Simon Boxer + Twice Different
Based in Melbourne, Australia
Early Access: Q2 2020
PC / Mac on Steam
Roguelike flavour, card game pacing. Dungeon crawl, chaos embracing. Shadows cast a truth to see, in darkness you can visit me.
Ring of Pain is a creepy cryptic roguelike card game, in a world distorted by your mind.
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.
- Dungeon crawl in a card game, no walking required! No empty tiles, and nowhere to hide.
- Each card’s an encounter, each turn a decision with 2 to 4 choices, test your intuition.
- 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
I set out to create an accessible roguelike dungeon crawler, with a non-explicit narrative about falling victim to your own mind and trying to grow, learn, and heal.
Like turn-based Binding of Isaac in the darkest corner of your mind.
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 the main innovation being the card format. Cards are mostly displayed in a ring (though other arrangements are being tested). Where a standard dungeon crawler requires you to walk around, all navigation in Ring of Pain is done automatically.
I want the game to be difficult through the choices and situations you’re presented with, not because it needs keen reflexes.
Persistence favoured, grit desired. Patience is good, but not required.
Early access content
The game is still in development, and has a lot of content still on the way. Early Access is a means for us to build the game together with the community, to see what players are interested in.
For Early Access launch, content intended is:
- 150+ items to uncover (and many mimics to meet)
- 3 game environments, each introducing new creature sets
- 15+ core path levels with many side rooms and mysterious encounters
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.
Darkness favours cunning few, stare too long and be consumed.
Other rhymes which might be useful
- Shadows cast a truth to see, in darkness you can visit me.
- Roguelike flavour, card game pacing. Randomised, chaos embracing.
- Facing perils, dungeons random. Roguelike flavour, card game tandem.
- The in between, the harsher states. Between your breath a solace waits.
- A body lost to worlds between. Calm forever, mind serene.
The .zip contains all images and logos below:
Logos and Icon
Ring of Pain credits
Art, game design, code, writing
Sound design and implementation – freelancer
Music and sountrack – freelancer
Code – freelancer
Additional writing – freelancer
firstname.lastname@example.org@sboxle on Twitter