A Magicka Vietnam Interview with Co-Creator Johan Pilestedt

Video and computer games have been shockingly devoid of parody for too long. Pardoy, in its own funny way, confirms success - something has to be familar and recognizable in order for its caricature to achieve comic effect.

Magicka is one game that seeks to redress that imbalance, but instead of making humor the focal point of the game, Magicka is also a surprisingly innovative and enjoyable couch co-op* game (*provided you have a couch in front of your PC and a glut of gamepads, four players can play at once).

But if a spellcasting system powered by clever combos (each button press representing a differnet element) isn't enough to catch you attention, maybe a DLC send-up entitled Magicka: Vietnam will.

Magicka Vietnam Trailer:


And with a name like Magicka: Vietnam, the Battlefield: Bad Company 2 expansion reference is hard to miss. "We're big DICE fans, and we were sort of wondering how they'd take it when the press release went out." Johan Pilestedt, CEO and Founder of Arrowhead games, explained. "Then we saw the link [to the Magicka: Vietnam trailer] on their official page."

But BFBC2 isn't the only game or meme due for roasting in Magicka: Vietnam. The sheer number of pop-culture references alone is dizzying. Johan Pilestedt quipped that the dubious Virgil-esque vampire Vlad will return and channel a taciturn military demi-god somewhere between Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now and Solid Snake, that the DLC will offer a POW camp fresh from Rambo (but don't expect robe-ling misery inside... "Everyone inside is well-fed and cared for," Johan explained), a "Get to the Choppa!" last stand straight out of Predator, with a side of Left 4 Dead, and even a mysterious LOST hatch.

Nor does Magicka's next DLC take its cues entirely from fiction. The venerable M-60, the cheaty automatic weapon that players received with a guitar-strumming growl in the original, is back, along with the other Vietnam must-have munitions: the M-16, the RPG, the bolt-action Mosin Nagant, and the AK-47. These weapons will have their own quirky sense of realism: both incorporate authentic weapon-firing sounds, and the M-16 is more accurate but can only fire 3-round burst while the AK goes full-auto with Soviet-era, foliage-fuzzing inaccuracy.

All in all, the new weapons are about what you'd expect, if you had any expectations for a fantasy Vietnam game where you're facing down GoblinCong by the score. "We didn't need MGs that shoot sausages," Johan laughed, noting that the overarching concept of the game provided all the gritty comic intensity that Magicka developer Arrowhead Studios was looking for. (If the playerbase asked loudly enough for the sausage gun, Johan and company might not have a choice, though.) Yet Johan let it slip that one kitschy new staff will be added to the game, the Patriot Staff, which lobs Liberty Grenades - the game's nod to artillery barrages.

magicka: vietnam

Also new for Magicka: Vietnam is a cover system (which is itself almost a pop-culture reference straight from Gears of War) and Napalm Casting, apowerful new Magick (or button-combo that creates a powerful attack or ability). Napalm casting comes complete with an F-4 flyover and a trademark wake of flames. Johan couldn't comment on whether or not it smells like victory.

Napalm casting is the first hint of how DLCs will impact the base game. This particular magick will be available to all players, whether or not they buy the DLC. Johan promised that his team wouldn't be putting players on the DLC treadmill, however; that the team would alternate in free DLCs and patched content as well. "We want to make free and paid DLCs equally intense," Johan explained. "If all we release are paid DLCs, people are going to eventually feel like they're being ripped off." Hear hear, BioWare!

As to what the future holds for Magicka beyond the Vietnam DLC, Johan dropped a few hints. "We don't want to alienate the fantasy players," he explained with totaly honesty, noting that a concrete percentage of the fanbase purchased Magicka as a fantasy game, and he and his team wish to honor that. He alluded to Diablo, noting that an eerily close version of Diablo's Tristram theme (close yet totally distinct, for the copyright lawyers out there) is already in the game. The words Magicka and 2 were also used in close proximity, but as with Magicka, the line between a send-up, a laugh, and a surprisingly solid and innovative game is often blurred.

No exact release date or price point for Magicka: Vietnam, but Johan felt April was likely. Thanks to Johan Pilestedt and the Arrowhead and Paradox folks for making time for Ten Ton Hammer at GDC 2011.

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