Released earlier this month, Nerial’s strategy game Reigns, and its Tinder-like decision-making system, has taken the gaming world by storm. In our review, we called it “a short and sweet micromanagement adventure game filled with quirky characters and amusing conversations.” We interviewed François Alliot, game developer and writer of Reigns, to talk about the mobile and PC game’s success, as well as writing for its diverse cast of characters.
Gaming Trend (GT): So whenever I talk about Reigns to someone, I always use the “Tinder, but as a game” feature; it seems to interest everyone I’ve talked to so far. What were your inspirations for the feature in Reigns?
François Alliot (FA): Initially, this was an idea from Mieko, the artist. She was using Tinder extensively and wondered what would happen if you apply it to a more serious subject. We worked on the idea and found that it could be interesting to apply it to the decisions made by a king. The characters and the tone of the game derived from that initial mechanic, in line with Monty Python and a French TV series called Kaamelott, as [well as] various other inspirations, like the UK medieval-monk-detective series Cadfael.
GT: The writing was a pretty strong point of Reigns. I liked how I got to know the characters as I spent time with the game and that they weren’t as good or as evil as I thought they were. How did you shape the characters to be different than how people would normally assume them?
FA: The writing of Reigns was done over the course of the whole project, starting with a small set of cards used to demo the game to Devolver. I generally started the construction of each character by a basic set of single cards (like the priest offering to build churches), then tried to expand the characters within the side stories and then more elaborate construction involving multiple events linking together.
GT: Who’s your favorite NPC in the game? (My personal favorites are the werewolf avatars.)
FA: I had a lot of fun creating all of them. The spy was an interesting one to develop, always cryptic and slightly annoying every time.
GT: I saw the “date a pigeon” sidequest, which was an obvious nod to Hatoful Boyfriend (a Devolver Digital published title.) Are there any other references from past Devolver or Nerial games?
FA: Yes there are, one to Dropsy and another one to Enter the Gungeon. Also, of course, Lord Parker… Devolver is a publisher that created an amazing label around its games. I’m very proud for Reigns to be in that catalogue, and it was only fair to mention some of the games that I love.
GT: The art is very minimalistic yet works out pretty well. Was there a certain look you were trying to accomplish with the art style?
FA: Mieko, the artist, created basic shapes similar to diamonds, straight lines with different facets. Her challenge was for each one to develop the character within that general shape. It gives this very sharp, stylized and unique look to the game.
GT: I liked how this game explored decision making in games. What separates Reigns from other titles that use this mechanic (such as most Telltale games and Mass Effect)?
FA: The game uses what I called a probabilistic system. Each card has a certain probability to be drawn the next turn. That probability is evolving with the game state which you could describe has a picture of the Kingdom, affected by each decision you make.
That probabilistic system expands and shrinks according to the game state, so when you take a decision, the next card to be picked can either be selected from a very large set of available cards, to a small selection (like when you started a crusade) or even to a single card (this way creating linear story lines).
GT: I felt that I experienced most of what it had to offer after the first playthrough, and I was worried that there was little incentive to return. Are there things in a new game plus that players can expect?
FA: There are multiple achievements possible beyond reaching the last meeting with the devil.
First, the game has 2 other endings beyond the tedious one (the one you most probably experienced): a bad one and a good one.
Beyond that, there’s the objective of unlocking the longest reign possible. Two days after Reigns’ release, the best player has managed to make a 201 year run! I’m pretty impressed by that.
GT: Is there anything else planned post-release? Perhaps an expansion update or other news?
FA: We have plans but nothing definitive. They will be announced here.
GT: Finally, is there anything else you’d like to say regarding the game, future, or words of wisdom?
FA: I am completely overwhelmed by Reigns’ reception. It’s an incredible feeling for me to see players from all over the world sharing their experiences and having fun with the game.