Coming off of a successful Kickstarter drive in 2013, Discord Games has been hard at work preparing its upcoming RPG platformer, Chasm. I put some questions to producer James Petruzzi, who explained what players can expect from this odd amalgam of procedurally generated levels and 2D exploration.
What’s the story concept behind Chasm? Who do you play, and where is the game set?
In Chasm, players take up the role of a soldier who’s been fighting a long and bloody war in distant lands. One fateful day, he receives a mysterious anonymous letter. It warns that “everyone and everything you know is in great danger” and to “come home at once”. He decides to abandon his post that night, and begins his long journey home. A few days later, he enters the remote mining town of Karthas. Just days before his arrival, there were rumors of a discovery in the mines below the town, and the miners never returned from their shift. Some of the remaining residents attempted to go for help, but no one can leave the town – they just walk endlessly in circles. With no other option left, the soldier is forced to explore the mines below Karthas, and hopefully find a way to escape and finally get home.
What games helped inspire Chasm?
Chasm is heavily inspired by games from both past and present. Everything from classics like Castlevania, The Legend of Zelda, Mega Man to modern games like Dark Souls, Shadow of the Colossus, and Spelunky have all had an influence on Chasm. It’s really a love letter to games, especially the ones we grew up with on NES and SNES – but also informed by the 20 odd years of advancements since then.
You’ve discussed the game as being akin to the “Metroidvania” genre, which often implies very prescribed paths for exploration and discovery. However, you’ve also said that Chasm’s levels are procedurally generated. How do those two ideas work together?
Chasm is definitely a Metroidvania-style game. You will need to explore the world and find power-ups to increase your abilities and reach previously inaccessible paths. We hand-design all the rooms in the world, and create a big repository of possible rooms for each area. When the player starts a new game, a large map is generated for each area utilizing the hand-made room templates. Enemies, treasure, and traps are then placed into them procedurally giving you a new, different experience each time you start a new game. There are still fixed points in the world that the procedural parts connect together. We know when the player will have different power-ups, so we can design the room templates for each area accordingly.
In what ways does the main character of the game improve over time?
Power-ups in Chasm are mostly based around acrobatic abilities. We want the player to feel empowered, and really just have fun moving through the world. As you play, you will find new acrobatic abilities such as sliding, ledge-grabbing, wall jumping, flipping and more that will increase your core moveset and open up more exploration options. We also have some cool equipment to find like snorkels, lanterns, and more.
Are you exploring any interesting approaches to combat? Are battles focused more on melee or ranged combat?
Yea, we’re trying some different stuff with combat. Regular sword combat has single-swing action like the Castlevania DS games, but in addition we’re prototyping three swing combos as well as a charge attack. There are also a wide range of spellbooks you can find that will give you magic range attacks like throwing knives, bombs, arrows, etc.
You’ve said that you hope to have six distinct areas to explore down in the mines. Can you tell us about some of these areas?
We’ve revealed three of the six areas so far. The first area is the Mines below Karthas that is featured prominently in the trailer. After conquering them, you will enter the Catacombs – a dangerous, trap-filled place full of undead creatures. If you’re lucky enough to survive that, you will be rewarded with a magnificent sight: the overgrown Gardens – a lush, unnatural jungle filled with deadly creatures waiting to devour you. We’ll be revealing the final three areas as the year goes on.
What are some of the things you can do when returning to town after an adventure into the mines?
There will be numerous NPCs on the surface to interact with. The most basic functions will be buying or selling supplies like food, potions, armor, and equipment. There will also be characters you can take side quests from, like an inventor who has come up with his own clever method of escaping the town. Also as you rescue the missing miners, you will unlock mini-games and other cool features.
What other features help Chasm stand apart from other games?
The procedural generation is definitely our most stand-out feature for this style of game, but we’re also very happy with how the gameplay, story, and visual style turned out. The backstory is pretty deep, and has lots of fun and interesting lore associated - just don’t expect it to be handed to you in a cutscene! Those who explore and examine every nook and cranny will be rewarded for their efforts. We want this to feel like a game you would have expected to play on SNES – that means gorgeous authentic pixel graphics (384x216 resolution), not a whole lot of talking, and a high difficulty level.
When do you hope to release Chasm? On what systems will the game release?
We’re shooting to release Chasm in Fall 2014 on Windows, Mac, and Linux - both Steam and DRM-Free. Humble pre-orders are available now with Steam-key. Consoles are a definite possibility, but nothing to confirm yet.