When I stopped by game developer Messhof's booth, the kids were going bananas over a game of Nidhogg. What is a Nidhogg? It's a no swords barred, exploding bodies, death match game! Um... let's allow Mark Essen, Creative Director at Messhof, explain it in his own words.
How would you describe Nidhogg?
It's hard to describe, but it's like a Street Fighter meets tug-of-war, I guess, or football. Where one player is trying to get to the opposite of the end screen instead of just to kill their opponent. So killing is part of it, just to establish right of way, but then it's just a chase.
From what sources did you draw inspiration during development?
There was a game that I played with my roommate a lot, Andy Kopas, that turned me onto it, called Great Swordsman which was from Taito. I played it in Mame. But it's a single-player sword fighting game that spans fencing, kendo, to gladiatorial battles. And it was really cool and I liked the way it was more of a head game than a Street Fighter type game - there aren't any combos - and it was just trying to anticipate your opponents moves, think what he's going to do before he does it. But it was one player, and it only goes so far, and I wanted to make a two-player game with that sort of mechanic.
What sort of difficulties have you faced during development?
So we did networking so you could play across a network. I had never done anything that like before and that was really difficult to figure out. It probably added at least a year to the development. We finally got there.
Were there any specific "Aha!" moments that set the game in a new direction?
The game, as it stands, has existed for awhile, but the move sets are always changing. One of the bigger changes that we made was to allow you to throw your sword as a means of catching up with your opponent if he's running away from you and you can't actually strike him. That definitely changed it and made the chase a lot more interesting and allowed me stretch the levels out a lot longer.
What aspects of the game did you want to implement but had to leave out?
I wanted to add more weapons and maybe more levels. I just haven't had time yet, but it's something I'd still like to add - maybe.
Tell us what the back of the box for Nidhogg would say.
I don't know. Something about it being the ultimate dueling experience. There's no good dueling games out there where, if you're not a gamer, it's hard to pick up these one-on-one games if you haven't played them a lot before. But with Nidhogg, it's simple enough you can settle disputes with it.
Nidhogg ended up taking home the SXSW Gamer's Voice Award a few hours after this interview.