Q. Hi Phi, So what is TinyKeep?
A. TinyKeep is a dungeon escaping game with roguelike elements such as randomly generated dungeons and permadeath. We think the unique selling point of the game is the intelligent enemies, we wanted to make our monsters work together to hunt you down, run away from threats and even fight each other. So many games in this genre have really boring monsters and we wanted to get away from that!
Q. What inspired you to create TinyKeep?
A. Obviously classic roguelikes such as Rogue (haha) but also the more modern interpretations like Brogue, Spelunky, Rogue Legacy and Risk of Rain. But if you look back long enough I think the board game Hero Quest was probably my first inspiration for creating video games! If you look at screenshots of TinyKeep and compare them to the dungeons in Hero Quest, you might see some similarities 😉
Q. So who is working on TinyKeep?
A. It’s mostly just me in my bedroom working full time on this since we got Kickstarter funded, hence Phigames 😛 But I also have a handful of friends helping out: Ben Jones our writer and ideas guy, Jey Kazi with the sound design and Will Bedford the composer of our amazing soundtrack. You can find out more about them on the website, but basically there’s 8 of us working on and off on the game, and we’re located all over the place (Matthias our artist is from Germany, but I’ve never actually met the guy in person!)
Q. If you had to pick a single aspect of Tinykeep as your favorite what would it be?
A. I absolutely love Matthias’ hand painted low poly graphics, there’s a certain charm to that kind of art style. I also love Will’s soundtrack, I really have a thing for good music in games. But my most favourite thing of all about TinyKeep is the unpredictability of monsters and the situations you might find them in. The AI is constantly adapting, so you often end up with really surprising situations and stories. For example, in one playthrough I decided to release a fellow prisoner from his makeshift wooden cell, but instead of being grateful he attempts to attack me in his crazed delirium. The noise attracted some nearby prison guards, who come rushing into the room. They accidentally knock over an oil torch which sets fire to the entire area. The next few seconds were absolutely mayhem and chaos so I decide to sneak out and let guards and escaped prisoners sort out themselves amongst the burning furniture. It’s stuff like this that makes every time you play completely different, and it’s what I enjoy most about the game.
Q. What was the largest challenge in making Tinykeep?
A. Time! That’s gotta be the single biggest challenge of the entire development cycle. There’s about 4 months left to release now and I’ve got a ton of content still to add. It’s very stressful, but I guess I wouldn’t have it any other way as I’m one of those people who loves being on constant crunch time. Can’t be good for my health or social life though!
Q. Will you continue to develop for TinyKeep after you release the game?
A. It obviously depends on how sales go once the game is out on Steam, but I’d love to release future level packs to add to the variety of environments and monsters.
Q. If you had unlimited time and money what would you want to add to TinyKeep?
A. Definitely local (and perhaps online) co-op. It would be amazing escaping with another prisoner and figuring out together how to lure monsters into traps.
Q. What was the main reason you partnered with Digital Tribe games?
A. They were able to pitch the game to Steam directly and get us onto the store under Digital Tribe. Greenlight is another stress inducing process and a risk I didn’t want to take, so our publisher helped us out a lot there. They also managed to get us into a number of expos this year where we showed the game for the first time to the public and press.
Q. Would you suggest other indie devs to partner with publishers?
A. It depends. I wanted to go with a publisher for my first “large” game as it would let me focus on the things I do best, which is actually developing the game. If I ever end up with a stable income and a network of contacts then I think my reliance on publishers would be a great deal less. However saying that, it is always helpful to have someone on board with marketing power and that’s another thing that publishers are great at.
Q. Would you suggest indie devs to turn to crowd funding sites?
A. I loved running my Kickstarter campaign and the buzz surrounding it that month. And of course without crowdfunding I would never have been able to even get this project to the stage it is now, at least not in the same timescale. I was able to quit my job and focus 100% on my game, which is pretty much the indie dream. However, there are downsides – all Kickstarter projects must have a deadline, and also you’re constantly being watched by your hundreds (and in some cases thousands) of backers. If at any point you make the decision to change some aspect of the game, there will always be someone out there who will disagree with your ideas and will voice it quite strongly, and in rare cases even demand a refund. Obviously you can’t please everyone, but it is another level of pressure to think about. If you can handle it – go for the crowdfunding, just remember that the hardest part is not actually getting the money, its finishing the project afterwards!
Q. I know its a bit early but any ideas for games you will make after TinyKeep?
A. I have tons of ideas for future games, enough to last a lifetime of development! I don’t want to be known in my career as “that guy who makes dungeon games”, so I’d love to work on some totally different projects such as a 2D platformer or a 3D space combat game. I just love making games – and if you really want to see the kind of stuff I’m potentially working on have a look at my website http://phidinh.com, I’m constantly posting up new ideas and prototypes on there.
Q. What is currently your favorite game? No you can’t say TinyKeep 😛
A. I’ve started playing Cave Story again, on my Open Pandora handheld. Absolutely love the game and would love to make a similar metroidvania one day!
Q. Anything you would like to add?
A. If you love the idea of escaping a dungeon crammed full of intelligent enemies, traps and surprising situations, give TinyKeep a look! It’ll be released on Steam for PC, Mac and Linux this September under Digital Tribe Games.