Back in February 2014, Josh Lauer pledged to our Kickstarter at the Lord Tier, which invited him to design a playable class for the game. He is responsible for The Abomination, a tortured soul who can transform into a hulking beast of eldritch horror. To coincide with the release of Inhuman Bondage, which is where The Abomination debuted on November 30th, I did a quick Q&A with Josh to get some information on what all went into the process of creating the newest traveller to pass through our hamlets.
John Lindvay: To start, a bit about yourself? Who are you? What do you do? Where are you from?
Josh Lauer: My name is Josh Lauer, although I prefer the nickname of Max. I am a diehard gamer ever since I got to play the Nintendo 64 as a kid. I’m 24 now, and love games as much as ever. In fact, I actually studied video game programming as a major in University.
Unfortunately I haven’t gotten a job in the gaming industry yet. Currently I am starting work as a Salesforce Developer instead; but I’m still fiddling around in Unity to make my own little things on the side.
I’m from Sydney, Australia. Trying to get used to the cold weather of San Francisco at the moment.
John: How did you first become aware of the project?
Josh: Honestly it’s been so long since the Kickstarter that I honestly don’t remember how I became aware of Darkest Dungeon. I believe one of my friends from university brought it up to me, however.
John: What lead you to the decision of backing the project at the level that got you a design role on the game? What did you like about Darkest Dungeon?
Josh: When I first saw the Kickstarter page for the game, I was hooked fairly quickly by the idea of a game that was different from the norm. I admittedly have never really been enamored with the Lovecraftian mythos, but the style of the game was very interesting. The idea of personality quirks affecting gameplay actually got me a bit more interested. I’m a fan of strategy in that regard and handling quirks, diseases and so on hooked me more.
Now as for backing to the point of getting a design role, it comes back to me being a student of game programming. As part of my time at university, I had to study a fair bit on game design. The ability to be able to put that in action outside of an educational environment was exciting, and it has been a great experience working with Tyler and Chris on designing the Abomination.
John: Do you have a background in game design or a fan of dungeon crawling/RPG? What’s your game history?
Josh: Well, as mentioned before, I did study video game programming (and by extent design) at university. I only actually graduated at the end of last year as well, so I’m still wet behind the ears! I do want to eventually work in the game industry professionally one day, so I’m slowly making my way into it.
That said, I’m also a pretty big fan of RPGs as well of almost any kind. Not only in video games, but I’m a tabletop RPG player as well.
John: What RPGs (Video and Table top) are your favorites? Any awesome character stories from table top RPGs? Do you have any good stories from Darkest Dungeon?
Josh: Hm… Well at the moment I am really enjoying Wizardry 8, started a bit of a Let’s Play on it actually. Probably my favourite tabletop is a tie between World of Darkness (particularly Werewolf and Beast) and Shadowrun. I love the cyberpunk feel of Shadowrun as well as the horrors present in World of Darkness.
I have a couple of short moments from various game sessions I’ve been in at the tabletop, nothing extensive. I think one of my more memorable ones was in Shadowrun. I was playing a physical adept (sort of a person who channels inner magic through their body to enhance their abilities) who specialized in throwing improvised weapons. We had gone, under the guise of being cops, to interrogate a person about some sort of shipment. We met with the person, and they immediately attempted to flee the room. I had picked up a gun on the way.
“He’s getting away!”
“I have this thing called a gun.”
A moment of silence.
“I throw the gun.”
Everyone expected me to just shoot him, but I had absolutely no skills in firearms, simply throwing it would have worked better. And it did, I threw it hard enough to bring him from full health to unconscious, and left an imprint of the gun’s owner on his head.
Everyone was highly amused by this fact.
Now as for stories in Darkest Dungeon, I have one good story that I wish I had recorded. I was going against the second tier cannon boss and was having the worst luck preventing the cannon from firing. In addition, the cannon never misfired as I’ve heard it can do. Yet I still survived without any loss of life.
That was pretty awesome after continually being reduced to Death’s Door. But the funniest thing? The cannon actually missed the entire party, three times. It was wonderful.
John: How did you go about coming up with the concept for the Abomination? What inspirations where you drawing from?
Josh: I’ll confess outright that I’m a werewolf fan and that’s where I originally started from. In some regards, the Abomination still resembles the original concept. The transformation mechanic was a reluctant suggestion from me (concerns about how well it would fit the current engine); Tyler snatched that part up immediately. So the concept of a transformation or berserk mechanic was always going to be a factor for this character.
After that came trying to fit the werewolf into the Darkest Dungeon world. I did a bit of research into things like Ngirrth’lu (the Wolf-thing) and Ptar-Axtlan, looking particularly at ‘The Stalker in the Snows’ as well as the Lupine Ones of Ngirrth’lu.
But in the end it came back to simply making a werewolf concept fit. While I am a fan of World of Darkness, the style of Werewolf from there would not fit Darkest Dungeon quite as well.
Visually, a lot of the design is thanks to Chris. I’m not that good at visuals, so everything he delivered without much from me; and frankly I think he did an excellent job with it. Still got a bit of the werewolf, with it still fitting an eldritch beast suited to the universe.
John: Whats your favorite sound/visual effect from the Abomination? Have you found a party composition you like the best yet? If so what name would you give that party?
Josh: The transform into beast animation, easily. For both visual and sound. I don’t actually have a favoured party composition, although I tend to enjoy having Jester/Houndmaster/Abomination/Hellion at the moment, though that’s subject to change. I’m tempted to call it “Dogs of War”, but perhaps that would be better if we switched the Hellion for the Man-at-Arms.
John: Who’s better to work with Chris or Tyler?
Josh: You can’t ask me that! I’m going to be seeing you guys at PSX! I don’t want to commit Death By Dev Team! Seriously though, both were amazing to work with and it would be impossible to pick one of them who was better to work with.
John: The class is in, have you had a chance to play with it? If so what do you think?
Josh: I love it, honestly. I wondered how the ability swapping would be implemented; although I had imagined it the way it is I didn’t think it would actually end up that way! I really enjoy using beast form to rip through everything as well as using the manacles of human form as an excellent and painful stun. His trinkets are helping out a fair bit as well.
John: Do you want to share any speculations you have about the final dungeon; The Darkest Dungeon?
Josh: I can’t really say what speculations I have about it. I daresay we will be seeing newer enemies closer to that of the shambler in design. The classic demon would not fit quite so well in here. Given what we see in the intro movie before the main menu, shambler-esque enemies are probably going to be the norm. Probably with an otherworldly feel to represent the inability to retreat. Anything beyond that I can’t really say.