A Betacade game submission from Huron High School's Video Game Development and Design Club (HHSVGDDC) called "Dungeon Flipper" is our 9th blog entry.
We'll first dig into the game and then we'll share our email interview with the President of HHSVGDDC, Tomas Stegemann.
What's in a name? This game's name is exactly what you do, Flip Dungeons. You are the heroic interior decorator who's been tasked by the island's King to clear the old ruins from Monsters and ugliness. This quest is critical because the island's population surges on while housing availability remains stagnant. The King's idea is to create new housing from the old ruins and you are the one to it.
They vary in size with multiple rooms to clear. Each one sporting a gravel and rock flooring with larger rocky walls. There are 2 Monster types you'll find in the dungeons. One resembling a goblin which has a slower attack yet greater hit point capacity. The other is a dangerous blob with one eye. Dangerous due to it's quicker attack and movement, I found myself having more trouble with the blobs.
For anyone reading this unfamiliar with the term "Flipping" as it relates to buying/selling houses, it's simply buying property, fixing it and then selling it for 2-5x the price you paid for it. So the point of Dungeon Flippers is to clear the dungeon and then make it look nice to get a good price when it comes time to sell it. After clearing the dungeon, the player needs to clean up the space. To equip the broom/mop, the player needs to un-equip their weapon. Once the mop is equipped, time to go around all the carnage and clean. You can also equip soap while you clean (although it wasn't clear if the soap helped clean better).
After you've spit-shined the dungeon, it's time to make this cold and dreary place fabulous. Keeping in mind that this was developed by a smaller group in an after-school club the variety is lacking but satisfactory enough to comb our imaginations. Placing furniture inside the dungeons was not super intuitive but not impossible. The controls are designed to equip a weapon or your mop in 1 slot. The other slot is for furniture. The player has to equip which furniture is to be placed. With 5 furniture slots, the player can select furniture in the order of placement. So the 1st listed piece will be placed first and so on. I did figure out that if you had more than 1 of a piece of furniture (ex. 3 beds), and you placed the "bed" icon in a slot, you'd have to place all 3 beds at once to get to the next piece of furniture (maybe a table). When you have the correct piece in the furniture slot, wherever your mouse is on screen is where the piece will be placed after pressing the Space bar.
No real dungeon crawler would be worth its coin without having to grind to make your way up the ranks. Dungeon Flipper is no exception. If you clear a dungeon and leave without selling it, the monsters will return. You can re-clear dungeons for more loot and money. There are not-so-hidden treasure chests that reward you with money inside each dungeon. The player can sell of all their loot for more money and dungeon furnishings at "The Shop".
To sell the property, simply find the.. eh.. groundhog? This creature is in some random spot in each level awaiting your visit once the dungeon has been cleared, cleaned and decorated. This thing is the professional appraiser. It'll only give you $5 for an uncleaned dungeon. I guess goblin guts aren't "dungeon-chic". To get the below price you'll have to grind your way and save up for the amount of stuff that's in a previous screenshot above.
Now for our interview with the President of the Huron High School's Video Game Development and Design Club, Mr. Tomas Stegemann:
Since we're relatively new to the Indie Game arena, we thought it would be much longer before we would get submissions from clubs/schools. How did you find us and what school/club policies are there for submitting games outside of the proximal reach of the school?
The school leaves everything to us, within reason. We don't want to risk losing the freedom that has been afforded to us, so we don't use references to sex, drugs, or excessively dark or gory violence in our games. I found Betacade by looking for reviews of small indie games. I look for those reviews because the reviewers that leave them are more likely to pick up small games from small teams like ours.
How long has the club existed?
The club has existed since 2016.
What led to the formation of the club?
During my freshman year of high school, I was trying and failing to complete game projects both on my own and with a disorganized group of friends. I decided that it would be more fun and more effective to make games as part of a properly organized community, so I recruited a few peers who seemed to have an interest in game development and founded the club under the supervision of one of our school's computer science teacher.
How many participants in the club?
Upon its creation, the club had 5 members. Now, we have 27.
What are the prerequisites for being accepted into the club?
There is no prerequisite besides having an interest in game development. If a student joins but does not have the skill or experience necessary to contribute to one of our games, we make sure to pair them up with a more experienced member who can show them around and get them caught up.
What is the club's schedule?
We meet after school for 1.5 hours on every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday.
Since the name implies students both designing and developing, how are these disciplines monitored? Is it some days are design, others are development? Is there a purposeful balance or make it up as you go?
The distinction between "design" and "development" in the club's name is not to imply that design is not a constant part of our development process, but to raise a bit of awareness about the discipline of game design and how it is just one aspect of development. I want to make sure that people understand that our club is about executing game concepts and not just designing them. But to be sure, the members of the club's development teams are always bouncing design ideas off of each other and attempting to refine their design process.
Does the entire club work on one project at a time?
For the last two years, the club was one development team working on one game. However, due to a steep increase in member count this year, we have now split into multiple development teams working on multiple games.
What lessons are being taught that will be applied to real world jobs?
I can't predict exactly how experiences from the club will affect myself or others later in our careers, but I'm comfortable saying we do get some good practice and learn some good lessons. We have experienced some of the joys and difficulties that arise from people with different problem-solving approaches and disciplines trying to work together on one project. We have faced the challenge of determining what to drop and what to pursue when development time gets tight and we can't do it all. We are constantly learning to better organize and direct ourselves throughout a project's timeline. And of course, we are getting plain-old practical experience by just getting together and making games.
Are there comparable clubs in your area or to your knowledge anywhere else?
The only other nearby student game development organization I know of is for college students rather than high school students. It is called WolverineSoft, and it is hosted at the University of Michigan.
Once projects are completed, are they submitted to places like steam or Epic games? Or do they remain in house and delivered to the school internally?
When we complete a game, we upload it to itch.io for free. Our first 1.5 years yielded a couple of unfinished projects that we abandoned, but the past 1.5 years have yielded two complete games. This year, we will definitely be completing and releasing at one more complete game, and because we now have more development teams, there may be more coming shortly after that. I can't say where the new teams will upload their stuff, though.
Who's idea was it and where did the idea come from?
At the beginning of each year, members of club pitch their game ideas to the rest of the group, and the idea that gets the most support becomes our project for that year. At the start of 2018, Griffin Charnetski (one of our old artists) produced a short document with sketches and gameplay ideas for Dungeon Flipper, and the group thought it was a concept worth exploring.
What (game(s)) influenced this title?
Wizard of Legend, Animal Crossing, Moonlighter, and Legend of Zelda are all games/series that we looked to when designing both visuals and gameplay for Dungeon Flipper.
How long was this project in development?
We spent one academic year making Dungeon Flipper, with two months spent on preparation and preproduction and six months spent on production. However, after release, I stayed with the game for a quite a while to develop and release quality-of-life updates and bug fixes.
Was the entire club pitching in or was it a smaller subset of the members?
Every member of the club contributed in some way.
What was the biggest challenge in completing the game?
This one is kind of hard to answer, but I'd have to say getting people on the same page regarding the game's direction. Every team member had some of their own ideas about what Dungeon Flipper was supposed to be, and communication and decision-making surrounding those ideas wasn't always smooth and flawless. Working with a team that's creatively invested is a blessing, but finding out that the level designers have been designing around one version of a feature while the programmers have been developing a different version can be stressful.
What was the biggest challenge in managing a team a varying skill levels?
When a team is made up of members of widely varying skill levels, assigning tasks to individual people gets a lot trickier. Someone who's very new to programming or art or any other skill cannot be expected to consistently produce exactly what the team is looking for when the team wants it. More experienced members of the club always have to be ready to step in and pick up responsibility when a newer member of their team runs into an issue they don't know how to get past.
I didn't find any hidden rooms or easter eggs, are there any in the game? If so, can you share some clues?
There were a few very un-subtle easter eggs that we came close to including, but they ended up not making the cut. One of those abandoned pieces was art for a goblin enemy variant that had features somewhat reminiscent of Himiko Toga, a character from a show that some of the club's artists were watching at the time. As for easter eggs that did get included in the game, an item from our last game is sometimes dropped by enemies upon their death.
Anything you wish you added or took away?
Of course! If we'd had more time, we all would have liked to add the ability to revisit dungeons you've cleared and decorated. We also had an artifact system that would've allowed you to enhance your abilities during combat that ended up getting cut alongside some smaller additions like traps and a couple of enemy types.
For the club, what's the next project? Can you share genre or art-style?
I'll wait until the announcement is made to reveal too many details, but I'm happy to share the basics. Our current project is a game revolving around combat, cooking, and level exploration. It will be our first 3D game, and it will also have far more environment detail and character interaction than anything we've done before. Its setting blends the mundane and the magical.
Have you thought about what will happen once you graduate? Will you come back and volunteer or pass the torch?
Part of the reason why the club recruited a large number of underclassmen this year is because we targeted them specifically. We want to ensure that the club will keep going strong once the seniors are gone, and so far, all of the new members are working hard on their own projects and doing very well. Who the new leadership will be is currently uncertain, but there are some likely candidates. As for whether or not I'll come back to volunteer? When circumstances permit, I'll definitely want to drop by once in a while and check things out.
What's next for the club as a whole? Indie Game Development is skyrocketing (the growth of your club is a prime example).
For now, we're just focused on making games and getting people to play them. I think that as long as there are students who are serious about wanting to make games, clubs like ours will be fine. Fortunately, since indie game development is very popular right now, students interested in trying game development are more common than ever. I'm looking forward to seeing how the club's future games are received.
Any other behind the scenes details about the club or game you'd like to share?
I want anyone who reads this to know that the sole purpose of our club is making games for others to enjoy. Each and every one of us cares immensely about games, and we're all trying hard to contribute to the medium.
Thanks for reading our breakdown and the interview with the lead developer of Dungeon Flipper!
Play Dungeon Flipper for free on Itch.io