An Interview With Godfall Game Director Daniel Nordlander

 

Godfall initially launched alongside the Playstation 5 on November 12, 2020. Nine months later the game arrived on Playstation 4, and in December 2021, a version dubbed “Challenger Edition” hit Playstation Plus. On April 7, 2022, the Ultimate Edition released for the Xbox Series S|X, bringing yet another audience to give the self described “looter slasher” a chance.

Daniel Nordlander, Game Director on Godfall at Counterplay Games, sat down to answer some questions on Godfall’s release, reception, and just how Godfall has changed since its initial reveal.

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The game has certainly seen its fair share of interpretations by way of multiple releases. Launching on PS5, then making its way to PS4, PS+, and now the Ultimate Edition lands with the Xbox community. How has the game changed from its launch iteration to now?

From the beginning, Godfall was an incredibly ambitious project for our small studio to take on. We continue to be very proud of the game we were able to deliver to the community when we launched with the PS5 in November of 2020.

That said, we also listened to the player feedback that our community was so generous to offer and realized there were ways for us to elevate the experience. We set to work on enriching the game with substantial free updates (Primal, Lightbringer, and now Exalted), and the Fire & Darkness Expansion. Additionally, we created a low cost point of entry for the game with the Godfall: Challenger Edition that was included on PlayStation Plus and was even the free game of the week on the Epic Games Store.

The Ultimate Edition represents a year and a half of post launch support and contains all of what makes Godfall great. It’s our love letter to fans that have stuck with us and been so supportive as we worked to expand the vision of Godfall that they enjoy today.

Certainly community feedback can be impactful. How does the reception or review process impact a team after pouring your hearts into a project for so many years? In what ways did feedback change development of post-launch content?

The feedback we receive from the community during the development process is invaluable. We are so incredibly grateful for those that offer us their suggestions and insights. When we started sketching out what Ultimate Edition could be, we studied the thousands of social posts, read countless community forums, and watched hundreds of hours of videos, and of course reviews from both players and members of the media. Our objective was to address as many of the most player requested changes as we could.

The impact of this effort was profound, and we learned that while many of the suggestions were completely original, much of this player feedback aligned with our own vision of what Godfall could be. We knew that we owed this community, that clearly cares so deeply for this game, something truly special. Our response was to redouble our efforts and focus on bringing that shared vision of success forward.

Cutscene screenshot

How has the Xbox community taken to Godfall? Anecdotally, it seems quite positive. The same question to other communities in regards to the Exalted Update. How has the reception of the update impacted the player base(s)?

Welcoming players on Xbox to the world of Aperion has been nothing short of wonderful. We knew that the community required the same level of care and attention that we poured into our first release on PlayStation and Epic Games Store back in 2020. BUT, we also knew we needed to raise the stakes and try to offer an experience as unique as the platform itself. For this, we worked closely with our partners at Dolby and Microsoft to understand the full potential of the hardware and added VRR and Dolby Vision capabilities to make the stellar visuals of Godfall even more spectacular. The results have been incredible. Players from around the world have been welcoming us with open arms and eager anticipation.

Our community has always been welcoming, and the launch of Ultimate Edition and the introduction of new players into the community has only punctuated that point. Our community took to forums and proactively made videos walking new players through all they needed to know, making the game incredibly approachable for those that were just picking it up. We are so proud to be a part and in some small ways helping to foster the growth of player to player knowledge sharing. Godfall players never cease to amaze us!

The narrative surrounding subscription services and how they can impact titles, particularly live service games, has been toiling. Did the PS+ launch help or hurt Godfall’s mindshare? The gameplay experience of that version was different from the standard version. Can you articulate the reasoning behind those differences? Does the idea of putting the game into subscription service (PS+ tiered system, Game Pass, etc.) feel enticing or nerve racking?

To be clear, Godfall is not a live service title. We designed the game from the start to be very much self contained and free of season passes / microtransactions. All cosmetics are earnable through in-game activities.

We were thrilled to welcome new players via our launch of Challenger Edition through PS+. In fact, in just one month, Challenger Edition across platforms saw more than 2.5 million new players join the fight for Aperion. From our perspective, this was a big win.

The objective of the Challenger Edition was to offer players an incredible value while getting them directly to the heart of two things that make Godfall spectacular – immersing yourself in the power trip and engaging in the many end game modes with friends.

Perhaps my favorite element of Godfall is the art style. It so well matches the melee combat elements and the powers in use. It’s so cool! Can you tell me how the art style was settled upon and how it evolved during development?

Godfall, first and foremost, built off the mixture of sci-fi and medieval elements that we really loved from our first game, Duelyst. We took this base idea and cranked it to 11, adding even more vibrant colors to ensure every character, environment, piece of gear, and enemy jumped off the screen on consoles and the latest range of PC graphics cards.

We were also quite inspired by our love of literature and other games we love/have worked on. Our team drew not only from our experience on titles like DestinyTitanfallGod of War, and Halo, but also from beloved sci-fi and fantasy series such as Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law, Brandon Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archive, and Isaac Asimov’s Foundation.

Without a doubt looking cool plays into the power fantasy. My character looks powerful, and that plays a big part in enjoyment. How do you balance the power fantasy of a player versus the enemies they face?

We set out to establish Godfall as the “Tinkerers Dream.” What this means to us is that we want to have players experience the power climb and be able to meaningfully dictate how they develop their playstyle using the powers available to them at each level. Through carefully curated leveling mechanics, skill points, ascension levels, as well as gear upgrading through the forge, we believe we have given players a large arsenal of tools to match the progressively more difficult enemies and mid bosses they encounter along their play through.

We really wanted to capture the satisfaction of overcoming incredible odds throughout the game. With so much power at the player’s fingertips, it meant we needed to double down on the challenging enemies you face.

Moebius screenshot

To create an escalating pace to combat, there’s a range of difficulty even among our most powerful enemies. We have strong elite enemies, demanding mid-bosses with unique, bombastic movesets, and last but not least our massively powerful bosses, rich with mechanics and phases for the player to defuse and overcome.

Of course, we have a wide selection of simpler enemies as well to create an interesting contrast in combat pacing and truly allowing you to feel the power of your Valorplate.

Finally, all of these enemy classes exist across many different factions, each with their own traits and quirks, giving the player a wide variety of challenges to face throughout their journey.

Live service titles and looter style games often require a bit of grind. Do you think you got that right? That must be some of the most complex puzzles of development, particularly as we see other games in that space struggle despite their popularity. 

Godfall is not a live service title, so for us the balance was perhaps easier than with other titles that aim to have players running the treadmill that is their game loop for an incredibly long time.

We wanted Godfall to be a self-contained experience, albeit one we intended to continue to build on here and there over the course of its life cycle. Our vision never included season passes or micro-transactions. While some of our cosmetics require a certain amount of time put into the game to unlock – we feel this is a far better approach than a pay-to-win or a freemium model.

Godfall: Ultimate Edition is particularly beautiful in that it is a game that can align with a multitude of different player types and desired experiences. For the collectors that want to find absolutely everything in game – it offers a TON of loot to chase and unlock. For the story focused player that wants a classical fantasy RPG experience – the story mode is perfect and can be completed without the need to endlessly grind for the perfect gear to beat a challenging boss.

For those data focused individuals that want to push the bounds of what is possible whenever they see stat blocks, Godfall certainly offers the ability to min-max to their heart’s content. Finally, for those that just want to hack and slash through mobs of baddies with friends, our level boost mechanic to start at endgame and the many multiplayer modes allow them to jump straight into the heat of battle.

How about some tips for new players taking the dive into the Exalted Update?

Sure thing! Here are my top three things a new player should know jumping into Ultimate Edition:

Play at your own pace: Godfall is built to be played in many different ways. If you’re after a story based experience, the story campaign is the place to start, but if you’re all about the power climb, you can skip straight to the endgame right away. Want to play with friends? That’s supported across the board. The first thing a new player should do is figure out what type of experience they’re after.

Skill matters, but so does loot: It’s important to study and practice the mechanics you use and enemies you face so you can improve your skill, but don’t underestimate the power of the loot in the game – a well composed build can make the difference between life or death. If you find yourself stuck on a challenging mission, take a moment to look over your build and see if there’s anything you can change to synergize better and increase your power.

Discover your playstyle: There are 12 unique Valorplates in Godfall, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. They are all viable and, with the recent addition of Valorplate Shards from the Exalted Update, they play more differently than ever before. Players tend to change their favorite Valorplate over time, or based on what they’re in the mood for. Don’t be afraid to take some time to try all of them – you never know which playstyle you will be drawn to!

A dreaded question I often ask developers is whether or not you’re happy with the game. Are you?

Absolutely! Working with such a talented and dedicated team at Counterplay to truly realize the vision of Godfall with the Ultimate Edition has personally been a career highlight for me. Seeing the community become so engaged with the game – making powerful builds, sharing tactics for overcoming our various game modes, and obtaining the best loot – only strengthens this feeling.

Lastly, after a gauntlet of questions, I ask you one final question: What can we look forward to with the future of Godfall?

Stay tuned! After the labor of love that was the Ultimate Edition and Exalted Update, we are huddling as a team to determine where we might want to take Godfall next. All I can say for now is that we love this world.

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Luke Lohr often features developers on his weekly podcast the Xbox Expansion Pass. Most recently with Seasoned Gaming he spoke with Trek to Yomi creator Leonard Menchiari.

By Luke Lohr

Luke Lohr is the creator and host of the Xbox Expansion Pass. XEP is a weekly podcast that discusses the goings on of the gaming industry and features developers, journalists, actors, and equality advocates from all over the gamingverse. You can find Luke on Twitter @InsipidGhost.

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