Review Fix Exclusive: Inside ‘Dead in Vinland’

Review Fix chats with Dead in Vinland lead designer Matthieu Richez and Bruno Laverny Community Manager, who discuss the game’s creation process, target audience, development and goals.

Review Fix: How was this game born?

Bruno Laverny: We’ve been making educational games for more than 12 years now, but at some point a few years ago we decided it was time to try to make games that we would enjoy playing ourselves. It was a big jump into the unknown for us. We wrote a little game concept about a team of characters surviving in a hostile environment, but the real point of the game was to manage the evolving relationships in a group of people.

We released Dead in Bermuda two years ago, it received a good enough response from players so everything was ok to work on a sequel, using the feedback we got from players to enhance everything. We had more time and budget too, so on this one, we could put every idea we had (we had to cut some features for the first game).

Review Fix: What did you learn most from the original game?

Laverny: It took us a lot of time to get a gameplay loop that was satisfying for us because we didn’t “copy” existing game mechanics. So now that the gameplay loop is good, we can focus on exploiting every feature we implemented a lot more, and produce more content.

We also learned that any little new thing to implement in the game takes a very long time, much longer than to actually think about it, so we try to conceptualize more things on paper before doing them.

Review Fix: What was development like?

Richez: Like always, it’s a f*cking nightmare. No, seriously, the process was rather smooth, apart from some times when we figured out that we had too much ambition for this one, so we needed some backup. We recruited new comrades along the path, and it’s always complicated, you need to communicate more, to organize yourself better… But in the end, when everything “clicks” together, it’s so satisfying!

Right now we are at full speed, and plan to continue working on the game a while after release, so it doesn’t feel like we are approaching the end at all… But we are starting to show the game on events, so that too feels good, it gives you goals and feedbacks, and motivation.

Review Fix: What makes this game special?

Richez: We have this little backstory with strange blue guys and esoteric elements that carry on from title to title, I think it’s one special ingredient that will make our games in this series recognizable.

Review Fix: What games influenced this one the most?

Richez: I was influenced by all the games that I loved where there is team management (XCOM, Jagged Alliance, State of Decay…), but I’d say the game which is the closer in influence to our two games would be the first Dune, released by Cryo in 1992. It’s quite the old game, but an old time favorite of mine, a very cool blend of story, management and strategy.
For Dead In Vinland, we were a bit influenced by darkest dungeon too, for the fighting system, I guess.

Review Fix: As an indie studio, what do you think you guys do differently than the big studios?

Richez: Oh wow, everything? We’re much much more agile in our development, new ideas can be discussed and implemented much more quickly since it doesn’t involve so many people. Everyone has more control on large portions of the game and can have input on many levels, especially on day to day game design decisions.

The good thing too is that everyone on the project has a production role, there is no middle management for just “organizing stuff”, so every decision taken in the course of the development is mindful of everyone’s workload, there is no “stupid decision coming from high above”. So the mood of the team is very good.

Review Fix: Any fun stories or wild moments during development?

Richez: I wrote some dialogs after parties we had at work with the team. Some of the dirtiest jokes in the game come from those.

Review Fix: How does this game disrupt the video game landscape?

Laverny: I think it appeals mostly to older gamers (like me!) who loves their good old management game, but want a bit more of human feelings than pure, datasheet simulation games. These kind of hybrid games are too rare these days, or not satisfying enough, so we hope to fill the gap.

Review Fix: Who will enjoy this game the most?

Richez: Fans of management, RPG and survival games first and foremost, as Dead in Vinland is a mix of those genres. Those who love narrative games will also like it because our story is quite important, there are several stories intertwined in the game. And there are several dynamic endings, which will depend on the players’ choices during the game.

Those who enjoyed Dead in Bermuda will enjoy it, because we expanded the base system in every way while staying true to the original’s feeling.

Those who found Dead in Bermuda too hard or too easy should be convinced this time, we’ll have proper difficulty settings for everyone.

Review Fix: How do you want this game to be remembered?

Laverny: I hope the game will touch the feelings of some players. I hope they will get attached to our characters, it’s always a challenge to write meaningful stories. And I hope that players will tell themselves stories about their characters thanks to the game system. That’s what I liked the most when I read the feedbacks from Dead In Bermuda.

Review Fix: What are your goals for the game?

Richez: First and foremost, we hope that players will like it. If not, there’s no point in making games, I’d rather open a restaurant or something. We hope too that the sales will be good enough to enable us to continue to work on content for the game. We want to push both free and paid content after release, maybe ports to other platforms too, but we can do this only if we reach a certain amount of sales.

Review Fix: What’s next?

Laverny: We have some projects in the pipes actually. There’s, of course, the plan to have a third “Dead in” game (we haven’t decided of the setting yet, but we could make a “Dead in Space”!), and we’re also working on a project that’s quite different from the “Dead in” series, but we can’t say anything right now!

Review Fix: Anything else you’d like to add?

Richez: We hope you will enjoy what we are doing! We’re very humble about what we do, we try to put everything we can with our limited resources, and as gamers ourselves we love to discuss with people who liked or didn’t like our games. We try to progress one step at a time, so help us grow.

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About Patrick Hickey Jr. 8507 Articles
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief, Master Jedi and Grand Pooh-bah of ReviewFix.com and is the author of the book, "The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews with Cult and Classic Video Game Developers," from leading academic and non-fiction publisher McFarland and Company. He is currently the Assistant Director of the Journalism Program at Kingsborough Community College and is a former News Editor at NBC Local Integrated Media and a National Video Games Writer at the late Examiner.com. He has also had articles and photos published in The New York Times, The New York Daily News, Complex and The Syracuse Post-Standard. Love him. Read him.

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