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.
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.
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!