Writing the history of Dead Cells and its predecessors is long. This is a very brief summary of the convoluted history of this game design (GD) and how we arrived at the current version. This post will serve as an anchor post for each of the versions. As time goes on I will write a detailed history of each version based on the questions posed by you guys.
A bit over 10 years ago an idea for a game, where pirates on a ship would sail around an archipelago exploring islands and managing resources, popped into deepnight’s head. It was to be a multiplayer game where cooperation was necessary in order for the ship to function correctly. Each player would have had a specific role, while players could change roles through certain actions… Yaarr who be up for a mutiny!? Unfortunately the game never got off the ground and was cancelled before the idea even really became a concrete game design. The key elements of the GD were:
Right then another MT employee was cooking up Hordes and Deepnight saw an opportunity to make another game that revolved around collective resource management, cooperation and competition… And so it was that Hordes came into the world! Or at least the idea for Hordes. After 6 months of development deep decided to reboot the game, requiring another 6 months of development before the game was released. Well the rest is history, but the main elements of the GD are:
After the release of Hordes deepnight still wanted to push the exploration, cooperation idea further. So he took the idea of a vessel operated by multiple people from Anarchipel and mutated it into an exploration game set in a world filled with hostile man eating plants... You and some friends would land on a map, in some kind of vehicle whatsit, with the aim of exploring and staying alive. You needed to work together to collect resources while making choices about where to take the vehicle next. Again the game never really got past the proto phase, several reboots and too much time spent on the game ended in it being cancelled. It proved difficult to create a compelling GD from what seemed like a great idea.
Set in a post apocalyptic universe Hordes Zero set out to meld the multiplayer exploration and resource management from the previous games with a physical representation of the ‘tower defense’ aspects of Hordes. This resulted in a GD where a hexagonal map saw players go out and explore, gathering resources during the day, while returning to the vehicle’s location to participate in a 2D strategy tower defense, during the ‘attack’ at night. After each attack the players had to decide what to do next, stay and face a stronger attack in a location they knew, or move on and find a new place to defend while exploring the map. The core game mechanics were:
Part way through the development of the game a decision was made to take a break and work on our first mobile games, (Uppercup Football & Braziball) which were designed to test our technology on the mobile platforms and to try out a different development approach.
Developing the mobile games turned out to be great for Hordes Zero. Deepnight took a new approach to the project and cut parts of the game that weren’t directly related to the core experience that he wanted to keep. The idea was to centralise the game around “coopetition”. This meant the map and the exploration parts of the GD were abandoned while the Tower Defense (TD) became central to the experience. Players would find themselves in a place that they needed to defend. At the end of each attack the players would choose whether to stay and defend the same place again, or ‘travel’ to a new location. The more TDs the players survived the higher the score, but only one person could claim the title of Last Man Standing (LMS).
The name of the game changed to Dead Cells in response to feedback we received at Gamescom (no one could pronounce HordezzzzZzzero). At the same time alpha testing began and the initial results were positive. However, after more testing it quickly became evident that the only way for “coopetition” to work was through real time multiplayer, and even then the GD had some glaring flaws we couldn’t quite fix. These included the multiplayer aspect, the F2P economy of the game and several technical barriers. Up until this point the core mechanics of the game were:
This is where the last blog post left us (I suggest you read it if you haven’t already). We picked back up the development of Dead Cells knowing full well that the game was going to change radically. Now we’re focusing on creating a convincing Roguelike TD game where exploration and the evolution of a character are the central mechanics. Through multiple runs of a series of procedurally generated levels, in a static level designed dungeon, the player will explore a world and choose the path that corresponds to their prefered playstyle. This is what we call a ‘roguelike’ game, each time you die, you’re dead, you lose all of your stuff and you go back to the start of the dungeon. While the layout of the dungeon remains the same, each TD is randomly generated at the start of each run, meaning you never play the same TD twice.
At the time of writing the game is in a fluid state. We know what we want to do and the feelings that we want to elicit in our players, the only question is how we get there. Since picking back up the development, lot’s of things have changed and will continue to change until we have a prototype that fulfills our desire to create a great Roguelike TD game with massive replayability. As for exactly where we’re up to and all of the details on the current GD, I’ll be releasing them in future posts.
My idea is to write a post for each of the games above, with smaller updates regarding the active changes to the current GD on a more regular basis. This way, you’ll get plenty of info while you wait for the first alphas to begin.
I will say, however, that deepnight is committed to finding a way to bring back the chicken, so I’m sure that loveable little meat sack will be clucking around somewhere in the solo version of DC.
Until next time…