31 Jul 13

Noticing Death

Edge Highlight

There seems to be a recurring issue with new and old players alike: Dying. For the most part, we don’t want to remove the threat of a gory, unnecessary death from Desktop Dungeons. We think that without it, newcomers’ interactions with the game will devolve into a spiral of ‘test-attacking’ everything until they’re completely out of resources. At this point, the game becomes *very* boring, and the urge to ‘try again’ is lost.

At the same time, we don’t want you to click on an enemy and become a mutilated husk of used-to-be-adventurer! We want you to win! We want you to beat that dungeon by the skin of your teeth and walk out, monster trophy held high! We want you to mouse over that over-muscled goat, and know, without a shadow of doubt, that clicking on it will lead to an incredibly grizzly, highly pixelated death.

Up until now, the only indication of this has been a depleted health bar prediction and the word ‘dead’ in red letters on the enemy panel. Clearly, not everyone is looking at that 5% of the screen at crucial moments, so we’ve taken it one step further: We’ve added a pulsing red border at the edge of the screen that appears as you mouse over an enemy that will kill you. Hopefully, this will make it much more obvious that clicking on that level 8, when you are a measly level 2, will see you splattered all over the dungeon floor. Soon we’ll look at adding a sound at the same time.

26 Jul 13

Goat Moar



The response to last week’s unveiling of the Goatperson has been absolutely fantastic – it seems that the new character has breathed a helluva lot of new life into many veteran DD profiles.

We’ve worked on tightening the screws on the new character this week, and taken the time to fix lots of minor issues (many, many interface bugs) that have been plaguing our dear player base. Along with that comes some god tweaks (some errors erupted for the very first time due to the Goatperson’s unique altar-hopping!) and more graphical input for various aspects of the game.

In the background, we’ve made progress on Codex artwork and laid down some foundation for more SE content (you didn’t think we were stopping at the extra character, did you?). We’re looking at another fairly important update sometime over the next few weeks, so stay tuned!

Remember folks, the Goatperson and all eventual content related to the Goat Glade is only accessible to Special Edition buyers (yeah, we thought we’d just sneak in that cheeky lil’ reminder). Check the swollen changelog this week and continue enjoying the new class: More…

25 Jul 13

On The Drudgery Of Detective Work

The graph below is something that I’ve become incredibly familiar with over the last week. That’s not to say that I wasn’t familiar with Unity’s profiler before, anyone with a reasonable eye on performance will use it every once in a while as a game matures, but this past week has been one of those. The reason is visible in the graph. A memory leak. Small, but definitely there:

Keep looking! Ignore the crazy!

Did you find it? Here’s a clue: It starts off as the lowest line and ends up not being the lowest one… Yup. That strange burnt ochre that shows how many materials there are currently. The key here is that this is (pretty much) normal gameplay (apart from me spamming a specific game event) and the number of actual game objects stays relatively constant throughout. That big spike in the blue texture memory line? That’s what happens when you cast a fireball. More…

19 Jul 13

Special Edition Character Now Available!

GoatManThis week introduces the much-anticipated Goat Person as a new character to play. This fascinating creature is only available to Special Edition buyers and extends the game in several interesting ways without being overpowered or conveying a heavy in-game advantage over non-SE players.

Along with this new toy, we also present a surprising array of cosmetic changes in both the Kingdom and the dungeon. Interface and effect art continues to be improved and replaced, while we’ve also begun pioneering extra animated touches such as stat change info on the resource bars.

If you need more juicy info on the new character, we’ve already written quite a bit – just check the link above. And don’t forget that you can still upgrade your pre-order of Desktop Dungeons if you got the standard version. Aside from that, check the changelog below for all of this week’s nibbles: More…

18 Jul 13

Scapegoats and Holy Divers

We’ve finally made significant headway with the Desktop Dungeons Special Edition content, and one of the most exciting things to work on has been the new bonus class.

The goal of the SE is not to make the game easier to win through extra stat boosts, powerful items and monstrous characters. Instead, we’re trying to extend and enhance the dungeon experience in dangerously experimental – yet interesting – ways.

The bonus character is hamstrung in several considerable ways, but all of them contribute towards radically different playstyles and interesting new decisions as opposed to simply tacking a “plus one difficulty” sign on the dungeon. This means that a purist run through Venture Cave becomes a lot more interesting and meaningful for even the most veteran of dungeoneers.

Here’s a breakdown of what’s being added to the new kid: More…

12 Jul 13

Impending Goatage

2013-07-12blogImageThis week’s quick little update fixes a few of the painful issues emerging in scenario- and dungeon-specific situations. We’ve also been doing some more work on the Adventuring Permit (also known as the dungeon preparation panel) to organise and thematicise (possibly a real word) the character creation process. A few more of these updates, and perhaps new players will be able to make it all the way to their first dungeon without tripping over text buttons and obsolete interface layouts!

Ah, lovely.

We’ve also been spending a little time this week testing one or two Special Edition features – those who have bought the SE can look forward to a decent content injection when we roll stuff out. Among the promised features are an extra building, a new character class and some bonus quests. More on the blog next week.

Sorry to tease stuff you’re not accessing yet, but we’re excited about the new content and are looking forward to showing off to the SE buyers! Changelog for this week follows, it includes an interesting little balance change for some of ya:


  • Doubledoom brought forward, Crystal Ball pushed backwards
  • It’s no longer possible to select a pacifist enemy for combat via keyboard
  • Bloodmage Bronze no longer crashes
  • Evolvia sprite changed from gorgon in dungeon preview
  • Adventuring Permit graphical overhaul
  • Fixed a bug where more than one speech bubble was visible at a time.
  • Protected against crash when specific item dragging conditions happened.
  • CYDSTEPP now castable at 50% health
12 Jul 13

Free 2 Play

Free to play has been coming under a fair amount of fire recently in the press, so I though I’d talk about it a little here. I’m not against Free to Play, I just think it needs to be handled with care.

Free to play seems to be divided along two axes: Visual vs Pay To Win, and Considered vs Gambling.

Visual is items that you don’t need to progress, but are just there for status. Pay to Win means you gain a real tangible advantage from paying. Somewhere along this axis is Unlock Earlier, where a player can grind to get an item/character/whatever, or just pay and get it right away. I think the safest camp to be in here is Visual, since you’re not giving anyone a way to progress with less skill. Unlock Earlier can be good as well, but if depends on a few factors: Is the grind needed unrealistically high? Does getting the unlock provide a clear advantage? Is the unlock available on some sort of ‘trial’ basis?

As I’m sure you can tell, Unlock Earlier can easy become Pay to Win, and this is a problem. If you’re paying to win, the ‘game’ is not worth your time (or money).

Considered is when you know exactly what you’re getting for your money, and Gambling is when you’re promised a random assortment of things. One of the problems here is that, much like in real life, Gambling can become addictive. The high you feel from your first ‘big win’ is something many people will start chasing (especially if it’s also a Pay to Win situation), sometimes to the detriment of their real lives. There are a few ways to combat this, like a spending cap that, once reached, gives the player ‘all’ the available unlocks … but I doubt you’ll see the big publishers go for this, since it means their income streams dry up faster.

I think you have to walk a fine line as a game dev making a Free to Play title, between getting enough money to keep making your games, versus getting greedy and trying to bleed your customers dry.

05 Jul 13

Game reviews and betas

This week the South African printing of Popular Mechanics carried an interview with us about Desktop Dungeons. Magazine production cycles being what they are, the interview that led to the article actually took place nearly two months ago in an awesome burger joint in the city center. We ended up having a thoroughly enjoyable conversation for a couple of hours, meandering from the realities of game development here in SA, to what it’s like being on-stage at the IGF, to marketing your game and getting people to notice it.

One of the topics that came up was how the press interacts with a game that’s in active beta, mostly because of this PC Gamer UK review which, while it said some awesome things about Desktop Dungeons, doesn’t mention that the game they reviewed was the closed beta and has gone on record on Metacritic as giving us an 81. Unfortunately, that Metacritic score is locked in now – even if PC Gamer UK were to review the game a second time (say, when it’s actually released) and give us a better score (which they might, seeing as the problems mentioned in that review are all things that come with the beta being web-only, which the full version won’t be) Metacritic won’t update that score at all. This is a problem with Metacritic, one of the many known issues with it as a platform.

But the question of how to handle a game that’s still being developed is a good one: Should things only be covered by previews, no scores given? What if people are essentially charging money for a beta? At what point is a game a product that needs to be compared to others? Are scores even useful anyway? Our interviewer, Rogan, decided to preview Desktop Dungeons along with the interview. That’s why I was rather surprised when he contacted me a few days ago to apologise for what was in the magazine…

Apparently someone on the editorial staff on the magazine had decided that “preview” actually meant “review” and changed the title accordingly. That done, they realised that all reviews need a score, yet this one didn’t have one, so a score was summoned from thin air without the game being played. Desktop Dungeons magically earned an 80. Rogan was upset about this, rightly so. After we picked up the magazine to see for ourselves, we could see that Rogan had managed to distill hours of conversation into an interview that not only made us sound smart, but provided lots of useful encouragement and information to hopeful game developers. His preview was descriptive and critical, mentioning that the game was a beta and how you could get hold of it (you’d be amazed how many local publications don’t do that). Having a phantom score applied to his writing wasn’t cool.

Thankfully this ends well: I emailed the editor of the magazine, explaining why we felt reviewing a beta was disingenuous, not to mention someone other than the (p)reviewer giving it a score… I got a reply within minutes in which the editor not only apologised for the mistake, took full responsibility for the slip-up and pledged to be more aware of this issue in future, Popular Mechanics will also be printing a retraction/explanation of the review in their next issue to print (not the August one, that’s already been finalised). That’s good journalism.

I’ve always liked Popular Mechanics, I’m glad they’re principled and willing to learn about a medium they might not otherwise know too much about. Thanks for covering Desktop Dungeons! Here’s a picture that the photographer they sent to our house took, enjoy!


05 Jul 13

Raise Your Banners

2013-07-05blogImageGreetings, beloved Desktop Dungeons supporters! This week introduces some more aesthetic changes to several areas – Kingdom building panels now sport category ribbons, unusable items fade out in the inventory and the god service log actually offers something more than unclickable text and cryptic messages. We very nearly managed to get in a whole whack of new boon / piety graphics for the gods too, but decided that last-minute additions had the potential to cause much, much player suffering over the weekend.

Players who commented on the intensity of the new grid selection box last week will be happy to know that we’ve added an option to reduce its opacity as much as needed (hell yeah, subtlety!). We’ve also fixed up a bunch of rather uncomfortable bugs (yep, you can convert again – in both the god and item sense).

We’ll have more pretties ready for you next week. In the meantime, consult the following changelog to see if any of our fixes affected your game experience (HINT – they probably have): More…

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