For the last nine years or so, Damien Crawford has been making games that people don’t want to play.
Crawford is the sole developer and head of Cannibal Interactive. Through this label he has produced over 20 games, most of which are mainly released on itch.io. They joined game development after several years of struggling to adapt to other jobs, including fast food and mundane government jobs. A relationship that didn’t work out and a need to break free from parental support eventually prompted me to try something new.
“I wondered what I would do if I failed the safe path. So I started making games.”
Their first project, Legend of Moros, took two-and-a-half years and didn’t work out. Sales on release day were less than $100. So, in another contrarian whim, Crawford spent a month creating a game he thought no one would want to play. A “villainous” (as they say) RPG that unites 99 characters in a single battle and stacks on one side against the enemy. In addition to absurd gameplay, Mighty 99 had a “terrifying memory leak problem” that prevented him from completing three full turns.
But to Crawford’s surprise, something interesting happened.
“There was feedback, most of it was negative, but people were playing it, and sometimes they were detailed notes!
People were playing Mighty 99 instead of nobody playing games that people wanted to play. But that was enough for Crawford. They improved Mighty 99 into a more playable version, stating, “I have low stats, but my class is ‘Leader’, so I recruited everyone I know to fight the Dark Lord.” A game with a lot of characters, an unwinnable scenario, and a humorously long title.
Crawford calls them “maximalist RPGs”, and examples include, “My sister left the computer, so I got into the game and found myself trying to tune a raid in the game. “I don’t play MMOs”, “6 random characters”, etc. Single-floor dungeon, that’s the whole game” and “It’s a first-person dungeon crawler speed-running events.” They also released Damien Crawford’s Golf Experience 2022 earlier this year. In this game, you play his game of golf as someone who has only the most basic understanding of golf. This includes not knowing the distance of the hole, not being able to apply spins or curves, etc. You can even see where the ball goes on a shot or after it’s been hit.
It may seem silly, but over the years Crawford have built a following based on their silly game and lean into it as part of their identity (their Twitter handle “TheWorstRPGDev “Please refer to). But after nine years of making games that no one wants to play, Crawford is back to making things people want. With the help of his Strange Scaffold on the team and publisher, they released his Purgatory Dungoneer. Or, “Grandpa died, and all he left me was this one dungeon of purgatory filled with nihilistic adventurers.”
Crawford knew he couldn’t see the whole thing if he had a story he wanted to tell and people weren’t interested in finishing the game because of the gameplay nonsense, so he moved to a little more traditional game development. He said he did. thing. Purgatory Dungeoneer is his RPG about a retired adventurer who arrives in his halls of a guild with dungeons that the player inherited from his grandfather. Players take adventurers in his party of five into dungeons to help shake off the cobwebs of adventure and ultimately provide space for them to confront the deep-seated trauma they’ve cultivated over years of fighting. To do.
“I’m tired of the way fantasy often portrays trauma because trauma is usually one or two of the same thing,” says Crawford. “An adventure isn’t something that any sane person would one day go out and do…and I felt it was an important series of stories. How you get there is very different.It was a fun writing exercise for me.”
The Purgatory Dungeoneer has an overarching story revolving around the guild hall and its inhabitants, including several NPCs to help manage it. It takes most players about 10-15 hours to complete. But if you want to see that character story in its entirety, you’ll have to go a lot further.There are 420 different characters, each with their own race and class combination, and their own strengths and weaknesses in combat. is equipped with All of them have their own stories, which are told through Remembrance missions (sidequest versions of the Purgatory Dungeoneer). You’ll have to delve into at least a few of these missions to see the end of the game, but there are so many characters that can easily finish Purgatory Dungeoneer while avoiding more than half of the cast.
When I played Purgatory Dungoneer myself, I could hardly believe that all the characters were intentionally designed instead of procedurally generated. My Guildhall had only a handful of members at first, but each time I completed a mission, more members arrived and used that room and table to occupy the space of Raz the Angel Healer, Ward Guardian Terhi of the Lizard Folk Guard, Awinita of the Lizard Folk Guard, and Rufaro of the Minos Lancer. , Myfanwy the Fairy Druid… I could go on. According to Crawford, the wide variety of class and race combos are inspired by many other RPG and fantasy settings, most notably Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 and his 2011 roguelike Dungeons of Dreadmore.
purgatory dungeon screenshot
Even if you’re unfamiliar with all the specific combinations you see, with a basic knowledge of how to build your average RPG party, you should be able to pull through Purgatory Dungeoneer. You need someone who tanks damage (such as a Guardian), a healer of some kind, and a dealer who deals damage to him. It only took me a few dungeon runs to familiarize myself with the Purgatory Dungeoner’s stat pool.
For those who love good crunchy numbers, the Purgatory Dungeoneer has you covered. Most characters have some basic skills and spells to deal damage, but almost all characters have the ability to buff allies or debuff enemies, thus increasing their stats. You can turn your party into an unstoppable freight train by tinkering with and systems. Inevitably, you’ll spend a lot of time building and rebuilding your party in each subsequent run, leaving a lot of room to be very specific about how you assemble your heroes.
If your obsession with party building and stats seems boring, Purgatory Dungeoneer may not be for you. But for many of us who love that sort of thing, actual dungeons help us avoid traps like treasure and complex dungeon labyrinths and puzzles to spotlight the intricacies of combat.
“We don’t want to cut people out of the game by making them busy with work,” says Crawford. “It’s a busy enough job as the guild tries to figure out who you’re trying to recruit, reset the party, remember who’s in the party and who you want to change…keep it minimalist.” Partly because I don’t. I don’t want people to worry about not getting what they wanted. [get]But also about adventure [is that] They are dealing with trauma. They are very accustomed to being just a tool, a weapon. They know how to get in, how to work, and how to get out. And doing this kind of repetitive thing reminds them of who they are and why they started and stopped in the first place. “
Each dungeon is therefore made up of several rooms, and each room has one battle, after which you can choose between two doors to advance. Each door gives the party a non-removable debuff for the rest of the dungeon. Multiple stack debuffs accumulate before reaching the final battle each time. As such, Purgatory Dungeoneer is almost a reverse roguelike. The deeper you dig, the weaker you become, forcing you to make calculated sacrifices to survive to the end.
“I enjoy playing roguelikes that scale up and end up being completely unstoppable,” says Crawford. “But this is again a game about adventurers and trauma, and adventure means being at your best from the start. And as you continue fighting in the dungeon, you may be offered a deal, but most of the time. [you’re asking]”How much do I want this, and how is my party best to deal with it?”
At first I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of adventurers and the complexity of the stats, spells and skills, but I may have inadvertently fallen in love with the dungeon of Purgatory. ’ or see if one of your favorite party members has a memorial mission to get to know them better and keep restarting the game. Its boppin’ soundtrack (courtesy of RJ Lake), especially the Guildhall theme, keeps looping in my brain. Intentionally or not, her nine years of trying to make things no one wants to play has taught Crawford many tricks to making games that people (or at least me) really want to play. is.
Either way, Crawford remains humble about it.
“I’ve been working on this for a year, so if I can make a year’s salary off of this, that’s great,” they say. “Most of my games in particular, I can’t say they’ve recouped their costs… I’ve had a few people email me and Twitter messages saying they’re enjoying the game, and that’s been pretty good. So , if this reaches at least some sort of cult-classic status, 7 out of 10 legends some people love and some people hate, but you’ll see [reviews] I mean they all say the same thing. Everyone likes it or hates it for the same reasons, and that’s enough. “
Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. you can find her on her twitter @duck valentine.