Eldritch 2

Dancing Without a Partner

I teased Eldritch 2 on social media last year, but I haven’t properly announced it. And this still isn’t a proper announcement. That will come sometime in the future, with screenshots and a trailer and a PR agency to do the words good. Please do not write that I have announced Eldritch 2. But I haven’t been shy about the fact that I’m working on it, and that I want to develop it in the open as much as possible.

I buy myself a new Moleskine notebook for every project. Most of them end up unused. Not this one.

So, the three big questions: Why Eldritch 2? Who’s making it? When’s it coming out?

Why Eldritch 2?

Since Eldritch‘s release, many players have asked for multiplayer, and my answer has remained: I originally wanted it to be a multiplayer game, but it would have blown up the game’s very tight (8-month) schedule; subsequent tech and design decisions I made along the way locked it into a single-player structure; and let’s save it for the sequel. Those last words have haunted me for a decade.

The obvious option was to follow Spelunky‘s lead and make a co-op action roguelike. Eldritch was already indebted to Spelunky in so many ways, and the model works. It was always unrealistic to convert Eldritch into a multiplayer game for tech reasons, but if I were starting a new project from scratch, I could conceivably do that.

But then I worked on two multiplayer games (The Blackout Club and South Park: Snow Day!) in my day job at Question. Both of those were developed in UE4, which has very stable netcode (which my own Rosa engine does not have); and still I was reminded how much more complicated everything is when code has to resolve four disparate game states in realtime. Multiplayer makes it harder to make games. Or to put that another way, making a multiplayer game for the same budget necessarily sacrifices a lot of features that are important to me.

So I had kinda sorta promised that Eldritch 2 would be a co-op multiplayer game, but also I didn’t want to make a co-op multiplayer game. And the bigger question in my mind was: why make Eldritch 2 at all? Was I just wanting to relive a past moment of glory? Hoping that the modest success of the first game could penetrate the crowded indie scene? What could I do with a Lovecraftian roguelike immersive sim that I couldn’t just do by adding some free expansions to the original game?

It took a long time and a few false starts, but I feel that I’ve found a way to answer those questions and weave multiplayer into it. I don’t want to give too much away, because it is part of a central mystery of the game, but I’m using the procedural nature of roguelikes in a way that I don’t think I’ve seen done before; and which has the convenient side effect of synchronizing the pseudorandom levels that each player sees. The best analogy I can offer is: imagine the daily challenge mode in Spelunky, where every player sees the same levels on the same day—what if you could also see all the other players running those levels at the same time? And what if there were secrets only accessible on certain days? And what if you could rewind to previous daily challenges, and find those secrets again?

Who’s Making It?

It’s me. It’s just me.

Since 2017, I’ve worked full time with Question, and I hope to stay with Question for years to come. They’ve allowed me to continue my personal work at Minor Key Games (even if it has been mostly on the backburner); and in the last year, I’ve switched to working 4/10 weeks (four ten-hour days), opening up my Fridays for personal use. That has given me a lot more time to work on side projects like Eldritch 2.

I developed the first game (and large parts of its engine) in about 8 months, solo, save for an assist from my old Guildhall colleague Kale Menges on the key art. I like the creative independence of working alone; not because I’m allergic to outside ideas, but because I believe the strongest ideas come from a creator with a holistic view of all the parts working together. I can’t imagine trying to pitch the networked elements of Eldritch 2 to a team that was developing the roguelike elements separately; they all need to function with each other.

I formed Minor Key Games with my brother in mid-2013, and we have operated the company as a collective; a shared identity with shared values, but making separate games. This has led to some confusion, with each of us sometimes being credited for games the other made. To be clear, I’m making Eldritch 2 alone. He’s making Project Verse and I’m excited about that.

When’s It Coming Out?

Man, I dunno. I work fast and I’ve got an engine that was literally made to make Eldritch, but this is a part-time project for me, and the scope of Eldritch 2 is substantially bigger than the first game in a few ways. If this were a full-time project, I’d estimate it could be done in 12-18 months. Given my limited time to work on it, it will take, uh, longer than that.

I don’t have a real schedule yet. I don’t know when I’ll have a proof of concept build or a first playable milestone. I don’t know when I will have enough real art to put together a Steam store page and properly announce the game. I don’t know what my marketing strategy will be. I don’t know if I’ll do any kind of public beta or early access. I don’t know when it will be done.

What I do know is that it is rewarding to share things as I work on them, and that early feedback will help shape it into a better game. And this is the most fun I’ve had MAEKing GAEMs in years, so I’m going to keep chasing that.