Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dweller - coffebreak game vs big game?

In a recent comment to a Dweller post a request was made to make Dweller into something more than a coffebreak roguelike. The commenter asked for a deity system (you can see some of my thought regarding that here), a big overworld with several locations to explore, more monsters and the ability to eat corpses. Some thoughts on this and other things that could be added to Dweller:

Coffebreak vs big game
Dweller is primarily a game intended to be played in short bursts, while waiting for the bus, in-between meetings or any other time when you have a couple of minutes to spare. The game must be easy to pick-up and leave, and as such it can't be too complex and take too long to play. There are several features in other RPGs and roguelikes that would contradict the goal of Dweller being easy to pick up and play for a few minutes. A big overworld, a deity system and a class and skill system are examples of such features.

Deity system
As I mentioned in my other blog post a deity system should be a well thought through thing to add, preferably from the start, and not something tacked on to the game just because other games has it. With the risk of disappointing some players I will most likely never add a deity system in Dweller. Sure, there's a reference to a God that aids you when you go down to a never before visited level, but that was just a way to obfuscate a game design decision to reward a player for exploring further. I might expand upon this and let the player heal as he explores previously non visited parts of a level (as is done in Desktop Dungeons).

A big overworld
This is a tempting one, but it will not happen. What may happen is that the overworld/forest level will include more things than the healer and the merchant. I'm thinking entrances to different dungeons and more NPCs. There could be a noob/tutorial dungeon for new players and low level players to get to know the game. There could be themed dungeons spanning several levels, like The Caves, The Sewers, The Necropolis and The Dungeons of the Goblin King. This would replace the random theme you get each time you descend to a new level. It would also force me into making the cave and sewer theme a lot more appealing than it is today, with more variation and monsters specific to the level theme.

Improved magic system
Yes, this will happen. Playing a wizard is boring and needs a lot more variation. More spells and above all interesting spells that force the player to make tactical decisions.

Perks and character advancement
Yes, this will happen, and it is described a bit more here.

Yes, this will happen to some extent. I'd like to add a few quests to give the player a bunch of goals on his way towards the Goblin King.


  1. Big overworld like in ADOM would be great. I'd even like to play it on PC if it got one! :]

  2. Yeah, I know Sandking, it's tempting to add, but then Dweller would compete in a totally different category of games with competitors such as ADOM and ToME4. That was never my intention when I created Dweller.

  3. I have to agree with the idea of a limited scope for Dweller. You just can't have a long roguelike on a mobile platform. The concentration should be on UI and tight mechanics rather than simply adding more to the game for the sake of adding more.

  4. Yep, I often tend to stray away from this core design goal and get bogged down in either technical details or cool features that I have to scrap when I realize what I'm about to do.

    I need an Eclipse plugin that asks a question each time I create a new class "Will this class help you follow your design goals for the project or is this yet another wacky idea?"

  5. It's hard to say no, but as a game designer you know what your game's philosophy is and players often don't.

    Good work Björn, and stay on the true path!

  6. You can make a coffee break game that's still big. Let players experience something different each time they play. Do not present all of the game's content at once. This will keep players coming back to the game for a long time.

    Recently I've been playing The Binding of Isaac which seems to use a similar approach. I've found myself enjoying the game more each time I've played it, as I discovered new content and realized how much more there was. Do not overdo it with the tutorials either, try to make the interface and controls intuitive enough so there is no need for lengthy explanations.

  7. I agree with you anon, however if he doesn't want to do major stuff with the game, then it's his decision.

    But I wish it had more content and it had more types of areas and other things which roguelikes usually have.

    I still enjoy dweller, but again, it would be way more awesome if this was more than a coffee break roguelike game.

  8. I really don't understand how you can want a longer game on a phone. I have trouble playing it for long as is, and not due to the quality of the game but purely because when using my phone on the move I'm easily distracted by other things. I love deep roguelikes on a PC, but a droid RL should be light and simple.