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!
Roundguard has launched on Apple Arcade, where players can play it on iOS, macOS, and tvOS, but it’s also available on PC on Steam, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. To learn more about the game, be sure to check out the Wonderbelly Games website.