Simon Boxer + Twice Different
Based in Melbourne, Australia
Roguelike flavour, card game pacing. Dungeon crawl, chaos embracing. Shadows cast a truth to see, in darkness you can visit me.
Ring of Pain’s a creepy card dungeon crawler, where levels are dealt from cards and arranged in a ring. As you interact with cards the level dynamically adjusts based on your actions.
Strategise and adapt to a world distorted by fear and delusion. Delve as deep as you can to discover its secrets, with help from a motherly creature known only as Owl.
Early 2018, Ring of Pain started as the solo project of Simon Boxer.
After 10+ years as a professional concept artist, it’s the first commercial project he’s programmed.
With the support of Film Victoria, Simon’s hired a small team of freelancers to help bring it to life. Mid 2019, the game was exhibited at Gamescom, where it was scouted and signed by Humble. This allowed Simon to employ not only himself, but a team of 4 others plus a few contractors who continue to develop Ring of Pain.
- Dungeon crawl in a card game, no walking required! No empty tiles, and nowhere to hide.
- Accessible gameplay, a challenge distilled. Hard due to choice, not mechanical skill.
- Move through the Ring interacting or sneaking. When fighting is futile, it’s stealth you are seeking.
- Strategy comes with inventory limits. What you can hold is a means to inhibit. Mix and match items within confines, of item types and slots defined.
- Cooperative mimics, with hunger for souls. Acquaint you with power if you pay their tolls.
- Cryptic writing, often in rhyme. A story of fears, obsession, decline. Exploring the line of imagined, distorted. Real then forgotten? Maybe contorted.
- Illusion depicted, aesthetic created. Bold colour accents, a style elevated.
- Belinda Coomes’ music is thrilling, immersive. All brooding and chilling, the horror coercive.
- Damion Sheppard’s soundscape will evoke, a threatening darkness, all crafted bespoke.
Press story angles / ideas
1. How aphantasia inspired a game’s art
The idea of a “mind’s eye” is really fascinating – Simon first learned about aphantasia through a writeup he shared, not realising how it’d impact a good friend. “I thought ‘picture this’ was just a metaphor”
It sparked a big discussion trying to understand what we each see (or don’t see) in our mind. How we make sense of the world.
Simon’s mental images aren’t particularly vivid but he can visualise imagery – faded, blurry, detail popping in and out.
The art direction for Ring of Pain draws largely on trying to depict a memory being recalled. It’s not quite all there. It’s raw and graphic with colour accents lining the edges.
Exploring the line of imagined, distorted.
Real then forgotten? Maybe contorted.
2. When you’re scared, what is real?
The game is about perception, the story explores how your mental state can project onto the world. Distorting it in alarming ways, making everything feel more hostile… and maybe it is? But how do you trust?.. And who?
3. Going from artist to developer
Simon was a professional concept artist for 10+ years, with art in games including Counterstrike: GO, DOTA 2, and Armello.
Learning to code was more accessible than imagined, but really catalysed by friends and peers willing to answer questions. We live in an age where knowledge is super accessible and some people are very generous with their time. Simon would post questions on Facebook or reach out to people, and get lengthy responses from well-respected indie peers. Sometimes people he’d never met. People who’ve made millions from their games!
Still rings true that the more you know, the more you realise you don’t know much at all. After a year of solo dev Simon had a working closed beta, and used this to get people excited and bring on a few freelancers.
More about Ring of Pain
Designing the gameplay
Highly replayable with short-ish play sessions: 20min – 50min for a single playthrough (if you can make it to the end!).
In a world of Pain, death is your teacher.
For a game with puzzle-like mechanics, we strongly believe in creating moments of insight, so the player can get the satisfaction of problem solving themselves.
This ties into the way we’ve structured the game – to facilitate discovery. As you progress through the mysterious unknown, there will be times where you get crushed. Sometimes survival is more important than dominance, and in our world, attacking everything around you is a fast track to failure.
You will get crushed, but each failure brings knowledge. As you learn about the world you’ll understand how to use it against itself.
The level progression is always forwards, diving deeper until you reach endings determined by your final choices.
The mechanics are inspired by a number of other games, with our biggest innovation being the card dungeon format. Where a standard dungeon crawler requires you to walk around, we wondered what a dungeon crawler would be like without any empty tiles or hallways… What if each encounter came to you?
We’ve designed the game to be difficult through the choices and situations you’re presented with, not because it needs keen reflexes. The game’s intentionally designed to be accessible by distilling the actions into 2-6 choices at any one given time, and doing the maths for the player.
We show the outcomes of each possible action, so you can focus on the important part: making decisions.
Persistence favoured, grit desired. Patience is good, but not required.
We look forward to supporting Ring of Pain for as long as possible, building new features and gameplay alongside the community is something we feel very passionately about.
Launch content includes:
- 16 Core path dungeons plus 2 branching endings to test your final build.
- 2 Hard mode items to unlock for those who thrive on pain.
- A Daily Dungeon mode to unlock with 25+ puzzling modifiers.
- 25+ Special dungeons to detour through, filled with loot and strange encounters.
- 4 Environment regions with their own flavour of terror.
- 180+ items to unlock and combine in a 15 slot inventory.
- 40+ Creatures to learn and adapt to. Some friendly, some fierce…
- Responsive turn-based mechanics so you can play swiftly or strategically.
- Cryptic, poetic lore delivered in bite sized rhymes.
- A raw graphic art style inspired by Aphantasia.
- Immersive audio and an Original Soundtrack
- Cute frog friends.
Narrative and characters
Frail and fragile, bear the curse. Through the ruins you traverse.
You start the game in the nest of a creepy yellow bird who calls itself Owl, a scavenger who’s rescued you from the Shadow. The Owl takes care of you, guides you, and warns you of the Shadow, who you first meet in the form of an ominous abstraction which speaks in cryptic rhyme…
The game creates a sense of mystery, with opt-in lore for players who want it, and those not interested in talking to characters can ignore them or choose other paths.
The .zip contains the images and logos below:
Logos and Icon
Ring of Pain credits
Creative direction, art, game design, writing, additional code
Game design, additional code
Sound and audio implementation
Music and soundtrack
firstname.lastname@example.org@sboxle on Twitter