At PAXAus this year, Nick Ballantyne and I wandered through the Indie area just.. so many times, and in our travels we found this gem of a game. It’s a gem which has some sort of power over mortal men and women, forming them into teams and pitting them against each other. The viciousness and ruthlessness dealt out against your enemies is just as quickly turned against your team mates in the wake of their failures. My God, I’ve never wanted to hit Nick so much. I want to hit Nick, a lot. Good Lord, the man has one of these.
The competitive nature inside us both that awaits even the slightest provocation was definitely stoked by Dungeon League. Afterwards, we spoke with Christopher Yabsley, Dungeon League’s designer, programmer, artist, and all around Tommy Wiseau (minus the creepiness.)
Where did you get the idea for Dungeon League?
Christopher: My core concept for this idea was that I love role playing games, but I don’t ahve any time to play them. So how can I take my favorite elemts from roleplaying games and squeeze them into a game that can be played in under ten minutes.
I like the competitive aspect of it,were you attempting to insert a “sports” feeling to the games atmosphere?
Christopher: Yeah – it’s got League int he title, so I definitely wanted it to be a competitive game more than anything else. I mean, I love four player games, I love killing your friend and then telling him how much he sucks straight after – that’s how it should happen.
You’ve got three teams in the game, will there be four teams to allow for four player games or is it only meant to be 2v2?
Christopher: There is actually a free-for-all mode, but the thing is that it just takes too long. If each person wins two rounds, then it can take up to twenty minutes or more and I’m trying to keep things short.
Is it just yourself working on this project?
Christopher: Yeah – just me, except for the marketing. I have some wonderful marketing artists. So I do all the coding and the artwork in the game myself.
This is a pretty solid demo you have here, how long has it taken you to get it to this point?
Christopher: Uhh, I’ve only been working on this for about six months so far.
Is it close to being finished?
Christopher: (laughs), no, it’s not close to being finished. I’d say the biggest thing that’s missing is the monsters, you can’t have a dungeon without creepy crawlies in it – so I’ll be adding those in. They’ll make for some interesting game modes, so rather than just capture the flag and death match, you’ll have “First team to kill 20 skeletons” and “First team to kill this boss” – I’ll be adding some more roleplaying stuff in, too.
Aside from adding in monsters, are there any particular game modes that you have in mind?
Christopher: Definitely – I envisioned with the title League, I didn’t get it working in time for PAX unfortunately, but Dungeon Bowl is definitely something I want. So you have a football, you’ll have to bass it to your team mates and get it to an end zone on either side of the field. The ball is hidden somewhere, maybe in a chest, maybe a monsters carrying it – I don’t know, but that sounds fun.
When do you think the game will be finished?
Christopher: Early next year, is what I’m looking at, but Early Access, Kickstarter and Greenlight will all happen – probably in about a month, I’d say. There’s nothing up there yet, mostly because of the lack of monsters – people like to see the monsters, see the bad guys, all the pixel art I’ve put up of the monsters people have loved, so I really want to include that with the Kickstarter and Greenlight videos when they go up.
Multiplayer is only available at the moment but you have a greyed out single player mode there, what would that entail?
Christopher: The single player would be more of a rogue like – people love rogue likes, I love rogue likes. I love dying and getting punished, I don’t know why – big fan of Dark Souls. So I’ll put a mode where it’s a rogue-like in a dungeon and you’re just trying to get as far down as you can. Dungeons will be flavored, depending on the Dungeon Master that rules the dungeon you’re in – right now I have a very generic dungeon, but eventually there’ll be like a necromancers crypt, a goblin cave and stuff like that. And the content of those dungeons will depend on the Dungeon Master that you’re trying to conquer. On top of that, the Dungeon Master will sometimes love to mess with you – so he’ll actually reach his hand in and drop a few monsters right next you, or maybe close a door or cast a spell. So, you know, that sort of stuff.
You have a tourney going on here, will you have an online variant to allow for that sort of thing?
Christopher: I haven’t, uh, calculated in aan online component so far. Purely because I feel it takes away from the core aspect of the game, so I may add online at some point but for now I just really want it to be like an excuse ot make your friends to come over to your house. Couch co-op is really what I’m going for.
What are you hoping to get out of demoing your game at PAX?
Christopher: I really just want to see how people react – to see if the classes are balanced, to tell me what they think should be in the game. It’s early stages, so it can really be steered by crowd reactions at the moment.
What’s your favorite part of developing this game so far?
Christopher: Albert the Unicorn.
Albert… The Unicorn?
Christopher: (laughs), so there’s three teams in there, and team Unicorn is the team that I put all the stuff into that people tell me shouldn’t be in videogames. So so far there’s Fifi the transexual archer, Albert the Unicorn Wizard, who is essentially a man in a loin cloth running around and casting spells in a unicorn mask.
Nice. What’s been the most challenging aspect of the game so far?
Christopher: Managing my time, I always underestimate how long things take – I was hoping to have monsters in the game before PAX, it quickly became apparent that that was not going to be the case. So I got a little disheartened about that, but all it took was to have a few of my mates around to have some beers and play the game for me to realise I was onto something good, that worked in a competitive, fun environment.
Would you have a mode in mind where you’d follow a story with your friends while the Dungeon Master instructs you on what to do?
Christopher: Possibly – I hadn’t really thought about a story mode thus far, I guess I just wanted it the Dungeon Masters to be an influence on how their dungeons generate. Little procedural arenas, essentially, and when you’re facing the Goblin Dungeon Master, for example, he lays traps – heaps of traps, just, excessive amounts of traps. The undead guy, his tomb is gonna be filled with skeletons. I just want the levels to feel really themed as opposed to anything else.
With everything you’ve worked on so far, what’s your experience been like as an indie dev?
Christopher: Fantastic – I come from a pretty musical background and I study music, so I was on the band circuit for awhile playing with a few different groups. It’s full of – for lack of a better term – narcissistic pricks. So, the indie scene blew me away – I started out and had people responding to my stuff from the beginning, they’d be checking out my game, looking at the art I was making and the music I was creating. This is why people create things, so other people can at least comment on and enjoy them.
If you’re a fan of old-school fantasy hack’n’slash, and multiplayer games in general, then you’ll definitely love Dungeon League. You can check out Chris’ other work here and he will be starting up a Kickstarter for Dungeon League soon!