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Dungeons of Dredmor Interview

by Skavenhorde, 2011-06-19

RPGWatch: Hello David, please introduce yourself and your role in the development of Dungeons of Dredmor.

David Baumgart: I'm David Baumgart the artist at Gaslamp Games. For Dungeons Dredmor I've done almost all of the art you see in the game aside from the sprites which were created by a couple capable freelancers a few years ago. I've also been handling much of the content creation and mechanics design & balancing. We all wear multiple hats at Gaslamp and that's the way I like it.

RPGWatch: Tell the readers a little bit about what Dungeons of Dredmor is all about.

David: Dredmor is a humorous roguelike RPG. The player is an unlikely hero who must fight their way through ten dungeon levels to defeat the evil lich Lord Dredmor. That's what the players get, anyway. What I got three years ago was a very immature build of a humorous roguelike game. Nicholas Vining, the coder at Gaslamp, had been working on it since 2006 or so if I recall correctly, as a project in partnership with Breadbrothers (an indie game outfit). I'd been working with the group that became Gaslamp Games for a couple months on a project which kinda imploded, so we figured we could put some shine on this weird little game Nicholas had kicking around, maybe spend a month or two, then ship it and get some cash for a bigger project.

Yeah, that was three years ago.

RPGWatch: What platforms will people be able to play Dungeons of Dredmor on?

David: Windows, MacOS, and Linux - in that order, probably, though we want to quickly get to a point of supporting all platforms. Linux especially needs some love from game developers.

RPGWatch: What are the players options when creating a character?

David: You choose seven skills from a pool of 34. These skills range from weapon focuses to magic schools to crafting. Each skill is associated with a primary RPG-class archetype (Warrior, Rogue, Wizard) which have implications about how the stats will work out. I like the elegance that comes from having the consequences of a few simple, important decisions cascade down to the lower-level game mechanics.

RPGWatch: The player doesn't have a choice on gender or race. Are there any future plans for making your character a different gender or race such as an elf?

David: I would love to have an option for playing as a female character though we need to make some money so we can hire an artist to pick up where the other freelancers left off.

As for choosing different races to play as, this somewhat conflicts with character creation as skill selection. Depending on what one means by race, this might also require a huge number of animated sprites to be redrawn -- it would take an immense amount of work for little payoff in terms of improving the game. There is however a vampirism "skill" which affects gameplay in some very important ways, and if there are any of what one could call "races" in the game they would probably take the form of a skill.

I think we'll be okay. If traditional roguelikes are based around the idea of making two or three core decisions -- of race and class and religion -- then we've got seven core decisions to make character creation interesting.

RPGWatch: How many different spell skills are available and could you describe a few of the more unique ones?

David: We have eight spell schools (which are selectable skills) with six spells each - so far. "Fleshshaping" has some pretty icky spells and I came up with it as a place to put healing and self-buffing spells that was not a generic holy magic school. "Mathemagic" has some weird utility spells and is themed a bit around meta-magic, particularly the spell "Zenzizenzizenzic" which rather fearsomely multiplies a spellcasters magic power, though it requires a lot of mana to upkeep; it makes me think a bit of blue cards from Magic: The Gathering. "Necronomiconomics" is fun to have people attempt to spell and we needed somewhere to dump all the awful black magic type spells we thought of; it revels in Lovecraftian elements, especially "Eldritch Inhabitation".

RPGWatch: The game offers quite a few different kinds of minions you can summon. What are a few of the more unusual ones?

David: I like to think that they're all unusual. Well, maybe the "Zomby" isn't that unusual. But aside from that friendly fellow, we've got mustasche golems, slime molds, and robots.

RPGWatch: Dungeons of Dredmor looks like it is heavily influenced by other roguelike games like Nethack. What are some of the similarities and differences between a traditional ASCII roguelike and Dredmor?

David: I must admit that I have not had extensive experience with traditional roguelikes aside from the obvious Diablo-likes. Dwarf Fortress was just about the only ASCII game I really got into (aside from ZZT when I was young).

But to cover some differences I've heard from hardcore roguelikers: We don't have hunger and starvation mechanics (instead, food and drink helps regenerate health and mana), we don't have an extensive religion/alignment system, and we have graphics. Doubtless there's a lot more to be said here and I'm sure we'll hear no end of it!

We do however fulfill almost all of the definitions of a roguelike as laid out in the Berlin Interpretation [ ] except for one: ASCII graphics. But breaking that rule is sort of the point of Dredmor.

Further, to speak for myself, my intention was never to reproduce traditional roguelike mechanics then simply add graphics on top; it was to make the best game I could within the terms of what was possible with the original build that Nicholas brought to Gaslamp three years ago.

RPGWatch: Speaking of roguelikes, is permadeath implemented in the game?

David: Yes, it's an option the player can select in the character creation process.

RPGWatch: How has the response been from the rougelike veterens who have been playing?

David: Those have haven't played very often express scepticism at first - they think that humorous graphics mean that Dredmor doesn't have seriously thought-out, deep game mechanics. Those have have actually played the beta seem to be quite taken with it as they find that there's some real crunch under the eyebrows. Dredmor can be very hard, especially at the high difficulty levels, though even on easy it's very easy to die if one is not cautious. Within the first five minutes of gameplay it seems that almost every new players dies from being attacked by a swarm of Diggles or drinking acid.

The important thing is that when the death message shows up they have a laugh and try again.

RPGWatch: Dungeons of Dredmor has a very quirky sense of humor reminiscent of the old Quest for Glory games. Both of these games had a fascination with food. Quest for Glory had pizza and Dredmor has cheese. So I have to ask, what is up with all the cheese and how many varieties are there?

David: There are ten cheeses at present. And to tell the truth, the cheese got added because I was drawing Dredmor items in Photoshop and my girlfriend started talking about cheese. I figured it'd be really easy to add cheese to Dredmor, so why not just do it? Then what's the pointof having one very specific type of cheese if you don't have a whole ton of very specific types of cheeses? I got her to name off a whole list and in they went.

And aside from cheese (which I don't eat anyway), I love cooking, food, and drink, so something silly like this was bound to end up in the game.

RPGWatch: What are some of the main stats and secondary stats that the character will have?

David: The six primary stats are Burliness, Nimbleness, Sagacity, Caddishness, Stubbornness, and Savvy. We used to have normal stat names but one day I was listening to a podcast on pen & paper RPG design and it brought up the point that you should focus the mechanics of your game on what the game is actually about. Is the game about hope? - make "hope" a stat. When you make a stat it becomes something the player will focus on and will be rewarded for focusing on.

Dredmor doesn't have anything as avant-garde as "hope" as a stat, but I figured we could make these names a little more interesting to signal to the player that they weren't dealing with a normal game here, and that these stat names might imply a bit of undermining of the usual upstanding heroic virtues.

Anyway, these primary stats trickle down to a ton of secondary stats that actually matter in game. Some are pretty obvious like "dodge", "melee power", and "alchemy level".

Less obvious is "enemy dodge reduction" which I ought to explain: Basically, a Real Hero never misses, right? What actually happens is that the enemy dodges an attack which was aimed true (of course). So instead of increasing your ability to not-miss, you're really reducing the enemy's ability to dodge your attacks. It makes sense!

RPGWatch: The game offers sixteen different damage types as well as resistances. Could you describe a few and what some of the secondary effects that they can do?

David: The mundane types are slashing, crushing, and blast damage which can be blocked by armour. Pretty straightforward - crushing and blast often have a stun or knockback associated with them, slashing sometimes has bleed effects, though that's more common with abilities that deal large amounts of piercing damage (which is not blocked by armour). Other damage types are transmutative, which is dealt by spellcasters or getting turned into gold; hyperborean, which is a pretentious way of saying "cold"; and existential damage which ... is difficult to explain properly.

RPGWatch: Could you explain crafting in the game as well as some of the different kinds of items the player can make?

David: We have three primary crafting skills: smithing, alchemy, and tinkerer. Each is mostly themed for supporting a class archetype (Warrior, Wizard, Rogue). So for example the smith can smelt ore to craft armour and weapons. The alchemist can distill booze into hard alcohol which is useful for regaining mana, and from hard alcohol into aqua vitae which is used as a base for most magic potions. The tinkerer can disarm and reset traps or make their own as well as product crossbows and bolts or a few other random items like the "clockwork power limb" which enhances melee power.

RPGWatch: There are a few deities in the game as well. Who are they and how will the player be able to interact with them?

David: Right now we've got three gods that exist largely to give the player magic items. Inconsequentia is the goddess of pointless sidequests; if you pray at her statue she will give you a pointless, random quest that will send you across the dungeon looking for items and slaying monsters then finding other items and bringing them to other places and then slaying other monsters for a reward. The Lutefisk God is, as one would expect, the god of all things lutefisk. You sacrifice lutefisk to the Lutefisk God and are rewarded with fishy artifacts. Krong is the god of anvils - if you place your equipment on one of Krong's anvils, he may bless or curse it depending on his whim. Krong is a fickle god.

RPGWatch: What are some of the basic and magical equipment that will be in the game?

David: Many items are pretty silly like the mace of lobster and pleather armour, but I'm also a bit of a nerd about historical arms and armour so there's almost a touch of mild realism to some of the equipment graphics.

Some low level equipment would involve things like the wooden sword, which is rather ineffective, a fine linen shirt (as worn by Guybrush Threepwood), and a bucket you can wear on your head even though it reduces your sight radius. From there a player will find magic orbs which increase magic power and mana regeneration, shields that block attacks, fire bolts to shoot from their crossbow to set things on fire-- and acid bolts, and poison gas bolts, and bolts with squids or skulls on the end. Thrown weapons range from bolas to brimstone gas flasks to thermite bombs. We've got magical wands, magic rings, silly hats, and to give a taste of the top-end stuff there's a Rift Axe which is said to hew through reality itself.

There are over 500 unique item graphics in Dredmor. I think players will have a lot of fun discovering what's out there.

RPGWatch: One of my favorite aspects of the game is the interface. Explain a little about how the interface for the game works.

David: To start, we actually have a user interface. This is a big step for a roguelike-inspired game.

Much of the interface was inspired by Diablo with touches of Ultima and other such CRPGs. There's a character info panel with slots which you drag and drop items on to equip them, there's an inventory bag with slots you can fill up, and along the bottom of the screen during play we have quick-access bars for items on the left and spells/skills on the right.

RPGWatch: Are there any plans for future expansions packs?

David: We plan to release regular free content -- items, spells, skills, rooms, etc -- much like the model used by Team Fortress 2. Don't expect a microtransaction store though.

If we do a paid expansion pack, it will be one that substantially changes the game. We're not sure what exactly this would be yet.

RPGWatch: Will the game be moddable?

David: Very much so.

Nicholas wrote recently about how he plans to use a mod directory system which allows modders to reproduce the file structure of Dredmor to insert or substitute their own assets and data, pack that up in a zip, and simply drop it in the correct folder. A player would choose which mods to load in Dredmor through the game startup interface.

RPGWatch: You already answered this question over at Gaslamp Games' blog, but I have to ask this for the readers who may not have seen that blog entry, what is up with the eyebrows and do they have names?

David: There are two parts to this answer.

The first part is technical: I drew the title screen art by up-sizing the original sprite drawn by Bryan Rathman. The sprite style was influenced by old-school games like Monkey Island and Quest for Glory; an expressive character drawn at a small pixel-art size requires that their features be exaggerated so after up-sizing the original sprite, the little guy had rather large eyebrows, and that's where it all began.

The second part is that we thought the large eyebrows were funny -- what if I drew them bigger? Even funnier! This went on. And it made a lot more sense when we were stuck in a basement in Victoria drinking way too much coffee.

Though I was no fan of eyebrows before, I've been won over. Besides, both wizards and Russian politicians have large eyebrows and they're known for being powerful so there must be something to it.

RPGWatch: How much will Dungeons of Dredmor be?

David: It'll cost US$4.99. Reactions have generally been enthusiastic, though some people have said this feels cheap -- we say, if the price feels too low and you want to support Gaslamp Games buy a copy of Dredmor for a friend.

RPGWatch: Do you have a release date?

David: Not publicly, not set in stone. Internally we've been shooting to be ship-ready before Duke Nukem Forever is released, as a matter of principle. When the details are worked out we'll make an announcement, but I'll just say that it's very soon.

RPGWatch: Thanks a lot for sharing all this information with us. Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers in regards to Dungeons of Dredmor?

David: You're quite welcome.

I hope we can provide some laughs and some challenges to gamers. It feels really good to finally ship this game and to have such a surprisingly enthusiastic reaction from fans. I'm looking forward to shipping this thing!

Our thanks to David for answering our questions and we wish them luck with the game.

Box Art

Information about

Dungeons of Dredmor

Developer: Gaslamp Games

SP/MP: Single-player
Setting: Fantasy
Genre: Roguelike
Combat: Turn-based
Play-time: Unlimited
Voice-acting: None

Regions & platforms
· Homepage
· Platform: PC
· Released at 2011-07-13
· Publisher: Gaslamp Games

More information