Fans of the roguelike and roguelite genre have had some real gems to enjoy over the last couple of years, with excellent games like Dead cells and last year’s price amount Hades serves incredibly satisfying running-based dungeon crawling on Switch.
Curse of the Dead Gods is another example that has been continuously building its fan base in Early Access on Steam for some time now, and developer Passtech Games is bringing its crunchy, powerful combat and delicious particle effects to a Nintendo system near you soon ̵
We reached out to Passtech’s Margaux Saly to find out more about the studio’s history and inspirations, how the team views comparisons to the Supergiant Games’ God-filled action title from top to bottom, and what to expect from the Switch version of this multiplatform roguelite. ..
Nintendo Life: For anyone who may have missed it, can you give us a brief overview of Curse of the Dead Gods and what it’s all about?
Passtech Games: Curse of the Dead Gods is an action roguelite that takes place in a cursed temple. You seek eternal life, but fall into your own trap. You will stand up to a herd of enemies in the dark corridors of Jaguar, Eagle and Serpent Temples; you fight champions and deadly bosses in these places, only to die again and again. But you will rise and become stronger when you find ways to escape death.
The temple is ruled by the God of Death, Xbeltz’aloc, who takes vicious pleasure in using your greed against you. Pay with your own blood at the altar for better equipment, but face the consequences of suffering curses that define the course of each race through random modifiers. Defeat your enemies, but get ready to outsmart the traps covered by shadows. Light is your best ally in the temple!
Tell us a little about Passtech Games – how big is the team and how long have you been together?
Passtech Games is a small French studio based in Lyon. It was founded in 2012 by Sylvain Passot as a one-man studio, when he worked alone with the first game. It grew over the years, as the projects became more and more ambitious. All the core members of the team joined the Passtech Games a few years ago, and we already knew each other from previous projects in various game studios.
We have released four games in total: a tower defense called Space Run, its sequel Space Run: Galaxy, a top-down adventure game called Masters of Anima, and of course Curse of the Dead Gods. Today we are about ten permanent members of the team, and sometimes a little more in the production phases.
COTDG has been in Early Access for a while now – how long have you been working on the game, and how did you develop the ideas behind it?
We started working on the concept Curse of the Dead Gods in 2018, just before the release of our previous game, Masters of Anima. We knew we wanted to move on to a much darker and more powerful game, so we spent a lot of time creating the combat system and the game’s artistic direction. We took inspiration from our favorite games – for the most part Darkest dungeon for the cartoon art-style, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for 3D cell shadow rendering.
We liked the way the roguelite genre worked, we thought the top and bottom camera fit as well as the game mechanics we tested at the time. It was also a genre that allowed us to offer a challenging, skill-based experience; at the same time as it contains a large progression curve and a lot of content. Right outside the bat, Early Access seemed like the perfect fit for Curse of the Dead Gods as the community involved in the development!
How has the game’s Early Access period shaped and changed the end product?
The Early Access format has contributed greatly to the development of the game. Of course, we had our own guidelines with all the main content we wanted to integrate into the game, such as Serpent and Eagle Temples. The community helped us a lot to expand the list and test game mechanics on a large scale. Some of the ideas have actually been modified thanks to direct feedback from players. Early Access is really a great tool for balancing a game and bringing new ideas to concepts. Although we had a very precise vision of our game, it was always interesting to take into account the suggestions from the community and try to integrate them into the existing mechanics.
The community helped us a lot to expand the list and test game mechanics on a large scale. Some of the ideas have actually been modified thanks to direct feedback from players.
On the other hand, we also needed to trust ourselves as developers, because the goal of Early Access is not just to blindly accept all the feedback from the players. There were necessarily a certain amount of questions and thoughts about ideas. For example, we would get some negative feedback on Final Curse (which is pretty bad and it’s meant to be), but it came from players who did not really understand the purpose of this curse. On the other hand, the players told us when we made a bad decision about how to reward them with meta-currencies, so we decided to listen to them and adapt the concept.
Anyway, it was great to see all these players get involved in Curse of the Dead Gods and get to know it so well that they knew what could and could not be added.
Starting a game across multiple consoles is always a challenge – how smooth was the process of getting the game running on Switch?
A real challenge, for sure! But we are very proud of what the game looks like on the Nintendo Switch and other consoles. It does not betray the PC version, although of course we made some concessions in the game’s graphics rendering and performance. Today we are pleased with the result on the Nintendo Switch with a resolution of 920p when the console is docked and 720p in handheld mode, as well as 30 stable images per second, which is very much appreciated for a game where reflexes and flow are crucial. Of course, if we have the ability to further optimize the game on consoles, we will do it!
Following the Supergiants’ success with fellow roguelite dungeon crawler Hades last year (another game that went through a long period of early access), has the reaction – and the comparison between the two games – affected your approach to COTDG in any way?
At first we were very happy to see such a fantastic reaction for Hades and the Supergiant Games. It’s always nice to see a game succeed, especially when you can see that they obviously put a lot of passion into it.
As for the comparison, it stops for us to be an action from above and down roguelite. These are two radically different games in the way they present themselves. Curse of the Dead Gods is almost a strategy game where every move must be thought out to avoid it falling back on us, while in Hades you can get carried away by the superb madness of the battles. Hades’ success and comparisons did not affect our approach to Curse of the Dead Gods at all. Our game was already under development before the announcement of the Supergiants, and as I said before, the two remain fundamentally different games. Still, it was very interesting to see what they managed to create with the genre, as it was really innovative and effective. After all, one can only be flattered by such a comparison.
Curse of the Dead Gods is almost a strategy game where every move must be thought out to avoid it falling back on us, while in Hades you can get carried away by the superb madness of the battles.
How much impact has the last year of global turmoil affected the game and the team?
Fortunately, we are in an industry that is not so much affected by the pandemic. Almost all of our jobs can be done remotely, and that’s a real blessing, especially when we’re in the middle of developing our game. Locking in France began shortly after the release of the Curse of the Dead Gods in Early Access, and we had to adjust our working methods. Of course, this affected our productivity in the beginning because we had to get used to a new rhythm and new ways of working together. At Passtech Games, we already worked externally from time to time, so the whole team was ready to work from home. But it was true that it was not very practical when it came to exchanging ideas, bug fixes, mechanics, etc. Early access suffered in a way because we would like to be able to integrate even more content, but we had to make choices and cross things off the list. Hopefully we can add them after the release of the game if successful.
When the game is out, do you have any specific plans for after launch?
We are currently working on the first update after launch, which will be released within the first two to three months after the release of the game. It provides new content such as new weapons, relics and curses, and even a pleasant surprise for roguelite fans! We will not say more for now, but you know all about it soon enough! After that, we take a step back from the development of Curse of the Dead Gods to see what the players and society have to say about it, and hopefully they will enjoy the game as much as we do, so we can keep adding new things!
Is there anything else you would like to mention that we have not touched on?
We look forward to sharing Curse of the Dead Gods with the Switch gaming community and hope you enjoy our Cursed Temple!
Our thanks to Margaux and Passtech for taking the time to answer our questions. Curse of the Dead Gods launches on Switch on February 23rd.