We talk to Paradox Interactive producer Joe Fricano about the upcoming Dungeonland. What’s its best feature? An evil laugh button…
Dungeonland is a bit of a niche title. Are Paradox taking a risk with it in the current marketplace?
Well, when they started up, the guys at Critical [Dungeonland developer] weren’t really sure they wanted to use a publisher at all. So there was this debate about whether they should go with a publisher or go at it themselves, with maybe Kickstarter or something, but in the end they seemed to like the Paradox sensibilities.
I mean, most of the games that Paradox does are niche titles. Even a title like the recently released War of the Roses, which is a little bit more mainstream, being a multiplayer action game, still has niche qualities in that it’s pretty detailed and hardcore compared to a lot of other stuff. I think that Paradox has more of a relaxed attitude towards developers and sort of lets developers get on with it as long as things don’t go crazy – that’s one thing that seemed to attract them, so that’s why it was signed, and the tech demo that they had for Dungeonland was absolutely brilliant.
They’re a small team, but they’re extremely talented – just about everything they produce has an incredible amount of polish to it, even in the pre-alpha stage when we were seeing this stuff. So is it a risk? I don’t know. When I talk about Dungeonland, I describe it as an old school arcade game. It’s basically an upgraded Gauntlet type of game with a few very special elements added, like the whole dungeon master mode, which, as far as I know, no other game has a feature that works that way, because it was directly influenced by board games like The Descent and Mansions of Madness.
In what we’ve seen so far, there have been a lot of references to games like Dungeon Master, so is the game aimed at people who play that style of game, or more the hack-and-slash crowd?
I’d say it’s probably more aimed at the hack-and-slash crowd because there is no real roleplaying in it. I mean, you have 3 characters and you can upgrade them and stuff, but it’s not an RPG. There have been a few comparisons to games like Torchlight and Diablo, but Dungeonland has nothing really to do with the Torchlight kind of thing. It’s not an RPG, it’s a pure action game, with a few strategic elements if you play the dungeon master mode.
So will people who are fans of things like Torchlight and Dungeon Master still be able to come into the game and enjoy it?
Oh absolutely. We’re being forthright in that it is not an easy game. One of the goals with Dungeonland is to harken back to the sort of old school arcade feeling, where there was some merit to actually beating the game, where there wasn’t a lot of hand holding through it like there is in a lot of modern games today, where you can’t die or you can always respawn. So everybody who plays the game and actually gets through the game will feel a sense of accomplishment.
The game is designed to be played both with a keyboard or a gamepad and it’s perfectly playable on a keyboard but they based all the systems on holding a gamepad, so it only uses what fits on the keypad. It’s no more complicated than any console action game. There aren’t a thousand different commands to remember, so it’s pretty straightforward.
So you’re not going to have to remember Street Fighter style inputs to pull off combos…
Well there are a few different, simpler things like that, but it’s not super hardcore. Well, the control scheme isn’t super hardcore, but one of the team’s main goals with the game is that it is very heavily based around synergy, almost in the way that games like World of Warcraft are. Not to do a roleplaying comparison, but if you look at your raiding parties on World of Warcraft, where you have tanks and you have healers and so forth, Dungeonland kind of borrows that idea so that you really need the help of the other characters to get through the game. There’s a lot of cross-synergy going on between the different players as they make it through the levels.
So was the game designed to be a co-operative experience from the start?
Yes. I mean, it’s perfectly playable as a single player experience, but I would say that you are getting the best experience if you’re playing it with friends. One thing that I personally see this as is almost the ultimate party game: you get a few mates together, sit down, hook up the computer to the big screen TV and you sit and play the game with a few gamepads. And if you have a second computer nearby, you can bring a fourth member who gets to play the dungeon master and you can have a three versus one situation which is really cool.
What about players who do want to play it solo, are they still going to be able to enjoy the game?
Absolutely. There is a bot AI in place that will take control of the other characters so you can take control of any of the three characters, and the bot AI will help you through. Obviously it will not be as smart as a real player, so the difficulty has been adjusted a little bit to accommodate that, and the experience won’t be as intricate as it will be if you have real human players, but it’s absolutely going to be playable.