Romain de Waubert & Jean-Maxime Moris Interview: Endless Dungeon

Upcoming game Endless Dungeon is the latest title set in the Endless universe, and a spiritual successor to Dungeon of the Endless. Part tower defense, part rougelite, the game places its heroes on an abandoned space station where they must protect a precious crystal from waves of monsters. There’s an emphasis on teamwork in Endless Dungeon, letting players work together to defend their base with different heroes that each possess unique moves based on their class. Although the preview version of the game only includes a handful of characters, creatures, and areas, the final version will have 8 heroes, 4 families of enemies, and 10 different environments.


Endless Dungeon centers largely around two elements: exploration, and defense of a crystal through turrets and other upgradeable technology. Players work their way through randomly generated rooms of an abandoned space station as they attempt to find a way out. The crystal supplies power and is necessary for player survival – if it’s destroyed, it’s game over. As players continue to explore, they must safely move it from room to room to make it to the exit. The concept of resource management also plays a role in Endless Dungeonas things like food and research – which can be made from generators located in different rooms – must be collected to regain health and advance defense technology.

Related: Roguelike vs. Roguelite: What’s the Difference?

Studio Head and Chief Creative Officer Romain de Waubert and Creative Director Jean-Maxime Moris sat down with Screen Rant to discuss Endless Dungeon‘s difficulty, design, and what players can expect from the final product.

Obviously, you guys have some experience with a roguelite tower defense game because of Dungeon of the Endless in 2014. But your studio mostly has a focus on 4X titles. Jean, you also did a lot of work on story games like Life is Strange. I’m very curious about that transition into such a different genre. What was that like for each of you?

Romain de Waubert: It is interesting, because for Jean-Max and I, it’s always to meet in the middle between the story and game systems. It’s our daily life. 

For my side, I felt it was quite natural. Simply because when we created Amplitude, we were big fans of strategy as a whole, and we did identify 4X as being one place where we felt most disappointed by the games we were playing in 2010. We wanted to raise the bar with a bigger focus on art immersion, and to be able to develop these games with the community. That was our main idea. 4X is a genre we love, but it is definitely not the only genre we love in strategy.

Actually, the idea of working on the old Dungeon of the Endless was inspired by a dragon knight. We had a few drinks with people in the office and were discussing the games were playing, and we wanted to explain the link between Endless Space and Endless Legend – which was the other game we were creating. We thought it would be nice to find a cool little way to explain to our players what the links were. 

That’s a really weird brainstorm, but we has these ideas of having a team crashing on that new planet, and when you crash you just realize you’re in a dungeon. You try to do something the other way around from the previous dungeon crawlers; you’re not trying to get in, but you have to get out. And as you have to get out, you have to defend all the rooms from the previous inhabitants. In a way, you are defending the dungeon against all the critters living in it, and yet finding a way to escape. We loved that idea, and we always looked at it as being a roguelite but also a tactical strategic game with all that. 

We developed it at the same time as Endless Legend, so it was a bit crazy. When you have one game to finish, it’s hell – but when we have two games to finish at the same time? I don’t know what it is, but it’s definitely insane. It was great, and we did learn a lot. I think we could say we learned with all the games, obviously, we make. But working on that one specifically, because it was real-time in some aspects, and yet different from our 4X. But I think the feel is definitely close, and a lot of our players easily moved from our 4X games to Dungeon of the Endless. This is really what we are looking forward to with the new genre. 

Jean-Maxime Moris: Well, thank you for digging into my past. [Laughs] 

Life is Strange was definitely a key release. Before that I did Remember Me, and in between Dontnod and Amplitude, I also that work at IO Interactive, on the new Hitman. I was a game director, and worked especially on the breadcrumb signature kills that award you opportunities. I’m only saying that because that also relates to narrative, and in many ways, Hitman is actually played a little like a roguelite, where you do a run and try to accomplish this or that objective. 

I’ve always been interested by all genres of games, although I don’t necessarily play them all a lot, because there’s only 24 hours in a day. But it’s been really fantastic for me to come onto this production with my knowledge and know-how, in terms of setting up situations, character choices, and breadcrumbing certain stuff. The first time I really worked with procedural elements was when I joined Amplitude, with the procedurally-generated maps of Endless Space 2 and Humankind. 

Now I’m going into the roguelite genre with the core team that did Dungeon of the Endless, so we’re building atop what’s come before. To be able to add my own touch to that and work with the team to really come up with the best possible experience has been really, really amazing. I hope you feel that it’s in the finished product.

I read that there were a lot of things you had wanted to put into Dungeon of the Endless, but it simply wasn’t feasible for one reason or the other. Can you talk about what some of those aspects were and how you’ve implemented them into Endless Dungeon?

Romain de Waubert: For Dungeon of the Endless, we had a full list of things we were going to do, obviously – and it was just meant to be a fun little game to explain the reasons. We originally wanted to make it for free; just a free experience specifically for the players. Then we fell in love with the game, and we decided to invest ourselves a bit more in it. And that’s why it finally became a full-fledged game. So, there definitely were a lot of elements we wanted to do. 

But I think, in the end, we had to make coherent choices for the first one. I think what was key in the first one was that it was a top-down game, where you could not exactly tell your team where to go. It was about a room-based system, and sometimes as a player – and I wasn’t the only one – I could be frustrated by not being able to really position my team efficiently. You felt like it was not always right.

That’s why when we looked into Endless Dungeon, which is mostly a spiritual successor and not a follow-up, we had the opportunity to look at the white page and work on these elements. Actually, we arrived at that result through another big decision – and the big decision was multiplayer. Multiplayer is something we added quite late on Dungeon of the Endless, following votes from the players. It was way harder than we expected, and it took us much more time. It made it very hard to port, because we did it really quickly. 

And we nearly forgot about it until we met with our players – sometimes years later at conventions and meetings – and most of the time, they were speaking not really about the 4X games, but always speaking about the multiplayer game in Dungeon of the Endless. All these crazy moments they had where all these monsters wiped them out, and how that happened. They always had plenty more stories and funnier stories than anyone else. Based on that, we thought, “There’s something happening there, so we should really focus on the multiplayer.” 

By focusing on multiplayer, we also decided to focus on giving more [options]. If I have to use only one player, I have to make it interesting, with maybe better control, a bit of change of camera, and controls in real time. A lot of the decisions that we took to make it a very different game – a spiritual successor, but not a follow-up – were based on that desire to put multiplayer at the center of it. The whole game was really thought up with multiplayer in mind. So, there are decisions that are basically linked to things that we wanted to do previously, but could not do because they did not make a lot of sense. That’s mostly linked to multiplayer being at the center of the game.

One really big recurring theme that I noticed is the game’s difficulty. Some previewers weren’t even able to finish a run in the time that they had with the game. Why did you want to make this level of challenge a key component of the game?

Jean-Maxime Moris: To be completely honest, this was also our way of tuning it for the first contact with the press. We know they’d rather play a game that’s a bit too hard than one that is too easy. [Laughs] Challenge is definitely part of the DNA of Endless Dungeon and of Dungeon of the Endless before it. But we’re still in the process of tuning it, so when the game releases, your first contact with it won’t be as punishing as it was in this demo. But it will grow more and more punishing. 

That being said, in the meta progression, you basically unlock various stands in the game’s hub saloon. One of those stands is the bartender’s bar, and you can buy mocktails that give you this or that buff for the run. But there can also be a trade-off between a good thing and a bad thing that you have to carry with you. What I’m coming at is the fact that we’re going to use those to artificially reduce or enhance the difficulty. So, the way a player can influence that level is by unlocking new stuff in the meta. And, of course, the ones that make things easier will be unlocked rather early.

The progression, in terms of following roguelite style, is more horizontal than vertical. You’re getting these things that help make things easier, but you’re not able to make your characters super-overpowered like in other titles.

Jean-Maxime Moris: Yes, it is a fine line between the rogue-like and the roguelite. I would still consider ourselves a roguelite, but we do err on the side of horizontal progression. What that means is that, instead of making you grow more and more powerful with each run, we’re gonna give you new tools and new things that you can play around with. You can combine them and try them out during your run. 

Also, those upgrades and those consumables are going to have a number of slots that determine how many of them you can carry in each run – and that’s also going to grow. That in itself makes you a bit more powerful, but the key is always choice and quality, rather than quantity and doubling your health gauge after 10 runs. To us, that’s not the spirit of roguelite.

Romaine, you’ve been vocal about your love of mods, do you see a future of modding with Endless Dungeon? Will the back end be designed with modders in mind, or will that come later?

Romain de Waubert: That could come later. We had such a focus on innovating the game, so we did not want to put modding at the center. It would have taken our attention a bit too far away from the game. But I love it, because we always learn from our player. 

I do have to admit that I would love to do more on the modding side of the game. So, it will come later, but it will not be the key focus. It’s the first time that we will ship a game like that one, as you’ve seen, on the pad first and coming on the PC. We’ve announced some cool stuff to do with it. It’s a lot of challenges for us, and it’s one at a time.

Yes, it will come later, depending also on what the community wants to do with it. It is a tricky one, but I would love to say yes right away.

Endless Dungeon gameplay.

In terms of what the future holds for Endless Dungeon, I believe players saw three characters that were playable in the preview. Do you have a set number in mind?

Jean-Maxime Moris: There will be eight playable heroes at release. That’s all I can say.

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Going back to having a strong story and balancing that with the other elements, the characters in the game right now all have a backstory and specific interests. What was the inspiration process like for making these out-of-this-world characters?

Jean-Maxime Moris: One of the pillars of the creative vision for Endless Dungeon was a galactic Western or space Western. We started out by writing all the archetypes that we could think of in the Western realm on the board. Zed is the gunslinger, Bunker is the sheriff, and Blaze is the artificer. Those are the first three, and then all of them have that link to the Western world. It isn’t necessarily crystal clear, because it needs to be subtle. But that was the inspiration. 

And then Jeffrey Spock, our Narrative Director, took that and, with the help of his team, they came up with these backgrounds that will be very unique. We do want our characters to be vibrant and colorful. They will all have a very singular backstory to them, and you can already see that in our three hero reveal videos so far. You get to learn even more about them by fulfilling their quests. Each of those individual heroes have a quest that needs to be completed to to unveil even more about who they are, so I think it’s gonna be fun to piece together all the bios of those heroes.

Do the special moves that they have tie into who they are as well?

Jean-Maxime Moris: Yes, definitely. Although those are very much on the fence between the lore and the gameplay needs. But some of those also relate to some of their more singular quirks. Zed is a metalhead, so when she does her special, it’s like a guitar riff that blazes through the crowd. But then when Bunker hunkers down, then she has her alarm ringing and is really putting up defenses. 

It’s a far away Western vibe, right? It’s not something you can touch that’s immediately there, but that’s what good space Westerns are. And you can find that inspiration very much in the soundtrack, because we went for that kind of noir feeling with the guitar riff that come on top of our composer’s synth tracks. We also have a collaboration with singer Lera Lynn, who did the music for True Detective season 2. She’s a New Folk Americana singer, and we had a lot of fun talking about the themes that we wanted to explore. She came up with tracks.

In the build, I made it so she wasn’t there, because the sound guys had put all the songs in. I said, “No, I want to keep some for release. Keep people wanting more.” I think that’s going to be amazing when, in between two runs, you get a cocktail or mocktail and go listen to Lera sing.

This game’s art and design is so different from Dungeon of the Endless, in terms of its really unique and cartoon-ish style. You’ve also mentioned that there’s going to be four families of enemy types, and I think ten different environments. How did the aesthetic design process progress to this point? When you were designing these enemies and environments, what themes were you going for?

Jean-Maxime Moris: The cartoon aesthetic is something that is going to be very much buffed up in the coming weeks and months. I wanted an American comic book feeling, so when there’s a special or big smash of a weapon or whatever, we have an onomatopoeia. There’s big stacks of letters on the floor, and the UI is going to very much also going to enhance the way the action reads. One of my references for that was Persona with the critical hits.

In terms of the themes, one key theme was the space Western bit. Another one is the off-the-wall tone that we want to have with this game. And the rest is the Endless Universe, really. Endless Universe is what flows through everything that we, and it’s been the driving force behind every project at Amplitude except Humankind. All the monsters, and the raison d’être of the station, its story – everything ties back into the lore of the Endless Universe. We make sure that our fans are really happy from day one, but we also make it accessible for newcomers. 

We have an amazing team of artists and, despite COVID restrictions, there’s been an amazing momentum in that team. They’ve managed to produce ten different environments in a roguelite, which is huge. You only go through four during a run, because you choose at each floor which one you want to go through. But still, it is pretty amazing. 

We’re always keeping in mind the space Western, the off-the-wall tone, and the Endless Universe. And we’re coming up with creatures that make sense within the universe, but that are the most fun we can have, because it is a dungeon. We have a lot more to show and to play around with.

Is there anything else that you want readers to know about Endless Dungeon specifically?

Jean-Maxime Moris: This game, much like Dungeon of the Endless in its own time, is still very innovative in terms of the genres it blends. And it is exhilarating to be working on this kind of game, but also terrifying. So, we’re working hard at making sure that all these crazy ideas blend together. I really cross my fingers and hope that everyone gets it, and that as many people as possible get to enjoy it.

At this point, there is no real timeline for the game. Am I correct in that?

Jean-Maxime Moris: There is one, but we are not talking about it today. [Laughs]

Next: History of the Roguelike, from Rogue to Hades

Endless Dungeon will release for Xbox consoles, Playstation consoles, Nintendo Switch, and PC via Steam. Player’s can sign up for the game’s OpenDev version now on the game’s official website.

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