When it comes to the idea of a peggle-style game, it doesn’t have to be a simple level-by-level design. It can be an adventure! That’s the idea behind Wonderbelly Games’ Roundguard – a game that asks you to clear boards of monsters, treasure, potions, and other goodies with bouncy RPG heroes, and recently launched on the Apple Arcade.
Roundguard describes itself as a “bouncy dungeon crawler” in which you’ll use characters like warriors, mages, rogues, and more, each with their own unique abilities, to launch and bounce around boards populated by nasty monsters and delicious treasure. The goal is to kill as much of one while obtaining the other as you launch your heroes about. Our own Blake Morse caught up to Roundguard Game Designer Andrea Roberts to chat about the influences of Roundguard, how being on Apple Arcade helped development, and what’s next for Wonderbelly Games.
Shacknews: Was that core concept of doing a “bouncy dungeon crawler” there from day one or did it evolve over time?
Andrea Roberts: It came from a wild brainstorm. We knew we loved playing with physics, so we were noodling around that space and writing one-pagers of our ideas. We’d all been quiet for a while and I was trying to get unstuck, so I was mashing genres and mechanics in my head to try to spark something. I remember turning to the guys and saying “Peggle RPG” and it just clicked. We had a flurry of ideas and filled out the foundations for what became Roundguard that night. In the next week or two, we had a quick prototype of the Rogue bouncing around on a few pegs with the Double Jump skill and we knew we were onto something.
The original idea was more of a classic Arcade RPG structure like Puzzle Quest or Grindstone with set challenges for you to complete and move through in a campaign. But we quickly transitioned to a roguelike with a randomized dungeon and the classic one life per run structure. We’d all been playing a lot of great roguelikes around that time — FTL, Darkest Dungeon, Enter the Gungeon. Bob and I had just recently had a kid, and it really changed how I played games. I love epic RPGs and strategy games, but I just didn’t have the time anymore. I fell in love with roguelikes because I could get a lot of fun out of a short play session, and when I finally found the time to sit down and play again a week or two later, it wasn’t like I was picking back up in the middle of a complicated story line or mess of inventory I’d already forgotten about — I could start fresh.
Procedural design was intimidating, but also an inspiring challenge – designing systems that could create new combinations every time. We were talking about it a lot and exploring what it would mean to Roundguard, but the final push for us was after about three months of work when we brought our first playable prototype to a local Seattle game dev show & tell. The MegaCrit guys were there showing off their progress on Slay the Spire, and we all played their demo. The hook was immediate and it was so cool that we each had a different experience to tell each other about. We came back inspired and Roundguard was a roguelike ever since.
Shacknews: I have to say, it can be tough to let go of a character after making it deep into the dungeons with them. Have you thought about adding a version where you could continue or would that go against the roguelike code of conduct?
Roberts: Haha! We’re sworn to uphold the sacred roguelike code of conduct! But seriously, I get that permadeath is not for everyone. I like to think of Roundguard in the same tradition of classic arcade games like Tetris – it’s less about getting to the “end” of the game and more about that relaxing flow state you get into as you challenge yourself to get a little farther and score a little higher every time.
Each time through our randomized dungeons feels a little different, and along the way you’re hopefully learning new things about monster behaviors and your hero’s skills that will help you do even better on your next attempt. I really like that feeling of personal learning and mastery. But as we’re planning out new content for the game, we’re definitely thinking about ways to make the game more satisfying for a broader range of players. We appreciate the feedback!
Shacknews: This whole game was done by a three-person team? It’s pretty impressive.
Roberts: Thank you! Wonderbelly Games is just the three of us and we made all of the game content ourselves. We worked with the Quantum Astrophysicists Guild to help us port the game to consoles and Apple platforms. In our team, I focus on the design, art, and writing; my husband Bob Roberts does design, audio, and implementation; and our good friend Kurt Loidl is our engineering expert. It can be crazy getting it all done, but I love working on a small team with a couple of my favorite people in the world.
Shacknews: What was the process of bringing Roundguard to Apple Arcade like?
Roberts: We had already been working on the game for PC and consoles, but we had a lot of folks tell us they wanted Roundguard on their phone, so we knew Apple Arcade was going to be a perfect fit. The gameplay was already fairly developed at that point, so we spent most of the time in the last several months working on nailing touch controls and making sure everything was smooth and legible on the phone. Working with Apple Arcade also meant that we had enough funding for Bob to quit his job and come work full time on the game with me, which was a dream come true for us.
Shacknews: Do you have plans for any upcoming updates or special in-game events?
Roberts: Absolutely! We just released a patch to fix a few touch issues and other bugs, and now we’re moving back to new content. We’re planning on more monsters, relics, and boards and a new challenge mode in the next few months, and a new hero class later this year!
TJ Denzer is a player with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. When he’s not handing out beatdowns in the latest fighting games, exploring video game history, or playing through RPGs with his partner, he’s searching for new food and drinks in the constant pursuit of good times with good people inside and outside the South Texas area. You can also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.
Tencent is determined to have more of an impact on gaming outside of China, and not just by pouring money into existing studios. Reutersreports that Tencent Holdings has created a new California studio, LightSpeed LA, that will develop and publish “AAA” (read: blockbuster) titles. The team will be led by former Rockstar Games studio manager Steve Martin and will have alumni from both Rockstar as well as 2K Games, Insomniac and Sony.
The Grand Theft Auto veteran didn’t outline what LightSpeed would work on, but joined the wave of companies hoping to end crunch time with promises of a “stress-free work environment.”
There’s not much mystery behind the strategy. Tencent want half its gaming revenue to come from beyond China, and that means developing games suited to wider audiences like its upcoming Pokémon Unite battler. The new studio won’t end concerns that Tencent is becoming a dominant force in gaming outside of China (it owns Riot Games and has a minority stake in Epic Games), but it could show what the tech giant is capable of with a US team made from scratch.
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We’re past the halfway mark in 2020 and we’ve already seen some great VR games release this year. But what else is coming between now and the end of the year? Let’s take a look at upcoming VR games for the rest of 2020.
Some recent announcements have elevated what was looking like a rather quiet H2 2020 to an exciting few months. We’ll be taking off in X-Wings and making Dreams come true.
At long last, Media Molecule’s fantastic creation tool is ready to add VR support. Dreams is essentially a development engine unto itself, letting players make their own games and share them online. The brief tease we’ve seen of VR support so far is hugely exciting. This will arrive as a free update to owners of the base game.
The much-anticipated Oculus Quest port of Onward is very nearly here. The ever-popular military simulation shooter makes its way to the standalone headset with all the same features including, multiplayer, single-player and cooperative modes as well as, crucially, cross-play with PC VR players. If this port is up to snuff, expect Onward on Quest to be one of the biggest upcoming VR games for 2020.
Solaris: Offworld Combat (Rift, Quest) – August (PSVR in 2020)
The makers of Firewall: Zero Hour return with a new multiplayer VR shooter that trades Rainbow Six for Unreal Tournament. Solaris offers 4 v 4 battles in which players sprint and slide across maps, picking up new weapons and finding the high ground. Given the developer’s past experience, we’re hoping for a top-quality VR shooter here.
Star Wars: Squadrons (PSVR, PC VR) – October 2nd
We’ve been lucky enough to have lived out several Star Wars dreams in VR already, but Star Wars: Squadrons seems to have struck a particular chord with the fanbase. The chance to jump into the cockpit of an X-Wing or TIE Fighter in VR makes us a little weak at the knees. Fortunately, we’ll be seated for its online multiplayer battles and single-player campaign, though. This is probably the most anticipated of the upcoming VR games in 2020.
Medal of Honor: Above And Beyond (Rift) – 2020
Respawn Entertainment is one of the game’s industry’s best developers, which gives you more than enough reason to be excited for Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond. Add in that this Oculus exclusive sees the developer return to a series it helped established as Infinity Ward, plus the promise of an expansive campaign and multiplayer support, and you have one of the most promising games of 2020.
Lone Echo 2 (Rift) – 2020
Lone Echo’s sequel has been a long time coming, but we’re hoping it finally enters orbit in the second half of this year. It’s high time we checked in on Liv and Jack after the first space odyssey’s dramatic cliffhanger and, now that Ready at Dawn is owned by Facebook itself, we wouldn’t expect this Oculus exclusive to hold back.
The Walking Dead: Onslaught (PSVR, PC VR) – 2020
The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners may have stolen hearts and minds on PC VR and PSVR platforms already, but we’re just as excited for VR veteran Survios’ take on the zombie franchise. Aimed at the TV show instead of the comics, Onslaught delivers a full campaign with iconic characters including none other than Darryl Dixon, voiced by Norman Reedus himself. Definitely keep this on your radar for upcoming VR games 2020.
Blankos Block Party is a colorful and intriguing-looking MMO party game of sorts that features a unique setup. The premise is that this game takes place in a world where vinyl toys come to life and have their own lives when humans aren’t looking.
As part of GameSpot’s gaming celebration Play For All, we caught up with Mythical Games chief creative officer Jamie Jackson who told us all about this imaginative project. In the video, Jackson talks about numerous aspects of the game, including its robust-looking level-editor that allows players to create basically anything they can imagine.
Basically, Blankos Block Party seems to combine the free-flowing gameplay of titles like Fortnite and Roblox with the aesthetic charm of a Funko Pop vinyl toy come to life. A beta test for the game launches later this year, so keep checking back with GameSpot for more!