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Old 03-21-2012, 01:15 AM
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medierra medierra is offline
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I though I'd post this excerpt from a previous Rock, Paper, Shotgun interview because I think it helps convey my motivation, vision and aspirations for Grim Dawn.

RPS: The action RPG seems to be becoming more popular of late, which is great news. How will Grim Dawn stand out – what makes it unique?

Bruno: I think we’re probably unique just in the sense that, while most studios are redesigning their games to be more casual-player friendly, we’re busy making Grim Dawn more complex and probably casual-player hostile.

I think older, traditional PC games had a certain magic that has been lost in most modern games. Bethesda comes to mind as one of the few big companies left still making games with the kind of depth and magic that games had when I was a kid. I mean no disrespect in saying this, but their games are sort of complex, clunky, and often rife with imbalance and exploit. The very sort of imbalances and exploits that I delight in discovering and abusing but not the sort that are so bad they ruin the game. They are the sort of complex but loose systems that leave the player wondering how far they can push the limits of what is possible, and where there are no hard caps obviously and arbitrarily restricting what they can do. I sometimes wonder whether this sort of thing is intentional or not. I certainly add some deliberate measure of this in my games where I can get away with it.

I love systems that are asymmetrical and chaotic, where the player can’t easily see the tell-tale structure and patterns of deliberate, organized human design. The real world isn’t always perfectly planned or sensible and I don’t think game worlds should be either, otherwise you see the hand of the developers everywhere you look and it erodes the magic of feeling like you are in a living and unpredictable world. Exploration of game systems is all about the discovery of what is possible. When there is too clear a structure and pattern to the design, not only does it feel artificial but the player is much more quickly able to assess the limits of the system. Unfortunately, most of the industry is moving away from this sort of design.

There has been a growing realization in the industry, propelled in previous years by Wii sales and more recently by the astronomical success of social games like FarmVille and smartphone games like Angry Birds, that the vast scale of the casual market makes it a veritable goldmine. Publishers and developers are increasingly looking to boost their sales by attracting more of the casual market and increase their revenue by getting this larger audience to make a lot of small purchases.

To court the casual audience, developers are simplifying game systems and minimizing the potential for inexperienced players to make bad choices. They’re reducing the amount of time it takes to finish games, adding a constant stream of visible rewards for increasingly simplified achievements, and allowing players to pay for success when the effort of achieving it through the game proves too challenging or time consuming. We’ve come a long way from my childhood, where failure in most games caused you to start completely over from the beginning, to a point where it is impossible to fail in many games and in some you can just pull out your credit card when you decide it is time to win.

The sad reality though, is that this isn’t some evil corporate executives have perpetrated upon humanity, it’s what people want. At least, some people. Well, as it stands, it appears to be quite a lot of people and that is why the industry and gaming is largely trending in this direction. This is all anathema to what I love about games and is much of the reason that I’ve forgone earning an income the past couple years and instead slave away, with a few other dedicated souls, to create a game that we hope will embody some of what we loved about the games of yesteryear.

While the casual market is certainly large, the hardcore gaming audience has also grown tremendously over recent years. As the heavyweights of the industry move to grab a piece of the massive casual market I think this creates an opportunity for a smaller company like us. I believe many in the more traditional, core gaming audience are starting to become frustrated with the changes they’re seeing to their most beloved games. They say you can’t please all of the people all of the time and I think this is certainly true. Our belief is that we can perhaps better please some of the people most of the time by catering Grim Dawn more closely to the desires of that traditional, core audience (and ourselves).

So yeah, what are we doing that is unique? Moving backwards some might say…
Old 03-21-2012, 01:40 AM
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Darkenmal Darkenmal is offline
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Might wanna reword it and you could pretty much post it as a creed for the game and/or Crate itself.
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Old 03-21-2012, 02:46 AM
Mind Dragon Mind Dragon is offline
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The casual market is also creating a gold rush.
Old 03-21-2012, 06:48 AM
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Scryer Scryer is offline
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In a world where so many games are available, letting players put down a game is like a death sentence. Especially for AAA+ titles that need to make high revenues. Yeah, they got their money but not their attention; will they buy the next DLC or expansion that’s released?

Simplification doesn't have to remove depth, and depth doesn't have to be complex and chaotic.

I like to see developers remove redundancies in design and improve the gamer's over all experience. Is that not a goal of good game design? When you use something its purpose should immediately make sense. Though that is a difficult goal it’s never a bad goal to have in my opinion.

As you've said in another thread, Medierra, removing or changing some of the more tedious and time consuming mechanics reduces loss and enhances profit.

Ultimately there's going to be a better way to do something and that's the general direction of good design. It can be called simplification, sure, the mechanic is easier to understand but that doesn't necessarily remove depth from the game.

I do agree with your comments about Farmville, but those games are built to psychologically rape and then monetarily pillage anyone who has never experienced the joy of a true game. I tried a Zynga game, realized it was a rip-off and stopped playing as did many other gamers I hope.

It’s true that players want to be able to buy gear and ‘win.’ I would hope that the game isn’t built solely around winning because you have the ‘right gear’ but is instead built mechanically around the player having the right skills to beat the encounter. D2JSP is a classic example of player’s demand to spend money on otherwise time consuming game character improvements.

Finally, I remember reading this a while back, it’s nice to have it posted in the forums – it’s always nice to hear your thoughts on certain topics, it’s always an interesting read.
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Last edited by Scryer; 03-21-2012 at 06:52 AM.
Old 03-21-2012, 07:11 AM
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i.n.s.a.n.e i.n.s.a.n.e is offline
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Very well said (I am not sure I've read it whole when you first posted it).

The only thing I am afraid of is, from what I've been seeing on myself lately, whether I am still able to get back to the good old days of harder gaming we experienced back then, after being served all the easy/guiding hand sh-t and getting used to it in today's games... =(

I guess I will have to start over when GD comes out. Can't wait for it though! =)
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Old 03-21-2012, 02:10 PM
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Josho Josho is offline
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Originally Posted by medierra View Post
While the casual market is certainly large, the hardcore gaming audience has also grown tremendously over recent years. As the heavyweights of the industry move to grab a piece of the massive casual market I think this creates an opportunity for a smaller company like us. I believe many in the more traditional, core gaming audience are starting to become frustrated with the changes they’re seeing to their most beloved games. They say you can’t please all of the people all of the time and I think this is certainly true. Our belief is that we can perhaps better please some of the people most of the time by catering Grim Dawn more closely to the desires of that traditional, core audience (and ourselves).

So yeah, what are we doing that is unique? Moving backwards some might say…
I think that is where the indie gaming scene is incredibly attractive and popular amongst gamers, and seemingly where many small game devs seem to find success. In fact, when I consider the games I bought last year, many of which were priced well below a AAA title (of course) yet provided much more gameplay and entertainment value than what I ever managed to achieve from some of the heavy hitters that were intent on hand holding, superfluous tutorials and filler content to drag the game out.

One example right off the top of my head is what Chris Park, of Arcen Games did with AI War. It was a novel approach based on the fact that he was making a game that he wanted to make. Not what was considered trendy by mainstream standards. And that is why the game has a fairly clever AI and the multiplayer experience is co-op only against the AI, without the ability to attack one another in deathmatch style. And so behind the simple graphics is an amazingly deep yet (admittedly) difficult game.

And Scryer, I completely agree with everything you said too. It was well written.
Old 03-21-2012, 02:50 PM
matthewfarmery matthewfarmery is offline
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interesting reading both from med and Scryer (even if I don't always agree to what you write) but in this case I do and both posts make for interesting reading

I think for me personally, many games are losing sights of their roots, or what makes games great. I think this fault is squarely aimed at triple A titles and publishers in general

many games from publishers do not hold any interest for me, for me skyrim was a disaster on so many levels, and cost a great deal to make

many games are just becoming mediocre in quality, maybe because the studio is trying to cut corners to release games as fast as possible? or maybe the publishers are putting a great deal of pressure on game developers to deliver the goods, I think another reason we might be seeing more and more causal games, less complex ones, is that at least for the Xbox live service, M$ is now charging $40,000 per patch

I think this will certainly hurt both gaming and gamers in general, smaller developers may not have that kind of funds to release patches on that service, so nih publisher owned developers will get away with it, as they can afford it, but if those developers are just doing the same old COD / BF types games, we lose creativity, as the smaller studios won't be able to compete

still, I think if they move back to the PC market, and make games for that platform, we may start seeing again and I think this is the case, more creativity, wider choice of games, even if they are smaller then a triple A title, but I feel some indie games are far more enjoyable then many triple A tiles anyway

the main problem also is, publishers are wanting games to look really good, high quality art work, and sounds, so for quite a few games, to be on the latest engine, or having to license a new engine everytime they make a new game (which of course adds to the cost of the game)

maybe Im babbling? but I think indie studios are the future of gaming, while kickstarter system won't help for every game, but I think if more smaller studios make games that the gamer wants, without publisher interference, then the quality of the game will go up, along with the types of games people can play again, instead of only been able to play COD 15, BF 10 etc

sometimes going back to the roots is a good thing, and I think both GD and Crate are doing that
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Old 03-22-2012, 11:13 PM
tnoyce tnoyce is offline
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Certainly I check Indie titles before the AAA these days. In most cases, a lot more bang for the buck, and the devs have a true desire to produce a quality product and actually support their customers -- what novel concepts..

I also see a lot more developers taking risks and doing things that are exciting and interesting.

Honestly, I was not overly impressed by Skyrim. I certainly did not feel it was worth full price.

There's absolutely no question in my mind that most of the large gaming studios have lost sight of what the PC market wants or deserves, and this seems to be especially true in the RPG genre. The general mantra seems to be simplify, simplify, simplify, in an attempt to make them more accessible to the casual gamer. While I have no direct complaint about streamlining that's done correctly, oversimplification really detracts from replay value, and from the gaming experience in general. This is especially bad for a single player game.

I'm glad that there are a few folks developing games which go back to the roots and re-introduce the concepts and play elements that made them great in the first place. Keep up the good work all..
Old 03-24-2012, 01:02 AM
Tenka Tenka is offline
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What exactly is it that makes Grim Dawn hardcore? It's designed around the same instant gratification mechanics and last I read, you didn't even want to put players through the tedium of having to talk to an NPC for quests.

I'm pretty sure this will appeal to casual players and hardcore players (whatever those terms mean).
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Old 03-24-2012, 03:57 AM
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medierra medierra is offline
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I guess what it comes down to is the terms. The terms "casual" and "hardcore" have always been sort of vague and applied inconsistently to different types of player behaviors. I think this is even more the case nowadays as, over time, I think the definition has also shifted somewhat.

Circa 2000, the difference might just be someone who played an RTS online competitively or played the campaign on the hardest difficulty vs. someone who bought an RTS just to play single-player through the campaign on normal or easy difficulty.

In 2012, I think definition has shifted to where RTS is considered a hardcore genre and anyone who plays it would be seen as being on the hardcore end of the spectrum. Meanwhile, the casual end of the spectrum has become pseudo gamers who may have only played 1-2 games before and have never played anything more complex or challenging than Wii Sports or FarmVille.

To me though, what makes a game hardcore is challenge and complexity, not pointless tedium and lack of reward. Those aren't really qualities we want to emphasize in our game.

And when I say "complexity," I don't mean that it should be difficult to figure out. A game can have complex mechanics but be intuitive to understand. The type of complexity I'm talking about is just stuff like allowing players to allocate skill and attribute points to figure out their own character builds with a risk that they could make poor decisions that reduce the effectiveness of their character. Even just having multiple types of damage and resistances would be considered complex by some.

Having an open world would also be considered a fairly hardcore feature, at least among publishers. I mean, players might go in the wrong direction and not know how to look at the map! If we wanted to make this really casual player friendly, we'd be building it totally linear with fairly narrow levels and obvious choke points so that it was virtually impossible to get lost and not know where you needed to go.

Challenge is also a big definer of games on the more hardcore end of the spectrum. Grim Dawn won't be ultra challenging until you get into higher difficulties but even from the start, I'd say it is fairly challenging relative to what I'd consider a casual game. I mean, for starters, you can die and lose experience. In very casual games, you can't even lose. You can't get killed while trying to water your corn in FarmVille, you basically just get congratulated for doing what you were told. In Grim Dawn, you're on a treadmill of ever increasing reward but also ever increasing challenge and risk. When I was working on Titan Quest, our project manager at THQ said that he thought stun damage was too unfriendly for casual players and that no enemies should stun on normal difficulty. Not only is it quite possible to get surrounded and beaten to death by zombies outside the starting town but you can get stunned, frozen, slowed, set on fire, end up in a room covered with deadly acid spatters, etc, all in the first hour of playing.

So, yeah, ultimately, it depends what we mean when we're talking about hardcore and casual. I think many casual, traditional gamers will like Grim Dawn and be able to play through normal difficulty but we're not dumbing the game down so that ultra-casual, inexperienced Facebook gamers can play it without any challenge or complexity.

I consider myself to a fairly hardcore gamer who loves challenge and enjoys intuitively conveyed, complex mechanics but I have a very low tolerance for tedium and unnecessary bullshit. I don't want to spend my time in a game clicking unnecessarily on the UI, repeating monotonous steps that are neither challenging nor enjoyable, learning through trial and error, or struggling to figure out things that are just poorly conveyed.
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