06 Jan 12

Thinking about the End-game

If you’d seen us working the last two days, you’d never have guessed that this tired, drained and somewhat irritable trio had just been on holiday for nearly two weeks. The break was good, great even, but when the time came to get back to work on Desktop Dungeons, we jumped straight into the deep end:

“How do players win the game?” ended up taking over our first design session for the new year and turning it into something we needed to sleep on and come back to the next day.

It’s a tricky thing to think about: We already had some things that we planned to offer to players that had finished the game (somehow) and wanted more, but where do you draw the line in terms of what’s finishing the game and what isn’t? The Desktop Dungeons alpha doesn’t even really finish at all – either you run out of things to try that are difficult, or you get discouraged by the difficulty at some point and stop playing.

In the end we agreed that finishing the game was actually all about player perception. We wanted people that weren’t necessarily super-hardcore DD players to have something to aim for that would give them a reason to improve as well, our goals became:

  • Players of all skill levels should have a target they can aim for that’s been signposted from the beginning of the game – This is hard to accomplish when a game is actively played by both casual and hardcore users, you don’t want to exclude either one from the game by forcing only one progression path.
  • The challenge shouldn’t be the hardest in the game, but it should be something that requires skill, not resources – Essentially, this means that finishing the game needs to be something that happens mostly in the meta-game around the Kingdom, not in the random dungeons themselves. This is why the alpha didn’t have a finishing condition, it didn’t have the setting for it.
  • The game’s narrative and setting should push players towards a logical conclusion point that makes sense to them – Don’t force players to adopt or learn a new mechanic that’s introduced only to cause narrative tension. Plus we really don’t want to code new features at this point…
  • Players that have finished the game should still be able to enjoy playing Desktop Dungeons afterward – We don’t want to chase players away, we want to reward players in what has been the mid-game of the beta progression. All the vicious dungeons and mean quests should still be around.

We’ve settled on an idea that we think solves these problems quite nicely,  whilst staying true to the ethos that makes Desktop Dungeons feel the way it does: You’ll trigger a game-wide event (aimed mostly at the Kingdom economy and the player’s coffers) by collecting all the different types of monster trophies. This will actually be possible quite early in the game: Some players will reach that milestone quickly, others will take a long time to get there. Once you’ve overcome the event’s dungeon, the game will continue to open up with more challenges and slightly changed meta-game rules.

Like the cruel Leonidas, we’re going to ask that you stand – merely kneeling will not be enough. But once you’ve proved you can, the game will challenge you to keep doing so.

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