As you may know, I love games. I not-so-recently stumbled across Mighty Dungeons and played it a bit, bought the full game, and then promptly forgot about it because life happens while you’re trying to level your character in a tiny, tiny dungeon.
I have recently begun obsessing over the game again, and I remembered that the coder responsible for the game had indicated in his thank you email for my purchase, that I could contact him if I had questions. I assumed he assumed they’d be questions about installing or hints on playing the game. Instead, I asked if I could interview him for the entertainment of you folks.
The author of the game is Yohan Launay-Lee of Laylio Games, Singapore, and he was kind enough to answer several of my questions.
First, let me introduce you to Mighty Dungeons.
Mighty Dungeons is a game where you select a hero from the available choices (note, some choices are hidden, more on that in the interview later); characters have different powers. You can choose from a Warrior, LizardMan Hunter, Barbarian, Wizard, Ranger, Assassin, Bandit, Skeleton, Stone Golem, Fire Demon, or Water Demon (“hero” is a relative term). Each has their benefits and negatives from higher hit points to better defenses to speed and accuracy in going first or dodging.
Once selected, you go to the main town (pictured in the graphic above). With no cash, you go directly into the “Quest” area, and then select a dungeon. Then you move a disk with your character’s face on it through the dungeon, encountering disks of monsters, and furniture such as tables, chairs, library shelves, fireplaces, and of course, treasure chests. There are secret doors and there are traps that you must disarm or jump over.
Combat is initiated when you end up next to a monster. You immediately are taken to the combat screen, where your weapons, potions, spells (and anything else) are available to use. Weapons operate on an “ammunition” basis, whereby if you shoot an arrow, you’re actually using the entire bow up. Never fear, however, as you’ll pick up many weapons, and you’ll acquire gold as you explore to purchase new weapons. Some weapons at higher levels – such as those made of mithril – do not degrade this way.
As you conquer your way through the dungeons, selling things and buying things at the store, you accomplish achievements; number of monsters killed, doors opened, etc. These, in turn, provide points that you can use to level your character.
The game is free to try and, like me, you’ll probably immediately upgrade to the full game. Launay-Lee does frequent updates that improve the game and add to gameplay. In addition to the game itself, he maintains http://www.mighty-dungeons.com/, a website that compliments the game by including maps, hints, and additional information about the game. Further, you can be in the game…for a price. If you follow the link on the page and pay Launay-Lee, a custom character with your face (or any design you like) can be made for the game.
And now for some discussion with Yohan Launay-Lee himself:
What inspired you to write the game?
I’ve always been a fan of boardgames (HeroQuest, Warhammer quests,etc.). I still go to Singapore boardgame cafes once a month. I also like old school RPG games, Diablo I and II, Baldur’s Gate, Arcanum, etc. I just bouth the whole Forgotten Realms RPG game collection for PC last week, still haven’t had time to play it yet ….
When I got some spare time end of last year, I wanted to learn a new programming language. I figured that doing it while making a game at the same time would be cool, so I chose to build a game I wanted to play first and foremost and the tools matching the language I wanted to learn and voila, 6 months later Mighty Dungeons was born.
Is Mighty Dungeons entirely your project, or have other folks contributed to the main code? I note you have some dungeons attributed to other folks, so I’d love to hear how you get people involved and what their involvement is. For example, did you do all the graphics yourself? For such an inexpensive game (in a world where games like this can and do charge a lot more), it has some awesome graphics.
Although Mighty Dungeons is my baby, coding wise, I’ve had tons of help from initial players as well as on the graphics part (i can’t draw to save my life). When MD was 90% complete (built using open images taken from Google), I got in touch with Fred (the graphics guy), to redraw all of the UIs, monsters and stuff. I also got some
help from a great guy, Stephane, a Dungeon Master based in Quebec/Canada with the initial campaigns and quests.
I launched for Android 1 month before launching on iOS. The reason behind it was that Google Play allows you to iterate very fast, come up with bug fixes and updates within hours. So i used this and openly called the first players for ideas on how to improve the gaming experience. To my surprise I got *a lot* of feedback (talking hundreds of emails a day), from people that were really glad that a game developer was listening to their pleas. So was I, a lot of the popular game features were requested by the players and implemented by me within days. Once the game was good enough I pushed it to the ITunes store. Since then i’ve been pushing new features every 2-3 weeks or so, whenever I can find the time to work on it.
Nowadays adding quests/content is a bit more difficult than it was, for the simple reason that the community helped me translate the game into 8 languages (English, French, Russian, German, Italian, Spanish, Hungarian and Polish), so it takes more time to get the materials translated and integrated into the game. Also I feel bad whenever I ask too much of the people helping me…
How did you come up with the monsters for the dungeons? What is your favorite monster? (I’m only up to the third dungeon, but I think my favorite are the medusa creatures, so far).
Before I released the game to the public I launched a small crowdfunding campaign (https://www.crowdonomic.com/project/452-from-beta-to-the-store). More for PR than for the money. I got a lot of feedback as well as the first Custom Heroes and Monsters design requests (one of the crowdfunding rewards). I had some crazy requests… The medusa creatures were requests based on jellyfish pictures… The water demon was inspired by pics of Fat Bastard from Austin powers.
Assassin, bandit, devourer, grizzly, brawler, lizardman were also special requests (there are a bunch more in the pipe as well as some secret heroes that can only be unlocked via cheatcodes).
My favorite characters are spiders and golems. You can see in the game that I like golems, I created a lot of them (color swap rules :)) and they are all extremely powerful.
I’m also inspired by D&D bestiary of course 🙂
How did you decide on the class/type of characters players can play? What is your favorite type of character to play in the game?
I initially went with basic set of heroes from the HeroQuest board:dwarf, barbarian, elf and wizard. Then added some custom requests: bandit, assassin and later lizardman and brawler. Then I also followed players requests to play as a skeleton, golem and demons (fire and water). People love to be able to play with the character of their choice. Of course the difficulty level is directly relative to the type of hero that you choose.
I like to play wizards in games they are extremely difficult at the beginning but really powerful towards the mid-end game. That’s exactly the case here. I also like to play as a weakling like the skeleton.
I have noted there is only one female player character. Do you expect to have more as the game continues to progress?
There are actually more than that, but they are secret (enter the cheat codes stef52 or meph – special requests for female characters). I just got another request for a female character today. BTW some heroes are unlockable via code instead of being publicly available because they haven’t been redrawn yet and look like the original picture that was sent to me.
How did you decide on the combat mechanics? I am impressed with how well they work, and it amuses me that I’m not just using an arrow when I shoot a monster, I’m using an entire bow each time, too.
A lot of players do not like this actually… So I added long or infinite durability weapons in a later version of the game (crystal and mithril weapons) to keep everyone happy 🙂 I personally don’t mind if players prefer to play the game their own way.
For the rest, we had lots of internal discussions between Fred and Stephane on what would work best. I’m hoping to have the time to implement multi-monsters fights but it’s difficult to make this happen without totally unbalancing the game.
How do the “gang up” bonuses work/when do they come into play for the monsters (I often find myself trying to intercept a monster before they can gang up on me, but I’m never entirely sure of the conditions under which the gang up bonuses work).
Basically as long as monsters are surrounding the hero, each individual monster is stronger (based on the number of monsters around). A simple way to increase the difficulty of the game without totally unbalancing it. This was actually suggested by one of the players, and as usual, when I like the suggestions I try to implement them.
You have a unique experience/leveling system. How did you come up with the idea? As just one player, I’m enjoying the heck out of it, but do you know how it is working for folks much further along than the first three quests? Is it still working well as a leveling/upgrade component in the later levels?
Lots of players have been asking for traditional XP/Levels system. I’m personally bored of it, every single game on the market have that now, even games like candy crush… I wanted to design something different. Initially there was no experience system, you would just get gold and buy whatever you want in the store. It was just too easy. After discussions with a bunch of players, I worked on an achievement system that unlocks upgrade points. Seems to be working well so far 🙂 of course hardcore players still email me asking for traditional leveling system, but neh, I like the current system better.
What’s next for Mighty Dungeons? I see on the Google Play store that you seem to continually improve it (and thank you for that)?
I still have pages of wishlist and players are coming up with new suggestions daily. So I won’t run out of things to build, simply running out of spare time to implement them all. I would also love to build a v2. I am aware of the flaws in the code of the game that prevents me from doing everything I want with it and a good rewrite of certain portions of the code would be needed.
I also would like to see if a PC port is possible so I put the game up on steam. So far got both negative and positive feedback but the traction for it is not there so I’ll probably pass (I’ll send you another email if you are interested in trying the PC version of it, I have one packaged already).
Also would love a quest editor to make it easier for others to create quests and maps.
How did you decide to make the web page supporting the game such a good compliment to the game itself? The basic maps are there, and the ability to purchase a character, NPC, or other monster in your own image (or the image submitted) is an interesting economic model. How did you decide to allow players to become part of the game in this way, and how is it working out in terms of player retention?
I wanted the website to really complement the game. I can’t implement a proper tutorial within the game itself (it’s actually really tricky to do), so I built a supporting website around it. Added the maps for people that were lost (or simply wanted to know everything they could see or have missed out) and also explain more about the game and ourselves as well (me and the people that help me regularly).
The board games I was inspired by (HeroQuest/Warhammer Quest) were built to be extensible. So I naturally build the game the same way. It’s extremely easy for me to add a new hero, monster, weapons, armors, spells and even create new quests / campaigns and entire game boards. The difficult part will be translation and balancing the game play. I don’t have proper tools yet to create the quests but I do have a bunch of excel sheets representing the maps and missions that I send to whoever is interested in having a look (see here: http://mighty-dungeons.com/dl/Quests-1.6.4.zip).
As you can see, most of the game was built by players and thanks to players so I’m quite happy about that.
In terms of players retention, I have over 35,000 MAU, most of them playing daily or twice daily. That’s really rewarding for a hobby project 🙂
A big thanks to Yohan Launay-Lee for letting me interview him. As always, let me know if there is anything your interested in me reviewing!