[PAX East 2013] Delvers Drop Interview

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The retro gaming revival is alive and well, bringing us a steady stream of nostalgic wonderment from our childhoods with all the unforgiving difficulty curves we know and love. One of its best representations I’ve seen is Delvers Drop. Imagine if Link was dosed with hallucinogenic mushrooms, plunged into a dark yet colorfully lit dungeon of countless levels filled with shifting walls and baddies clamoring to gnaw on his bones and you’ll start to get a sense of what the Delvers Drop experience is all about.

I got a chance to speak with Ryan Baker, Vision Director and Founder/CCO of Pixelscopic to discuss the inner workings of their 2D action RPG:

What are your biggest influences and how are you updating this old-school genre with Delvers Drop?

Ryan Baker: Zelda and Secret of Mana [are] probably the biggest ones. Were trying to update the experience, adding a lot of rogue-like elements to that formula so were going to have randomized dungeons, multiple character classes you can level up and we have a form of perma-death we’re calling semi perma-death.

Can you explain how that works?

Ryan Baker: The character you’re playing as can actually die and you’ll lose any items you were carrying. You can drop down to that last level you were at but the level itself is re-randomized because the dungeon you are traversing moves and shifts based on the mechanics of the mountain it’s built into. But then there’s an undead version of the last character you were playing as [waiting for you] that’s out to kill you, so the difficulty ratchets up a little bit each time you die even though you can jump back to a checkpoint.

Wouldn’t dropping back to the level you left off at without any gear make it extremely difficult to continue on?

RB: You’ll actually get to save any gold you had from your last play through or at least most of it, so you can stock up at the armory if you want to. We’re still looking to find a balance with this and it’s still being tweaked. But as long as you only have one skeleton to contend with if you get good enough at killing them and learn their patterns then you can actually get some of your items back by taking them down. It’s kind of like a corpse-friend in a way except the corpse is chasing you and attacking you.

So how big is the Pixelscopic team and where are you based out of?

RB: We’re located in Springfield Missouri [with] three people full time. We have a few other contractors that do some sound and animation, but yeah it’s just three of us.

And how long has Delvers Drop been in development for?

RB: It’s been kind of an on-again-off-again thing for us, because we had a lot of contract work that we were doing in 2012. So we actually had the idea basically at the very end of 2011 and just started doing some sketches and a really rough prototype and then it was our nights and weekends project while we were doing the big contracts we had. We were able to go full time last August for about a month so we showed this at PAX Prime but it was sort of a stealth announcement because nobody really knew about us. Since then we’ve been working intermittently to get to the point that we could run a Kickstarter campaign and that succeeded about a week and a half ago.

Congratulations on that, how much did the campaign bring in?

RB: I believe we got $150,745.

So you’re studio is funded to go full time on this project now?

RB: Yeah were back to full time we just have to close out a couple of contracts that lingered a little bit. But basically the next couple of weeks were back to full time work until our game is released in October.

Will there be any multiplayer components?

RB: Through some of the stretch goals on Kickstarter we were able to add multiplayer, its all local but in the main campaign were going to have a drop-in drop-out co-op version where your second player can basically appear as kind of a phantom or familiar that can help out the main character. [We thought] one of our Kickstarter backers had a pretty apt analogy of the concept which is in sonic 2 the way Tails plays, it’s very much like that. We’re also going to have a four player cooperative horde mode where you fight waves of enemies and a competitive death match mode for up to 4 players.

What platforms will Delvers Drop be launching on?

PC, Mac and Linux and a little later early 2014 were going to release on iOS, android and Ouya.

 

Considering its been mostly an on-the-side project for the studio thus far, Pixelscopic has done some impressive work with their limited time and resources; Delvers Drop is looking mighty fine and polished in its current state at PAX East. With the team now free to focus their full efforts on the game, we can expect to see some great things added to it between now and its slated Fall release. If you’d like to support these guys with their craft or just get in on some backer-bonus goodies, head on over to the rewards section of their site here.

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