4 MIN READ
How Legend of Grimrock's dev rolled the dice and won
Releasing an old-school first-person dungeon crawler was a risky move, but Almost Human was determined to do just that with Legend of Grimrock, even if it ended up dooming the company.
Thanks to the dungeon crawler's initial sales, which have already covered the game's development costs a couple of times over, Salila says "the company won't die. Now we can actually plan our future because there is one, when before we just focused on finishing Legend of Grimrock. The success of the game gives us some room to breathe and consider our options." The idea of creating a retro-style game for a niche audience seems less risky now, thanks to Kickstarter, where indie developers can appeal to that same small audience to finance their project. But that wasn't a route Almost Human could take due to local laws that prevent it from accepting direct donations. And the developer wasn't interested in pursuing a publishing deal. "We looked for crowd-funding opportunities, but the Finnish law system makes it hard to apply for them," says Salila. "We never properly considered getting a publisher because we wanted to have full control over the project. And besides, we don't think that many publishers would've taken the risk with fair terms on reviving an age-old, nearly dead genre." Instead, the studio funded the game the old-fashioned way -- it completed contract jobs for other Finnish developers until it could afford to start work on its own project last June. Salila says those opportunities allowed the team to learn how to work together and to develop its pipeline at the same time. "All the years of working in larger companies prepared us to build a game all on our own, and it really helped us to concentrate on the important things," says Salila. "With our combined experience, we managed to really focus our very limited resources and make the right decisions to finish the game before our money ran out." As for why Almost Human thinks the game has been such a big hit, Salila believes the team was able to strike a crucial balance between staying true to the dungeon crawler genre's essential elements (e.g. difficulty, grid-based movement) to appeal to players' sense of nostalgia, and updating the game's graphics, audio, and user interface to meet modern standards.
With Legend of Grimrock well-received by critics and consumers' wallets, Almost Human can put its worries about staying open aside; it can instead concentrate on releasing patches and updates, and on porting the Windows game to other platforms like Mac and iOS. "We'd like to someday see Legend of Grimrock on mobile devices simply because the game mechanics would fit the platform pretty well, but the exact execution is still under consideration," says Salila. "We have a bit of some crude tech for iOS, but it's still long way from being a proper game. Whether we do the port in-house or outsource is still to be decided."