Why Dome Keeper So Good?

“Dome Keeper” began as a small game jam project and gained popularity among indie gamers. Why is it getting bigger and bigger every day? It stands out because it mixes mining and defense strategies, proving that new ideas can get popular even when developed quickly. I want to tell you about the game and cover the team’s effort to make it as we know it today.

What makes Dome Keeper such a good video game

Let’s start with the story of its creation. “Dome Keeper” was made during the Ludum Dare 48 game jam, where developers and spouses René and Anne, along with Cameron Paxton, were inspired by the theme “deeper and deeper” to create a mining-centric game (it has nothing to do with Minecraft). 

René handled game design, programming, and production, while Anne was responsible for the graphics, and Cameron composed the music. This team effort led to a polished product created in just 72 hours. The right use of 2D game engines, such as Godot Engine, combined with Aseprite for pixel art and Logic Pro and Ableton for music, provided the technical backbone for their design.

Development Challenges of Dome Keeper

The challenge in developing “Dome Keeper” was balancing somewhat contradictory things – mining and defending, as the game is basically about it – tower defense with mining. This balance was critical as it impacted gameplay mechanics. The mining phase required a more systematic and resource-management approach (if you like RTS game design you’re going to be OK here), and the defense stage required a bit of thinking. Yes, in case you didn’t know you can actually lose in tower defense if you mess up. 

As highlighted in developer René’s X (formerly Twitter), interactions and technical challenges were an inevitable part of “Dome Keeper’s” development. One interesting bug involved the game’s response during weather changes: the snow layer captured the mouse input, preventing the sword in one of the domes from operating correctly.

Just had a wonderful bug in @DomeKeeper.
I'm working on mouse controls for keepers and domes.  Strangely, the sword of this dome would refuse to work when it snows - otherwise, it worked fine.  The reason: the snow layer was capturing the mouse input, not allowing it to propagate.
@Bippinbits
Dome Keeper game development challenges, balancing between mining and defending

Another example René shared was setting the reload time of spheres to 0 for the Assessor, leading to what he described as “brute force mining“. While initially unintended, this bug provided insights into potential new gameplay mechanics and the impact of timing adjustments on game flow. Not a gamebreaker, but still, a game without bugs just feels better. 

Some bugs are so fun!
I accidentally set the reload time of spheres to 0 for the Assessor. Brute force mining!
#indiedev #gamedev

Dome Keeper bugs, Dome Keeper new gameplay mechanics

The transition from Godot 3 to Godot 4 was another technical challenge due to the need for supporting right-to-left languages like Arabic. This engine upgrade allowed for better international support but also improved overall game performance and capability. 

We also ported Dome Keeper from Godot 3 to Godot 4. This was a massive amount of work and should improve a lot of things in the game. One thing I’m most excited for is the support for right-to-left type, which means Dome can now properly support Arabic. The translation for Dome Keeper is primarily done on Crawdin, with a mix of paid and community translators. The Arabic translation community is the biggest and has put in so much effort over the past year to keep Do,e 100% translated, even though the game didn’t support it yet!

The developers actively engaged with players through Steam discussions and Discord to gather insights and address concerns. This community-driven approach allowed the team to tweak game modes and balance gameplay effectively, exemplified by adjustments in the Prestige mode following player feedback. This is always a good thing – if the developer makes adjustments according to players’ feedback, it means the developer actually cares about what they do.

Community driven approach to deal with technical challenges, Dome Keeper players support

Gameplay and Mechanics of Dome Keeper

From boring technical things, we’re getting to the fun part of the game – the actual game! “Dome Keeper” mixes mining activity with strategic defense management in a roguelike environment. Players are tasked with extracting valuable resources such as iron, cobalt, and water beneath their dome. The strategic layer deepens as these resources are not just for survival but are essential for upgrading both the dome’s defenses and the player’s mining capabilities.

Dynamic Combat and Defense

The defense phase pits players against waves of alien attackers intent on destroying the dome. Why would they want to destroy it? Hell we know, our task is to shoot everything on sight! The dome itself can be outfitted with various defensive technologies, such as laser domes or shield enhancements, providing different strategic benefits and changing how players approach each wave of enemies. 

Combat and defensive technologies in Dome Keeper

Unique Gameplay Mechanic: Time Extension

A distinctive feature of “Dome Keeper” is the mechanic that extends the time between waves of monsters based on the extent of the caves the player has excavated. Don’t ask us how it works, it’s just there and helps you, so use it! This mechanic incentivizes players to dig deeper and expand their mining operations, as larger cave systems delay the next wave of attackers, giving players more time to prepare and upgrade. 

Unique gameplay mechanics in Dome Keeper, Dome Keeper distinctive features

Procedurally Generated Levels and Roguelike Elements

Each playthrough in “Dome Keeper” has a new challenge because it is a roguelike, with procedurally generated levels that ensure resources and enemy waves are unpredictable. Someone may say it’s a lazy approach and having handcrafted levels is good, but roguelike is a roguelike. This randomness ensures that no two games are the same, demanding that players adapt their strategies in real time based on the layout and challenges of each new game session. With time it may become boring, but it sure is fun for at least a few playthroughs. Until you actually understand what is the most effective tactic. 

Roguelike video game Dome Keeper, procedurally generated levels in Dome Keeper

Game Development Insights from Steam Reviews and Community Feedback

Additional gameplay features noted by the community include the balancing of dome upgrades, which can significantly alter the course of defense phases, and the inclusion of special artifacts that can be found during mining. These artifacts provide various bonuses, adding another layer of strategy as players decide how to best use these rare finds. But in most cases you’ll just use whatever is the best, as having a bad artifact is still better than having no artifact at all. 

Game development insights from Steam reviews and community feedback Dome Keeper

Cultural Impact of Dome Keeper

“Dome Keeper” has a niche in the gaming world because it mixes tower defense level design and mechanics with roguelike unpredictability. Mixing things is always a good idea! 

Just look at all those new RTS + Shooter games on Steam, they seem to be cool! This innovative integration allows players to continuously engage with a system where no two playthroughs are the same.

  • From its inception, “Dome Keeper” got some attention and praise, particularly following its origins as a game jam project under the title “Dome Romantik“. The game quickly captivated players with its core gameplay loop during its early development stages, reflecting its potential to resonate with audiences. This was further underscored by the hundreds of positive reviews it received even before completion. It is not the most popular game, but “unpopular” doesn’t mean “bad”. There are a ton of games that are not popular but still kick ass to some AAA projects.
  • The game’s success is also a testament to its cultural resonance, appealing to fans of both tower defense and roguelike genres. Because most tower defense games have pre-made levels, which means there is basically no replayability. Unless you want to play with challenges you make yourself, like “pass the game with just basic turrets” or whatever. However, despite its popularity, there have been some criticisms regarding the depth and variety of content, indicating areas where the game could get better to meet player expectations.
  • The game had pretty much no traditional marketing, as it was made by a small team. So using platforms like Twitter with hashtags like #screenshotsaturday was the only way to get some attention.
  • Developers René and Anne, along with their team, understand one important thing – you may launch the game, but you also need to improve it over time. “Improving” means not just “bug fixing”, but actually adding something new, rebalancing stuff, and so on. That’s why players liked the game in the first place – because developers actually care about it and want to make it better for players
Dome Keeper success and popularity, what cultural impact Dome Keeper did to gaming community

Player Review of Dome Keeper

As an avid player of “Dome Keeper”, I’ve experienced firsthand the unique mix of tower defense and roguelike mechanics that the game offers. Here’s the opinion I can share (as unbiased as it can be):

Pros:

  • 1

    Balance of Mining and Defending

    "Dome Keeper" excels in its core gameplay loop of mining and defending. The necessity to balance resource gathering with defense preparations against timed alien attacks creates a challenging and engaging experience. That’s basically like Dark Souls, where you get Souls for killing enemies, they are used for lever up but also as the main currency, so you always struggle between becoming stronger or buying something useful. 

  • 2

    Hostile Proximity Meter

    The introduction of the Hostile Proximity Meter is a game-changer. It tells you when the next wave of enemies will attack, allowing for better planning and resource management. Because the worst thing that can happen in a tower defense game is when enemies catch you with no pants on.

  • 3

    Ability to Upgrade

    The ability to upgrade weapons and gadgets actually affects gameplay. Upgrades like the Laser and the Slice for swords, or enhancements for mining devices, not just make the game easier, but also allow for some variety and adaptivity.

  • 4

    Relics

    The game introduces relics which need switches to be unlocked, with the number of switches depending on the map size. This mechanic adds to both exploration and strategy, as players must decide how deep to mine and explore to unlock these valuable artifacts. Some of them may be useless, but sometimes you can find an actual game changer and lifesaver. Depends on your luck. 

is Dome Keeper a good video game, Dome Keeper reviews, Dome Keeper players' opinion

Cons:

  • 1

    Lack of Mechanics Explanation

    One downside is that the game does not fully explain its mechanics, which can be a barrier to new players. Just a basic tutorial, the rest is up to you. So you’ll have to actually think a bit (what nonsense!) and maybe do some "trial and error" learning. 

  • 2

    Feel of Revetitiveness

    Despite the procedural generation, the game can feel repetitive after many hours of play. The core activities of mining and defending, while initially engaging, may not offer enough variety in the long term for some players. But this applies to all roguelikes. That’s just how this genre works? 

  • 3

    Necessity to Manage Resources

    The necessity to manage resources like cobalt, primarily used for healing, adds to the game’s strategic depth but can also be unforgiving. Players who fail to adequately balance their resource use may find themselves in unwinnable situations, which can be frustrating.

    But if the game punishes you for bad decisions, it means the game is adequately balanced. So it’s sort of a "pro with a con" situation. 

Negative side of Dome Keeper, Dome Keeper cons

“Dome Keeper” offers a compelling and challenging gameplay experience that mixes strategy, real-time action, and hard roguelike elements effectively. Its strengths lie in its use of dual-phase gameplay and the depth of its upgrade systems. However, the game could use some in-game guides, even traditional plates with text would work. This will help new players. Some like to learn as they play, but some do not. 

As it stands, “Dome Keeper” is a good choice for fans of strategy and defense games, offering many hours of engaging gameplay. The pros generally outweigh the cons, especially for those who enjoy a challenging and thoughtful approach to traditional tower defense mechanics.

Although Dome Keeper doesn’t offer as much content as bigger games (which is kind of obvious), its focused approach and the enjoyment you get from the core gameplay loop make it a good indie game and one of the best action roguelikes.

Indie games with their budgets continue to deliver something interesting and innovative, while most AAA titles keep us mostly just disappointed. 

Dome Keeper challneging gameplay, the best strategy and defense video game Dome Keeper