Wulverblade Interview – Michael Heald - HighrezGaming

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Wulverblade Interview – Michael Heald / 25th of September 2015

Way, way back in October last year, we took a little trip down to Manchester for the Play Expo there, this feast of indie and retro gaming gave us the opportunity to get a hands on with some of the hottest new titles coming from out with the bloated AAA development market. One of these was an interesting little brawler that merges highly stylised visuals with a solid combat system and a fair dose of British history, this was none other than Wulverblade, created by Michael Heald and US based, Darkwind Media. We caught up with Mr Heald to find out how the project has evolved since we last saw it…

HRG: Wulverblade has been in development for around two years now, which you are working on with Rochester based Darkwind Media, but why did you team up with this developer? What do you feel that they can bring to the project?

MH: I’ve been working with Darkwind Media, or more specifically Brian, Evan, Colin and Matt for quite a few years on various other projects, so it ended up being a very natural partnership. We knew each other well, knew how each other worked and once I started telling them about my idea for Wulverblade, they seemed to really love it! So before I knew it, my dream game that had basically been living on paper and in my head for years was actually underway!

The guys are Darkwind are exceptionally skilled and have a huge amount of industry experience behind them so I knew they’d make the perfect partners on this. The best bit is that even though they are the technical side of the project, they’re very, very creative and that really makes the process so much more exciting. They’ve already injected so many amazing ideas into the game that have made it incalculably better than my initial vision. I feel lucky to be working with them!

HRG: Has the distance between you both had any negative effects on the development cycle?

MH: No not really, the wonders of Skype make it feel as though we all sit in the same space anyway ;) I work on my own here in the UK until around 3pm and then the guys appear online and we work together for the last few hours of the afternoon (their morning) and then we’re generally discussing the game while I sit watching TV at night. It works out well. I work externally as an illustrator/designer for games companies all around the world so am very used to working remotely which helps.

HRG: When we saw the game last October, it was already pretty robust, how has it evolved since? What new features have you been able to include?

MH: The element that we are always working on that hasn’t been shown publically is the campaign. This is the meat of the game. The 8 levels are sizeable with mid and end of level bosses, lots of character/story encounters and some brilliant story telling in-between the levels. Bringing this all together is the core of our time right now. One of the key combat features we’ve recently finished is ‘rage mode’. This is a secondary health bar that builds up as you fight and once it’s full you’re free to unleash your rage at will. When you use your rage the screen turns blood red, your character goes into a frantic, berserker like state and you get a short burst of invulnerability with increased attack speed. It’s an ace feature and one that people will soon learn to hold onto until they REALLY need it.

HRG: Can you tell us something about the combat system? How complex is it now?

MH: The combat system is what we believe to be the perfect balance. It’s not as simple as the old classics that we all love and remember but it’s equally not as intense and overwhelming as a lot of modern fighters (where you can unlock 100’s of moves that you basically forget). We have your standard combo, power attacks, rolls, dashes, grappling, executions, throwing, blocking, air combos, the list goes on. There’s a lot to learn, but not SO much that you’ll forget them half way through the game. The key is to lean your moves and then learn how to master them. There are all kinds of combo’s available to you, you just need to discover them. One of the other key elements are projectiles. The battle ground is strewn with projectiles of varying strengths from knives, spears and axes to stones and slain body parts. All can be picked up and thrown at your enemies. This can make from some creative attacks once you start experimenting.

HRG: The game is set to span eight levels in total, these are all based on real-world locales as the narrative is steeped in British history, was this your intention from the outset of the project? And if so, why? Also, can you tell us a little bit about the differing locations?

MH: I’m a big old history geek, that’s what it boils down to ;) This part of history has never really been explored in games and generally speaking, not many people make games about Britain, which is a shame as we have SO much history to pull on. Ryse touched on it but that was an entirely fictional tale. The Roman invasion of Britain is an incredible tale that spans 100’s of years and has some truly awe inspiring stories. I wanted to tell one of these tales through Wulverblade and to do that, I HAD to visit as many of the sites as possible as I wanted it to feel as authentic as possible.

Due to the diversity of the terrain in Britain it’s made from some superb level variety! I’ve trekked deep into old pine forests, climbed huge hills to ancient stone circles, waded through soaking wet farmland in search of old ruins and even climbed the highest mountain pass in England to reach the most remote Roman fort in Britain! I’ve certainly been dedicated to the cause. ;)

One of the features of the game is that you get to unlock photography from these locations as you work through the game. So the player can see those environments in the real world as well as in the game. A fairly unique feature I think.

HRG: Wulverblade is set to incorporate a multiplayer mode as well, what can you tell us about this? Will it simply be competitive multiplayer, or will there be a co-operative element to it as well?

MH: The multiplayer element pulls very much on its classic routes. It’s a local multiplayer co-op in the campaign and also local multiplayer for the vs arenas. The arena modes are quite diverse. You can work with or against your friend in a range of differing tasks. Playing with 2 players locally is so much fun. We hope to bring in online multiplayer in the future but at launch it will be local only.

HRG: The game is set to launch sometime this year, can you give us a hint as to when that will be?

MH: The game is going to be complete this year but sadly we’ve learnt that the likelihood of it launching this year is basically impossible. This is due to us not realising that the certification process can take around 3 months, which will push game into a Q1 2016 window. Not ideal, BUT it will give people something new to play once they’ve played through their Christmas titles :)

Wulverblade, from Fully Illustrated and Darkwind Media is shaping up to be one of the first must have titles of 2016, so we’ll continue to keep a close eye on this one in the run up to its release. We’d also like to take this opportunity to thank Michael Heald for taking the time to speak with us.

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