What do you get when you cross the hardcore dungeon exploration of The Binding of Isaac with a bullet hell shoot 'em up and lots of cheerful colors? Enter the Gungeon, an upcoming Rogue-like game developed by a group of EA veterans at Dodge Roll and published by Devolver Digital.
Enter the Gungeon will bring screens full of bullets and loot to PC and PlayStation 4 this spring, but naturally we'd love to see it on Xbox One as well. We caught up with the game's designer, Dave Crooks at PAX South to ask about just such a possibility. Read on for his answer, plus lots of insights into the creation of Enter the Gungeon!
Enter the Gungeon gameplay stream from PAX South
Paul Acevedo, Windows Central: Hey Dave, give us a quick description of Enter the Gungeon.
Dave Crooks, Dodge Roll: So we like to call it a bullet hell dungeon crawler. I actually do think that's a pretty good fit for it because other than the combat, it is a dungeon crawler. You find loot, you go to shops, fight mimics, [and then encounter] a boss on the floor and go to the next floor.
The combat is very much like a bullet hell game. So lots of bullets on screen and you have a few different things you can do to manage them. The main thing being the dodge-roll. It has invincibility frames like Dark Souls, so you can actually dodge-roll straight through the bullets. So, "Bullet Hell Dungeon Crawler, where you have to master the timing of the dodge roll" is what I would call it.
Paul: That sounds like a blast. How large is your development team?
It's four people full-time and two people part-time. I'm the designer on the game, by which I mean game design – not art design. We have two coders, my good friends Brent Sodman and Dave Rubel. Our artist is a good buddy of mine who I've known him my whole life: Joe Hardy.
The person who is doing the music for the game is Doseone, who also did the music for Samurai Gunn, Gang Beasts, and a few other things. He's just an awesome guy. And Erica Hampson does our sound design.
Paul: How did the core team come together?
Dave: Dave, Brent, and I used to work at Electronic Arts. [Our specific studio] got closed down. We had the chance to go to another EA studio, but instead we decided to take our savings and go and do our own thing. We'd been making very different kinds of games [as part of] much larger teams where we had a lot less input. [This game] is our first together as a team; it's exciting.
Paul: And what aspect of Enter the Gungeon are you guys proudest of?
Dave: Man, that's a tough question. Honestly, when you're making a game it takes a really long time, in some cases, to know that you've hit a "fun loop." I had [the concept] in my head. "I know it's going to work like this," and "The dodge roll going to feel THIS good," and "we're going to design our bosses to put pressure on the player in THIS way, but they will feel good because they have mastered the dodge roll." So I guess the biggest thing really is seeing that it kind of works. Our crazy idea worked.
At some point in the development we were [demoing] it (maybe at show or something), but we didn't have to explain anything. The players "got" everything and they had super fun with it. Other than that, the biggest "Yes we did it" moment was when we realized we were going to FINISH a game. It took us two years, but we are going to finish the game. So I guess [I'm most proud of] the experience of creating it and finding out that "Yeah, people like it, it's fun."
Paul: Congratulations. Does that mean the game has gone gold already?
Dave: Not gold, but very close to it. It's coming out this Spring, probably early Spring on PC, PlayStation 4, Mac, and Linux. Right now we're balancing the difficulty and some of the guns, adding more rooms, a little bit more content, and fixing bugs. It's coming out soon though.
Paul: How did your game get picked up by Devolver Digital as a publisher?
Dave: I flew to E3 with the prototype of the game… on a laptop in a backpack. I didn't even have a ticket to E3! I stood outside the Devolver area [and pleaded] "Look at my game." And they did!
Ever since then, they have totally boosted us up. I [mentioned] that we [used our savings] for the development money. But that ran out and Devolver helped us finish the game. They brought us here, and so they have been incredible supportive.
I've made a ton of friends, and I would ABSOLUTELY work with Devolver again. If any indie out there [is looking for a publisher], I would recommend Devolver. I can't say enough good things about them. Sony [has also] been really supportive, Nick Suttner in particular. They've definitely helped make people aware of the game.
Paul: Speaking of Sony, let's talk about the competition. Do you plan to bring Enter the Gungeon to Xbox One and/or Wii U in the future?
Dave: We'd like to get it on anything the players want it on, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. I just listed out our team, very small. We're doing four platforms at launch, and we've never developed for a console before. We'll get the game out, deal with the launch, and after some time we'll figure out if there's demand on the other consoles. I would like to [bring it to other consoles].
Paul: I hope so! Indie gaming fans on Xbox would love it. But for people who game on computer or PlayStation 4, do you have any parting words about Enter the Gungeon?
Dave: It might look a little difficult, but give it a try. As you play, your skill is going to get better, I promise you. I've watched people come back on the show floor and their second run is better, their third run is better… That's a good feeling.
Even if you're kind of wary on the Rogue-like genre, hopefully our game will maybe put a different spin on it for you, and make you see it in another light.
Enter the Gungeon arrives on PC, PlayStation 4, Mac, and Linux sometime this Spring. You can find its Steam store page here. Do you plan to enter the Gungeon, PC and PlayStation 4 gamers?
Special thanks to Chris Tadlock for his assistance with this story.