Category Archives: Dungeons of Dredmor

Dungeons of Dredmor: First Gameplay Trailer

We’re finally putting some video footage of Dungeons of Dredmor on the web for you to take a look at.

There isn’t much gameplay here – mainly we’re attacking monsters – so we’ll put up another trailer in the next couple of weeks or so with more magic and lutefisk action.

Posted in Dungeons of Dredmor, Games, Gaslamp | Leave a comment

So Ridiculous That It’s Awesome

For Dungeons of Dredmor I’m currently revising the main title screen, credits, and high score background paintings, and I’ve effectively finished the introduction paintings in the last couple months. I even wrote the text for the intro; Truly, a renaissance man stands before you.

{ read this article }

Posted in Dungeons of Dredmor | Tagged , ,
Leave a comment

Creative Levity

Late one night, we set our scene:

David: Added dire asparagus and a crate of evil sprite. I’ll let you figure out what to do with them.
Nicholas: … “dire asparagus”?
David: I’m going with my gut on this one.
Nicholas: Probably wise.
Nicholas: I wonder what goes in the crate of evil.
Nicholas: I’ll do something for it.
David: Surprise me.
Nicholas: Will do. Maybe it releases evil.

Should I even try to justify this?

{ read this article }

Posted in Dungeons of Dredmor | Tagged ,
1 Comment

Iconoclasm & Nomenclature

I’ve been drawing icons for skill abilities in Dungeons of Dredmor. When creating your character at the start of the game, you choose seven skills for yourself. As you advance these skills through use, you gain new special abilities. Today I’ve drawn up some abilities for the axe skill and will discuss icon images and giving the skills their names.

To quickly take up a tangent on the design decision to have these skill abilities: In RPGs mages have traditionally had the most diverse abilities which translates to having more  enjoyable game-choices to make. Do you cast fireball? Teleport? Ice shield? Do you “paralyze nerves, shatter bones, set fires, suffocate an enemy or burst his organs”? Meanwhile, a warrior can choose to either attack or not attack. And why would you ever not attack? Yes, the warrior is ideally more of an item-driven class, but why deny certain character archetypes whole swaths of gameplay, be it special abilities/spells or item management? Compare Diablo 1 with Diablo 2 and you see the solution Blizzard took: Give every class spell-like abilities. (And give every class useful item progression.) New editions of D&D, even, have taken up the spell-like ability for non-magic classes. The lesson is clear: It is important to give the player important decisions to make in the course of playing the game.

And now for the icons:

These are the sub-abilities of the axe skill. Each gives a unique combat effect or shaped area-attack. As originally planned, these icons are displayed at 32×32 pixels in-game, the smaller size in the above sheet, but it does the painted icons some harm to shrink them so much. It might be more appropriate to draw these as native pixel-art at the target resolution (as I did with the spell icons), but I feel it loses some character — and takes a lot longer. Time is money, friend.

As for naming, everything in Dredmor is rightly a bit silly. If a name can contain a pun or a joke, I’m all for it. If it sounds awesomely overblown, it’s good. If it just sounds like it belongs in a cheesy fantasy game, it’ll do. At some point a name feels right, it’s like writing a gag in a comic strip or coming up with a good zinger. This is not to say that everything in Dredmor is really all that good, I’m just trying to do my best with what I can deliver in a reasonable timeline. To borrow a line from Hemmingway, “I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit.” … And that goes for the art, too.

Let me take you on a tour of my thoughts about each ability icon.

{ read this article }

Posted in Dungeons of Dredmor | Tagged , ,
Leave a comment

Gameplay Mechanic Graveyard, part 1

The death of a pun.

In the spirit of giving deeper insight into the game development process, I’m taking/stealing a page out of Sid Meier‘s play book and sharing with you guys one of my bad ideas.

In an earlier iteration of Dungeons of Dredmor, spells were learned from spellbooks found on the ground, of various “magical strengths”, which had different statistical probabilities of yielding spells.  Strong spellbooks would likely yield multiple spells, or higher level spells (which were harder to get), but you were never guaranteed a spell.  Not only that, but spell-casters had a better chance to learn spells than fighter-type characters, and so would end up with more spells, but there was always that chance that a fighter could “go for it” and get a really sweet spell to use when they had no more options.

It turns out that this was a terrible idea.  People hate the concept of failing to gain spells and instantly are less inclined to submerge themselves in the “Dungeons of Dredmor” experience.  We then were struck with a bad situation because if we guaranteed that spells would be learned, people would always go for the higher level spells in the book and always be above the power curve.

The solution?  We got rid of spell books and implemented a wizard leveling mechanic which rewarded players with the next level spell of whichever spell school they chose.  It combines limited choice (always a good thing) with automatic advancement (something which keeps players interested and rewarded for their zomby killing) …(and yes, that’s supposed to be “zomby”).

Next Friday, another exciting look into another one of my bad ideas =)  See you then!

Posted in Dungeons of Dredmor | Leave a comment

Coming In Summer 2011 From Gaslamp Games: Dungeons of Dredmor

For the latest updates visit the Gaslamp Games Blog and the Gaslamp Games Twitter Feed.

In ages long past, the Dark Lord Dredmor was bound in the depths of the earth by great and mighty heroes. Centuries later, the magical bonds that hold him in place are slowly loosening and his power grows ever stronger. The land needs a new hero.

Unfortunately, what they have is you.

Step into the Dungeons of Dredmor and embrace your destiny. Face monsters the likes of which the world has never seen – the terrifying Swarmies, the undulating Thrusties, and the menacing Brax the Salesdemon. Find treasures like gold, magical weapons and armour, and lutefisk. Worship at the alter of Inconsequentia, the Goddess of Pointless Sidequests. Discover the power that can be had by wielding a bizarre armament of devastating weaponry such as the Interdimensional Axe, the Plastic Ring, and the Invisible Shield (if you can remember where you left it). Wield shoes decorated by the Dwarven Glittersmiths, all of whom have now committed suicide because of their shame, and embrace the joys of destroying giant moustache-wielding brick demons with a mace decorated with tawdry, delicious bacon. While you’re at it, be prepared to die. A lot. In hideous, screaming pain that makes you throw your keyboard out the window.

The Dungeons of Dredmor await. Are you ready for them?

Screenshots as of version 0.95ish (click to view full size):

(If you’d like to read a little more about what is going on in these shots, please check out the blog post here.)


  • Classic Roguelike gameplay with the sweet, refreshing taste of point-and-click interfaces. No longer must you press CTRL-ALT-SHIFT-x to drink a potion.
  • Randomly generated dungeons entice you with the sweet, sweet promises of treasure and … things.
  • Old-school pixel goodness. Face lovingly hand-animated monsters and enjoy the great taste of beautiful, individually rendered items on top of a sea of gorgeous, potent tilework.
  • Wield the awesome power of the Anvil of Krong, lest it wield you!
  • Incredibly complicated crafting system!
  • Diggles! Blobbies! Thrusties! Hordes of Monsters never-before seen!
  • Infinite replay value: choose from a selection of mind-boggling skills to create your character. A new gameplay experience awaits every time!
  • Did we mention there’s lutefisk?

Release Date: Summer 2011. Follow our development work on the Gaslamp Games Blog!

Posted in Dungeons of Dredmor, Gaslamp | 16 Comments

Herding Art

Dungeons of Dredmor has not been an easy baby to deliver in terms of art direction; The core game art was a patchwork of assets produced by a handful of artists over several years before I ever showed up.

Now it’s never a simple thing to corral multiple artists on one project. I went to art school so I know how difficult my people can be, to say nothing of the generally unreliable world of small-time freelance video game artists.  Original art direction was done by the fearless beating heart of Gaslamp, the Mr. Nicholas Vining, whose past travail I probably don’t envy. But he is merely a programmer of humble means; I inherited the job of creating a unified artistic direction for a largely unfinished game made of a diverse set of assets drawn by artists I’d never even talked to. With that, I have had to set a stylistic tone for the game that I could stand to look at, work on, and which could be completed in as timely a matter as possible.

It’s comforting to imagine an ideal situation in which I can art-direct the look & feel of a game from the ground up, everything perfect and in place, well planned and timed, with simpering sub-artists to do the boring parts (the next game, I tell myself, the next game). But by necessity Dredmor became a matter of what I could save of the original artwork and what I would redraw all by my lonesome. It’s been a practice of artistic triage: some sprites shall live, some must be left to die. Game features had to be expanded or added or attenuated or even cut outright based on what my artwork could do with the old artwork in a reasonable time-frame.

Much of what had to be decided came down to what I could draw most easily. My strength lies with drawing GUI assets, items, tilesets, and background splash paintings. Animated sprites, on the other hand, I’ve avoided like the plague due to a bit of a case of burnout on the previous Gaslamp project over a matter of a few hundreds of frames of character animation that we won’t speak of again.  Still, some new or revised animated sprite work may yet be necessary and time heals all wounds.

So far we’ve retained the original animated characters drawn by Bryan Rathman and Tim Wexford — and one by Jon Wofford, if my information is correct. Daniel Harris drew the original UI art and background paintings, Anthony Joas drew some of the original items, and Tim Wexford also drew the original tilesets … all of which I’ve almost entirely displaced with my own redrawn UI, items, and tiles, though in many cases the design direction of the original artists is strongly evident.

And let me not forget to thank the multi-talented Nicholas for his programmer art. Every dungeon, after all, needs a foundation.

In all, I hope that my efforts will present the best artistic product possible from a drawn-out, confused, and altogether educational experience.

old and new menu backgrounds

old and new dungeon tileset

Posted in Dungeons of Dredmor | Tagged
Leave a comment

Really, this is all my fault.

As the last Gaslamp team member to complete his initial weblog, it falls upon me to introduce myself. My name is Nicholas Vining, and I’m the CTO-type person at Gaslamp Games. (Technically, we get to invent our own titles, but my real title of “Code Swami” may not be sufficiently dignified for such an important thing as Gaslamp Blogging.) I’ve been working in the video game business for ten years, ever since I took my first job working as a programming intern at the age of sixteen at Loki Software, Inc., helping to port games to Linux. Since then I’ve worked on all sorts of things, many of which I’ve been proud of and many of which I haven’t been. I’ve worked on everything from the OS X port of Unreal Tournament III, to several games by the notorious Derek Smart, to the game that was so bad that it inspired the Penny Arcade guys to introduce the Fruit F***er 2000 into their pantheon of characters. (That last thing remains a personal career milestone.) I have an article in Game Developer magazine this April that touches on some of the things that we have done at Gaslamp Games with Erlang and other multi-threaded work, and I have a book on OpenGL coming out… well, soonish. Basically, I’ve been around a bit.

And, in some ways, this whole Gaslamp Games thing? It’s all my fault.

I started this company back in the summer of 2008. Rich with funds from some contract work, I decided that the time was right to go out and start my very own game company. “Why not?” I asked myself. “After all, if all these other indie people can do it… I can!” I puzzled out a basic idea for a game that would work, gathered up a motley crue of individuals, and threw everybody into the basement of my father’s house complete with a collection of government issue surplus furniture. Suffice it to say, Dungeons of Dredmor is NOT that game, and of the original four people on that team, only Citizen Daniel survived the process. We regrouped, brought David on when our original art team went a little nuts, and proceeded to try and make Dungeons of Dredmor work, thinking that it would be easier than developing a new game from scratch. This much has been true – but it’s still been about a year and a bit since then, and we are now only approaching beta. Game development is always harder than we think. We have a new strategy to try and make this process next miserable for our next game, but it remains to be seen if it will work. Maybe some day we’ll finish that other game that we started making, but that won’t be for awhile.

Another unsolicited confession: we stole the blogging idea directly from the Wolfire guys. Hi, Wolfire guys.

So what am I going to write about? Technology, mainly, and my thoughts on game development. I’ve been around enough to … well, let us say, to form opinions, and it gives me great pleasure to force other people to read them. Today, though, I feel lazy and think it might be worth showing you a little programmer art. There is no point in having an artist spending valuable time trying to make art for your game until you’ve had a go at doing it yourself; otherwise, your time and his time ends up wasted. You don’t know what you need, and he doesn’t know if he can get his content into the game or not. Everybody loses. Here, then, is a very preliminary version of Dungeons of Dredmor, from a screenshot taken circa… the tenth of January, 2005. Yes, I’ve been working on this for over five years now. This is why game development is tough.

As you can see, the game used to look a lot different. That’s my little hero sprite there. Back in the day, I was planning to have fixed character classes (including Pirates!) for Dredmor, similar to how Nethack supports various classes; the hero was intended to be paperdolled with correct art after I decided what the classes were and did all the animations for the base character. That idea was quickly discarded. The little monster flying around is a Prinny from Disgaea; I’m sort of sorry that he didn’t make it into the game, but if we left him in NIS America would probably sue the pants off of us. It’s a tough world we live in.

I think that’s all for now. As I’m the only one who has an authoritative archival collection of screenshots from Dredmor, I think I get to make some lazy posts discussing how the game got the point where it got to, before the team got ahold of it and helped me finish it. Until next time, sports fans!

Posted in Dungeons of Dredmor | Leave a comment