Dungeon Lords is the latest game to come from role-playing designer D.W. Bradley, whose resume includes some of the classic Wizardry games from the late '80s and early '90s. His newest effort promises to be a hack-and-slash-style role-playing game, but one with a considerable amount of depth. You'll create a character, choosing from a variety of races and character classes, and then you'll explore a whole new fantasy setting, from towns, swamps, dungeons, forests, and more. Dungeon Lords is packed with combat, and you'll have no shortage of monsters and bad guys to slay. With the game in the final stages of development, producer Mark Harwood answered some of our questions.
GameSpot: Tell us about the character development system, which, as we understand it, lets players choose a specific character class but gives players access to pretty much all schools of magic and other skills. Why was this structure chosen, and what does it add to the game?
Mark Harwood: Dungeon Lords is designed for players to enjoy rather than lock them into an early decision, the consequences of which they might not fully understand. For example, you may start the game out as a fighter, hacking and slashing your way through a few hours, when you see your friend throwing some really cool wizard spells. Why should you have to completely start over again to get that same enjoyment? You can play Dungeon Lords however you want to, allocating experience where you think it will do the most good. And if you decide to go in a completely different direction halfway through, why shouldn't you be allowed to? Role-playing games are really about the customization of your play experience, and in Dungeon Lords, you've got the freedom to do that.
GS: Where did the story for Dungeon Lords' single-player game come from. Any inspiration from classical fantasy novels or even modern motion pictures?
MH: D.W. Bradley is known for crafting great, intricate stories and has done so again on Dungeon Lords. As far as how he comes up with them, I can only guess. But I'm glad he does.
GS: We understand that part of the goal behind using a simple keyboard-and-mouse control scheme (with only a few clicks to handle most of the combat) was to make the game accessible to new users. Now that the game has been in development for some time, can you comment on what it will offer beginners? And what will Dungeon Lords offer role-playing game veterans?
MH: The idea behind the interface was to make it accessible to as many people as possible, not just beginning gamers but fans of other genres as well, such as first-person shooter fans who are very familiar with the WASD-and-mouse layout. The reason for this is so you can start playing the game quickly, rather than spending time trying to figure out the control scheme. For veteran action players, they get the same advantage of an easy, familiar control set and can start in immediately deciding how they want to use the extremely flexible character system to make their heroes.
GS: We've noticed that although the game takes a very modern approach to much of its presentation, it also has more than a few references to classic dungeon crawls, such as the chest lock-picking system (which plays out a bit like a puzzle game). Does the game have any other classic RPG game features you'd care to share with us?
MH: Dungeon Lords is a classic dungeon crawl in many ways. But it doesn't limit you to just dungeons. There are vast outdoor areas to explore, including forests, swamps, towns, mazes, etc. We've also got lots of the hack-and-slash action that you'd expect in a classic dungeon crawl, but we bring it all together with a great story.
GS: Give us an update on Dungeon Lords' multiplayer modes. What do you feel players will most enjoy about co-op? Or about competitive play?
MH: It's always more fun playing in a group with your friends! It provides a social aspect, and it changes some of the game dynamics as players compete for the best loot.
GS: Give us an update on Dungeon Lords' overall progress. What parts of the game are being worked on now?
MH: Well, we've just passed beta and are in the final stretch to finishing the game. We have tuning and polishing left to do, in addition to bug fixes, but the game is pretty stable overall. So we're hoping to spend most of the time polishing. New inventory objects are being added whenever someone has a free moment, and we're also trying to take into account as much of the feedback from our recent public demo as possible.
GS: Could you discuss the status of the Xbox version of the game? Is the console version still in development, and if so, what specific features are planned for it? Split-screen multiplayer play? Online play over Xbox Live? Online content downloads?
MH: We think that Dungeon Lords is well suited to consoles and that console players would certainly welcome a high-quality role-playing game. We're not ruling anything out in terms of seeing Dungeon Lords on consoles, but that's about all we can say for now.
GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about Dungeon Lords?
MH: We're in the final stretch now, and we're doing as much as we can to make sure Dungeon Lords is as good as possible. A lot of work has gone into making Dungeon Lords a game that's fun to play and allows people to play in a style of their choosing. With the rapid advances in graphics technology, a lot of games may look better, but they don't offer the richness of experience that we offer in Dungeon Lords. So anyone who's looking for more than just eye candy should give it a shot.
Finally, we'd like to thank all the fans who've taken the time to play the demo and who've offered their insights on our forums. Anyone who's been in there knows that the developers have been reading the posts and are trying to address as many of the comments as possible. It's great that so many people have such a passion for what is admittedly an old-school role-playing game and can judge a game for how it plays...not by a checklist of technical buzzwords.
GS: Thank you, Mark