Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Interview With “Din’s Curse” Developer Steven Peeler

Posted by Rampant Coyote on May 6, 2010

Today we have an interview from the creator of a couple of my favorite indie RPGs, Depths of Peril and Din’s Curse. In this interview, Steven reveals a bit about the man behind the games, about what drives him as an indie game developer, and a lot about his newly-released (and, I note from personal experience, highly addictive) action-RPG Din’s Curse.

Rampant Coyote: First of all, tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. Who is the mind and soul of Soldak?

Steven Peeler: You just had to start off with a completely open ended question didn’t you? Let’s see. My name is Steven Peeler. I do all of the design and programming work on Soldak’s games (Depths of Peril, Kivi’s Underworld, and Din’s Curse). I also do all of the boring business stuff. I once upon a time worked for Ritual Entertainment for a little over 6 years and was their Technical Director when I left.

Hmm, that was pretty dry. Let’s see what else, I’m 36, married, have 2 kids (13 and 8), I love games, books, and movies and I’m bald by choice. Ok, that was at least a little more interesting.

Rampant Coyote: So what games have most influenced you as a designer?

Steven Peeler: I usually don’t bother to internally rank things so my answers to questions like this vary based on my mood. Some of my favorites are Civilization 3 & 4 (turned based strategy games give me time to plan), Diablo (sometimes I do really like real-time because they can be pretty intense and I like building up my character), Master of Orion (I just plain like 4X space games), Doom (this is the last game I can think of that was actually kind of scary), and Temple of Elemental Evil (I miss turned based RPGs).

Rampant Coyote: You left behind a career in mainstream, big-budget titles to focus on making indie games. What prompted this move?

Steven Peeler: Yep, I worked at Ritual Entertainment before I started Soldak. The main instigator was some internal political crap that started a little before I left. I don’t do office politics. It’s a waste of time and energy. Anyway once that started, I began considering other options. Even though it was (and still is) very risky I decided the thing I really wanted to do was create my own games, especially RPGs.

Rampant Coyote: Several years and three games later, what have you learned about being an indie?

Steven Peeler: It’s hard work, of course that’s probably true of any project of reasonable size. I’m still trying to figure out how to make Soldak more stable without resorting to following the latest fad or taking on contracting work.

Rampant Games: Why indie RPGs? What prompted you to go after one of the most challenging game genres right out of the chute, and what has kept you on that path?

Steven Peeler: I like RPGs. It really is about that simple. Since I started Soldak, the “smart money” in the indie world has shifted from making match 3 games to hidden object games to iPhone apps and now to Facebook social games. I could have worked on any of these to “make the quick bucks”, but if I can’t work on something I love, what’s the point of being an indie?

Rampant Games: So let’s talk about Din’s Curse. What’s it about? What kind of experience should a gamer considering downloading the demo expect?

Steven Peeler: Din’s Curse is a single player and co-op multiplayer action RPG with 141 class combinations, infinite number of dynamically generated towns, real consequences, and a dynamic, evolving world.

While the action parts will be familiar to anyone who has played an action RPG, this isn’t your typical action RPG. The world is different every game and it constantly changes based on what you do, what the NPCs do, and even what the monsters do. For example, let’s say the boss Draco has taken over part of the dungeon. In most games, what happens if you don’t and go kill him? Pretty much nothing. He will sit there forever and wait for you to kill him. This is not even remotely true in Din’s Curse. Some of the things he might do are start an uprising of Nagas, send a group of Naga Priests to attack the town, send an assassin to the town to try to kill the townspeople, build an earthquake machine, or even start a war between the Nagas and the Orcs.

Rampant Coyote: What sets Din’s Curse apart from the two previous titles (Depths of Peril and Kivi’s Underworld)? What’s awesome about it?

Steven Peeler: The most significant features that set Din’s Curse apart from our previous games are the dynamic world, randomization, interaction with the environment, and hybrids.

I mentioned this in the previous question a bit. Depths of Peril had a very dynamic world which worked very well. We have pushed this concept a lot more in Din’s Curse. There are way more twists and turns from one quest to another and it is much more obvious when it happens compared to DoP. Sometimes these are good and sometimes they are bad. For example sometimes a townsperson will reward you with a chest of items or maybe even build a statue in your honor. Here’s a good example that’s not in your favor: an elite Saurian Mage kills a zombie that attacked him and gets promoted and is now known as Shock, a unique monster. Shock launches attacks on the town and does other nasty things and eventually attacks and kills off Draco our Naga boss. Now Shock is the boss of the dungeon. This is just one example of what can happen and is not scripted at all.

There are tons of random elements: monsters, items, dungeons, towns, NPCs, world modifiers, objects, traps, weather, and the list goes on and on. Shoot, you can even start a character with a random hybrid combination if you want to.

Din’s Curse has an environment that has lots of ways to interact. You really do need to pay attention to your surroundings. It can be very dangerous to you, but also to your enemies. Accidentally hitting a gas leak with a fireball might kill you from the powerful explosion. Throw a flaming oil into a group of barrels and you can roast nearby monsters to death. It’s really not wise to run across the magma or pools of acid. Breaking the fragile support beams might cause massive cave-ins that bury you and all of the nearby monsters. Used carefully, the environment can be a helpful ally. Used poorly, the environment will gladly kill you.

In Din’s Curse we have 6 classes which each have 3 specialties. When you start a new character you can choose a full class with its 3 specialties or you can choose to play a hybrid. A hybrid character can choose any 2 specialty from any of the classes. While you do get one less specialty than a full class, a hybrid can be very powerful because you can mix anything together. Want to wear plate armor and summon undead? Then play a Defender/Conjurer. Want to sneak around and shoot arrows? Then play a Trickster/Archer. Want to be good by healing wounds and evil by summoning demons? Then play a Healer/Warlock. I think you get the idea. Overall there are 141 combinations (actually more if you play strange things like a Weaponmaster/Weaponmaster).

This all makes for a game that has ridiculous amount of replayability. You will be seeing new things and new combinations for a long time.

Rampant Coyote: You’ve incorporated a lot of roguelike elements into Din’s Curse. Can you tell me more about them?

Steven Peeler: Actually the funny thing is I really haven’t purposely pulled many ideas from roguelikes. Diablo took the idea of rogue, added nice graphics, and simplified it a lot. Din starts with a Diablo action RPG concept and adds a lot more depth. So it’s not too surprising that we overlap roguelikes quite a bit.

Some of the things we have in common are a hardcore mode, lots of environmental interaction, and special rooms. Hardcore (also know as permadeath) is only an option, but it’s there for those that like that tense, danger feeling. There are tons of objects to interact with in the environment like traps, dangerous liquids like magma and oil, support beams that are holding up the ceiling, obelisks that can give you cool temporary boosts, and many more cool things. Beware many monsters can also use the environment to their advantage! As for special rooms, we have things like vaults, lairs, and treasure rooms which are very similar to some roguelikes.

Rampant Coyote: Okay – this is an extremely dangerous question, I know, and we won’t hold you to ANYTHING,  but… have you given any thought to what might be next after Din’s Curse?

Steven Peeler: I really wish I knew. I haven’t started anything yet, but right now I am leaning towards an expansion for Din’s Curse. Although a couple nights ago I had a dream that has me thinking about one of my old game ideas, so we’ll see.

Rampant Coyote: Is there anything else you’d like to add about Din’s Curse, your other titles, or just about being an indie game developer or gamer?

Steven Peeler: For those of you that complain that all the AAA games seem to be more of the same and never bother to really even attempt to innovate, you really owe it to yourself to come over and try an indie RPG like Din’s Curse. Our games won’t hold up to the graphics standard of the latest AAA games, but we do try to create games that are different and have much more depth. Even if you don’t try or buy our games, there are a bunch of other really cool indie RPGs out there. Try them and find out what you’re missing.

Thanks, Steven, for taking the time out to humor me and share some of your thoughts with the readers here!

Filed Under: Indie Evangelism, Interviews - Comments: 4 Comments to Read

  • Aelfric said,

    Okay, you’ve broken me down–I knew that I wanted Din’s Curse for a while, but was waiting until I had enough time to enjoy it. Well, to heck with that–I’ll be purchasing it whenever I make it home tonight!

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Heh – I wasn’t trying to break anybody down. I actually wanted to do this interview a few weeks ago, but Steven was majorly busy getting ready for the release and post-release, so it took a little while.

    I was thrilled to be able to interview him for Tales of the Rampant Coyote. I’d done it before for an article for The Escapist, but we got to talk more about games for this one. 🙂

  • Jorlen said,

    Good interview! And Din’s Curse is a must-try! One of my favorite action/RPGs (diablo inspired) games of all time. It’s so replayable isn’t not even funny. And an expansion for DC would be awesome, here’s to hoping 🙂

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