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PopUp Dungeon: Your Cat (Or Whatever, Really) Can Star in this RPG

William Murphy Posted:
Interviews The RPG Files 0

PopUp Dungeon was recently announced in partnership with Humble Bundle. The game takes user-generated content to the next level, allowing everyone to bring in their own assets to make their ideal dungeons, play with friends, level up, and run endless content. We caught up with Triple-B-Titles to talk about the game and its design.  

MMORPG:  Tell us a bit about the studio, what brought you together, and your background?

Triple-B-Titles is a family-operated indie studio based in Dallas, Texas. Our first game, Ring Runner, was developed by my brother, Paul, and I. Towards the end of that game, I met my wife, Courtney, and she became our primary 2D artist. Since then, we've cooperated with a number of folks on a freelance basis, but the core team has remained the same. It's our tiny team's goal to produce the biggest little games we can.

MMORPG:  Give me the "why an RPG fan should care" pitch for Popup Dungeon. Roguelikes are all over the place right now. What makes yours unique?

The easy answer would be our creation system. Whereas most RPGs can boast extensive customization, and some have the capacity to be easily modded, Popup Dungeon blends the two in order to produce something new. Our goal is to make a game out of game design. Users can focus on the creative side of designing an ability, item, enemy, and/or character without having to worry about balance and AI. They also won't need to have almost any technical skill. This system results in a potential for a practically inexhaustible amount of content. You can download entirely new parties, or stream in enemies during a run, so that you'll never know what's lurking in the dark corners of the dungeon.

But beyond all this, it's been our nearly 4-year struggle to ensure that the vanilla version of the game -- even without any creation -- presents a fun and complete experience. Two other factors that might be of interest: Popup Dungeon spans the genres. Your adventures will take you from dark dungeons, to star ships, feudal japan, haunted manors, steampunk airships, post-apocalyptic urban wastelands, and perhaps more. And Popup Dungeon will allow players to assume The Wizard's role as the game master, taking control of enemies, guiding the players' path through the dungeon, and helping or hampering their progress using a trove of Wizardly abilities.

MMORPG:  What platforms is the game coming to? As I opine about all games: it would be awesome on the Switch.

One of the primary reasons we sought out a publisher was to facilitate potential ports. As you may've noticed, our Kickstarter specifically targeted the Nintendo platform, which at the time was the Wii U, but would now be the Switch. That remains a priority. For me, having a game on a Nintendo platform would realize a childhood fantasy. I actually find our situation incredible, or at least I know that the childhood version of me would. Although I fantasized making games I could play on my NES, I never really believed that I'd have a chance to make that dream a reality.

MMORPG:  You tout endless content, but is there a core narrative? 

Let's be honest. We've heard just about any game with procedural generation talk about endless content. A lot of time that can amount to billions of world layouts and encounter combinations, but after a while it all becomes noise. That's because the billions of differences are usually quite small and rather insignificant if scrutinized one at a time. The hallway bends right instead of left, or there's a barrel there instead of a stool... so what? While our game does tout procedurally generated content, it's really the handcrafted stuff that is potentially exciting. Imagine that you open up a door to a derelict dungeon garden, and there you find someone's comical rendition of a popular politician, complete with voice acting and custom effects. I wonder what loot the politician might drop; that may've been hand-crafted too, along with the ability it contains.

These sorts of creative, colorful differences in content is the sort of thing that procedural generation -- at least for now -- can't handle, but what we believe will really make the so-called "endless" content worth experiencing. As for a core narrative, there is no ongoing story in the initial version of the game, but there is a strong premise and lively characters. The central character is The Wizard, who has issued a challenge to humanity in the form of this very game. You can read the letter that he's addressed to us, the able gamers of the world, on Popup's Steam Page. But to sum it up: at this point, it's not clear who or what he is, but he claims to be a being that goes around challenging species at games that play to their greatest strengths, which in our case is creativity. Perhaps he has an ulterior motive.

MMORPG:  How does the co-op work? Is it drop-in, or is there a persistent lobby of sorts for matchmaking?

The coop can be handled locally or online. For the online options, we'll start off with a "Quick Launch" button that tries to find you the best suitable match, and server list with a separate friend list that you can use to send invites. From there, we'll develop additional systems as necessary, but I can't say too much about this because this portion is yet to be developed. I will, however, say that we're planning on having sandbox modes that let you adjust the rules of the game, creating new challenge types, allowing you to restrict the tile sets that will appear, or even super-powering your team.... if you're into that sort of thing.

MMORPG:  How does character progress factor in? Loot, stats, skills, etc? Can you explain how you customize your minion of adventure?

The character is about 50% initial design, and 50% luck of the run. Players can determine every aspect of their characters -- from their look and sound to their stats, preferred equipment, and their abilities, which themselves can be custom-made. Each character has five equipment slots and three innate abilities. The primary progress comes about in the form of loot, which often carries with it an entirely new ability. Only higher tiers of loot carry abilities, so players won't be overwhelmed with handfuls of abilities right out of the gate. Instead, they earn them over time. Interactable props you encounter throughout your run will allow you to upgrade your existing equipment and abilities or gain new abilities altogether. The result is a very fluid experience that offers players some control, but asks them to adapt to the challenges and treasures presented by the run. Permanent gains come in the form of charms, dispensed from a prize ball machine at the end of the run. You can collect and upgrade these charms to increase the potency of your entire party, change the rules of the game, and/or grant your characters entirely new abilities.

MMORPG:  Any last words? (That sounded fatal…)

I'd just like to stress flexibility and ease of the creation systems. If you have a few pictures of your cat or dog lying around, and maybe even a video in which they meow/bark, you can turn them into an enemy in a matter of a few minutes, complete with animations, custom abilities with custom graphics/images, sound effects, and 3D cutout… Best of all, you can summon them using another ability so you can adventure with them, or heck, you'll even be able to transform into your pet if you wanted to -- all with minimal technical skills.


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.