Ten Questions With… Philip Willey (Dirigo Games)

Ten Questions With… Philip Willey (Dirigo Games)

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Depths of Fear :: Knossos Website

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It is not every day that we get to experience Greek-themed first person adventures, so Depths of Fear :: Knossos impressed us despite some rough edges. The unique atmosphere and interesting blend of stealth and action certainly provides a very memorable experience. Surprisingly enough it is the work of just one person, so we had to get in touch and find out more.

Can you give our readers a quick introduction of yourself and the studio?

Dirigo Games is currently just myself, Phil, located in Maine.  Huge fan of EC Comics and Mad Magazine.  Love the movie 2001 and will read any hard sci-fi I can get my hands on.  Desert island disc: Neil Young and Crazy Horse, “Ragged Glory”

How did the idea for Depths of Fear come about?

I created a few smaller, 2D games with randomized dungeons and combat, set in a generic Medieval/ Tolkien world.  They were fun, but nothing about them made them stand out from a dozen or so similar games that were already out.  The most successful mechanic in that early version was the anxiety brought on by not knowing where the enemy had been spawned; however the 2D overhead view would reveal the enemy position and spoil that shock most times. One weekend I tested switching over to 3D to focus on horror over arcade action, and was immediately happy with the result.

Over the same weekend I dug up Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, a book I had grown up with.  While a really fun read, there was a “cleanliness” to her versions.  Most of the stories have had their tone diluted over the years, much like how Grimm’s Fairy Tales have lost the dark violence in modern retellings.  What would fear of terrible monsters and angry gods be like? As soon as I asked the question, it was the direction I wanted to wander.

What are the games that influenced you and how?

Loved Sierra adventures (Space Quest, King’s Quest) mostly for the gruesome and overly common deaths. Atmosphere is always important, and the Quests always had plenty of it.

C64 had many text adventures that I could sink days into and never get anywhere.  Really dug just hanging out it Zorkville, because being anywhere beats being in Maine during winter.

In 7th or 8th grade someone brought a shareware copy of Doom into school and installed it on the class computer (One of two computers in the school, an IBM and an Apple II ).  I cannot overstate the importance of this event-  mind blowing, digital LSD to my simple country bumpkin brain.  I am still very influenced by my memories of seeing it for the first time.

The best modern game is Dwarf Fortress.  It’s somewhere between Sim City and an endless Fantasy Novel.  I admire that an interesting story can come from a bunch of random numbers and .raw files, and that a small crew can do such big things.

What features of Depths of Fear are you the most proud of?

Jaws is scary because it never shows the shark, Psycho because you imagine the knife wounds rather than seeing them…  DoFK is most successful in that moment before contact, just when the sounds are quietest and the light is darkest.

The music worked well, too… the response has been all over from people about the electronic soundtrack.  Proud to have made a thing that is unique enough that it feels wrong!

What was the biggest challenge while creating Depths of Fear?

The size of the project for a single person with deadlines was a challenge, especially the months before release. Going back into code I had done a year prior could get very frustrating.  Little things, like controller support, ended up being the biggest snags, simply because of backtracking through old code written before the thought of a controller ever came up.  It can be quite a frustration to be stuck in code when you only want to be doing modeling or music at that moment.

Let me take the opportunity to say I was really lucky to be able to work with Digital Tribe Games (publisher) for their endless patience with some of these challenges…  They gave a lot of room and support. <3

What aspect of creating the game was the most fun?

The most fun is after spending days creating a creature or feature; that first moment you drop it into the game.  Suddenly it’s a real thing!  It’s great to escape into a little fantasy world of your own design.  It’s better even to write a few rules and step back to watch the simulation create an unscripted event.

There’s not much in making a game that’s not fun.  There have been a couple of things that have been a drag (I’m thinking Steam integration) but mostly it’s a blast.

In hindsight is there anything that you would have changed about the game?

Yes, however, you really do learn from your mistakes, so in a strange way I’m glad I made so many.  Hate to dismiss the question, but it’s a hard thing to answer honestly.

What are the future plans for Depths of Fear/ Dirigo Games?

I’m playing with some neat new improvements, features and maps for DOFK as we speak.  I’ll continue to develop it as long as I find it interesting.  As many people with many different systems play DoFK, many different bugs/flaws surface.  The immediate future is ironing those out.

Dirigo always has another 20+ games going behind the scenes.  Too early to be specific, but the plan is to move away from action toward story and adventure.  It would also be nice to ditch “z” and physics for a while and get back to my 2D roots, as well.

What is the most unusual thing on your desk right now?

This week I cut up a bunch of aluminum Coke cans and used them to make a B-29 shaped glider.  There are hundreds of little sharp odds and ends all over I haven’t cleaned up.  What a mess.

Anything else you would like to add?

Thanks for the questions!

Readers!  If you like games, don’t just play them.  Get involved and help guide the form.  Write, draw, play music.  There is no such thing as an inborn talent, and the only difference between you and a John Carmack is the amount of time and effort spent doing the thing you want to do.

We are much obliged to Philip for taking the time out from game development and Coke can glider constructing to answer our questions. You can check out our review for the game HERE and buy your copy from the Steam store. We look forward to seeing more of those neat new improvements, features and maps that Philip is working with and wish him the best of luck with his projects.

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