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Gone Spelunking - The Story of TinkerHouse Games and Dwarven Delve

Posted by Rob Rich on August 7th, 2013

Two things are a constant with dwarves, regardless of the fictions they appear in: they're incredibly sturdy, and they have a thing for digging. TinkerHouse Games has taken these two concepts and run with them to create Dwarven Delve. Billed as an "action puzzle crawl," it's a combination of elements that tasks players with rotating entire sections of dungeon as they attempt to guide a small band of dwarves to the treasures within. It's a unique and interesting concept we wanted to learn more about. Fortunately, Mark Jessup (Creative Director and Lead Designer for TinkerHouse Games) was on-hand to answer our questions.

148Apps: So what led to the creation of the world's first action puzzle crawl?
Mark Jessup (MJ): I really like pipe puzzle games like Pipe Dream and old-school top-down dungeon crawls. One morning when I was half-awake, the two merged and did a merry jig. When I was finally ambulatory I wrote it down immediately. Lane built the physical prototype in two days and had the first digital prototype a week later. He was a ninja. We were both really fired up about it and hit the ground running.

148Apps: I noticed some of the abilities seem like they'd work really well together (i.e. the Tinkersmith's Hovermine and the Wayfinder's Echo Lure). Was it tough to balance?
MJ: Thanks for noticing that combo so quickly! It’s one of our favorites and the ideal we’re shooting for with regards to other ability combos down the line. So far, the biggest trick hasn’t been with individual or combo effects, as much as cooldown durations and the frequency of enemy spawning. None of the abilities or their power progressions threaten game balance in themselves, but they should be meaningful moments in the level, not just something you spam. And of course, we have to have a steady but not overwhelming number of enemies to keep you on your toes and make those abilities count.

148Apps: Are there any later skills you think are particularly cool that you wouldn't mind sharing?
MJ: Well, it’s still early in development, so I really shouldn—okay, you talked me into it. Our dwarves’ abilities are augmented over time by rediscovering their history; ancestral relics and lineage. So our Tinkersmith will eventually find a relic from the Age of Automata called the Gloam Mag. It upgrades her hovermines so that they shoot towards enemies in any adjacent hex, threatening a much larger area.

One of the Spellforger’s more powerful relics is called The Oculus of Maddening. It changes his ranged attack into a domination effect, so he can turn a group of enemies into monster-eaters. It’s quite fun.

148Apps: Was it always the plan to have a team of six, or were there originally more/fewer dwarves? And if there were initially more, were there any classes that you regret having to cut out?
MJ: Actually, the biggest decision we had to make early on was whether the game would be centered around a small cast of characters or a large group of units that you essentially built into warbands. It was a fundamental design decision, obviously. We decided to go with the small group because the story is a very important part of the game for us, and we thought we could tell a better one with a small cast that you got to know and helped evolve over time. And for the record, we also realized the dwarven unit model would likely be much easier to monetize and more lucrative in the long run. But we didn’t do it because we really thought it wouldn’t let us design the best game experience. There’s nothing wrong with free-to-play in itself, but it wasn’t right for this game.

Fools? Possibly. But fools who love dwarves.

148Apps: I really like the concept behind character "leveling." Was this Lineage system always the plan or was it something the game grew into over the course of its development?
MJ: The lineage leveling system definitely grew out of conversations over time around the office. When we were thinking about the warband approach, finding your ancestors actually unlocked new units, which was cool, and gave the player something more satisfying than just getting a better score. And the idea of a lineage tree showing progress was a visual concept we really wanted to keep. So when we went towards the character approach we realized we could still keep that concept. Each dwarf is a member of a clan that extends back into the dark of history. Discovering the forebears and accomplishments of their clan makes their own abilities increase.

Our thanks to Mark Jessup for his time, and to the entire team at TinkerHouse Games for working on the first ever action puzzle crawler. Assuming everything goes according to plan with Dwarven Delve's Kickstarter funding it should be breaking ground on your iPad (sorry, iPhone owners) in December for $4.99. It's apparently going to be a big month for dwarves.

Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3 is a Console-Quality iOS Game

Posted by Rob Rich on November 30th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: FOLLOW THE MIMES :: Read Review »

The Backstory
Both Zeboyd and Penny Arcade have had a hand in their fair share of RPGs over the past few years, but it wasn’t until recently that the two found each other and created some incredibly sweet (and utterly surreal) music together. This third entry in the Rain-Slick Precipice series marks both the Penny Arcade RPG’s first foray into “retro” territory as well as Zeboyd’s best refinement of their quirky RPG system to date. Ancient sea gods and mimes are just the beginning.

The Gameplay
One of the biggest differences between a Zeboyd RPG and a more typical example is the treatment of the combat. Health, magic, and items all reset after every fight, eliminating the need to constantly micromanage party resources. To compensate for this enemies gain strength with each passing turn, lending a sense of urgency and increased strategy to every combat scenario. What makes Rain-Slick 3 so much fun (aside from the rampant Penny Arcade humor) is the emphasis on multi-classing. Finding the right combination of character abilities can lead to some incredibly satisfying victories, and the way everything resets after every battle makes experimentation far less grueling.

How does it Compare?
The original Rain-Slick 3 made its debut on both Steam and Xbox Live Indie Games, and felt right at home on both platforms. It’s wonderfully retro while at the same time incredibly modern and accessible. And all of that “magic” has been retained in the iOS version. All the humor, the unique mechanics, the splendid visuals, and so on have made the transition almost seamlessly. The only real difference between the mobile version and its console/PC brethren - aside from the smaller screen and blessed portability - is the interface, which has been adjusted for touch controls. And save the rather garish virtual stick, it’s very near flawless.

One of the things I love most about Rain-Slick 3 on iOS is that it’s not an “inferior” version like some ports tend to be. All the bonus content (alternate appearance packs, Lair of the Seamstress DLC, etc) is included, and it’s received just as much post-release support as the other platforms. The fact that it’s a fantastic game even without prior knowledge of any inside jokes or experience with the previous two titles makes it all the more noteworthy.

*NOTE: “Console-quality” refers to the quality of the experience, not just the graphics. This is about the depth of gameplay, content, and in some cases how accurately it portrays the ideals of its console counterpart.*

Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3 Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Rob Rich on October 29th, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: FOLLOW THE MIMES
Penny Arcade and Zeboyd's latest and greatest RPG of Weirdness has made its way to the App Store, and it's quite fantastic, despite a rather overbearing interface.
Read The Full Review »

Current Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Jason Wadsworth on May 27th, 2011
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: FRUSTRATINGLY FUN
Current takes the idea of a gem/bubble shooting match game and puts a raving techno twist on it.
Read The Full Review »