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IGM Interviews: Björn Johannessen and Fredrik Tolf (Haven & Hearth) – Part 2

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IGM: What games have been your inspirations?

Björn: I at least have played video and computer games since I knew how to, basically. I started with Amigas and the NES, 8-bit systems. Obviously, there are a lot of games that inspired me, that I liked and enjoyed, a lot of them being civilization-building games; I enjoyed WarCraft and StarCraft a lot, I enjoyed Civilization, the Zelda games a lot, and I think you can see the influences of all those games on Haven. I suppose Fredrik has played a lot of those same games?

Fredrik: Yeah, certainly. I think it’s fair to see that between the two of us, Björn is the heavier gamer [laughs]. I’ve always devoted more of my time to programming than to gaming, but we certainly share a lot of those communities.

IGM: Do you ever wish you’d work on other games, or wanted to?

Fredrik: [both laugh] I mean Haven is such an eternity project, it will never be finished, it will always be a lot of work. At some points, we’ve discussed devoting a month to make some simple mobile games.

Björn: Again, I can simply concur fully with what Fredrik has said. We’ve discussed this, we return to this from time to time. It would be so nice to just have a small project that we can finish and be meaningfully done with it, because Haven, I call like it our Sistine Chapel basically, and I think it will be, and it is, yeah. I think we can build on it forever. Sometimes I can certainly feel jealous of people who only have to deal with a single-player environment where they can come up with all kind of mechanics, and it doesn’t matter if you can exploit them because no one else is affected by that. We certainly have at least some ideas to other, smaller, more humble games that we’d like to build as well.

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IGM: Did you consider going on Steam and have you thought about a business model for the new Haven?

Björn: We’re going to monetize Haven in one way or another, we haven’t really announced or decided on the exact forms of it, but it will be monetized in one way or another. We’re also going to most likely support some kind of free-to-play model. We’ll announce more as we get to it. For Steam, this hasn’t exactly been a priority for us, because Steam is essentially a delivery system for games, and Haven & Hearth, by nature of being a MMO, has kind of an intrinsic delivery vector already, which means that Steam hasn’t really felt like a priority. Fredrik, thoughts on this?

Fredrik: I don’t know, it’s one of those things that people ask from time to time, and we don’t necessarily mind it, it just doesn’t feel like a priority. It’s a lot of work to actually implement the Steam delivery on the client and what not. We just have better things to do, basically.

Björn: Yeah, we haven’t really, we haven’t explored what it would mean in terms of, I don’t know, legal issues and whatever else is implied by being on Steam.

IGM: I was also wondering from the server-hosting side, since you guys hosted the game by yourselves.

Fredrik: Well, not anymore actually. We hired a server in Germany.

IGM: That must have been an improvement [In the past, Haven & Hearth was always very laggy].

Björn: Well, when we started we were running it from my dorm room out of a computer that was setup beneath my kitchen fan, basically. That didn’t work so long. That computer burned out pretty quickly.

Fredrik: It had like around 128 MBs of RAM or something.

Björn: Yeah, it was a real sh**** computer that was just running the server. At that point we obviously didn’t need much of a server as we didn’t have that many players.

Fredrik: When that wasn’t enough and we upgraded to a more powerful, but still sucky computer, the real problem was in the actual bandwidth, especially the fact that during a storm there was only a 10 Mbits per second uplink, so that was what really prompted us to migrate to an external hosting solution.havenandhearth5

Björn: This is the current situation, and we started this in October 2010, if I recall correctly.

Fredrik: Prior to that, I think we had some 300 players online at one time. The user spikes we’ve on our current servers have been 1,500.

IGM: I guess I should play again and revisit, and die horribly by myself in the forest.

Björn: Yeah, I’ve had that experience, like I started a character a couple of months ago, I was standing by the lakeside, AFK, for literally one minute, I was sitting here and developing. Suddenly I heard the disturbing sound of someone thwacking me with an arrow, and that ended my most recent experience in Haven & Hearth. Sometimes I just start playing the game incognito, as your average newbie.

IGM: Finally, do you have any favorite memories or moments from Haven & Hearth?

Björn: Absolutely, one of the principal stories that I like to tell is about the bugged piece of coal, like in World 2. One day, a screenshot surfaces on the forums where a person has found a piece of coal. They’ve burned a piece of charcoal, this was some time after we’ve introduced the quality system, where items have a quality rating and the higher the rating is, the better the item is. And this coal had an absurdly high number of quality points.

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Fredrik: Yeah, like a billion. It was obviously bugged.

Björn: Yeah they found a bug. Basically, the bug later turned out to be that it had it written from discarded memories or something like that. So the piece of coal had an absurd quality number, but I kinda figured that oh well, it’s just one piece of coal, how bad can it get? Turns out it can get very bad. I don’t remember the exact steps they took to bring this coal into their production chain. I think they used the piece of coal to fire a kiln, to make more coal…

Fredrik: No, actually, I’m fairly certain they used an ore smelter to make some piece of metal with very high quality.

Björn: The point was that the quality was transitive, if you used good coal to make iron, the iron got better. So if you used this absurdly high quality piece of glorious coal, and they only had one piece of it, they got like ten pieces of fantastic metal. That downshifted the quality, so by that time it was “only” like a million on the iron ore. The normal span of quality was about 10 to 200. They used this iron to make anvils and saws, at some point they transitioned that into the whole tree-planting industry, which caused them to be able to make trees with absurdly high qualities. Before you knew it, they transplanted this one piece of coal out across the entire field of quality, basically creating high quality levels for themselves.

IGM: Did they make swords that would instant-kill people?

Björn: Exactly. That kind of thing, yes. And food that automatically levels them up by eating one piece of it, etc. They started dominating the server pretty hard after that.

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Stay tuned to Haven & Hearth’s development by following its forum. The new version is currently in a closed Alpha, but the old one is still playable and accessible from the main site.



Luke has wide interests in games, from compelling fighting, action, and RPG titles to deeper interactive, storytelling titles that push today's genres and boundaries - especially awesome if they're related to diversity. Feel free to reach out on Twitter or via email.