In a focused talk during today's Game Developer's Conference in San Francisco, developer siblings Kenny and Teddy Lee of Cellar Door Games delved into the budget-minded approach behind their most recent project, Rogue Legacy. The game was developed over one and a half years, Kenny said, for the sum of $14,878. Trumpeted by press and fans alike, Rogue Legacy sold 100,000 copies a week after launch in 2013 and recouped its cost in less than an hour. It's already coming to PlayStation platforms in 2014.
"We're always on the lookout for solutions that are cheap, fast and reusable," said Kenny, the full-time programmer for Cellar Door Games. This resolve is what killed Rogue Legacy's dad: a bold two-dimensional mashup of Dark Souls, Castlevania and hardcore dungeon crawler Etrian Odyssey. DS2D would have been a challenging, death-riddled game of trepidatious platforming, exploration and unfurling an intricate world map. An early version felt like it was coming together, Kenny said, and it got far enough to incorporate eight different enemies and five bosses.
"We came to the failed conclusion that we simply could not afford to make it." The project was scrapped, but in the essence of building around a small budget, much of DS2D was recycled.
"We had a basic 2D engine," Kenny said. "Because budget drives us, we tried to salvage as much as we could." The team also decided to partially offload the work of creating a large environment, which required expensive art creation, to the engine.
Two and a half weeks later, Rogue Legacy started taking shape: a challenging, skill-based quest through castle rooms stitched together procedurally. According to Teddy, Rogue Legacy hinges on its unique game loop, which sends you into the castle, knowing a successor will follow in your footsteps one day. The Lees put role-playing mechanics, like money and character equipment, into the post-death period, before you re-enter the castle.
"You had something to look forward to, which made it fun," Teddy said. "And best of all, it gives you that one-more-time feel."
[Image: Cellar Door Games]