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Interview: Crate Entertainment's co-founder chats about Grim Dawn Two

We have seen action-RPGs before. What will make Grim Dawn stand out from the rest?

We're not really trying to stand out so much as we're trying to make an exceptional game for an existing audience that improves upon their previous experience. That said, we have added quite a few new features. Most of them though are just tried and true mechanics that have existed in the RPG genre since I was kid but just weren't in Titan Quest. I would say our top two goals are to make the combat more satisfying and the questing / fictional world deeper and more robust.

For combat we've created a new hit-effect system, added blood and dismemberment death effects for some enemies, and improved the physics. On the questing side we now have a faction system a new quest system that provides the ability for the player to make choices that could lead to different quest paths. We've also spent a lot more time developing the fictional world of Cairn, in which Grim Dawn is set; its history, conflicts, and characters. There is both an older history that provides a backdrop for the game's events and gives the world character but also a newer history that the character can pick up on and become involved in through questing and the collection of journals.

We understand there's a crafting system in Grim Dawn. What can you tell us about it?

The crafting system is actually somewhat inspired by Defense of the Ancients or DotA, the incredibly popular Warcraft III mod that seems to have spawned an entire new sub-genre of games. We actually created our own DotA knock-off mod at Iron Lore, which we called Pirates vs. Ninjas. The item recipe system was simple and fun. My favorite part was how there would be several different tiers of useful items that you might create in the course of building towards a final uber-item. We wanted to capture this same dynamic. Blueprints can drop in the game that require the player to collect a number of other items or components before they can be combined into a single more powerful item. Higher level blueprints may include other lesser-blueprint items in their recipes. Often the items you create will have a mix of fixed and randomly generated bonuses.
How will the game's multiplayer features work?

We haven't started working on the multiplayer yet but it will be built off the existing TQ architecture, so I imagine it will be fairly similar. Whether we'll make any improvements or add new features, I don't yet know for certain.

What other features do you think are important in Grim Dawn?

The big one would be randomized undergrounds. We haven't finished the tech yet, so it isn't 100% but it is looking very promising so far. Allowing for some "dungeon" areas of the game to be randomized would be a big win for replayability. We realize that our audience is split with some people desperately wanting randomization and others hoping we'll stick to hand-crafted environments. I think we can find a compromise that will keep most everyone happy with outdoor environments and some undergrounds being hand-crafted and most undergrounds, especially optional areas, being randomized. We're also looking to add in some level of quest randomization but we don't have details on that yet.
The completely new quest, conversation, and faction systems are also very exciting. I think these will mesh together to create a much wider array of questing possibilities and more interesting world interactions. This will also be important for modders who will find the new system, which includes a quest wizard, much easier to use. We will be releasing more details about in the next couple weeks on our forums.

I don't know that it is an important feature but I love our new dynamic weather system. It really adds an unexpectedly huge amount of atmosphere and life to the game. The way the system works is that designers paint regions of the world with different climate types. The climates are controlled by climate files where designers can add different weather patterns and set probabilities for each to occur. The weather patterns, in turn, are built out of individual weather effects such as wind, fog, thunder, dust, etc, that can be set to varying intensities. I have to admit, I get a bit of a tingly feeling when I'm running through a wheat field and then the sky darkens, rain starts to fall, gently at first but then it starts pouring, the wind picks up and blows the grass around and then there is a sudden boom of thunder. Dynamic weather changes really make me feel like the world is alive.

What sort of graphical changes and improvements have you made to Iron Lore's engine for your game?

On the engine side we've done a lot of optimization to fix past performance problems and we're using a new pathing system. Some of the most noticeable graphical features will be depth of field, specular terrain, soft particles, terrain painting on objects, place-able and dynamic decals, etc. We've also made a few enhancements to the lighting and added a new post-processing adjustment layer that allows us to tweak the contrast, saturation, and color values on per-level basis. There are a number of other less sexy sounding improvements such as an updated shader model, support for much higher anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering, and the list goes on. We've tied most of these improvements to video options so that people with older machines can disable them. We'd like to make it possible for anyone who could play Titan Quest to play Grim Dawn.

You are already taking pre-orders for Grim Dawn. So far how has that worked?

It's been great in that it has allowed dedicated fans who wanted to contribute early to the project to do so while also generating some additional funds that we can put toward developing more content. There has been somewhat of a misunderstanding that keeps cropping up that we're "crowd funding" Grim Dawn. However, we never intended for the project to be funded with pre-order money and certainly the amount of pre-orders we've been getting, while meaningful, is not nearly enough to completely fund a game of this scope. We've had some people applauding us for pioneering this novel new funding model but really we never thought of it that way and can't even claim credit for the idea. It actually got started after we received several emails from fans who wanted to know if there was some way they could donate to the project. We weren't in any position to turn down people wanting to help but we had no structured way as a company to accept donations. So, finally we decided to put up a pre-order system on the website. We figured if people wanted to donate, they might as well be getting a game-key in return.

Any plans for downloadable content for Grim Dawn after its release?

Our plan is to continually update the game with small expansions that provide new regions to explore, new quests, equipment, enemies, etc. We'd like to be able to put out small expansions every 6-10 months so players always have something new to look forward to.

PC games seem to be moving more towards the digital distribution business model. Do you see a time where PC games will bypass retail stores for the most part?

I think it is inevitable and for PC it is almost a reality in some places. Just 10 years ago you could go into almost any game store and find a complete range of PC games on the shelves. Now many, if not most game stores in North America have their shelf space dedicated primarily or completely to console games. Where stores do carry PC games it is usually difficult to find anything but the most recent top-selling games and a couple classics. You almost have to turn to digital distribution to find some smaller games. Given that console makers are all expanding on their online services, including digital distribution, I don't think it will be long before buying full console games digitally becomes the norm there as well.

Finally is there anything else you wish to say about Grim Dawn and Crate Entertainment?

We're working hard to meet the high expectations of our audience and we're hoping to release our first video footage of the game on the grimdawn.com within the next month or two.

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