Dungeon Defender 2’s MOBA is improved by a lack of gear, faster game times and a third-person camera
Trendy Entertainment created a unique and much-adored game when it blended tower defense and RPG elements in Dungeon Defenders. The team is currently at work on a sequel, which adds another genre to the mix: there is now a competitive MOBA mode included.
Dungeon Defenders 2's new competitive mode draws from League of Legends and Dota 2, but with several twists to keep it fun, fast, and casual. The Report caught up with Philip Asher, marketing director for Trendy, at PAX East, and had him explain.
First thing's first: Players who loved the cooperative missions of the first game shouldn't worry: that game is also coming back. In fact, Dungeon Defenders 2's competitive mode was designed as something to keep players of the cooperative mode busy while the development team works on creating new content, Asher told me.
“We've always had an issue with the first game with not being able to deliver content fast enough for a game that's mission-based. It's very expensive, and it takes a lot of time to create new content,” he said. “So we're trying to have this new competitive mode as a way for players to have something to do when they've already gotten stopped playing the tower defense/ cooperative mode.”
So what will you be getting into once you jump into the new competitive mode? Players will choose a hero and then duke it out in a 5v5 arena battle, defeating minions and enemy players before destroying the opposition's turrets and, eventually, their home base.
The premise sounds very similar to League of Legends or Dota 2 on paper, but Trendy is implementing a few changes to keep their game fresh. Asher rattled off several such changes in rapid succession during our chat, but said one of the biggest changes came when the development team focused on streamlining the complex item systems of other MOBA games into something more casual-friendly, and ended up with a consumables-only system of character progression.
“We came off the first game, and one of the things we noticed was that, when people joined in the game at later points in time after launch, they really didn't have people that were their level to play with. It was becoming a huge issue,” Asher said. “Fitting the kind of RPG loot progression system into the MOBA that we want, that doesn't take away from the competitive nature of it. We can't have someone who's played for a very long time be much stronger than someone who's played for a very short time. That would ruin the fun.”
“We wanted it to be very much like the main MOBAs in the genre, Dota 2 and League of Legends. In terms of the core game play, we didn't want to deviate too far from that. At the same time, we wanted it to be more casual, and we wanted there to be less of a learning curve.”
The team is also keeping things casual by keeping their focus on games played for fun, not for sport; the game, Asher said, is not currently intended for an eSports-minded crowd. “Hopefully we can collect a fanbase that wants to play this MOBA game for fun,” Asher told me.
A difference of perspective
Although half of Dungeon Defenders 2 is a MOBA, and Trendy Entertainment has clearly taken design cues from genre-defining games like Dota 2 and League of Legends, you might not think that looking at it. Dungeon Defenders 2's competitive mode keeps the action close, with a third-person camera instead of an overhead view. It's one of the game's most defining features, but Asher said it's a feature that almost didn't make it. It was put together in under two weeks, just in time for PAX East.
“We originally had this MOBA mode, about a week and a half ago, in isometric view. We had gotten that out to the beta players, and they were really enjoying it,” Asher said. “Then we had an idea in the office of… we had just gotten to a point in the pre-alpha of the cooperative mode where you could see all these characters and these models in third-person and enjoy the art, and we were like, 'Why the hell did we make the MOBA in isometric?'”
I asked Asher how the team was able to make the game functional as a third-person game in under two weeks, when it had previously been in isometric perspective; in my time speaking with Matt Firor of Elder Scrolls Online, I had learned that a shift in perspective was not so simple as moving the camera from Point A to Point B. So how did Trendy manage it?
“We were actually lucky with this,” Asher said. “While we were making the MOBA, we had everything in mind to also work for the cooperative game. So all the heroes, the abilities, those sorts of things, were things that the art and the animations could carry over between both systems. So we had everything ready to go when switching to third-person.”
The original intent behind the third-person camera was to show off the game's art, which Asher said was the number one compliment the team received at PAX East, but Dungeon Defenders 2 gained a couple of side-benefits as well: match times decreased from the usual 45+ minutes to the 20-25 minute range, and the game gained an even more unique sense of play to help it stand out from the crowd.
“This really lends to more of a… you're more surprised when you find players, you have to be more aware of your surroundings, obviously you can't see behind you anymore, so that's a huge change-up in how people play,” Asher told me. “We have fog of war, and it's something we're really proud of in this build. Walking forward in the lane, all of a sudden poof, an enemy team comes out of the fog of war and you're like, 'Oh crap, we have to back up, we have to strafe away,' and it's something that's really exciting.”
“Maybe it's just that our beta team wasn't used to playing MOBAs like this before,” Asher said, “But I think it's good for this type of game.”
Dungeon Defenders 2's competitive mode is in closed beta, which you can register for here, if you'd like. The cooperative mode will enter beta near the end of this year or beginning of next, and both modes will be completely free to play.