Exclusive Interview: Coffee Powered Machine Talks Okhlos, A Rogue-lite Riot Simulator

Okhlos boss fight

I’ve always thought that it must be hard to balance the difficulty in rogue-lite titles. Okhlos successfully avoids the “so easy you can whiz through” and “too hard to progress” pitfalls. Were there any problems finding that sweet spot?

SG: Yes, it is difficult indeed to balance a rogue-lite. And we did struggle quite a bit with the subject. The major problem we found, I think, was that at a certain point, after having played the game hundreds and hundreds of times, we lost perspective of how hard the game could be to newcomers. We were focusing on the endgame, finding ways to make the game more and more challenging when we realized that the game had become fiendishly difficult. At that point, we started working on readjusting the difficulty curve, put together a series of playtesting sessions, and got some feedback from our friends at Devolver. Thanks to all that, we got back on track.

I really enjoyed reading your developer blog online. How important do you think it is to give your community regular updates?

SG: Thanks! So glad you enjoyed it! We’ve learned that it is quite important to give regular updates. When we first started we were enthusiastic about it, we were posting every week without exception, trying to think what kind of updates people might find interesting. We were quite pumped up.

However, as months and years went by, we started to get the feeling that we had got to a point where we were talking to an audience that wasn’t there, that we were wasting our time. So we starting lagging with the updates. And at that moment we started getting messages, or reading comments, like ‘Where is the new update?’ or ‘When are you going to post about X?’ and that’s when we realized that we didn’t have to give up and that. Even at times when it seems that there is no one there, it is important to keep sending updates to the community.

RR: I just want to add the mental image that we had at that time. At some point we were doing an update a week, and it is a really good tool, because writing about your development is introspective and helps you to take some distance and analyze things. But at that time we felt that doing a dev blog was like shouting in an empty room. We thought that nobody was listening. Gladly, we were wrong. PSA: if you are a developer, even if you don’t see the immediate benefits of your blog, don’t stop writing.

Part way through development, you managed to join forces with Devolver Digital. Did this have a big impact on Okhlos’ development process?

SG: It did and it didn’t. It did in the sense that them taking care of PR, promo, localization, dealing with storefronts, and a thousand things more allowed us to focus on the development. It also opened our eyes to a lot of new things like this that we were not even aware of. And it was great to have their support and help on whatever we needed. It was good to know they have our backs. But, at the same time, it didn’t change the development process as we still had complete freedom to do whatever we wanted with the game. They never pressured us with any deadlines. They never tried to push any feature. We could ask for their feedback, and it was always insightful, but it was as if we were still developing the game on our own.