Crimsonland dev discusses the twin-stick shooter’s cult hit longevity

Crimsonland was the very first game 10tons made. It was the very first game I...

Crimsonland was the very first game 10tons made. It was the very first game I made. If someone would have said at that time that I’d still be talking about it almost 18 years later… not sure if I’d have believed that. That’s crazy.

Nevertheless, over the years, Crimsonland has gathered some sort of a cult following. Some players can’t seem to get enough of it. The biggest fans have played it over thousands of hours. While I can only speculate why all this has happened, I do have a few guesses how the game earned its hardcore following.

Maze of monsters

When the game originally came out in 2003, most 2D games still used software rendering. Using 3D accelerators enabled us to have thousands of moving monsters on screen at once. This had some novelty value especially back then, and there’s no denying that it can be very satisfying to mow down those monster hordes. This also defined the concept of level structure in a new way. Suddenly the monsters themselves provided an ever evolving maze to navigate through. You needed to plan and plow your way through the enemies to get to that next sweet powerup. Everything is in flux all the time, so you need to be constantly taking risks, planning new routes, and trying to figure out soft spots in the horde. I think this sort of plasticity keeps the gameplay fresh longer.

Level up, die, repeat

The survival mode of Crimsonland may have been one of the first action roguelike style experiences out there. Inspired by bigger RPGs like the Fallout series, one goal was to fit that RPG progress into shorter action game format. Kill monsters, gather experience points, level up, and try to survive as long as possible. Each time you level up, you get to pick one of the random Perks. As you get to know what each Perk does, and what combinations of weapons and Perks might be useful, you’ll start to form new strategies. You perished this time, but maybe in the next run you’ll get lucky? This makes it very tempting to play that one more new game.

But I can only speculate why the game got popular. The truth is that the fans and them spreading the word is what has made Crimsonland popular. People are still talking about the game. And there’s still one question we hear all the time. When is Crimsonland 2 coming out?

Crimsonland’s future

Over the years, we’ve actually had more than one prototype for Crimsonland 2. The first one was focused on networked online multiplayer, but it quickly became apparent that having networked multiplayer wasn’t very compatible with thousands of monsters back then (2005). Eventually we gave up on that and focused on other projects.

Another Crimsonland 2 prototype focused on a bigger open world sort of experience. That one proved to be a bit too big a project for our studio at the time, so we shelved that prototype too and focused on something else. Some of those open-world ideas did end up in our open-world RPG Dysmantle which is planned for release on PS4 and PS5 later this year. It’s an open-world action RPG, but the gameplay doesn’t resemble Crimsonland.

Because of Crimsonland’s strange ability to defy time, we’ve kept it technically up to date, and even added some new features over the years. We also did a bigger modernization update a few years ago. As hardware has gotten more powerful, we’ve kept increasing the amount of monsters rushing in. The latest version on PS5 is the probably definitive Crimsonland experience at the moment. There’s never been as many monsters in Crimsonland as now.

You’d think that at this point I’ve gotten my share of Crimsonland. But the truth is, I still play the game now and then. It’s one of my most played games in my PlayStation games library. After a long day, I power up my PS5 and launch Crimsonland. And mow down a few thousand monsters. And dream of Crimsonland 2.

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