Recently, I played through DEADBOLT, a stealth action title that captured my interest with a slick aesthetic, open-ended gameplay, and a brilliant concept. I was so engrossed that once the credits rolled, I knew that I had to find out just how this game came to be. I managed to get in contact with Duncan Drummond, programmer and artist for DEADBOLT and his earlier title Risk of Rain, to discuss level design, cut content, and what to expect from the future.
TechRaptor: What was your inspiration for DEADBOLT?
Duncan: DEADBOLT was interesting in that it's main inspirations weren't really games, but movies. I wanted to get the same feeling that you feel when watching someone like Leon, or John Wick, or Blade take out an entire room of bad guys. It's supposed to give a feeling of outplaying and outsmarting a much stronger opponent.
TechRaptor: DEADBOLT is a pretty big departure from Risk of Rain gameplay-wise. Was it a challenge going from a roguelike to an action stealth?
Duncan: It was intentionally a big departure! Mentally, working on Risk of Rain for so long made me want to work on something else for a change. That's why every aspect is different; it's not arcadey, its hand-crafted stages, story-based, slow and methodical, and over-the-top violent. I wanted to try designing something different so I can learn as a designer, coder, and artist.
TechRaptor: From a design standpoint, do you prefer procedural generation ala Risk of Rain or DEADBOLT's hand crafted design?
Duncan: Procedural generation is definitely the easier of the two. I do think, however, that the hand-crafted design gives a lot more life to the game than a procedural game does. I'd like to pursue somehow combining the two in the future.
TechRaptor: Was there any content in DEADBOLT you were toying with that got left on the cutting room floor?
Duncan: At one point there was a fourth gang - with the demons being their own gang - but when I was finishing up the 3rd gang, I started feeling like the game might be getting too long. It's hard to test for length, because a majority of the time spent is done replaying missions you failed at. Since I designed all the stages myself, I would always clear it the first try!
Ultimately the demons were added as a side-gang for two reasons: I couldn't find an interesting identity for them (like how vampires can walk on the ceilings, or skeletons can hide underground), and it also felt wrong ending a game about the undead on a non-undead gang. It felt like it was taking away from a lot of the story telling and the themes I was establishing through the story.
TechRaptor: Near the end of the game a lot of new concepts like the sniper or the timer are introduced. Why did you only make these mechanics last for one level each?
Duncan: For each stage, I like to introduce a new concept. That can either be a new mission objective, a new gun, a new enemy type, or a new mechanic. I think that a lot of the time how special a stage feels is dependent on how many unique assets are in it - if getting shot at by a sniper, or sniper support from candles were present in every stage, it would lose a lot of that specialty.
I think that the levels near the end are the most memorable for that reason - so I think I did my job well as a designer!
TechRaptor: Do you have any plans for more DEADBOLT content in the future?
Duncan: Currently nothing is planned, but there's current work done for a Mac and Linux build. Maybe one day it'd be nice to move to consoles, but I'd have to figure out how to change the aiming system to compensate for controllers.
TechRaptor: A little over a year ago, you showed off gifs of a necromancy game (pictured above) on your tumblr. Is that project still in development?
Duncan: Nope. That was a quick venture to see if a game like that is possible to be made - and while it looked cool conceptually and in motion, the gameplay itself came out very stale. It ended up feeling like a lame version of Pikmin - it's definitely workable, but I didn't see the spark in it.
TechRaptor: Are you toying with any other projects or concepts?
Duncan: Not at the moment - we're still recovering from DEADBOLT release. I always have a million ideas in my head though, and I hope that I've become a better developer to the point that I can try some of them.
TechRaptor: Thank you for your time.