Screenshot from an alpha build of DreadlineBennett's last employer, Rock Band series developer Harmonix, wasn't known for games with violent or controversial content, but that's part of the reason why the company's former lead programmer left, so he could work on "creative and inspired games that are too risky for large studios." He formed Boston's Eerie Canal with Steven Kimura, who was a lead artist at Harmonix, late last year. "We have been working in the industry for quite a while, and we were getting pretty burned out," says Bennett. "Personally, I felt like I joined this industry so that I could be creative, and ended up in the opposite situation." They were soon joined by other "misfit musician game developers" from Harmonix, but the team's first project is far from the rhythm title one would expect given its history with the genre. Bennett notes, however, that he and Kimura built RTSes like Freedom Force in the past when they served as the lead programmer and lead artist respectively at Irrational Games. "Plus, I worked on something like five-plus rhythm games at Harmonix. Time for something new!" says Bennett. And though that something new has drawn some early controversy, he says that won't affect how the group proceeds with the project -- a luxury Eerie Canal can afford as a small, self-funded indie. Bennett argues that big game companies play everything way too safe. "I've been in way too many meetings where a bunch of creative people would come up with a crazy idea and love it, and then say "OK... but for real... what should we do." Honestly, I think we should have stayed with the original idea. That's what we're doing." He compared Dreadline to The Gashlycrumb Tinies, Edward Gorey's macabre but comical book illustrating the deaths of 26 children. "The humor is very dark, but the artwork keeps it palatable and abstract," he points out. "That book would be absolutely horrifying if handled another way."
Eerie Canal looks to take a similar approach. "This is something, I'm sure, we're going to have to struggle with until the end of the project," Bennett admits. "I mean, you're controlling a group of monsters who are doing absolutely terrible things to people. We have been very careful to make the monsters as 'lovable' as possible, and to keep the violence cartoony." As for creating a 9-11 stage, that's not going to happen. "There are a lot of modern events we would never touch. We're not trying to offend anyone. The idea of a terrible calamity happening, but it getting even worse is just funny. If you were going down in a ship, but a werewolf jumped out and bit you... it's just so stupid and over the top." "We're all afraid of dying," he continues. "I'm just surprised that this cartoon way of death is what bothered people while photorealistic games are completely accepted. There are games about current wars that are out now, that I, personally, would consider far more offensive."