Dungeons Interview

Article

posted 11/8/2010 by Charles Husemann
other articles by Charles Husemann
PC Gamers might remember an old Bullfrog game called Dungeon Keeper.  In the game you lured heroes to their death by setting up elaborate traps and placing monsters around a dungeon.  Well the folks at Realmforge Studios have taken some of those core ideas and gone a different way with them.  Intrigued we were able to get a few questions about the game answered by the folks working on the game..


Could you please introduce yourself and talk about your role on the project?
Hi, my name is Christian Wolfertstetter and I am Creative Director at Realmforge Studios and currently working on Dungeons.


So the Dungeon Lord is a guy in power who is taken down by his girlfriend. Is there a personal story in here somewhere or just a nice plot line? How did you come up with the idea for the game?
Actually it's just a nice classic plot line – and hopefully letting the player know right away that Dungeons isn't too serious. It's not based on me or anyone else I know.

The main idea of the game was to give an explanation as to why typical RPG-dungeons look the way they do in fantasy games. Why do they always feature treasure and new items, and why are the monsters hard but still beatable for the hero? The game-design of Dungeons is focused on answering these questions.



Dungeons seems a bit like the classic PC game Dungeon Keeper. Can you compare and contrast the two games a bit?
Both of the games place the player in the role of the Dungeon Lord, who is able to customize his own dungeon, and both games have a similar visual appeal, so naturally there are similarities at first glance.

But actually both games have a different focus. In DK you tried to keep your minions happy and build your dungeon according to their behaviors. Heroes were usually only a nuisance you had to get rid of. Dungeons, on the other hand, focuses on heroes, as they provide you with gold and soul energy – both of which you need to build a larger dungeon and thus become more powerful in that dungeon. The interesting twist is that you gain more soul energy from heroes the happier they are, thus you try to build your dungeon according to their specific needs and expectations (e.g. finding treasures, fighting monsters, disarming traps and so on)...
...and only throw them into prison, torture them or sacrifice them afterwards, because that's exactly how you harvest soul energy from happy heroes.


Punishing do-gooders is always fun. Can you talk about the different types of heroes that we’ll be inflicting pain on in the game? What kinds of traps and monsters will we have at our disposal?
A dungeon consists of different levels with more powerful creatures the deeper you get into the dungeon. So it's natural that in the beginning you only deal with weak heroes (newbies) like novices and adventurers. Later there are the typical classes like fighter, mage and thief. In the deepest dungeon levels, even more powerful heroes like paladins and necromancers enter your dungeon.

Just as the heroes become more powerful, so do the monsters. At the beginning there are only skeletons and vampire bats at your disposal, while later in the game you can employ fire creatures and demons against the heroes.

Is it harder to create a game with a “bad guy” as the lead playable character than it is with a traditional hero? On a scale of 1-10, how evil is the Dungeon Lord? Could you talk about how the character changed during the development process?
It's definitely harder to make an “evil” game. It's challenging to develop an evil main character in such a way that players want to play him. It's also more difficult because you walk a thin line with some evil aspects. However it becomes a lot easier if you pursue a more humorous approach...

Since the Dungeon Lord is theoretically the root of all evil in his dungeon, I would give him a 10, of course! He went through a long development process during which he changed dramatically. At first he looked like a brutal fighter in plate armor, next time he was a floating mage in robes. Finally we decided to make him something in-between warrior and sorcerer resulting in the present character.


Could you talk about some of the different types of missions we’ll see in the game? Any chance you will be releasing tools so that players can create their own missions?
The missions have very different objectives. One time there's another Dungeon Lord to destroy, another time you will have to collect a special artifact, protect creatures traveling through your dungeon, kill heroes roaming through your dungeon, pervert heroes to join your side or just survive waves after waves of heroes.

We use an in-house level editor to create these missions and we're planning to make this tool public after the release of the game.


Once we’ve trapped some heroes, what do we do with them? Do we have to worry about them escaping or being rescued?
It's still not completely decided, but we're currently planning that a very powerful champion enters your dungeon from time to time and rescues his imprisoned buddies. While heroes are in the prison, they constantly lose soul energy which is added to your resources.


Is the Dungeon Lord able to take on heroes directly or is it always going to be through minions and traps?
Your Dungeon Lord has no problems taking on several heroes personally. Indeed, most of the time you'll want to interfere directly and lure special heroes into a fight. However you can take advantage of traps or overpower the heroes with monsters in order to deal with them. However you have to take care that heroes don't die too early in your dungeon, otherwise you won't harvest enough soul energy to keep up with the more experienced heroes entering your dungeon later in the mission.


Was there ever any thought about releasing the game on the consoles? Do you think we could see the game on the console in the near future?
No, the concept was always PC-only.


Will there be any kind of multiplayer or co-op gameplay in Dungeons? Could you talk about why you made that decision?
The code is completely client and server based, so it's possible to make it multiplayer. However there won't be multiplayer in the initial release. We made this (hard!) decision, because we feared that there's just not enough time to make both parts as great as we want them to be. So we've decided to focus on the single player campaign and the custom game until release.


Are there different types of dungeons in the game or are we looking at roughly the same thing for the entire game?
There is a total of three graphically completely different dungeon levels: the catacombs, the sunken temple and Hell.


Were there any design decisions you made early on that turned out much differently (for better or worse) than you expected? Could you talk about a few?
There were many of them! In the beginning, there wasn't a Dungeon Lord, just a hand (like in DK). Later we argued about having a Dungeon Lord, but with him never leaving his throne room, giving him the role of the dungeon heart. This didn't turn out very satisfying so he can now freely walk around the dungeon.

During the design process, we came up with the idea of pre-made rooms that the player couldn't change but only place them in his dungeon. This turned out terrible because it was so inflexible and every room looked the same. Luckily we dismissed this early.

Also, in the beginning we had no goblins (workers). We thought about your Dungeon Lord just magically digging out rooms. However this was static and boring, so we implemented goblins first for digging only. Today, they carry out a lot of jobs in your dungeon that previously the player had to carry out himself. Which is a good thing, as it turned out that these jobs meant too much management and not so much fun in the end.


Is there anything we missed that you think is important?
At least, I can't think of anything. :-)  Release is the first quarter of 2011!

We'd like to thank Christian for taking the time to answer our questions as well as Ted for coordinating the interview