chose to tell the story in a way that is true to the brand. And, in classic Game of Thrones fashion, there are also some narrative “surprises” that we can’t wait to see players react to.
How was the process of telling a Game of Thrones story different for a mobile game? Justin: Mobile games, especially in the free-to-play space, rarely focus on narrative content or its use is minimized to something like delivering tutorial text, for example. I believe this is changing as people evolve the way they consume stories. Although we took into consideration where the market was at when we sat down to define the vision for this game, we also set out to create something unique: delivering old-school, handcrafted storytelling in a way that fits with the play patterns of mobile devices.
That being said, the writing process itself was quite traditional – long, solitary hours in front of screenwriting software – with the story written in one long script as though it were a movie. Then the scenes were planned out into the player experience as part of the story campaign, knowing that they would be encountered over a long timeline as the player progresses through the game. These games are often played over many months and years, so we adapted our storytelling accordingly.
How do characters like Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen figure into the game?
Justin: This is something we’re truly excited about: for the first time in such a game, players can collect, craft strategies around, and then take command of Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, Jaime Lannister, Melisandre, and Tormund Giantsbane in both event battles across Westerosi history and against other players in PvP. So while the characters are not a part of the game’s story per se, they are fully playable in several game modes.
Does this game bring anything particularly unique to the table?
Justin: Our game brings the Game of Thrones brand to gamers and fans alike in a way that no one has seen before by combining collection strategy, combat gameplay, and castle immersion within an original story and with all the character and emotional attachment that comes with that. And, where else can you assemble your favorite characters from the show into dozens of squad battle combinations?
What part of the game are are you personally most looking forward to?
Justin: Game of Thrones has been a favorite brand of mine for a long time, so I’ve loved the process of reimagining even the most tried-and-true game systems in new ways to better fit the fantasy of the Night’s Watch. I truly cannot wait to see how the overall experience resonates with players.