In an interview with Gamasutra, Dan Paladin, Co-Founder and Art Director of The Behemoth, discussed experimenting with turn-based combat for the first time in Pit People.
First, he mentioned how the developers knew they wanted Pit People to have turn based combat from the start, even though the studio is known for more action heavy games such as Castle Crashers and BattleBlock Theater.
“Whenever it’s time for another project to be considered, we think about all genres and what we might try doing with them. “It’s really exciting to think of how to rebuild something from the ground up, maybe throw some things out while introducing completely different elements as we go! Sometimes it’s really fun to consider charging into genres we aren’t particularly fond of or thought we’d never do.”
He then mentions how many ideas for the original design of Pit People came from a single early sketch, which you can see below.
“One of our brainstorm sketches we had was one that closely resembles what’s there now. The name and even some of the fighter types were kept from that original sketch!”
He then proceeded to discuss how tackling an entirely different style of gameplay isn’t easy, but that the pace of play they envisioned for Pit People actually wasn’t as much of a stretch as it sounds.
“It’s very apples and oranges. There’s a boatload more math going on in this game, even though we do our best to mask it and present it as simple as possible. When you’re building any game it’s often a question of how to keep it interesting moment to moment, and the solutions are quite different. Our last 3 games were all in the reflex-based, action-oriented genres. We wanted to try something that’s not reflex-based while still keeping it feeling fairly quick. We also like simplifying things in spots, so we did that in Pit People with what the player’s inputs need to be while maintaining strategic depth everywhere else. Poof! Fast-paced turn-based was born!”
Afterwards, Dan talked about how the game both streamlined and twisted the traditional strategy RPG formula, and how the game was both hard and satisfying to develop.
“There’s a lot of expectations. This genre is nearly so rigid it’s ready to break in half. If you change things that are expected, you’re almost fighting the player at the start. Considering we’ve never done anything like this, and that the fundamental gameplay wasn’t really in existence anywhere else, almost everything served to be a bit odd and challenging. We’d liken it to baking a cake by using non-standard ingredients and having absolutely no recipe — but still needing to get in the realm of tasting like a cake. Through the genre’s repetition people are almost virtually programmed to pick targets directly in turn-based games. ‘Click on your hero, click on the ability, click on the guy you want to use that ability on, click on the next guy and do it again!’
By removing ALL of this fundamental base gameplay and now doing this exclusively through positioning creates something very exciting and new. Both attacking and defending change. It sounds sort of stupid on paper when laid out — but in practice it’s refreshing and makes for interesting decisions. We never fully know what we’re doing with any of our projects, and we like to keep it that way. It’s this child-like wonder that nearly guarantees something unique in the end.”
Pit People is current available in Early Access on PC, and through the Xbox Game Preview Program on Xbox One.