Crawling Into Dungeons

While the title may be refreshingly to the point, Realmforge’s upcoming PC-exclusive Dungeons is anything but your average dungeon crawler.  The game casts the player as a jilted Dungeon Lord seeking revenge on an ex-girlfriend and the other Dungeon Lords that have done him wrong, and sucking the soul energy out of happy heroes is the only way to get back to the bottom of the evil pile. Of course, knights aren’t always easy to please, so Comics & Gaming Monthly spoke with Realmforge Creative Director Christian Wolfertstetter about the emotional demands of heroes and the other influences behind his team’s latest project. 

 

Comics & Gaming Monthly: Let’s start with the basics. What is Dungeons, and why should people be looking forward to it?

Christian Wolfertstetter: Dungeons is, simply put, an underground dungeon simulation. You take control of an evil dungeon lord and build your own dungeon. You have minions that dig rooms for you or the minions can fight enemies. As in any normal dungeon, there are of course invading good-doers in the form of heroes. They enter your dungeon in search of loot or a good fight or whatever else they want.

However, you don't just send your minions against them. You try to make heroes happy by fulfilling their needs. Happy heroes have more soul energy and when you kill them, their soul energy is yours. So before finishing off a hero, you try to make them happy while lurking in the dark for the right moment … then you strike!

People should look forward to Dungeons, because … well, ask yourself, when was the last time that you had the chance to be an evil mastermind? Aren't you bored of being the shiny hero? Isn't it time to change sides and show those lousy heroes what a REAL dungeon is?

CGM: How did you come up with the concept for Dungeons?

CW: Our first idea was to make a game that explains why dungeons look like they do in games. Why is there loot lying around for the hero? Why are the monsters just hard enough to make for a challenging fight, but not kill you quickly? Our game tries to answer all these questions. Dungeons look like they do because it's beneficial for the evil mastermind in the background that those heroes are happy.

CGM: Why is it so much fun to be the bad guy in video games?

CW: One aspect is that the good guy is always a bit overdone. How many princesses did we rescue, how many villains did we slay? Players have seen hundreds of dungeons. So it just seems like it’s more fun to change sides and be the one who built the dark caverns.

 

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Another reason might be that it feels almost like doing something (morally) taboo. Be the bad guy and try to imprison heroes? Definitely morally questionable. But we all know that forbidden things sometimes have an irresistible attraction …

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CGM: Will players relate to the struggles of the Dungeon Lord? Is the desire for revenge against an ex-girlfriend something that everyone can understand, or are evil crypt-keepers just not like the rest of us?

CW: I guess revenge is something EVERYONE can understand.

CGM: Does humor affect the way players remember a game? How important is comedy when you’re trying to craft a memorable experience?

CW: Players remember a game because of its uniqueness and memorable moments. Humor is one aspect that can create memorable moments.

I still remember Monkey Island's humor well, for example. I don't remember the puzzles very well, but I can still quote some lines out of the game or describe hilarious situations. Actually, there are many more games I remember more due to their comedic sequences or situations than by their gameplay.

CGM: You’ve basically taken the Diablo/Torchlight dungeon-crawling model and turned it on its head. What was it like to develop an idea that’s at the same time familiar and unexpected?

CW: It was a great experience. We thought about what we liked about Diablo and how we played it and tried to integrate this into Dungeons. Many things were clear how they should be, and we tried to work them into a challenging game.

Some things had to be changed in order to enhance the gameplay but it's still nice to see that the early vision is still clearly visible.

CGM: Did you face any unique gameplay challenges while constructing Dungeons?

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CW: It was kind of unique to have a resource that walks around and tries to kill you while you are trying to entertain the resource. It's actually a mixture of Tower Defense and Rollercoaster Tycoon, when you think about it.

CGM: Were there any other games that influenced your team during design?

CW: Diablo, Torchlight and many other Action-RPGs and, of course, the epic Dungeon Keeper. It has similarities to Dungeons, although in DK you try to entertain your minions while in Dungeons you entertain the heroes. It doesn't sound like much, but it actually has a big impact on gameplay.

CGM: Are there any lessons that you’ll be able to apply to future projects?

CW: I learned so much from Dungeons, I can't even think of where to begin!

CGM: How do you feel about the current state of PC gaming? Are consoles the future, or is there room for everybody?

CW: PC gaming is still strong (in Germany at least) and has its advantages. For some genres, mouse and keyboard are simply essential. It's also the platform of choice for any Indie / new game developer. So I think we can assume that PC gaming will never die.

 

Are consoles the future? I read an interview about that about 5 or 6 years ago. One side said that consoles will die, the other said that the PC will die. Guess what, we still have PC games AND consoles. So I think I am on the safe side to assume that it will be the same for the next couple of years