Immortal Darkness has been causing quite the stir online – the brainchild of Arcade Attack favourite Chris Shrigley (check out our podcast with him here) and fellow retro gaming legend Damon Dubois, this RPG-esque Dungeon Crawler looks set to take Steam by storm later in the year. Adrian caught Chris to find out a lot more about a project we should all be very excited about…
You’ve had years working in the video game industry and worked on some classic titles. What inspired you and your team to start work on Immortal Darkness and what games and experiences gave you the inspiration to start this ambitious project?
I have a short list of games I’ve always wanted to make. I’m sure most developers have similar lists tucked away, waiting for the stars to align and opportunity to come knocking. I got lucky, early in 2016, when I talked my old friend Damon Dubois into making a game with me. Damon and I have made other games together, but nothing close to the scope of Immortal Darkness, and we’d talked about making something bigger and specifically based around dark fantasy with a Lovecraftian vibe for years. Damon and I are both massive D&D nerds, and we love and adore RPGs and dungeon crawlers, so making something that brought all of these ideas and interests together was an easy choice. Basically, Immortal Darkness is the game that Damon and I have always wanted to make. It is our love letter to the genre. We set out to make a good old fashioned, single player, story driven adventure game, with magic and monsters, secrets and treasure, and all of the stuff we love about D&D and RPGs like Baldur’s Gate and Zelda, but with a dark twist and epic storyline.
Can you briefly explain what our readers can expect from Immortal Darkness and give us a quick overview of the style of game and plot?
Immortal Darkness is a dark fantasy dungeon crawler. It blends the best of old school dungeon crawlers with modern graphics, slick combat, and context driven audio. It features challenging real-time tactical combat, a wide variety of spells and items to use, and it’s all set in a dark and brooding dungeon full of lethal enemies, sadistic traps, and mind-bending puzzles.
The game is set in a rich and storied universe, and takes place in the world of Uuld, which is under siege by the Vampyr who have destroyed and devoured all but a few remaining strongholds of civilization. There’s truly very little left. And the world’s last hope is Shade, an ancient and legendary vampire hunter, who has been bitten and cursed in one of the last, epic battles against the vampiric forces. The Vampyr now control most of the surface world, with only two walled human cities holding out against their forces, and final, ultimate destruction.
In the game you play as Shade, who is now struggling against the vampiric curse. The curse gives you the ability to heal yourself by drinking the blood of slain enemies, but at a terrible price, the slow corruption and pull of the vampirism. The premise is that you must fight your way through this twisted labyrinth of horror, mystery, and secrets to finally face the Pale King, lord of all the Vampyr, before succumbing to the curse yourself (ooooooh – Ed).
The game is a good old fashioned, single player romp, through 15 levels of mind bending puzzles, fiendish traps, devious and challenging enemies, evil bosses, and secrets. Lots of secrets. All wrapped up in a rich story and game universe. A player can expect a solid 20+ hours of gameplay.
It looks like a really fun and playable game. How are you aiming to make this game stand out from the crowd and offer fans of the RPG/Dungeon Crawler genres something different?
The game really is a passion project for Damon and I. We’ve poured decades of experience into the design and development, trying to capture the things that made games so good for us in the past. The game is quite nostalgic in that respect. We set out with the intent to make Immortal Darkness the best damn dungeon crawler we could. Both Damon and I wanted this to be a real showcase for our long careers, and because we had complete freedom to do what we wanted with the game (within reason and with our resource limitations), build what we wanted without much compromise.
Passion aside, the game aims to be the best-in-class dark fantasy dungeon crawler/RPG. What makes Immortal Darkness different is a combination of old school, classic single-player gameplay, reminiscent of past greats like Zelda, but with modern 3D graphics, slick real-time combat, and contextual audio all mixed in with an amazingly immersive story. It’s nostalgic and familiar. It’s challenging and fun and there is deep, dark mystery too.
The game has some cool features like “Blood Drink” – which is basically a way that Shade can heal themselves by harvesting and drinking the blood from fallen enemies, but it comes with a cost. If you drink too much blood, the vampiric curse that flows through Shade’s veins, will consume them and it’s game over. It’s a pretty cool mechanic, and works well in the context of the game.
We also have a really cool magic spell system, based around magical artifacts that can be found throughout the dungeon. As the player progresses through the game, and they find these magical items, they can be equipped to give Shade special abilities and powers, to turn them into a vampire killing machine. The items can also be upgraded to increase their power and utility, and used in a multitude of creative and interesting ways and combinations. Our play testers are finding some really cool and entertaining combos with the various spells in combat.
What is your exact role on Immortal Darkness and where does this game rank in excitement and challenge compared to the previous games you have worked on?
I don’t have an exact role, but probably my primary role is programmer. I’m the only programmer on the project, actually, and I’ve coded everything in the game. As our team is tiny, I have other roles too, out of necessity. I’m the producer and the business guy for example, and I dabble in the game design, but leave most of that up to Damon, along with everything on the art side.
As far as excitement and comparing it to other projects, the nitty gritty is basically the same. When you’re in the weeds and have spent two years on a project, you’re just trying to get it done and finished. Along the way, of course, the whole thing has been an extremely positive and enjoyable experience. I work very well with Damon, and the way the project has been divided up, has worked very well for us. We’ve had very few problems technically or from a design point of view. We can make changes and iterate on things quickly and without having to run it up and down a chain of command or stakeholders. That’s probably the best part of being independent; the flexibility and ability to quickly change direction on something.
Alongside your own personal wealth of experience in the video game industry, can you quickly run through the rest of the Immortal Darkness team and how you are all pulling together to make this game?
Damon and I spent the first year making tools and tech that allowed us to build and prototype ideas quickly and efficiently, and do all the cool stuff we wanted to do with the game. As the project progressed, we added some very talented and experienced team members.
Damon Dubois is my partner on this project and is responsible for all the visuals and the over all game design. He got into the game industry in 1992 and has worked in Lead and Art Director Positions on top franchises such as Mortal Kombat, Silent Hill, X-Men, Batman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and many others. He has also been obsessed with designing games since buying his first computer back in the early eighties, and has run Dungeons and Dragons campaigns for over 30 years.
Ted Peterson has been involved in the writing and design of dozens of critically acclaimed, commercially successful published video games, running the gamut of genres and platforms. He was one of the creators of the legendary Elder Scrolls series, named series of the decade by Gamespot readers. Ted has also designed and written for licensed games as varied as The Terminator, WALL-E, Star Wars, James Bond, The Transformers, and Pirates of the Caribbean.
Jan is a classically trained violinist, and has been immersed in music his whole life. For the past decade, Jan has composed and produced music for feature films, documentaries, theater and classical ensembles, and has been a finalist and won prices at major competitions, such as the ‘Transatlantyk Film Music Competiton’ and the ‘International Film Music Competition’ in Zurich. Jan, originally from Hannover, Germany, now lives and works in Tokyo, Japan, and spends his days, working in his studio, teaching music and playing concerts as a solo artist.
Yigit Koroglu is our illustrator, and has created all our in game cinematic art and marketing materials. He has worked for various mobile and tabletop games such as Transformers: Legends, Lord of the Rings LCG, Star Wars LCG, Pathfinder. Yigit’s works have been featured and received awards in renowned art books and magazines like Exposé, Digital Art Masters, Sci-Fi Art Now!, Exotique, ImagineFX and 2DArtist.
Joel Benefiel is our visual effects artist. He’s an industry pro with twelve years under his belt and a passion for games since falling for EGM’s 1992 April Fool’s joke back in his childhood. He’s worked on top licensed properties including Silent Hill, Mortal Kombat, Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Adventure Time, and countless others. In his free time he’s taught weekend classes, spoils his cats, and is working on obtaining a diamond rank Alex in Street Fighter 5.
Ami is our Community Manager. She is the kind of person that enjoyed reading the “Bugs and Easter Eggs” sections on GameFAQs as a kid, will only play a Druid in D&D but remains a Mage in WoW, and took the task of modding her copy of Fallout 4 a little too seriously. When asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, her first thought was “Can I get paid to be a guild master?” Thus, a Community Manager was born. She joins the Immortal Darkness team with 3 years experience managing online communities in the gaming and software industries.
We also worked with some great voice over talent, Lani Minella and Mark Dodson, for all the creature voices and the voice of The Pale King.
Lani Minella did all our creatures and the voice of Shade, and has more than 500 credits to her name, including God of War 4, multiple World of Warcraft titles, Mass Effect 3, Hearthstone, multiple Diablo titles, and much, much more. We are so happy she could lend her voice to our game!
Mark Dodson is another veteran voice actor from film, TV, and games, and did the original creature voices for the Gremlins and Mogwai in the Gremlins movies. He was also the voice of Salacious Crumb in Star Wars: Episode VI, and we were thrilled to have Mark be the voice of the Pale King.
Immortal Darkness reminds me of the classic top-down Zelda titles, but obviously with refreshed graphics. Are you a personal fan of the Zelda games and is that a fair comparison?
I am a big fan of the Zelda games. I love the original NES version and have enjoyed every incarnation and revision. A few people have said our game looks like a “Dark Zelda”, which is a compliment, and we agree, but that wasn’t our intention. The original aesthetic and art style has an 8bit, tiled vibe, but rendered in glorious, real-time, illuminated 3D. That was by design, and gave us a few practical advantages logistically on the project. All the art is built as snap-together 3D blocks, and all the levels are built from those blocks. This makes map creation quick and easy, especially with the tools I built into the Unity editor. This was critical at the start of the project, as our team was really small, consisting of just Damon and myself. Damon and I both love Zelda and the glorious games that were inspired by it that followed, and we’re very happy it has a Zelda vibe to it.
When do you hope to get Immortal Darkness released to the public and what platforms will the game be released on?
We’re shooting for a Halloween release, around mid to late October. We’ll be PC only to start, published on Steam, but we plan on other versions if the game does well on Steam first. An Xbox, PS4 and Switch version are possible, as well as some localized versions for our friends in Japan and Korea. We’re planning on releasing an early access version sometime in September, so we can give the game some extra polish before it’s official, full release a month or so later. At least that’s the plan…
Where are the best places for our readers to keep updated on the game’s progress?
We have a bunch of social media pages and our official page too. You can also sign up for our mailing list and get updates and access to exclusive prize draws. We have some cool swag to give away in the coming months, as we ramp things up for our official release.
Will there be a lot of Easter eggs and hidden secrets within the game and can you reveal any secrets now?
There are many, many secrets in the game. Breakable walls, movable walls, trap doors, movable statues, secrets in secrets. Having hidden stuff and Easter eggs was an important part of our original intent. We love that sort of stuff in games, especially RPGs and dungeon crawlers, so we went all out on the secret stuff.
You have worked for numerous legendary video game developers in the past. You mentioned it briefly earlier but how does it compare working for your own personal developer Giant Space Monster and previous employers?
Well the main difference is I’m my own boss, and being my own boss means I can make decisions quickly and easily, without fuss or drama. When you work for a big developer there are a million forces at play, pulling the project in all directions, most of them out of your control. That can be frustrating and stifling, and VERY uncreative, especially when there’s a lot of money on the line. The games industry is very risk averse, and when you’re in the trenches, working on the nitty gritty, day-to-day, it’s not romantic or creative. It’s just a slog. Going indie and self funding a project removes a lot of those limitations and problems, but adds the stress and responsibility of paying for everything, and the success or failure of the project is squarely on our own shoulders, and there’s nowhere to hide and no excuses to be made.
Now this sort of thing isn’t for everyone and not everyone is in a position to self fund a project. I’m pretty lucky to be able to take a couple years out and do a project like this. And I have to say, this game and project is genuinely the best one I’ve ever worked on, for all the reasons I mentioned. It’s unshackled creativity, and it’s working with amazing, talented people.
Are there any penciled in plans to potentially make a sequel to Immortal Darkness or do you have any other projects you are looking to work on after this title?
Really good question… When we started the game, we intended it to be a relatively small and quick project. But as we worked into the project, we ended up designing a complete universe with lore and laws and rich backstories and characters. We brought in Ted Peterson, who worked on the first Elder Scrolls games to help flesh everything out. We’ve got a lot of plans if the game does well. We already have the sequel penciled out. I’d love to make more Immortal Darkness games, but we have to finish this one first and see how it does.
If you got transported into the Immortal Darkness Labyrinth, which video game character would you most like to have by your side to help you face the enemies within, defeat the Pale King and escape?
Oooo, tough question! Probably someone with great utility or power. A bad ass like Kratos perhaps… I really think Shade could do it by themselves though. They are rather adept at killing vampires, and Shade is a pretty gnarly character.
Now go and check out our podcast with Mr Shrigley!