Category Archives: Dungeons of Dredmor

From Rogue-like to Something Unlike You’re Used to.

Hi, I’m Daniel Jacobsen (or sometimes Citizen) and I am the gameplay programmer and biz dev guy here at Gaslamp.  My posts here will generally have to do with designing systems for our games that are both fun and intuitive (or at least attempting to) as well as the hurdles that our indy game company is going through in order to support our lifestyles making games that people enjoy playing.

Our current project, Dungeons of Dredmor, started out life well before the Gaslamp team got our hands on it, as a project that Nicholas was working on while doing his undergrad degree.  We initially picked up the project as something that was “near completion” and just needed to be taken from a system of dungeon levels and monsters to a compelling experience that someone would enjoy sitting down and playing through.   Like most things, this was way harder than it seemed at the time.

Since we were dealing with a complete system without a game, one of the first things that we had to decide was how to entertain people with what we had. There are a lot of ways that people go with this sort of thing, but as a throwback to the “Rogue-like” origins of Dungeons of Dredmor, we really wanted the player to tell their own story through interesting solutions to problems and unique quests. Essentially, our goal is to allow players to create their own unique story every time they play through the game.

This, unfortunately, is much more difficult than it sounds, but using some interesting and slightly insane mad-lib style “procedural content generation”, we’ve developed algorithms to generate dungeons, monsters, items, and even quests that have such a large number of possible combinations that I can practically guarantee that you will never play the same game twice. While the ways in which you interact with things always stay the same (we thought about generating that too, but it would just be weird =P) and the end goal of defeating Dredmor is going to be the same, you can always find a different way to get there.

I mentioned earlier that the origins of Dungeons of Dredmor are in the traditions of Rogue, as it was initially intended to be a fully graphically represented Rogue-like with a single button interface, which displayed no numerical information to the player. After countless hours debating, arguing, and collaborating upon whether Rogue-like games have a place in today’s gaming world, we decided upon a less… erm, deadly approach to dungeon diving than Rogue loyalists. We also ditched the idea of having a single button interface. While we still feel it is important that everything *can* be done with just one (okay two) button(s), given the level of complexity that most gamers are comfortable with these days, we’ve augmented the system so that hotkeys that people are familiar with exist in our world too.

Finally though, we did stick to the “no numbers” philosophy. In part because not having numbers for players to focus on requires instead that they pay attention to other things in order to decide how well they’re doing in a game, but I’m sure also at least partly because of the challenge associated with rewarding players not by a higher damage number, but in other less common ways which has really pushed us in the direction of trying to understand exactly what players want, and how to give that to them without playing a game seeming to devolve into maximizing damage and hitpoint numbers.

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It’s an Eyebrow Thing


My name is David Baumgart and I’m the art guy here at Gaslamp. As such, I’m going to show lots of cool pictures unlike the boring text everyone else is going to post.

To start this off, I’d like to talk a bit about eyebrows. Yes, eyebrows! — In particular about how the eyebrows of the protagonist of Dungeons of Dredmor have evolved into the fearsome beasts they are.

The hero and most of the characters in Dungeons of Dredmor were designed and drawn by Bryan “Falthorn” Rathman who now works at some game developer called “Blizzard” or something, which means we’ll never, ever see him ever again.  From what I hear (he did this work before I joined the team),  he took inspiration from the stylized characters of old Lucasarts games, and you can see something like Monkey Island or Day of the Tentacle in the whimsy of his work. See here the raw hero sprite, standing:

From Bryan’s sprite, I’ve done various splash screen paintings for the game. My interpretation of the character has evolved as time has passed (as has my digital painting skill, no doubt). It’s not always been easy, because his distorted style is unlike what I’ve worked with before. Every artist has their ways of doing things;  As I’ve done freelance art for video games, I’ve had to work in styles set by other artists before I’ve arrived on the job, so a degree of flexibility is necessary and even a bit of provocative fun to prod me out of my usual style habits.  Have a look at this collection of clips, paying particular attention to the eyebrows:

In that last image there, the eyebrow thing starts to take on a life of its own.

I was trying to liven things up a bit there; Dredmor is rather a silly game that deserves a spirited hero with equally heroic eyebrows. In truth, aside from trying to capture that sense of whimsy, the eyebrows came about as a matter of how to fit exaggerated facial expressions into the various small UI images. See here:

These are a health indicator, a couple skill icons, and an achievement (which, upon closer inspection, lacks the over-the-hair exaggeration of the mature form of the Hero’s Eyebrows).

I’ve drawn comics before and have found that you have to give each panel a reason for existing — a gag, or at least a mood. Obviously UI icons are a bit more subdued than comic-panels, but as the spirit of the game demands, ridiculously huge eyebrows have turned out to be an excellent device for making the Dredmor hero an expressive character all his own.

[And about last week: Remind me to never again do the web dev guy a favor and finish off his scotch. It doesn’t end well.]

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