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RPG Codex Interview: Dreadline, Party-Based Monster ARPG by Ex-Irrational Games, Ex-Harmonix Devs

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RPG Codex Interview: Dreadline, Party-Based Monster ARPG by Ex-Irrational Games, Ex-Harmonix Devs

Interview - posted by Crooked Bee on Tue 15 May 2012, 22:05:42

Tags: Dreadline; Eerie Canal Entertainment; Freedom Force

Dreadline, announced yesterday, is a party-based action RPG for the PC ("a Diablo/Freedom Force mashup, but faster and with more blood!", as described in the press release) currently under development by Eerie Canal Entertainment, a recently formed ex-Irrational Games, ex-Harmonix, ex-Iron Lore developer studio. In the game, you take control of a group of time-travelling monsters who visit history's greatest calamities, such as the Titanic tragedy or the destruction of Pompeii, with the simple but elegant goal of killing as many humans as possible in the nastiest way possible. Heck, they are destined to die anyway! Monsters that are perversely moral in addition to being perversely bloody? Count me in!

Have you ever had the urge to control a team of monsters and lay waste to frail humans, but you were unclear of the moral implications? Well, Eerie Canal Entertainment has come up with a solution for you.

Introducing DREADLINE, a fast paced action RPG/RTS hybrid where you control a team of monsters, equipped with a time machine, who visit human calamities to kill those who are already doomed to die. (Think of a Diablo/Freedom Force mashup, but faster and with more blood!)

Game features:
  • Single player control of a bloodthirsty monster squad
  • A large number of unlockable characters, each with their own special skills
  • An entirely new game engine, codenamed “shoe_gazer”, written specifically to bring lead artist Steven Kimura's drawings to life.
  • 10+ unique levels representing human calamities such as The Titanic, Pompeii, and Mall Zombie Apocalypse?
  • A minimum of space marines, unless you visit a space marine calamity
DREADLINE will be released for PC in Q1 2013.

Eerie Canal Entertainment is an independent game company recently formed in Boston, MA formed by Bryn Bennett and Steven Kimura. The two have collectively worked on such titles as System Shock 2, Bioshock, Titan Quest, Guitar Hero 2, Freedom Force 2, as well as the entire Rock Band collection.​

The art style is pretty unique - unique and pretty - as evident from the teaser trailer

Excited about the game's announcement and premise, we have reached out to Bryn Bennett (Programmer/Designer) and Aaron DeMuth (Artist) of Eerie Canal Entertainment for a short interview that would hopefully introduce the game better than press releases tend to do.

From the press release, it looks like your team consists of a programmer, a sound designer, and three artists. What experience does each member of the team have and what do they bring to Dreadline? (And why so many artists?)

Bryn Bennett: Yes, that's true. Here is some background:

Me (Bryn Bennett): Programmer/Designer – previously a lead programmer at Irrational Games, Iron Lore, and Harmonix
Steven Kimura: Lead Artist – previously a lead artist at Irrational Games and Harmonix
Aaron DeMuth – Artist – previously at Harmonix
Mallika Sundaramurthy – Artist – previously at Harmonix
Arthur Inasi - Audio Lead/Senior Sound Designer at Harmonix.

We need this many artists because they generally sit around and talk about cubism or something. I really don't know what they do. (just kidding!)

Aaron DeMuth: My house just burnt down, that wasn't a joke. I'm currently sleeping on friends couches. I don't know if or when I'll be getting a new place. So I'm bringing a sense of desperation to this game. I don't really have too much else to look forward to.​

Dreadline's premise - controlling a group of monsters who travel through time to kill those who are already doomed to die in history's calamities - definitely makes it stand out, as does the look. What were the main inspirations behind the game's unique concept and art style?

BB: Steven is a huge Edward Gorey fan, which explains a lot of the look. We are also trying to bring the creepy look of '70's animation, which I don't think has been represented much in video games. Cartoons like The Hobbit and Watership Down were terrifying!

The concept just came from us throwing around ideas for a few weeks. We all generally have dark senses of humor, and this concept really cracked us up. We knew we were on to something right away.

AD: Yeah, Steve already has a pretty distinct drawing style, mix in Edward Gorey, Quantum leap, and Ancient aliens and I think you'd arrive at the same place.​

Dreadline has been announced as an "action RPG/RTS hybrid." From a gameplay standpoint, would it be fair to call the game "a Freedom Force-like, but with monsters instead of superheroes"?

BB: I think that's a good place to start, but doesn't really describe what we're shooting for. The game is going to be much faster paced than Freedom Force. It will still be necessary to control your team well in order to complete levels, but we won't have things like pause-time. We want it to feel very frantic and high energy. Additionally, we are a small indie studio, so we're not going to be making something the size of Freedom Force, since we just don't have that kind of man-power. (people-power?)​

Is the game going to be mission-focused? If so, can you elaborate on how individual missions are going to be structured and how large the battlefield will be?

BB: Yeah, they are going to be calamity-focused and very tight. The battlefield, or levels, will probably be smaller than the smallest Starcraft map. The point is to get from the start to the end, while killing as many humans as possible.​

As far as RPG elements are concerned, can you reveal something about the game's mechanics? What kind of statistics, character development/level-up mechanics, and equipment do you plan on implementing?

BB: Honestly, we are still working on that. I could answer with what we have now, and what we're planning, but it most likely won't make it to the final game. One incredible thing about indie studios is that we can change our design drastically and be very fluid, which isn't possible with a big studio.​

The press release says we will control "a bloodthirsty monster squad." How large is the squad the player controls going to be and how many recruitable characters will there be? Can you perhaps give us some examples of the special skills the characters will have?

BB: You will control a squad of 4 monsters at a time. We played around with the number a bit, but larger numbers of monsters started to feel unwieldy. There also may be some early level with less, to keep things simple and allow the player to ramp up with the controls. Then again, they have a time machine, so they could always go back and replay with more monsters and really bring the doom.

Again, I'm not trying to be secretive, but there are a lot of things up in the air right now. Our skill system currently allows for a ton of different types of abilities, so I'm really excited about that.

Right now, our character Cuberik (the Evil Cube), is kind of like a harvester of souls. One of his abilities is to drain life from humans, and can then use that life force to heal his monster friends. He's like a terrifying recycling machine.​

To conclude this interview, how far into development is Dreadline and what are you most proud of about the game?

BB: We've been working on it for about 6 months. We have a lot of the core technology done along with a number of monster and human models. The “sketchy renderer” we have makes everything look like an illustration, which is pretty cool.

We still have a long way to go, but I'm getting really excited about the gameplay. I find myself spending extra time when testing just playing the game, which is a great sign.

AD: I just like that I can spout out ideas that are actually going into the game. Most of the work I've done on other games gets cut or changed to the point that it no longer feels as if it's mine. Having a little piece to hold on to feels pretty good right now.​

If you ever wanted an RPG that would allow you to play on the side of monsters that kill a lot of people in a bloody way - and with an (ahem) moral justification of "eh, they were all going to die anyway" - this might be just the game for you.

We thank Bryn and Aaron for their time, and personally I'll be keeping an eye on Dreadline and patiently waiting for its release scheduled for Q1 2013. Meanwhile, you can visit Eerie Canal's official website as well as follow the studio on Facebook and Twitter.

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