Daggerdale Dev Diary: From D&D to Action-RPG

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Daggerdale Dev Diary: From D&D to Action-RPG

When we first heard about the opportunity to not only work with Wizards of the Coast but on the Dungeons & Dragons property itself, well let’s just say that the nerdgasm around the studio was at an all-time high. We went with action-RPG as the genre based off of studio competency, market trends and general interest (basically, we thought it was cool and knew we can do a good job of it.) We knew that this the best fit for our first D&D game.

We wanted to make the game as accessible as possible, just let players play, harkening back to the ‘old school’ days of gaming. You should be able to play alone, call a buddy over and play locally or jump online and find a party of adventurers to group with. There are definitely development issues with balancing and performance having a downloadable PSN game that is fully featured, but we felt strongly about the usability of the game. Besides, isn’t that what D&D is about – freedom of play?

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It was also important to us that the player has a persistent character without restrictions that he or she can continually develop whether they were playing alone or with others. No playing as a “henchman” or sidekick; the XP you get is yours, the loot you grab you keep. Much like the pen-and-paper D&D game, your character is yours to do whatever you want with. We started going through all of the D&D materials we can get our hands on and we set up a few pen and paper campaigns in the studio. We looked at D&D’s current rule set as well as older ones and found that the 4th edition rules lends itself closer to video gaming than any other. We chose to use the 4th edition rules as a starting point for all of our systems. The first task was then to re-create the system digitally, and though it was a huge task it was not the biggest challenge we faced. The bigger challenge was to take the system and tune, tweak and re-design it to support an action-RPG title.

For the action component, the “moment-to-moment” gameplay, needed to be fun and and satisfying. We started at the root: one player, one enemy. First is making the hit and reaction, then make that feel satisfying. Then we boarded out with multiple ranges with multiple attack types (swords, arrows, spells). After that comes the real fun: hordes and multiplayer.

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Character development lies at the core of the D&D experience, so we started laying out the 4th edition rules against the overall playtime we were going to have. Very early on, we decided to concentrate on the first 10 levels of the 30 level characters within the rule set. Pen-and-paper campaigns can take a long time to play through and even though “time” is accelerated in a video game, we need to have a good character development curve to pace out all the abilities and powers that a player would earn. This was by far the longest part of the gameplay development process – the balancing. These RPG systems all rely on the moment-to-moment action components to determine what the frequency of XP earning is through the DPS (damage per second) so that we can set a proper flow to the action/RPG experience.

The other big part of the role-playing experience is the narrative. The narrative is arguably the most important part of the pen-and-paper experience and it is equally important here. It is the context to your actions, the “why?” As with any great fantasy story, we needed a great villain. This antagonist needed to be hated by the player and motivate them to continue on, yet cool in his or ruthlessness. Someone you wanted to face and best. And thus, Rezlus, the High Cleric of the Zhentarim, was born. With Rezlus comes his… wait for it… evil plan to conquer the Dalelands and specifically Daggerdale. The history of Daggerdale and the Zhentarim black network was a perfect backdrop for the game. Rezlus’s plan plays on the events of Daggerdale’s bloody past that fans of D&D will surely recognize.

So we have fun and satisfying action, a deep robust role-playing system , and a good story. Now comes the hard part: making them work seamlessly together throughout the entire play experience!

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31 Comments

  • any details on pricing or when we can expect to see it?
    Is your SP character different from your MP character?
    Looks and sounds interesting can’t wait to hear more

  • I hope this means Daggerdale is dropping soon.

  • Might get this one..

  • lookin good

  • This looks and sounds promising.. but the “whether you play alone or wioth others” part better insinuate online co-op. Split screen for me = no sale.

  • People that jump on to say first need to pull a Lara Croft and swan dive off the top of a cliff…but IRL :D

    @3 Me too, I would enjoy playing this I think.

  • Looking pretty good. Hope to hear more news soon =D

  • I reallu hope this can succeed and brings what Dungeon Siege III seems to have failed at. A modern day take on Baldur’s Gate and Champions of Norrath is what I’m looking for.

  • I know I might have to turn in my nerd badge, but I have never played D&D, & all I know about it is from seeing it made fun of on tv shows. You know, D&D & Trekkers, the standard butts of nerd jokes.

    What is it, in a video game? Are there virtual cards, because then I’m out. Since downloadable games have no guide, how will I know what to do? Isn’t D&D a very complex game?

    If it’s an action RPG like Dragon Age, then I might be in. A demo would be most helpful.

  • Should this have came out when the PSN was down? It has been on the 360 for a while now. I have been waiting for it and was even considering buying it for the 360.

  • Already waiting too long to care.

  • Well we got the announcement that Dungeon Defenders a YEAR ago and I still don’t see it. Probably the same thing with this one, and this one was rated only a 6 in Game Informer. I’m with Healey- though, tired of seeing announcements and nothing substantial in on PSN.

    Why can’t we get a game like Icewind Dale for the console?? :(

  • 5/25/2011…date Xbox got it….and we’re just now getting an “announcement” with nothing concrete in terms of when we can actually play this game.

    Golly, thanks.

  • Did some research on this game and I am confused. Was this game released already? Xbox version was out a few months ago and got horrible reviews (lots of 4 and 5 out of 10 scores). Forums speak of a lot of bugs and glitches that people “hope” will be fixed in the PS3 version.

    So is this the May release game that is still delayed? If yes, how is this release improved over the one that got critically panned?

  • Well from what I hear they did a pretty lame job of it. It came with bugs galore, for PC and XBOX360 versions. No support and that spell it out for me. I will only pay 5.99 for this lame excuse of shovel ware. I love D&D i have been a D&D player all my life. 4th edition is the best so far but trying to sell us this stuff isnt gonna help 4th edition sell.

  • How about you make this dungeon crawlers in a full complete game? From the start…why does this have to broken up in to a million pieces?

    Its not as if the world is flooded with these games. Why is it we can get infinite full shooters again and again but our dungeon crawlers keep getting turned into crap *Dungeon Siege3* or are so micro short they are not even wroth looking at twice. See anything on PSN that claims to be one atm.

    There is no point at all in a crawler when it’s over in less then 5 hours.

  • Dungeon Hunter: Alliance and Sacred 2 are both pretty good games for people who like the Diablo/BGDA type games.

  • Can’t wait to play this, any estimated release date?

  • This has been out on the 360 for a while and even though I was quite excited about it, I thought it was terrible. Bugs and glitches made it worse, but the game was simply poorly designed. Do not purchase this game without playing a demo first.

    This is not even close to what to the Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance games were. How cool would be for those to be re-released in a nice little HD bundle?

  • @ Lisa ‘nami

    If you’re turning yours in than I’m in front of you. I have played it but never really–watch this—I did not like it. There’s not necessarily any skill in rolling dice and I trend to the “unlucky” side of board games. Plus I have the attention span of a rhesus monkey after a crack binge. (ADD is FUN!!!!) That being said I will probably check this out if it’s not on the north side of 15 bucks.

  • This is just AWESOME!!!!!

  • I have this game in my pc… And the board game… And now for ps3!!!!! I Cant wait!!!

  • Another vote for same-screen local co-op.

    Are there gay characters/storylines?

    I found Dungeon Hunter to be mindless hack’n’slash with an over-emphasis on “loot”. At least in Deathspank, there was a slight puzzle element to the combat, even if it also had an overemphasis on loot and an unusable inventory system.

    If this has a decent story and actually requires a bit of strategy/tactics beyond buying upgrades and button mashing, it might be a first day purchase for me.

  • online coop? and whats the release date were looking at for this

  • @20: I have this game on my Xbox 360 tooand I’ve only seen a few small bugs/glitches where an NPC enemy will get stuck. I’ve been playing as an elfling that has some pretty cool abilities but I wish that the graphics for this game were better. Another complaint is that all the dialog is text-based and not voiced.

    Also, we should be able to customize the classes a bit more at the very beginning of this game.

    It’s not a really bad game but it’s definitely not a great game either.

    I hope that there will be a demo on PSN so that new players can try it before buying.

  • Get a PSP and untold legends, that’s a great dungeon crawler.

  • It don’t sound too bad. From whats been said about it, it seems like these guys are optimizing this game for the PS3 which would lead you to think that they are ironing out the bugs/glitches that were in the PC/360 versions. I’m willing to give it a shot whenever it’s released.

  • Not a single word about a release date, or bug fixes.

    Typical “dangling of the carrot” …. business as usual, aye Sony ?

  • I miss playing the paper game with friends; it was one of the first social games before Social Media. This game should help fill that void. :)

  • I think it is ridic that this post has no release info, and the director just posted and bailed without answer any comments or questions.

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