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GDC 2014: Designing Rogue Legacy for Cheap

JAlbor March 18, 2014 User blog:JAlbor
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Rogue Legacy
Rogue Legacy, the surprise 2013 hit that softened the brutal punishment of traditional roguelikes, managed to reach completion with a relatively tiny budget of just $14,878. Teddy and Kenny Lee, brothers and lead designers on the game, were accustomed to small, cheap game production. All their previous games, including the genius Don't Shit Your Pants, cost a mere $1,000 per game.

To maintain such tight pockets the tiny development team built Rogue Legacy like a DIY soapbox car, building only the tools and features they absolutely needed. While, say, their level editor will not prove useful for their next game, the individualized builder let them create and playtest puzzle rooms in as little as fifteen minutes. They also applied the benefits of specialization within their team, allowing each expert on the team to make the final call regarding their contributions to the game.

Despite -- or perhaps because of -- their limited scope and budget, the team managed to build upon and polish Rogue Legacy. The addition of upgrades, which in many ways defines Rogue Legacy, saw numerous minute improvements well into development, including a fine-tuning of cost changes that subtly encourage more diverse character customization among players. They also adjusted enemy scaling and navigation (they had originally planned to have six distinct areas instead of four) to fit the player experience closer to their one minute lifespan target.

After selling a whopping 100,000 copies in the first week of release, making the studio entirely self-sustainable, would the Lee brothers still design so frugally? "Probably," they declared.

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