“I’m not afraid of death;
I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”
― Woody Allen
It’s unbelievable, but I’ve counted 23 interviews so far, this means that for 23 times I have had the honor to ask some (silly) questions to people who daily dedicate their entire life and passions to the development of video games.
I don’t know about you, but this is a huge result for me.
Someone may think that preparing an interview is quite an easy task, after all, what you have to do seems to be just writing some ordinary questions and wait for the answers… but, believe me, at least for me, there is nothing simple about preparing an interview.
First of all, you have to test the game in its current state, trying to keep always a critical eye on it, even when the game turns out to be very funny or even when the developers are rather nice to you.
Then, you have to take note of the flaws of the game, because what players really want is to be reassured about the weakest aspects of the game. In order to do that, it’s important to read the forums, starting from the suggestions and the criticism of the players. This is a very good starting point.
And then, eventually, when you really get to the questions, well… you have to think a little out of the box, avoiding obvious questions and trying to find a funny way to tell something smart.
Mind you, I don’t know if this is the best way to prepare an interview, but for sure, this is “my personal” best way to get an interview. Overall it is a quite tiring process but, when accomplished, it can give you a lot of satisfaction.
That been said, what follows is my latest interview and I’m really happy that, also this time, I’ve had the chance to talk with another very talented dev team, a team that I’m following with interest since their first release, a game that any true turn-based lovers cannot ignore, “Balrum“.
This time I’ve tried their upcoming new game, Deepest Chamber. It’s still in early access and with a long road ahead, but, even now, it’s so full of potential…
I’m sure that I won’t be disappointed this time, either!
1st Turn) Your first game, Balrum, was a true hidden gem. A very ambitious RPG, capable of mixing, in a perfect way, the classic features of the “good old RPGs” with some new ideas. After all these years, can you tell us what you learned from this first experience, and why did you decide to make a completely new game instead of a sequel?
Thank you very much for your kind words! Balrum has taught us many things. Mainly it taught us that we are able to create large projects, but it also taught us many valuable lessons. We are grateful for the community that gathered around Balrum, as its members have taught us many things over the past few years.
After Balrum, we were eager to jump into a new challenge; a 3D game. Since we weren’t very experienced with this yet, we were aware we couldn’t create a large open world game for our next project. Luckily for us, we fell head over heels in love with the deck building card game genre. It was still a huge challenge, but from certain technical aspects it was way more appropriate for the two-person team we were at the time. During the development of Deepest Chamber, we were able to grow the team with an additional person to help us tackle more challenges. We also wanted to create a darker game for our next project. Balrum certainly has its dark moments, but the overall tone is way friendlier than in Deepest Chamber. This was one of the reasons we decided not to create Balrum 2 as our second project.
2nd Turn) We recently had a lot of deckbuilding card games, some of them really amazing (who said Slay the Spire?). Nevertheless, someone is beginning to think that the genre is now overused. If you had to convince me to buy your game instead of another deckbuilding game, what would you say to me? In other words, what makes Deepest Chamber so “special”?
Deepest Chamber isn’t the first deck building card game and certainly won’t be the last, however it is unique in its theme. Whereas other deck building card games stick to a largely 2D gameplay experience (such as Slay The Spire), the 3D elements allow the world and characters to feel more alive and immersive. The game doesn’t play as if you’re just playing cards in a 2D world, you are controlling an interesting party consisting of various classes through the cards, but the world is very much alive. The story grips you throughout the gameplay, and the interaction with characters you meet along the way weave into the dark and gritty story that is to be uncovered by the player.
The other things that make Deepest Chamber so unique are the differences in the way runs work. While there is a definitive roguelike element to the core gameplay, the way unlocks and story elements work through the two different types of runs (Salvage and Quest), players have more ways to customize their gameplay through difficulty and earned rewards. The progression is more controlled and linear, and allows us to tell a more interesting story than simply leaving it in the hands of hidden lore elements (although there is plenty of lore still hidden to be discovered like that!).
As you play as a party of four interesting characters with different classes, there is a lot of freedom for players to explore all the perks without having to earn additional unlocks. Players are free to build their decks, make mistakes, and most importantly, have hilarious and unexpected synergies in their cards from the get-go.
3rd Turn) What kind of roguelike mechanics we will find in Deepest Chamber?
As Deepest Chamber is currently in Early Access, things are changing quite regularly, including the roguelike elements. As we’ve gathered our initial feedback from the community, the procedural or random elements are something we really need to keep a close eye on and to also balance properly.
Currently, when you start a run in Deepest Chamber, you get thrown into a procedurally generated floors with a select number of chambers, all of which contain a certain amount of enemies. These are always different from one run to the other. Also, the NPCs that you encounter, the rewards from each room and the items, consumables and cards that you get to purchase from the shoopkeepers are always different.
There are other elements which tie into the roguelike/lite experience that we’re considering, but since we’re at a point in the game’s lifespan where things can drastically change from one update to the other, I don’t think we’re ready to commit to a certain design philosophy. Let’s maybe revisit this question in 6 months from now and see where we end up.
4th Turn) I see a lot of “RPG potential” in your game and sometimes, playing it, I found myself wandering about a more … “dungeon crawler” version of the game. I mean something like a simplified version of Legend of Grimrock, but with a card battle system enjoyable like yours. Just a dream?
We just entered Early Access and we already have a lot of ideas in which direction we’d like to steer the project currently. You are not the first person who thinks that a little RPG spice might fit Deepest Chamber really well. Hopefully you will be pleasantly surprised as we keep adding features and content to the game!
5th Turn) Ok, now, let’s talk about events and NPC: I’m sure the future will bring us many new features, but what exactly? I mean, will there be space for a structured questline and maybe some subquests? And how will we be able to interact with the NPCs?
You are totally on point. We are currently working on a big update that will bring the story elements more into the spotlight. You will be able to interact with more NPCs during your time in the depths. Right now, the quests in the game feel more like a challenge mode. This is something we’ll be changing in the future.
6th Turn) Frederic Brown once said: “The shortest horror story: The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door”. Why did you choose a horror setting for your game and what really scares you?
We really like dark medieval themes. There was no question that we wanted to create a dark and gritty game. Games such as Dark Souls and Bloodborne definitely inspired us from a visual standpoint.
As for what really scares us, it’s not monsters and ghosts. It’s horror that could actually happen in real life. True evil that lurks among us can really get under our skin.
7th Turn) I really like your game so far, but there is one aspect that disappointed me a bit and it was the lack of synergies among cards. Mind you, the battle system is quite deep and strategic even now, but the chance to combine cards for a more powerful effect can give a lot of satisfaction to the players. What is the reason behind this decision?
Being quite honest, this was one of the elements we took a risk on. Even though it was initially part of our vision, your thoughts were shared by the community, and this is one of the core gameplay elements we will be altering in future updates. We originally dropped the well-established “archetype” system to allow us to focus on the multiclass design we had in mind. While it was fun for us to explore this, we now understand that lovers of the genre don’t find it as entertaining as we do. We wanted the player to feel dread in every single chamber. The theme of the game may be dark, and we may want the player to truly experience and feel that darkness, however, the core gameplay should always still be fun.
8th Turn) In my humble opinion, even for a deckbuilding game the story and the lore can be truly important. What can we expect in this regard from your Deepest Chamber?
Lore is very important to us, especially coming from a game like Balrum where we had a lot of fun creating the history of the world. Right now, a lot of Deepest Chamber’s existing lore is discoverable through reading Trinket descriptions and paying attention to conversations with NPC’s. We are planning to make the lore a bit more easily digestible with future updates. Our original plan was to extend the story throughout Early Access, and we are currently hard at work at making this a reality!
9th Turn) What is scarier: developing an indie game or a “run” of Deepest Chamber?
Developing an indie game can be super scary, especially close to release. But for the faint of heart, an unprepared run of Deepest Chamber might cause nightmares! (Especially with the new enemies we recently showcased… true stuff of nightmares!)
10th Turn) As you might have guessed, I’m a true fan of Balrum, so the next question is rather obvious: is there a chance to see Balrum 2 in the future?
Only time will tell. Right now, our focus is on Deepest Chamber. As the game progresses throughout Early Access, we’re learning more and more about our capabilities as developers. Hopefully, we can revisit the world of Balrum one day.
Bonus Turn) Before leaving you, just a bonus question. Which is the latest turn-based game you’ve played or still playing?
We really like Vault of the Void and Ring of Pain. When we have some spare time we like to boot those up for a couple of runs. But to be honest, nowadays we have very little time to check out new titles. We can’t wait to find some time and uncover some new gems!