Indie Studio: Graverobber Foundation

Hi there! Tell us a bit about yourself and your studio.

Hello. I’m Romanus Surt, a jack of all trades at Graverobber Foundation. I’m responsible for the majority of work done on their games ranging from programming to music and level design.

Graverobber Foundation was founded in early 2016 after I went to a game developer meetup only to come back disappointed after not seeing anything of interest there, so I decided to try and fill the niche on my own and seek people who shared the same vision. Our first project was Das Geisterschiff (The Ghost Ship), an adventure dungeon crawler set in a futuristic, yet dystopian and post-apocalyptic setting, where you played as a mech pilot doing covert operations for a megacorporation.

Afterwards, we released Phantom 3D, a simple maze action game made as a distraction while developing the base for our future games, and Der Geisterturm (The Ghost Tower), a spin-off to Das Geisterschiff that improves its game mechanics and shifts the focus from exploration to combat.

Our primary focus lies in making unique dungeon crawlers that show that the genre is not limited to either Wizardry or Dungeon Master-style games and there’s a compelling, yet barely explored ground in this genre.

What game are you currently working on?

Right now we are providing post-release support for DGT while also working on Der Geisterfänger (The Ghost Catcher), a true sequel to Das Geisterschiff. In this game, you are again working for a megacorporation as a mech pilot while taking on dangerous assignment as part of Special Forces. It combines roleplaying through pilot progression as well as mech and weapon upgrades, survival horror through resource management and tense encounters, as well as adventure genre through environmental interactions and the need to do detective work and thorough analysis of available information in order to complete your objectives. Apart from that, it has a stronger focus on the story, which ties together the events and characters of DGS and DGT. We’ll share more information as soon as we have more to show.

What inspired Der Geisterfänger?

The main source of inspiration came from Carmine, an adventure game developed by Arrowsoft and published by Micro Cabin in 1986 for PC-98. This game offered polygonal dungeons and unique wireframe style and the moment I saw it, I knew it was something special.

At that time I was researching ways to make game development manageable for tiny teams, and this game provided quite a few ideas on that matter.

Additional inspiration came from older games, both popular and obscure ones, including Wizardry, Deus Ex, Outcast, System Shock, Resident Evil, Silent Hill, early From Software and Falcom titles and various obscure Japanese PC games, including Dimensional Fighter Epsilon 3, Relics, Star Cruiser, ElmKnight, Hamlet and Starfire.

Among more modern titles, our biggest sources of inspiration are Dead Space and Pathologic 2.

What makes Der Geisterfänger special?

Der Geisterturm, along with Das Geisterschiff, offers an unusual take on the dungeon crawling genre. If I were to summarize its key features in a short list, I’d stress the following:

* Tactical turn-based combat within the dungeon itself: picking the right gun and devising a working tactic against each enemy type is key to survival, as brute force may lead to a Pyrrhic victory.
* Extreme resource management — each shot counts, each failure hurts. Your resources are limited, and you have to use them wisely if you wish to reach the end of your journey alive.
* Non-linear levels filled with traps and puzzles and the ability to bypass quite a few of them. When other games require you to go key hunting whenever you encounter a locked door, most of these can be bypassed in DG series by blowing them up.
* Unique wireframe-like aesthetics designed to simulate the way you see the world through the scanner attached to your mech

How is Der Geisterfänger different to other games in the genre?

Dungeon crawlers usually fall into two categories: ‘inspired by Wizardry’ and ‘inspired by Dungeon Master’, but in our case, it’s neither — sometimes it’s perceived as a tactical grid-based first-person shooter, if that makes sense.

In our case it’s also an attempt to remove the line between exploration and combat — even when you’re in a fight, you can still continue interacting with the environment and sometimes using it to get rid of enemies. Although our prior games didn’t exactly hit the mark we aimed for in this regard, we’re improving this as we speak.

In addition, we put more emphasis on simulation in combat mechanics rather than board game-style abstraction. As a simple example, missing a shot will most likely make it land somewhere else behind the target.

And last, but not least, our dungeon design attempts to lean towards a mixture of realism and abstraction — areas should be fun to play, but also have to make sense.

What’s currently happening in development for Der Geisterfänger?

As of today, we’ve finished writing the scenario for DGF and we’re in the process of planning and building the dungeons while implementing a couple of new game mechanics.

Recently, we’ve implemented more advanced enemy AI and a more elaborate weapon upgrade system along with analysis of enemy behavior, which should give players additional bonuses when they encounter enemies they’ve fought before.

In addition, I am personally providing music for SKALD: Against the Black Priory, which is expected to come out in late 2020.

When is Der Geisterfänger being released?

I’m going with the Valve-time answer of ‘when its done’ – currently there is a demo available on IDGT launched in January 2020, while DGF is expected to launch in early 2021. Since the technology and planning are mostly complete, we expect the content to come together fairly quickly and have enough time to test, polish and tweak the game until the desired release date.

In the meantime, feel free to check out DGS and DGF:
https://store.steampowered.com/app/975230/
https://store.steampowered.com/app/1217070/

Where is the best place to get the latest news about Der Geisterfänger?

You can either follow @GraverobberFND on Twitter to get the most important news or my personal account (@surt_r) to get more regular news on the progress.

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