Creepy, cute, compelling: The recipe for smash hit, Cult of the Lamb

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Thinking about the roguelike elements, how did you implement randomization? What was most difficult to balance here?

Our team has a huge range of skill levels when it comes to gaming. We balanced “easy” to Julian, “medium” to me, and “hard” to Jimp.

The other nice thing about dungeon crawlers is that you don’t really need the randomization to be very balanced. It’s actually more fun when you have a run where you get lucky, and sometimes you get really unlucky. It’s that variety that makes it fun!

Balancing was mostly focused on enemy and boss HP against the level of your character’s starting weapon. Then there was experimentation with faith and hunger levels. 

We also have a lot of things under the hood of the game that adjust to the player if you’re struggling. For example, if you’re low on health, you’re much more likely to find a heart in the grass or to loot one from a chest.

During our Twitch stream at GDC, you and the team talked about how taking advantage of the cult members is central to the game. How did you ensure that your players would feel like they were making difficult yet impactful choices when managing the cult?

That was a decision we made very early on, and it pervades the entire DNA of the game. Really, it was part of almost every design decision we made.

One thing that took us a while to figure out was how to make sacrificing a follower feel valuable. You originally just got gold for it, but it never felt valuable enough, so we knew we needed to make it more tempting for a player. That’s why we changed it to an instant level-up. Suddenly we found players were sacrificing their followers all the time!

Another idea that we had from almost the beginning was being able to consume a follower to bring yourself back to life. That was originally a core mechanic of the game, but we decided to bring it in a bit later instead. Making leveled-up followers give more hearts is a great example – the cult members you care about more, and have invested in more, we make more tempting to kill. Basically, anything you care about, we try to make it tempting for you to do something horrible to it.