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Downloadable Dungeons: Talking With Tim Ernst of Bedlam Studios
Arti Gupta talked with Tim Ernst, production director at Bedlam Studios, on the floor of GDC 2011.
Arti Gupta: Tell us a little bit about your role at Bedlam Studios.
Tim Ernst: I am the director of production for our studio in Toronto. We are an Unreal 3 developer and we recently merged with a company in Ottawa called bitHeads. We’re working on downloadable and retail games.
A.G.: What was the key factor in making Daggerdale a downloadable title rather than a full-blown retail release?
T.E.: When we first started talking with Atari and Wizards of the Coast, we started analyzing what we could do with the franchise, which hasn’t had a big console offering in a long time. We wanted to make Dungeons & Dragons quick to pick up and play, but also offer that depth of character progression as people go and get deeper and deeper. That’s really one of the interesting trends in video games right now -- you can get in quick and stay for a while.
A.G.: What was the most challenging aspect of working on this game?
T.E.: It’s pretty much the same as the best part of this game, and that is the history of all the Dungeons & Dragons games. We’ve been working with Wizards of the Coast. This is the first 4th Edition game that is coming out, so we’ve had great partners trying to work through this design and take the spirit of the previous editions and make something new too. It’s been a lot of fun, but also challenging, to look back at all the games that have come before us and say, “All right, we’ve got to compare to those.”
A.G.: In terms of technology, what was the most challenging aspect of the development?
T.E.: You know, downloadables tend to offer something we didn’t have in retail games, which is we can run it all off the hard drive. That has actually been a great advantage. We try to optimize as much as we can. We obviously want to keep the package as small as we can, but we don’t want to give up any texture or art. We’ve announced other games, Daggerdale included, on even smaller platforms, and that requires even more throttling back on how much content we can put in there.
A.G.: What sets Daggerdale apart from other RPGs out there?
T.E.: Well, we needed to start with what didn’t set us apart. We didn’t want to remove any of the customization. We didn’t want to remove all the loot. We didn’t want to remove anything that was critical to RPG gamers. We really wanted to focus on the brawling mechanics -- the combos, the powers, the type of things that make it feel really good in your hand. We tried to focus on that moment-to-moment gameplay.
The game is also cooperative, so you can play two players on a single screen, or you can play with four players online. That is an interesting aspect that other RPGs don’t bring in. And it’s really core to the Dungeons & Dragons franchise as well. You want to sit around and play a game with your friends, and Daggerdale is that size that you can probably sit down and get through it in a weekend and it will be a good time with your friends.
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