Desktop Dungeons has made South African developers QCF Design R9 million so far

Digital money

Danny Day is the founder of QCF Design, a Cape Town-based game studio that developed and released Desktop Dungeons.

A three-man team, consisting of Rodain Joubert, Marc Luck, and Day did much of the original development on Desktop Dungeons, with Joubert producing the initial concept and alpha in Game Maker.

As development progressed, QCF hired artists and brought on more collaborators to polish the game.

Day is outspoken, and as studio head of QCF he has a lot of insight to offer on game development and gaming in general.

In this interview we caught up with him, asked about QCF’s immediate plans, and asked him to weigh in on downloadable content (DLC) and in-app purchases (IAP).

QCF Design team

The early QCF Design team from left to right: Danny Day, Marc Luck and Rodain Joubert.

What are you working on right now?

Supporting Desktop Dungeons, working on potential localisations for the game, and lining up future promotions, sales and bundles.

Working on some prototypes, there’s a darkly Jane Austen-themed boardgame about marrying your children off so you don’t starve that’s doing well.

Also sorting out a vehicle to be able to run Kickstarters in future.

Do you make enough money to keep making games for the foreseeable future?


How much have you made from Desktop Dungeons to date?

Desktop Dungeons has earned about R9 million since it launched in 2013.

Are you hiring?

Not currently, no. Although I’m always looking for skilled collaborators. Just please, no more cold emails from audio people, I know you’re looking for jobs, but come on.

What skills are you looking for in a new employee?

If someone doesn’t have games that show me those skills, I’m generally not interested.

It doesn’t have to be a completed game, but if you’re not making games, why should anyone pick you over the other people in SA with game portfolios ready to go?

Outside of the technical and creative skills needed to do the job, which skills should someone aiming to be a game developer master?

Communication, empathy, attention and most importantly, the ability to handle feedback and criticism.

The internet is never not going to criticise the hell out of anything you make, in my experience trying to work with people that can’t handle criticism makes turning feedback into useful progress impossible.

Desktop Dungeons wins Excellence in Design at IGF 2011

Desktop Dungeons wins Excellence in Design at IGF 2011

How do you feel about downloadable content (DLC), in-app purchases, and in-game currency you can buy with real money?

Those are all functional technologies, so I’m pretty neutral about them, even though they seem to be automatic “bad words” to say around gamers.

The things people are upset about aren’t things like DLC or in-app purchases per-se, they’re upset about them when they’re used poorly, or in predatory ways.

The way to combat those poor uses is to understand why and how they happen, so that it’s possible to send strong messages about specific instances and why they’re unacceptable.

As an example, day–1 DLC isn’t necessarily predatory — that’s a great way for an AAA studio to deal with platform-mandated QA and production delays before a launch.

That studio gets to stay productive in the gap between producing a final master build and the launch date, when they’d typically be spun up for post-launch support anyway. You get more of a game you enjoy — if you enjoy it, because DLC is optional.

And you get to enjoy the differences of distribution systems: Digital delivery of DLC means you can get it much faster, people seem to forget that expansion disks used to be shipped to stores and you’d wait months for them.

Yes, some day-1 DLC is exploitative, like when you have 53 different DLC “exclusives” because platforms and distributors all wanted to carve out their own chunk of a game’s market. But complain about the specifics of the situation after you understand it, don’t demonise all DLC.

Demonising all DLC means you don’t get patch releases, and you want patching to continue… The truth about patching isn’t that “studios are lazy now”, on average more is being spent on QA and testing than ever before (in both dollar value and percentage of budget) because games are so complex now.

They’re also releasing into much more complex hardware and software environments.

If a platform you’re on updates a driver or other low-level system (yes, consoles do that now) 2 weeks before your game launches, you literally can’t change the code that’s already on disks. If that update breaks something, what can you do?

That becomes more and more likely as complexity increases in the system. In the past you’d be sure as a developer that your target hardware was going to be stable for years, sometimes decades.

In-app purchases (IAP) and real money currencies work great if they fit a game well and aren’t used to fleece people.

When people defend all IAP interactions by only raising the good examples of LoL/DOTA2/CS/etc, you need to know enough to be able to call them on it and say, “Yeah, those are ethically implemented ones, it’s these predatory ones in the latest Clash of PuzzleStorm and Unicorns that are crap — stop that.”

I will tell you that as a developer IAPs do start looking attractive when you watch stuff you’ve put 20% or more of your lifetime into making getting pirated by people who don’t really seem to care anyway.

Everything is a response, so know what you’re responding to instead of just blindly getting angry at stuff.

Danny Day

Danny Day

Which is your favourite platform to develop for?

Depends on the game, really. Each platform is fun in different ways: It feels super cool to put something on a console, but the actual release of a game is horrible.

PC is frictionless all around until you get to supporting everyone else’s different setups. And don’t even talk about Linux. Just, no.

Mobile is great fun just handing people your game and watching intuitive controls do their magic, but trying to earn a living there is crazy hard.

Board and card games are great because you can iterate so fast, but playtesting is a mission and a half (also, anybody know how to release a boardgame globally? Gimme a call!).

Building games is fun if you enjoy watching people play what you’re building, that often doesn’t depend on a platform. Plus, things switch around: Xbox used to be more approachable than PS, that’s changed now (at least, in indie circles).

Although if you get a bunch of devs with multi-platform experience together, there will be a lot of complaining about the really bad tools out there you sometimes get forced to use…

I guess if someone were to ask what the easiest platform is to start on, I’d say PC.

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Desktop Dungeons has made South African developers QCF Design R9 million so far

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