Reigns: Her Majesty's Francois Alliot on making a more complex swipe-em-up

We talked to the lead developer of Reigns: Her Majesty about the art and business about making weird games about being royalty.

If you've picked up Reigns: Her Majesty already, you might have noticed that Nerial's sequel to the 2016 surprise hit Reigns is a bit more complex than its goofy predecessor. While it's one thing for a game sequel to have new mechanics, it's another for it to explore entirely new themes while still preserving the cheekiness of its predecessor. 

Thankfully, over on the Gamasutra Twitch channel, we were lucky enough today to be joined by lead developer Francois Alliot, who did much of the work on the first Reigns, and who partnered with former Gamasutra editor Leigh Alexander on the second. 

Alliot was kind enough to answer our questions about working on the game, and you can see those answers in the video up above. In case you're already running from the peasants however, we do have a few takeaways for your convenience down below. 

"Tinder is a toy" - the philosophy behind every Reigns interaction

One interesting design highlight from Alliot is that everything from the swiping mechanic to the iOS vibrations to the "glitching screens" seen in the game comes from the idea that to Alliot, the dating app Tinder is more a toy than a human connection program. To Alliot, the design of Tinder indicates an expressive, infinite experience that takes over the entire mobile device, and "traps" users in a way that's mirrored in the endless death cycle of Reigns' heroine. 

By building off that philosophy, Alliot says he was able to expand the card-swiping interaction beyond just simple binary choices, and create pleasantly surprising scenarios that stayed true to the oddball tone of the narrative. 

Reigns: Her Majesty is about the weirdness of royalty as seen by women

According to Alliot, there are two reasons Reigns: Her Majesty is a sequel instead of another expansion for Reigns. First, adding all of the new content for a Queen character would have doubled the size of the original game. Second, Alliot says he thought it was important to recruit a woman as a writing partner (in this case, Alexander) to properly explore the nuances he couldn't with his own creative style. 

It's important to note these nuances while playing the game because it's striking how different the perspective of the characters are from the first game. There's jokes about lust, power, and tradition that give the game a fresh feel thanks to the collaboration with Alexander (at one point, Alliot points out which cards have interactions that come from both of them, highlighting how well these two work together)

The business of a small interactive fiction developer

We also quizzed Alliot about the production process for this quickly-timed sequel, and it turns out he's been trying to keep as level-headed as he can about this whole indie business as one can be. As a small developer, he says he's focused a lot on trying to be able to complete production without going through insane crunch, as well as setting up fair financial deals for his collaborators. 

For instance, on Reigns: Her Majesty, Alliot says he offered his fellow creatives an option between either getting a share of revenue after the game shipped, with a smaller salary, or a larger salary in exchange for no revenue share. 

It was also interesting to hear Alliot describe his reasons for seeking out Devolver Digital as a publisher. He told us that while a lot of indies see themselves as jacks-of-all-trades, he preferred to set up a business deal with someone more experienced in marketing and communications than he was, so he could stick to his core skills he felt most comfortable with. 

For more developer interviews, editor roundtables and gameplay commentary, be sure to follow the Gamasutra Twitch channel.

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