The Cloning Of Desktop Dungeons

The Cloning Of Desktop Dungeons

Whether played out on a battlefield or in a backyard, a dispute always has two stories. This article concerns a story about QCF Design, a three-man development team in South Africa, and one about Lazy Peon, a one-man outfit in San Francisco. It's about a game called Desktop Dungeons that's not yet on sale, and a copy of it called League Of Epic Heroes available worldwide on Apple's App Store. Most of all, it's about sharing an idea as opposed to copying one.

Whether played out on a battlefield or in a backyard, a dispute always has two stories. This article concerns a story about QCF Design, a three-man development team in South Africa, and one about Lazy Peon, a one-man outfit in San Francisco. It's about a game called Desktop Dungeons that's not yet on sale, and a copy of it called League Of Epic Heroes available worldwide on Apple's App Store. Most of all, it's about sharing an idea as opposed to copying one.

“I began Desktop Dungeons in January 2010,” says QCF's Rodain Joubert, “shortly after reading a game design manifesto by Edmund McMillen – it was a fusion of reading that and playing an incredible amount of Rogue-likes, which I used as the basis for a Rogue that could be played in very short sessions. After about a week I had a basic early version.” Danny Day and Mark Luck, now Joubert's two colleagues, were then part of the community offering feedback. “We had a budget to invest after a couple of years of development,” says Luck, “so I approached Rodain and said, 'Do you want to do this?' And he got on board.”

In its clever twist on the Rogue-like, QCF Design (which laudably takes its name from 'Quarter Circle Forward') introduced a fresh and intricate system which makes exploration the key resource and condenses the genre's fundamentals – levelling, randomness – into ten-minute games. The game was released in playable form almost immediately, and stayed that way: over the next months its growing community offered feedback as well as editing an open wiki exploring its complexities. The final version, incorporating about a year's full development alongside community testing, would be the paid-for product. By November 2010 Desktop Dungeons' final form was taking shape, and its profile was growing – not least thanks to two 2011 IGF nominations.


QCF Design's Desktop Dungeons

Eric Farraro is softly spoken, polite and reasonable. Initially a hobbyist, making games for practice and job applications, Farraro released his first Flash game, Puzzle Defense, in 2009: “That introduced me to the idea of games people would pay money for. The sponsorship I got for that was around $1500, so I took from that a motivating factor – you can make games people want to pay for.” Farraro develops under the too-perfect title Lazy Peon, and was part of the early community playing Desktop Dungeons.

“I forget exactly when, but it was pretty close to when it first released. And the thing I noticed was that it was a turn-based game, and, as QCF said, this 'ten-minute experience'. This struck me as an interesting thing for a mobile game, and that's when I started.” DD was prototyped in January 2010, Farraro began work on LOEH in “February or March”.

Over the next eight months, QCF remained oblivious to the existence of League of Epic Heroes. Farraro announced LOEH in mid-October 2010 on a Touch Arcade forum thread, and was upfront about its source in the first post: “To give credit where credit is due, League is based on the core gameplay of Desktop Dungeons.”

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