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Dungeonmans Developer Interview

Posted on 7/9/2013 by with 0 comments


As we recently did a review on Dungeonmans we reached out to Adventurepro Games LLC to get some more information and we were welcomed by the following interview with founder Jim Shepard.
Jim has an interesting career in the gaming industry and we couldn’t be more happy when he decided to share it with us at Beer and Joysticks, so lets jump right in to our interview.

Would you please tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m a Gameplay Programmer with 9+ years in the AAA space who is now working independently to make the awesome monster crushing experience I’ve always wanted to play.

Over the course of my career I’ve been fortunate to work at a number of high-profile studios and make lots of friends along the way. My first project was Quake 4 at Raven Software, shipped back in 2005 in sunny Madison, WI. Since then I’ve worked at Surreal Software in Seattle, Gearbox Software in Dallas, Armature Studio in Austin, and finally Bioware Austin where I helped develop Star Wars: The Old Republic.

I’m an avid video gamer, but also a career Dungeon Master, having slung dice and run games at tables across the country for a myriad of friends. I play games as much as possible and I do my best to just enjoy them as any player would, because I feel like I gain the most that way. It’s relaxing and it helps me come up with new ideas. I tell bad jokes and have been known to make some of the most egregious displays of sandwich.

How you got in the game industry?

 I graduated in September 2003 from Full Sail University in Central Florida. It took a few months but I landed at Raven in Madison, WI. Quite a shocker– I grew up in Ft. Lauderdale and had known nothing but Florida sun my whole life. When I first visited Madison it was late winter, and the trees were all dead. I was terrified, the only time you saw so many dead trees back home was either after a hurricane or another brush fire.

When and where was Adventurepro Games formed?

Adventurepro Games is the business entity I’m using as I work independently. There’s one person in the company, and I’m only working on one game right now. I do like adventures and wanted to have a name that was unique but still simple. That, and all the good names of engine parts have been taken.

How long has Dungeonmans been in development?

Dungeonmans began as a side project right around the launch of XNA in 2007. I’ve always loved roguelikes and I wanted an extra avenue in which to learn and grow. Sometimes when work gets the most hectic there’s not really the time to branch out and experiment, you have to get the job done. Dungeonmans was a chance to be silly and do my own thing.

In late ‘09 up to spring 2010, Dungeonmans was helped along by some friends of mine who liked the idea and wanted to have fun making something small on the side. We had a couple of game jam weekends and they were glorious. This is while I was at Gearbox. I received tremendous art support, and lots of the art work is still in the game. I had a couple of friends write some code as well– one of them shored up the Input system, and another built a really robust method for making traps.

All of this together led to a Summer 2010 release of a fun little monster crusher. I wanted to carry it further, but really the time wasn’t right. Fast forward to 2012, where I got to ride the post launch SWTOR layoff boat all the way to the shores of funemployment. I hadn’t touched Dungeonmans in a while (EA is very particular about that!) and eventually came to the decision that resurrecting the game and polishing it to where I could present it to the public was the right thing to do.

What programing language, tools, and software did you use to make Dungeonmans?

Dungeonmans is written in C# and built on top of the XNA Libraries. I’ve been using Visual Studio 2010. My second most used tool is Notepad++, an amazing tool for working in plain text. Can’t function without it. For art, the primary artist behind this version of dmans (Bobby Frye) works in Photoshop. I use Paint.Net. It works for me, especially when dealing with small-scale pixel art.

What was your inspiration for making this Dungeonmans?

I’m inspired, quite often, by the other excellent roguelikes out there. Crawl, ToME, ADOM, DoomRL, Weird Worlds, Elona– Elona, such a crazy game! Castle of the Winds is a classic favorite and I always smile when I hear people say that Dungeonmans reminds them of that game, because it made me so happy.

Really with Dungeonmans I wanted to create the ability to roll an interesting world full of monsters and loot at the push of a button. It was kind of selfish really. I would just play with the overworld maker and run around seeing where forests just happened to line up correctly against rivers or mountain ranges, and I’d think about what you’d find there in Ye Olde Monster Crushing Expedition.

The game’s flavor is pretty light-hearted, but I’m such a fan of old pulp fantasy, all of Robert E. Howard’s Conan yarns, and I wanted to sprinkle some of that in there as well. I can’t write like he does, but I try to sell the same feeling of being but one man (or lady!) against an unknowable evil, slithering from the darkest places of the earth, or even worse, calling noiselessly from beyond the stars. Take that sort of fantasy and mix it in with a healthy dose of Hackmaster / Knights of the Dinner Table and you have a pretty solid Dungeonmans recipe.

We see that you have you game listed on Steam’s GreenLight how has the community over there taking the game so far? We know that they can be very objective and downright brutal on Indie games.

Dungeonmans on Greenlight isn’t performing as I’d hoped. There’s been plenty of good feedback, as well as some pointed and sometimes hilarious knocks against the game. It’s ok. Part of the mistake was moving to Greenlight too early, and not having something awesome and playable ready to go. The mistakes I made there were training for the Kickstarter, which has been going much better. In fact, since the Kickstarter, Dungeonmans has started to edge back up on Greenlight and the numbers are slowly beginning to come around. Having something fun and playable goes a long way.

Do you have any advice for people planning to make an Indie Game?

The same advice I’d give to anyone who wants to make any games, of any size: don’t forget what it’s like to be a player. Play lots of games, and play them for fun. Do your best to turn off your instinct to critique everything. You hear a lot of people who will do anything they can to look super smart about game design, picking flaws and being totally academic. It’s a mistake we all make when we’re young. Look past the flaws and find the things you like. 

What’s next for Adventurepro Games any other games in the works?

Dungeonmans is the focus right now. There’s always ideas, but the present and the future now are about seeing the Kickstarter succeed and Dungeonmans take off. If things don’t work out, I hear they’re hiring over at the deli counter.

We would like thank Jim Shepard for taking the time for this interview and we wish the best for him and his company Aventurepro Games LLC. You can learn more about Dungeonmans and Aventurepro Games Here

Please also go vote for  Dungeonmans on the Steam Greenlight page Here

We have also put up our review of the game Dungeonmans  Here

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