andai Namco Entertainment America has teamed up with Jordan Weisman’s Harebrained Schemes to bring Necropolis, a permadeath dungeon-action game, to home gaming consoles.
Longtime game creator Weisman, the chief creative officer of Seattle-based Harebrained Schemes, told GamesBeat that his company will continue to work on the PC version. Necropolis combines third-person action and roguelike dungeon-delving. If you die once, you have to start the whole dungeon over again.
I tried out the game this week, and I found it very difficult as it’s easy to die within a matter of minutes. The title has a sardonic tone and an easy in-and-out online co-op mode for up to four players.
“This is the first title we’ve done that wasn’t crowdfunded,” Weisman said.
Harebrained Schemes showed the game off last year at PAX East, where it caught the attention of publisher Bandai Namco.
“Simply put, we were impressed and excited when we discovered Necropolis at PAX East,” said Eric Hartness, the vice president of marketing at Bandai Namco Entertainment America, in a statement. “Blending a skill-based 3D action game with a roguelike means it’s never the same experience twice. Necropolis’ off-kilter humor and unique visuals add perfectly to the mix, making it the perfect companion game for Dark Souls fans and a great addition to our game portfolio.”
Weisman said there was a lot of publisher interest, but most publishers wanted to control all versions of the release. It was unusual in that Harebrained Schemes wanted to independently manage the PC version on its own. It’s impressive that the developer was able to come up with the funding for the title on its own as it is the company’s biggest investment to date. The title is the company’s first one in recent years that comes with a brand new intellectual property and isn’t accompanied by a crowdfunding campaign.
“We didn’t feel we had enough strength in the console side of the business to publish it ourselves,” Weisman said. “Bandai loved the title because it was yin to the Dark Souls yang. They have been very helpful.”
Mitch Gitelman, the president and cofounder of Harebrained Schemes, said in an interview that the team has 23 people. He said Chris Kohnert, the lead engineer and executive producer, and designer Dennis Detwiler came up with the idea for doing a procedurally generated dungeon with permadeath and a third-person action title.
“We saw it would work at a scale we can execute at,” Weisman said. “We aren’t set up to do a $50 million game. It has immersion, a story, and emotional context.”
The PC version of Necropolis comes out this summer, with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions releasing around the same time from Bandai Namco. Previously, Harebrained Schemes was targeting a release on March 17, but it decided to take more time to improve the title.
In Necropolis, you play as a nameless adventurer attempting to escape a living, magical dungeon that reconstructs itself each time you play, with only one way out — down. You can craft, equip your loot, explore, and fight to stay alive as you delve deeper and face ever-greater threats in the twisting halls and endless chasms. You will die often, but you’ll get better each time, and it will be easier to survive in co-op mode. If you find objects and take them to a scriptorium in the dungeon, you can save equipment to use in future games. You can also resurrect your friends. That softens the blow of death, Gitelman said.
“It has dark humor, in a Cabin in the Words film vein,” Weisman said. “It’s aware of the tropes of horror and tosses them back at you. The problem-solving is improvisational.”
Weisman started the company with Gitelman in 2011. After Necropolis, the company’s next game is Battletech, due out in early 2017.
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