Dungeons & Dating – An interview with Boyfriend Dungeon creator Tanya X. Short

Posted on May 11, 2020

Boyfriend Dungeon, the upcoming dungeon-crawler meets dating-sim title from Kitfox Games, has been garnering interest around the globe ahead of its release. In the game, your character gets a summer job clearing a dungeon in a place called Verona Beach. During your work hours, you meet people who can turn into weapons to help you on your dungeon quests. As it happens, you can romance each one of your weapons too, and they turn into interesting characters, including male, female, and non-binary ones.

Developed by a small team based in Montreal, the label is known both for titles they’ve developed in-house like Moonhunters and Boyfriend Dungeon, as well as games they’ve published like Six Ages and Dwarf Fortress. Kitfox Games has quickly made a name for itself by creating and publishing games that are inclusive and capture players’ imaginations. They started developing Boyfriend Dungeon further after successfully funding it on Kickstarter, which showed there was a definite audience for the game’s unusual genre mashup.

We recently got to see more of the game during LudoNarraCon 2020 and got a chance to ask director and designer Tanya X. Short some more questions about Boyfriend Dungeon.

What’s the plot of Boyfriend Dungeon and what kind of game is it? What can people expect in terms of gameplay? Tell us more!

“Boyfriend Dungeon is part dating sim (spend time with friendly-weapons-who-may-become-lovers, make dialogue choices) and part dungeoncrawler (fight monsters, get treasure, level up). You fly to Verona Beach to take advantage of your cousin’s briefly rent-free apartment and get a summer job confronting your fears in the ‘dunj’… with the help of friendly weapon-people you meet along the way.”

What inspired you to make a game like Boyfriend Dungeon? Did you look to any other titles for inspiration?

“I’ve always loved RPGs, and I’ve enjoyed various dating sims, but ever since I was quite young, I often felt excluded from the ones I could play. I always felt like I had to pretend I was a guy, and I was limited in only dating the girls… so I wanted us to make something I wished I could play. I’d prefer to leave my inspirations in the eye of the beholder.”

When you originally started working on Boyfriend Dungeon, were you making a prototype for a dungeon crawler (that later turned into a dating sim), or a dating sim (that then turned into a dungeon crawler)? Which one came first? It’s such an usual mashup of genres that I’m keen to know more!

“Neither came first! The concept was originally about mixing both types of gameplay… the idea of dating your weapon came a bit later, as I was trying to figure out how to get your date into the dunj!”

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Boyfriend Dungeon includes so many romance options and diverse characters, which is great! How did you make sure each character was represented in an authentic way? Do you have a team of diverse writers, or sensitivity readers?

“Thanks! We have a relatively diverse team in terms of genders and sexualities, and their feedback is invaluable of course, but the writing team is mostly just me (a mostly-straight woman), so we have leaned on a couple of sensitivity readers. I’m sure we’ll still make some mistakes, and they’re totally our fault when we do, but when they’re discovered I hope people will help us learn kindly, rather than… the way the internet usually handles these things.”

Since each character in Boyfriend Dungeon is also a weapon, how did this translate into different weapon and game mechanics?

“It depends on the weapon, but our main goal was variety, so that each weapon would feel meaningfully different from one another, to use and grow with, as you learned how to use them most effectively and unlocked their upgrades. The weapons will also talk to you throughout the dunj, commenting on things you find or situations you get yourself into, whether it’s to be encouraging and cheerful or cold and analytical or something else entirely, so that’s another way for their personalities to shine through.”

“I always felt like I had to pretend I was a guy, and I was limited in only dating the girls… so I wanted us to make something I wished I could play.”

Your game was funded on Kickstarter – how did this influence your creation process? Did it give you/more less freedom? If so, how?

“It mostly gave us more confidence, that we should keep investing in this silly game idea! Before the success of the Kickstarter, we might have wanted to cut its scope a bit and not take so many risks… but I’m glad we gave ourselves permission to take a bit more freedom and make it the best it can be”

The game is set to release on Steam when it’s ready. Are you planning to release it on other platforms as well?

“We’ve already announced Nintendo Switch as well, but we don’t have any other platforms announced at the moment.”

Where can people find out more about Boyfriend Dungeon and/or Kitfox Games?

“The best way is to sign up to our newsletter, or wishlist Boyfriend Dungeon on Steam. If you’re keen to know more about our titles, all our Steam games are listed on our Kitfox Games page.”