Titanic Quest: Crate Speak About Grim Dawn

By John Walker on August 3rd, 2011 at 11:03 am.

Hurry up with the alpha, for goodness sakes!

Crate Entertainment, an indie development studio born out of the ashes of Titan Quest creators Iron Lore, have been working on their first major project for a while now. Grim Dawn, built using the tech behind Titan Quest, will hopefully be entering alpha at some point this year, and it’s a game we’re extremely excited to see. So we caught up with Crate’s core man, Arthur Bruno, to learn more. In a wonderful interview he tells us about the fall of Iron Lore, and the birth of Crate, explains where Titan Quest fell short, and how Grim Dawn is not attempting to appeal to casual players. In fact, it’s going to be actively hostile toward them. And he introduces us to the concept of rainbow farting machines.

RPS: Can you explain a little about how Iron Lore came to an end, and then how Crate began?

Arthur Bruno: There were many decisions and factors within and outside the studio’s control that lead directly or indirectly, over the course of several years, to the studio’s ultimate demise. In some ways it is similar to when an individual suffers some misfortune like a car accident and then looks back and thinks about how the whole terrible event could have been averted if any number of little, seemingly innocuous events or decisions had played out differently. “If only that other guy had been going the speed limit, if only I hadn’t stopped to get the coffee that spilled in my lap and distracted me, if only my boss hadn’t kept me at work late to fill out my TPS reports.”

Ultimately though, all the decisions the company made and all the events that transpired, lead to a situation where Iron Lore couldn’t survive a gap between projects. This is generally what has occurred when a seemingly healthy independent studio suddenly vanishes after releasing a game.

What a lot of people don’t realize is that many, if not most independent studios, make little or no money off the actual sales of games they develop. If you take the case of Titan Quest and Immortal Throne, information I’ve been given put the combined sales over a million copies in late 2008. At that time I heard that it had reached profitability for THQ. Since then it has continued to do surprisingly well in digital sales given its age. Yet, the owners of Iron Lore never and probably will never receive a royalty payment due to the structure of the funding deal.

Studios survive by jumping right from one publisher funded project to the next and try to build enough of a profit margin into their development budgets that they can potentially survive a few months between funded projects. Supporting a thirty person development team, similar to what Iron Lore and most mid-sized studios employ can cost $300,000 a month or more when you add up salaries, office rent, taxes, and other operating costs. Those costs don’t all stop after the last publisher payment is cashed and until funding starts for a new game, the studio is just burning through whatever they’ve managed to stash away.

It generally takes a hit game before a studio can build up enough of a nest-egg that there is some breathing room in this cycle. Until that happens, the count-down to bankruptcy is always running and each new funded project just puts a little more time on the clock. For a variety of reasons, some just bad luck, Iron Lore couldn’t line up that next project fast enough and the clock ran out…

Titan Quest.

RPS: Were you happy with Titan Quest? Was there anything about it you wished you could have done but couldn’t?

Bruno: Yes and no. Over time the game went on to sell rather well considering the slow start it had. Given how few games are profitable for publishers, I have to think Titan Quest was at least a success in that regard. I also continue to be amazed at how long some fans have been playing the game and the fact that the number of people playing seems to still be growing so long after release. Although it is now barely hanging on, you can still often see it among the top 100 games by players on Steam. So yeah, Iron Lore is gone but I do think Titan Quest turned out to be a game that I’m proud to have worked on.

There are of course many things I wish we could have done differently or better. I could probably write an entire dissertation about it. One of the biggest things I would have liked to improve was the general presentation and feel of the game. God of War’s dark and edgy feel was a much sexier way to sell mythology to people. You can see our obvious attempt to course correct as much as we were allowed to in the difference between the Titan Quest and Immortal Throne box art and the atmosphere of the games overall. The atmosphere of the original game was seriously lacking a sense of dread and mystery. It was just sort of like “Oh hai! Welcome to ancient Greece, btw there are some monsters around.”

I believe this all impacted people’s early perception of what the game was about and didn’t help us much when it came to marketing. Regardless of features or other information about the game, I think at some level people just sort of look at the material available, the screenshots, the box art on the store shelf, and quickly form an impression of what the game is. If that superficial impression isn’t appealing enough, they won’t be interested in learning more and you’ve lost them. Even if they would have loved the game, they will never know it unless sometime down the road, someone recommends it to them or they have some cause to re-examine it. I think Titan Quest as a franchise really failed in this regard. I’ve read so many stories about people who initially passed up Titan Quest but then ended up playing it years later and loved it. This is something we’ve been really conscious of in designing the look and atmosphere of Grim Dawn… Hell, even the name!

Another big issue with Titan Quest was the feel and pacing of combat. One of the most frequent complaints I’ve seen about Titan Quest was that people felt like combat was slow and attacks had no real sense of power or impact. A lot of this stems from a lack of satisfying combat effects, hit reactions and death effects. The mandate that the game stay within an “E for everyone” or “T for teen” rating really restricted us here. It was rather funny when the original box shipped with an “M for mature” rating because the rating board decided the nymph pet was too scantily clad even though no actual naughty parts were showing and it was tiny on-screen. That eventually got amended.

I could go on and on but the last, most significant thing to me was the lack of secure multiplayer. THQ just didn’t want to invest the money for that. The previous two issues are things we’ve greatly improved upon for Grim Dawn but secure multiplayer is still something that eludes us due to the cost – for now… If the game is successful enough, this is something we will be keen to develop in the future.

Did you think about developing something other than an ARPG when you started Crate?

Bruno: Well, originally we set out to pitch the last game we had started developing at Iron Lore, which was a multi-platform, open-world RPG with action-style combat. It was sort of a Gears of War meets Oblivion. We had a demo for Xbox 360 showing off PvP combat and our gruesome “overkill” system. It was pretty damn fun, but it also came with a relatively large price-tag. A few publishers had been very interested when we were pitching it at Iron Lore but, ultimately, they couldn’t stay alive long enough to see a deal through. For Crate, it was quite a tough sell trying to convince publishers to invest that much in a small start-up studio during a time of economic crisis. As the world economy went down the toilet and publisher funding dried up even for established studios, we decided it was an impossible mission.

It was a tough time and I actually considered calling it quits. The prospect of getting any funding to do anything seemed dreary at best and we had no programmer, so it didn’t seem like we could do much by ourselves. It was at that point that I learned the owners of Iron Lore had moved on to other things and had no plans to use the Titan Quest engine. I also noticed that the number of active users on titanquest.net had grown dramatically over the years instead of declining as you’d typically expect. I realized there were a lot of Titan Quest fans who wanted another game, so I went to talk to the Iron Lore owners and worked out a deal for the rights to the engine.

With a complete engine and toolset, we were able to begin building a new game straight away. A few months down the road we got a programmer on board, which has allowed us to make a lot of improvements and add a bunch of very cool new features. Over time, we found more outside help, mainly from ex-Iron Lore colleagues and some other volunteers and Grim Dawn slowly took shape.

So, our return to ARPG was really sort of a natural progression. Perhaps you could call it fate? It is my favourite genre, alongside RTS, and I feel like I have unfinished business here after Titan Quest, so I’m quite pleased to be working on ARPG’s again.

RPS: Grim Dawn isn’t set on Earth, nor during a period of recognised mythology. So can you explain a bit about the process of coming up with your world and its history?

Bruno: Creating fictional worlds has long been a sort of hobby of mine ever since a relative bought me Lord of the Rings when I was about ten or eleven. When I finished the books, probably for the fifth time, I wanted more. Alas, there wasn’t much else that really compared to Tolkien at the time, so I set about planning my own epic fantasy novel… Mainly that has revolved around imagining and detailing out fictional worlds but never actually writing much. Since I tended to be more interested in designing worlds than writing fiction, this interest aligned well with game design.

I think all that imagining of fantasy worlds sparked an interest in ancient history and I ended up majoring in it, in college. A background in ancient history helps tremendously in planning out the history of a fantasy world and the characteristics of its civilizations. When fantasy locations, characters, or cultures are too far removed from the real world, I think people have a tough time relating to them. They have no frame of reference within which to ground the fantasy elements. I believe this is the primary reason that most fantasy cultures in books, movies and games tend to be modelled after real-world cultures, rather than it just being a lack of imagination on the part of the creators. Of course, this can also feel rather cheesy when it isn’t done right.

So, generally I use a historical culture or a combination of historical cultures as a foundation. Then of course, you have to figure out your time period, which might inform the choice of cultures. With a culture and time period, you have to think through the technology and decide what will mirror the real-world and where things might diverge. If you have magic, you have to account for how that might have impacted the development of technology. For example, if your fictional civilization has tamed magical unicorns that fart rainbows and can run at the speed of sound, then they may not have had any reason to invent automobiles or rainbow farting machines as we have in the real world.

A sense of consistency and logic is necessary to create a truly believable fantasy world. From there, it just requires good creative judgment to flesh things out in a way that will be believable and compelling to people.

RPS: While a lot of ARPGs will create an elaborate backstory, they do tend to somewhat forget to tell a – I guess – forestory. Will your game have a meaningful narrative, or does that get in the way of the hacking and slashing?

Bruno: I believe that a meaningful narrative could be worked into an ARPG as long as it was done in such a way that it did not intrude into the gameplay of those who weren’t interested in it.

Grim Dawn, however, isn’t really focused on one flowing narrative. We’re more interested in providing backstory and atmosphere. We also want to tie the player down to one chronological sequence of events, but aim to give the player some latitude as to the order in which they do things or in terms of what they decide to complete. You might say our narrative is told indirectly through a collection of smaller, side-quest type stories that all trend together and cast light on the event that destroyed human civilization, the last hours of dead, the struggles and loss of those who survived. As the player progresses, they will also start to convey hope as Grim Dawn is ultimately a story of survival and redemption. Many of the quests will revolve around protecting and rebuilding the scattered, fragile human enclaves, and helping individuals get back some of what they’ve lost.

Of course, we’re a very small team and our resources are limited, so I’m not sure how much far we’ll be able to go in terms of story. Developing story and quests is always one of the more demanding aspects of RPG development. We’ve put a lot of thinking and creativity into the planning of our world. If we aren’t able to fully realize our goals for the story and back-story in the first release, it is something we will continue to develop with the release of later content. Our hope is that the first release of Grim Dawn will be enough of a success that we’re able to expand our team and really build out the game a lot more in our next offering.

RPS: The action RPG seems to be becoming more popular of late, which is great news. How will Grim Dawn stand out – what makes it unique?

Bruno: I think we’re probably unique just in the sense that, while most studios are redesigning their games to be more casual-player friendly, we’re busy making Grim Dawn more complex and probably casual-player hostile.

I think older, traditional PC games had a certain magic that has been lost in most modern games. Bethesda comes to mind as one of the few big companies left still making games with the kind of depth and magic that games had when I was a kid. I mean no disrespect in saying this, but their games are sort of complex, clunky, and often rife with imbalance and exploit. The very sort of imbalances and exploits that I delight in discovering and abusing but not the sort that are so bad they ruin the game. They are the sort of complex but loose systems that leave the player wondering how far they can push the limits of what is possible, and where there are no hard caps obviously and arbitrarily restricting what they can do. I sometimes wonder whether this sort of thing is intentional or not. I certainly add some deliberate measure of this in my games where I can get away with it.

I love systems that are asymmetrical and chaotic, where the player can’t easily see the tell-tale structure and patterns of deliberate, organized human design. The real world isn’t always perfectly planned or sensible and I don’t think game worlds should be either, otherwise you see the hand of the developers everywhere you look and it erodes the magic of feeling like you are in a living and unpredictable world. Exploration of game systems is all about the discovery of what is possible. When there is too clear a structure and pattern to the design, not only does it feel artificial but the player is much more quickly able to assess the limits of the system. Unfortunately, most of the industry is moving away from this sort of design.

There has been a growing realization in the industry, propelled in previous years by Wii sales and more recently by the astronomical success of social games like FarmVille and smartphone games like Angry Birds, that the vast scale of the casual market makes it a veritable goldmine. Publishers and developers are increasingly looking to boost their sales by attracting more of the casual market and increase their revenue by getting this larger audience to make a lot of small purchases.

To court the casual audience, developers are simplifying game systems and minimizing the potential for inexperienced players to make bad choices. They’re reducing the amount of time it takes to finish games, adding a constant stream of visible rewards for increasingly simplified achievements, and allowing players to pay for success when the effort of achieving it through the game proves too challenging or time consuming. We’ve come a long way from my childhood, where failure in most games caused you to start completely over from the beginning, to a point where it is impossible to fail in many games and in some you can just pull out your credit card when you decide it is time to win.

The sad reality though, is that this isn’t some evil corporate executives have perpetrated upon humanity, it’s what people want. At least, some people. Well, as it stands, it appears to be quite a lot of people and that is why the industry and gaming is largely trending in this direction. This is all anathema to what I love about games and is much of the reason that I’ve forgone earning an income the past couple years and instead slave away, with a few other dedicated souls, to create a game that we hope will embody some of what we loved about the games of yesteryear.

While the casual market is certainly large, the hardcore gaming audience has also grown tremendously over recent years. As the heavyweights of the industry move to grab a piece of the massive casual market I think this creates an opportunity for a smaller company like us. I believe many in the more traditional, core gaming audience are starting to become frustrated with the changes they’re seeing to their most beloved games. They say you can’t please all of the people all of the time and I think this is certainly true. Our belief is that we can perhaps better please some of the people most of the time by catering Grim Dawn more closely to the desires of that traditional, core audience (and ourselves).

So yeah, what are we doing that is unique? Moving backwards some might say…

RPS: You’ve already started talking about DLC. Are you intending for this to be content that adds onto the end of the game, or expands it sideways?

Bruno: It will likely be a bit of both. The first release of Grim Dawn will be somewhat comparable to Greece in Titan Quest. That is to say, it will be about one-third of the content that players might expect in a full-sized game, which is why we’ve priced the normal edition at one-third the cost of a full-sized game. That idea is that we’re too small a team to produce a full-sized game on the first go, so we’re doing it in pieces. Players will really get a bit more than a third of a game though with the first release since it will include a fairly robust feature set and allow them to replay it on higher difficulties to continue levelling their character.

We’re hoping profits from the first release will allow us to expand our team a bit and follow up quickly with more content. Subsequent content will both extend the game with new regions of the world and add to the earlier areas with new classes, equipment, enemies, and quests.

RPS: Have you explored any other pricing methods than a straight fee for the game? Lots of indies seem to be having success with innovative approaches.

Bruno: Honestly, we don’t have time to think about much else beyond making progress with development and getting the alpha out. I’ve read about the incredible success other companies have seen with different monetization models but it isn’t something we’re really considering right now. At this point, I think the simplest plan is the best plan. In the future, we’d only look at other models if we felt like they could be implemented in a way that was agreeable to our fans and fit with our own development and gaming ideals.

RPS: Thanks for your time.

, , , , , .

95 Comments »

  1. MiniMatt says:

    Really looking forward to this. Looks to be pitched just right in the casual/hardcore balance. For folks who found Torchlight fun but lacking in meat and folks who are now feeling a bit down on Diablo 3 (or “the internet”) it seems perfect.

    Sure, it’s looking a teensy bit dated (UI polish in particular) but hack/slash/loot with some depth and meat to it’s bones is going to be a winner for me.

    When is it out? Still looking at sometime this year?

    • Bedeage says:

      I’m quite up for some old-school UI; modern, shiny and simplified has got very boring.

    • Kryopsis says:

      “[L]ooking a teensy bit dated”? The game is in pre-alpha…

    • Sheng-ji says:

      They say they’re going to try to get an alpha out this year, so very early days yet, but looks really nice!

    • nofing says:

      I like the cartoony style of Torchlight, but I like a really dark style just as much. So, Torchlight 2 + Grim Dawn are going to be my Hack’n'Slash fix and there isn’t really any need for Diablo 3 (but I’m still hoping for Blizzard to come to their senses).

    • jokomul says:

      I won’t even be able to play Diablo 3 due to the lack of offline single-player. Needless to say, this article helped me out a little bit.

  2. Ephaelon says:

    I really do wish them the best of luck. A friend and I had the best time with online coop on Titan Quest back in the day.

    The images with the centaurs and the shop/inventory/character screen really bring back memories.

    • Ultra Superior says:

      YES!!! I loved Titan Quest, I loved it!! (Ok I hated that patch that prevented repeated looting of epic chests)
      I played it at least thrice with my friend. Including the expansion.
      I will definitely buy GrimDawn and I’m proud to say I chose GrimDawn over Diablo long time ago.
      Why ?

      Because I can.

      EDIT: Don’t you just love that guy answering the questions?
      I’ll go for the $48 edition as soon as there is an Alpha

  3. skinlo says:

    Hopefully this will be good, I feel like another Titan Quest style game that isn’t Diablo 3! I fear Torchlight 2 might steal a lot of their thunder though when it comes out.

  4. Myros says:

    “I believe many in the more traditional, core gaming audience are starting to become frustrated with the changes they’re seeing to their most beloved games.”

    Looks like I may have to support these guys regardles of the game :)

    • Stochastic says:

      This is a sentiment which I think the core PC gaming audience has had for years now. Heck, even I, who started playing games on consoles just over 10 years ago, have long grown weary of how stupidly most games treat their players. Complexity is what games do best; I’m glad to hear Crate Entertainment embraces that.

  5. Jockie says:

    I hope he is as sincere as he seems, because his response to the ‘unique?’ question is likely to win Grim Dawn a lot of fans here.

    • Sian says:

      It certainly won me. I was mildly curious about this before, but this interview really sparked my interest.

    • Abundant_Suede says:

      His response to the “unique” question brought a tear to my eye. I do hope he manages to follow through with that philosophy.

    • Gadriel says:

      I was somewhat interested in this when that early preview was shown some time ago, but reading this made me want to throw all of my money at them. Throughout the interview my thoughts were roughly “Is this man me? How do all of his opinions (and apparently life story) mirror mine?”

      So yeah, reading this made me decide to buy this game regardless of final quality. I want to make games with these philosophies and I want to support others who do.

  6. Jim Rossignol says:

    This is going to be awesome.

  7. Spinks says:

    Really really looking forwards to this one. (Great interview also.)

  8. ReV_VAdAUL says:

    I am a little worried no mention of mods is made in this piece but I’ve already pre-ordered this game and am really looking forward to it regardless.

    I loved Titan Quest and to be honest the bright and sunny world felt really Greek to me and I enjoyed that authenticity. I’m sure I’ll like the Grim Dark of Grim Dawn too but I’m not sure having a different art style to God of War really hurt them.

    • Ultra Superior says:

      Mine thoughts!!! I liked the original sunny environment much more than the immortal throne.

    • Saiwyn says:

      I am curious about mods as well.

      I was actually playing TQ last night and downloaded and began playing Lilith for the first time. It is great!

      If one guy can make something as good as Lilith for TQ with mod tools I am super excited about what members of the original team will do with the engine. Also, that screenshot of the character screen with the pistol makes me all tingly.

      This just skyrocketed to the top of my “do want” list.

    • Cavar says:

      They will have an editor for creating mods and from what I’ve seen and read, it should be better than the one for Titan Quest. Check out Grim Dawns forums and you’ll find more information.

  9. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    hmm If it’s one third the price of a full on game, then yeah, this might be picked up at some stage, still getting Diablo 3, mind. and BF3, and Dues Ex, at the expense of my wallet and study time.

  10. Premium User Badge

    Shakermaker says:

    Great interview. Really looking forward to this.

  11. ShadyGuy says:

    I just recently started replaying Titan Quest and it’s an excellent game. I had no idea that Iron Lore had kicked the bucket after that and I’m a bit sad to learn it did. Good that they’re working on a new game, though :)

  12. Gaytard Fondue says:

    I’m still playing TQ regularly so of course I’m really looking forward to this. Thanks for doing this interview, John.

  13. bogeymanuk says:

    I really loved Titan Quest, it was by far the best ARPG between Diablo 2 and Torchlight and kept my brother and I amused for hundreds of hours, the only thing that stopped me playing was the unchanging landscape.

    I think he is spot on with his denouncement of the shift to casual gaming, I’m sure there is a fuckton of money to be made from bored housewives etc, but I don’t think the dumbing down of games is to the benefit of ‘old-school’ gamers like myself. I have seen the shift from restart from the beginning if you fail to the ‘consolised’ games where failure is simply never really an option. I think this is why achievements are so ubiquitous now as there is no actual achievement felt in playing through a lot of games.

    This shift was brought home to me just the other day whilst playing KOTOR after 30-40 mins going through a section of the game I came to a fight I underestimated and had my ass handed to me. No problem I thought ill just reload from the last checkpoint of whatever, which I was surprised to find was the beginning of that 30-40 minute section. Punishment for failure how quaint! When I went got back to the same point I prepared better played better and won. Satisfying.

    Other than roguelikes nowadays there isn’t really anything that punishes you for failure and yet enables you to learn from your mistakes, you can just brute force your way through most things no skill, no finesse and still come out on top, and because of that there is no acheivement, no accomplishment no desire to replay, and that is a sad thing I think.

    Hooray for people trying to swim against the tide.

    • Spinks says:

      I’m not really convinced by the diatribe against casual gamers in this genre. I always thought one of the reasons for Diablo 2 being so successful is that it was so easy.

    • karry says:

      “we’re busy making Grim Dawn more complex and probably casual-player hostile.”
      Ha. Ha. Ha. Why, why am i having such a hard time believing that. Must be that char status screenshot which is exactly like TQ, very casual-friendly, where a point in any stat isnt worth anything, so noobs cant wreck their characters too easily.

      “you can just brute force your way through most things no skill,”
      Sounds exactly like Titan Quest…hmm…

      “the only thing that stopped me playing was the unchanging landscape.”
      The thing that stopped ME was lack of diversity in skill system. Most of the character types were of the one-skill-spam kind.

    • UncleLou says:

      “I really loved Titan Quest, it was by far the best ARPG between Diablo 2 and Torchlight and kept my brother and I amused for hundreds of hours”

      Same here (except the brother part), my playtime is nothing short of shockingly embarassing. It was my most-played game of the last 10 years or so, with the exception of one or two MMOs.
      I doubt we’ll see a game with even a faction of the item variety (not just stats, but visually) anytime soon, the amount of content in TQ is absolutely insane.

      Been looking forward to Grim Dawn for quite a while, but (understandably) it seems to take its time.

    • bogeymanuk says:

      I found D2 to be the best because they nailed the loot system, which was the very heart of the game. Skills talents attributes they are all different multipliers to enhance your ability to kill things to get to the loot imo, and the loot is generally far better at making you more powerful than stats/skills. There is satisfaction in the destruction and the journey but you dont get excited by killing swarms of skeletons the excitement is from the swarms of corpses that may yield something shiny.

      And yes the skills in Titan Quest could be lackluster but the experimentation of combining certain classes together added a different layer that I personally liked but each to their own I suppose.

    • Xercies says:

      The going back to 40 minutes or the whole game, is not a good thing I’m afraid. You have a warped perspective. Challange can be something more then the slap of the wrist saying you have to go all the way back to something. It doesn’t make me learn it makes me not want to play the game again.

      I’m really worried about all these developers going, were going back to the old ways the modern day is shit please join us in our Rose tinted glasses version of the past. When you take off thsoe glasses you realise its the same dowdy apartment as it is in the modern times except there are different reasons why its so crappy.

    • Kryopsis says:

      “The thing that stopped ME was lack of diversity in skill system. Most of the character types were of the one-skill-spam kind.

      As opposed to Diablo II or Torchlight? Please…

    • bogeymanuk says:

      I’m not advocating a return to restarting the whole game or a level as at the time it was an arbitrary construct to extend playtime of what were quite small games. I was merely surprised at the amount of hand-holding that I had become accustomed to lately. Convenient it is yes, but it goes along with all the rest of the things that made games a bit more interesting and challenging; limited ammunition, non-regenerating health, inventory management, meaningful stats etc etc.

      I remember trying to scrape through sections in half life 2 with 15 health squirrelling away ammunition for when it was needed these things changed how I was playing. The fact that I could die and sometimes needed to hide or hoard valuable resources made me more invested in the character and consequently the story. MW2 I couldn’t even tell you the characters names Get shot to shit hide behind a wall and hey presto back to being rambo again, if you do manage to die you restart about 10 seconds before you die anyway. It was very cinematic indeed spectacular at points but, for me, forgettable.

      I can say the same for RPGs, with the movement towards simplification a la Fable or Mass Effect, I don’t get as attached to the characters because the way advancement choice is dumbed down to click here for better spell 1 or 2, there is no finesse there is no way for you to make a meaningful decision about the direction your character, which should be an extension of who you are/want to be in the game and how you approach things.

      Maybe I am wearing rose tinted glasses, and although technically better, I think the race to satisfy the lowest common demoninator has harmed games in general.

    • Reapy says:

      I agree and disagree here. In HL one of the major complains was quick save/load and how easy it made the game…where is the challenge!

      I like what he SAYS about complex systems…but then I remember playing those complex systems. The problem with most of them, was they were not thought out and/or designed. Sure, I can load my char down with these 25 really interesting skills. They are pretty awesome and/or fill a role for my character.

      Unfortunately, only 5 of them have a use in game, the rest are used in maybe one spot that might get you an item or two or pass some random check. Or wait, I didn’t focus my character properly, and now i’m 30 hours into the game with a crap character that has no way to get past this section… reeeeeeestaaaaaaaartt.

      I don’t really have the drive or time to replay 30 minutes of gameplay per fail. I know games like say the xbox ninja gaiden were all like (I guess thats old now too) throwback to hard games, whats up! But the difficulty was derived from repetition and checkpoints. I would like to just be able to keep trying the difficult section over and over again until I understand it, and then later on a reply to sail through it, remembering how I solved it before.

      I don’t want to get surprised because I have a character that is all fire damage and I happened to fall from the ice caves into the inferno and now I can’t do #$% for damage.

      I was talking the other day with a co worker about playing everquest when it came out. We both had loving memories of the stress of traversing an area where it meant losing everything, areas where if you didnt die on the zone boundry you can kiss your gear goodby… or wanting to go to bed but needing to get your gear back and it taking 4 hours…. Sure that was a good memory, but my god, would I ever do that again? NO!

      But what if you made a game and wanted to have that kind of stress… it’s a hard solution. So on the one hand, the ‘ULTIMATE CONSEQUENCES” create something unique, but ultimately knowing that that kind of loss can be there, do not want.

      So at the heart of what you are saying I agree. I would like deep complex systems of the past, but really with one caveat, that each skill is meaningful and has a use in the game. And I think that is the problem, that game designers were trying to correct that, to say hey, hey, lets make sure that all the skills we put in are effective, that the player can’t punish themselves because the skill description looked good. And when they did that, they realized that it made more sense to eliminate having 100 skills, and instead sticking with 20 really great ones.

      I think the biggest problems with modern game designs are corridor levels, DLC whoring, and charging for multiplayer services, and just a general fright to make something that crosses genera or even explore making a new one. I don’t think that game design is too dumbed down though, if anything, I feel like it is much, much better than it was in the past.

    • malkav11 says:

      Loot is easily the least interesting aspect of these games to me and skill/power systems the most. -shrug-

  14. wintermute says:

    I will pre-order this game on strength of interview alone, but please add PayPal as a payment method!

  15. Metonymy says:

    Someone mentioned the static world of TQ, but to me this made exploration very exciting. I wasn’t discovering box-shaped areas that were clearly generated randomly, but curved roads, inclines, and highly detailed creature camps.

    I think dungeon areas lend themselves favorably to random generation, but I wouldn’t have enjoyed TQ as much if the overworld had been random in any way. The sheer size of it was actually intimidating. I like to expose all the terrain, so I remember TQ being so large that I actually got annoyed by around chapter 5, it just keeps freaking going and going and going. (But I got over it) Great, great stuff.

    • mwoody says:

      Eh, I’m going to disagree very strongly here. The lack of randomized levels in TQ was a tremendous minus for me. In particular, the sad thing about TQ was that it managed to be the worst of both worlds: boring, repeated, maze-y dungeons that could have been created by even the simplest roguelike level generator… but weren’t. They were the exact same places each time to you played, making later difficulty levels particularly pointless.

      Indeed, until I started an alt, I had assumed the levels WERE randomly generated. They had that generic feel.

    • Fumarole says:

      The sameness is what causes me to stop playing TQ each time I restart also. Otherwise I think the game is brilliant.

      I think an good compromise would be a mostly static overworld, with the entrances to dungeons and such randomly scattered among potential locations. The dungeon areas themselves can be completely random as in a roguelike.

      The overworld is thus familiar for those who want to pursue the main quest (and retains a strong sense of a coherent place) but varied enough to reward those who seek to explore. With randomized dungeons you can get your fill of the unknown and greater replayability. I think this presents the best of both worlds.

    • squareking says:

      Oh. Oh my. I was completely on board with what was said in the interview and I’m getting set to preorder…but if Grim Dawn has static environs, I don’t think I can get on board. That alone accounts for as much as 80% of the replay value.

      Don’t let me down, guys. :(

    • malkav11 says:

      I know people like to love on randomized maps for Diablo et al, but rather than providing replay value, for me they eliminate up front play value. It makes the game -start- with boring environments that don’t reward exploration at all rather than have environments that eventually get boring because you’ve retread them so often. Or at least, that’s been my experience to date. I suppose procedural generation may eventually get somewhere that approaches the quality level of a hand-designed map.

    • ZephyrSB says:

      Why not have the best of both worlds? A static overworld with randomised dungeons? It’s the primary reason ADOM is my prefered rogue-like.

    • squareking says:

      ^I would totally be OK with that.

  16. Khemm says:

    “I think older, traditional PC games had a certain magic that has been lost in most modern games.”

    Yay! Hear, hear! Well said!

    “Bethesda comes to mind as one of the few big companies left still making games with the kind of depth and magic that games had when I was a kid.”

    WTF… All hope for Grim Dawn lost.
    OK, I do understand he mentioned the tendency to “break” the game, but Beth’s games are so simplistic, shallow, devoid of atmosphere/good plot/writing and binary in design… Depth? What depth?

    • skinlo says:

      They have more than most games out there. Oblivion, Fallout 3 and Morrowind are great games.

    • bluebottle says:

      Vast breadth, little depth. That is, there are plenty of different systems, quests and guilds, but very few of them offer much complexity. It can be argued that considered as a whole they offer a kind of depth by virtue of their number, but no single experience in any of these titles can really be considered terribly deep.

  17. Fameros says:

    “The atmosphere of the original game was seriously lacking a sense of dread and mystery.”

    Indeed. Titan Quest was the only game in the last few years I have not finished because 20 hours in it became senseless grind with no purpose whatsoever. Maybe you could say that about every dungeon crawler, but the Diablos and even Torchlight managed to keep me interested in the exploration. TQ is very pretty and varied but its all cosmetic. Even Desktop Dungeons has a greater “sense of dread and mystery” — and is frankly a better game for it.

    • skinlo says:

      Really? I found Torchlight much more of a grind than Titan Quest tbh.

    • UncleLou says:

      I liked that, for once, a game in that genre didn’t exclusively play in dark dungeons and on rainy Gothic landscapes, and I loved how the game felt – more so than any other, across genres – like one truly epic trip across half the world (well, half the known one in ancient times). Dungeons, especially the addon, were dark and grim enough.

    • Premium User Badge

      mcnostril says:

      Titan Quest is a weird one for me.
      It took a while for it to grab me. I bought it, played through half of the greece bits and then got horrendously bored and stopped. The setting wasn’t as interesting as it seemed, the fighting wasn’t all that engaging and the phat lewt wasn’t particularly plentiful.
      I played it again a few months ago, powered through the first act and got to egypt, and suddenly the game was awesome. The grind was still somewhat present, but monsters were now dying in satisfying explosions, the locales were much nicer to look at (greece was quite drab really) and the loot was getting much more epic. By the time I got to the end, I was bummed that there wasn’t more.
      Interestingly enough, replaying the first act on Epic difficulty actually makes it more bearable because the combat is that much more satisfying once you have leveled up enough, and the checkpoints are set up in a way that you can easily play for 30 minutes of 3 hours.
      I think the biggest problem with it is the very slow, grindy start. You are squishy, you have no interesting abilities, the loot is pitiful and the setting is pretty bland (wooo, greek farmland). It stays that way for much too long before it lets you have the goods.

      Torchlight on the other hand was the exact opposite for me. It grabbed me immediately, The fighting was great, it looked good and the loot, oh the loot! After a day or so though, I realized it was just the same grind from titan quest, except slightly sped up, and those optional dungeons made the game incredibly dull to play since you ended up massively over leveled.

    • Urthman says:

      The bright, beautiful artwork and Greek/Egyptian/Asian landscapes are my favorite thing about Titan Quest. It’s really depressing that he thinks it wasn’t Dark and Grim enough. Bleah.

  18. Merus says:

    The Start-to-Crate time on this is going to be terrible.

  19. Premium User Badge

    Phinor says:

    One third of Titan Quest for one third of the price sounds actually pretty great. The original TQ with expansion was simply too massive for a good weekend LAN event. The ARPG future looks bright with this and Torchlight 2, and I guess I have to mention that Diablo game too.

  20. Sidorovich says:

    Looking forward to this; Torchlight was always a little too bright and colourful for my dungeon crawling tastes, certainly had no sense of dread about it. Grim Dawn on the otherhand looks the business. Detailed as the interview was, I wish he would’ve fleshed the world out a bit more. I guess its steampunk of a sort, but we’re not talking Orcs with blunderbusses here are we?

    • Kryopsis says:

      It’s post-apocalyptic, actually.

    • Hematite says:

      I don’t think they’ve got the setting nailed down actually. IIRC it was originally post-apocalyptic, but now it’s post-fantasy-apocalyptic.

  21. Alphabet says:

    I can’t wait for this, this is among my most-anticipated games. As for the fact it’s being released in one-third sized chunks, that’s just perfect for an ARPG where ten hours of click is enough for me until a few months later and I need another fix….

  22. jackflash says:

    I love this guy’s design philosophy. Definitely been eyeing this one for a while and am so far much more interested in it than Diablo 3.

  23. Darko Drako says:

    I think their pricing may well tempt me to give the game a try.

    I for one certainly wont be buying Diablo 3 when it comes out, and will possibly never buy it. This is partially due to the always on activation and market ideas, but primarily becasue of the cost. I very very rarely buy games at full price, activision/blizzard games tend to be on the expensive side on release and I never see them getting much of a discount.

  24. roy7 says:

    I really wanted to like Titan Quest, but had weird video tearing whenever I scroll the map. It drove me nuts. No idea what was causing it, surely my 8600GT is fast enough to play the game. But I’ve never lasted more than two minutes before I uninstall it out of frustration.

  25. Ultramegazord says:

    Now we’re talking, way more excited about this than on Diablo 3, in fact I’m not excited at all about Diablo 3.

    Anyway, can’t wait for this one, seems original with a different theme and it’s made by the Titan Quest team so it will turn out great, they’ll have my money, unlike Blizzard.

  26. magnus says:

    I hope they include some of the more bizzare special items, the Sherlock Holmes outfit and the Cowboy Hat and Boots combo spring to mind.

  27. Premium User Badge

    pc_bravado says:

    Crazy enough I just started playing TQ last week. I hadn’t played it in years and quit at that time due to unacceptable framerates and freezing (especially going to indoor areas). Now that my computer blows the requirements away it is very enjoyable. I agree the setting is a bit bland, but there is something to be said about mindless horde killing.

    Grim Dark is a must buy for me.

  28. Calabi says:

    This is interesting to me.

  29. IDtenT says:

    If they keep holding onto the WYSIWYG (or feel in any case, when hit) approach to item drops then this is a day one buy. Otherwise…

  30. LazerBeast says:

    I love Titan Quest, in fact I may play though it again soon, so I am definitely excited for this.

  31. Multidirectional says:

    There were two problems with Titan Quest that killed it for me:
    1. Horrible pacing. Acts took way too fucking long, I’d get burned out before even finishing Normal difficulty even though I always enjoyed starting a new character.
    2. Lack of stereo speakers setting. What the hell was that about anyway? Game only allowed for headphone, 4 speaker and surround settings, neither of which sounded good on my speakers (nor headphones for that matter) and on top of that it kept overriding my windows audio panel settings, which meant I had to change them back whenever I exited the game.

    Other than that, game is really beautiful with compelling character system (ability to mix masteries is damn great) and good enough loot system, made even better with expansion. So I consider it a big shame that some of the glaring faults kept me from truly enjoying what otherwise would have been a very addictive hack and slash game.
    Dear Grim Dawn, please avoid these issues so I could be loving you to pieces.

  32. rocketman71 says:

    Looks nice, but… no questions on DRM, offline SP or LAN play?.

    Titan Quest in particular had one of the stupidest DRMs I can remember: instead of kicking pirates when detecting a pirated copy, it looked like you had a general error and kicked you to desktop. I’m sure the shouting in the forums contributed to the initial sales being low.

    Hope they don’t make the same error here, and especially that they are closer to Torchlight team than to Blizz team. Me giving them my money depends on it.

    • Premium User Badge

      Thermal Ions says:

      From their FAQ (http://www.grimdawn.com/about_faq.php#q10):
      Will Grim Dawn use DRM that TOTALLY screws me over?!

      Our goal is to screw you over as little as possible with DRM. We don’t plan to use any DRM in our direct downloadable version of the game. If we work out a distribution deal for a boxed copy with a publisher, they may have their own DRM requirements but it is something we will fight to avoid.

      I don’t know if people would consider this DRM or not but one thing we are planning to do is authenticate your game-key in order to join multiplayer match-making on services like Steam. If you have a legitimate retail copy of the game, you shouldn’t even notice this. It will have no effect on LAN or single player.

  33. Acosta says:

    I was interested, after reading the interview I’m sold.

  34. ScubaMonster says:

    Eh, I’m not sure the atmosphere was a real issue in Titan Quest. Torchlight certainly doesn’t have a very dark atmosphere. I do agree on the combat though. It seemed like the enemies just kind of fell over when you killed them. In Torchlight you have some seriously meaty hits that make you feel like you are really putting the hurt on them.

    • Hematite says:

      It was a simpler time, when mobs would just keel over with a standard death animation when they ran out of hit points.

      I think the problem with the setting was that ancient Greece is a bit bland – togas and farmland mostly. The following acts in Egypt, Babylon, the Hindu Kush and China were wonderfully detailed and different though. It’s a real shame it took so long to get out of Greece.

    • malkav11 says:

      Keel over? In my Titan Quest, they would go flying with hilarious ragdoll effects. That was pretty much 85% of the appeal right there.

    • ZephyrSB says:

      I agree with Greece being too bland and long. I love the other chapters, but the slog to get to them tends to burn me out with repeated characters. Which is a shame, because there were so many interesting-looking builds I wanted to try out…

    • Nick says:

      yeah.. they didn’t just keel over at all in TQ.

  35. Derpentine says:

    What an excellent interview, enough length, detail and realist insight… and my exact view on gaming ;) While I think pre-ordering is a damaging thing to the industry, I will be supporting this if they stick to these guns – and since I’ve been following it, thats seems to be inexorable.

    Crate, you best keep that pimp hand strong.

  36. Gaytard Fondue says:

    And just btw, there are some awesome mods around for TQ. In your face, Blizzard!

  37. Moonracer says:

    Great interview. I’m one of the late comers who fell in love with Titan Quest this spring and will be buying Grim Dawn for sure.

  38. MythArcana says:

    This sounds like it could be the spiritual successor to Diablo 2…as Diablo 3 is going to the Kotlicks.

  39. esoltys says:

    Quick search of my Gmail for “Grim Dawn” and… ah, yes, my pre-order for $32.00 USD was back in January 21, 2010. At the time they predicted a beta in the late summer. Now they’re saying they hope to deliver about 1/3rd the content and they’ll be entering alpha sometime this year. [sigh]

  40. SirKicksalot says:

    Less passive skills this time, please.

  41. Jason Moyer says:

    Titan Quest/Grim Dawn for hacking through lovingly handcrafted worlds with one of, if not the best character development systems ever, and Torchlight/Torchlight II when I need to satisfy my OCD with a random dungeon and tons of mobs to gib and loot to grab. No need for Diablo III whatsoever (even prior to the latest shitblizzard).

    Also – while it’s possible that making TQ darker would have moved more units, I really liked that it felt like I was a hero slashing my way through a Greek epic rather than some gothy dude getting his grim dark on.

    • nimnio says:

      I agree 100%. It is going to take at least two games to fill-in for Diablo 3.

  42. Captain Hijinx says:

    What a fantastic Interview, been reading a lot of Bruno’s thoughts on the state of PC gaming in general over on the Grim Dawn forums and he’s spot on in his critique, absolutely loved Titan Quest when it was released, and really looking forward to Grim Dawn!

  43. Mac says:

    I put more hours into Titan Quest than I did D1 and D2 added together – really looking forward to this

  44. Kaira- says:

    I hope this game is good, because it looks like I might enjoy it. However, Titan Quest was a huge borefest for me, and not only because of very slow pacing but also because of the always same world (which, at first, provided some nice touches but ultimately killed all sense of “new”) and it seriously lacked in the… how do you say it, ambiance? Sound design? Very boring and didn’t have enough “kick” in it. And well, the atmosphere was pretty meh too – didn’t ejoy too much all that sunshine.

    However, the mechanic of character development was very clever and I liked it, and with mod that tripled the amount of enemies it became somewhat nicer to blast those goatmen around.

  45. Brometheus says:

    Just make the new game not need so much damned clicking. Titan Quest made me feel like my finger was going to fall off. I can’t even play it any more, even though I bought Immortal Throne on Steam, because of the guaranteed RMI that game gives you.

  46. InternetBatman says:

    I don’t think his long speech against the Wii and Farmville casuals is fair. Diablo II killed traditional PC RPG development as much as any other factor. It was certainly way more casual than the RPGs released before it and development trended that way. Action games are all well and good but it’s really, really hard to put depth in them that isn’t related to loot or balance.

  47. malkav11 says:

    Considering that secure multiplayer is pretty much the cited reason for Diablo III’s always-online DRM and its subsequent ejection from my wish list, I’m just as happy they’re not going to have it in Grim Dawn, and I hope that if they ever do, they don’t go the route Blizzard’s gone.

  48. Buttless Boy says:

    Looking forward to this, but please, PLEASE let it have an attack speed focused character class + attacking without clicking directly on the mobs. Every ARPG I play disappoints me because I just want to play a fucking Barbarian.

  49. caprisundad says:

    To court the casual audience, developers are simplifying game systems and minimizing the potential for inexperienced players to make bad choices. They’re reducing the amount of time it takes to finish games, adding a constant stream of visible rewards for increasingly simplified achievements, and allowing players to pay for success when the effort of achieving it through the game proves too challenging or time consuming. We’ve come a long way from my childhood, where failure in most games caused you to start completely over from the beginning, to a point where it is impossible to fail in many games and in some you can just pull out your credit card when you decide it is time to win. *cough* Diablo 3 *cough*

  50. danimalkingdom says:

    You could at least have used a ‘Titan Guest’ pun in the headline John.