Boyfriend Dungeon takes the intimate bond between a warrior and their weapon and expands on it in heartwarming ways.
Your weapon, a constant ally in many a dungeon crawler, can become someone a little bit more as players can talk with, date, and grow close to personified versions of their weapons, exploring that connection the two form as they deal with danger together.
Indie Games Plus spoke with Tanya X. Short, Lead Designer of Boyfriend Dungeon, to learn more about delving into those connections, how they worked to create some dreamy weapons for players to grow closer to, and what is it about these weapon characters that makes players want to connect with them.
Boyfriend Dungeon lets dungeon-crawling heroes date their weaponry. What drew you to explore this connection between a warrior and their weapon? To do so with so much possible intimacy?
Tanya X. Short, Lead Designer of Boyfriend Dungeon – It was primarily the proximity and the reliability of the relationship between RPG heroes and their weapons. We’d started working on a more inclusive dating-dungeoncrawler, but it wasn’t until I started planning out the dungeon features (equipment, etc) that I realized… no matter who you have in your party, your SWORD is always there for you. And then when I told my team about my idea, they laughed a lot, and then I told them I was serious. They were on board pretty quickly.
In Boyfriend Dungeon, the weapons are living, breathing people. What thoughts go into turning a weapon into a person? What do you draw from a weapon to design the looks of the person they will become?
Short – Oh, we design characters both from human into weapon and vice versa. For example, I decided early on we HAD to have a K-pop idol in the game, but didn’t initially know what kind of weapon he should be. But I also knew I wanted an elegant, sophisticated man to match a fencing weapon (which became Isaac the Épée). And for Hammer (who we probably recently funded in a stretch goal, by the time this was posted!) it can be a matter of personality – I wanted someone who was blunt and forceful, but also beautiful…
Likewise, what aspects of the weapon inform the personality of the person it becomes? What makes the personality feel right when a scythe shifts into a character?
Short – It’s mostly intuitive! I mean, I guess if I were going to be exact about it, I should have a spreadsheet of personality traits and habits and such but… all that really matters is that they’re each likable, and different from each other (physically & emotionally), and that their plot arc as you get to know them feels different… and that’s something that can’t really be scored and balanced. Even if you know a scythe should probably be “darker” in tone, you can’t give +3 points to, I don’t know, vocabulary usage or intellect or whatever. Each character needs their own voice. I’m glad I have Jill Murray, Christine Love, and Meg Jayanth involved in the project – they’re all going to help (or are already helping) make sure the writing and plotting and pacing is of high quality.
What do you feel is key in creating a character that players will wish to connect to on some level? What do you feel is important to make characters players would wish to be emotionally close to? How did you apply this to weapons that are also people?
Short – We were really happy when we added the texting feature to the game. It helps add a more modern human touch to the relationships, and gives a more day-to-day window into each character. What emoji do they use? Do they use acronyms and slang? But texting or going to the dungeon or going on a date are all different ways to express the same core ‘voice’ I mentioned before.
For me to start writing a character, I need to understand what they like and what they don’t… and something they’re struggling with. Usually that means they’re based on different fragments of people I’ve known. Someone’s taste profile tells you a lot about them – what’s important to them, and what kinds of things they pay attention to…but it isn’t until you know what trouble they’re going through in their lives that you can really fall for someone. If someone isn’t struggling, if they’re just perfectly content and whole and complete without you, without ambition or regret or anxiety, they don’t feel real. You don’t know how to fit into their story.
I don’t think I could fall in love with someone like that, no matter how much I might admire them. Every strength is a flaw, in the wrong context. I guess what I’m saying is that I want the player to feel stronger with their lover around supporting, and for the lover to also seem stronger with the player’s support… and I guess that’s how it works with weapons, too!?