First Dungeon Scroller GIF on the Hodge Podge website! Apologies for the poor compression!
What? What is Dungeon Scroller?!?
Since this website and tumblr dev blog went live, I haven’t actually described what my current game project is about! The splash screen is a good illustration of the game core features: heroes, enemies & axes – loads of axes; but here’s some more details!
The game is essentially a Hack & Slash, planned for release to PC & Android with the tag line “Throw axes at your enemies’ face in this epic physic-ish hack & slash ARPG!!!!“. The final game should have the following features:
- Dozens of hero classes & weapons to unlock
- Myriads of enemies to fight, with varied IA & combat styles!
- Rudimentary leveling/magic/loot system for added replayability
- Multiple dungeons & lore to explore
- “Physic-ish” combat mechanics
My objective is to keep the game play lighthearted & fun for quick sessions, whilst still offering some level of depth in the class/magic management.
Some available classes in the game, all with different stats and play-styles!
Why? The thought process behind Dungeon Scroller
I am a big fan of Diablo. Actually such a big fan, that four years ago my first serious game maker project was a platformer with RPG/Loot elements! I was a bit frustrated by the Android / IOS market, as there wasn’t in my opinion a good Diablo clone on either platform. Sure, there were some hack & slash games (Dungeon Hunter, Heroes of Loot, Devious Dungeon etc), but all seemed to miss the core element that made Diablo fun: Loot!!! Months of late night development followed, learning game maker and working on one prototype after another.
Four years down the line… None of these prototypes came to fruition, however I do now appreciate the complexity of building a game with complex mechanics like Diablo!!! But I’m not discouraged! With Dungeon Scroller I am returning to my core ambition of building an action RPG.
Why do I think I can succeed now? Dungeon Scroller is essentially the maturation of many trial and errors and therefore has a head start! Looking back I find previous attempts failed for one (or several) of these reasons:
- Code got too messy – impossible to maintain or add new features
- Massive flaws in the UI, hindering playability
- Just not fun to play!
For Dungeon Scroller, I adjusted my approach to avoid these mistakes:
- Scalability: No more prototyping & hard coding – everything I add needs to be scalable, i.e. controlled through a spreadsheet somewhere that can be added to. Once the framework is there, I can proceed to add content without touching a line of code. New enemy? Just need an extra row in the spreadsheet and some pixel art to go with it. New weapon? Same again, copy an existing row and add a few tweaks, and so on!
- Thinking the UI upfront, for my target platform: In this case, I really want to publish the game to Android. This forced me to think the UI a different way: What layout makes sense for the type of game I am building? And where do the buttons go?
- Prototyping the core gameplay: The game is about throwing axes at enemies, right? So, I spent the first few days prototyping player control & physics to ensure that mechanic was fun.
The above should prevent me hitting a brick wall half way through development, and hopefully ensure I finish a project for once! 🙂
How? The reality of being a hobbyist, solo game dev…
I have a full time job so can only spend so many hours a week on Dungeon Scroller. This not only impacts my timeline to complete the game, but also poses some interesting challenge…
- No one to bounce ideas with! This is a tough one, and to a certain extent explains why my previous projects failed. Having someone tap my shoulder and say “dude, have you thought about this?” could have saved me from a few bad design decisions! It’s also a lot harder to drop a project if others are involved. On the other hand I like being a lone wolf and making all the decisions. I also have full control of the scope & depth of the games I make – so this is something I’ll likely carry on!
- Limited time means… Reducing the scope! There are loads of things I think would be great to add to Dungeon Scroller. The reality is I just won’t have to time to implement them all! I really have to balance out what ”bang I get for my buck” when deciding to add something to the game.
- Being the Bottleneck! I am now in charge of PR, coding, art, graphics, music, sound effects and admin, which can all be full time jobs on their own! Time spent on either means I am not working on the others…
Here’s how I address them:
- Design & Inspiration: I follow a lot of Game Design blogs, Youtube channels and podcasts for inspiration.
- Youtube: Game Maker’s Toolkit channel on Youtube is pretty awesome – very high quality content with in-depth analysis of games & underlying design decisions. There are a few others around – Writing About Games, HyperbitHero, Errant Signal. I also follow GOG and IndieFormer to see what else is out there.
- Podcasts: I am a huge fan of Coffee With Butterscotch. These guys are just fantastic and share insight about the industry and running a game studio. They use the Game Maker platform, so a lot of what they share directly applies to what I do. They also really engage with their community – half the podcast is dedicated to listeners questions, so it’s a great opportunity for game devs to get answers on just about anything!
- If in doubt, go for the simplest approach: When working solo, it is very, very easy to become tied up for days with a tricky design decision. Not knowing in which direction to take the game next is bad – decision deadlocks can waste a lot of time and sometimes even results in dropping the project all together! The way I’ve addressed this for Dungeon Scroller is simple: When faced with a design decision, where the game could go several directions, I just opt for the easiest one to implement. Sounds simple enough, right? It works because it saves time hesitating on stuff. It also works because it keeps the project in scope!
- Pick your battles: So I have to do everything. Fine – how do I manage that?
- Coding: I’ve been using Game Maker for a while, so I certainly know my way around it now – which shortcuts I can take and how to keep my code tidy.
- Art: Quite simple, I don’t have a lot of time for art. What is the easiest form of art I can produce for my game? Pixel art! With an IPad & Pixartu, I can also work on the train!
- Sound & Music: I haven’t gone round to this just yet, but I’ll most likely opt for royalty-free tunes on Free Music Archive and 8 bit sounds from bfxr. Thanks Butterscotch Shenanigans for the tip!
- Admin: Registering domain names, setting up a website… No way around it, but I feel this is just an upfront cost to do the initial setup, and hopefully sporadic!
- PR: I just want the game to have enough coverage so it doesn’t completely flop when coming out on Google Play. I am new at this, but my plan is to use Tumblr for updates (which I think can hook up to Twitter + Facebook) and this website for blog posts. Unfortunately, time spent on PR is time not spent working on the game, but the reality is there’s no way around it if I want to avoid obscurity!
When? When is Dungeon Scroller coming out?
Don’t ask me, I’m flat out doing PR right now and not actually working on the game 🙂
Honestly, I do not know. I would love to release the game sometime in 2017, but also for it not to be total flop (10 downloads on Google Play from your friends and family…) which is why I am currently focusing on the marketing of the game. My next steps, once I manage somehow to build some following, will be to make a playable alpha and potentially release it on itch.io to get some traction and hopefully feedback… So potentially there could be a playable version out there soon!
Let me know what you think!
If you made it to the bottom of that page, I’d love to hear from you! What do you think of the game concept, GIF, screenshots, or the Hodge Podge website in general?
Any comments on this blog will be much, much appreciated!
I couldn’t resist commenting. Well written!
Thanks very much!
Gif looks awesome great colors and movement, do you plan to use spreadsheets to manage sound effects also?
Thanks! Haven’t thought much about the sound for Dungeon Scroller yet… A spreadsheet might help as weapons/enemies will most likely share sound FXs.
I found it’s actually a pretty dull affair to implement sound after a project is already started! Doing the sound for my project Holey Suit was pretty laborious, as the prototype was pretty much finished once I got to it so I had to tuck to the task for a few solid hours.
The import process is very manual – recording sound on my IPad, extracting it on Audacity, importing it to Game Maker and linking to the assets – all which takes forever!