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Not So Massively Extra: An interview with Dungeon Overlord's Chris Mayer

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For the past two weeks, I've found myself inexplicably addicted to online Facebook game Dungeon Overlord. Players in Dungeon Overlord design and build their own dungeons and then lead raids against other players' dungeons to steal resources, kill defending creatures or just generally smash stuff up. It's a competitive twist that developer Night Owl Games hopes will attract the more hardcore gamer. We interviewed Night Owl Games CEO Chris Mayer to find out more about the game, which is currently in a playable open beta stage and is still under development.

Massively: Several game mechanics take a long period of time to complete, from minutes to hours, or even days. Why was this slow pace selected for the game?

Chris Mayer: This game was designed to be a browser game that hardcore gamers could play when they aren't able to sit down for a "traditional" gaming session. We wanted people to be able to play for a few minutes before work, during their lunch, on a study break, or for a few minutes before logging on to their favorite PC game. So we designed the game around the player planning actions and then coming back later to check on them. Also, since this is a massively multiplayer strategy game you need time for other players to react to what one player does.

Read on to find out how you can raid other players' dungeons, build up your defenses, and even revolt against the self-appointed king player in charge of your mountain.



How can players build more than one dungeon, and is there a limit to how many dungeons one player can own?

Each level you acquire allows you the ability to claim an additional dungeon. Each level becomes increasingly difficult to achieve, so there is a soft cap of around 10 dungeons. With enough dedication, I'm sure a player could surpass that, so we do have a hard limit of 20.

Resources pile up in your dungeon while you're logged out, adding a Farmville-like element of logging in each day to collect your resources. But other players can raid your dungeon to steal these resources if they're not collected. How does that raiding mechanic work?

We went about designing this to be more like a "regular PC" game first, rather than a Facebook game. That being said, we recognized certain mechanics in traditional Facebook games had a lot of value, such as mechanics designed to bring players back to the game every day. Since that resource collection mechanic is not the core component of our game, we designed it to be very easy for a player to do. It really shouldn't take more than a few seconds to pick up everything in your dungeon. Resources don't "rot" like they do in other Facebook games either. Player feedback indicated the process was burdensome so we recently added a "collect all" option that allows players to pick up everything in a dungeon with a single click.


"Victorious attackers loot the dungeon for resources not contained in safe storage locations.

We find this to be a lot more fun than your crops rotting due to inactivity. "


We have a raiding mechanic, so we decided to use this instead of the rot mechanic to encourage players to pick up their resources. Anything left lying around on the ground is very vulnerable to raiding from other overlords. You can scout your neighbor's dungeon prior to the formal attack with creatures like Thieves or Ghosts to see what dangers you might encounter and then send your more battle-ready troops out to get the loot.

Victorious attackers loot the dungeon for resources not contained in safe storage locations. As a defender, all the creatures you have at home at the time of the raid will defend along with any traps you have placed. We find this to be a lot more fun than your crops rotting due to inactivity.

Can other players take over your dungeon completely?

Players can't take dungeons by simply raiding. The next tier is pillaging, which adds the ability to destroy furniture and items in the dungeon. With our upcoming Lord of the Mountain update, players will also be able to conquer dungeons. However, it will be a different action than raiding or pillaging and will be very difficult to do. The rewards will be great as the conqueror gets the Dungeon, furniture, tiles and resources if they are successful.

How can players protect their dungeon from raiding? Can we build defenses?

There are some very strong defensive and healing creatures as well as traps. There's also an option to hide your creatures if you want to take that route, and there are lots of ways to securely store your resources. Defensive strategy is one of the key factors to consider, especially if you plan to send your creatures out to raid. If the worst should happen and you lose a dungeon, you'll always have a "home" because your starter dungeon cannot be conquered or pillaged.

You can pay to circumvent long waits and buy direct benefits like increased creature limits and increased mining yields. How much of a competitive advantage can be gained by spending cash, and can these benefits be obtained in any other way?

The purchases that can be made are primarily meant to be shortcuts in time versus money. They give advantages, but you can get everything by just waiting or working your way through the game naturally. The items in the store make it faster, but players never hit a wall that can only be circumvented by spending money or recruiting friends.


"We have intentionally stayed away from many of the common Facebook game annoyances that plague players in other games.

We don't spam your wall, your friend's wall, or incessantly ask you to "gift" your friends."


Crafting and research are huge aspects of the game. There are several furniture items for rooms or technologies to be studied that increase production, efficiency or speed. The purchasable boosts are above and beyond these in-game benefits, but the game is fully playable without spending money. Things like extra goblins or extra tiles are very beneficial, but again, are not required. We pay close attention to player feedback on things they think may cause too significant of an imbalance on the competition curve. To date, we've been very resistant of letting players instantly rebuild their army, even though that is a store suggestion I hear all the time.

In addition, we have intentionally stayed away from many of the common Facebook game annoyances that plague players in other games such as "friend walls" which require you to add friends to progress in the game. We don't spam your wall, your friend's wall, or incessantly ask you to "gift" your friends. We simply deliver a fun gaming experience that we hope players will want to share naturally on Facebook and not force-spam onto the world.

The Vengeance quest series rewards the player with XP for completing a series of objectives. Is this essentially a tutorial mode? And if so, what is the endgame of Dungeon Overlord like?

The Vengeance quest series prepares players for what happens in the Overworld of Dungeon Overlord. It is basic preparation for learning the game. The experience and resources acquired carry through to the rest of the game. Since Dungeon Overlord is more complex than most other Facebook games, it's important that players understand the basic mechanics before just jumping in. This is especially important when you realize that the Overworld of Dungeon Overlord is filled with potential enemies.

The end game is more about encouraging players to join alliances and start controlling territory on the Overworld map. This is something that a player will be exposed to after the Vengeance quest. I think it would be impossible to craft a "tutorial" to teach someone everything about Dungeon Overlord, so we do our best to expose players to the increasingly complex systems as they play the game naturally.

The Overworld map has hundreds of mountains in it, but most are empty apart from protected starter dungeons. If a player tries out the game and doesn't go back to it, will his dungeon remain there indefinitely?

Just recently, a purge of inactive Dungeons took place. To be considered inactive, the dungeon had to meet some set criteria. Now, with the option for conquering, it will be possible to take over the inactive Dungeons that hold sought after resources. Also, the current sparseness is because we've done relatively little marketing to date while in the beta test. The play area in the Overworld is designed to hold many more players that we expect once the game officially launches.

Social interaction is currently limited to sending other dungeon owners mail, trading with them, and raiding their dungeons. Are there plans to expand on the multiplayer aspect of the game?

We have a major update coming soon called Lord of the Mountain that will coincide with the official end of the beta period. As part of that, we will let players form in-game alliances. In keeping with our theme of being a hardcore Facebook game, these alliance members do not have to be your Facebook friends but can be anyone who plays Dungeon Overlord. Alliances will allow players from all over the map to align for the purposes of defense, trading and combat.


"The King will receive extra benefits for being king, including taxing those loyal to him. Those who pledge their allegiance will receive random upgrades from the Mountain. Of course, there will be an option to overthrow the king if you choose not to be loyal."

Also, each room in a Dungeon will have the option for a Taskmaster. This is a friend who is assigned to manage the room. Bonuses will be applied based on how active in the game the friend is. Again, these "friends" will not have to be your actual Facebook friends.

One of the most anticipated features is the King of the Mountain. The King will reside in the Mountain Heart, a currently empty dungeon in middle of each mountain. Once the Heart is claimed, others in the Mountain may pledge allegiance to the King (which is separate from any alliances they may belong to). The King will receive extra benefits for being king, including taxing those loyal to him. Those who pledge their allegiance will receive random upgrades from the Mountain. Of course, there will be an option to overthrow the king if you choose not to be loyal and the King can determine that you are disloyal and declare you an enemy. We hope all of this, and more, will continue to make Dungeon Overlord one of the most hardcore games on Facebook.

Thank you for your time!

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