Interview With ‘Reigns’ Developer François Alliot And The Team At Nerial

Recently, I got to talk to François Alliot and the team at Nerial. Chances are you already know they’re behind ‘Reigns’ - the adventure game I lovingly call “King Tinder.”

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As you may have seen recently, I gave my first 10/10 review to Reigns: Game of Thrones - a mobile game. 2011 me would look at that sentence with shock and anger, but it’s an incredible sign of the times to see what kind of incredible experiences you can get on that device in your pocket. More surprising is the sheer depth that lies behind such a simple gameplay mechanic as the swiping action of Tinder. But I’ll leave the rest of my praise for the review.

Shortly after, I got the chance to interview someone I’m quite the fan of - Developer of Reigns, François Alliot and the team at Nerial.

So sit back, grab yourself a cuppa and enjoy a discussion - telling the story of how Reigns came to be, and how the Game of Thrones crossover was meant to be all along.

1. Tell me the story of how this Game of Thrones/Reigns crossover came to be!

Our publisher (Devolver Digital) approached HBO with the idea of making a Reigns version of Game of Thrones. The idea was always there in one way or another. When I pitched the game to Devolver three years ago, I described Reigns as a mix of "Tinder and Game of Thrones". 

As Devolver started to talk with HBO, we learnt that the show-runners of the series were Reigns players. That made things very smooth. The whole thing feels like a fortunate accident for us!

2. What was it like working with HBO on this game?

It was a very good experience. They have a very good understanding of games, what they are, and what they're becoming too. They helped us bringing the Game of Thrones universe into the game.

3. Were there any challenges pairing the black-and-white binary nature of Reigns gameplay with the many many layers of complexity in Game of Thrones lore?

Very early on we decided to go for a game that would quit the "dynastic" mechanic of Reigns to be able to loop among the main characters of the show. The game is really about answering this question: if you were Daenerys, Cersei, Jon, Sansa on the throne, what would happen? Would you be able to survive winter? 

reigns gameplay.png

As simple as it seems, the idea of having different rulers on the throne is complex to implement. We had to rethink the whole system by adding a new layer to the classic Reigns game that takes into account the ruler: male or female, Stark, Lannister or Targaryen, aggressive or peaceful... each ruler having a unique set of advisors, storylines, effects, deaths and ways to survive.

As simple as it seems, the idea of having different rulers on the throne is complex to implement. We had to rethink the whole system by adding a new layer to the classic Reigns game that takes into account the ruler: male or female, Stark, Lannister or Targaryen, aggressive or peaceful... each ruler having a unique set of advisors, storylines, effects, deaths and ways to survive.

4. Tell me the story of how you decided on this Tinder-esque gameplay style for Reigns.

The swiping mechanic is a very fluid and smooth interaction. It's very simple, almost like a toy. A mesmerizing toy with excellent flow controlled by the player (left, right, right, right, left, ...). Very early on, we decided to use that to tell the basic story of a King managing his Kingdom through advisors coming to asks questions. 

The fact that you could make impactful decisions with a casual swipe was funny. "Start a war with your neighbour and send your soldiers to an early grave?" "Yes, certainly", swipe right. The tone of the game is a direct consequence of the swiping mechanic.

5. And how did you arrive at the art style you use in all the Reigns game?

Mieko (Murakami, the artist on the original Reigns), started designing all the characters from a simple "diamond" shape that she slowly evolved towards each likeness. 

Arnaud (de Bock, the artist on Reigns Her Majesty and Reigns Game of Thrones) worked with Mieko to refine that technique but we wanted to keep that unique "sharp" look, that works so well on Game of Thrones characters.

Reigns Game of Thrones.jpg

6. What other TV shows/books/movies would you love to turn into a Reigns game in the future?

Luckily, I had the honour of being able to ask much of the team this question

François Alliot (dev & writer):  Personally, the answer is "nothing" haha. I have a bit of Reigns fatigue, it needs to rest for a while.

Arnaud de Bock (artist): One Hundred Years of Solitude could be awesome.

Tamara Alliot (writer): I think that Midsomer Murders would be great! A classic murder mystery would be fun in a Reigns format. Suspicious neighbours and long-running family feuds. 

Leigh Alexander (writer): I'd like to see how this fun system of binary choices and complex statistics and conditions could be applied to modern stories about romance and social behaviour! There are a lot of fun experiments we could try in future.

Irene Navarro (Artist): It could be interesting to test the format and methodology with other genres, something colourful, silly and fun like Rick and Morty, something dark and psychologic like the Silence of the Lambs, an anthology for poetry or the biography of a classic composer.

Eric van Amerongen (sound designer): I’d be curious about a bit more of a modern take on it. Maybe based off a show like The Wire. Exploring the dynamics and consequences of choice while navigating an urban city’s government, schools, police and civilians. Dealing with inequality, corruption, crime, violence, money, power, etc.

7. What future plans do you have over at Nerial, except for taking some well earned time off of course?

We want to carry on making small, independent projects. We don't fancy ourselves as a big studio. Apart from that nothing is decided yet.

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