Interview: Footgun Underground Takes Inspiration From Ball Combat Of Peglin & Backpack Hero

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Footgun Underground - via Turtle Knight Games

If you are seeking a Roguelike game with a unique twist, then you must check out Footgun: Underground. It is a Roguelike that meets Football mechanics in a unique setting that is impossible to resist. You must navigate through the deadly challenges in randomly generated rooms while kicking the ball to beat up anything that hurdles your progression. 

This experience is further enhanced with the availability of different arcade-style pixel-designed characters and balls that will aid you in progressing throughout the game. With the game releasing next week, we interviewed Eduard Dobermann, the Game Director of Footgun: Underground, to learn more about the development cycle and what more to expect from the final game. 

Eduard Dobermann
Eduard Dobermann, The Game Director At Turtle Knight Games.

Introduce yourself and tell us about your work on Footgun: Underground.

Eduard: I am the founder of Turtle Knight Games and wear several hats there, primarily as a Game Director and Programmer. The whole project began as a typical solo dev project, which I aimed to complete in a few months. However, this didn’t happen. After half a year of work, I secured some small funding, which allowed me to assemble a fantastic team.

Our artist replaced all of my original art with his exceptional skills, and we added a ton of new content over the next 8-to-9 months. Additionally, an awesome Sound Designer joined us in the final months, and I am truly impressed by the significant impact that well-placed good sounds can have.

First looks on the Footgun: Underground looks amazing, and we just can't wait to try it out. It brings me to this question of how the idea of combining Action-Roguelike with Soccer originated in such a unique setting that it turned out to be highly action-packed.

Eduard: I was looking to develop a roguelike for a new project and was intrigued by the idea of using an alternative combat mechanic. Games like Peglin and Backpack Hero inspired me to think outside the box. I recalled seeing ball combat in a game, which then fused with a roguelike concept in my mind to create a great game idea.

So, I decided to give it a try. I knew I needed enclosed spaces to implement a decent ball combat mechanic effectively. A typical dungeon felt too boring, as did normal building rooms, and caves also seemed off. After a brainstorming session with my wife, she suggested this setting. It resonated with me, and I stuck with it.

Footgun Underground - via Turtle Knight Games
Footgun Underground – via Turtle Knight Games

Also, how did you develop this unique character concept, and what role does the protagonist's backstory play in the gameplay experience?

Eduard: From the beginning, it was clear that the game would not have a real story. I wanted to focus on the game mechanics and make them enjoyable. However, developing the character was an ongoing process. I started with a somewhat human-like character because I wanted him to have visible legs.

Initially, the head was not as important to me, so the early version had only a 4×4-sized head. To give him a more interesting silhouette, I added some curvy hair. To somehow explain why he can use his abilities, I gave him a cyborg leg.

Could you walk us through the process of designing the randomly generated track network and the variety of biotopes in the game? How do these environments contribute to the overall player experience and challenge?

Eduard: Once it was established that we would have rooms, I didn’t want actual travel between them because I needed to manage the balls during transitions. It was clear to me that I should use path stage selection. The different stage types were just a common feature in that mechanic.

After the boss battles, I wanted to introduce new enemies, so biotopes seemed like a good way to make this interesting. We designed each biotope around the enemies, ensuring that enemies utilize all room space in each biotope.

We began every time with an idea for one enemy and then determined what type of enemy was needed to occupy the rest of the room space. We also aimed to create enemies with different mechanics to challenge the player in various ways. Additionally, each biotope has its own hazards to make some stages more challenging.

Footgun Underground - via Turtle Knight Games
Footgun Underground – via Turtle Knight Games

The upgrade system in Footgun: Underground relies on stackable chips. How do these upgrades enhance the player's abilities, and what was the thought process behind implementing this system?

Eduard: I was inspired by the item upgrade system in Brotatos. I liked this idea because it forces you to manage your inventory space, and it’s fun to merge items. There are mobile games centered solely around this mechanic.

For the upgrade mechanic, I wanted to give the player as much freedom as possible. This led me to the concept of equippable balls, making each ball unique through different configurations.

It seems like the game will offer a strong challenge for both Roguelike players and beginners. How did you approach balancing the difficulty curve to maintain player engagement and motivation despite the inherent challenge of roguelike gameplay?

Eduard: Balancing is a challenging aspect. I hope we have achieved a good level of difficulty. However, what makes the ball combat mechanic interesting is that you can progress through the game even without precise aiming skills.

You can rely on luck to accidentally hit enemies. I designed the items with this in mind. You can opt for a chaotic item build where your balls do unpredictable things, or you can choose a precision-focused build that rewards good aiming skills.

meticulously designed pixelated world
Footgun Underground – via Turtle Knight Games

What were the major challenges involved in the development of Footgun: Underground?

Eduard: One challenge was creating the inventory UI system, which needed to be controllable with both a mouse and a controller. This difficulty was probably due to a lack of experience in that area.

However, aside from that, the whole development process consists of a series of smaller challenges, so you get used to it over time.

How long has Footgun: Underground been in development, and could you provide insight into the size of the development team currently working on the game?

Eduard: The game has been in development for around 16 months. I worked on it alone for the first 6 months, and now we have a team of 5-8 people, depending on whether you include internships and freelancers. However, I am the only one working full-time on this project.

Footgun Underground - via Turtle Knight Games
Footgun Underground – via Turtle Knight Games

How has the response to Footgun: Underground’s demo been so far? Did it help in enhancing the gameplay and visuals for the final planned release?

Eduard: The overall response has been very positive. I’ve barely seen any negative feedback. The demo featured only a small part of the game, not even a fifth of the full game. So, we added a significant amount of content and tried to improve as much as we could with our resources.

Anything else you would like to share with the readers? Anything related to what to look forward to and what you think players will love the most playing Footgun: Underground?

Eduard: I think the feeling of playing is great. Initially, hitting randomly feels good. But once you master the mechanics, it becomes truly fantastic to control the balls exactly the way you want to.

Footgun: Underground is an upcoming Dungeon-Crawler Action-Roguelike under development by Turtle Knight Games. The game is set to release on April 30, 2024 for PC. 

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