Chivalry 2 creative director on balancing its Game of Thrones inspirations with Monty Python and Battlefield

Chivalry 2 is a ridiculous game where you can chop limbs off like a Mortal Kombat Fatality and then beat a man to death with a chicken. It’s a weird tone to balance but it somehow works. To explain that even further, we recently spoke to Steve Piggott, creative director and owner of Torn Banner, as well as Alex Hayter, brand director, about that tonal clash as well as why people like Chivalry, how the team learned from the failures of Mirage: Arcane Magic, and if the team is planning for a flood of white nationalists.

GameRevolution: Chivalry came out in 2012 and was sort of the premier first-person slasher. Now, eight years later, how are you planning to advance the genre you helped popularize?

Steve Piggott: With the first game, we kind of see it the way our fans do as well where it was a great game but it had so much more potential than it was able to capture. So for us, Chivalry 2 is like a revenge mission where we are picking up where we left on the table in creating our dream game.

ALSO: Chivalry 2 is positioned to take back the multiplayer first-person slasher crown

And there are a couple of ways we are doing that. For one, we are dealing with the criticism from the first game like how combat felt great to me but looked terrible to other people. The second thing was making it more like a movie scene where we increase the scale. All the maps in the first Chivalry were built for 24 players. This time, 64. It’s a much bigger game and can more easily capture the feel of medieval warfare.

And then we added stuff like horses and more detailed objective maps so you could feel like you’ve been on this tremendous journey.

Alex Hayter: Since the years have gone by, we’ve seen other games capture that medieval feel, which is where we really discovered what the heart of Chivalry 2 is: making it feel like a real battlefield experience. That scale is super important and having that awesome control over what you’re doing in combat and being able to control the chaos around you in those huge battles is super key to that as well.

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GR: It’s weird you say “battlefield” because this game reminds me of DICE’s Battlefield games.

SP: It’s full-scale war, right? A lot of other games like Counter-Strike and Call of Duty are mostly skirmishes. Battlefield is a full-scale battlefield. And we’re full-scale medieval warfare.

AH: It’s certainly an inspiration for Chivalry 2 and that cinematic feeling that DICE nails [is what we want].

GR: Chivalry seemed to blow your expectations out of the water. Why do you think players grasped it so hard?

SP: There are two reasons that combine with each other really well. One is that it had the best melee combat. It was something new and it felt good to stab people. It let you let out that frustration of daily life.

The second piece was its silliness. The game is actually hilarious because of all the taunts and laughs and all the Monty Python aspects to it. So hitting that perfect blend of Game of Thrones and Monty Python is a big part of why it was so successful. Everything we do is to try and draw intense player emotions. It’s not something that you’re just playing. It’s something that pulls you into the field.

AH: Players really attached to that in the original Chivalry and we’ve understood that for Chivalry 2 and provided more outlets for that kind of aggression.

GR: You both keep calling it a stress ball game. How did you gauge that from the players?

SP: It is something that I’ve begun to understand a little more as I’ve gotten older. It started as wanting to make movie-style fights. And then we realized over time that what we were really doing was getting inside players’ minds and trying to make them feel something.

And then we looked at what feeling Chivalry got out of players that other games didn’t. And then that’s when we figured out it was an aggression outlet, a punching bag.

GR: Is that why you’re so calm? Or is it because you are Canadian?

AH: That’s probably it, too.

Chivalry 2 is positioned to take back the multiplayer first-person slasher crown

GR: Can you speak more on the new moves in Chivalry 2?

SP: We added a lot more combat options for the player because when you have precise control over your character and you have meaningful options, you have creativity, which is fun. We took the dance of combat in the first game and looked at it and how it had the same back and forth too much. So we thought of new ways to add different timing advantages and disadvantages to you and your opponent.

If you got hit in the first game, you could only block. Now you have so many more options.

GR: And the new poke is part of that?

SP: Yeah, the jab. It’s a super quick short-range attack. If I get hit normally, your next hit will hit me first but I can throw that jab out to hit you first.

GR: It’s a lot like a fighting game in that regard. That genre has a lot of trouble easing in new players. How do you all plan on teaching players the mechanics without overwhelming them?

SP: It’s something we really did not do well in the first game. We realized that a lot of people bounced before they got to the point where they could really enjoy the combat. We put a ton of effort into the tutorials and even the UI, too. Everything in the UI is trying to teach the player what’s happening so they can learn a little bit better.

AH: You’ll notice when you’re playing that the UI game you little indications on what you were doing like parrying or countering. You’ll have to play it a lot to learn it but we are doing a lot more to ensure that the player is being told what they are doing and not having to learn for themselves.

GR: With The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners and Boneworks, there are a lot of VR games with good melee combat. Are you thinking about putting Chivalry in VR anytime soon?

SP: It’s super exciting but we are a studio that can only focus on one game at a time right now. So for VR, it’s a space that I would personally be excited in exploring but we have to make sure the market is there before we go there.

GR: Mirage wasn’t quite the success you hoped it would be. How did you all learn from it?

AH: The major thing with Mirage was we failed to get players to understand what it was. It wasn’t really tapping into an existing fantasy of what players can see themselves doing in a game so it was hard to understand. So that was really important in moving to Chivalry 2 development after. How do we ensure that what we are doing in this game is true fantasy fulfillment of the medieval era?

We need to make sure players are getting everything they want in their imagination about what it means to be a knight on the battlefield. Those are all tied to such powerful emotions because of what those medieval movies mean to us. So that was one of the biggest lessons for us.

GR: White nationalists have made Mordhau’s community a mess since this sort of topic and time period seems to attract some of those kinds of bad people. Are you preparing for some of those people to come to Chivalry 2?

SP: I think that even just the name “Chivalry” means there is some sense of honor of the sportsmanship of the fighting and that’s the mindset and philosophy we have towards it. It’s a place where everyone should be able to have fun and that’s something that we are definitely taking seriously. We want to make sure that everyone is enjoying that battlefield experience and other people aren’t ruining that with whatever they’re trying to attach to the medieval era. We reject that. This is about the romance of the Hollywood movies.