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Darkest Dungeon Interview

by Couchpotato, 2014-03-10

Darkest Dungeon is a new roguelike RPG from a new studio called Red Hook Studios. The goal of the project was $75,000, but the game has managed to get over $250,000.

Backers flocked to the kickstarter, and it was funded within twenty four hours. If your wondering why it's because the developers are promising something new.

Don't believe me here is a brief description.

Darkest Dungeon is a challenging gothic roguelike RPG about the psychological stresses of adventuring. Descend at your peril!

Uncompromising, unforgiving, and unconventional, we present a fresh take on the dungeon crawler that elevates the importance of sound tactics and a character's mental state over their gear.

You will recruit, train, and lead a team of flawed heroes through twisted forests, forgotten warrens, ruined crypts and beyond. You'll battle not only unimaginable foes, but stress, famine, disease, and the ever-encroaching dark. Uncover strange mysteries, and pit the heroes against an array of fearsome monsters with an innovative strategic turn-based combat system.

So to get more information on the game I asked for an interview, and they agreed. I had the chance to ask a few questions from our community, and a few I asked myself.

RPGWatch: Thank you for agreeing to the interview. Can you give a short description on your game company, and your game Darkest Dungeon?

Red Hook Studios: Thanks for the chance to talk about our project!  Darkest Dungeon is an unconventional gothic roguelike that puts a heavy emphasis on the stress levels and emotional state of its heroes. 

RPGWatch: Were did the idea or inspiration for the game come from?

Red Hook Studios: We wanted to take the beloved dungeon crawling genre and look at it from a different perspective.  We thought it'd be a fun exercise to deliberately avoid the most fundamental assumption that many of these kinds of games make.  Namely, that your hero is a mindless avatar who is completely fine with a lifetime spent crawling around in the dark, fending off murderous hordes of awful creatures.  We want to create a game about flawed, human heroes – not immutable killing machines.


RPGWatch: Can you name your top 3 CRPGs?

Red Hook Studios: Eye of the Beholder 2, Ultima V, & Darklands number among our favs, but it's really hard to boil it down to just 3!

RPGWatch: So why did you decide to use Kickstarter for your game?

Red Hook Studios: It's a fantastic way to not only secure funding for a project, but also to market test a concept, and build a community.  We've really enjoyed participating in the ongoing dialogue with our backers via the comments section.


RPGWatch: What's your opinion on crowd-funding, and do you think it's a viable alternative to publishers?

Red Hook Studios: Crowd funding certainly opens up possibilities for small teams making interesting, sometimes risky games.  But that said, I don't think they have to be mutually exclusive.  Demonstrating that your project has great appeal and a supportive fan base might, in some cases, lead to a publishing arrangement.  I think both paradigms can coexist, but I'm thrilled that crowd funding has established itself as a legitimate platform.  More options for small teams is always better.


RPGWatch: Your game was funded in almost twenty four hours were you surprised by the amount of pledges, and support from the community?

Red Hook Studios: I was surprised, no question.  We had tried to build some momentum beforehand, and let our mailing list know prior to launching the campaign.  Our hope was that we'd get a strong day 1 showing, and take some of the stress out of the rest of the campaign.  To be funded and blast through the first couple stretch goals in the first 48 hrs was mind-blowing.  I don't think I looked away from my monitor for the first 15 hours.


RPGWatch: Was the original funding goal of $75,000 enough to fund the game?

Red Hook Studios: It was enough to create the simplest incarnation of the game that still delivered on our gameplay promises, yes.  All of us on the team have gone without pay for 9 months now, and that investment, coupled with 75k from kickstarter would have been enough to get us to the finish line, albeit with a much smaller scope than we would have liked.


RPGWatch: How did you guys decide on what stretch goals to offer, and how did you calculate the cost of each one?

Red Hook Studios: We took the game we wanted to make, and stripped out all the noncritical features, making them stretch goals.  This ensured that even getting our basic ask of 75k would mean we could bring a product to market.  Costs are tricky to calculate, but we made sure that we weren't committing to a feature that would cost more than the stretch amount.  You don't want to finish a Kickstarter campaign, only to realize you can't afford to do what you promised!


RPGWatch: I always like to get an inside look at Kickstarters form the developers point of view. Can you share anything you have learned so far?

Red Hook Studios: I think the main take-aways from our campaign are to build an audience early, demonstrate your commitment to the project by virtue of having something concrete to show, and think very carefully about your reward tiers.  The last thing you want is for your Kickstarter campaign to be your announcement party – showing up cold on the internet and asking for pledges is a harrowing prospect.


RPGWatch: Roguelikes often have permadeath, and generated dungeons will your game follow the same pattern?

Red Hook Studios: Yep – we've got both those things.  Death is something players will have to get used to. You'll manage a roster of heroes, like X-Com, so when one or two pass away, you'll want to sub in some qualified replacements.  As far as dungeons go, not knowing whats around the corner is integral to our experience, so we'll be making use of procedural content, peppered with some set-piece encounters.


RPGWatch: What do you think is the best the best, or most unique feature of your game?

Red Hook Studios: Two things, actually – I think our Affliction system really helps us stand out in the dungeon crawling genre, and I think our side-view rank based combat is really fresh and strategic.


RPGWatch: I'm sure you answered this question before, but could you talk a little bit more about the camping system?

Red Hook Studios: Camping essentially represents a respite from the trials of dungeoneering, and provides players an opportunity to mitigate some of the corporeal and psychological damage done to their party.  In the dungeon, camping can occur in most rooms (once any threats have been dealt with).  Heroes have specific camping skills which can only be used in this phase of the adventure – things like 'bandage' and 'encourage' are available to all hero classes, while more tactical and powerful skills are restricted on a class by class basis.  The Plague Doctor, for example may have 'Leeches', a risky all-or-nothing heal.  For his part, the Highwayman can steel his own resolve by polishing his flintlock, but while it benefits him, there is no gain to the party as a whole.  Players are limited by 'rest points', and will have to carefully consider which camping skills to use.


RPGWatch: Can you go into more detail on the affliction system, and how it will affect gameplay?

Red Hook Studios: When a hero reaches the top of his or her stress tolerance, they do an affliction check, and can either shake off the stress, activating their personality-based heroic moment, or they can fall victim to it, becoming ‘afflicted’.  Afflictions are broken up into families – depression, abusiveness, selfishness, etc – things that people tend to do when they are extremely stressed.  An afflicted hero may not always do what you tell them to, or may act out in unpredictable and undesirable ways!  Eating more than their share of food, striking a fellow adventurer, wandering off in the night, or just constantly complaining.  Their actions in turn have an effect on the other heroes, completing the gameplay loop.


RPGWatch: Party members will have there own personalities, and opinions. How will they interact with each other, and how will they conflict?

Red Hook Studios: Each hero in Darkest Dungeon is a distinct entity with his or her own set of quirks, strengths and predisposition towards a particular affliction.  Additionally, each hero has their own stress meter, which responds dynamically to virtually everything in the dungeon.  As heroes become more stressed, and ultimately afflicted, they begin to act out in a variety of ways outside of player control.  We are aiming to create chains of interaction stemming from the circumstances that the heroes find themselves in.  For instance, opening an iron maiden may send the Vestal off the deep end, causing her to become Abusive.  She in turn, might lash out another party member, causing stress and damage.  Conversely during camping, players can look forward to heroes discussing how they are doing, and what their concerns are - “uh...is that all the food we brought?”.


RPGWatch: How will the town work in the game? What can you accomplish in it,and how does it fit into the games story?

Red Hook Studios: The town is integral to both the story and the gameplay loop.  It provides a base of operations from which the player must recruit, train, upgrade and manage her roster of heroes.  Stress is crucial and persistent mechanic in our game, so heroes returning from the dungeon might need time in the tavern, the church, or the sanitarium to recover from their experiences.  We've gone to great lengths to make the town gameplay a legitimate and engaging part of the experience – no selling off your gray loot and warping back to the dungeon!


RPGWatch: Can you give some details about your progression system. How much freedom players have to customize their characters, in terms of attributes, perks and equipment?

Red Hook Studios: Players can rename their characters, upgrade their weapons and armor, as well as find and equip different (stat altering) trinkets.  Hero's combat and camping skills are also upgradeable, allowing players to experiment with different skill loadouts.  Perhaps most importantly, however, real character customization in Darkest Dungeon is a function of the heroes' experiences in the dungeon.  Quirks, heroic traits, and afflictions all manifest based on experience, and result from your decisions as a player.


RPGWatch: Will fights always be of 1-4 enemies, with a formation of 2 in the front row and 2 on the back, or we might see some surprises?

Red Hook Studios: We haven't shown everything just yet :)  Players can look forward to large, 2-spot minibosses, huge 4-spot bosses, and massive variety of encounter types.  I don't want to say much more just yet, but I'm personally very excited about where our combat is going!


RPGWatch: Do you have any plans for DLCs, or expansions after the game gets released?

Red Hook Studios: Currently we're focused entirely on the 1.0 release.  Obviously, if the game does reasonably well upon release, we'd love to support it with additional dungeons, hero classes, new skills and (of course) enemies and affliction types.  Right now, however, our eye is focused exclusively on making a great core game.


RPGWatch: What's the intended play length? A short campaign that's easy to fail, like FTL, or a long descent into madness that few players will ever see the end, like more traditional roguelikes?

Red Hook Studios: You maintain a roster of heroes in pursuit of a larger meta-goal, so it's closer to X-Com than say a pure roguelike or something like FTL.  We haven't really spec'd the total time it will take to complete the campaign, but given it's procedural nature, and inherent re-playability/new game+, it's a game you can sink as much time as you have into!


RPGWatch: Do you want to add anything before we finish the interview?

Red Hook Studios: We want to thank everyone who supported, pledged, tweeted, emailed and otherwise helped our campaign in any way.  We feel very lucky to have had such support from our burgeoning community.  If anyone reading this hasn't seen or heard of the game before, we'd love for you to check out our KS page.  And of course, thanks to you & RPGWatch for the interview!

So if you still haven't backed the game the Kickstarter will end on March 14th. I wil finish the interview with my new pledge "In Kickstarter I trust". I mean it to I'm not joking.

Box Art

Information about

Darkest Dungeon

Developer: Red Hook Studios

SP/MP: Single-player
Setting: Fantasy
Genre: RPG
Combat: Turn-based
Play-time: Unlimited
Voice-acting: Partially voiced

Regions & platforms
· Homepage
· Platform: PC
· Released at 2016-01-19
· Publisher: Red Hook Studios

More information

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