There’s an interview here with Dungeon Keeper’s senior producer. I’ve decided to annotate it. My additions are in italics.
TabTimes Games: So let’s start with a little background. How do microtransactions work in Dungeon Keeper?
Jeff Skalski: With Dungeon Keeper, and just about any free-to-play title, the burden is on the developers to ensure that we’re giving players the most entertaining mobile gaming experience that’s as true to the franchise as possible.
So this interview is going to be about how you seriously fucked that up huh?
The benefit of free-to-play games is that it empowers players,
1. Less gameplay. More restrictions. More costs.
there’s no risk involved to download it and try it out.
Unlike, say, a demo.
They can experience the game and determine what level of commitment they want to make.
You know what a demo is right?
We specifically chose to make the game this way so the classic franchise would be accessible to as many people as possible.
That’s never a good thing. Look at Star Trek, look at Hitman, look at every damn “reboot” that appeals to “the masses” but spits in the face of those who game the thing it’s prestige in the first place.
One thing we really want to express—
Your way into everyone’s “worst games of 2014” list?
and it’s something that hasn’t really been touched on in a lot of the discussion about the game that we’ve seen—
is that in Dungeon Keeper, all content is accessible to paying and non-paying players.
Yes. It’s just behind these two entrances. Pick either “all your money” or “all your time.”
We didn’t design this as a “pay to play” or “pay to win” game.
Well then you failed spectacularly.
It is designed as a free-to-play title where players can commit time or money towards their play experience,
Back in my day we played games for “fun” until we finished it or became “bored.” We didn’t have to scheduled it with out fucking PAs.
and every piece of content in the game is accessible without having to spend a dime.
But with the time walls in place it’s literally faster to remake the game from scratch.
So what could you pay for in the game, then?
If you’d like, you can pay to expedite wait times, dig times, unit production and upgrades, cosmetic enhancements, and bolster defenses for a period of time.
Because fuck cheats, am I rite?!
Why did you decide to go this route with them, as opposed to a different way?
*Starts singing Pink Floyd’s “money”*
In mobile games, there are two models: pay-to-download and free-to-play.
Three models. There are also actually free games.
Pay-to-download puts up high barriers to bringing new people into the game; with free-to-play, a lot more people will be interested in trying it out and seeing what Dungeon Keeper is all about.
Quantity > Quality
Our challenge was figure how to best adapt the Dungeon Keeper humor and lore we love so much to the model and platform.
Then we went “fuck it” and copied Clash of Clans.
Luckily for us, tower defense strategy games are already well-established in mobile and we had a good starting point to innovate
As you’re hopefully aware, this has become a point of contention with fans. Some have said there’s too many microtranscations, that the game is structured in such a way that you have to buy stuff to make any real progress. Do you think these criticism are fair?
Question being dodged in 3… 2… 1…
We’re very aware. The team that worked on the game has read pretty much every tweet, article, Facebook post, and blog comment that’s been written about the game since it launched.
A fitting punishment
Most of us spent our weekend scouring the Internet.
We’re huge fans of the PC game,
and like everyone on the Internet who’s commented on our mobile version, we’ve played the original version and we get pretty nostalgic about it.
THEN WHY DID YOU DO UNSPEAKABLE THINGS TO IT?! WHHHHYYYY?!
By the same token, we all play a lot of mobile games ourselves
Clash of Clans = a lot.
so our primary goal was figuring out how to make the game free-to-download so as many people could try it as possible.
Put tits on the artwork. Done. *Goes for early lunch*
As I noted earlier, we wanted to share some of the Dungeon Keeper joy with people who have never played, or even heard of, the original PC game.
And, as noted earlier, you failed in every way imaginable.
It’s important to emphasize that we designed
a game that is built around the typical mobile play patterns.
Great thinking! Just because people only play in a drop in, drop out capacity you should FORCE them out with your wait times! That’ll give them time to go play Simpson Tapped out!
This means Dungeon Keeper is meant to be played on the go multiple times a day with a few minutes here or there.
No, it’s fucking not. You took Dungeon Keeper and shoehorned wait times in. The building gameplay is STILL the same and it doesn’t fit these wait times. This isn’t Animal Crossing. It’s not running in real time in the background. It’s a youtube video that is constantly stopping to buffer. It’s a design disaster.
This way of playing allows fans to naturally progress as a free player.
Naturally?! You may as well close the fucking app down when the wait times come up for how natural they are.
That’s not to say you can’t quickly blow past 30 minutes in one sitting by summoning new minions,
reorganizing your dungeon layout,
1 min tops
find a keeper to attack,
check in with your guild,
0 seconds. (Nobody’s made a guild now have they)
queue up your next digs then take on a new event raid before calling it a night.
Totaling about 5 mins. OH! I thought of a design choice you made! Now the fights take place outside your dungeon you CAN NEVER LOSE. Because losing will end the game and ending the game ends the income for you. Great design.
To that end, yes, we’ve designed the game to offer players the option to spend money if they’d like to speed up their gameplay.
STOP. Stop right fucking there. You’ve just blabbed on for a few paragraphs about how this game was “designed” for slow gameplay, how it was naturally slow. Now you’re saying that THERE NEEDS TO BE AN OPTION TO SPEED IT UP!? WHY?! Maybe it’s because you designed a game that was too slow on purpose for the sole purpose of making more money when you prey on people with addictive tendencies? Yeah, it’s probably that.
As for whether we think the microstransactions are fair? Well, most of the team, including myself, played as free players all throughout our 15 week soft launch. It was important for us to know that even a non-spender could enjoy our game and make progress.
Oh just because the team that played it didn’t spend any money nobody else will? That’s acceptable evidence.
Right, but it’s not just critics, fans have been making the same complaint.
We’re still figuring that out.
Even though you’ve “read pretty much every tweet, article, Facebook post, and blog comment that’s been written about the game since it launched.”
One of the important data points we’re looking at is our store ratings and downloads. At the time of this interview, App Store ratings currently sit at 4 out of 5 stars and Google Play ratings sit at 4.5 out of 5 stars.
You MIGHT want to point out that the app DOESN’T LET PEOPLE RATE ANYTHING LOWER THAN 5 STARS! Seriously. Rate 4 or less from inside the game and a message pops up saying to “email feedback” instead. You are the biggest bunch of manipulative fucks I’ve ever seen in this industry.
We’re also seeing a lot of game downloads and in-game engagement so that tells us there is a large group of people who are playing and enjoying the game.
Of course. It the “editors pick” app everywhere and the huge press means a whole bunch of people are trying it to see how bad it is. Add that to idiots who like these microtransaction laden hell-holes and you’ve got your numbers.
Obviously, this is counter to some of the angry reactions we’ve seen around the internet, so we’re still trying to look at all of these data points.
This man seems to be ignoring the fact that popular things can be shit. See Twilight, eastenders, those movies that ended with “movie” and every fucking reality TV program ever.
I think any time you re-make anything that is much beloved and has a great sense of nostalgia for people—be it a game, a movie, or whatever—people are going to be very protective of it.
Of course! Because we’ve got a history of people fucking it up like this that we are more than aware of!
They have fond memories of it.
I still play it regularly. It’s not memories, it’s STILL a superb game.
We, as gamers, have our own fond memories of it. For a lot of gamers, the original Dungeon Keeper was one of their first experiences with great strategy games.
Whaaaat? Not really. It’s a great one but most people had a Sid Meier game or other Bullfrog game that was their first. Dungeon Keeper was the odd one that strange people liked.
Our intention with the mobile version was to give as many people as possible a taste of that original Dungeon Keeper experience, and for some people, that’s not the way they want to re-visit the franchise.
Yep. Fuck me for not wanting the “great strategy game” dungeon keeper to be remembered as a Clash of Clans clone with no ability to lose and ZERO FUCKING STRATEGY!
Part of the problem, it’s been suggested, is that you can no longer dig gold yourself, and that to get gems, which are the more important currency, you have to buy them. Do you think that’s part of the problem?
Question: Do you feel that making real money the only way to progress through the game was a bad idea?
There are ways to win gems by the event raid that we run weekly, even for those players who dig out every one of their tiles. Moving forward we will be introducing even more ways for players to acquire gems.
Some have also said that this lacks the humor of the original. Again, do you think these criticism are fair?
He’s got a point. The funniest moment is before you realise the microtransactions screen is real.
I would disagree with that. We have a lot of funny content within Dungeon Keeper. In fact, there are over 500 recording lines just from the original Horny voice actor and fan-favorite Richard Ridings, but we also understand what’s funny to one person may not be to the next.
But you’ve tried to tell THE SAME JOKES. Slapping imps, turning things into chickens… these were 1997s jokes. Also, the Keeper used to be a mental bastard who ripped your dungeon apart just because it was there. WHY IS HE TEACHING ME HOW THE GAME WORKS?!!?
Are there any plans to change anything?
Well they’ll be the first to know if hell freezes over as it’s right next to their studio…
Mythic is committed to continuously fine tuning the player experience based upon fan feedback.
That’s a no.
We’re looking at a ton of data right now to help inform that: media reviews, comments, and reviews from players, and a bunch of in-game data like downloads, and engagement. It’s too early for us to get an accurate sense of what changes might be needed,
Destroy it and salt the earth under it.
but we didn’t make this game for ourselves, we made it for
a love of money
We know that you can never please everyone, but we want this to be a game that most of our intended audience enjoys.
Which they will as long as that audience doesn’t contain a single person who has heard of Dungeon Keeper. This game is a foul mark on that once great name and you’ve burned any chance of a proper sequel. But hey, as long as you get money and the mobile gibbons get their Clash of Clans rip off then everyone in your world wins.