Druidstone: The Secret of the Menhir Forest Interview

After releasing Legend of Grimrock II, the developers behind it took some time off and then returned as a new studio, Ctrl Alt Ninja, with an announcement that their next game, Druidstone: The Secret of the Menhir Forest, will be a procedurally generated turn-based RPG about druids.

And if you'd like to know more about this new project from the people who pretty much single-handedly revived first person dungeon crawlers, you can check out this EnklawaNetwork interview with Ctrl Alt Ninja's Juho Salila and find out why Druidstone will be a turn-based RPG and not a real-time dungeon crawler, how some of its roleplaying systems will work, just how much procedural generation it will feature, and more. A few snippets:

EnklawaNetwork.pl: Most members of Ctrl Alt Ninja worked in Almost Human studio on Legend of Grimrock games. Both of these games felt successful and gamers seemed to want more of it, but instead of sequel you decided to work on a completely different franchise as a completely different studio. The question everybody asks now is simple: „why”?

Juho Salila: Grimrock games were a huge success to us and we are aware that a lot of people would like to see Legend of Grimrock 3. We poured our hearts and souls into Grimrock 2 and the game has pretty much all we want in a dungeon crawler. Making Grimrock 3 right after Grimrock 2 would have felt that we would be repeating ourselves, so that's why we decided that a small break from game development would be nice to have. During the break we could charge our creative batteries and gather ideas for a new game. Time passed and when Petri [Ed. Note: Häkkinen, one of the designers of the original Grimrock] and I felt the itch for making a new game, some members of the original Grimrock team were already tied with another projects. Because not everyone was involved, it was natural to start a new studio called Ctrl Alt Ninja. Currently Ctrl Alt Ninja has three members of the original Grimrock team and it may be possible that some other familiar faces will jump on board if we can sort out the schedules. At Ctrl Alt Ninja we started prototyping new game ideas and finally after seven game prototypes we ended up with Druidstone. Druidstone combines the best parts of RPGs, boardgames and tactical combat games that we love so much.

EN: Grimrock games gained you a lot of fans eager to play your next game. Have you ever thought about using this power for a crowdfunding purpose?

JS: Yes, we've thought about crowdfunding, but Finnish legislation makes crowdfunding a bit tricky and you can't start Kickstarter campaign in Finland. While crowdfunding may get you started, it's still a lot of work when done properly and all that work is taken away from actual game development.

EN: How’s development of Druidstone going? I guess it’s a lot of easier job having two successful releases under your belt.

JS: The Druidstone development is going very well. There's still a lot to do, but we're making a good progress and the game is getting better in every iteration. I wouldn't say it's any easier work with two Grimrock games under our belts. Every game is different and has it's own difficult problems to solve and at times Druidstone feels more difficult to do than Grimrock, because with Grimrocks we had more straight forward base to build on. But of course the experience we've gained over the years makes some things easier.


EN: The Menhir Forest is inhabited not only by druids, but also by different factions, right? Can you share some informations about them?

JS: There's plenty of life in Menhir Forest. Our main character finds friends from unexpected places and naturally foes lurk in the dark places of the forest. Additionally to the other party members, player encounters characters like the Traveler, the Scientist, members of the Druid Circle and other dwellers of the forest. Druidstone's locations aren't limited only to the green and lush Menhir Forest. The story also takes the player to cold snowy mountains and to a frozen monastery that holds a terrible past, and other places that we don't want to reveal just yet.

EN: What’s a maximum size of our party? Will playing solo be a viable option to finish the game?

JS: Currently the party size is four characters that player meets along the way. We may still add more characters to the party, but we'll have to see how it fits the gameplay. Playing the game solo isn't very probable option because we have a strong emphasis on the story of the characters.

EN: Contrary to Grimrock games, the world of Druidstone is going to be procedurally generated in some parts. How does it affect gameplay?

JS: We indeed began developing Druidstone to be procedurally generated. But as the game started to take its shape and the story we wanted to tell was becoming more prominent, it made the level generation much more difficult, so we've toned down the procedurality. At the moment we have a system that randomizes and joins premade areas. We'll have to see in the end how much there will be authored and randomized content. We'll adjust the balance according to what makes the game most fun to play.

EN: One of most interesting things about Druidstone is concept of reincarnation. Can you tell us a bit more about how it works?

JS: The reincarnation is an essential part of being a druid. Every time a druid dies, he is brought back by a mysterious force to keep the balance of the druid cycle and the number of druids intact... The reincarnation plays a big part in the story of Druidstone and we don't want to reveal too much of it yet. It's all a big mystery and there are many surprises waiting. Without revealing too much, it's safe to say the world of Druidstone, the Menhir Forest is made of figments of reality called 'Seeds'. When the game starts there's been a disturbance in the Seed structure and the Archdruid is also missing. That's when the player steps into the shoes of a freshly reincarnated Leonhard who needs to investigate what is happening.