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Wednesday, 30 March 2011

CaptainD Interviews Steven Peeler of Soldak Entertainment

I kept seeing my post about Din's Curse at or near the top of this blog's most popular posts every week, so I decided that I wanted to interview the person behind the game.  This turned out to be Steven Peeler of Soldak Entertainment, another indie game developer who was happy to be interviewed.

Well, I think he was happy about it...

1/ When was Soldak formed?

I essentially started Soldak shortly after leaving Ritual Entertainment in late 2004. I didn’t actually bother to official form the company until mid 2006 though.

2/ Din's Curse isn't the first RPG you've made, is it?

No, we have made two other RPGs called Depths of Peril and Kivi’s underworld.

Depths of Peril is a single player action RPG (role playing game) with strong strategy elements.  You play as a faction leader protecting the barbarian city, Jorvik, by destroying threatening monsters and completing quests. At the same time, you compete with rival factions to see who will rule the city. Barbarians choose their leaders by fighting to the death!

Kivi's Underworld is a casual, hack and slash game. Explore the mysterious underworld as a mighty Warrior battling opponents toe to toe, rain down fire on your enemies with the dangerous Fire Mage, sneak disguised with stealth to confound your foes as a Scout, unleash the fury of the Berserker, or adventure with any of the other numerous playable characters. You leave the safety of the underground cities to rebuild the lost city of Defiance to defeat a growing dark elf threat, before they destroy your homeland.

3/ What's the reaction been like to Din's Curse?  (The announcement about it being released is consistently one of the most viewed posts in  Din's Curse is a single player and co-op multiplayer action RPG for PC and Mac.)

I think the reaction to Din’s Curse has been pretty good. We have a few detractors that complain that the game doesn’t look as good as other RPGs that have 10 to 100 times more people working on the game. Other than that most people seem to really enjoy a game where the world constantly changes based on the player’s, monsters’, and npcs’ actions.

4/ What would you say is the most challenging part of making an RPG?

The most challenging part of making an RPG is that they are, internally at least, very complex games. Of course for Din’s Curse and Depths of Peril we had to go and add a dynamic world and lots of environmental interaction that makes them even more complex.

5/ And the easiest part?

I’m not sure there is anything that falls into the easy category for an RPG. J

6/ Is there anything that makes Din's Curse stand out as different among the many RPGs out there?

Oh, yeah, but I’ll focus on just three of the differences: dynamic world, environment interaction, and hybrid classes.

First off the world is completely dynamic. In most RPGs if there is an uprising of Orcs in an area, that’s all there is. The uprising will sit there and do nothing until you decide to go kill them and claim your reward. Personally I think that is just boring. In Din’s Curse though an uprising of Orcs is exactly what it sounds like. There are a bunch of Orcs that are organized and looking for ways to get into trouble. This can be something not directly a threat like declaring war on the Torvas, a major threat like launching an attack on the town you have been sent to protect, or many other possibilities. The longer you take to deal with them, the more likely they will cause more and more trouble.

In most RPGs the environment is just something that looks pretty. In Din’s Curse it tends to be dangerous. There are many traps that can harm you. There are weak parts of the cave like cracks, gas leaks, and areas held up by support beams. Be careful in these areas because cave-ins are possible and very deadly. There can even be pools of water, oil, alcohol, acid, and other liquids that impact you in different ways. Although most of these are dangerous to the player, they can also be used to your advantage. A Lich standing in the middle of a bunch of barrels can be easily dealt with by throwing some flaming oil into the barrels and starting a roaring fire.

And finally most RPGs have a low number of classes. In Din’s Curse you can play one of the 6 (7 with the expansion) full classes or you can play a hybrid class. The idea is that each class has 3 specialties. With a hybrid class you can choose any 2 specialties. You lose out on one specialty compared to a full class, but you can choose any combination you want, even strange combos like a Paladin/Necromancer. With hybrids there are 141 different combinations (196 with the expansion).

7/ Has your first expansion pack to Din's Curse (Demon War) made any difference to sales of the main game?

Yes, Demon War has boosted the sales of the base Din’s Curse quite a bit. We have many new gamers that come in and buy both of them at the same time.

8/ Any plans at present for further expansion packs / new games?

We are basically just in the initial planning phase of what we are going to do next, so no real news on this front quite yet.

9/  What advice could you give to aspiring indie game developers?

My advice to aspiring devs is to make what you love and talk about it as much as possible.

10/ What mistake(s) do you wish you hadn't made when it comes to being an indie game developer?

I think my biggest mistake has been and still is simply not talking about our games enough. For an indie word of mouth starts with the developers themselves, if they don’t talk about their products why should anyone else? For me the problem is that I’m naturally pretty quiet.

11/ About indie games - what do you think the future hold in store?  Any trends you expect to see panning out?

I think in general there will be more and more opportunities for indies in areas like mobile phones, consoles, and social platforms. I just hope we don’t lose too much control in the process.
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