Den of Wolves Interview with Narrative Simon Viklund | Biohacking, Mega-Corps, And Espionage

I like my heists morally grey with more twists than a quantum knot

Payday: The Heist and Payday 2 seized hearts with its high-octane missions and co-op chaos. And since then, two of the creative powerhouses behind these games have gone on to establish the studio 10 Chambers.

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10 Chambers made waves with its hardcore co-op shooter, GTFO, but are returning to their roots with Den of Wolves. This new heist game will bring in some familiar elements from the Payday franchise, like its four-player co-op, while adding new features that the developers promise will elevate and innovate the genre.

Den of Wolves Interview with Narrative Simon Viklund | Biohacking, Mega-Corps, And Espionage

In an interview and presentation with Simon Viklund, the narrative designer of GTFO and the creative designer of Payday: The Heist, we got a glimpse into what we can expect from Den of Wolves.

PRIMA: Den of Wolves is set in a possible future, inspired by our current world. It’s set in 2097 and on an island. But will we see different cultures on that island, like Chinatown or Little Italy? I initially thought ‘Hong Kong’ when I first saw the trailer and concept art of it, but you described it as ‘Manhattan on crack’ in the presentation.

SIMON: “The inspiration is Manhattan, but Hong Kong could work as a reference the same way Manhattan does, because of the limited space, and the way that all the corporations want to be there. Dubai is another reference we’ve made, because it’s just sort of ‘let’s build a city here’, it’s a good a place as anywhere else.

It’s sort of like, built in a short amount of time. It feels a little bit, synthetic, in a way, I guess. So, there are aspects of it there. There are examples of other cities around the world that serve as an inspiration for the concept more than the idea of this sort of cramped space in this city built in a short amount of time, more than maybe the architecture, because the architecture is way out there in Den of Wolves. Hong Kong serves as an inspiration as well. We might as well have said Hong Kong instead of Manhattan.”

PRIMA: So, Den of Wolves is going to be set in the future. And in the trailer, we got a hint of what that new technology might entail. Co-op missions will involve gig jobs that will have us doing all sorts of things, from assassinations and chasing to bio-hacking. Can you elaborate more on what the gameplay will look like?

SIMON: “Yeah, well, if you if you look at one mission, within a storyline, I guess the objective would be one thing. But if you look at a storyline, obviously, that contains a lot of different components. Most of the time it’s going to be like, the end goal is to acquire something or to, you know, find out the answer to some sort of a mystery, breaking into someplace similar, and then the missions leading up to that, that sort of prep missions are about the player, you know, finding things out.

So, in other games, you’d get a laundry list from the game, or from a character within the game, like you need these things to, to get into the place. And then you just play by the numbers doing one, two, three, four, until you have those things. It’s very linear.

We’d like to create something that’s more like a playground. Or this almost mind map thing, where it’s you finding out what you need in order to break into that place, and then acquiring the intel or the gear needed to do so. And this builds a lot of drama and makes that final heist more important because you’ve been building up to it and being invested in trying to get all the gear you need. And it’s more fun to tell a story that way because you can have twists and turns and things happening. And it changes things up a little bit from play through to play through to create both player agency and replayability.

But yeah, we’ll have a mix of things. So, it’d be like an industrial espionage themed, or like political thriller, you know, the Manchurian Candidate. We can draw inspiration from a lot of different concepts. Like these sorts of Philip K. Dick stories and science fiction ideas from Ghost in the Shell, or Matrix, or Inception, and create something that’s inspired by these things. It opens things up for both gameplay creativity and narrative creativity.”

“We’d like to create something that’s more like a playground. Or this almost mind map thing, where it’s you finding out what you need in order to break into that place, and then acquiring the intel or the gear needed to do so.”

PRIMA: From the trailers, we can see that human experimentation is a big part of Den of Wolves and Midway Island. Will our characters be able to get modifications, kind of like the boosters from GTFO?

SIMON: “Essentially, yes. Visually, it’s not going to be as obvious as in Cyberpunk. Cyberpunk to us is a little bit like a fantasy future. I don’t think anyone thinks that that’s the future we’re heading towards with like neon Mohawks and have like, prosthetic limbs, because it’s fashion. Like, rather than out of necessity, you’re replacing body parts because it’s, it’s cool, or whatever it feels instead of it’s a super interesting vision of the future and very captivating. And they’ve created a rich world. But it feels like a fantasy future of sorts.

We’re trying to create something that’s more grounded. And if people in this future had sort of transhuman, you know, sort of augmentations it would be more so something that’s like the best-kept secret of the richest of the rich, and not something that is like everyone has and you can get like a new eye, like a cybernetic eyeball, from the vending machine on the street, right? It’s not that type of a future. It’s something that’s like, even in 74 years, it’s something that’s super expensive. And not everyone knows it’s even available. Because they’re not in the socio-economic bracket where they could even afford that. So, it’s like, as part of revealing stuff and narratively to, like, ‘oh, that shit exists’, too, you know, and not having it be out there and too obvious.”

PRIMA: Your previous game, GTFO, was episodic. Is Den of Wolves going to follow that formula or will it be a fully complete game once you release?

SIMON: “Well, we see it as Midway City sort of laying the groundwork for something we’re hoping is popular enough to become a live service game. So, then we will add storylines as sort of standalone chapters in the game, and then will be like, much like Black Mirror sort of anthology. You know, it’s a self-contained story.

And as Robin mentioned, a storyline could take you to a new district and introduce a new corporation or can be about the rivalry between a certain corporation and another one. So, they will have sort of themes. Clear, sort of, ‘that’s the storyline where you do this and that’, you know, like, very memorable moments and a memorable sort of narrative concept, is the idea.

So yeah, when we launch into early access, I can’t say how many storylines there will be if there’s like one beefy one, or if it’s like a few. And then as we go from graduating from early access and go into the 1.0 version that will continue building on top of that and adding new storylines is the idea. So, it’s not like the game is it’s this one campaign, right? But it contains these sort of chapters.”

“Well, we see it as Midway City sort of laying the groundwork for something we’re hoping is popular enough to become a live service game. “

PRIMA: You mentioned DLC will include new areas for the map, so it’s continuously expanding. Can you elaborate on that?

SIMON: “We’ll have Chinatown, or like Little Italy, and areas known for different cultures. And the idea is that when we have a storyline that takes place in that part of the city, or where you were going, a corporation from a place on earth is prominently featured in a storyline that we would like, have voice actors from that region. And not do like, American voice actors trying to do the accent, but be more authentic, and also collaborate with composers and musicians from that part of the world in order to sprinkle music, with sort of authentic components from whatever would be the, I guess, ethnic percussion, or ethnic instruments from that region. And it’s still EDM, but you know, sort of having a flavor of that would be super cool.

And that’s part of, obviously, treating other cultures with respect and having the representation be sort of authentic, but also because it’s more fun for us as developers to be able to, like, make connections with people and collaborating with others. And as I mentioned in the presentation, it’s very important to us to have fun, or at least, you know, enjoy the process of making the game. And then if that’s a bucket list thing for me as a composer to work with, like, I would love to work with someone you know, from some culture that is super exotic to me as a Swede. And if this project can help me realize that, that would be super cool. And that goes into everything with the brand creation and everything. Like whatever people within the team are really passionate about, if that’s somehow if we can look at, if that’s something that multiplies the value of what we’re working on and helps the game be better, then we let people really work on that thing. And the idea is obviously that that will show in the product that there’s a lot of passion going into it.”

PRIMA: Do you have any hopes for Den of Wolves, any final thoughts?  

SIMON: “With Den of Wolves, we’re just hoping that people can see our passion for it and our excitement for working on this game and that in the end, it’s going to show in the game. That players are going to keep their eyes on this thing, and give it a chance once it’s out.

I think people who like Payday, obviously, are going to potentially like it a lot. It’s going to have a different vibe, a different sort of pacing, and lots of elements that you can’t put your finger on or quantity really being different between the two titles. But I think that’s a strength of Den of Wolves, that we can break the mold and do something different because we’re not tied to previous games in a franchise.

We can introduce something new and I hope people feel that’s exciting and that they appreciate that we are taking a chance here and making something new. And for people who don’t play Payday games, if you’re into co-op games, first-person shooters, we’re really trying to make something for those people to enjoy.”

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Author
Daphne Fama
A Staff Writer at Prima Games since 2022, Daphne Fama spends an inordinate amount playing games of all stripes but has a soft spot for horror, FPS, and RPGs. When she’s not gaming, she’s an author and member of the Horror Writers Association with a debut novel coming out in 2025. In a previous life, she was an attorney but found she preferred fiction to contracts and forms