April 26, 2014 1:30 PM | John Polson
Borrowing heavily from Tower of the Sorcerer and adding a procedural spin, Clewcat's DungeonUp is also a dungeon crawler using the Oryx 16-Bit Fantasy Sprite Set, where its greatest challenges are not only staying alive but learning how to manage resources to open doors, bomb deadly enemies, dig to the exit, and more. China-based developer Nicolas Tian chats briefly about making this game, which is currently playable via browser in alpha form.
What did you like so much about your source of inspiration?
Tower of the Sorcerer is the most important game that inspired me to create DungeonUp . Maybe few people know TotS but I think it's one of remarkable game in 90s. I have learnt much from its perfect level design: smooth guiding, secrets & clues, encouragement of items throughout the game, etc...
I have played through it for 10+ times and never got satisfied :) There are some mods on the internet but none can be as addictive as the original game. Then I thought, why not make a game with all elements of ToS and endless levels? Then came the idea of DungeonUp (DU).
What was borrowed and what is new? What bits of DU are procedural?
Most of the balancing of monsters and boss levels are borrowed from ToS. The challenge is, how can I manage to have guiding, secret and clues things in procedurally generated levels? That's why I think the storyline is very important in DU.
Currently there are 30 levels in the alpha version, and in the beta version there will be 50. Comparatively the storyline is much less complete. I have to explain the fate of The Elders and the dwarves, and the relationship of the final treasure and boss. Parts of the story are narrated by randomly generated NPCs, and some will be put into the preset levels, like The Lobby of Relics. So there will be more preset levels in the coming versions.
How do you prevent unsolvable games?
The Lobby of Relics is designed for balancing. Players can trade resources (gold, life, attack, defence, etc.) with the system there. Another purpose of the lobby level is to consume Soul Stones. The Soul Stone was initially designed as a re-roller: you can re-generate the next zone (every 10 levels) if you are stuck or hate the present generation. But there are still some unsolvable situations, like when players run out of keys; it's actually game over but what are they supposed to do? They can only try to kill themselves by fighting some tough monster. It's quite frustrating. As a tradeoff, I added the Casual Mode. I found quite a lot players liked that, although it's still not that casual!
What are your aspirations for the final game?
Like I said in TIGS, DungeonUp aims to take the classic gameplay further to infinite fun. There's still a long way to go from the current version. Some players said they got bored after playing for hours because there are no more variations. I'm planning these features to try to encourage players in the long term:
1. Monsters in the final zone will have special abilities like auto-attack and respawn. The final battle will be fun!
2. There will be a new gameplay called "Maze Mode" in which you play in a big, randomly generated, maze-like map instead of multi-levels. The playthrough should cost ~10 minutes.
3. In-game Map Editor and share mods! I believe players always have good ideas of level design, why waste them?
[Play the DungeonUp alpha *Quick protip: you can increase the character's crawl speed in the game's settings.]