This interview is part of 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 sat down with Justin Jones, the project’s Creative Director, to find out how the game uses hero characters in collection and combat.

Tell us about how heroes are used in Game of Thrones: Beyond the Wall.

Justin: ​ Heroes are one of the aspects of Game of Thrones: Beyond the Wall that I’m most excited about. For the first time in a game, players can command famous heroes from the TV show in tactics-inspired squad combat. In our game’s narrative, heroes can also be collected by playing through the Story Mode. The full roster includes fan-favorites Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, Jaime Lannister, Melisandre, and Tormund Giantsbane, and original characters such as Alvar Spyre, Dramon Blackwood, Mayla, and Thosa.

There is more than one version of each hero. For example, Breaker of Chains Daenerys and Lady of Dragonstone Daenerys each bring distinct abilities and strategies to the battlefield. It’s a deep system of combat and collectability that gives players so many options to choose from when building their strategy.

How do players collect heroes?

Justin: ​Heroes are collected by playing in events and completing certain Story Mode milestones. After collecting heroes, players can upgrade their abilities over time by playing in events and special game modes, perfecting their favorites over time.

New events can herald new heroes and strategies to add to a player’s collection. This is something we plan on developing and adding to over time.

How do heroes and their abilities function in combat?

Justin: ​Each hero has a specially designed set of abilities that evokes his or her impact on the show or original story. Since there are strategies both in choosing ​who​ to add to your squad and tactics in ​how​ you play that squad, there are a ton of possibilities for how all this plays out in combat.

Combat is turn-based, so there are your standard cooldowns and area of effect rules, but the heroes’ abilities are designed to intentionally break some of these rules and really make their presence impactful. I’ll say that there are some impressive collectible abilities that deliver a perfect blend of cinematic payoff and strategy gameplay.

What makes this game’s combat strategy different?

Justin: ​We went for a blend of old-school tactics in the moment-to-moment gameplay, but also a system that supported a squad-based collection metagame. One of the challenges of designing tactics combat systems is that they are usually full of mini-maps, battle information, and choices – all interesting but adding complexity.

So, when planning ​how ​players will use their heroes and abilities during everyday play, we aimed to minimize the friction of extra taps and on-screen information. Ultimately, we wanted the focus to be on the players’ squads, the heroes that lead them, and a compelling set of choices to make in every combat round.

Can players fight each other using their collections of heroes?

Justin: ​Absolutely. This was one of our main motivations for developing the overall game structure and crafting a narrative framework that allows the exploration of different timelines through the power of weirwood trees. With almost 3 dozen available heroes, including alternate versions, we wanted to create an interesting space for the competitive meta to evolve.

What else can players do with their collections of heroes?

Justin: There are several game modes where players can use their heroes. In the standard​  versions, players can only use their Night’s Watch roster, but players can unlock heroic versions of the game mode to mix and match their heroes in interesting ways.

Players can also use heroes in recurring events to help earn other versions of the same character: for example, Old Bear’s Steward Jon Snow may be used to help earn King in the North Jon Snow. One of our design pillars throughout development was that every character should feel useful. We wanted players to aspire to build many themed squads led by their favorite heroes, for example, a Northern Warrior squad, a Dornish Poison squad, a Westerlands Ranged squad etc.

What is it about the heroes that you are most excited about?

Justin: ​The characters in ​Game of Thrones ​bring so much life to that world thanks to their choices, mistakes, strengths, and in some cases – magic. As part of our design process, we distilled each character down to their core and then translated those qualities into combat abilities. It’s a difficult but very rewarding endeavour that I cannot wait to see how players react to. We’ve tried very hard to make sure that each version of a hero captures the spirit of that time in the character’s journey in the show, and give players even more reasons to love and collect them.