When Xbox One launched, the general connotation was that Microsoft wasn’t nearly as interested in Indie games being on their platform. However, through shifts of the market, executive management, and overall industry trends, we’re seeing an entirely new approach to Indie content on the Xbox One.
Enter developers like David Amador and his recent Xbox One title Quest of Dungeons. Amador is the creator of Upfall Studios which was established back in 2010. Unlike many studios, Upfall has a single primary employee: Amador. Designing and creating Quest of Dungeons was no easy task and the game can be found on multiple platforms. The choice to bring the game to Xbox One is one that will benefit fans of multiple genres. Interestingly, while Amador has outsourced or hired help for certain aspects of the game, it is Amador who wrote all the code, designed the user-interface, and created the sound effects for Quest of Dungeons.
I reached out to Amador about his creation and what it was like to work with the ID@Xbox program. Here’s what he had to say:
Luke Lohr: David, thank you for taking the time to talk with us!
David Amador: “My pleasure, thank you for your time too.”
LL: Would you mind starting by telling us a little bit about Quest of Dungeons? What type of game is it and to what type of gamer is it best suited for?
Amador: “Quest of Dungeons is a roguelike game and a turn-based dungeon crawler with procedural content. Each time you start, everything is different, enemies and treasures are in a new place. Given this approach to the genre Quest of Dungeons is suited for both newcomers to the genre [roguelike dungeon crawlers] and players who have experience such a genre before.”
LL: The game is out on other platforms like iOS, Mac, Linux, and Android. What made you decide to bring Quest of Dungeons to Xbox One?
Amador: “When I released the first version I wasn’t quite sure what to expect in terms of player feedback and acceptance. But players seem to had a lot of fun and started requesting other versions. Initially there was only Windows and iOS. Linux, Android and now Xbox One was due to players approaching me. I saw that Microsoft had the ID@Xbox program and decided to approach them and explain my game. I was lucky that they liked my idea and allowed me to port the game.”
LL: Can you tell us a bit about the process of bringing a game that was originally built on other platforms to Xbox One? What sort of challenges did you face in giving the game a new control scheme and making sure the visuals stay intact?
Amador: “I started by making the game run on the hardware itself, which was surprisingly the “easier” part. After that I knew I had to redo the whole interface to make it a controller friendly game, due to the original mouse interface scheme. This posed some challenges, because some of the gameplay itself had to be tweaked to match it. Another challenge was to make sure that text was still visible on TVs, but in the end I think the game plays very well with the controller and the changes were worth it.”
LL: Our reviewer, Andrew Gonzalez, is already hooked. One of the things he’s fascinated by is the movement system. Each time the player moves, the enemies react in real time. There’s a real sense of puzzle solving through combat. Was this always your vision for Quest of Dungeons?
Amador: “Yes, it was always my vision to get the old school roguelikes turn-based strategy in [Quest of Dungeons]. The challenge was to make it approachable to new players to the genre and ones who dislike traditional turn-based action. That took a lot of iteration. Until I reached the point that I was looking for… the idea was that you could play it very similar to a real-time game, but when stopping it would be a natural thing, everything stands and you can decide carefully your next move.”
“I was looking at a couple streamers yesterday and some don’t realize until a couple minutes in that it’s turn based, but when they do it’s a whole new experience and strategy that they realize they can use.”
LL: Andrew has also praised Quest of Dungeons for feeling old school, but having a number of new ideas. Was this your intention as well or did it happen organically over time?
Amador: “This part happened a bit more organically. I had a general idea, but it wasn’t until pieces started to fall into the place that I started having more ideas. I think this is the most common thing in game development, it’s not until later that you realize what could really work and not.”
LL: The art style in Quest of Dungeons echoes of the original Legend of Zelda. Did that serve as an inspiration or were there others?
Amador: “Mostly Zelda yes, I’m a big fan of the series, especially the top-down ones.”
LL: Creating a system of procedurally generated dungeons, where enemies and items are never in the same place twice… as a developer this must be an imposing task. Balancing challenge with fairness. How did you go about this?
Amador: “That was quite a challenge. Procedural is a great tool for developers with low resources, but it has a lot of problems. Getting it in a different place is easy, the problem is making sure that each new floor makes sense, everything is connected and that things aren’t all spawned in just one place and the rest of the dungeon is empty for example.”
“My approach was to set boundaries in each floor in both difficulty and weapons that could be found, so while each floor has random generated things, they can never go beyond some parameters, this allowed me to know that in best case scenario a player would have a X power weapon in a certain floor, among other things.”
LL: Microsoft has seemingly changed the way they approach smaller developers in the past year or so. ID@Xbox seems to be a much more positive experience for developers. How have you enjoyed working with the ID@Xbox program or is your experience somewhat different than that?
Amador: “My experience was quite positive, they were very helpful in this whole process. They have this whole team to help and guide us through the process, because for many developers, like me, it’s the first time we are making a game for a console and it can be overwhelming at start.”
LL: I notice there is a price difference of a few dollars between platforms. As a developer, pricing must be a difficult task to handle. “What is too little?” “Is this fair?” “Is this too much?” How do you go about assigning price for the same game on different platforms? Is there ever pushback?
Amador: “Pricing is hard yes, because it will impact everything. There were several things that I took into consideration, always trying to be fair. Unfortunately, one of the things can be production costs. Players do sometimes ask the difference, but they generally understand, and in fact most players say that the game is worth more that the current price point, so that helps.”
LL: Looking at your portfolio, you’ve been working on games since roughly 2006, is that correct? How have your previous developer experiences influenced the creation of Quest of Dungeons?
Amador: “Yes, I started working professionally working on a company in 2006. I decided to go indie in 2010, over the years I’ve worked on good games, bad games, prototypes that never left the drawer, all that led to Quest of Dungeons. Sometimes from a bad game you learn a lot, and know what matters. QoD was started after a game that was canceled for not feeling right. I’ve been working on different genres each time, so that’s also always a challenge.”
LL: David, what’s next for you now that Quest of Dungeons is available on Xbox One? Do you see yourself working on new games and if so, will you likely be bringing them to Xbox One as well?
Amador: “For now I’m keeping a close eye on feedback and potential bugs, so I can stabilize the game with a future patch. After that I’ll start working on a new game, already juggling around a couple ideas but that process takes some time. And of course, I would love to bring the next game to Xbox One too.”
Working with developers of any size gives a sense of what it is they are hoping to accomplish as a content creator. Some want money while others are simply interest in creating fun and interesting games. In working with David Amador, it was clear that Quest of Dungeons was created out of passion and enjoyment of his craft.
Amador did ask us to note that his work on Quest of Dungeons had the support of freelancers and some outsourced help. Music on the game is by Aaron Krogh, while pixel art was made by Oryx. Additional Xbox One version assets (Necrodancer and Xbox One tutorial) by Phil Giarrusso.
Our review of Quest of Dungeons can be found here and we’d like to note that the reviewer, Andrew Gonzalez, had no direct interaction with David Amador, who provided us with a review code.