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Rival Kingdoms: an Interview with Rhianna Pratchett

by on May 12, 2015

We recently spoke to award winning games writer Rhianna Pratchett about her new title Rival Kingdoms: Age of Ruin, a mobile RTS. Given her previous work on AAA titles like Tomb Raider and Mirror’s Edge, I wondered if working on mobile had allowed Rhianna to try new things.

“I wouldn’t say that it’s allowed me to try new things, but with smaller teams it can often be easier to get your particular vision across, simply because there are not so many layers of people to wade through. Certainly Space Ape gave me a lot of freedom with the Ancients to come up with my own interesting characters and compelling backstories.”

While it hasn’t allowed Rhianna to necessarily try new things, it seems that bringing her console game experience to mobile has allowed for  a greater scope than normally seen in mobile games.

“Space Ape were keen to create not just one story but a world where lots of different stories could potentially play out through the gameplay, so in that regard there’s a lot of scope to the game.”

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Rival Kingdoms takes place in the world of Estara, which is under threat from the mysterious Ruin. I’ve always wondered where the creative process begins for a games writer.

“As a game writer it’s difficult to answer the question ‘where or how did you come up with X?’ because often it’s a case of the slightly boring answer of ‘I looked at the art, gameplay and the mechanics and thought very hard about a world in which they could be combined and the *ping* ideas happened!’ Certainly with the Ancients I turned to my love of folklore and mythology for inspiration and also just character conflicts and scenarios that I found personally interesting.”

This love of mythology can also be seen in the evil Ruin, on which I asked for some more details.

“The Ruin is a destructive force hell bent of destroying the multi-realms and causing a tabula rasa-like state in which the realms can be remade by their god (Nihilim) and on which they can rule. The Ruin achieves this not only through war, but also via the destruction of an element called Primus, which is the very essence of creation. The mortal realm of Estara has the large occurring reserve of Primus in the multi-realms which has attracted both the Ancients and the Ruin.”

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The narrative is clearly an important part of Rival Kingdoms, but it is hard to see how this works in such a multiplayer focused title. Luckily Rhianna had an answer.

“The game ships with 15 Ancients and the rest will become available over the next few weeks/months and through completing various things in the game. As you upgrade each character you actually unlock more of their backstory and find out more about how they ended up on Estara. We also have more narrative focused episodes which are structured missions with a storyline around them that usually revolve around the Ancients themselves and their conflicts and relationships with one another.

“The idea is that the Ancients only gravitate towards the strongest players and kingdoms as those are the ones that stand the best chance of fighting off the Ruin. It’s pretty brutal in that regard. The episodes tend to have their own reasoning for fighting, such as a base being corrupted by Ruin, or even under a spell where the inhabitants believe that the players are Ruin themselves.”

Given the subtitle and the existence of such a deep narrative, I wondered if Rival Kingdoms was set up to be a franchise, and it doesn’t look like its out of the question.

“I’m not sure if there’s anything specific planned yet, but I know Space Ape is keen to keep building on the established narrative and world.”

Our final question as always is the ketchup one: where does Rhianna keep it?

“Fridge. But now I feel like I’m doing it wrong.”

Thanks to Rhianna for her time, and apologies for making her question where she keeps her ketchup.