You could probably be forgiven for reacting with “… what?” if you haven’t heard of Boyfriend Dungeon yet. For me, I was sold as soon as I heard the title, and when I approached the booth at PAX West – littered with rose petals, t-shirts reading “sword smoocher,” and a life-size cutout – I knew I had made an excellent decision. If you want to read about my experience with the demo, you can find my PAX West write-up here!
In short, Boyfriend Dungeon is a charming blend of RPG dungeon crawler and dating sim. The game is built on the premise that your weapons transform into lovable people whom you can take on dates and pursue relationships with, quite literally leveling up your love. Along with a quirky premise, Boyfriend Dungeon also comes outfitted with adorable details like bubble tea health potions, texts from a loving mom, and a platonic cat friend. With all of Boyfriend Dungeon’s incentives met, excited backers have managed to unlock a grand total of nine weapons with varying combat styles, including male, female, and nonbinary options. Even better, Boyfriend Dungeon is all-inclusive – players choose their pronouns, and aren’t locked out of any relationships.
At the PAX West booth, I got a great chance to chat with Victoria Tran, the community manager for Kitfox Games. As someone still fairly new to the indie game scene, I’ve loved the energy and passion so many game developers have, and Victoria seemed so excited about the game, that I couldn’t help but be excited too. After checking out the demo and convincing a few friends to join me in backing the Kickstarter, we realized that we wanted to know more about this unique-looking game and the people behind it.
Thankfully, creative director Tanya X Short was willing to answer some questions!
Boyfriend Dungeon is built on an amazing and kind of unique premise. How did you wind up with this idea? What led to the finished concept?
Thanks! I’ve loved RPGs and especially RPGs with dating or relationship elements since forever.. but usually they make me play a guy, and restrict me to only dating the girls… so I wanted a romantic RPG with more Tanya-friendly options available. And then once we started working on it, we realized that swords are really an adventurer’s best friend. They’re SO MUCH MORE reliable than human companions! So it seemed perfect to make your love transform into your weapon.
You’ve given us a really inclusive game that lets us be whoever we want to be and date whoever we want to date! Why the title “Boyfriend Dungeon” specifically?
People seem to like it. We tried coming up with something that rolled off the tongue as easily and we gave up. Everyone wants to know more about Boyfriend Dungeon. It has a certain magic appeal to it. And we do have more male weapons than any other gender!
Ramsey Kharroubi, better known as Marskye, and Madeleine McQueen bring a unique 16-bit inspired synth-pop soundtrack to your game. How did you scout such talent? How has it been working with them?
I really loved the music in GNOG, and I met Marskye at one of the GNOG-related events (as well as the GNOG audio designer, Omar Dabbous, who we’re also working with). For each game, I try to find audio designers that have the right spirit and excitement for the feel we’re going for. I adored the tracks FX Bilodeau wrote for The Shrouded Isle, and he made an excellent album, but his style wouldn’t fit the happy-summer-pop-synth sound we wanted for Boyfriend Dungeon. We have to treat each project differently, depending on its goals.
Boyfriend Dungeon has reached incentive after incentive, and is at nearly four times as much pledged as the original goal! This is your second wildly successful Kickstarter game, the first being Moon Hunters. Did Moon Hunters teach you anything about crowd funding for this project?
Thanks! We’re pretty happy. We did a lot of studying before launching either campaign, but it was harder the second time around… the popular opinion of Kickstarter seemed to be that it was “dead” or “dying” or “over”… but our intuition told us we should try anyway. I’m glad we did! And I think our experience made it smoother. Of course, we still made a few mistakes. Always gotta keep learning!
Has Boyfriend Dungeon always been a 2.5d isometric dungeon crawler? Or did it have a previous incarnation that looked nothing like this?
Um! Huh? As far as I know, this is what it’s always been! But if you have different information than I do, I’d love to see it!
Dating sims often feature some lovely artwork, but Boyfriend Dungeon really sets itself apart visually. What inspired the art-style, and the blend of digital and traditional aesthetics?
Our artist Xin Ran Liu is amazing! You can see him try on different styles from Shattered Planet, then Moon Hunters, and now Boyfriend Dungeon. For BFD we wanted a softer, more welcoming style that communicates “a romance fantasy”, but it needed to accommodate modern locations and ‘feel’ like Southern California. So he experimented with color palettes and styles, eventually bringing in heavier line-art to the characters, which were originally more painterly. Lines gave them a crisp appeal. The art for the dunj is much more constrained by the action gameplay, so we have to always playtest every small tweak to the characters, to make sure the combat is still fun.
You can see plenty of inspiration from games like Persona and even Disgaea’s Item world to a lesser extent in the premise. What has been your model for molding the dunj and overworld gameplay?
We struggled with ‘tall cool’ characters in Moon Hunters due to the way isometric combat works — it’s not always clear whether you’re going to hit someone or swing behind them, if the character is taller. So rounder characters work better, and it is great for Boyfriend Dungeon since it lets us make the main character a little chubby, a little cute, and then we also try to pick enemy designs that work well in that setting. You could say we’ve learned a lot from both Shattered Planet and Moon Hunters, when we started hitting the ground running making this game.
How does the dunj grow or change as we continue diving in? Is this the only dungeon of the game? What kind of surprises can we look forward to as we delve deeper in the full game?
We’ve announced that there’s at least 3 dunj types, but we’re still figuring out the details of that, so… other than saying that our final stretch goal is “more dunj secrets”, I don’t want to give anything away yet!
Approximately how many hours is the campaign? In our conversation at PAX West, it was mentioned that the player can date as many or few characters as they want – does this change the amount of time a player will have to put in?
Obviously dating 3 people takes more time and effort than dating 1 person… but we’re not sure exactly how much more. We don’t want the game to get overly repetitive, so we’ll have to balance things to make sure it’s always interesting, until the very end… somehow.
It’s really refreshing to see more inclusive dating sims. Of course, we already know we’re free to choose gender and pronouns. How customizable is the player character overall?
We’re planning a little character creator feature, with skin and hair separate from pronoun and clothes. But we’re still in the middle of figuring out how clothes work exactly haha, so check back with me in a few months!
Quite a bit left to do between now and Fall 2019. Any surprises in store for your eagerly waiting Bachelor/Bachelorettes?
I’ll do my best not to spoil everything before then! It’s just so exciting, it’s hard not to tweet about everything the team is working on. But I’ll try. I promise. Surprises are important.
And of course, I just have to ask – who’s your favourite weapon?
Right now it’s Glaive… I’m writing their dates and they’re just so cute and snuggly and impressionable, I love them! But my favorite changes every week, as I work on different characters. I’m verrrrrry excited to start working on Rowan soon… and Leah… and POCKET! What’s more fun than just writing chill hangouts with cats??!? Ugh it’s impossible to have a favorite. Sorry!
Sadly, if you haven’t gotten a chance to back the Kickstarter yet, it has (very successfully!) come to a close. The good news though? Boyfriend Dungeon will be making its way to us in fall of 2019. And with every incentive reached, it’s promising to be even bigger and better than expected. For those of you who love dating sims and quirky RPGs, this is definitely one to keep an eye on!
Learn more about Boyfriend Dungeon here!