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Less than two months after launching its debut title in early access, Swedish game studio Iron Gate has a massive hit on their hands. Valheim, the sandbox survival game developed by the indie studio and published by Coffee Stain, has already sold more than 6 million copies on Steam and Linux systems since it launched on Feb. 2.

In the game, players act as a viking soul ferried to the tenth Norse world where they must defeat monsters to win Odin’s favor and an eternal place in Valhalla. The role-playing action game offers crafting and combat as players explore, create and struggle to survive in this new Norse world.

“We are pretty shocked,” Henrik Tornqvist, Iron Gate co-founder, tells Deep Dev co-hosts Patrick Shanley and Brittany Spurlin. “We knew we had a good game on our hands, but not a million seller.”

Tornqvist says players’ reactions to the game prior to its early release were initially mixed, with some claiming the title’s unique aesthetic was “too old school.” However, the visual style of the game was intentionally done. “We wanted something with low resolution textures, kind of reminiscent of a PlayStation One title,” says Tornqvist. “It also allows us a very quick development cycle.”

Valheim Video Game Image

Iron Gate set out to make a classic adventure game where players could team up with friends to take down bosses. Inspired by the evergreen popularity of Viking culture and mythology, the team wanted to present a Norse setting with a twist.

“Originally, there are only nine worlds in Norse mythology, but we wanted a unique world that we had more freedom to do what we wanted with,” says Tornqvist. “So that’s why it’s set in Valheim. You’re a dead warrior on your way to Valhalla, that was constructed afterwards. We just felt it fit really well, that [Valheim] is your proving ground to get access to Valhalla because Odin, for some reason, doesn’t let anyone in anymore.”

Despite the early success of the game, Tornqvist says that Valheim is only 75 percent “feature complete” and 50 percent “content complete” at the moment, so players have much more to look forward to from the game and its upcoming update.

“Right now, we have five biomes in the game but would like to have a total of nine,” says Tornqvist. “It’s that total adventure aspect of a game that has to be expanded upon. We want more bosses and an epic final fight, but haven’t got plans for that yet. Then, of course, we’re also adding new ways to play the game. We would like some unique gameplay feature for each biome.”

Tornqvist teases a Plains biome in development which will introduce farming to the game, as well as a Mistlands biome which will be more combat oriented. While the content is only halfway done, Tornqvist does see an eventual end to Valheim’s story.

Valheim Video Game Image

“Of course we would love if Valheim had a really long tail to live for many years. Internally, for us in the team, we want to finish the story. We will finish Valheim at some point and then it will be done,” says Tornqvist. “Then we can start looking at other games, because at Iron Gate we want to make other games.”

While waiting for that final boss, players have already made use of the game’s expansive crafting system, creating mammoth structures such as giant tree houses or the USS Iowa warship in-game.

“There’s the Enterprise and Millenium Falcon,” says Sebastian Badylak, Coffee Stain executive producer. “Today, I actually saw someone had made a sundial, which was really inventive. I don’t know if it technically works, but it should work, which is kind of an interesting way to keep track of time.

“I saw someone had made a Japanese-style castle, which I felt was really nice,” adds Tornqvist. “But one thing I wonder is has anyone done Anduril from Lord of the Rings. If no one has done that already, I think someone should.”

While the game is currently in early access on Steam, there are plans to bring Valheim to consoles. “Not in the near future, but in the distant future, we would of course love [a console version of this game],” says Tornqvist. “The one platform that is closest to getting something in the future is Macintosh, which we’re looking at a bit more actively.”

Valheim Video Game Image

Iron Gate currently only boasts five employees, including Tornqvist, but are looking to expand to a few more roles to cope with supporting the Valheim community. However, Iron Gate’s overall strategy is to remain small and nimble.

As an indie game, Valheim joins the ranks of Fall Guys, Hades, Dead Cells, Cuphead, Among Us and more titles which have become pillars in the gaming community despite lack of AAA funding.

“It’s never been easier to make a game, and it’s never been harder to make a game,” says Badylak. “The democratization of game development just allows anyone to get into learning game development and trying their own ideas out. So in that respect it opens up a world of people to explore new game ideas that AAA can also do, but are perhaps more inclined to stay with their well-trodden paths.”

Valheim is available now for $19.99 on Steam.

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Photo courtesy of Coffee Stain