Archive for the 'dicey dungeons' Category

The Reunion Reunion

Hey! So, it’s almost three years since Dicey Dungeons came out. This Thursday, we’re releasing Dicey Dungeons Reunion, a huge DLC that’s been in the works for about a year, which follows our big walking dice back into the Dungeons for six final episodes.

Since we’re finally wrapping things up, we thought it’d be nice to get the team together to have a big chat about the game, to reminisce about its development, and what it felt like to come back to our weird gameshow world.

Warning, this is pretty long! And it’s maybe only of interest to people who are really interested in how Dicey Dungeons came together! It’s been edited together from a couple of different conversations we had. Speaking are: myself, Terry Cavanagh (game design); Marlowe Dobbe (art); Niamh Houston/Chipzel (sound and music); Justo Delgado Baudí (programming); Holly Gramazio (writing); and briefly, Will Lewis (some of the voices).

THE BEGINNING

Marlowe
So, do we have any sort of plan here? Are we just gonna go for it?

Holly
Let’s start at the beginning, I guess? Which is Terry, and a little 2018 game jam…

Terry
Hi, yes, ok! So we’re all heard this story a lot, sorry. But: Dicey Dungeons started as a seven-day jam game in early 2018. I wanted to try and make a roguelike deck builder in the vein of Dream Quest, which at the time was a pretty underexplored space. It’s become a much bigger genre now, so I guess I got pretty lucky with the timing.

I really wanted to do something different in this space, and I thought working with dice would be an interesting unexplored avenue for thinking about these kinds of systems. It started as simple as that, just like: what can I do in this Dream-Quest-inspired space that hasn’t been done before? And from there, it just took off.

Marlowe
You know, I only played Dream Quest after we had finished making Dicey Dungeons – it was funny playing through and connecting all the threads.

Terry
Yeah, there are a lot of little references in there! I like to be pretty open about my inspirations. Reunion has a few more, actually!

PUTTING THE TEAM TOGETHER

Marlowe
I feel like I knew this at one point but probably forgot: how long had you been working on the prototype before you decided to start looking for other people to work on it?

Terry
Oh, not that long. Like three or four versions, so a couple of months. It was pretty rough at that point. I went to the games festival AMAZE in Berlin a couple of months in, and Niamh was there, and I’d been looking for a reason for the two of us to work together again for a long time. So I told her about this dumb dice game I was really excited about, and asked if she was up for doing the music. That was probably the first step towards making the bigger plan.

Niamh
Yeah, I remember that, we had the conversation over coffee.

Terry
Before that I’d just been using MIDI pop songs that I found online, which was never a long-term plan, obviously. In the earliest versions of the game the music was like MIDI versions of It’s Raining Men and Shake It Off

Marlowe
Was Kiss from a Rose in there or do I remember wrong?

Terry
I don’t think I had that one. But I can definitely imagine Kiss from a Rose as a great MIDI song.

Niamh
Loads of people actually really missed the MIDI pop when it was gone. They were like oh no, they were angry.

Marlowe
Angry that they had to listen to good music.

Holly
They came round eventually.

Terry
Yeah, sorry, I feel like I made you compete with Adele!

Holly
Niamh, when you started working on Dicey Dungeons was it already set in a game show?

Niamh
It wasn’t a game show yet but it had that… luck-of-the-draw feeling. And it reminded me of, you know, those slot machines you get in Irish takeaways. Little solitaire machines. Dicey Dungeons gave me this same feeling. It’s a game that’s not necessarily designed to be in your favour. Everything’s got an element of luck, and what gets you through is planning and organization.

That was the early stage of thinking about the sound design for it, just: what does it remind me of? That led into thinking about 90s game shows, like Gladiator.

Marlowe
I do feel like when I came on, a couple of months later, we hadn’t solidified the story. But I remember relatively early on, we all got on a call and talked it over and came to the conclusion that, yes, seriously, it was about a game show.


THE WORK BEGINS

Holly
So that was still quite early, like the middle of 2018, when you started?

Marlowe
I remember, Terry and I had our first phone conversation after I’d begun, talking about directions that the game could go. And we had this idea that we could do an Alice-in-Wonderland thing, like every level is a different world, where the characters feel almost out of place in a lot of scenarios.

The game had been originally themed pretty much like Dungeons and Dragons with all the enemies; but we wanted to get away from that and make it feel more unique. So I started out having a lot of fun doing this blast of different areas and characters, and then we started talking about what are the threads to pull on, what’s the theme, what ties it together.

Holly
And this is when you started reimagining some of the existing enemies, right? Because there were a bunch of very D&D things in the first versions which you transformed into these more characterful and peculiar and adorable creatures.

Marlowe
It was a really fun challenge having so many of the enemies already with a core design there when I started. I looked at what moves they had, and reskinned things based on that, which was really fun. Like, I remember I had a huge Google spreadsheet with all the enemies and what their moves were and what they were currently visually designed as, and then I would just fill in ideas.

There was a lot of back and forth with all of us, just with sketches and ideas that we thought were fun, and finding a new personality for each of the enemies.

Terry
I really enjoyed that back-and-forth! I had some really silly enemies in the original pixel art version, and then Marlowe would come up with a great new idea for them and a new visual design. And I was like, ok, I can work with this, and then I’d change the designs to better match. Like, I think the blowfish eventually became Sneezy, for example.

Marlowe
Oh yeah, that’s right! I forgot about that. Yeah, that whole process was really fun.

Holly
So that was a pretty hectic time – it’s when you started looking for another programmer too, Terry?

Terry
Yeah, around August it became clear that it was a bit much for just me, so I put out a call for a Haxe programmer, and found Justo.

Holly
Why were you making it in Haxe, actually?

Terry
Well, when you’re making a jam game and prototyping something quickly, it’s best to stick with what you’re most familiar with – and Haxe is kind of my go-to comfort programming language. So the game started out in that. And then it grew, and grew…

Justo
When I joined, towards the end of 2018, it was a few months old. I joined to work on implementing an animation system for the game and improving the sound system. The initial plan was to implement those systems in two or three months, but I ended up staying for the whole duration of the project.

Holly
And the animation system was the big thing to start off with? How did that work?

Terry
Yeah, Marlowe had been making everything in After Effects. I remember she asked about tools and I just said, oh, just use whatever you’re most comfortable with, we’ll figure out the technical details later. I really had no idea how complicated it was going to be to get those animations in the game!

Justo
Adobe After Effects is mainly used to create animations or VFX that are rendered offline. So we needed to find a way to export those animations in a format that would let us render them in real time. We had a couple discussions about how to approach this issue. We first tried to export each frame of the animation into a spritesheet but we soon realized doing it that way wasn’t going to scale well and wouldn’t let us have fluid animations and as many animations as we wanted.

Thankfully, while looking for alternatives I found Lottie (at that time it was called Bodymovin), an open source project that let us export the animation keyframes to JSON and the different sprites that made that animation into PNG files. Those PNG files were then merged into a spritesheet to save space on disk and GPU memory and to avoid texture changes in GPU as much as possible.

We had to limit the use of effects that could be applied to each part of the animation in After Effects to just a couple ones because the library didn’t support exporting some effects and other effects were too taxing to reproduce in real time. We also had to find ways to support some important effects by rasterizing them offline into PNG files and adding them into the spritesheet.

For the game’s animation system I wrote a parser for the JSON format that library produces and to process those keyframes in a way that lets us play the animations in-game in real time.

  

Terry
It was a pretty huge undertaking, but yeah, Justo basically made a bespoke process for putting realtime After Effect animations in the game. Occasionally modders ask about adding animations to the game, and they see our internal documentation about the process, and they’re slightly horrified!

Holly
If you were starting again from scratch, would you still use Haxe?

Terry
For this, yeah, I think so. Haxe is pretty great. I honestly don’t know why more people aren’t using it.

Justo
Being a niche language with a small community, finding solutions to some issues is hard. Thankfully, this small community has really brilliant and helpful people that ease that issue. We couldn’t have built Dicey Dungeons without the help of all the open source libraries we use: OpenFL, Starling, HScript, Polymod, Actuate,…

Holly
This is about when I first became involved as well, I think. When you’d all been reimagining some of the characters and you’d sort of collectively figured out it was a game show, but you didn’t know the details.

Terry
Yeah, all we’d really settled on was the game show thing, and a few stray ideas of what kind of story we wanted to tell.

Holly
So I just came on board to ask questions and make some notes and moderate this one-off big hours-long discussion about all of the different directions that the story could go in and how this fictional game show might be structured and how the plot would work. And I wasn’t at that point expecting to be involved beyond that, but obviously I was pretty familiar with the game just because, you know, I live with Terry.


(pictured left to right: Marlowe, Niamh and Terry at Day of the Devs, San Francisco, Nov 2018)

SHOWING THE GAME

Niamh
Honestly we were still figuring out some of the details when we met up for Day of the Devs in November 2018. Me and Marlowe and Terry in an AirBnB in San Francisco just watching 90s game shows. I think it was then when we all met up that the big theme kind-of solidified.

Marlowe
Yeah, I don’t know if we’ve really talked about it a lot publicly but I think it’s so funny how Day of the Devs was the first time I met Niamh and Terry in person, after working together for months.

And again in early 2019 when we took the game around a lot of different shows, when we were showcasing the game, and we all in varying degrees, like, basically lived together for three months in different cities in the US. It was quite the convention tour.

Terry
Yeah, we did like four or five shows back to back, that was absolutely brutal! I was completely out of it for weeks by the end of it.

Marlowe
Yeah. And you and Niamh did one in the UK right after we did all the ones in the States, right?

Terry
Day of the Devs was first, right?

Marlowe
Then PAX South, then GDC 2019.


(pictured left to right: Terry, Marlowe, Niamh and Will Lewis at PAX South, San Antonio, Jan 2019)

Terry
And PAX East. Yeah, so we went to GDC, then PAX East, and then right after that Niamh and I did Rezzed in London, three conventions back to back, which was probably one too many…

Marlowe
And we were just at different Airbnbs, we were really kind-of scrappy about it. Like we put all our booth stuff together ourselves, we ordered all of it. We were pushing pins on pin cards in the Texas Airbnb the day before the show…

I think my favorite booth story was at PAX East when Terry got really excited and bought a bunch of balloons that said DICEY…

Terry
Oh god, those balloons. That was such a big ordeal too, finding this huge American party supply warehouse, getting the balloons and getting them blown up and trying to squeeze them into the back of a Taxi. And the whole time I sort of knew it was a terrible idea, like I was making a mistake in slow motion.

Marlowe
Yeah, then you found out you couldn’t take them into the convention center, that they weren’t allowed. So we ended up just having these huge balloons that just spell out DICEY in the basement of our Airbnb.


Terry
Those shows were great. And it was so important for the game, just seeing so many people play it and see how they responded to it.

Niamh
Remember that kid at Rezzed?

Terry
Oh, yeah. I remember. The kid with the Knuckles hat who got really into it! He would have been about nine or ten years old?

Niamh
I think so. Like, he would come back and play the demo as one character then come back and play it as a different character and then when he’d gone through all the characters, asking if he could play the unlocked version, not just the demo. Full on game-designer kid with mechanics questions.

That was a really rewarding sort of moment, just for me. In game development, when kids play and enjoy your game, it’s like a different level. You go to conventions, and obviously, it’s mostly adults who come over and play.

Holly
Yeah, when you love something as a kid it can kind-of become a part of the fabric of how you apprehend the world in a way that, like – when you get something you’ve made to adults, it’s too late for that.

Niamh
Playing games as a kid for me – I didn’t have a whole load of titles that I played, but I got very heavily involved in Pokemon and The Sims and things like that. And it’s such a solid memory; for me to have loved these games so much as a kid, it stays with you. So there’s that extra layer of gratitude as a game developer to see a kid get so interested and just absolutely love it. It was really special.

Marlowe
Yeah, like, it’s pretty fun. I do feel like there are some kids who have played the game and have gotten really inspired by it. Which is pretty wild, because that’s something that I’ve always wanted to do with games that I’ve made. I want to evoke the same feeling I had when I was a kid playing games.

Holly
So Rezzed and this enthusiastic kid happened just over a year after the initial 7 Day Roguelike prototype, right? And to some extent you’d all been working on it since then? So it was a pretty intensive process for all of you. For me, I just came in for maybe a month and we talked a lot about the story and then I wrote a bunch of jokes and sentences and that was quite quick, comparatively. But you were all working on it for that whole year.

Terry
Yeah, in the end probably a bit more than a year for the team effort, Niamh and Marlowe and Justo and me.

Holly
Including a couple of months where you were just doing this huge circuit of shows…

Marlowe
I also just remembered that I did E3 as well. And we did Indiecade!


Marlowe and Niamh at E3 2019

Terry
Oh yeah, E3! I decided not to go to that one – I was still kinda recovering from Rezzed I think.

Marlowe
We were still working on the game while we were doing that, too. I remember there’s some backgrounds I drew in the airport while I was waiting to get on a plane.

Niamh
I think I was literally changing music to put into the game, like the day that we were going to conventions. Recording this thing that I just made up on the way…

Terry
A lot of the voiceover work happened around the shows as well. With Will involved in that too.

Will
Spinning in an abandoned office chair on the side of the street in San Francisco.

Niamh
Yeah, of course, and we just recorded it and put it in the game.

Marlowe
And then we did some of the voiceovers in a closet in our office that we hung up a lot of blankets in, and it was really hot. We had to go into the office on a weekend and set that up because we’re like: we’re going to be screaming in a closet. And we worked in a coworking space at the time.

Niamh
The voiceover stuff was wild.


(pictured: Will and Niamh recording the first voiceovers in San Francisco, Nov 2019)

Terry
I still feel bad that I was so skeptical about the voices until they were basically done. I was stressed that we didn’t have time for them. And then they turned out amazing. Sorry about that!

Niamh
I mean, like I do kind-of wish that we’d had a little bit more time with that because it’s one of those where I’m like, Oh, I don’t know about that voice and I don’t know about this one. But I think for the limited time and the technical and whatever else complications that we had, I’m happy enough with where we got to.

FINISHING THE GAME

Terry
Talking about this really makes me wish I was a better producer. I feel like I kept saying: we’re almost done. The last four months of development was like, Okay, we’re going to be done at the end of May. Oh, I guess we’re not, okay. I guess we’ll be done at the end of June? Oh, no, July? And it eventually came out in August 2019. I didn’t mean for it to be like that, I’ve never been good at time estimates, but that all becomes a lot worse when you’re working with other people and setting deadlines.

Marlowe
I do feel like we had a moment, like the time when we all gathered up and talked about the game show theme – we also had a moment where we were like: Okay, we’re saying this game’s gonna take a few months. But actually, it’s starting to feel like we could do something bigger with it, we could take it somewhere pretty far. And we kind of collectively made the decision. Like: yeah, let’s go. Heads down on this game and really make it everything it can be.

Terry
Yeah, that was probably at Day of the Devs.

Marlowe
I think after that, we weren’t feature creeping, per se, but we were able to say: we have to add this thing, we have to change that thing. It’ll make the game so much better.

Even the ending came late, the last thing we worked on. And pushing the game out that much gave us the time to do that properly.

Terry
I’m so proud of the ending, I’m glad we took the time to do that.

Holly
Yeah, there was a big gap for me between most of the writing and then coming back for us to all figure out what the ending is.

And by that point, I knew there were a bunch of languages the game was being translated into so it was so much more stressful to write. Because every word that I wrote down, I was like, Okay, this is being translated into twenty languages, every word I write is going to cost us. Can I make this line shorter and still have it work?

Niamh
But then towards the end we just had to get it done. I remember we had to make August for the final release because with game development, you only have these limited release windows where you think that it’s gonna make sense for you to release a game…

Marlowe
But at the same time, thinking about when stuff like Baby Squid as the host was added in, I swear that was the last two weeks of development.

Terry
Yeah, Baby Squid was such a minor character originally – Baby Squid only had one line! They just say, “oh, please come visit me again, I’m so bored and lonely” when you beat them.

But then we had the idea of the Jester spinning the wheel after each episode, so you’d get to know them better, and we realised that when the Jester is unlocked we’d need someone else to replace them. I remember we considered having lots of different enemies having a turn at spinning the wheel.

Holly
Yeah, I wrote a bunch of lines for them, Wizard spinning the wheel, Fireman setting fire to the wheel by accident, that kind of thing.

Terry
Unfortunately we just didn’t have time to implement any of that in the end, and we just went with Baby Squid. They became such a big character!

Niamh
I mean, if we’re being honest, the entirety of the soundtrack was more or less written, or at least remixed in the last two months.

Holly
I remember when you were just: oh, I think I should get a saxophone.

Niamh
Yeah, thinking: I can learn how to play and write jazz in like, two weeks, that’s fine. But I mean, it’s a process, it all worked out. We started off with chiptune, and then as the art progressed, and Marlowe absolutely killed it, that was when I got thinking: No, this really needs some organic flavor.


Finalising the soundtrack

Marlowe
Yeah, before Dicey Dungeons, I never would have thought that your music would fit with my art very well. But it did. I feel like now for the rest of my career, I’m going to have this curse where people will be asking me whenever they see I’m working on a game if you’re going to do the music for it. I think people just really liked the combo.

Holly
It really works! And then after all that last-minute stuff, the game came out…


THE RELEASE

Marlowe
I was so nervous.

Niamh
It’s so weird with games coming out in the digital realm, because you literally submit all your work and then you kind of click a button and it’s there and you’re like…

Marlowe
It’s just like, Okay. It’s almost unceremonious…

Niamh
Messaging over discord, sitting at your desk, like – I’m on my own.

Terry
Yeah, that was weird. Because there was a lot of like, I’m not sure how to describe it, but just frantic bug fixing and just working to cram every last thing into that final build which went up on the day of release – like, there was no final build that’d been sitting around for three weeks or whatever. Some really major stuff got added in the last couple of weeks! Even the review copy of the game is pretty different from the game that actually came out on release day. And then suddenly, it’s over, and you can’t really do anything for the game any more.

And it’s just very weird to go offline and go for a walk, and nobody around you knows anything about this huge thing that’s happening.

Niamh
It’s like that meme of the guy standing in the corner at a party, no one knows I just released a videogame.

Marlowe
I think the nice thing was, there were a lot of people who were streaming it, it felt like I was able to watch a little bit of people interacting with it. But we all live far enough apart that it’s not like we had a launch party, or anything. And I’d started another job by then!

Justo
For me, release day wasn’t as stressful as the days before it. I was more excited than stressed. The game was finally out and a lot of people were praising and enjoying it. And it was a release valve to all the pressure that was building up that let me focus on fixing some of the issues left that the game still had.

Terry
This was the first time I’d had someone doing PR on a game too, so Dana [Trebella] was looking after all that, writing to people, I didn’t have to, like, send things out hopefully to journalists or see if anyone was asking for steam keys or anything.

Holly
For me, I can’t really remember the day very well – I guess I mostly remember Terry refreshing twitter, and the Steam new top sellers page. And then: ah, there it is. There it is. It’s in the charts now, oh it’s at the bottom of the front page. It’s gone up the page a little bit now. And just sort of watching it over the course of the whole first week.

Niamh
It’s just – it’s incredible. When you finally put the game out and you start getting feedback on it. And like, going up in the charts. It’s the best feeling in the world.

Marlowe
Yeah, it really was. Like obviously, I loved all the work that we were all doing. But I think a month before we came to release, I had a little bit of that, like, fear of God, where I was like: oh my god, I think a lot of people are gonna play this.

Niamh
Yeah, I had that fear of God in me from January onwards, because the reception that we were getting at every convention that we went to was really positive. Every convention that we went to, I was like: wow, we really have something here. And I want to make it as good as it possibly can be. I’d been happy enough with the music before then, but after that I was just like: no, it’s just not right for the world.

Marlowe
Yeah, you really did an overhaul of it.

Terry
Yeah, it was like… obviously, I was hoping the game would do really well. But I wasn’t ready for it to be – like, by any standards that first week was ridiculous. I think you know this already, but it outsold my other games’ lifetime figures on steam in that first week.

Marlowe
I don’t think I was expecting that either. But I was obviously very happy to see how many people were playing.


Turns out, it was regional, but still!

Holly
I remember for a couple of weeks I’d just occasionally go and look at the Steam page where, you know, you can see what people have screenshotted. And just going through that – and going, oh neat, people like this joke, or that one, or this character, amazing. You don’t normally get that kind of sentence-by-sentence feedback on a thing you’ve written.

Marlowe
It was really fun seeing what characters people latched on to. There are definitely some totally surprising characters in terms of like, people talking about them. Some of it had to do with writing and some of it had to do with the design of the game itself. Like I think about Loud Bird and how infamous Loud Bird is in that game now – I don’t think I would have thought about that while I was drawing the character or anything.

But I also like how there’s a lot of instances where I think Holly, you did a really great job of weaving in little dashes of character backstory. So people can, like, catch on to the fireman and the snowman being a couple and stuff like that.

Niamh
I think that we have a really incredible community of people who play this game. Every time I see a Dicey Dungeons meme or any sort of content. It’s really lovely to see people picking up on all the little intricacies of the game.

Marlowe
There’s some people making fan art now that blows my mind. There are people who’ve drawn human versions of all the dice. I don’t know if it will ever quite sink in with me how cool that is.


Art by @mitukan_sub


Art by @chorbkey


Art by @taiga080521

Holly
There’s been lots of modding as well, right? How does that feel from a game design perspective, to see people like inventing new rules and equipment and ways to play?

Terry
Oh, it’s really gratifying, because actually a lot of time went into making the game be moddable, making sure all the game’s data was accessible, and in human readable spreadsheets, and that everything worked in really simple-to-understand scripts. Right from the start, the game found an audience of people who were interested in poking at it, and I really wanted to make it accessible for them.

Actually, one of the best things about working on Dicey Dungeons was my discord server for the game, the Dicecord. It’s such an incredible community, I don’t know how I lucked into it. Right from earliest public builds, I got such incredible feedback from people – Dicey Dungeons is a really significantly better game because of it, I think.

And it’s always a thrill to see a weird item be modded into the game, doing something I didn’t even think was possible. Like, one example, there’s a helium item that I love from the mod More Fluff, which gives you loads of dice, but they all float up from the bottom of the screen and you have to catch them. So good.


Helium Balloon, from the mod MoreFluff by Jackeea

Holly
And then after a few weeks to kind-of absorb the release, we went right into the Halloween Special.


POST-RELEASE: PORTS AND DLC

Terry
So yeah, after the launch went so well, we started talking about doing a nice content update for the game! I had some really over-elaborate ideas that would have taken forever, but Niamh suggested we just do a small Halloween themed update first, which was a much better idea.

Niamh
I wasn’t at home so I was doing remote work, which was a little bit tricky, I didn’t have my usual studio setup. But I very much enjoyed starting out with the premise of: okay, it’s like the Backstreet Boys meets Monster Mash.

Marlowe
Yeah, doing the Halloween costumes was really fun too. I felt like it was sort of a do-over of that idea of how we had already reskinned the enemies – puffer fish to hedgehog – and now we were doing it again. Thinking about what each of the characters would dress up as for Halloween and thankfully, the way that the files are structured for the art, it was really easy to swap in assets and change assets, but keep all the animations pretty much the same. I didn’t have to do a lot of reanimating.

We did so much work in such a short amount of time with that DLC. I kind of forget how much art got made for it. Like, I forgot that Madison dressed up as Lady Luck! It’s a nice surprise for myself every now and then when I play the game again or see a screenshot.

Terry
I feel like with all the travelling we did and the last-minute gearing-up to get everything ready for launch, by the time we sat down to work on the Halloween special, we were really firing on all cylinders, at the top of our game. I think it ended up being so, so good. I’m really proud of those episodes!

Marlowe
I think it’s got some of my favourite backgrounds, from the whole project.

Terry
And the music is so good, the Backstreet Boys inspired one especially. That track is amazing.

Niamh
Thank you. Yeah, I had a lot of fun with that. I’ve never got to do spooky and this was a whole different thing: like, do spooky but make it fun.


We tweeted about some of the costumes shortly after the update came out.

Holly
And then we all except Terry and Justo went off and did different stuff.

Marlowe
Yeah. When Dicey Dungeons released, I started working with Rose City Games on Floppy Knights, which has been released now. And now I have a new job, I work at Mega Crit. But I’ve been working on Dicey Dungeons in different spurts throughout all of that time. So it’s been a constant in my life.

Terry
And I’ve just never really stopped working on it. Like, I took a little time out after Halloween, but then I got back into doing updates, and we started on the Switch ports, which Ruari O’Sullivan came on to lead on. More recently, stuff on the Xbox ports which Ratalaika did. And yeah, for maybe the last year or so, alongside all that admin and bug-fixing and porting, I’ve been working on Reunion. Justo as well, of course, working on all this stuff, on the mobile ports and bug fixes, and localisation work, adding more languages, things like that.

Holly
Tell me about the localisations! Because there are a whole lot of them, and even after the game came out they just kept coming.

Terry
Yeah, this is the first time I’ve done them, I got really into it! I really wanted to make the game available in Irish, and since that was happening, I kind-of just took an interest in supporting other minority languages. Among other languages, we’ve translated Dicey Dungeons into Irish, Welsh, Catalan and Silesian. We’re lucky to have a bunch of great translators working with us on it.


Some screenshots of our Silesian translation.

Justo
When we started working on the game we were using font files to draw the text on screen. It was fine at the beginning of the project but when we added languages like Japanese, Chinese and Korean we realized that the system wasn’t going to scale. It was really slow. (It may sound surprising for some but rendering text is hard because text hates you.)

Terry
Yeah, we started getting bug reports about that right after launch – fixing that became a pretty urgent priority.

Justo
I knew about using a SDF (Signal Distance Fields) font texture to render text from other projects I worked on so I started experimenting with them for Dicey Dungeons and, after some experimentation, we decided to use a variant of the technique called MSDF (Multi-Channel Signal Distance Fields) which improves the rendering of the glyph by using multiple channels to describe the shape of the glyph. Thankfully Starling already had support for MSDF fonts so that was one less thing to worry about while implementing them. This change gave us a huge performance boost and also let us have sharp text everywhere at any size we wanted.

Holly
I’d started learning Italian at that point so I played the game in Italian for a while, which was great, kind-of seeing how different things had been translated. Like, how often do you get to learn a language by reading something you wrote that’s been professionally translated?

It also added a lot of words like “sword” and “raygun” and “dice” to my vocabulary which, honestly, I haven’t had a whole lot of use for since.

Justo
When we added Arabic, that was another challenge.

Terry
Yeah, unfortunately, Haxe didn’t have Arabic support at the time. We had to write it ourselves. The Pros and Cons of open source!

Justo
Thankfully I found some open source libraries that helped me write the library we ended using for the task – which wasn’t perfect, but was enough for the game to have Arabic as one of its translations.


DICEY DUNGEONS: THE REUNION

Holly
So you two [Justo and Terry] have just kept having your head in it all along. But for the rest of us, it’d been a while since the Halloween DLC when we came back to do stuff on Reunion.

Marlowe
Yeah. In some ways it hasn’t been hard to get my head back in the game. But in others – obviously I couldn’t give it the same level of commitment when I’m also doing a full-time job.

But because we’re doing DLC, and we’re not remaking the entire game, that worked okay. Part of me wishes I could have done like ten different backgrounds and a bunch of different enemies. But I really did enjoy what I was able to do. I think we had a really good pace, in terms of enough time to get it done. And I feel like I had enough time to feel good about what I worked on. So I’m pretty happy with that.

Holly
For me, honestly I’d forgotten a bunch of what I’d written, and like I say when I played it after release I played in Italian which, to be clear, I don’t particularly speak. So reading through it all again – just reading through all the text in spreadsheets – at first it was almost like I was getting my head into someone else’s writing style so I could imitate it. And it just happened that the someone else was: me from a few years ago.

And then once I’d started remembering it all, I ended up with some pretty strong opinions about what all the characters would be up to now, so it was great to be able to dig into that. And luckily Pip [Philippa Warr] who’d done some additional writing and the editing and, like, “this joke doesn’t work” advice on the original had a couple of days available to do that again, so hopefully we were able to end up with something consistent with the original.

Niamh
For me it was a joy to come back to.

When Dicey Dungeons was released, one of the fun internet community things that happened was a tweet by Steve Pardo, who’s a session musician who plays with brass and saxophones, he put up a video where he was jamming over the top of the Dicey Dungeons soundtrack.


Steve Pardo improvises on the Saxophone over the Dicey Dungeons soundtrack.

So I got him on board for the Halloween DLC. And it was great, that’s how we got some of that spooky sax. And it was amazing to be able to hire someone to take over that role, someone who absolutely knows what they’re doing with it. So I reached out to Steve again for the Reunion DLC, and he sent me over some jams, again on the original soundtrack, which I started using as the foundation for the Reunion soundtrack. And there’s still some other snippets of samples and things, not all the brass is completely done by Steve, but he really did set the tone to help me start merging the body of the brass with LSDj chiptune music and, you know, that little flair of funk. And with Reunion, I also wanted to give it a little bit of a summery theme because of the date it was coming out. And I think I achieved it. I hope.

Marlowe
It was very funny how we got to theme the Reunion as a game-show-adjacent thing where it was a bit more like summery reality TV. Which I think all of us for some reason have some sort of affinity for.

Niamh
Somewhere in between Survivor and Love Island.

Holly
Yeah, we watched something like twenty seasons of Survivor during the first year of the pandemic.

Terry
Oh right, yeah! The weirdness of Survivor Reunion episodes were a huge influence here, just the bizarreness of everyone having to come back to a normal studio after having gone through this incredibly intense ordeal.

Holly
There’s a big thing with Survivor at the end of each season, a moment where everyone’s back together, they talk about how’s it been going since, some of them have stuff to promote, some of them have grudges that they’re secretly holding, some of them get asked one terrible question and have about eight seconds to answer it, some of them kind-of know they’re the crowd favourite even if they didn’t win. So that was a great inspiration to be able to draw on.

Niamh
I think, especially after the pandemic – like, “after”, in quotation marks – this was just a real spark of joy to come back to. Going back felt – you know, it was absolutely wild trying to do any creative work throughout the first couple of years of the pandemic. And it’s still leaving weird trails everywhere. So I would like to just give us a round of applause for actually completing this.

Marlowe
Oh, man. Yeah, that’s very true. I think that, in a time where there were so many stressors, for me this was really not a stressor. It was so much fun to work on and it was something to look forward to and enjoy being creative on.

Terry
That’s great to hear. Obviously for me it wasn’t so much a thing of coming back to it, but getting to revisit the game design did feel a bit like that.

Holly
Yeah, tell us about that and what you were doing with the design.

Terry
The Reunion structure for me was kind of about: what threads are left in the game design that are interesting to pull on, and explore a bit more? So one of the things I did at one point was just make a list of the unwritten rules for the game, things that I decided I wouldn’t do. And then, to think about episodes that were breaking those unwritten rules.

And that’s kind-of how the robot reunion episode came about, actually, the one where you flip coins instead of rolling dice. One of the big firm rules for Dicey Dungeons was that you only ever see six-sided dice – I think you totally lose your intuition about how chance is going to work once you start using, like, D20s or whatever. But, you know, for a weird reunion episode, anything is on the table. So I started making this coin based episode, kind of as a joke at first.

And that was really fun to figure out. Really difficult actually, it took ages to make that episode work. Because it turns out coins aren’t as, uh, expressive as dice.

Holly
Yeah, I remember you starting it saying, I don’t think I can make this fun. But I’ll just try it for an afternoon. And then a week later going, I still don’t think I can make this fun. But I don’t want to give up yet.

Terry
And now I think maybe it’s the most fun episode of the DLC.

Niamh
I think for all of us, it’s just been really nice to come back to and kind-of tie a bow on it and be like: okay, that’s it done.

Marlowe
Yeah, it does feel like the right time to tie a bow on it, you know?

Terry
Yeah, absolutely.

Niamh
Right. What’s next?

Marlowe
Like, the next game together?

Terry
I mean, people have long careers. I’m definitely hoping that at some point we’ll do something.

Marlowe
Yeah. We’ll all find an excuse to get the band back together eventually.

Holly
Any closing remarks?

Terry
Uh, well! I guess I don’t know how many people will actually play Reunion, you know, because it’s a DLC for a three year old game. I’m trying to be realistic about that. The main thing I’m really happy about is that when people play Dicey Dungeons for the first time, Reunion will be part of it, you know? That it’ll be part of the game forever. That’s something I’m really happy about. I think it’s the best part of the game now.

Because, uh, maybe I got slightly carried away with this? Like, I’ve been working on the design of this for a year. It’s hard to justify, or something. But there’s so much good stuff in there! I really feel like I’ve levelled up as a designer while working on this.

Justo
I really enjoyed working with the team a lot. All these talented people enjoying themselves and working towards the completion of a game, it’s really great!

Marlowe
Yeah, I have to say, I feel like just working on Dicey in general was such an enjoyable experience. For me, I feel like I really lucked out being able to work with all of you, after, you know, pretty much not knowing you at all before we worked on this game. So I feel very lucky. And I think it was a really fulfilling experience for me, because I felt like I had a lot of creative freedom. The whole time I trusted that everybody was really, really good at what they do. So it felt really good and comfortable. And I’m really proud of it. I just wanted to say that out loud.

Niamh
That’s really sweet. And also I 100% agree with it. I learned a lot from this project. I had to sort of take the reins on everything to do with audio. And I’d never have been given that opportunity before. So it was a big challenge. But I feel like I came out of it and I learned, you know, a hell of a lot from it. And yes, I feel like I’ve levelled up as a composer too in many ways.

And if I can just say as well, the reception to the soundtrack has been phenomenal. And I have really enjoyed doing my silly little saxophone videos and things. Well. I can’t play saxophone, unfortunately. But that won’t stop me from trying.


“you won’t know ur a natural until you try”

For me it’s also kind of just like, it’s so colourful. It’s so fun. It’s so weird. It’s been really, really cool to be part of something so unique.

Terry
Yeah, I’m really happy with that aspect of it in particular. The game is just so bright and colourful and cheerful and like, a welcoming place to spend your time.

Holly
I remember talking to friend’s partner who asked what I’d been working on, and I mentioned Dicey Dungeons, and he said: oh, yeah, I saw that, but seemed a bit too cheerful for me. Do you think you might do a reskin with, like, normal monsters? And: oh, no, I see where you’re coming from but don’t think so, mate, sorry.

Marlowe
I’m gonna start working on my own normal monsters mod.


Art by @terrivellmann

Oh, I don’t know if this is an appropriate thing to say. But I feel like I’ve always found our negative steam comments pretty funny. I feel like I get so much power out of reading people complain about how the art is neon or something.

Niamh
Do you remember when I got Limmy to stream it? And it just got absolutely obliterated by him.

Marlowe
I think I watched some of that and he was just like, I don’t like doing math and stopped playing it really quick.

Terry
Haha, yeah, you can’t make everyone happy. And you shouldn’t even try, right? I’ve seen some really nasty comments about the game, for sure. And plenty of people where it’s just not their thing, and that’s fine.

Marlowe
That’s just a thing to keep in mind with game dev, right – you shouldn’t be making a game to please everybody.

Terry
Yeah, I mean, this is the best game I’ve ever made, I’m so certain of that. And obviously its reception was great overall, I’m not complaining, but it’s so weird to me that it has lower reviews than VVVVVV and Super Hexagon, when it’s clearly so much better than those games.

Niamh
But on the other hand this is the first game that I’ve worked on that my mom played and really enjoyed.

Marlowe
Yeah, actually, my dad played it to 100%.

Niamh
An honour of the highest order.


Team Dicey Dungeons dispose of the DICEY balloons after PAX East

Reunion is out this Thursday on all platforms.

* 2 Comments

Coming Soon: Dicey Dungeons Reunion

Hey, it’s me again! I’ve got a big announcement about something I’ve been working on that I’m really excited about: One week from now, on 7 July…

  • Dicey Dungeons will finally launch on mobile (iOS and Android), and alongside it…
  • Dicey Dungeons: Reunion is coming out – a huge, free DLC, for all platforms, with six totally new episodes!

Gonna have a lot more to say about this before it comes out next week, but for now, I’ll just share a few screenshots. Can’t wait for people to play this, I’m so proud of it.

* 4 Comments

Dicey Dungeons is out now on Switch

Hey! I’ve got some big news – Dicey Dungeons is available right now on Nintendo Switch!

[Dicey Dungeons on Switch eShop]

I’m really excited about today’s launch! I think the game is a great fit for the Switch, and I’m really hoping it finds a new audience here that digs what we’re all about.

If you’ve enjoyed Dicey Dungeons, today is a really good day to spread the word and tell people about it! We’re a tiny team of independent creators, publishing a console game on our own, and to be honest, we really need all the help we can get <3

* 5 Comments

Dicey Dungeons Halloween Special

Happy Halloween! What an absolutely horrifying year it’s been.

Haven’t been updating the blog much recently – not really much to say I guess! I did a Ludum Dare entry earlier in the year that I’ve been meaning to clean up a bit and post, but that aside, I’ve mostly just been working on Dicey Dungeons updates and our upcoming ports (will have more to say about that very soon, I hope).

Today I wanna post properly about one of the more unlikely things I’ve worked on: The Halloween Special for Dicey Dungeons! Here’s a great video of Retromation playing the first episode of it last year:

Dicey Dungeons had a pretty crazy launch. You know that gif of a burning car driving across the finish line? I relate to that. I feel like it was only in the last three months of development, as we were wrapping up, that I really started to figure the game out on a deep level. There was a period, just after the last alpha, when I was working on the the Parallel Universe episodes, where *everything* clicked. I felt like I was on fire. One year on, my only real regret about Dicey Dungeons is that I didn’t cut more of the early stuff from the game before release.

After launch, when the dust settled, people on the team started talking about wanting to make some Dicey Dungeons content – a DLC. It was a new idea for me: after VVVVVV, I absolutely didn’t feel like making any more platformers. After Super Hexagon, I didn’t feel like making any more action games. But after Dicey Dungeons? I was well up for it.

So, we made the Halloween special, and I think it’s our team’s best work.

With the adrenaline rush of launch behind us, everyone on the team was punching at their best. Everyone brought their A-game: Niamh’s spooky soundtrack is absolutely killer, Marlowe’s Halloween costumes for the baddies are fantastic, and Holly’s script has some of my favourite jokes from the whole game. And I’m damn proud of the work I did: the Inventor and Witch episodes in particular are the very best episodes I’ve made, out of the entire game. When it all came together, I was so, so proud of this dumb thing. I know it’s just a weird Halloween tie in for a game that’s not even horror themed, but we put so much energy and love into it.

I guess I was *maybe* a little bit disappointed that it didn’t get more attention, but ahhhh what can you do? I think people maybe just didn’t even expect it to be interesting – people see seasonal DLC and think it’s just like, a gimmick. Fair enough.

So, probably I’m never doing this kind of seasonal thing again – I just don’t think it’s for me. If we ever do another DLC for Dicey Dungeons, I want it to be something that stands on its own, and has its own identity.

Anyway! It’s Halloween again, so give it a try, if you haven’t already! Here’s a guide to launching it from within Dicey Dungeons. Go check it out!

* 3 Comments

Dicey Dungeons v1.8 out now!


Hey! It’s me again! It’s been a while. Time for a very overdue news post!


Dicey Dungeons is on sale!

Just a heads up: right now you can get Dicey Dungeons on steam for 50% off – the cheapest it’s been since back in alpha. I guess if you’re reading this post there’s a good chance you have the game already, but, you know, in case you missed it 😀


The game’s in Irish now!

v1.8 brings lots of new stuff – new enemies, gamepad controls, a design pass on You Choose, You Lose – you can read all the details on the steam patch notes!

But the new feature I’m really most excited about: The Irish translation is finally complete! This is something I’ve been going on about for a long time, so I’m really thrilled it’s finally ready!

I honestly have no idea how much interest there’s going to be in this. It’s kind of an experiment! Regardless, I’ve been really enjoying being able to play it in Irish myself, and learning a few things as I go.


…but it’s not in Japanese, yet.

One big promised feature that’s missing from this update is the Japanese localisation. I’m really sorry! I recently told a Japanese website that I was planning to add this in v1.8, so I know this is disappointing.

It’s almost ready, but unfortunately it just narrowly missed this update – it needs one more round of edits. Apologies to everyone who’s been waiting patiently for it – getting this ready to go is my number one priority with the game right now.


We released a switch trailer!

I know a lot of people have been wondering about the switch version: all I can say right now is that development is going well, and we’re on schedule! One of the big focuses of the last steam update was gamepad controls, which is a really vital part of the switch port – we really wanted to nail the controls, to make it as good to play with a gamepad as it is with a mouse. I think we’ve done that!


What else is going on?

So, uh, I’m in Australia now! We were here visiting in late February, and then, as Holly put it, the thing that happened happened. We made a decision to stay put for a bit, and we’re still here, for now at least.

We’re doing ok, but truth be told, I’ve had a kind of unproductive spell with everything that’s been going on. (If you’ve been waiting for me to get back to you recently, sorry!)

Lately, I’ve been back to myself, though. Hopefully the next Dicey update will be a lot quicker than the last one! <3

* 1 Comment

The Spelunky Showlike

Hey, I was on a podcast! This is new for me – I’ve been recorded talking at events and things like that, but I’ve never actually been a podcast guest like this. It helped a lot that I knew both of the hosts!

The Spelunky Showlike, Episode 33
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Google Play]

This was, uh, terrifying, but I think it went pretty well! Actually, it was a lot of fun – Started off a little shakey, but I relaxed a bit as it went on, and I think it ended up being pretty interesting. Anyway, check it out!

* Post a Comment

1: Launch Day?

Hey! Welcome back to my series of seven daily blog posts on the run up to Dicey Dungeon’s launch! This one’s a bit overdue, as the game actually launched, uh, *checks watch* three months ago. Ah. Well, let’s have a news update and catch up on everything that’s happened! I barely know where to start.


Dicey Dungeons is out now!

Well, let’s start here I guess! In collaboration with my amazing team, I am so proud to present Dicey Dungeons, out now! You can buy it on Steam or Itch.io at the following links:

[Buy now on Steam]
[Buy now on Itch.io]


It did really, really well

…I still don’t really know how to talk about all this. That’s actually why this blog post is so late. I kept trying to write it and getting nowhere.

I tried to keep my expectations low – I’m really proud of this game, but there have been so many indiepocalypse stories in the last few years that I was nervous that it all might go wrong. And I, uh, took some risks. I blew a huge chunk of my Super Hexagon and VVVVVV savings to make this. I was quietly hoping it would do ok, but really I was just hoping that at the very least it wouldn’t end up being a total disaster.

What actually ended up happening is that it shot right past those quiet hopes, and massively exceeded my wildest ones – it’s been by far the biggest and most successful launch of my career. Within just its first month, Dicey Dungeons outsold the lifetime sales of my previous two games on Steam combined.

I might have more to say about all this when more time has passed. I’m probably not the best person to talk about business stuff, to be honest. I do think we did a lot of things right – going to expos, reaching out to press and streamers, cultivating a community on our discord. I think it’s worth talking about that and sharing that knowledge, and I hope to do it at some point in the future. But also, we owe a lot to Lady Luck. We’re really, really lucky to have been this successful, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully explain how we did it.


We won the Indiecade Grand Jury prize

This came as a pretty huge shock, to say the least. We were all really, really honoured by this, and it meant a lot to me personally <3 This was my third time as an Indiecade finalist – VVVVVV won the “Most Fun and Compelling Game” award in 2010, which was huge for me, and At a Distance was a finalist in 2011 – but winning the grand prize? That’s something I thought would never happen.


We’ve been updating the game, like, a lot

Since the game came out three months ago, we’ve released six updates, and we’ve also released a free DLC, the Halloween Special!

When Super Hexagon came out in 2012, I immediately moved on to a different project, and I really regret doing that. It was bad for Super Hexagon, and it was bad for the other project too – I was too exhausted from the stress of releasing that game to really get into anything else, and I ended up just resenting the amount of time it was taking to work on necessary things like bug fix updates and ports. That period of working on the PC port and fixing iphone bugs was actually more stressful than the launch.

With Dicey Dungeons, I’ve thought about this a lot, and I’ve decided to do what I wish I’d done with Super Hexagon: to have a long cool down period of maintenance work. For the foreseeable future, I’m gonna try to work normal hours, and just focus on making sure that this game is as good as it can be. I wanna start taking more time off, to actually play games and to relax and take care of myself and rest up a bit and actually figure out what’s next for me, instead of rushing into something new. I’m basically planning to keep working like this, making Dicey Dungeons as good as I can, until I can’t think of anything else that needs to be done.

The next update planned is v1.7, which will be shifting focus to modding support for a while (which is already pretty cool, as the Halloween Special shows!). As well as that, I’m also thinking about how we can do some more big updates… We’re not doing anything for Christmas – it’s too soon, and we need a break – but hopefully we’ll be doing more stuff like the Halloween Special in future. I’ll be sharing more about all of this in the coming weeks and months!


We’re planning ports

I’m really happy to announce that both Switch and Mobile ports of Dicey Dungeons are underway!

It’s worth saying that these things can take some time to come together, and there’s currently no release date planned. I think we’re talking probably next summer at the earliest. It’s really, really important to me that every port of the game be at an extremely high standard – I don’t want there to be any bad version of the game.

There’s not really much more to say at this point, but when I have something to share, I will! Probably the first step towards this that people will see will be improved touch controls on the PC version, and well as keyboard and joypad controls as we figure out the best way to make this work on a Switch! Am really excited to see this all come together!

I think that’s everything for now. Thanks so much to everyone reading for your support! Excited about the next steps <3

* 19 Comments

2: Have you ever made a game like this before?

One more day! I’m so excited 😀

7 – What’s changed since the last alpha?
6 – How big is this game anyway?
5 – Who are all these enemies you’re fighting anyway?
4 – What inspired Dicey Dungeons?
3 – What’s it like working with a team?
2 – Have you ever made a game like this before?
1 – Launch day

The last question:

 

Have you ever made a game like this before?
 

Yes! Well, sort of. I’ve never finished a game like this before. But I’ve, uh, taken quite a few runs at it.

The website Hardcore Gamer wrote a very lovely article about Dicey Dungeons from when it was at Indiecade’s E3 showcase, which began like this:

It feels like it’s been a while since we’ve heard from Terry Cavanagh. The acclaimed indie developer delivered amazing work with VVVVVV and Super Hexagon earlier in this decade, but since then he seems to have been happy just making smaller, experimental Flash titles. But now he’s back with his next major game, Dicey Dungeons.

Yeah, lol, fair. I can see how it looks that way! Actually, I considered making today’s question “Super Hexagon was in 2012! What on earth have you been doing for the last 7 years?“. So let’s quickly answer that one first!

The way I usually work is to prototype a bunch of small ideas, and then try to develop the promising ones into bigger projects. This worked pretty well for me until about 2012 (both VVVVVV and Super Hexagon started out as jam games!), but over the last couple of years, it does seem like my success to failure ratio has gotten pretty bad. Or maybe my standards are too high, I don’t know. In any case.

I’ll say right off the bat that I’m extremely fortunate to be in this position at all. VVVVVV and in particular Super Hexagon were both very successful, and that’s meant that it was possible for me to have a few years of failed projects. I’ve been living off my savings from the initial releases, and through what I’ve made from various ports of both games over the last few years. It helps a lot to be a solo developer without much in the way of expenses.

But: yes, I’ve had a few years of failed projects. Since Super Hexagon, I’ve attempted four commercial games, all of which are currently either on hold or cancelled – State Machine, Halting Problem, Four Letter Word, and Nexus City – I’ve also spent a lot of time working on projects that I did consider making commercial, but ultimately ended up making available for free, like Tiny Heist and Naya’s Quest.

I have been a little bummed out about that over the past few years. But it’s kinda hard to feel that way just right now, a day away from releasing the best thing I’ve ever made.

Which brings me back to today’s question:

 

Have you ever made a game like this before?
 

Read more »

* 5 Comments

3: What’s it like working with a team?

Another late one! Things are really ramping up now, with the launch happening in just two days, yikes, is that right? ANYWAY LOADS OF TIME, IT’S FINE.

7 – What’s changed since the last alpha?
6 – How big is this game anyway?
5 – Who are all these enemies you’re fighting anyway?
4 – What inspired Dicey Dungeons?
3 – What’s it like working with a team?
2 – Have you ever made a game like this before?
1 – Launch day

Today’s question:

What’s it like working with a team?

Here’s a big thing that’s new for me about Dicey Dungeons: it’s not a solo effort. For the first time in my life, I put a team together to make a game.

Dicey Dungeons is being made by four full time creators – myself focusing on design, Chipzel on the music, Marlowe Dobbe on art, and Justo Delgado Baudí doing the programming. We’ve also got about a half dozen other people contributing part time – including Holly Gramazio, who wrote the script, and Dana Trebella, who’s helping us with PR and Marketing (we don’t have a publisher!). (The rest: Philippa Warr helped us out with copyediting, Lars Doucet implemented his polymod library into the game, and Niilo, Adriana, Jules and Will did the game’s voices.)

By a lot of people’s standards that’s a pretty tiny team, but from my perspective, after a decade of mostly working on my own or with just one other collaborator, it’s a huge operation, and a huge change, personally.

It’s been an adjustment – I value working on my own a lot! Being in control of every little element of a game is a wonderful thing, and after Dicey Dungeons, I do plan to make more small solo stuff – but gosh, it turns out working with a team is really great as well.

A big part of it is probably who I’ve been lucky enough to work with – everyone on this project really gave it their all, and cared as much as I do about making it into something special. It’s a really amazing thing to be able to just rely on people to do great work – when you have a team like that, you end up with a project that is so much greater than just yourself. It feels like an obvious thing to say, but the version of Dicey Dungeons I would have made on my own would not have been on the same level as the thing that we have now.

So proud of this thing we made. Go team <3

* 1 Comment

4: What inspired Dicey Dungeons?

Phew, late one tonight! It’s been a busy week!

7 – What’s changed since the last alpha?
6 – How big is this game anyway?
5 – Who are all these enemies you’re fighting anyway?
4 – What inspired Dicey Dungeons?
3 – What’s it like working with a team?
2 – Have you ever made a game like this before?
1 – Launch day

Today’s question:

What inspired Dicey Dungeons?

Dicey Dungeons started as a game jam game for last year’s 7 day roguelike. I had a pretty simple ambition: I wanted to make a “dreamquestlike”.

I’d been replaying Dream Quest a lot at the time after rediscovering it again, and I was really interested in trying to make something small and different that was a bit like it, but with my own spin on it. I figured it’d just be a tiny 7 day thing, so I didn’t think about it much more than that. I tried using dice instead of cards, just as a random prompt to give me something different to do with the genre, and gosh, it turns out, that was a rabbit-hole that I’m still exploring.

So, Dream Quest! Let me tell you about DREAM QUEST.

Dream Quest is one of my all-time favourite video games, ever. I, uh, may have mentioned this a few times.

Okay, so it looks a bit wonky, I get it. And actually, it plays a bit wonky too. At times, it feels ridiculously unfair and unbalanced! That’s actually a huge part of what I find so refreshing about it.

For me, there’s sort of a galaxy brain meme thing going on with this game – from first impressions to second impressions to still playing it five years later impressions, I feel like I’m always finding something new in it. Dream Quest challenged the way I think about game design, and gave me with a whole new paradigm for thinking about what I actually find fun in what I play, and what a good game “is” for me. I can’t think of another game off-hand that’s had more impact on how I think about what I do.

The closest experience I’ve had to this is discovering pop music in my 20s. As a moody teenager, I’d always been super into rock music and metal and dance music and things like that, and low-key dismissive about pop music. I used to really care about certain concepts that I thought were important: “authenticity”, “auteurism”, that sorta nonsense. Letting go of that? It opens up this whole new dimension of ways to care about music.

What I’m trying to say here is: Dream Quest is the Girls Aloud of videogames.

The thing I love about Dream Quest is that it’s WAY more interested in letting you find cool combos and discover things, and in letting wild and astonishing things happen, than in being fair, or in being neatly designed. It recognises that it’s more fun to understand and master the mechanics of its systems, to learn how to unbalance and break it, than it is to try and balance everything so that it feels broadly the same every time.

I love that Dream Quest just has playstyles and strategies that are clearly better than others. That is has the guts to be so unbalanced! It’s clearly deliberate – it presents you with different choices, all of which sort of work, but some of which really work once you learn the ropes. It also has other choices, which don’t work nearly as well, but if you know what you’re doing you can make them work anyway.

I think this demonstrates a huge amount of respect for the player, and leaves breathing room for them to set their own goals and explore this little universe, in the same way the designer did. It makes the game feel wild and free and playful and open. More than anything else, this is what I loved about Dream Quest, and what I wanted to explore with my own work.

Dream Quest, of course, isn’t my only inspiration for this game – it’s also influenced by gameshows, by the many RPGs I played as a kid, by Undertale, by Adventure Time, probably loads of other stuff that I haven’t even consciously realised yet. If you ask other members of the team they’ll have their own answers for what inspirations they brought to the project too.

I’m a big believer in talking openly about what’s inspired me, and I think more people should do it! Everything anyone *ever* makes is inspired by what’s in their head – what they’ve played or read or encountered or thought a lot about. Creation doesn’t happen in a vacuum – everything is a remix! You start with the ideas you love and obsess about, and go from there to make something that’s uniquely your own.

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