Tomorrow (October 18) Iron Maiden’s time-travelling undead mascot Eddie will invade the Angry Birds universe for Halloween! For the next few weeks, players will be able to unlock the heavy metal icon as Angry Birds Evolution becomes a tribute to Iron Maiden. Starting as a Killers inspired version of the character, Eddie will evolve three more times until he becomes the all-powerful Book Of Souls entity! Pretty sweet, right?
This isn’t the first time heavy metal and video games have collided (Iron Maiden even have their own game), but one of the world’s biggest bands joining forces with one of the most famous fames in history is no small deal. Last Friday we were invited down a swanky hotel in central London to learn more about the game and chat to two of the people responsible for its creation – Miika Tams (VP at Rovio Games) and Llexi Leon (Interactive at Phantom Management/Iron Maiden). Both are lifelong metal fans and have a passion for all things Maiden.
But how did this collaboration come to be, and why should Maiden fans be excited? We had a chat to find out.
Why did you choose Iron Maiden to join the Angry Birds universe?
Miika: “Way back, we did surveys with our audience and we found out there are these 35+ guys who love heavy metal, and on the list of bands that they like Iron Maiden were really high. Obviously Eddie just works, when we’re playing around with this idea and the first sketches, it looked amazing.
Lexi: “There was some trepidation that we were going to get some cartoony, silly Eddie, but Rovio sent this thing through and it was 80% of what we see now. Straight away it embodies the character, obviously it’s a completely different take, obviously it’s fun and irreverent, but that’s Eddie. Rovio really are fans and they get where Eddie’s coming from and the attitude he has to have.
Miika: “We’re big big fans of Maiden and it’s something we’ve grown up with since we were little kids. What is the best icon for heavy metal? It’s Eddie! And Halloween is the perfect time to do it. This is one of the coolest things I’ve done in this industry. This is a story I’ll be telling for years.”
Llexi: “I couldn’t imagine Eddie working in some of those earlier iterations of Angry Birds, but the Evolution brand is the perfect place. It’s already much darker, much more satirical, it has that humour in it, and the visual aesthetic allows them to push the envelope and do something a bit scary and gnarly, but still fun.”
There are four versions of Eddie in the game. Why those four in particular?
Llexi: “There are 16 studio albums that everyone is familiar with, but really we were looking for touchstone Eddies. We’re at the end of the Book Of Souls cycle so it felt right that he would ultimately evolve into the latest Eddie in terms of the history. In terms of the aesthetic, I think the Killers one established what we now know Eddie to be. We wanted iconic Eddies in there so Powerslave and Somewhere In Time were mutually agreed. Everyone knows and loves those guys, there’s a natural flow across the band’s catalogue, and you go through that journey across the discography. As a big four, they’re nice eras to look at in the band’s history.
“The variation was important. Obviously the Book Of Souls Eddie is a mystic, shaman kind of guy and Killers is an axe-wielding murdering type guy. Somewhere In Time is a high-tech cyborg and Powerslave is an ancient Egyptian god. It’s a nice plethora of themes to work with and give them different abilities.”
How did you choose which Iron Maiden songs to include?
Miika: “I had a long discussion with our music team who are superfans, so we were thinking about the songs that were iconic but also a bit unexpected. We decided to go with Wrathchild, 2 Minutes To Midnight, Heaven Can Wait and Book Of Souls. I can’t stop giggling like a little kid when I’m playing the battle scenes and it plays Maiden songs, it’s absolutely amazing.”
Llexi: “The team at Rovio are real music fans and they want the tracks that they want because they think it’s going to work. It’s something a bit different to have Wrathchild and Heaven Can Wait, which aren’t the obvious headline tracks from those records. It’s getting more music out there. Iron Maiden aren’t historically a band that get major radio play, they don’t get major TV airtime, but Angry Birds is a cultural phenomenon – if anything it’s bigger than TV and radio. To get these tracks out there to a new audience is just fantastic.”
In the game, do you have to explain who Iron maiden are for non-metalheads?
Miika: “We wanted to do it so if you were a Maiden fan, you’d understand the references. For those people who don’t know Maiden – if there are any – then it’s a cool, crazy Halloween-looking character that we hope they’re excited about. We’re not going to do any explanation: when it starts you see the No Prayer For The Dying image and if you know, you know. Fans will find all the references but we are happy to introduce a new audience to Iron Maiden.”
Llexi: “It’s a discovery tool. It’s a way of exposing new and existing players to Eddie and Iron Maiden’s music. Players will notice that all the music has suddenly changed and if they listen to Heaven Can Wait and think it’s cool, it’s going to be clear through the messaging that this is a tribute to Iron Maiden. I think we have some straightforward stuff in the game, there’s a newsfeed where there’s a summary and a fun backstory about how Eddie has appeared in the island.”
What is the future for Rovio and Iron Maiden?
Llexi: “The Eddie The Bird character is going to migrate to Legacy Of The Beast! We’re bringing him over to our own game in the new year, but right now we’re focusing on Evolution because it’s the perfect time of year to do something big and bombastic and irreverent with Eddie at Halloween. In the end, there are a lot of Eddies, we have 60 in Legacy Of The Beast, and a roadmap of many more, so there could be more Eddie The Birds in the future. But let’s start with these four and see what people think.”
Angry Birds Evolution is released October 18.