The making of Dungeons of Chaos

Dungeons of Chaos was created over a LONG period of time and resembles my idea of creating a role playing game that provides the great features of the games I enjoyed most in my youth:

  • a topdown 2D tile-based pixel art view, with a nostalgic feel
  • non-linear game elements, basically the ability to roam freely (and find little rewards for doing so) but also non-linear puzzles and story elements (you don’t need to understand the story that much but if you do, you will find additional locations and rewards)
  • tactical combat
  • melodic and melancholic music and atmosphere
  • replay value: many character classes, different spells and skills, but also some randomised content like procedurally created dungeons

While no single game ever had all the above, a few rogue like games came pretty close.  But nothing beats my fond memories of Ultima 3, 4 and 5 which really set the bar for the first 4 points.

I started to build elements of the game back in 1994 (randomised item loot and the player classes), then tried to build a game out of it first using Javascript, later PHP/Flash, and finally in early 2013 started fresh using Xcode/iOS.

It may show to the keen eye that I am not a good coder.  My code most likely is lengthy, not efficient (=not object oriented) and may even still contain the occasional bug that I missed.  So I was excited to see that Xcode seemed to cater for my (low) level of expertise.  I soon realised there were still MANY things to learn, and I tackled it piece by piece by piece until all the ~100 pages of notes I had made were finally either included or categorised as “too hard” or “in the next version”.

Dungeons of Chaos 1.00 hopefully did provide players with a unique and interesting experience, exploring all the hidden places (and finding the rewards I have hidden in each of them), but also immerse into the main storyline and maybe enjoy the pure experience of grinding and levelling up characters and defeating some of the boss monsters in the first Chapter. After this 2014 iPad-only release, I started to work on the expansion, being chapter2 and everything after the initial starter island. The game itself got a bit of fan love but not a lot of press so to speak. Sold 1,000 copies including after a second revival of sales when chapter2 was released I think in mid 2015. 

Then I finally gave in the fan wishes for a cross platform port, any phone and including Android. I decided to re-wrote most of the code in the process, subject myself to rigorous beta testing by John Michael May (thanks!), and polishing and expanding the features and content and interfaces and options and bugs and graphics etc. it became a really neat retro app. When I released the Unity version (cross platform engine) in June 2016, I got really good fan feedback that still lasts till today. Unfortunately still hardly any coverage by ‘media’ other than from toucharcade (thanks!) and then a few isolated pockets of excited gamers/reviewers. But my well targeted Facebook ads still attract the people that played these games in the 80s, never found a game like it since and joyfully wrote their reviews or emails to thank me for making them ‘feel like coming home’. Which means a lot to me. 

I have written a bit about the monster behaviour mechanics HERE for those interested. It Ives you an idea how unconventionally some of my coding is because I designed my own tools which sometimes seem intuitive but very rare approaches to the problem compared to other games. 

I hope you enjoy it, feel free to drop me a message with feedback or suggestions, and if you want to see further development please support me by rating the App on the AppStores and spreading the word. 

Volker Elzner

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