What do you get when you cross Roguelike, Lovecraft, and a talented duo of AAA-gone-indie developers? Minor Key Games sets out to show us with Eldritch. The game is slated for release October 21st, and, man, oh, man, is it looking good.
David Pittman took the time to answer some questions for KaboomShark!
Eldritch has received incredible support and gathered a good deal of attention since its announcement. For our readers who haven’t heard of it, what is Eldritch?
Eldritch is a Lovecraftian action game inspired by immersive sims like Thief and Deus Ex and by fast-paced roguelikes like Spelunky and The Binding of Isaac. The player finds herself trapped in a massive library in the 1920’s and must venture into bizarre Lovecraftian realms to find the key to her escape.
Minor Key Games consists of only two people—yourself and your brother, and both of you have some pretty impressive AAA experience under your belts. What’s been the most difficult part of going indie? What’s been the best part?
The best part of being indie and the most difficult part are two sides of the same coin. In AAA work, developers tend to get pigeonholed, but as an independent developer making Eldritch mostly by myself, I am responsible for every part of the game: tech, art, music, marketing, and more. It can seem overwhelming at times. But it has also been a welcome change of pace for me to break out of a narrow role and create something all my own.
Working independently can also be isolating, but we have a good support network of friends and former colleagues to help keep us sane.
Of all the AAA’s you’ve worked on, which do you feel you drew the most inspiration from when you started work on Eldritch?
I was a huge fan of the first BioShock and leapt at the chance in 2008 to work with 2K Marin on the sequel. Making BioShock 2 was a fantastic experience, and I’m truly grateful for the opportunity to have worked with such a talented and positive team. Eldritch definitely owes something to that experience. Beyond the more apparent nods to BioShock 2 like the dual-wielded weapon + magic controls, there are innumerable smaller choices I made during development guided by the practices I learned on BioShock 2.
Those influences aside, where did Eldritch find its biggest inspiration, in both concept and creation?
The concept of Eldritch started with the question: what would it be like to play a randomly generated immersive sim? (“Immersive sims” being the loosely defined genre of first-person adventure games like Thief, Deus Ex, BioShock, and Dishonored.) The original Deus Ex is one of my favorite games. I had been replaying it for the umpteenth time and found myself wishing it had an endless supply of new worlds so that there would be something a little bit fresh or unexpected every time I played.
I put the idea aside for a while–I was still employed at 2K Marin at this time, and not able to commit to something of this scope as a hobby project–but this notion of an “immersive sim roguelike” kept bouncing around my head. When I finally made the leap to indie development, I knew it was what I wanted to make.
Eldritch is a game with an intense amount of Lovecraft lore, but it’s not particularly scary. What prompted the decision to explore the Lovecraftian setting in a way that doesn’t revolve around being scary?
The Lovecraftian setting was the last piece to fall into place. I knew in an abstract sense that I wanted this game to have magic, monsters, and weapons; but those elements can be dressed up in so many ways. Since Eldritch was not intended to be a narrative-heavy game, I wanted to use a familiar fiction that players would recognize and understand without me needing to explain too much. (For example, BioShock‘s Rapture is a fantastic setting, but it takes a whole lot of words to explain why there are crazed post-humans fighting in a ruined libertarian utopia at the bottom of the sea.) I also wanted to avoid sci-fi and Tolkienesque fantasy, as I felt they were a little too familiar and well tread in video games. I was re-reading Lovecraft at the time, and it seemed like a decent fit for my needs.
When a game developer starts from the idea of making a Lovecraftian game, they would usually focus on cosmic horror and sanity, because those are the prominent themes of his work. Because I started from abstract action game mechanics and added Lovecraft to the mix later, horror was never an option I gave much consideration to. And frankly, there are already a few games that have done Lovecraftian horror quite well, so I didn’t see any reason to invite comparisons to those. Instead, it made sense to me to adapt the setting for the kind of game mechanics I was excited about.
You guys have been heavily invested in the play testing of Eldritch. What responses and reactions have surprised you the most?
I focus tested Eldritch several times with a small group of trusted friends in the months leading up to the beta, so I thought I had a good sense of what the feedback from a broader audience would be. What I didn’t expect was how much roguelike fans love a really hard challenge! The overwhelming majority of feedback to the beta has been players asking for the game to be harder.
My original goal was to make Eldritch a more inviting roguelike than most, and I actively balanced it for players who usually avoid games with permanent player death. I didn’t want to compromise this value when addressing the beta feedback, so I recently chose to add a “New Game+” mode especially for players who want a greater challenge. In this mode, resources are much scarcer and enemies are faster and tougher.
You wake up in your game world. What’s your course of action?
I love to play stealthy, so that’s what I would do: acquire some boots with padded soles and sneak through the ancient temples, snapping photos of unearthly creatures while staying comfortably out of sight.
For more information, visit the official website, here.