Imagine exploring a dungeon, encountering monsters and traps as you go. The odds are against you, and the enemies are closing in. You usually have two options:
1) Fight your way through.
But what if there was a third option? What if you could simply change the dungeon and make a clear path to the exit? That’s exactly the kind of question Mark Jessup and Lane Daughtry of Seattle’s TinkerHouse Games asked when they created their new game, Dwarven Delve. It’s the world’s first “action puzzle crawl,” and I got the chance to check out an in-development version of it at PAX Prime this past August. And it’s awesome.
“The puzzle is coming into how you assemble things and how you tackle the dungeon,” explained Jessup on the show floor. “And the action is just because it is an action crawl. You want to try to stay away from the monsters and let the dungeon do the fighting for you.”
Here are the basics: you as the player take control of a team of up to four Dwarves, each with their own tools and special abilities. When you’re dropped into a dungeon, you’ve got to work your way from the start to the exit, fighting monsters and sidestepping traps along the way. The core mechanic, however, is the ability to physically change the layout of the dungeon so as to maximize your loot, and minimize your risk.
When you change the dungeon around, you stop the in-game action and can rotate tiles to create new paths, end others, and, as Jessup mentioned, let the monsters duke it out.
Jessup and Daughtry aren’t new to the game-making world, either. Jessup was a longtime employee of Dungeons and Dragons and Magic: The Gathering publisher Wizards of the Coast, while Daughtry comes from the world of triple-A console developers, like Airtight Games and Sony Online.
“We were both sort of at the ends of our careers at the big box shops,” recalled Jessup, “so we decided to strike out on our own. It was at a moment of time when digital distribution was making it so the indie scene was more accessible than ever before.”
The pair started TinkerHouse Games, and the indie studio has been making mobile games since then. Its first game, Current, earned some great buzz when it debuted in 2011, and since then the studio has handled mobile ports of Cthulu Saves the World and Penny Arcade’s Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3, among other projects. But all of that was simply to “build up the war chest” to the day when they could devote time and resources to making Dwarven Delve.
The game is set to come out on PC, Mac, iOS and Android, and it’s shooting for a February 2014 release. Essentially the game is pretty much built and playtesting is going strong—but the team needs the funding to help it look and play its best. A breakdown of where the $30,000 in Kickstarter funding would go reveals that the majority of that will go right to getting slicker art for monsters, environments, and dungeons. And considering that the project’s only been up and running for a little over a day and it’s already at almost $5,000, it would seem that it’s in pretty great shape so far. Not only that, today it was named a Staff Pick on Kickstarter, so hopefully more folks will see the game-changing potential of this project and help it hit its goal in no time.
But there’s a ways to go. Don’t let the world’s first action puzzle crawl get lost in the dungeon.