Studio abandons free-to-play web and mobile games for passion project: Dead Cells
Dying’s only bad if you stay dead.
Dead Cells is a new action-platformer about defying death and grabbing loot, available on Steam Early Access on May 10. The game contains elements of both roguelike and Metroidvania genres along with a retro pixel aesthetic that’s enjoyed popularity in recent years. The main character is the titular pile of green cells, which possesses a skeletal warrior and proceeds to slash and hack and whip its way through a procedurally generated castle at the risk of permadeath. Similar to games like Rogue Legacy, death is expected and part of the gameplay in Dead Cells.
Though developer Motion Twin has been making games for 15 years, its previous titles have primarily been free-to-play web and mobile games, such as Die2Nite, a multiplayer zombie survival game. Faced with a changing and increasingly complex market, the studio decided it was time to take on a passion project.
“Now you have to have KPIs, an acquisition budget, AB testing and all of that crap [in past development]. That really wasn’t for us, it was really bringing us down,” says Steve Filby, Motion Twin’s marketing manager. The employees briefly considered going their separate ways, but they decided against that course of action. “So we said. … Right, let’s make the game we’d want to play. Let’s make something hardcore, ultra-niche, with pixel art and ridiculous difficulty. Let’s do the passion project and to hell with the consequences.”
The studio hopes to use Steam Early Access as a real-time gauge of interest in certain features, as well as a way to gather feedback so they can tweak the game’s balance and adjust the procedural generation as they go along.
“Then, there is the fact that rogue-lite games encourage a certain amount of community involvement in terms of creating more content, more weapons, passive skills, items, everything,” says Filby. “We want that community involvement — in fact, we’re counting on using that feedback to get the game from good to great.”
Initially, Dead Cells will be available for PC, though the final release will include Mac and Linux. Early Access will showcase about 40 percent of the game’s full content.