Delver’s Drop announced, developer interview

Delver's DropIt’s a good time for people into Zelda-alikes. Pixelscopic has announced Delver’s Drop, a procedurally generated dungeon crawler that draws some heavy inspiration from the temples of 2D Zelda fame. They describe the game like so:

Delver’s Drop is a 2D Action RPG with fluid physics-based movement, snappy combat, shifting dungeons, and a rogue’s gallery of character classes that can be individually leveled. With an emphasis on mystery and dynamic gameplay experiences, the game features randomization for infinite replay, enigmatic puzzle permutations to unravel, multiple narrative paths, customizable character growth, and layers of secrets to unearth.

It sounds to me quite a lot like The Binding of Isaac with more of a traditional 2D Zelda focus (to wit: melee combat and puzzles), plus physics, leveling, and a choice of three character classes. The planned feature list reads as follows:

  • Immense & Unpredictable Dungeon Dive — Multiple zones of castle dungeons with sub-levels to explore. Levels will be combined from masterfully designed hand-crafted rooms and components, with randomized content and floor layouts.
  • Physics-based Hack & Slash Combat — Since all characters and enemies move and collide on a physics-based system, any interplay of attacks, traps, and magic resolve based on responsive, snazzy, and sometimes chaotic physics effects.
  • Multiple Characters & Play Styles — Play the game with one or all of the 5 character classes (some to be decided by backers!). Classes have unique speed and movement properties, weapon, special ability, and perk tree, giving each a different play style.
  • Character Growth & Customization — Gain experience as you play each class, and keep this progress through the class’s perk tree even if your current character dies. Level up if you want more flexibility, but Delver’s Drop is totally grind-free.
  • Weapons & Sub-Items — The player can find and purchase interesting and upgraded weapons for each class, as well as a large suite of expendable sub-items that are randomly spawn during each session. But items slots are limited, requiring intelligent use!
  • Puzzles & Secrets — Like many action adventure games, Delver’s Drop will feature interesting puzzles, requiring clever manipulation of dungeon elements, using physics to advantage, and resourceful usage of secondary items.

Delver’s Drop is still fairly early in development, but there is already a preview trailer to give you a sense of how it plays:

After looking at the game’s website and Kickstarter page, I still had a few questions for the developers. As such, I emailed Pixelscopic and managed to pry a small mountain of details out of them. (Actually, I just asked a handful of questions and they politely handed over enormously detailed answers; but “prying it out of them” sounds much more impressive.) Hit the jump for the interview!

How are you handling leveling and stat progression? Will there be points to distribute at the player’s discretion? What about skill trees–is that what “perk tree” refers to?

As the player defeats enemies and performs other actions, they will gain XP. This will contribute to the class’s level, and this level is persistent for the class regardless of individual character deaths. This is what we’re calling “semi-permadeath” — the player will loose their currently carried items (and possibly some gold), the dungeon level they are currently in will re-randomize, and cause the player to lose some progress. However, you will keep any XP and levels earned.

Leveling in Delver’s Drop does not increase the character’s base stats (health, attack power, etc), since we want to keep the stats consistent in the vein of other classic Action RPGs. We’re trying to really emphasize player skill and mastery of the gameplay while avoiding any form of grinding, either for XP or loot.

When you level up, you will be able to upgrade or alter one of several perks for your chosen class on their skill tree. The trees will usually have the following 3 branches for a given class: improvements to 1) innate perks or passive abilities, 2) the character’s standard weapon attack, and 3) the character’s special attack. While we are still developing these, tentative examples for the Rogue might be:

• 1) increase gold finds and improve rarity of random weapon drops
• 2) increase the reach of attacks by creating a short-range sonic wave when the sword is swung
• 3) improve the Rogue’s stealth spells to decrease enemy detection and increase attack power when the spell is active.

As you progress down the tree, you would be able to either directly level up the power of these abilities, or alter them with additional effects like elemental properties, etc

Can you say more about how you’re handling collectable items and equipment?

The player can equip several types items:

• Primary weapon for their class type — will be reflected on the animated in-game character
• Up to 5 sub-items (bombs, expendable wands, potions, etc)
• Shield modifiers and/or wearables, which may also affect the character’s movement or physics
• Accessory or relic – typically improves the class’s perks / skill tree

Items will be randomly discovered in treasure chests and other random drops. Some will be specifically designed rare items, while others will have some randomized properties for variety. We won’t have fully randomized generation to the degree of Diablo or Torchlight. But we will offer a large variety through stat variance, such as attack speed, recoil speed, range, elemental effects, knock back, and so on.

Many of the other items you find in the dungeon will be expendable with limited uses. This will keep the player on their toes, conserving their “ammunition,” and constantly altering their strategy based on what they have available.  Some items will also affect the player instantly, like a power-up. This will keep the pace fast and give a lot of unpredictable variety, while also keeping your equipment streamlined. We want it to feel like a true dungeon dive — if you were in an ancient labyrinth, you wouldn’t always find the exact tool you need, so we want the player to be inventive with what they do find. We’re also building in a large degree of mystery, with items influenced by the original Zelda experience and Roguelike mechanics — meaning you won’t always know exactly what an item does until you use it for the first time, and some items may have unintended side effects or passive properties when in your inventory

How are you handling the random dungeon generation? The Kickstarter mentions hand-designed rooms and randomized floor layouts. Is this like The Binding of Isaac, where it’s a randomized arrangement of designed rooms? Or are you going to be procedurally generating any of the rooms themselves?

We will be creating a large number of hand-crafted rooms ranging from horde-combat arenas to mind-melting puzzle areas. These rooms will contain internal random generation, including placement of crates and such (and their contents) to the number and type of enemies, as well as placement of other obstacles. But the primary randomization will occur when a dungeon level is generated, by combining a set of these rooms from our existing pool of designs, and using algorithms to structure them into a dungeon with meta-puzzles and interesting navigation. In other words, keys will be generated in some rooms that unlock doors in other rooms elsewhere in the dungeon. The layout of the floor, the rooms in the floor, and how you find your way through the floor will be different every time.

We are also adding overarching dungeon navigation puzzles to the mix by allowing the player to manipulate the structure of some dungeon levels. Our story goes that the dungeon system you’re exploring moves and changes based on mechanics within the mountain it is built into. Since these rooms move and the floor is randomized after a character dies, it makes sense that occasionally the player would be able to find a switch or other mechanic to alter the layout while within the dungeon. We will introduce different mechanics at different levels, so that dungeon navigation itself becomes a progressively puzzling endeavor.

What happens if the Kickstarter campaign doesn’t reach its goal? Will you continue developing the game?

We try not to think about it :) But in that hopefully unlikely event… We will continue working on the game as we have: in between the heap of contract jobs. Sometimes any one of us might have a full time week to work on the game, sometimes none of us have a chance to work on it for two weeks. We’ll still see the game through, but it will just be more painful than it would otherwise, and in all probability we would probably have to push the release back by several several months… it would definitely slip to mid/late 2014. We really hope the community will continue to support our Kickstarter, so that we can release the game on schedule with all of the promised features!

Thanks for your time.

Delver’s Drop is currently planned for release sometime in 2013 on PC, Mac, iOS and Android. There is no anticipated price yet, though $15 is the “Pre-order Tier” on the game’s Kickstarter.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Comments »

 
 

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>