Boss Fight Entertainment, the Dallas-based studio comprised of developers who made Age of Empires, Halo Wars, Rise of Nations and CastleVille, is venturing into a space that few Western developers have gone before: The casual role-playing game.
Its forthcoming title, Dungeon Boss, distills the dungeon-crawling, boss fighting and team building elements of traditional RPGs into an accessible mobile experience. The aim, according to Boss Fight's chief creative officer Bill Jackson, is to bring the collectible RPG to a mainstream audience, allowing players to dive in quickly to raid dungeons and fight bosses.
"A lot of people talk about casual gamers wanting to get deeper, but I actually think it's more about the gamers out there who want all kinds of experiences," Jackson said. "We didn't see a game that was exactly like this, so that was part of the appeal."
"Keep things simple on the surface. Apply the depth below."
Dungeon Boss can be experienced on different levels, which is what its developers intended. Jackson told Polygon the studio wanted to make a game that rewarded players who invested more time into it. Players can fly through the levels without giving much thought to their strategy, and Jackson admits that there will be players who just like the feeling of casting spells and using weapons. But those who choose to invest more time into figuring out character combinations, elemental affinities and which teams will cause the most damage will be rewarded with greater loot drops and more success against enemy characters.
"The real depth comes in when you start building a team that can work together," Jackson said. "For example, if you use a Hero like a Knight to taunt enemies, all the enemies focus their attacks on him, which would normally put him at great risk. However, if you build a team with a defensive Hero like the Shaman, they can caste a shield on the Knight to protect him against damage.
"This strategy would negate the incoming attacks and allow you to get the upper hand against powerful enemies."
Players can also choose characters based on their elemental affinities, which will give them certain advantages in battle. A Light character will do more damage against Dark characters, for example.
Jackson told Polygon the development team learned to balance the game's accessibility and depth from working on titles like Age of Empires. According to Jackson, one of the reasons Age of Empires was successful was because it allowed casual players to enter and build a town without engaging in combat. Players could enjoy the experience of putting something together. If they wanted to engage further and conquer other territories, they could do that, but it wasn't mandatory.
"That is a lesson we didn't take lightly, and not one we've forgotten," he said. "So generally you have many types of players come to a game, and they have many different experiences they're looking for. It's a balancing act.
"So our goal is to keep things simple on the surface. Apply the depth below."