Interview: Messhof On Nidhogg 2

We recently found out that the frantic and melodramatic fencing of Nidhogg would be making a return thanks to the sequel plans of developers Messhof. Nidhogg 2 [official site] is set to include new weapons, levels and a surreal new art style. We talked to co-founders Mark Essen and Kristy Norindr about what can be expected when we roll up our sleeves for the next duel.

RPS: Nidhogg the first was a very pure, self-contained game. What made you want to do a sequel?

Mark Essen: Kristy and I have been playing the game quite a bit since it was released, and it’s hard not to see little things that could be changed or added. I started keeping a list, and eventually it became pretty long. I started seeing ideas connect to each other and it felt like a sequel would make sense. I also wanted to tweak a few things with the original moveset, and it felt wrong to rewrite history for a game that so many people still play. Better to make it its own thing.

Kristy Norindr: There are players out there that have logged A LOT of hours. They might open it when they’re having a party, or play during downtime in the office. A lot of the requests have been more music, more levels, and as we started building a plan to do this, it just felt like a sequel. Mark was really slow (sorry Mark!) at building out art quickly so it was a natural and exciting idea to bring in an artist. For Nidhogg 2 we are planning on having over 10 levels, lots of new amazing music, exciting new combinations of weapons… to be honest, our “playtests” have been going a little too long recently.

RPS: The art style is very different, but movement and the basic idea looks the same. What has changed?

ME: The basic idea is the same, you’re still playing flying death-worm tug of war, but the moveset changes based on what kind of weapon you have. You might have a bow and arrow against an axe, or a sword against throwing knives. Weapons aren’t everything of course, and just like in the original you’ll still have decent odds unarmed.

RPS: About the art, the first game often benefited from its minimalism. Why choose this style?

KN: We put a call out for artists and Toby Dixon was one of the people that responded. His style had humor and a grotesque vibe that resonated with us. So we were able to keep the great bits everyone liked about the first Nidhogg, the subtle humor, exaggerated yelling, blood, gore… and really give it a boost with Toby’s stylistic embellishments. For Mark and I, this is now our third game working together, and each game we work on we get better at finding collaborators that really improve what we can do ourselves, but we think they do it better.

ME: A lot of the reason the first game looks the way it does is because I was doing all the art, but I was also programming and designing at the same time. I really wanted to collaborate with another artist this time around and focus my energy on the design and game feel. We also didn’t want the sequel to look like the same game. The gameplay was evolving so we wanted the art to look like it was a step forward as well.

RPS: Can you give us some examples of the new arenas we can expect, and what’s challenging about them?

KN: The first level we are showing off at Twitch Con this weekend in San Diego will look familiar to Nidhogg players. We wanted to pay some fan service to our O.G. Nidhogg players, so we are starting with an updated castle level.

ME: You can expect them to be different locales entirely (with the exception of the castle level). We’re trying to add elements that will never directly kill you. In the first game there were a few spots in the Mines and Clouds where you could just be pushed into a pit if you weren’t doing anything. I’m more interested in things that hide information like the tall grass, or restrict certain moves like doorways and low ceilings, or offer opportunities to fake out your opponent by taking a bridge instead of the tunnel. so expect lots of things like that.

RPS: There were problems with the netcode in the last game, which made online fights wobbly. Is that something you’ve worked on?

ME: We have absolutely worked very hard on that! We have another netcode update to Nidhogg 1 that’s currently in beta (you can access the beta branch through Steam). It adjusts the input lag based on your connection– if it’s a good one you will only have a couple frames of delay. Our players are pretty happy with the improvements but since it’s p2p and there aren’t bajillions of people playing it all the time, there’s always the chance that (if you rely on matchmaking instead of inviting a friend) the best ping you’ll get could still be pretty high.

RPS: I’ve always considered the first game to be absolutely sound. Are you worried about messing with it too much?

ME: I don’t see it as messing with the first one… The first one isn’t going anywhere! While Nidhogg 2 shares a lot mechanically with the first game, it’s very much on it’s own creature and we’re all excited at how it’s maturing.

RPS: Thanks for your time

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19 Comments

  1. Chairman_Meow says:

    More Nidhogg is not a bad thing! Not completely sure about the art direction, but looks like more gore and impalement filled fun.

  2. aliksy says:

    Hard to tell from still images, but I suspect I might like the original art style more. It was pretty minimal, so it let the imagination do more work, and had fewer bits to dislike.

    • Rizlar says:

      The fluidity and shapes made by the original figures was really beautiful.

      Was going to say that hopefully the same fluidity is there in Nidhogg 2 but I went and watched a video and… urgh. What the hell?

    • PancakeWizard says:

      There’s a video teaser on their official site.

  3. HeavyStorm says:

    I’ll stay away from this one.

    See, the first nidhogg was my personal NMS: I was completely taken by the hype, and the game I got was short and boring, while expensive. Sure, they did a lot of things right, but it wasn’t worth the wait and the price.

    • pepperfez says:

      Did you ever put it on at a party? The first time I did that it more than paid for itself.

      • rgk says:

        Except for the castle, most sections are too short and there is too little back and forth. At parties we had more fun with EggNogg+ and Samurai Gunn.

  4. DingDongDaddio says:

    The level artwork is wonderful, but to be honest, the character art is enough to pass on this game. With the lo-fi art of Nidhogg 1, the idea of the two fencers being naked was pretty funny because a lot is left to the imagination. We assume they are clothed but the graphics aren’t sophisticated enough to show that. Now, they are actually just naked men. Naked men with dumb googly eyes. I feel like I’m being a snob here, but I think a lot of the charm is lost now.

    And again, I really don’t like the characters. The very detailed backdrops and platforms are lovely.

    • LaKriz says:

      The characters don’t go well with the levelart and just look plain stupid. I hope they change their style.

      • melerski says:

        It would look so much better just if they deleted the googly eyes. I think faceless people would be better.

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    lasikbear says:

    I think I’m the only person who’s complaint is they didn’t go grotesque enough with the art, think if they push it just a bit further more people will come around to it.

  6. Buggery says:

    Love the art style. It’s completely distinct from the first game, which is fine, because it makes the two seem like distinct titles instead of a continuation of each other. Plus, I love that slightly grotesque over embellishment of basic forms. My advice to the devs – consider making the characters hairier.

  7. phailhaus says:

    Unfortunately the art style is definitely a step back. The minimalism of Nidhogg wasn’t just aesthetic, it was functional: it made it very easy to tell at a glance what was going on. I have a pretty hard time understanding what’s going on in those screenshots, even in the trailer when things are moving. Way too cluttered.

  8. fahdiz says:

    Yeah, if this is what it ends up looking like, I think I’m sticking with the original.

  9. Player1 says:

    I don’t like the new art style at all. The slender characters from the first game looked more like fencers. Also, there’s just too much detail now which makes telling what’s going on hard. I also prefer EggNogg’s (and its variations) take on the subject. So I will patiently wait for EggNogg Rumble to come out.

  10. Luc Bloom says:

    Please fire Toby Dixon and do the art yourself. It used to be brilliant, the teaser is total shit.

  11. Lorka says:

    The horrifying thing about what we’ve been shown so far is how *normal* it looks. Nidhogg was a striking, elegant thing – this looks like any modern (and/or 90s) gross-out indie. Messhof made a fantastically stylish gem of a game last time round, it’s not out of Nidhogg conservatism that I’m opposed to this, there’s just nothing in this trailer that that appeals to me.

  12. a very affectionate parrot says:

    The worm looks great but I’m not a big fan of the character art right now, they say they liked how grotesque it is but one thing I really liked about the first Nidhogg is how it’s violent without being explicitly gory, this seems to go a bit overboard. Still if it takes as much time in development as the original maybe it’ll change.