Dungeon Defenders Interview (Xbox360)

Tower Defence games have been becoming more and popular with recent years. Whilst dedicated games in this category were few, specialised maps and mods for games like Warcraft III, Starcraft and other strategy titles kept the sub-genre a live and in the hearts of gamers. Now, Trendy Entertainment has created their own Tower Defence game, that mixes the timeless gameplay with old-school dungeon crawling. We sat down with the developers to get the low-down on this nifty little title.

Strategy Informer: Firstly, could you explain to us the premise behind Dungeon Defenders?

Trendy Entertainment: Dungeon Defenders is a genre hybrid: one part RPG, one part Tower Defence, one part online cooperative action game. The essential premise is that you create & customize one of four hero character classes, and then take on the task of defending against hordes of invading monsters who are seeking to destroy your Eternia Crystals located throughout your castle. You do this both by summoning magical defences—specific to each class—and manning the barricades directly with your beefed-up hero. Over the course of the game, you'll get level-ups, tons of loot and upgradeable equipment, and new abilities to grow your character as you see fit! All of this is playable online with your buddies where you work to achieve the highest scores and earn epic equipment across many game modes and difficulties.

Strategy Informer: The game utilises the free Unreal Development Kit from Epic Games. What has this added to the project?

Trendy Entertainment: Dungeon Defenders began as a UDK project called Dungeon Defence, which was an early prototype of some basic gameplay mechanics we were considering for Dungeon Defenders. Once it was proven that the UDK prototype was fun, we switched Dungeon Defenders over to the full version of Unreal Engine 3 (for consoles, mobile, etc). That said, the UDK was invaluable as a platform for initial prototyping of some aspects of the gameplay, and really helped launch the project for this indie team. Thanks to Epic for making that possible.

Strategy Informer: How much has Dungeon Defenders benefited from using this development software?

Trendy Entertainment: From an overall standpoint of Unreal Engine 3, it enabled us to develop Dungeon Defenders simultaneously for a large variety of platforms (PC, Xbox, PS3, and mobile) while also ensuring that the PC version was going to be extremely solid in terms of performance and functionality across a large variety of hardware. Most importantly, Unreal's advanced toolset and battle-tested content pipeline allowed our designers, coders, and artists to jump right into the meat of gameplay development, supporting a rapid, efficient development cycle. In other words, pretty much from day 1 we got to focus the bulk of the attention on making the game FUN, quickly and easily.

Strategy Informer: With a slew of top quality downloadable games coming out across the summer, what do you think will attract players to Dungeon Defenders?

Trendy Entertainment: Dungeon Defenders has the advantage of occupying in its own hybrid genre, rather than being a "me-too" game in some well-worn field of titles. If you like tower defence, or you like RPG's, and you think that maybe the two of them should get together, make some love, and have a beautiful child -- then you best get yourself some DunDef!

Also, I think players are going to find a value proposition in Dungeon Defenders which simply can't be matched: for a super low price, they're getting a content-rich online/offline rpg with incredible replay value and deep mechanics, tickling both your brain and your adrenaline addiction.

Strategy Informer: Plenty of downloadable releases burst with colour and vibrancy. Was it always the plan for Dungeon Defenders to have such a charming appearance?

Trendy Entertainment: From the project's inception, we knew we wanted Dungeon Defenders to have a unique fantasy vibe that would stand out and speak to people's playful sense. I'd call it, "Lord of the Rings meets Saturday Morning Cartoons", as these young heroes-in-training are the progeny of legends, the "next generation". We worked too on the visual concepts iteratively until we achieved the right balance of light and dark, where there was just enough hint of darkness that you could imagine these kids might actually be in danger.
Strategy Informer: As four players can tackle the game on and offline, will the lone wolves amongst us still get the same experience?

Trendy Entertainment: There's still a lot there for the singleplayer gamer, including the challenge to master each mode and character class for the highest solo leaderboard placement, unlock all of the hidden items and crystal cores, and see all of the game endings. We've made sure the game scales to any number of players (dynamically as they leave or join the game), so just because you're defending alone, doesn't mean you'll get overwhelmed! And you can swap between heroes dynamically during gameplay, so even when playing by yourself, you can get the strategic benefits of each hero class' abilities and defences within the same mission.

Strategy Informer: Do you feel co-op is the most enjoyable way of playing the game?

Trendy Entertainment: DunDef is definitely a great party game, and we hope everyone has fun with that aspect. It's a one-of-a-kind experience, the intense real-time strategic coordination among players, and the wonderful camaraderie that you get when you just barely manage to hold the line together, shouting "YOU SHALL NOT PASS!" (or at least I do).

But while coop is the star of the show, we have plenty of fun playing solo as well, to practice & test out different strategies and refine them, and grind out a few level ups, before hopping into an online session to show off our goods to the world.

Strategy Informer: Can you detail the customization process for us? Will players be able to personalize their appearance and weapons? Are we going to see completely unique characters online?

Trendy Entertainment: Enemies & treasure chests drop various armours and weapons, with the more challenging foes yielding better loot, and players can also earn them (plus Familiar pets) by completing special missions. Heroes also collect Mana from these creatures, which is used as both money and to cast spells & summon Defences. Mana can be invested in any equipment item, and when sufficient Mana is stored within the item, it can be levelled-up. An equipment level-up allows the hero to increase any one of the equipment's statistics, and also enhances the appearance of the item (i.e. Familiars grow larger, equipments shine with a polished glow, elemental effects appear stronger, etc).

Players can personalize their own appearance both in the value of colour components they choose for their Hero, but also in their equipments' colour schemes and sizes (initially randomized along with the statistics, but also influenced by how the equipment is levelled up by the hero). The hero can also determine the colorization and style of their Crystal Core, with a variety of distinctive crystal types being unlocked through missions. Finally, if you level-up an equipment item to its maximum level, you are given the opportunity to uniquely name it (don't worry, there's a profanity filter :), and it is tagged with your hero name for all time as well, so you can achieve some degree of notoriety as you trade such equipment online.

Strategy Informer: The game is steeped in influences from films and other games. What was the biggest influence when designing Dungeon Defenders?

Trendy Entertainment: From a cooperative action standpoint, Castle Crashers on the consoles was a big influence from a standpoint, and for the RPG genre, Torchlight on the PC. Toy Soldiers has been influential from the sense of integration action with Tower Defence mechanics. Visually, I'd have to pin a lot of our sensibility on Fantasia and other early Disney animated fantasies like Sleeping Beauty. You'll see more of those influences play out as you get deeper and deeper into the campaign.

Strategy Informer: Are you planning any extra content once Dungeon Defenders hits the online marketplace?

Trendy Entertainment: New Levels (with new game modes on them), new character classes, and new equipment items -- all of which can be dynamically viewed by other players during online play.

And, DunRaid (see above)...

Strategy Informer: Any final words for our readers?

Trendy Entertainment: Looking forward to seeing you all online in DunDef this November, and I'll teach you some insider strategies then! Look for Drayowin the yellow-purple Squire :)
Well, this should certainly prove interesting, definitely one to watch. Dungeon Defenders is due out in November for XBLA, PSN and PC.


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