Interview with Dusktreaders' Lead Designer
Nov 04, 2005 18:00:00



Erik Hyrkas, known as "Necrolis" on the Dusktreaders' forums, is one of the owners of Granite Games and a member of the Dusktreaders' design team. After the recent pre-pre-preview printed on this site a few days ago I was contacted by Erik, who wished to offer answers to some of the questions posed in the article. Many thanks to Erik for his interest in expanding our knowledge of the virgin world known as Dusktreaders.

PROGNOSTICATOR: What inspired you to create Duskteaders?

ERIK: After the second time I played a MUD, I fell in love with virtual adventure worlds. What I love about these worlds is a chance to work as a team with friends and tell stories later. Nearly all of my favorite things to say start with the words, "Remember the time when we..." What specifically inspired me to build Dusktreaders is the fact that (in my eyes) all of the MMORPGs today just don't test people's skill and don't provide a healthy environment for players to test their mettle. I felt that I could give back to the community and create a world that did that. All I needed was some help from some friends -- and viola, here we are.

PROGNOSTICATOR: Tell us about vampires and werewolves.

ERIK: They are dangerous. This game has something of a horror/suspense twist to it, and select monsters are extremely dangerous -- to the extent that not everything is intended to be fought. Even at the top levels, there will be vampires and werewolves that you will want to avoid and at low levels, escape is your only hope. There are actually not that many true vampires in the world and each of them have a name and personality -- and each of them, I hope, will scare the players. Werewolves are more numerous, but no less scary. As a pack they are equally dangerous, if not more so. If you get high enough level to venture out of the city gates, you will know what it is like to be hunted. The most important thing to know about either of these, is that you probably won't see them coming. They will hit you fast and hard, and it's likely somebody will die before you know what happened. Garlic, holy water, and steaks won't help you. You'll have powerful magical weapons or spells, or you will die.

PROGNOSTICATOR: If you had to compare the setting of Dusktreaders to a movie or book, what would it be?

ERIK: Hard to say, it's sort of cross of many experiences. I would hope that players feel as cool as Van Helsing, but are as scared as a character in a Steven King book. We are trying to build suspenseful mood through lighting, encounter structure, and music. Danger can leap out at you do damage and disappear. You might hear it coming a long way off, then hear nothing, and then "blam!" Part of this is accomplished through what I'd call "white space", which is just having portions of adventure areas where there aren't wall-to-wall monsters. You work through a maze of catacomb tunnels, hearing distant cries and the occasional scuttle and know you aren't alone. When will danger find you? That's all you can ask.

PROGNOSTICATOR: We're dying for some screen shots and further idea of what the game will look like. Can you describe what the world will look like, what the player perspective will be, and how the artwork is progressing?

ERIK: The art is coming; we've been refining the look to be unique -- which has required a lot of rework. Something about the art style is that the buildings are all slightly exaggerated to be taller and "pinched" toward the top. At street level, the buildings feel like they stretch up a long way, and are dark and menacing (and rather pointy.) The character
s are also a bit exaggerated to be lanky. Even the bulkier body types have the feeling like they are stretched a little taller. That's how it is at the moment, but of course, we could redo it (again.) We don't want to put out screenshots yet, not until we are happy with our look. People put a lot of weight in screenshots ? more than virtually any other content you might have on your website -- and we don't want people to feel anything but excitement when they finally see ours.

PROGNOSTICATOR: What game engine are you using, if any, and can you tell us about the choices you've made?

ERIK: It's 100% home grown for a number of reasons ? the biggest being that we couldn't legitimately afford to license a big name engine and anything smaller would be a huge liability. Probably the second biggest is vanity. I take pride in my work and the work of our team and it feels right knowing you build it with all the features you want. We feel our rendering engine is comparable with any of the major vendor's rendering engine. Being a small game company is a lot like being an independent film studio. You don't have much to work with, and your audience expects the same results they'd get from somebody with all the money in the world. We're going to try to deliver, but we know we are at a disadvantage going in.

PROGNOSTICATOR: Will there be additional classes beyond what is listed on the site?

ERIK: Not on day one. We've sketched out three other classes, but we had to reduce the number of classes so that we could realistically meet our release goals. Every class brings with it more abilities, more balancing and more art. We had to really refine the list to what's critical. I guess it comes back to being an independent game company with a finite budget. We do hope that the ones we've chosen to implement first will be enjoyable to most people. We hope to have many expansions in the future, and that should give us a chance to release more classes.

PROGNOSTICATOR: Download or retail boxes?

ERIK: Day one, download. We know we have to get to retail boxes. We have to, but not on day one. We need to scale the game up slowly with the funds we have. As we grow, that will give us a chance to market on the retail shelves.

PROGNOSTICATOR: What is the story behind Granite Games?

ERIK: We're merely a small Cinderella company hoping for our chance at the glass slipper. My wife is a geologist who teaches earth science in middle school, and Minnesota has it's share of granite... hence Granite Games.

PROGNOSTICATOR: The choice to not support raid formats is a brave one. What drove that decision?

ERIK: Raid formats tend to encourage the zerg guilds, and I've always found that format to be a very unrewarding experience. To keep the game challenging for everybody, you need everybody on equal footing. It's not hard to find 5 other people to group with, but it can be hard to compete with a massive guild that has seemingly limitless resources. I feel it breaks down the game design, either you build the game for zerg guilds or build it for groups, but doing both detracts from both. The uber raids require uber loot and that leaves the "family guild" and loners out in the cold.

PROGNOSTICATOR: What games does the Granite Games staff play?

ERIK: Oh gosh, amongst the team we've played a lot of stuff. We all played MUD back in the day, but then it gets more diverse. Most of us played EQ1 and have tried EQ2 and WoW.

PROGNOSTICATOR: What game or other game studio do you most respect, or do you believe will emerge as a serious contender in the MMORPG market?

ERIK: From a marketing skill perspective, I really respect Blizzard, even though
I feel their games are lacking a lot. I give Guild Wars a thumbs-up for a nice look that works on a greater range of hardware than EQ2 (even though I didn?t actually care much for their game, their ability to build a handsome world deserves a nod.) City of Heroes gets another thumbs up just for being a unique genre. I don't really have a favorite right now, just an appreciation for other people?s efforts.

PROGNOSTICATOR: How representative is the concept art?

ERIK: At the moment? Not tremendously representative. We've been through a lot of changes. I don't know if folks will judge us on where we started or not. I'd hope they'll just see those concept pictures as a place we started and it will make our destination that much more appreciated.

PROGNOSTICATOR: What is the best MMORPG website? (heheh)

ERIK: LOL! www.virginworlds.com





Submitted by Brent on Nov 04, 2005 18:00:00 CST (comments: 0)


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