Game Analysis: Shattered Pixel Dungeon


Warlock and Ripper Demon’s brawl on the 23th floor. 



The satisfying “BOSS SLAIN” screen after defeating the final boss, Yog-Dzewa. 



Shattered Pixel Dungeon is a roguelike game that allows the player to experiment with builds while traversing down a series of procedurally-generated dungeon floors to acquire the elusive Amulet of Yendor.

Game Play Analysis

Formal Elements

The Basics

Name of the game Shattered Pixel Dungeon (SPD) by Evan Debenham, forked over from the open-source game, Pixel Dungeon, by watabou
The platform Roguelike
Time played (should be at least 30 minutes) played since 2016 as a pastime- approximately 400 hours?
If you could work on this game (change it), what would you change and why? Balance the wizard and the huntress on the early game, they’re too fragile compared to the warrior and the rogue.

Some games are heavily RNG-based. Implement a hard cap on how many wands and artifacts can spawn. Try to match this cap as much as possible.


How many players are supported? 1
Does it need to be an exact number? Yes
How does this effect play? Interaction with the game itself than other players
Some types of player frameworks:

  • Single Player – like Solitare.
  • Head-to-head – 1 vs. 1, Chess.
  • PvE – Player vs. Environment, or multiple players vs. the game. Common in MMOs like World of Warcraft.
  • One against Many – Single-player vs. multiple (obvy).
  • Free-for-all – Every man for himself (1 vs. 1 vs. 1 vs. 1..). Most common for multiplayer games, from Monopoly to Modern Warfare.
  • Individuals Against the System – Like Blackjack, where the Dealer is playing against multiple players, but those players have no effect on each other.
  • Team Competition – Multiple vs. multiple, i.e. sports.
  • Predator-prey – Players form a circle and everyone’s goal is to attack the player on their left and defend themselves from the player on their right.
  • Five-pointed Star – Eliminate both players who are not on either side of you.
Single-player/PvE. player’s actions are calculated by the game after the player makes their move.


What are the players trying to do? Progress through the dungeon floors to fight the final boss of the game, Yog-Dzewa, on the 25th floor of the dungeon, and acquire the Amulet of Yendor.
Some common objectives include:

  • Capture/Destroy – Eliminate all your opponents pieces (Chess).
  • Territorial Acquisition – Control as much territory as you can, not necessarily harming other players (RISK).
  • Collection – Collect a certain number of objects throughout the game (Pokemon).
  • Solve – Solve a puzzle or crime (Clue).
  • Chase/race/escape – Anything where you are running towards or away from something (playground game Tag).
  • Spatial Alignment – Anything involving the positioning of elements (Tetris or Tic-Tac-Toe or that game at Cracker Barrel).
  • Build – Advance your characters or build your resources to a certain point (The Sims).
  • Negation of another goal – The game ends if you perform an act that is forbidden by the rules (Jenga or Twister).
Build and collection fit the game’s theme the most as the player is expected to collect items as they progress, and utilize them in some way that benefits the player.

Negation fits as well, as the game ends(loss) and restarts if the player dies by any means, assuming the player has no in-game item that revives them (Ankh and Blessed Ankh).


There are three categories of (what the book Rules of Play calls) operational rules:

  • Setup – the things you do at the beginning of a game.
  • Progression of Play – what happens during the game.
  • Resolution – How an outcome is determined based on the game state.


What controls are used? Click and move. the game optimizes the movements to take the least amount of times possible.
Was there a clear introductory tutorial? The player can pick up pieces of paper throughout their initial run, the basic information about the game being beige-colored and all the alchemy cauldron recipe being green.
Were they easy to understand or did you find yourself spamming the controller? It took me a while to understand that the papers were logs for me to read as a beginning player, but the game itself was easy to understand anyway. The journal logs became more useful for the more nuanced information regarding weapon tiers and different types of item classifications in-game.

Resources & Resource Management

What kinds of resources do players control? Items, movement, buffs of any kind on the character, health
How are they maintained during play? all of the resources are accessible through the inventory or the HUD.
What is their role? The inventory system is utilized to keep the player knowledgeable about what they possess. The player can choose to equip/utilize the item’s ability whenever they desire.

Movement helps the player progress through the game. Buffs and debuffs help or hinder the player, and can be used to their advantage.

Health is a resource that determines how many hits the player can take before the game is over(lose).

A resource is everything under the control of a single player. Could be the money in Monopoly or health in WoW. Other examples are:

  • Territory in RISK The number of questions remaining in 20 Questions Objects picked up during videogames (guns, health packs, etc.)
  • Time (game time, real-time, or both)
  • Known information (like suspects in Clue)
Items, movements, buff/debuff, health

Game State

How much information in the game state is visible to the player? Through the HUD: HP(thin red bad), player information such as STR/level/character upgrades, list of buffs, 4 quick toolbars for item usage, keys possessed by the hero(unlocks special rooms)

Map: world information such as traps(and different kinds of traps), enemies themselves, how many enemies the hero has access to(through ranged or closed combat), items/chests

A snapshot of the game at a single point is the game state. The resources you have, the un-owned properties in Monopoly, your opponent’s Archery skill all count towards the game state. Some example information structures are:

  • Total Information – Nothing is hidden, like Chess.
  • Info per player – Your hand of cards is only visible to you.
  • One player has privileged info – Like a Dungeon Master.
  • The game hides info from all players – Like Clue, where no one knows the victory condition.
  • Fog of War – In video games, where certain sections of the map are concealed if you do not have a unit in sight range of that area. You also cannot see other players’ screens, so each player is unaware of the other’s information.
The player and world state are maintained through backend calculation and more reactionary than direct player influence. players are reminded to be careful about their surroundings, and visuals help transfer information about enemies/traps/items on the floor/grass.



In what order do players take their actions? A turn-based system that calculates based on 1 player action
How does play flow from one action to another? Whenever the hero makes an action, the game calculates its own response back. Every action(movement, hit, use of an item, picking up an item… everything) the hero can do takes up a single turn, so the player has to make a strategic decision regarding their play.

Every calculation done by the game is a ratio, compared to the hero. Usually, the player-to-enemy turn ratio is 1:1, but many factors can influence this like the base turn of a sewer crab being 1:2 compared to the hero, or the ‘slowed’ debuff that reduces movement by 50%.

Some structures include:

  • Turn-based – Standard board game technique.
  • Turn-based with simultaneous play – where everyone takes their turn at the same time (like writing something down or putting a card down in War).
  • Real-time – Actions happen as fast as players can make them. Action-based video games.
  • Turn-based and time limits – You have this long to take your turn.
turn-based with malleable turns.

HEAVY repetition, as the player isn’t meant to clear the game on their first run.

Player Interaction

Some examples:

  • Direct Conflict – I attack you.
  • Negotiation – If you support me here, I’ll help you there.
  • Trading – I’ll give you this for that.
  • Information Sharing – If you go there, I’m warning you, a trap will go off.
None; SPD (and all the other PD variants) are single-player.

Theme & Narrative

Does it have an actual story structure? Roughly, but yes. The hero comes to the dungeon in hopes to ultimately find the Amulet of Yendor from Yog-Dzewa, the all-seeing eye.

Every 5 floors the level design changes, both the sprites themselves and the design of overall floor generation.

1-5: Sewers

6-10: Prison

11-15: Caves

16-20: Dwarven Metropolis

21-25: Demon Halls

It is heavily referenced and implied that the environments have been corrupted(like the 10th-floor boss, Tengu, who thanks the player for ‘freeing’ him once he’s defeated), the effects much stronger as the hero explores down. This is not a piece of important in-game information, but a reason for why the hero is in the dungeon.

Is it based on a historical event (or similar)? No.
Does the theme or narrative help you know how to play? The idea of ‘gradually challenging dungeon’ is provided from the start. This helps the player prepare for more than the current floor they’re on. This, alongside the fact that the player is expected to fail multiple times before they clear the game,  informs the player that higher-tier weapons and armors have a higher chance of being dropped from the latter stages.
Does it have emotional impacts? Mostly no, but yes at the very end.

Successfully defeating the Yog-Dzewa gives emotional satisfaction, especially if it’s the player’s first game clear. This is emphasized dramatically as the player also likely attempted the game hundreds of times, all of them leading to premature death.

After the hero acquires the Amulet of Yendor from the 25th stage, the player can choose to end the game there or carry it up to the surface. This makes the player relive through all stages, but the hero is now a much stronger version than what they were before.

When the hero successfully transports the amulet to the top, the ending screen is the hero relaxing on a cliffside with a sewer rat(the first enemy you encounter). This is a cathartic ending, and also implies that the hero ‘freed’ the dungeon from the corruption, also represented by Yog-Dzewa.

Also, look for en media res (does it start in the middle of the game)? Not unless the player possesses an Ankh(choice of revival or quit, cleans the inventory except the items currently worn on the hero, as well as the scroll of upgrade and potion of strength) or Blessed Ankh(acquired through blessing a normal Ankh with full dew vial, an instant revival of 30% health, retains all equip and items)

The Elements in Motion

How do the different elements interact? the hero and the enemies are against one another.
What is the gameplay like? strategically thinking about your hero’s placements, tiles, and enemy distances, to utilize your items to the best of their abilities(and with minimal damage to you, the hero)
Is it effective? yes.
Are there any points where the design choices break down? no.

Design Critique

Why did the designer make these particular choices? For SPD, a fork version, the design elements are already decided for the dev.

Regarding PD, however, it was likely chosen as it resembled the pixelated style from the games from the 90s. Its simple style makes the playing environment more fit for mobile play(compact screen), which is arguably the most popular, and most comfortable platform to play SPD on.

Why this set of resources? It helps the player differentiate between levels while having a concise design that groups multiple floors as a set.
What if they made different decisions? honestly, it wouldn’t feel like PD or SPD.
Does the design break down at any point? no.

Graphics & Sound

Does the game art pair well with the mechanics? it resembles a board-of a sort for a tabletop game, which fits well with the turn-based strategy.

like I mentioned before, Evan, the developer of SPD specifically, wouldn’t want to change any of the graphics nor the sounds. they are a part of what makes the game fall under the brand of ‘pixel dungeon spinoffs’. many players often play multiple versions, as they all offer different styles of play.

Did you find any bugs or glitches? none, that I particularly remember. I probably have, however, but it’s often not telling since the game handles all the damage calculations, map generations, item generations, and etc behind the scenes.

The developer updates frequently to address issues or balance problems, so any bugs or glitches are not serious in playing the game.

What about sound? The sound is definitely lacking in most places. this is probably an intentional choice as the player has limited information about the world, and they have a certain in-game tile radius for information intake.
Can you spot any technical shortcuts? No- I couldn’t find any, at least.

Various Stages of the Game

To wrap up, some things to keep in mind (as if there aren’t enough already) as you play: room generation is always consistent with how many special rooms you can find in each floor.

take note of the message you get from entering a new floor for the first time.

similarly, always take time to read the logs on the bottom of your screen, especially if you’re doing some weird combat tricks. some things may happen too fast, enemy death could happen out of the screen, and your potion flasks might’ve been broken during your previous turns.

utilize the [investigate] button, as you won’t get all the information from the visual itself. it’s worth it to take some extra time to know what buffs/debuffs are affecting the enemy and exactly what kind of traps is on the floor in front of you.


What challenges do you face, and how do you overcome them? Tricky situations: combat tricks and good, well-timed utilization of your scrolls/potions.

Bosses: learning the mechanics and reading the visual hints. since the game is meant to be played repeatedly, over and over, a first-time player likely won’t get to Yog-Dzewa.

additional issues like cursed items and satiety: identification, precaution, alert on potential issues

Is the game fair? it rewards experience over luck, so yes. it can be played and paused any time, so the average player can casually play it from where they left off, wherever they are.
Is it replayable? Are there multiple paths to victory or optional rules that can change the experience? very replayable. SPD provides 4 heroes, which are all catered towards different styles. from the 4 base hero types, there are also 2 subclasses that can be chosen after beating the 10th-floor boss, Tengu.

players are free to invest their limited resources into different aspects of the game, such as different weapons, rings, artifacts(which determines a lot of the gameplay), and wands.

What is the intended audience? casual roguelike players
What is the core, the one thing you do over and over, and is it fun? exploring the floors over and over. Yes, it’s fun, as it’s entirely randomized.

This analysis form was adapted from



Mr. Le Duc’s Game Analysis Resources

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