During the past weeks we have been brainstorming and prototyping ideas for LoG2. During this process it is important to keep an open mind to have the creative fluids flowing, so we have tried to not restrict ourselves too much. Many game designs were tried and at least three different storylines were written before nailing down the design for LoG2. In this blog post, I’ll talk about two scrapped designs we found interesting. As many times happen, these designs worked great on paper but not so well in practice.

Grimrogue

Everybody loves a good roguelike, right? Antti and I are big fans of roguelike games here at the office, so it was only natural that this idea, the amalgamation of a roguelike game with Grimrock, has popped up every now and then in our discussions. After all, the tile-based nature of Grimrock seems to be a perfect match with roguelike game design.

With this design levels would be procedurally generated, with some custom made levels here and there. Turn-based combat would probably work better than pure realtime. We even made a quick prototype entitled Grimrogue with turn-based combat and a minimap in one corner of the screen.

One problem we quickly realized was that the player would be focused on the minimap when exploring the randomly generated dungeon and all the gorgeous 3D graphics would be almost like a gimmick. We also had our doubts about turn-based combat. Turn based combat works really well from a topdown perspective where you can see all the units and can think about the best tactics. In first person view where you can only see in one direction, turn-based combat takes away tactical movement and reduces combat to a locked in place affair.

In the end, we felt that with this design we would lose lots of the appeal of Grimrock, the puzzles and the chaotic nature of realtime combat, so the design was scrapped. It would certainly be possible to make this sort of game but it wouldn’t have been Grimrock.

Travel around the Northern Realms in 30 days

Another concept which we tried to make work really hard was travelling in many locations around the Northern Realms, the world of Grimrock. We were initially really excited about this idea, and we made a prototype of the world map, with towns, villages and adventuring locations. There would have been a storyline that ties the main locations together much like the main quest in many RPGs.

In the prototype, the party could travel between the map nodes and choose where to go next. Towns and other encounters were menu based “resource management nodes” and adventuring locations were dungeons with puzzles and monsters. We were so happy about this design that we were about to write a lengthy blog post about it, when doubts began to haunt our heads.

Here’s a snippet of this unreleased blog post:

“One of the themes in Grimrock 2 will be travelling. We would like to explore the outside world that we hinted in the first game. Travelling vast distances in the world would of course not work tile by tile (btw. tile-based movement is definitely a keeper feature), so Grimrock 2 will have multiple locations and a greater variety of environments. Multiple locations will hopefully improve the pacing of the game (a breather after completing an area), give immediate subgoals for the player (complete the current locale), and more choices (where to travel next).

However, one thing that Grimrock 2 will not be is a massive modern RPG. There won’t be zillions of NPCs doing their business and endless wastes of wilderness to travel in. Grimrock 2 will be a different kind of experience with an oldschool heart. We want to keep the core gameplay still tightly centered around the party, tricky puzzles, scary monsters and exploration. Our goal is to make sure that anybody who played the first Grimrock, should be instantly at home with the new game.”

We really wanted this idea to work. The final paragraph of the unreleased post gives some hints about the problem with this design: “tightly centered around the party”, “focus on exploration”, “instantly familiar with the new game”… The problem with this design is the lack of focus. We believe that the charm of Grimrock is compactness, tight focus and emphasis on fun core gameplay. In Grimrock 1, the environment, the dungeon itself has personality and the quest was personal to the characters. Having multiple locations with different atmospheres and multiple linked goals would take some of that charm away.

A game of this sort could surely be made, but, again, it would not be a Grimrock game.

Conclusion

Some might think that brainstorming these ideas and making these elaborate prototypes was a waste of time. Surely we spent time on working on things that will not be in the final game, but more importantly we now know what we don’t want to have in the game. This is very important because it helps us to focus on the essentials.

What is Grimrock 2 going to be like then? Well, I’ve got good news and bad news. Which ones would you like to hear first? Ok, good news: we now know crystal clear what Grimrock 2 will be like. We are really, really happy, relieved and excited that we have settled on a design that feels good and has that magical Grimrock feeling to it. Bad news: you’ll have to wait for another blog post to find out the juicy details!

  29 Responses to “Scrapped Game Designs”

  1. And here I was sure you’d go exploring the “Northern Realms” world with Grimrock 2. I’d love to see that, that’s for sure.
    But if a roguelike is out of the question, and so is a big continent-spanning adventure…

    What’s left? Another dungeon romp? (Not that there’s anything wrong with it!..)

    Excited to see what you have in store for us.

  2. The second idea sounds interesting although you would probably disappoint some fans if you did that for the grimrock title. Maybe you could use that in a future project? I’d love to see a Might & Magic style RPG from you guys one day :)

  3. Personally I am glad that you don’t keep both concepts. I prefer a game multiplying details and well constructed that randomly generated and I prefer a game more dense than wide open on the outside but empty.

  4. It’s not true that you cannot make a good mix of first person view and turn based combat. Look az Wizardry 8. The combat is just simply excellent. And they could even keep the tactical aspect of the combat.

  5. Excellent post. One of the cool things about Grimrock is that we have been privy to much of the behind the scenes process. I think you made the most important point in that you decided what you did not want to do. Too often we jump into things and get side tracked. For anyone in any design oriented business, software or otherwise, this is a very important and sometimes difficult thing to learn.

    As for the good news and bad news, as soon as I read the good news, I knew what the bad news was going to be.

  6. You cruel men! Can’t wait to find out what’s in store for us. I was kind of hoping for a shop system like Dungeon Master II, but really enjoyed the scarcity in the first game. Personally, I hope you keep the scarcity, but having a town or something to operate from would also be fun. No reason we can’t have both, right?

  7. Why not a wide-extended subterranenan world? Like Blackreach in Skyrim: a group of city-like dungeons connected between themselves. Each one with a different mood, like a solitary ruin, an abandoned wizard hall, an anthill populated by monsters or npc. Like Grimrock 1 in a wider horizontal scale, more diversified.

  8. I think it’s possible to create a LoG game with a big map. It could end in something with some elements of Zelda serie, the new Tomb Raider or something like Might and Magic and become a very fun game. But it’s true that more the game is linear and more you have a focus on a story and find interesting stuff, more the game is fun and interesting. I think what make LoG more interesting of the other party rpg is the aspect of survivability, where you are always close to death and must go throught hard opponents and puzzle. I just hope that it will not end into an open world game with 20000 quests.

    However, if you want that players have a richer experience, it could be a good idea that the game have a deeper story and have more things to progress into. I just hope there will be more secrets stuff (and maybe more boss)! :P

    Anyway, good luck for this project. It’s nice to see the return of dungeon crawler type game.

  9. What about a mix of the new Tomb Raider, Amnesia and LoG. Where you have the map and the realism of Tomb Raider, the ambiance and survivability of Amnesia and the puzzle and fights of LoG. A game more based on tactics, survivability and observation. You could too have some inspirations from a D&D quest/campaign. But honestly to make a game like the first LoG would be nice.

    I think in this kind of game axed on survivability, it would be a bad idea that players have access to a store to be refilled on potions and new items, unless the encounters are very hard or the money is very controlled. What is cool is to find items as rewards or in hidden areas.

  10. How about making it something like the good old Pools of Radiance?

  11. There is a lot more they can do than just another dungeon crawler. You do not get to travel between locations, well you could start in a city/village. They wrote they can’t populate a world the way they newer games do. One city, would be possible. I am thinking of Diablo…have a smith, a sorcerer, a merchant and so on. Some questgivers…
    On c ertain points you have the option to go back to the city via teleport…for example the old eye of the beholder teleport walls with items…
    They left off with prisoners blowing up a prison…well our heroes if we keep playing them would be fugitives…so lets say they are in the city after the whole grinmrock incident, they have hardly any supplies. they are hiding in a mine nearby this village, but they are found and have to flee deeper into the mines, while doing so they beat a monster, this makes them more or less local heroes and the villagers suddenly offer their services to them since they ahve an ever bigger problem…
    this way you have linear progression and can do different dungeons, and have kind of an outdoor feeling…While traveling the world would be too big of a step from grimrock one to grimrock 2…well it still might be possible in 3 if you introduce a small oudoor area in grimrock 2…progression is the key!
    Of course that is just wha I would do…

  12. If you want to see how fun a first-person roguelike can be, try Orcs and Elves for Nintendo DS. I found it to be a great game.

  13. I don’t think you would lose the spirit of grimrock by designing a game with different locations. Consider the PC game “Anvil of Dawn”: it’s the perfect exemple of a dungeon crawler with many locations (most indoors, a few outdoors) and yet with the spirit of Grimrock.

  14. Oh, and while I’m thinking about it, there’s the hungarian “The Quest” game from Redshift which is a somewhat close to the subject example as well… There we are a bit further from the actual spirit of Grimrock. But the thruth may be somewhere between Anwil of Dawn and The Quest, not?

  15. Aye, there’s “Undercroft” on the Iphone as well… Man, you should enable an “edit” function for the replies here. Sorry for the flooding.

  16. Well, if outdoor areas and an overmap are out, I hope one of the design goals will be *bigger* underground areas, perhaps getting away from dungeons into open mineshafts, natural-forming cave systems, perhaps even underground civilizations like the Underdark and Menzobarrenzan/Drow in D&D. It’s just that straight rectangular corridors, even spiced up with different-looking tilesets and puzzles, can get dreary.

  17. Building up on the key points and expanding the playing field would be great for Grimrock 2.

    What do I consider the key point:

    - Story
    The original story is very focused as Petri mentioned. You are a group of prisoners and you must survive together. Now, a sequel built on “Oh, these prisoner blew up the first prison. Good thing we have another one on the next mountain. Next group of prisoners!” doesn’t make sense.

    Do you continue the prisoners’ quest to survive, still chained even after blowing up a mountain (what are these chains made of?) or another group of adventurer setting off on a quest (they need a reason to stick together).

    - Exploration
    I love Grimrock, but part of me wanted more! 3-4 tile sets get repetitive and I wanted to explore lots of area. Discover secrets. I know nature doesn’t arrange herself in a nice grid, but that doesn’t matter. Stonekeep had a good variety of areas to explore.

    While linear vertical exploration is standard in dungeon crawlers, horizontal exploration is often lacking. There are 2 meanings to this 1) either multiple separate dungeons with their goal (may include a main hub / town) or 2) main dungeon splitting of in various branches.

    - Puzzle
    Ah puzzles, secrets and riddles: the key to a good dungeon crawler. I think this area of the game should be expanded. Not only in the type and difficulty of puzzle, but in the various way they are built. Having lose bricks, destroyable walls, invisible walls (for the first 4 levels, I bumped into every wall to try to find an invisible section), multiple type of wall switches, environmental objects (pillars, rocks, water, lava, flora, light/refraction, etc.). Adventure game are filled with them.

    Another thing I kept doing for the first 4 levels was using the free view mode to look at the ceiling and floor tiles. I always expected that there would be something on them at one point. Free view was great, it gave the sense you were in a 3D world. Having a use for it would have been nice. I might be an idea to consider.

    One thing struck me too, why are there no chest?

    - Party management
    I think that the Almost Human team did a great job of character development. The trait system and the limited amount of point made picking a team a very hard decision. I spend more time on the “pick your team puzzle” than any other in the game. Those choices carried forward as they limited what you could wear and use.

    Expanding the number of choices but limiting which can be picked would be at more complexity while compelling the player make hard decisions. A separation between passive/utility and offensive traits might be something to consider. Skills like Staff Defense and Athletics need to be in a category of their own. It would also allow expanding the number of skills while still providing a tough decision for each category. My mage would love a great variety of spells too and not just offensive ones.

    I love Grimrock and I stand ready to support Grimrock 2. Best of luck to the Almost Human team.

  18. Our goal is to make sure that anybody who played the first Grimrock, should be instantly at home with the new game.”

    I wish everyone else in the industry thought along those lines.

    __________

    ** Aside from that… it’s not impossible to have the party step into a portal and be transported across the realms ~say like chasing a fleeing mage into a teleporter; goals can be the same… it need not be “new dungeon == new scenario”. I hope it turns out (when you’re done) that such a thing is not a [hard coded] impossibility to attempt with a custom dungeon.

  19. Speaking of exploration, there’s a great party-based RPG back from year 2000 or so, called “Legacy”. It brilliantly balances the exploration of the world and interacting with NPCs with crawling dangerous forests and dungeons. It was originally designed for mobile devices, so the graphics are lackluster even for its time, but the gameplay is just brilliant. I think you can still download a trial of the PC port at http://redshift.hu/indexF.asp?body=/PCWindows.asp
    It’s definitely worth checking out.

    Retwulf mentioned “The Quest”, a later game from the same publisher, more open-world and not party-based. Nothing particularly exciting there IMHO. I also see “Undercroft” mentioned – it’s similar to Legacy, but inferior to it in nearly aspect IMO.

  20. I have to say I disagree with some of your conclusions. I don’t think adding variety to Grimrock would take away anything, in fact I think the lack of variety is detrimental to the game, not a positive. It’s fine for a one short game, but I don’t think making another game exact the same way would work anymore. I don’t want “same shit, different dungeon”, we have mods for that! The quest can be personal to the characters regardless of the adventuring area, and even if a game has many different locations it doesn’t mean the game can’t have an overall atmosphere of its own.

    If you don’t want a game with a lot of freedom of movement, have you considered making something like Lands of Lore, where the “levels” were played in linear fashion but included a variety of places, not just traditional dungeons? Have you played Undercroft? The world has been split into several small areas with their own dungeons, towns etc. but your progression is linear between these “hubs”. There are many ways you can add a little more variety to Grimrock 2. It’s not just a choice between a linear dungeon and a sandbox.

    • Sorry, I think the blog post wasn’t clear about this. The blog post is about two radically different game designs. A larger variety of environments, items, monsters, etc. is still a good design goal.

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  24. I think it’s possible to create a LoG game with a big map. It could end in something with some elements of Zelda serie, the new Tomb Raider or something like Might and Magic and become a very fun game. But it’s true that more the game is linear and more you have a focus on a story and find interesting stuff, more the game is fun and interesting. I arçelik klima servisi think what make LoG more interesting of the other party rpg is the aspect of survivability, where you are always close to death and must go throught hard opponents and puzzle. I just hope that it will not end into an open world game with 20000 quests.

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