Recently, I had the opportunity to play a demo of the newly-greenlit “Downspiral”, a game by developer Hey It’s That Dog. This RPG dungeon crawler takes a humorous spin on fantasy tropes, from elves to fabulous vampires, while contributing its own race of anthropomorphic salad toppings to the genre’s pantheon of protagonists.
Set in an abandoned fantasy theme park, you must create a party of four adventurers to explore the ruins. With an array of races and classes, you are given a classic RPG experience, and the game is expected to have 4-player local co-op.
The demo provided a glimpse of the game’s humour and the gameplay, both of which I enjoyed. The experience is scored by a jazz soundtrack that will consist of twelve tracks.
So, what did I think of the game so far? Having had a taste of the tutorial level, I am certainly intrigued. I enjoy the music and the selection of races (mostly the Dumpster Elf). As far as gameplay goes, there is potential for a fun and challenging experience, but this potential will be tested in the deeper levels, when the game can finally show its teeth. I will be following Downspiral through development, and hope that it reaches its projected 2016 release date.
I had a chance to ask Matt Gunter of Hey It’s That Dog about the game’s features, his inspiration and his development studio.
Firstly, congratulations on having your game greenlit. Have you yet recovered from the post-approval buzz?
Thank you! No I haven’t recovered yet, preparing for the Greenlight was a huge amount of work, and I was expecting at least a month of promoting the Greenlight while finishing things up on the game. While I’m thrilled the Greenlight passed so quickly, I feel like I have to get right back into working non-stop for the release, but I’m trying to slow down and take a bit of a break before doing that.
What inspired you to eschew the elements of grinding that have been endemic to role-playing and dungeon crawling games?
I’ve tried a lot of dungeon crawlers and I’ve never been able to get very far into them. Whether it be because I found the gameplay too dated, or the dungeon felt too large and maze-like. I’ve always wanted to enjoy them, and I love the idea behind them, so I thought I would try making one of my own to see if I could eliminate the issues that prevented me from enjoying other games in the genre.
The Dumpster Elf, though created as a joke, quickly became my favorite race. Do you fear that your creation may escape the confines of Downspiral and crop up in future Elder Scrolls and Warcraft installments?
The dumpster elves do seem to be attracting the most attention. It’s definitely not the race I thought would be a fan favorite, but I guess everyone just loves elves! When I was working on getting things ready for the Greenlight, I kept debating whether I should change their name or not. I was worried it was too dumb (in a game that has twerking purple dinosaurs), but I’m glad I decided not to. I’ve already seen someone using the dumpster elf moniker on Twitter, and I’d love to see more people embracing their inner dumpster elf! The playable races in the game are supposed to be a group of weird but lovable underdogs, so it’s really great to see people getting super into them!
What made you select a jazz soundtrack?
I was introduced to wonderful local musicians Bruce Mackinnon and Jonathan Sloan by a mutual friend, and up until this point I had worked on the game exclusively on my own. I didn’t want to stifle their creativity by telling them exactly what I wanted, so I told them the setup for the game, the tone I was going for, and told them to just do whatever they wanted. They came up with this funky, jazzy sound that was nowhere near the typical kind of music you hear in most games. I was really drawn to that, because that was basically my goal creating this game, to make this weird adventure that’s familiar but unique at the same time. They surprised me with what they created and I just thought the music really fit and was perfect. But all credit goes to Bruce and Jon, I just thought it was a great fit.
When Peter Jackson picks up Downspiral for a movie franchise, how many films can we expect (prequels included)?
Well first, you have at least six parody movies right out of the gate, with potato people replacing hobbits and dumpster elves who are allied with Sauron because of the incredible amount of waste his war machine generates. After that the options are really limitless.
Is there a secret cow level in Downspiral? You don’t have to answer truthfully here, but just give me one blink for “no” and two blinks for “yes” as you write this (I’ll be able to tell).
There’s a lot of secrets in Downspiral, and I am really bad at keeping secrets, so you shouldn’t ask me about secrets because I won’t be able to keep them, and then they won’t be very secret anymore. But to answer your question, there aren’t any cows in the game, but there are a couple goats.
How did you get the name for your studio?
Resident Evil 4 is one of my all-time favorite games, early on in the game you can rescue a dog from a bear trap. If you chose to free him, later in the game during a boss fight the dog appears again to aid you and the game’s protagonist exclaims “Hey! It’s that dog!”, the line is goofy, the whole setup is silly, it’s great.