I got the chance to talk to Saam Pahlavan to discuss his studios first release Looty Dungeon. The new studio (Taco Illuminati) was formed to launch the game after the team had worked together on separate projects and decided to make something bigger.
It’s both an exciting and nerve wracking experience to break out into the Indy market with a new studio. So we decided to get the big scoop and pick his brain to unravel the story behind the development of Looty Dungeon.
First we want to know about you. What have you worked on, what do you do and your sort of back story on how you got into games?
I'm Saam Pahlavan and I make games. I've worked on a couple of MMOs (Pirate101 and Arcane Legends) as a designer. In terms of indie games I was the main Level Designer on 'Disorder'. I also make a bunch of my own stuff which you can check out at saampahlavan.com.
I've been playing games since I was a kid, I started out on an NES, but mainly remember playing a ton of Super Mario 64 and a bunch of other stuff. I didn't get into developing games till I decided to attend an art school in Savannah, GA and study game development. I started making my own games around my sophomore year and haven't stopped ever since.
We also would like to know more about your team. Who are they, how many people do you have and how did they get there? Whats the story that got you guys together?
Our studio is called Taco Illuminati. It consists of me, Jacob Sawyer, and Damon Chandler. We're all based out of Austin and I've made games separately with Jake and Damon multiple times.
The first time we made a game together was for a game jam featuring the HTC Vive, it was pretty rad to check out the new VR tech and we made a game called 'Vivezilla' where you basically get to act like Godzilla destroying a city in front of you with janky physics.
Jake and I had been working on our current title "Looty Dungeon" for a while then once it got more serious we decided to form a studio and got Damon to join us.
What is Looty Dungeon? Can you tell us about the core gameplay elements, art direction and the overall development experience?
Looty Dungeon is a endless, randomly-generated, semi-rogue-like dungeon crawler. In simplified terms it's Crossy Road meets a dungeon crawler. You swipe to move and fight monsters and grab loot. The core experience is dodging traps, fighting bosses / enemies, and unlocking new heroes, all with different abilities.
In terms of art direction we're going for a minimalistic voxel look. I try to keep the characters somewhat abstract, but relateable enough that you can tell what they are. The development experience has been pretty good, once we got Damon aboard we could really tackle more of our gameplay issues while Jake focused more on the UI and UX.
We run into hitches every now and then with Unity and developing for mobile, but that's kind of how game dev goes. One moment it's smooth sailing and the next you have no idea why your characters aren't rendering when they play an animation.
What were some of the challenges you faced during development? How has the platform you chose affected game development?
Right now we're mostly dealing with making the user experience really good. We've got most of our features added and we're at that last 10% of development which is always a struggle.
In terms of the platform we really had to refine our controls and interactions. Mobile games don't really have a common language and you have to make your game accessible enough for anyone to grab onto quickly. Also we have to make sure to optimize the game and make sure the UI works with most mobile devices.
Whats next for you guys, are you planning on pursuing anything else in the future?
Looty Dungeon isn't done yet! So we're mostly keeping our heads down and focusing on that. We'll definitely be adding updates to it after launch.
As for what's after 'Looty Dungeon', I'm not sure. We'll mostly likely make another mobile game with a bit of a smaller scope.
We bit off a little more than we could chew with Looty Dungeon, but I think it'll be a great debut game for us.