Legend of Grimrock games happened to be a breath of fresh air for dungeon crawler subgenre. But after releasing two games in this series a few members of Almost Human, developers of aforementioned titles, formed a new studio called Ctrl Alt Ninja to build a completely new project: Druidstone. What is it? Why Grimrock’s devs decided to walk this path? Juho Salila, one of the core members of the team, answers these and many more questions in our brand new interview!
EnklawaNetwork.pl: Most members of Ctrl Alt Ninja worked in Almost Human studio on Legend of Grimrock games. Both of these games felt successful and gamers seemed to want more of it, but instead of sequel you decided to work on a completely different franchise as a completely different studio. The question everybody asks now is simple: „why”?
Juho Salila: Grimrock games were a huge success to us and we are aware that a lot of people would like to see Legend of Grimrock 3. We poured our hearts and souls into Grimrock 2 and the game has pretty much all we want in a dungeon crawler. Making Grimrock 3 right after Grimrock 2 would have felt that we would be repeating ourselves, so that's why we decided that a small break from game development would be nice to have. During the break we could charge our creative batteries and gather ideas for a new game. Time passed and when Petri [Ed. Note: Häkkinen, one of the designers of the original Grimrock] and I felt the itch for making a new game, some members of the original Grimrock team were already tied with another projects. Because not everyone was involved, it was natural to start a new studio called Ctrl Alt Ninja. Currently Ctrl Alt Ninja has three members of the original Grimrock team and it may be possible that some other familiar faces will jump on board if we can sort out the schedules. At Ctrl Alt Ninja we started prototyping new game ideas and finally after seven game prototypes we ended up with Druidstone. Druidstone combines the best parts of RPGs, boardgames and tactical combat games that we love so much.
EN: Grimrock games gained you a lot of fans eager to play your next game. Have you ever thought about using this power for a crowdfunding purpose?
JS: Yes, we've thought about crowdfunding, but Finnish legislation makes crowdfunding a bit tricky and you can't start Kickstarter campaign in Finland. While crowdfunding may get you started, it's still a lot of work when done properly and all that work is taken away from actual game development.
EN: How’s development of Druidstone going? I guess it’s a lot of easier job having two successful releases under your belt.
JS: The Druidstone development is going very well. There's still a lot to do, but we're making a good progress and the game is getting better in every iteration. I wouldn't say it's any easier work with two Grimrock games under our belts. Every game is different and has it's own difficult problems to solve and at times Druidstone feels more difficult to do than Grimrock, because with Grimrocks we had more straight forward base to build on. But of course the experience we've gained over the years makes some things easier.
EN: Let’s jump into the game itself. A typical fantasy druid is a spellcaster focused on nature powers, who has a close animal friend (or even shares a spirit with him) and often is also a shapeshifter. Speaking lore-wise, how much of this description is accurate to the druids from Druidstone? How much do you rely on Gaelic tradition and its folk tales about the druids?
JS: Druids in Druidstone are definitely inspired of Gaelic tradition, but we didn't want to limit ourselves to the traditional or stereotypical fantasy druids, so we are definitely making some creative decisions. You could say druids in Druidstone are our own interpretation mixing things from the real world, RPGs and our own ideas. We chose a druid as the lead character because it's not the most common character you see in games. They have a certain aura of mysticism around them and they are quite versatile character type that's not limited into doing just one thing. But that isn't to say we're going to abandon all the cool stuff druids are known for.
EN: How many paths do we have to develop the main character? How they differ from each other?
JS: Like said above, we are not limiting our druid to the typical frame or to some particular character class. Our skill system will be quite flexible, meaning that even though Leonhard, the main character, may start as a more combat oriented character, he may learn to cast spells as the game progresses, though he may not be as powerful as a mage, but the possibility will be there. Of course Leonhard will not be traveling alone. Our druid will be accompanied by other party members, who have unique skill sets. Currently we have three playable characters in the game, the druid, a dryad and a mage, each with different personalities and abilities. The druid is more focused on combat, the mage is a more traditional spellcaster and the dryad is a healing/supporting character, though she packs quite a punch. We will add more characters as development progresses.
EN: The Menhir Forest is inhabited not only by druids, but also by different factions, right? Can you share some informations about them?
JS: There's plenty of life in Menhir Forest. Our main character finds friends from unexpected places and naturally foes lurk in the dark places of the forest. Additionally to the other party members, player encounters characters like the Traveler, the Scientist, members of the Druid Circle and other dwellers of the forest. Druidstone's locations aren't limited only to the green and lush Menhir Forest. The story also takes the player to cold snowy mountains and to a frozen monastery that holds a terrible past, and other places that we don't want to reveal just yet.
EN: What’s a maximum size of our party? Will playing solo be a viable option to finish the game?
JS: Currently the party size is four characters that player meets along the way. We may still add more characters to the party, but we'll have to see how it fits the gameplay. Playing the game solo isn't very probable option because we have a strong emphasis on the story of the characters.
EN: Contrary to Grimrock games, the world of Druidstone is going to be procedurally generated in some parts. How does it affect gameplay?
JS: We indeed began developing Druidstone to be procedurally generated. But as the game started to take its shape and the story we wanted to tell was becoming more prominent, it made the level generation much more difficult, so we've toned down the procedurality. At the moment we have a system that randomizes and joins premade areas. We'll have to see in the end how much there will be authored and randomized content. We'll adjust the balance according to what makes the game most fun to play.
EN: One of most interesting things about Druidstone is concept of reincarnation. Can you tell us a bit more about how it works?
JS: The reincarnation is an essential part of being a druid. Every time a druid dies, he is brought back by a mysterious force to keep the balance of the druid cycle and the number of druids intact... The reincarnation plays a big part in the story of Druidstone and we don't want to reveal too much of it yet. It's all a big mystery and there are many surprises waiting. Without revealing too much, it's safe to say the world of Druidstone, the Menhir Forest is made of figments of reality called 'Seeds'. When the game starts there's been a disturbance in the Seed structure and the Archdruid is also missing. That's when the player steps into the shoes of a freshly reincarnated Leonhard who needs to investigate what is happening.
EN: Ok, I won’t be requesting for spoilers, but how does reincarnation work from a mechanic perspective? It seems that death in Druidstone doesn’t end up with a simple ‘GAME OVER’ screen...
JS: The reincarnation is strongly linked into the game's story and gameplay. Though the player may reincarnate, it doesn't mean that the player is immortal: ”game over” is still a possibility.
EN: It’s probably too early to make a release date announcements, but maybe you have a timeframe you’re aiming at?
JS: We don't have a set release date. We want to make sure we craft the best possible game, so we don't want to limit ourselves this early to a set release date.
EN: PC platform is your top priority now, but can we expect to play Druidstone on any other OS / device in the future?
JS: We're currently focusing on PC-version full on. Any possible ports most probably will happen after the initial release simply because we lack the manpower to do multiple platforms simultaneously. But we've been thinking that Druidstone would work nicely on portable devices as the turn based gameplay and simple and easy to use user interface are pretty good match with them.
EN: Thank you for your time and good luck with the development of Druidstone!