SB: Just on the topic of areas to explore, you’ve mentioned that the game has a Victorian-era feel, but doesn’t take place on Earth. What influenced your decision to use elements from this period?
AB: On Titan Quest, we worked in the ancient world, and that was a lot of fun. I actually graduated from college with a degree in ancient history, so for me, it was pretty cool to work on that stuff. But we wanted to do something different, and as much as I love working in the ancient world, I guess to me, because Titan Quest was set on pseudo-Earth, it kind of limits the possibilities of what you’re going to encounter in the world, and the scope of things, and I think it limits the mystery of playing through the game and finding out what the world is all about and what happened there.
So we wanted to not only move away from history, but also try a different setting. There are a lot of games that are set in sort of a medieval era, and that appeals to me, but we thought it would be cool to do something a little different.
Living in New England, I’m surrounded by all of these old colonial farm houses, and ruins from the 1600s and 1700s, all kinds of old fieldstone walls everywhere, and it’s really kind of the quintessential, haunted Halloween area, especially in the fall, when there’s a real atmosphere here. Additionally, I’ve been reading a lot of H.P Lovecraft, and a lot of those stories are actually set in places around New England, so that was kind of an inspiration too.
Especially as we set out to make the game, we found ourselves more and more so going out on field trips: we’d stop on the roadside and put a poster board behind plants so we could take pictures of them, and easily crop them out for textures. We’d take pictures of bark and terrain and old houses and stuff like that for inspiration. A lot of it is that the game is very much inspired by New England, and we thought that would be a really cool kind of Victorian, creepy atmosphere that we could build off of.
At the same time though, it is a fantasy world. Some of the technology might lag behind where earth might be in the Victorian era, and some of it might be a little bit more advanced. For example, there’s still a lot of melee weapons in the game, because when you’re fighting enemies like zombies, which you couldn’t necessarily take down with a single bullet, or other, larger creatures, you start thinking ‘hey, a sword might make a lot of sense still.’
SB: In Titan Quest, there was a great deal of depth to the mythology of explored areas. Are you looking to give players the same connection to Cairn?
AB: Yeah, definitely. I think we’d like to go even further. In Titan Quest, there were a lot of storytellers in the different towns that players could go talk to that filled in some of the mythological background, but there wasn’t a lot of evidence of what was going on in the world, and that’s an area we want to improve in Grim Dawn. When you leave a town, there’s really this sense of the fact that this human civilisation has been invaded, and there’s destruction everywhere.
As you break into these houses and play through them, you see evidence of the lives that existed there before this invasion, and evidence of some of the horrors and atrocities that took place. We’re really looking to create this sense of gravity, and part of that also is conveying a rich backstory, where people can potentially find journal entries, and the last written words of people: stuff scrawled on walls, and that sort of thing. So yeah, it’s definitely something we’re putting a lot of effort into.
SB: Were there ever any moments when things drifted too close to what was done in Titan Quest?
AB: Not really. Some of the gameplay systems are certainly an evolution of what I did on Titan Quest, because I feel like those things worked. We’ve listened to a lot of player feedback, and tried to figure out how we could improve those things. We don’t want to completely change things around and create a whole new game that isn’t necessarily what players are expecting. At the same time, thematically, it’s definitely a very different game, and I think it feels a lot different than Titan Quest, too. That’s never been much of a concern.