08 Aug, 2022
Curse of the Deadwood is a twin-stick shooter with co-op, about an inventor-golem duo. We talked to devs Steamroller Studios to learn more.
Curse of the Deadwood released on July 28th this year, presenting a story of friendship between a woodling inventor and a giant stone golem. Together, the two must fend off wooden zombies, meet the characters of the land, and learn new skills to match your playstyle. The game is co-op oriented, in which one player can play each of the protagonist friends as you work together to fend off the clacketing enemies.
We talked to developer Steamroller Studios before the game came out, to learn more about its development and design.
First, tell us about yourself and Steamroller Studios. How did the studio come to be founded, and how has your journey been up to this point?
We started Steamroller Studios about 8 years ago with just myself, and my two partners Keith and Jalil. I had a design business that I sold, Keith quit his job at WETA and Jalil quit his job at DreamWorks. We pooled together our life savings and started working on our passion project full-time.
We launched a successful Kickstarter but quickly realized making a big game takes a lot of money. So we leveraged our connections in the animation industry to start taking on contract work so we could keep the game funded.
Fast forward 8 years and Steamroller now has an amazing team of almost 200 artists, developers, and coordinators. We’ve never stopped working on Curse of the Deadwood, but we did learn a lot through its long development process. I’m super proud of our whole team for the game we’ve made and I can’t wait for the world to play it.
Set the scene for us. Who do we play as, and what are we doing?
It’s a twin-stick shooter where you play two characters at once. Lathe, who is a teenage Woodling and avid inventor, and his friend Roguard, a giant stone golem. Lathe rides on Roguard’s back and they work together to kill wooden zombies called “Deadwood”.
Lathe handles all the long-range combat with a bunch of fun weapons you can mod, and Roguard takes care of locomotion and close-quarters combat. Some Deadwood can only be killed by Lathe, and some can only be killed by Roguard.
We also have a local co-op mode that lets each player assume control of one character, which is a really fun way to play the game. It was also an important feature for us to include since the theme of the game is friendship.
What are some of the interesting things we might find in the world of Knottington?
Knottington is filled with all kinds of fun and quirky characters who help advance the story. The world is filled with quite a bit of lore, which really helps fill out the world building, but none of that is essential to enjoy the main story. You can also explore off the critical path to find rare powerups to modify your weapons and top off your supply of ammo (or amber in our game)
What were the influences behind Curse of the Deadwood, both in gameplay and design?
Quite a few of us are children of the 80’s. And if you look at the cartoons from that time they weren’t afraid to have a bit of a scary edge to them. That’s something we tried to capture with our world. Tim Burton is another influence. Even though this is a kid-friendly game, there are wooden zombies in it so it’s not quite the same as jumping on mushrooms.
We would say “Creepy but cute” a lot when we were designing. From a gameplay perspective, we’re huge fans of twin stick shooters and wanted to put a bit of a twist on the genre. We’re also huge fans of story and so it was important for us to weave a narrative through a pretty action packed game.
Was there any one challenge that stood out when developing the game? How were you able to overcome it?
Anyone who is in game development will tell you there are always a ton of problems to overcome. It’s just part of the process. I think for us the biggest hurdle was how to finance the game in our own strength. We essentially solved this problem by creating an entire animation studio just so we could make our passion project without having a publisher telling us what to do.
Can Curse of the Deadwood be played solo, or is it co-op only?
You can play either way and they are both a lot of fun. Nothing can compare to playing with a friend, but playing single-player allows you to experience everything for yourself. So they both have their merits.
How challenging is the game when compared to its genre-mates? Is it suitable for players new to twin-stick shooters?
We have three difficulty settings. I would suggest the easy mode for anyone new to twin-stick shooters. My kids play on this setting and it still gives them a challenge but is much more forgiving. The normal setting is probably what most people who have played a twin-stick before will want to go with. The hard setting is just that, very hard so I’d only recommend that for the more hardcore players.
How long is a typical playthrough of the game?
It will really depend on your playstyle and how much exploring you do. But I’d say somewhere between 8-12 hours for most players.
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