Deepworld Interview: Below and Beyond
Questions by Bryan King (Bryan), OnRPG Journalist
Sandbox users, unite! Deepworld is a 2D Open World Sandbox-Style Building Game, utilizing cloud technology to allow users to make their own worlds and explore. Today, I got to sit down with Quinn Stephens of Bytebin, who goes into more detail about this neat looking title.
OnRPG: Hello Quinn, please introduce yourself to our readers.
Quinn: Hi everyone, I’m Quinn, one of the three guys that make up Bytebin. We’re a new indie game studio and we’re about to release our first game, Deepworld. It’s a sandbox crafting MMO with a steampunk aesthetic, and we’re really excited to welcome players into the world we’ve created.
OnRPG: The first question on a lot of our readers minds, “isn’t this just Terraria or Minecraft?” What differentiates Deepworld from those two sandbox games?
Quinn: Deepworld definitely takes a lot of inspiration from Minecraft. In fact, we came up with the idea when we were running our own Minecraft server. We wanted to see what the same basic exploration/crafting/building mechanics would be like if we streamlined the gameplay, connected everyone to the same cloud-based persistent world, and added more social interactions - without the hassle of players setting up the server themselves.
We ended up with an MMO that will be familiar to Minecraft and Terraria players, but unique in ways that will continue to evolve as the game world itself does. We’ve already got a dynamic ecosystem that players can change, as well as a skill-leveling system that ties into achievements. Soon we’re going to add steam power, mini-games like capture the flag and freeze tag, and some really cool dynamic player-manipulated music. And that’s just the beginning. We plan to make the game accessible across desktop and mobile platforms as well; whether you’re on your laptop or your phone, you’ll always be able to pick up playing from where you left off.
OnRPG: What influenced your decision to utilize Kickstarter as a funding source?
Quinn: I think a lot of game designers’ eyebrows shot up when Tim Schafer’s adventure game project raised over 3 million dollars - that was when Kickstarter went from being a cool idea to an undeniable force in fundraising for indie projects. We knew we’d never approach anything like Double Fine’s success, but we figured if we could raise enough to support ourselves for a few months, pay for some more servers, and hire a sound designer, we’d be able to get a polished project out the door much sooner. It was really encouraging to watch people pitch in to help us do that. Unfortunately we didn’t hit our goal, but that didn’t stop us - it just slowed us down for a bit.
OnRPG: On the same train of thought, what influenced your decision to release Deepworld on Mac, iOS, and Windows?
Quinn: One of our developers, Mike, had already released a few games on the iOS App Store and was very familiar with both the publishing process and the cocos2d framework that we’re using to build the game client. Cocos2d can easily build to the Mac desktop as well, so both the Mac and iOS App Stores were a natural first choice for our platform. It was during the Kickstarter campaign that we really started to hear demand for a Windows version as well, so we decided to make that a priority. Fortunately there’s a cross-platform version of cocos2d that we can use to port the game to Windows, and it recently added some of the last few features that we needed, which should speed up that process quite a bit.
OnRPG: For the lone wolves out there, will there be a single player mode?
Quinn: You’ll be able to purchase private game zones and decide whether or not you want to invite other people to explore them. We’re considering a limited offline mode as well, but that’s not a huge priority at the moment.
OnRPG: How will you guys transition the game release to iOS?
Quinn: The biggest challenge will be getting the touch controls right. All the art assets and code already work on iOS, but we want to make sure the game is still fun and intuitive to play without a mouse and keyboard. We’ll be rolling out an iOS beta very soon, and once our users are enjoying the game as much on their iPads and iPhones as on the desktop, we’ll go ahead and submit to the App Store.
OnRPG: You guys seem to go into great detail about how important socializing is in Deepworld. What social features does Deepworld include to help culminate this feature?
Quinn: We want interacting with other players to be a key part of the experience, so we’ve already implemented a Twitter-inspired “following” system. You can use it to see when your friends are online, which zones they’re in, and what they’ve been up to lately. You can set your own visibility level in other players’ feeds as well.
In addition to the collaborative building and resource sharing, and the mini-games I mentioned, we’re going to enable players to create trap-filled dungeons and even entire quests for other players. We’re planning to implement collaborative and competitive building challenges, with unique game items as rewards. PvP combat will be possible as well for players who prefer their social interactions to be a bit more adversarial.
The game is, at its heart, about creativity, and we want to give our players as much opportunity and as many tools as we can to combine their creative drives and come up with crazy, unexpected things. We think the end result will be really cool.
OnRPG: What kinds of worlds can users come across when exploring the game?
Quinn: The world is split up into large, self-contained game zones, and each of these zones starts off in a state of post-apocalyptic blight. The plants are dead, the buildings are ruined and you’ll encounter deadly acid rain and hostile mutant creatures. But if players in a zone manage to find the broken pieces of a purification machine and re-activate it, the skies will clear and plants will begin to grow again. With enough work you can create an idyllic paradise - or you can just strip the land of all its raw materials and leave it to rot, if that’s your choice.
Everything is procedurally generated, so there’s no telling what you’ll find in a new zone. There will be collapsed houses, abandoned underground bunkers full of treasure, vast mineral-rich caverns and crumbling industrial cityscapes. Eventually we’re hoping to add new environments, like snowy mountains and wetlands, as well.
OnRPG: How does the skill system come into play?
Quinn: The skill system is tied into the achievements. Every achievement you get - say, for hunting a certain number of monsters or for finding rare treasures - gives you points that you can assign to your different skills at will. Some of the skills will be pretty familiar to RPG players - Luck, Agility, Stamina - and some are more specific to our game, like Building and Engineering. Raising your skills will allow you to move and mine faster, to place blocks from farther away, or to craft stronger and better items - all things that have an immediate and tangible effect on gameplay. The Automata skill will even let you build robots to do your digging, crafting and fighting for you. We’re really looking forward to the possibilities of that.
OnRPG: What influenced your team to use a steampunk art style when developing the game?
Quinn: We’re big steampunk fans - honestly, we just think it looks really cool. This particular style of hand-drawn, cross-hatched art is somewhat uncommon in games nowadays, and we wanted our game to have a unique look and feel that matched the setting and gameplay.
OnRPG: What degree of customization do players have on their characters?
Quinn: Lots, and there’s more to come. Every character starts out with a randomized appearance, but once you find or build a mirror and wardrobe, you’re free to change your skin tone, hair style / color, and clothing, as many times as you want. You’ll eventually be able to craft your own outfits. Unique clothing, hats and accessories will make up a lot of the treasures and special items that players will find throughout the game.
OnRPG: Is there some form of dedicated player housing?
Quinn: In addition to private zones, players can use special protection devices to mark off a certain radius of game territories as their own. Once the protector is in place, only you - and anyone you grant the privilege - can mine or place blocks in that area. A number of our beta users have already built themselves some really amazing homes that way.
OnRPG: With such a heavy degree of Steampunk artistic basis, can we expect to see crafting? If so, how will this system work in-game?
Quinn: Crafting is a huge part of the game, but we’ve kept it simple and accessible. As you dig around and scavenge to fill your inventory, your crafting menu will highlight the items that you can create with your current resources and skill level. Once an item is available, you can craft it with a single click or tap. If it’s not available, you’ll be able to see right away which items you still need in order to craft it. Right now we have nearly 100 craftable items in the game. We have plans for many, many more.
OnRPG: As it stands, you guys currently have a Mac beta released. When can we expect to see the iOS and Windows versions?
Quinn: Our Mac and iOS versions share a lot of code, so we think we can get an iOS beta out in the next couple of months. We’re still evaluating options for our Windows port, but we hope to get that underway within the summer as well.
OnRPG: Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers?
Quinn: Thanks for your attention, and we’d love to meet you in Deepworld! You can stay updated on the progress of the game by following us on Twitter (@deepworldgame) or checking out our website and forums at deepworldgame.com. We’re happy to answer any further questions. And don't forget MAC users can jump into the game right now!
OnRPG: Thank you!
Quinn: Thanks for having us!