Interview with Nick Popovich, lead designer of Spiral Knights

We had the opportunity to interview Nick Popovich, lead designer of Spiral Knights, the free MMO Action from Sega and Three Rings. He gave some details about the game and explained why you really should try it!

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Thanks for giving us the opportunity to interview you about Spiral Knights. It’s always a pleasure.

First of all, could you introduce yourself to our readers?

: My name is Nick Popovich and I’m the lead designer of Spiral Knights.

How would you describe Spiral Knights to someone who has not heard about it before?

Spiral Knights is an arcade-style mash up an MMO and classic action-adventure games like Zelda and Bomberman.

As a curiosity, why the game is called Spiral Knights?

It’s named after the legion of knights that players control in the game. We chose ‘Spiral’ because of how a spiral relates to the dynamic dungeon below the surface of the world you inhabit: always in rotation like a spiral and how the knights must travel down deeper and deeper below. It also just sounds cool.

Talk us about the backstory. What can we expect to see in the world of Spiral Knights?

You play as one of the Spiral Knights who crash land on a mysterious planet called ‘Cradle.’ The knights who survived the crash must journey below the surface of the planet to locate a massive energy signal coming from the planet’s core as they believe they can use the energy to restore their ship. However just below the surface of Cradle is an enormous, mechanical complex known as the ‘Clockworks.’

The Clockworks seem to be an elaborate death trap made of parts of hundreds of alien worlds. Even stranger, the Knights believe them to be constructed entirely by a race of malevolent creatures known as ‘gremlins.’

Each expedition into the Clockworks proves that it is constantly in flux, almost as if it’s alive. The Spiral Knights must work together if they hope to survive and unravel the mysteries of Cradle.

Recently Lockdown has been launched. Talk us about it. What’s Lockdown?
Lockdown is the second player-versus-player game event we’ve added to our Coliseum, where players can participate in PvP and earn prizes.

Lockdown has two teams battling for dominion over control points over a large battlefield. Players are free to use all the gear the collect in the Clockworks in whatever combination they choose. However, further spicing things up are the inclusion of our new ‘class mods.’

What are Class Mods?

Class Mods are items that instantly swap in place of your shield and completely alter your play style. For example, a standard shield protects you from damage, but swapping it out for the Striker Booster gives you a personal jetpack that greatly enhances your speed and allows you to land devastating melee attacks. Or the Recon Cloak which allows you to go completely invisible and ‘mark’ your opponents and completely remove their defenses.

Each Class Mod simply replaces your shield, eliminating the need for yet another button, or complex tool bars. They’re very much ‘easy to learn but hard to master.’

We find quite interesting the puzzle solving. Would you say your game is totally different from others free to play titles?

I don’t think there are any free to play games out there that are quite like Spiral Knights. Puzzle solving is certainly something you really don’t see in online games, but in Spiral Knights you’ll find a good mix of combat and action puzzles. We never have you stop and solve a math problem, but there are plenty of instances where you need to observe the environment and follow particular steps to proceed.

One of our other distinguishing features that give it a puzzle-y vibe is the use of ‘blocks.’ These environmental objects all have different reactions to them when activated and can change depending on their relationship with other blocks. Some of my favorite moments with blocks involve ‘carving’ your way through a room filled with blocks and monsters. Hit the wrong block and you’ll have the entire room’s worth of hungry monsters on your back.

What are the main features of Spiral Knights?

- An emphasis on cooperative exploration, combat and puzzle solving.
- An ever-changing world that’s yours to explore.
- Create an arsenal of powerful items that allow you to completely change the way you fight.
- It’s 100% free to play!

Does the world really change in realm time?

It really does! The Clockworks are in constant rotation in real time. From ‘the Arcade’ where you can take elevators down into the Clockworks you can see the various levels below and the direction they are moving. Even better, players ‘create’ each new dungeon by depositing items they find within the Clockworks. Every two days a completely new dungeon is created by players!

Do you think a player can enjoy Spiral Knights if he or she plays alone?

Absolutely. Spiral Knights is very solo-friendly. And if you ever want company, the game allows players to drop in and out of your party instantly.

What are the minimum PC specifications to play Spiral Knights?

Windows & Linux
• Windows XP, Vista or 7
• Java 1.5
• Display 1024x600
• 1.3 GHz processor
• Graphics: 64mb Video Memory. GeForce 5 series, ATI Radeon 8500. Latest video driver.
• Memory: 512mb for Windows XP or 1gb for Windows Vista/7
• 300MB Hard drive space

• OSX 10.4
• Java 1.5
• Display 1024x600
• 1.3 GHz processor
• Graphics: 64MB Video Memory. GeForce 5 series, ATI 8500. Latest video driver.
• 1GB memory (1000MB)
• 300MB hard drive space

What’s the future of Spiral Knights? Do you have a new expansion in the horizon?

We have been constantly updating Spiral Knights, even multiple times a month! Each new update ranges from small bugfix updates to large content updates with new dungeons, bosses and treasures to collect. We’re very proud of the content we’ve been able to deliver to our players.

There’s also lots more to come in the future, including a series of high level boss content that will begin to reveal the secrets of Cradle and what lies within its mysterious Core, so keep an eye out for more news from us in the coming weeks!

From your point of view, why this game is more fun than others?

When I designed Spiral Knights, I wanted to make an MMO that ‘gets to the point.’ You’ll never waste time looking for a party or grind levels collecting boar tusks for strangers. Spiral Knights offers a streamlined experience that gets you right in to the action and allows you to stop whenever you like. Play a little or a lot and you’ll still have a fun, meaningful experience.

Would you like to add something?

Yes, go to the official website and join us for some monster bashing in the Clockworks! It’s free!

Thanks you so much. It’s always a pleasure.


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