Game

I played a video game about a purgatory dungeon filled with nihilistic explorers and then I wrote this article


Over the past nine years or so, Damien Crawford has been making games that they didn’t think people would want to play.

Crawford is the sole developer and head of Cannibal Interactive. They have created over 20 games through the studio, most of which have been released primarily on itch.io. They came to game development after a few years of struggling to fit in other jobs like fast food and government work. Broken relationships and the need to cut off their parents’ support eventually spurred them to try something new.

“I thought if I failed on the safe path, what would I want to do? And so I started making games.”

Their first project, Legend of Moros, took two and a half years and was unsuccessful – not even hitting $100 in sales on release day. So in another unusual idea, Crawford spent a month making a game they thought no one wanted to play; a “brutal” RPG (their words) in which 99 characters band together in a single fight, all swarming in one direction to fend off the enemy. In addition to ridiculous gameplay, Mighty 99 also has a “terrible memory leak problem” that prevents you from getting through the full three turns.

But, to Crawford’s surprise, something amazing happened.

“It gets feedback, mostly negative, but people are playing it. And sometimes they are noted in detail! “

Instead of no one playing a game they think everyone will want to play, people are playing Mighty 99 – even if they don’t like it. But for Crawford that was enough. They improved Mighty 99 into an easier to play version titled “I have low stats but my class is ‘leader,’ So I recruited everyone I knew to fight God against God.” dark lord,” and then went on to create more games like it. The game with tons of characters, the inevitable scenario and the humorous long title.

Crawford calls them “maximum RPGs,” and examples include: “My sister got away from the computer so I found and tried to coordinate raids in the game, and I didn’t. play the MMO”, “It’s Six Random Characters and a Single Floor Dungeon, That’s the Whole Game,” and “This is the First-Person Dungeon Crawler you’re running fast at at. event. They also released, earlier this year, Damien Crawford’s Golf Experience 2022 – where you play a game of golf as someone with only the most basic understanding of golf, including not being able to know the far hole. how much, apply any spin or curve. to shoot, or even see where the ball goes after it’s hit.

That may seem absurd, but for years, Crawford has developed a following based on their silly games, even treating it as part of their identity (see their Twitter handle “TheWorstRPGDev” ). But after nine years of making games that no one wants to play, Crawford is back to making something they hope people might want. With the help of a team and publisher Strange Scaffold, they just released Purgatory Dungeoneer. Or, “My grandfather died and all he left to me is this one hell of a purgatory filled with nihilistic adventurers.”

It gets feedback, mostly negative, but people are playing it. And sometimes they are noted in detail!


Crawford told me that their turn to game development is a bit more casual because they have a story they want to tell and know if people aren’t interested in completing their game due to pointless gameplay, they won’t be able to see the whole thing. Then, Purgatory Dungeoneer is an RPG that follows retired adventurers to the hall the player inherited from their grandfather, with an accompanying dungeon. Players take adventurers through dungeons in groups of five, helping them shed their webs of adventure, and ultimately, giving them space to deal with the deep traumas they’ve grown through. years of fighting.

“I’m fed up with the fantasy that often portrays trauma because it’s usually one or two of the same things,” says Crawford. “Adventure isn’t something a sane person would just go out and do one day… And so it feels like an important collection of stories to tell. A lot of them have the same starting and ending points, but the way they get there is very different. It was a fun writing exercise for me. “

Purgatory Dungeoneer has an overarching story revolving around the Guild Hall and its inhabitants, including several NPCs to help you manage, which should take around 10-15 hours to complete for most players. But if you want to see all of its character stories, it will take you an even longer time. There are 420 different characters, each with their own race and class combination, complete with distinct strengths and weaknesses in battle. They all have their own stories, told through the Purgatory Dungeon’s Flashback missions – Side quest version. You’ll have to dig into at least some of these quests to see the game’s ending, but there are so many characters that you can easily complete Purgatory Dungeoneer while avoiding more than half of its cast.

Having played through Purgatory Dungoneer myself, I hardly believe every character is intentionally designed, rather than procedurally generated. My guild initially had only a handful of members, but with each quest I took on, more people came, filling its rooms and tables with new friends like Raz the Angel Healer, Terhi the Woad Guardian, Awinita the Lizardfolk Guard, Rufaro the Minos Lancer, Myfanwy Fairy Druid… I could go on. Crawford told me the immense variety of class and race combinations was inspired by numerous other RPG and fantasy settings, notably Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 and the 2011 roguelike Dungeons of Dredmor.

Even if you’re not familiar with every particular combo you see, you can still get through the Purgatory Dungeoneer if you have some basic knowledge of how to build an average RPG team. You want someone to increase damage (like a Guardian), someone to heal of some kind, and some to deal damage, perhaps ideally a combination of melee and ranged damage. It only took a few runs through the dungeons for me to become familiar with the Purgatory Dungeon’s stats pool.

For lovers of delicious crunchy numbers, Purgatory Dungeoneer will deliver. While most characters have some basic skills and spells to deal damage, almost all of them have the ability to buff allies or debuff enemies, and play around with stats. and the system in this way can turn your team into an unstoppable freight train. Alternatively, you can build the worst party you can think of for a personal challenge mode. You’re sure to spend a lot of time building and rebuilding your team for each subsequent run, and there’s plenty of room to get really serious with how you assemble your heroes.

If team building and obsessing over stats seem tedious, then Purgatory Dungeoneer might not be for you. But for many of us who love that genre, dungeons actually avoid pitfalls like treasures or intricate mazes or puzzles to better emphasize the intricacies of combat. .

“I don’t want to separate from the game by keeping everyone busy,” says Crawford. “The meeting is busy enough because it’s trying to figure out who you’re going to recruit and then resetting your team and trying to remember who’s already on your team and who you want to change… It’s kept dark partly because I don’t” don’t want people to worry about not getting whatever they want [get]. But also because of things about adventures [is that] they are dealing with their trauma. They are very familiar with being just tools, weapons. They know how to get in, how to take care of business and how to get out. And doing these things over and over again reminds them of who they are and why they started and stopped in the first place. “

So each dungeon is made up of a handful of rooms, and each has a unique battle, then a choice between two doors to move forward, each of which will give your party a debuff cannot be changed for the rest of the dungeon. By the time you get to the final battle each time, you’ve accumulated a lot of stacking bugs. In that way, Purgatory Dungeoneer is almost a simulation in reverse. The deeper you dig, the weaker you become, forcing you to make calculated sacrifices to survive to the end.

The adventures … familiar are just tools, weapons. Doing these things over and over reminds them of who they are and why they started and stopped in the first place.


“I love roguelikes where you scale and you end up being completely unstoppable,” says Crawford. “But this is a game about adventurers and trauma, and the thing about the adventure is that when you start, you’ll be the best. As you continue on quests, you start to run out of supplies. You start to suffer some more trauma. And as you keep fighting in the dungeon, sometimes you will get a deal, but most of the time [you’re asking]’How badly do I want this and what should my team best set up to solve?’ “

Although initially overwhelmed by the sheer number of adventurers and the complexity of stats, spells, and skills, I may have inadvertently fallen in love with Purgatory Dungeoneer. I keep reopening the game thinking, “Oh, just one more dungeon” or to see if one of my favorite members has a Memorial quest available for me to get to know them better. Its boppin’ soundtrack (provided by RJ Lake), especially the Assembly theme, kept playing over and over in my brain. So, intentionally or not, nine years of trying to make things no one wants to play seems to have taught Crawford a lot of tricks for making games that people (or at least me) really want. play.

Crawford, to any extent, remains modest about it.

“I’ve been doing this for a year, so if I can make a year’s salary from this, that’d be great,” they said. “Especially because most of my games, I can’t say they refunded their cost… I’ve had a few people email me or text me on Twitter telling me they liked it. game and that’s pretty good. So if this at least reaches some sort of cult classic status, then seven out of 10 fables that some people like and some don’t, but you can tell by looking at [reviews] that they all say the same thing. People like it or don’t like it for the same reasons, that’s enough. “

Rebekah Valentine is an IGN news reporter. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.

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