On today's episode of the Game Developer podcast, we chatted with three of the four-person crew at Black Salt Games, creators of this year's indie hit Dredge, a spooky fishing adventure set on a series of mysteious isles. The Dredge crew was gracious enough to come back after giving us a fantastic interview earlier in the year where they talked about the tech and design behind the game. This time around, we chatted about wearing many hats on a tiny indie team, world-building and narrative design, the universal anxiety of pre-release jitters, and the power of learning community management (one of those many hats).
Dredging up good memories
On the show, we dived into how long Dredge has been in the imaginations (and hearts) of the team, how they moved from a strong prototype to a strong final game, and how they approached narrative design: very much with the world and gameplay verbs in mind.
Developer Joel Mason noted that the game's original concept (and the very first google doc) is just about three years old. The team created three prototypes to start off, and the early version of what would become Dredge was the third of the pack.
"It sat alongside a couple of other prototypes, because we believe in testing a bunch of different ideas, you know, you can't just build one prototype and say, Yeah, that's good. Let's make it," joked Mason.
"We like pretty, pretty tight, pretty small deadlines. So yeah, we spent two weeks building it."
"And it was it was reasonably familiar looking. If you go to to our Twitter and you scroll all the way down, you will find early early gifs and videos of that prototype, possibly on YouTube as well. "
"It had the cities of Greater Marrow and Little marrow, and had a little fishing boat. It had fog that would come in, and a day/night cycle. It had fish, but it had no fishing minigame. "
So that core prototype had a lot of what makes Dredge... Dredge. It even had the iconic spatial inventory system that would be such a core part of the game.
"They were no like equipment shops or anything," Mason continued.
"We just we had a slightly different system for that. But yeah, it's still kind of communicating the main vibe and the atmosphere of Dredge."
Check out the full episode to hear more about the team's highly collaborative efforts that spanned character and creature creation, environment and narrative design, and keeping a highly engaged community interested while they sail through their 2023 DLC roadmap.