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Depths of Peril Q&A|
(hx) 10:20 AM CET - Jan,17 2007
We got a chance to talk with Steven Peeler (Sin, Heavy Metal, Blair Witch: Volume III, Star Trek: Elite Force II, Counter-Strike: Condition Zero, Delta Force: Black Hawk Down - Team Sabre,..), the lead designer and programmer of Depths of Peril, an upcoming single-player action RPG with significant strategy elements. The game is currently in development at Soldak Entertainment, with a target release date in the first/second quarter of 2007.
GGMania: Could you introduce yourself to our readers and tell them a little
bit about what you do on Depths of Peril?
Steven Peeler: My name is Steven Peeler. I'm the
lead designer and programmer of Depths of Peril and I'm also the owner of Soldak
GGMania: Can you give us a little background on the development team working
on Depths of Peril?
Steven Peeler: The team working on Depths of Peril
is setup differently than most gaming companies. We have a few core members and
a number of contractors working on the game. Also unlike most companies we are
spread out quite a bit. Most of us are in the US, but we have a few people in
Canada and one team member lives all the way over in Germany.
GGMania: Can you give us an overview of Depths of Peril, telling us what the
game is all about?
Steven Peeler: Depths of Peril is an
action/strategy RPG where you play as the leader of a faction (called covenants
in the game) where your main goal is to establish yourself and your covenant as
the leaders of your city. Barbarians determine their leaders with battles to the
death. The last covenant alive becomes the leaders of the city. To outlast the
rest of the covenants you need to carefully use diplomacy until you are strong
enough, and then you can declare war and raid your enemies to crush them. Did I
mention that barbarians tend to be savage and vicious? :-)
Now if being in a constant battle for supremacy wasn't enough, there is also a
world full of monsters that want to destroy the barbarian race and for that
matter, all of the good races. So between diplomacy, wars, and raids with the
other covenants, the player adventures throughout the world to gain experience,
find better weapons and armor, and solve quests for the city. All of these of
course help the player and his covenant in their wars with the other covenants
by making them stronger.
GGMania: What can you reveal about the story and setting?
Steven Peeler: The game takes place right after the
Fourth Great War. During the Fourth Great War a necromancer and an orc lead a
huge army of evil monsters and crushed the good races of Aleria, including the
barbarians. The good races lost and had to flee their cities and homes for any
of them to survive at all. But luckily for them before the armies could track
down and slaughter the remaining survivors, the evil armies turned on
themselves, fighting over the spoils of war.
So the good races have been decimated. Very little is left of what was, and the
world is full of monsters rampaging around. The player starts in the town of
Jorvik which used to be a great barbarian trading city. Now it is simply a small
town trying to rebuild a small part of what they used to have.
Jorvik's first problem is that all of their leaders died in the war. Now all of
the strongest covenants left are vying for control. Soon there will be war and
battles again in Jorvik.
GGMania: How is the gameworld organised? Is it one continuous gameworld, can
players explore freely and can you give our readers a feel for the size?
Steven Peeler: The game world is one large
continuous world. The player can explore the world freely but the farther you go
from Jorvik the more difficult the enemies. So you can roam anywhere you want,
but you will be in great danger if you wander farther than your abilities will
Also, the world is randomly generated, making every game different. The levels
themselves are different each time, but also the layout of the whole world
changes for every game.
GGMania: How much choice and what kinds of choices will the player have in
the starting player character and in how it develops through the course of the
Steven Peeler: The starting choices are fairly
simple. You pick one of four character classes, your character's name, and your
covenant's name. So you are playing the game very quickly.
Now the development of your character is much more interesting. Each class has
30 skills that are all available at the very beginning of the game. There are no
stepping stone skills to simply get to the next skill in the tree, and there is
never any wasted skill points. The small catch is that each skill has a starting
cost, and costs one more point for each level of the skill. So the player can
choose exactly which skills he or she wants to focus on, and only put points
into those. Of course they might have to save up skill points to get to some of
The character also has to pick where to allocate his or her attribute points
that you get at every level and of course what equipment to use.
The other main thing the player has to develop, which is different than other
action RPGs, is your covenant itself. Not including your character, you can
recruit up to five npcs to make your covenant stronger. There is an infinite
variety of possible recruits you can find and/or recruit. It's up to you to
build the strongest covenant possible from those recruits you have managed to
recruit. First you need to decide which recruits you actually want. Each recruit
is one of the four classes, has a certain amount of experience (and thus level),
has picked 4 skills to focus on, and might even have a natural enhancement or
two that makes them stronger, smarter, or better in some other way than the
typical recruit. So you must pick wisely which recruits you choose to build your
covenant. It's also up to you how to equip your recruits once recruited.
GGMania: What can you tell us about the enemies in Depths of Peril?
Steven Peeler: There are some common enemies that
most RPG players will recognize, like orcs and zombies, but there are also many
new types of monsters. Each of these monster types has something special about
it that is unique compared to all of the other monsters in the game, and tends
to change how you fight in each particular battle.
A good example is the scavenger. Scavengers are fairly small monsters that seem
pretty harmless but have huge appetites for the dead. Every time they
successfully eat a dead body they get larger and more dangerous. So a quick way
to die is ignore the small critter running around eating everything you have
just killed. :-)
GGMania: Could you describe the combat system? Can we expect to see anything
Steven Peeler: Well in theory the combat system is
fairly simple. You have health and if it gets to 0 you die. :-) You also have
power which is the amount of energy you have available for skill/spell usage.
Each class' power works differently than the others, so each feels and plays
differently. Depths of Peril is an action game, so all of the combat is in real
time and fairly quick. During combat your character will automatically use his
or her basic melee skills on the enemy you choose, but after that everything
else is up to you.
To be successful you need to use your skills and choose your enemies carefully.
Since each class has a wide variety of skills, you have many different tactics
available depending on what skills you have chosen for your character. Are all
of you skills against one monster, groups, or over an area? Are they direct
damage or damage over time? Do you have stealth or teleport? In other words,
combat is very much determined by what skills your character has.
Obviously, the monsters impact the combat a lot also. Many times you need to
change your tactics to handle a certain monster. It doesn't help to kill off all
of the little monsters when the necromancer behind them keeps raising them from
the dead. But even past the different monster types, many stronger versions of
the monsters roam the lands of Aleria (champions, elites, unique, and
legendary), and can have very powerful enhancements compared to the average
monster. These can greatly change your tactics and maybe even change your
equipment for that battle.
GGMania: What about the magic system we'll find in Depths of Peril?
Steven Peeler: The magic system works exactly like
the other skills in the game. Each spell is another skill the character can get
with his or her skill points.
A little background on magic in the world of Aleria: There are two types of
magic in the world, pure magic based on mana and power granted by the gods based
on faith. Since the gods grant the power based on faith the users of this type
of magic are very tied to their particular god. Mana on the other hand is always
available and thus the users of this kind of magic don't have to worship any
gods. The gods of Aleria really don't like this because they have no real
control over this type of magic, so this has caused some conflicts in the past.
Most of this is simply background story and doesn't affect the player much,
GGMania: How will the quest system work, how much variety will there be in
terms of different types, and how will you keep them from becoming repetitive or
Steven Peeler: There are a few set "boss" quests,
but the rest of the quests are randomly generated, making every game unique. In
Depths of Peril we try to keep the quests from becoming repetitive and stale by
making the quests have consequences. You can actually fail some quests. Some
quests have time limits, and if you don't finish them in time you will fail.
Other quests can grow into bigger and bigger problems if you don't solve them
fast enough. Here's a good example. Every once in a while a monster might manage
to poison one of the main npcs or vendors in the town. If you can't gather the
supplies to create the antidote in time, the npc will die and you will have to
make do without whatever service they provided the town. Eventually a new npc
will step up and take their place, but for the time being you have to make do
without them. Most quests are similar in that they have consequences if failed,
and many also change the world if solved.
Of course, for every solved quest you also get a nice quest reward of
experience, gold, and influence within the city.
GGMania: What other gameplay elements does the game have?
Steven Peeler: The main gameplay elements that are
different from a typical action RPG is the gameplay revolving around the
Usually you can't survive if all of the enemy covenants hate you, so you need to
use diplomacy to keep the peace when you're not ready for war. You can give
gifts, trade all sorts of things (including items), demand things, setup trade
routes, and sign agreements such as mutual protection pacts.
And then there is war and raids. War pretty much means both covenants will
attack and kill each other on sight whenever and wherever you might meet. A raid
is a direct attack on a covenant's house in an attempt to destroy them. To
destroy a covenant you must fight your way to the center of their house past the
covenant's recruits and guards, and destroy their lifestone. If you destroy
another covenant's lifestone, the covenant ceases to exist and you are one step
closer to achieving victory, becoming the new leader of Jorvik. Of course, if
your lifestone is destroyed, then you will be killed and have lost. Don't worry!
Your character, items, and recruits will carry over to a new game with a new
world and new enemy covenants. BTW, these raids can get pretty intense,
especially when other covenants join in. If your full covenant raids an enemy
and just one other covenant joins in, you can have over 20 people fighting in
your enemy's covenant house trying to save or destroy their lifestone.
Since lifestones are so important to the covenant game, I'll describe them a
bit. Every covenant has a lifestone. It is the center of the covenant in many
ways. Other races might bind themselves to a particular group with strong words,
but a barbarian covenant is different. Their very souls are bound together
through the lifestone. If a lifestone is destroyed, any people that are bound to
it die instantly. Barbarian covenants are almost always a very close knit group
and there are almost never traitors within a covenant. There is a huge upside to
lifestones. An individual can't die while bound to a lifestone, unless the
lifestone itself is destroyed. Any time death would normally occur, the
lifestone uses some of its own energy to regenerate a new body for the victim.
GGMania: What can you tell us about the engine that is being used for the
Steven Peeler: We are using our own engine built
from scratch specifically for this game so that we have all of the features we
need for this type of game to work.
You are always in danger of going to war and being raided by enemy covenants. To
keep the immersion and tension, the game does all of its loading in the
background. There are never pauses waiting for loading screens.
There is also a huge amount of data for the covenants, items, classes, monsters,
levels, and everything else. We made the engine very data driven to make
development easier for the development team and for any players that want to mod
an action RPG.
Another thing, the game is designed to build random worlds in many ways. Tons of
stuff is random in the game, the world, levels, item drops, traps, monster
placement, etc. We wanted to do this so that each and every game played is
The last main thing we wanted is to provide a fun play experience to people with
a broad base of computers so that our game would actually run on computers that
don't have the latest and greatest hardware. We should have a very reasonable
minimum spec when we release the game. I'm not sure what exactly the min spec
will be but right now I have one team member that runs it fairly well on a P3 1
GHz with a Geforce 3 computer. We do have a bunch of graphics options that
higher end computers can take advantage of though.
GGMania: Will the game have a multiplayer mode? If so, what will it include?
Steven Peeler: There will not be a multiplayer mode
at least for the initial game. It is possible that we might add one in an
expansion, but we can't make any promises at the moment. We think a multiplayer
component would be awesome in Depths of Peril, but we felt the game would be
much better overall if we focused on single player for the initial game, to
release as good a game as possible.
GGMania: What's the current status of the project, and what remains to be
done? When will it be released? /What territories?/
Steven Peeler: The game is currently in alpha. We
mostly just need to finish up the art and do lots of polishing and balancing.
Despite our recent announcement of the game, we are very far along. We are
trying to release the game this quarter but we will release the game when it is
done, not any sooner. This is one of the benefits of being a small independent
developer. We have full control of when we release our games and we don't have a
huge monthly burn rate. We can take the time necessary to finish our games. The
main distribution is going to be over the internet, so technically all
territories will get it at the same time. We do hope to translate it into
languages other than English if feasible.
GGMania: Will there be a video or demo so we can see a bit of the action?
Steven Peeler: There will definitely be a demo
available some time around the release of the game and we will most likely have
videos available before that.
GGMania: Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. Finally, is
there anything else you'd like to add about Depths of Peril?
Steven Peeler: Just a minor rant. :-) Right now the
games industry seems to be in a rut. There is so much money riding on the "next
gen" games that very few studios seem to be willing to risk making something
new. At Soldak, we feel that the gamers want something other than just another
clone that has next generation graphics. In Depths of Peril we are trying to
bring a fun new type of game to the gamers out there, and do something original,
not just another clone.