React Games interview: Super Dungeon Bros, Archon and more

We chat to React Games about its forthcoming co-op brawler, Super Dungeon Bros, its remake of Archon and more...

Looking like a demented mash-up of Gauntlet and Castle Crashers, the forthcoming indie brawler Super Dungeon Bros sees a quartet of players wade through a succession of procedurally-generated, monster-filled lairs.

Super Dungeon Bros is the creation of React Games, a studio set up in 2008 by industry veteran Chad Lee. Their previous games have included a remake of the classic 1983 game Archon – a personal favorite of Lee’s – and the free-to-play action title Presidents Run. Dungeon Bros, meanwhile, looks like the studio’s biggest undertaking yet – a fast-paced, lively brawler full of quirky characters and unusual special moves.

Already greenlit on Steam, Super Dungeon Bros is scheduled to appear on Kickstarter on May 27th. Ahead of that, here’s what Chad Lee had to say about the creative birth of the game, its local and online multiplayer, and lots more.

I’ve read that SDB began as a competition entry for the Kill Screen Create Contest. But can you tell me how you arrived at the colourful, quite playful design you have now?

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Super Dungeon Bros was always designed to be quirky, tongue-in-cheek and humorous, and the hand-painted, cartoony style really suited the concept.  We also wanted to make sure the game was accessible to a wide audience and we felt this would be the most appealing way of moving forward.

More and more developers seem to be ignoring local multiplayer. How important was it for you to make this a feature of Dungeon Bros?

We placed equal importance on local multiplayer as we did online multiplayer. The joy of playing Super Dungeon Bros is in playing it with your friends, whether they’re online or sat next to you! In fact, sitting next to your friends and playing Super Dungeon Bros is brilliant and very noisy as you’re raiding a dungeon and trying to work together. We’ve developed a banter system as well where players will be able to throw banter back and forth at each other; this is great for online multiplayer where you can’t see the looks in your team mates eyes!

What led you to remake Archon as React’s first game?

Well, Archon was actually my most favorite game of all time and I pursued the license for over seven years until I finally acquired it. I’ve always wanted to do a faithful remake that could be enjoyed on modern PCs by the older and newer generations of gamers. 

Do you think we’re at a point in gaming culture now where we’re more able to appreciate how innovative those early games were? For a while, harking back to old games may have seemed outmoded or somehow uncool, but now it’s as acceptable as putting references to classic cinema in movies.

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Yes, I believe after about 20 years, things are considered “classic” instead of just “old” and as gamers play more, it’s interesting to them [to see] where the designers’ influences came from and they want to play those games.

What games have influenced you in the making of Super Dungeon Bros? I detect a strong hint of Gauntlet in what I’ve seen so far.

Castle Crashers was probably our biggest influence in the early days as we really enjoyed the art/comedy value but as Super Dungeon Bros evolved, other titles such as Torchlight began to creep into our thinking, as well as the gameplay in Gauntlet.

Techniques like procedural or random generation are clearly a huge help to small teams, and allow them to create larger worlds than they’d be able to make by hand. How have you used random generation in SDB, and how do you ensure that it doesn’t throw up anything too awkward for the player to overcome?

The procedural generation in Super Dungeon Bros will build a dungeon according to several factors such as the number of players in a party. If there are only two for example, dungeons will be built so that only two bros can complete them. In addition, the volume and intensity of enemies will be adjusted depending on the skill and number of players. We have over 32M unique dungeon combinations so no two dungeons will ever likely be the same.  

Will there be the opportunity for players to design their own dungeons?

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This is certainly something we would love to offer to the community post launch, however with a procedural system as the basis of dungeon design we are not looking at this as a launch feature. We are however looking at ways in which we can embrace the community’s ideas and integrate them into the game, be it through new puzzles, new characters, enemies or even objects within the dungeon.

What’s been your approach to designing SDB? Do your ideas, like the Bro Throw, arise through iteration, or are they there from the start?

So our approach to designing Super Dungeon Bros was initially focused on developing ideas and concepts that players find familiar – this makes up around 80% of Super Dungeon Bros. The remaining 20% is purely focused on innovation, particularly where co-op gameplay is concerned. Many of the ideas we had around co-op gameplay in Super Dungeon Bros came about by iteration, tweaking existing ideas and creating something new and unique. A great example is one of our bro attack combos where all the bros will stack on top of one another and perform a team based bro move. This concept came about through playtesting when we noticed players picking each other up to throw them around.  Before we knew it, there were four bros all stacked on top of each other with everyone spinning and slicing with their weapons! We instantly thought, this HAS to be in the game as a super power attack! From there it’s simply a case of balancing.

You’ve created games for a variety of platforms, including mobile, Facebook and PC. Is one more favourable than the other in terms of getting your game played and making a decent profit? Has the expansion of mobile also made it competitive and more difficult to get your game played?

We have a lot of experience on these platforms and it’s extremely hard to get your titles to stand out from the crowd. Mobile is very acquisition focused and it’s more about the numbers than building something special.  We see mobile as an extension of other platforms and if it is done well, it can enhance the brand. Console and PC are not too dissimilar, in that discoverability is crucial, but they are less acquisition focused. It’s relatively easy to develop a game nowadays, but commercially it can be hard to make a profit. Working with the right partners is crucial and can make all the difference.

Where can you see React going in the future? Will you continue to make the smaller, quirkier games you’ve been creating so far, or maybe move into larger projects?

Well, we love developing the small quirky games, but we’re keen to get involved in larger projects and push our boundaries. They may or may not be quirky games but we’ll definitely make sure they’re fun.

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Chad Lee, thank you very much.

Super Dungeon Bros is due for release later this year on PC, Mac, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.