Welcome to the first in what we hope will be many "Rolling Independent" interviews that we publish here on GameBanshee. The purpose of the series is to focus our attention on the people who are responsible for the burgeoning indie RPG market - an area of game development that holds a considerable amount of promise for those of us who continue to seek out game mechanics and design tenets that mainstream-focused publishers and developers have strayed away from.
Kicking off the series right and proper are the talented guys at Almost Human Games, creators of the Dungeon Master- and Eye of the Beholder-inspired dungeon crawler Legend of Grimrock. It's an ambitious project that's looking fantastic even in beta, so we just had to learn more about the game and the team behind it:
GB: Tell us a bit about yourselves. Why did you choose to pursue game development, and what prior experience does your team have in the industry?
Petri: Hi, my name is Petri Häkkinen and together with Olli Pelz, Antti Tiihonen, Juho Salila we kickstarted Almost Human in the beginning of 2011. We all have been doing games for many years before this, together with Olli we made freeware games already about 20 years ago, but this is the first time we have been involved in starting up a company. Olli and Juho have been previously working on Futuremark's Shattered Horizon and 3DMark benchmarks and Antti and I have been doing Alan Wake and Max Payne 2 at Remedy. In total we have about 30 years of game development experience in the house.
For us game development is a passion and developing our own games is a dream come true. It's the sheer fun of everyday problem solving and putting our creative potential into good use that makes us happy and drives us forward.
GB: For those readers who are unfamiliar with it, what can you tell us about Legend of Grimrock? What inspired you to develop a dungeon crawler in the same vein as the classic Eye of the Beholder and Dungeon Master series?
Petri: Legend of Grimrock is a dungeon crawling game with an old school heart. It's a party based, realtime, tactical RPG full of mind teasing puzzles, exploration and adventuring. In the game the player controls four prisoners who are condemned to exile on top of Mount Grimrock, a desolate mountain prison far away from civilization. The prisoners are dumped there on top of the mountain to die. The only faint hope for them is to traverse a labyrinth of ancient tunnels dug inside the mountain by a long forgotten civilization. Presumably at the bottom of the mountain there is a secret way out back to the outside world and to freedom.
We feel that puzzles and also party-based gameplay to some extent are lacking in modern RPGs today, and this is one of the factors that led into development of Grimrock. But more importantly we are huge fans of the genre and can't bear that these types of awesome games are not made anymore. So clearly somebody had to step in and do something.
GB: When you set out to create Legend of Grimrock, what were your primary goals? Are you confident that you're going to achieve most or even all of them?
Petri: At the start of the project our primary goal was simply to make a game that would bring in enough money to keep us going. We are a very small, self-funded indie team and business realities can be really harsh when you're operating with a shoe string budget. We also wanted to make something different from what was available on the market and a game that we would enjoy creating. Initially the scope of the project was much smaller but since the reaction to the project was so positive and we got a lot of good feedback our confidence and ambitions grew. It was clear that there was a demand for this forgotten genre of games and we gladly accepted the duty of reviving the genre. Currently our primary goal is to make a game that appeals both to old-timers and to those who haven't played these sort of games before. In order to accomplish this we knew we had to offer undiluted old school gameplay combined with a nice presentation and a fluid gui which would appeal to the new generation. We are very happy how the game has shaped up to be and the comments from gameplay testers have been positive, so we are pretty confident at this stage.
GB: Did you consider any other genres before ultimately deciding on an RPG? What is it about the role-playing genre that compelled you to develop one yourselves?
Petri: We didn't really consider any other genres. We all have a passion for fantasy games and we have been talking about making a fantasy RPG since day one. In May 2011 I showed a very rough game prototype I had done earlier and I think on that spot we nailed what the game shall be: tile-based, party-based realtime dungeon crawler in the spirit of the old masterpieces by FTL and SSI.
For me RPGs and especially older games like Ultima, the gold box series, Dungeon Master and Eye of the Beholder have a soft spot in my heart. Thinking of these brings me childhood memories. I was also an avid D&D table top player for many years. I think the complexity and sheer number of options in these games and the use of imagination are the elements that captivate me the most.
GB: What is your definition of an RPG? What are the key elements that any respectable role-playing game should possess?
Petri: What separates RPGs from other type of games is the emphasis on characters and character development, and the separation of player skills and character skills. In encounters, be they action or story oriented, character skills are as important as player skills in determining the outcome. A good RPG also tells a story, but it does not have to be some predetermine epic storyline that the game designer has envisioned. If the game allows the player to use his own imagination to create his own stories about the characters and their deeds in the game world, the stories can be more fulfilling and richer to the player. A game with no predetermined story can tell a thousand stories.