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The Joystiq Indie Pitch: Delve Deeper

Justin McElroy

Being a giant, beloved video game site has its downsides. For example, we sometimes neglect to give independent developers our coverage love (or loverage, if you will) as we get caught up in AAA, AAAA or the rare quintuple-A titles. To remedy that, we're giving indies the chance to create their own loverage and sell you, the fans, on their studios and products. This week we talk Lunar Giant Studio's Adam Eidukas (Lead Developer) and Neil Wickman (Creative Director / Lead Artist) about how Adam FULLY beat Final Fantasy with just the thief. ... Oh, also they made a game.)

How did Lunar Giant get started?

Neil: In the future of the planet Earth arose a world of unthinking, unfeeling machines. A world without fun, a world without games. A world without heroes. But not without the memory of them, or those few left who could resist the robots. And like unto heroes did they arm themselves, and set upon their quest, bringing joy to a world that knew only the grip of steel. A great battle was fought, and though it was awesome, the machines were too strong, too numerous to be defeated. At that very moment before humanity's final defeat, two Men and one Stig escaped through time and space.

Returning to the year 2008, Lunar Giant was formed. A company with one purpose: to save the world.

What are some of your favorite games?

Neil: Starflight II, great game, epic story, and a massive living galaxy on two 360k floppies. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Super Metroid, both amazing and full of exploration, great art, and such life. X-Com may be my favorite game of all time. Shadow of the Colossus is such a subtle, emotional game, something you really never see. And Portal, absolutely.

Adam: Here's the RPG nerd cred: I've beaten Final Fantasy with only one thief (and have the math to prove it), and if you missed Crystalis or Destiny of an Emperor, you've done yourself a disservice.

Did these games influence the games you choose to make?

We've spent a lot of our early lives playing video games, so it's hard for any product we make not to be partially an amalgamation of the better parts of our gaming experiences. If we can recreate the feeling you had in your friend's basement as a kid, eyes glazed-over with lack of sleep and too much sugar, unable to put a game down, I think we've succeeded.

So, tell us about your game.

Adam: Our first game is called Delve Deeper, and it's an adventure/strategy game where you and up to three buddies command rival teams of rowdy dwarfs as they cheat, smash and steal their way to victory. The mines are stuffed with tons of monsters, and the king is constantly mocking or congratulating you based on how it's going.

Neil: It's a little like Dwarf Fortress meets Team Fortress. Every turn you add a chunk of the mine, and controlling the shape is key to the strategy aspect. It's also great to look at as it evolves. We chose a decidedly old-school aesthetic to it, something straight out of the Super Nintendo and PSOne era, and it looks great in HD.

Adam: There's a demo out now, and the PC version ships with some development tools to let you design your own maps to share, so we really think that the gamer is getting their money's worth.

How long did it take you to create?

Neil: 18 long months were spent in development before Delve Deeper was ready. It was easier to measure the development in hours than in days, because we kept our day jobs while we worked on the game at night (and into the early morning).

"If we can recreate the feeling you had in your friend's basement as a kid, eyes glazed-over with lack of sleep and too much sugar, unable to put a game down, I think we've succeeded."- Adam Eidukas

Adam: We feel that all our future projects will benefit greatly from the foundation we've built throughout development, and all those late nights are a great way to learn how to build a functional infrastructure.

Are you happy with the way it turned out?

Neil: There are definitely things we would have liked to do, but it looks great, and the comedic element really brings the world to life. It's graphically retro but mechanically complex and features all the gameplay elements that made you excited about the future of gaming back when the Super Nintendo was in full swing. As first-time developers there was a lightbulb moment a few months ago when we actually started putting the art into the engine and sewing the code together, and it just popped. We'd gone from playtesting using paper cut-out hexes that'd blow away when we laughed to having a fully playable multiplayer game with dynamic environments, monsters and artificial intelligence. You look back to where you started and say, "Wow! It's a real game now!"

What's next?

Neil: Part of what we do next will be decided by the community of gamers who support us. Come check out our forums and let us know what you want.

Adam: A well-deserved nap.

If you're ready to Delve Deeper for just $5, you can do it right here. It's just on PC for the moment, but it's headed to Xbox Live Indie Games soon. If you'd like to have your own shot at converting our readers into fans, email justin aat joystiq dawt com, subject line "The Joystiq Indie Pitch." Still haven't had enough? Check out the Pitch archives.

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