GameBoomers interviews Steven Peeler

Founder and Lead Developer at Soldak Entertainment -- Developers of the Action/RPG Depths of Peril, the Hack ní Slash Kiviís Underworld and the up coming non-linear Action/RPG Dinís Curse.

Interview by Peter Koerner (AKA Trail_Mystic)


Q: How did you start in game development and what were your motivations in founding Soldak Entertainment?

A: I've been in game development one way or another for a long time now. I programmed games as a hobby in high school and college, and even had my own startup shortly after college for a time. I didn't really get into game development full time until I started working for Ritual Entertainment though. I worked at Ritual for a little over 6 years and was their technical director when I left.

I started Soldak for many reasons, but it really boils down to I wanted to do my own thing. For example, I really wanted to create an RPG. I was never going to be able to do that at Ritual and even if Ritual had made an RPG, I would probably not have been the lead designer. Starting Soldak allowed me to work on games I want to play. I also will no longer hear excuses like your company doesn't know how to make that type of game, there are already too many RPGs, we should make a clone of last years best seller, no one has done that before, no one likes Sci-Fi, and many other terrible reasons not to make a game.




Q: Would you consider Depths of Peril a traditional RPG and Kiviís Underworld more along the lines of the ďHack and SlashĒ?  Will Dinís Curse come closer to a traditional RPG?

A: Personally I wouldn't use the word traditional for Depths of Peril. It was an action RPG, but intertwined with warring, rival factions so there were also a lot of strategy elements. Kivi's Underworld was very different and much more of a laid back, casual type of hack and slash game. Between the two though, Din's Curse will be much more similar to Depths of Peril (depth wise not the factions part).


Q: Tell us about the development leveling and your hybrid class system used in Dinís Curse

A: The leveling itself is fairly typical with experience, levels, attribute points, and skill points. I'm pretty excited about the class system. We have six main classes in the game which each have three specialties (18 total specialties). However, the interesting twist is that we also allow hybrid classes. You can either choose a full class and get access to all three of its specialties or a hybrid class with ANY two specialties. This comes out to a whopping 141 class combinations you can choose from.

Picking a full class or a hybrid is a matter of choosing which weapons and armor you want to be able to use, which skills you want access to, which attribute/stat bonuses you want, and the type of mana regeneration that fits your play style the best.

You can read more about our hybrid class system on my blog at:   Steven's Blog.




Q: How do foes and boss characters level in comparison with your character and can we expect some particularly interesting challenges?

A: Monsters will of course get progressively tougher as you progress through the game. They don't auto scale with the player though which is what this question reminds me of.

Oh, there will be plenty of challenges. To me, the interesting part is that each game's challenges will be different. In one game, the undead might get out of control and infect the entire town. In another game, after preparing for a tough boss fight, the boss might get overthrown by a different, harder boss. In another game, you might run into an entire group of unique monsters at the same time.


Q: What style (turn-based or real-time) of battle between player and foe is used in Dinís Curse?

A: Like Depths of Peril and Kivi's Underworld, Din's Curse is a real-time action RPG. However, for an action game there are a lot of things going on in the background. In Din's Curse you are adventuring in a very dynamic world, so don't expect mindless clicking like some games.

One of these days I do hope to do a turn-based game though.




Q: In reading the summary of Dinís Curse, it sounds like the gameís environments are randomly generated and your interaction impacts the game as you progress; Iíve always found that style of gaming fascinating.  Can you tell us something about the creative process that goes into building such a game world?

A: Yes, the environment is randomly created and randomly populated with items, monsters, quests, and objects that are appropriate for that particular area. You will never see the same setup multiple times.

Once setup though, your actions, NPCs' actions, and the monsters' actions are what progresses the game. If war is brewing and you are asked to stop it before it breaks out, your actions really will impact what happens. If you are successful, you will save the area from becoming a war zone. If you fail, the area will be ravaged by a war. Players need to remember that lack of action is also an action. If you don't stamp out an uprising in time, they will likely find something interesting to do, like raid the town.

From the creative side of things, this type of game is a bit different from creating a linear game. In a linear game, you have full placement control and you are explicitly setting up interactions, so you know what to expect. In a game like ours, just about anything can happen. I have to think about all of the pieces individually and collectively. Is this going to be fun and cool? How is this going to impact everything else? If these two objects are placed next to each other will they interact like the player expects? What happens if the player ignores this quest for too long? What happens when they succeed? What happens if they fail a quest? Can they fail this quest? In general, how does this quest lead to other quests?


Q: Will we be able to save game progress at any time or are check/save points involved? 

A: I understand why save point systems exist, but I can't stand them. All of our games use a save on exit scheme. You can save and quit whenever you want and you don't have to manage your save games. The game also saves in the background automatically so the player never has to worry about when the last time they saved was.



Kivi's Underworld


Q: How long has Dinís Curse been in development?

A: Officially we started developing Din's Curse in June of this year. However the multiplayer expansion pack for Kivi's Underworld was really an excuse to get multiplayer into Din's Curse. J That started in January. So it depends on how you want to count.


Q: How many developers are involved in the game creation process for Dinís Curse

A: Soldak is a very small indie developer. I'm the only full time developer, but we also have contractors for the writing, sound, and several for art. All together, there are currently nine people on the team.


Q: What is your favorite game genre?

A: I don't know about a single genre, but my favorite two these days are the RPG and strategy genres. I tend to like longer games with actual depth.



Kivi's Underworld


Q: Have there been any particular games, computer or otherwise, that have influenced or inspired you?

A: I'm sure there a ton of games that have influenced me over the years. Some of the big names I can think of off the top of my head are the Diablo series, Civilization series, Master of Orion, D&D, World of Warcraft, and the Gold Box games.

Notice only one of those is some what recent. For inspiration, I turn more towards indie games these days because they are much more likely to do something new or something old that has been lost, games like Eschalon, Braid, Mount & Blade, and Gratuitous Space Battles.


Q: Is the release date for Dinís Curse still on track for later this year?

A: So far yes. I'm shooting for December some time, although that's not the best of time of year to ship a game.


Thank you for the interesting and informative interview Steven.  Iím sure the character development and non-linear game play of the upcoming Dinís Curse will wet the appetite of many gamers.  I for one am definitely looking forward to its release.

Games from Soldak Entertainment:

Depths of Peril is a unique action RPG with warring factions and a dynamic world. Barbarians choose their leaders by fighting to the death! More info at:   Depths of Peril  Overview.

Kivi's Underworld is a casual hack and slash game with 20+ classes. Can you save the lumen people? More info at:   Kivi's Underworld  Overview.

Din's Curse is our upcoming single player and co-op multiplayer action RPG with 141 class combinations, infinite number of dynamically generated towns, real consequences, and a dynamic, evolving world. More info at:   Din's Curse Overview.

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