Arrowhead – A semi-brief history

In the beginning of 2008, two classmates with a lot of passion for video games came together after a presentation by Swedish Game Awards at Luleå University of Technology. They soon got a few others hooked, set out with the goal of “Let’s create the best game in the world, and win this whole competition!” and a great story began.

Our logo back then was a good start!

I won’t pretend that I can capture even nearly all of that story with a single blog post but I will take a brief look back, try to patch together a bit of a timeline, and share some photos and material we haven’t shown before.

The Magicka that we started developing back then was quite a different product than what you will find on Steam today. It was fully 2D, pixelated, slower paced but crazy hardcore. You were not allowed to move (but had to hold a cast button) while conjuring elements, the Xbox controller was your only option and every element was created by drawing a more or less complicated symbol with the stick.

A screenshot from the early days of 2D Magicka

A time of much fun and sometimes frustrating work followed. It’s amazing how much dedication went into drawing pixel animations in eight directions with no mirroring for every wizard, orc, goblin and troll. Development took place wherever possible – in somebody’s kitchen, at school (often when supposed to study) or in a tiny borrowed “office” of university space.

Original Magicka crew members in future CEO’s kitchen

Magicka 2D swag!

But all hard work paid off and we were accepted into the finale of Swedish Game Awards. A silly road trip with way too much They’re taking the hobbits to Isengard took the team to Stockholm in May 2008 and a day of exhibition, interviews and nerves. We had been nominated in the Best Innovation category, and we had fairly good hopes about our chances, what with our exciting new spell system and all. But when the time of announcing the winners and prize ceremony came, the prize went to another game and we were totally beat down. We were sure we didn’t have a chance at winning Game Of The Year since we hadn’t won our category. I’m glad to say we were wrong. Winning Swedish Game Awards, and the fantastic evening of celebration and belief in our game that we got, was the biggest factor in starting what would become Arrowhead Game Studios.

“A game of great depth and style, with polished gameplay and excellent presentation. Successfully combines humour, great visuals and complex game mechanics.”

Going back to Skellefteå and university, we tried to handle both continued development of Magicka and studies for a while but it soon became unsustainable. We gathered everybody still interested in the project, had a good talk to see how many would be happy fully prioritizing Magicka over studies, and in the end we were four of the original team members and one new recruit that quit studies and started the company Arrowhead Game Studios in the beginning of 2009.

It was now that work with a 3D version of the game was started, we had realized that our possibilities would be greater and content creation would be a lot easier in many ways. We set off on a long period of development, ups and downs, creating, changing, redoing.

Voice acting passion

Towards the end of 2009 we signed with Paradox to be able to handle further development costs, and all through 2010 the studio kept growing in experience and collective vision. I would really recommend reading Johan Pilestedt’s Post Mortem for a well written and touching full story of what we experienced during this time.

Magicka was eventually finished, released in January 2011 and soon considered a smashing hit, but with many bugs. A period of intense patching started and soon development of the first DLC Magicka: Vietnam also began. After it was released in early spring 2011, me and Emil of the original team moved to Stockholm to begin development on a New Project and start up a small second team. During this time we learned a lot of new things again, about how hard it is to put together and manage a project with a team of new people, mostly juniors, that you haven’t worked with before.

Simultaneously, towards the end of 2011, the first pre-production on The Showdown Effect started with just a few individuals. In January 2012 the rest of the original studio in Skellefteå joined us in Stockholm and it was good to be one team again. The Showdown Effect went into full production and when the New Project was cancelled, the whole team united on Showdown. We also found a few more solid additions to the team and the size of Arrowhead today is 15 people.

That’s pretty much what we’ve been working on since then, and in the end of 2012 The Showdown Effect went gold. We are just days away from starting the beta and the game is scheduled to be released in March. It will be exciting to see how the game comes alive once it is released and we are also very much looking forward to going into full production on a new project or two. We as a studio have no doubts about what we have to offer the gaming world.

And we promise we won’t stop doing all kinds of stupid stuff, like that time when we…!

Wizarding in New York on Magicka release party.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *