We got a chance to talk to the Development Director, Jeremy Stieglitz, over at Trendy Entertainment, developers of Android's first Unreal Engine 3 made game, Dungeon Defenders: First Wave. We talk about Unreal Engine 3, developing for Android, Dungeon Defenders: First Wave, future plans and pointing your towers at walls.
DroidGamers: First off we just want to congratulate you on Dungeon Defenders: First Wave upcoming release onto the Android platform as well as iOS. I'm sure the response has been incredible so far with so many people eager to play!
Jeremy Stieglitz: It's been a lot of fun to finally get to hop online and start playing with everyone! It's been non-stop DunDef gaming for the past day, and I've seen everything from amazing hardcore squads acing the most difficult missions on Insane mode, and hilarious newb "strategies" with towers pointed into walls and the team just gets slaughtered. Whether they're tackling the most difficult challenges or just grinding out a few more level ups, everyone seems to be having a great time tackling this RPG-TD hybrid online together. And holy #$&@, the Koreans man... they have just owned the Leaderboards, no one can take them down :)
DG: How did the concept come about for Dungeon Defenders: First Wave? It is quite the unique blend of gaming genres!
JS: It all started with an Unreal Development Kit project in late 2009, in fact, called "Dungeon Defense" -- inspired as a mix of Castle Crashers with Fieldrunners, sprinkled with a bit of DotA and WoW. Originally intended to be just a little UDK demo to show what you could do with Epic's platform, it got such a good response from people who tried it out that we were obliged to continue to feed their craving for hot RPG strategy action. Literally, we had people with virtual pitchforks out if we didn't create the greater TowerDefense-online-RPG that the original prototype hinted at!
So flash forward one year, and we have happily sated their bloodlust and our own by producing Dungeon Defenders for PC/consoles (set to hit in very early 2011) and Dungeon Defenders: First Wave for mobile devices. The exciting and inspiring convergance of PC, console, and mobile gaming is where the future is at, for this development team anyway.
DG: How was it developing for Android using Unreal Engine 3?
JS: It's been a lot of fun for techies like us. Epic themselves handled the core conversion, but the Trendy team brought it all the way home with a lot of miscellaneous platform support to get it feature-complete for our particular needs. As always, working with Unreal enabled us to utilize a unified content pipeline for all platforms, and that was a huge benefit so that we could take this formerly-PC/console game and get it onto this wide array of mobile devices. Android in particular afforded us a lot of benefits to allow us to provide the mobile experience that most closely matches the upcoming PC version, and we think that approach suits the Android crowd just fine!
DG: Epic has been taking their time officially bringing Android support to Unreal Engine 3. Trendy Entertainment was able to use it to make Dungeon Defenders: First Wave. Was it difficult to do in regards to fragmentation that Epic is stating as a cause of the current delay in official support?
JS: Fragmentation is not much different than the PC market, and at least with Android you've got a finite set of hardware sets, whereas on PC you have an essentially infinite number of potential combinations. That said, when Epic does an official port, they have more to deal with than a single game -- they have to port an entire engine flawlessly for all of their licensees. So with our Dungeon Defenders UE3 port, we had the benefit of only needing to port the things we used, the things we needed, and that's what enabled us to have it completed quickly enough to get it into your hands this year.
DG: What was the most challenging aspect of developing DD:FW for Android?
JS: Getting enough phones to test with... unlike PC's we can't build them piecemeal or remove components, we had to "catch 'em all" in the wild. We are releasing a "tested compatibility" list along with the formal Android release announcement, which is the devices we have here at the studio, but even that is hardly the sum total of phones out there. It will work on plenty of phones beyond that particular list of course, but those are what we've played on so far ;)
DG: You can read the official press release regarding Dungeon Defenders: First Wave for Android including the compatibility list in our post about DD:FW coming Dec. 23rd!
DG: A lot of people are happy with the fact they won't need a Tegra 2 Android device to play DD:FW which was originally reported. Was it hard to pull off making the game for non-Tegra 2 devices? What concessions had to be made?
JS: For Dungeon Defenders: First Wave, Tegra 2 is primarily a question of "best experience". The game runs by far best on Tegra 2 out of any mobile device we've put the title onto. It's nearly a portable PC level of graphics capability. So while the game doesn't require Tegra 2, we do prefer to play it that way here, which provides an HD resolution, the highest quality textures, and a set of levels that simply could not be rendered on the lower-spec devices. But for the wide array of other SOC's out there, they'll still be getting an experience that is pretty darn awesome.
DG: Still plan to make a Tegra 2 'HD' version of DD:FW?
JS: The Tegra 2 version does indeed support HD, but it depends on each particular Tegra 2 device's display capabilities to determine whether it will display at that resolution. Some upcoming Tegra 2 devices have displays that are lower than true HD spec, and some are higher than true HD spec (needless to say, on the latter, games like DunDef are a sight to behold).
DG: So what is the difference between the Android and iOS version of the game, if there is any? How do they compare to each other in terms of controls, gameplay and graphics?
JS: The Android version is a midway step between the iOS version and the PC version. Namely, it uses Gamespy for online matchmaking, so you get the benefits of an advanced matchmaking system that has custom search filters, private password protected games, and multi-hero leaderboards. Next year, we'll support user mods as well on Android, which will automatically download to clients for online play. (DG: awesome, player mods!)
Additionally, on Android we give the user more customizable control over performance related options such as resolution scaling, so everyone can tweak the game to the capabilities of their specific device; of course, on the game's first startup it auto-adjusts to what it considers the best settings for your device). Graphics-wise, Android DunDef has the capability for higher-res textures, more complex particle effects & geometry than the iOS version, but it really comes down to your specific device as to whether it's going to use those.
Finally, the Android version can, on many devices, run at a considerably higher overall game resolution than the iOS versions, and super smooth, in some cases because we have more GPU processing power at our disposal, and can use Unreal Engine 3's multi-threaded renderer, such as on the dual-core Tegra 2.
DG: How was it developing controls and the user interface for DD:FW for Android device with such a unique style of gaming.
JS: We tried to strike a balancing act between the needs of the RPG aspect, and the needs of the Tower Defense strategy aspect. The interfaces were originally designed for PC (mouse input) and console (keyboard input), and adapting them to touch input while providing the same action-oriented experience (and simultaneously conveying all the necessary information) was a challenge. Through in the many different resolutions and aspect ratios you find on the various Android devices, and it becomes even more complex. We managed to work out solutions that get the job done, though I do feel if we had designed the game inherently for mobile from day 1, we could have done even more with it. We'll continue to tweak and adjust in updates post-release, as we get more feedback from the player-base, which is rapidly expanding as you can imagine.
DG: Was it harder to develop for Android or iOS with this type of high quality 3D game using Unreal Engine?
JS: Not so much, because Unreal Engine 3's architecture is built in a very efficient, abstract way to minimize the differences between each platform. In the case of mobile, for example, they automatically conform the complex 'shader' Materials into what the various mobile platforms are actually capable of rendering. Ultimately by using Epic's game engine, the biggest challenge for any game developer ends up being, simply, creating a fun game itself... while that's out of Epic's very capable hands, in Dungeon Defenders' case, it looks like the Trendy team has done some good :)
DG: So how will content updates come out? Will it be through a separate install or just updates to the original DD:FW game?
JS:DD:FW Android version has an Internet content downloader system built into the application itself which downloads & installs the actual game media (that's how we can fit such a huge title on the Android Market!). Many updates will be rolled out simply by playing the game while you're online, we automatically check for newer content. Updates that require actual executable changes will update the DD:FW app itself (which in Unreal is rare since much functionality is contained within "UnrealScript" that is stored as media content).
So indeed we're gonna be expanding this game outward on PC/console/Android (and iOS) for the forseeable future: in the form of patches that tweak, optimize, fix, and enhance based on gamer feedback through our forums, and also entirely new premium content that will utilize new functionality from Google themselves. And then there are the mods, of course...
DG: Any future plans with content for Dungeon Defenders in the works yet? or any other games?
JS: We have something very exciting in the works for the future of Dungeon Defenders. Let's just say, it's all about taking DunDef team-RPG-action to the next level with DotA-style PvP (though infused with a Tower Defense element of course), and working with a great partner to make that happen in a big way. We'll provide more specifics when we are cleared to do so ;)
DG: Again, thank you for taking the time out to talk to us and share everything with our readers! We are looking forward to playing DD:FW!
JS: My pleasure. I've got my spiffy new Nexus S booted up and await allies next week to join my elite defense squad. Look for GameSpy username "JeremyStieglitz" with Level 18 Apprentice named "ShaggyPants"'; DON'T point your Towers at the walls, and we'll get along just fine. See you all in 'Droid Etheria next week!
We would like to thank Jeremy Stieglitz, Development Director at Trendy Entertainment, for taking a break from this busy time for the crew over there to talk with us! What did we learn that is new and awesome? Well everything! Future plans look fantastic as well:
DotA-style PvP gaming in Dungeon Defenders
The ability to allow players to make mods! This is awesome just by itself!
There you have it! Hope you enjoyed this great interview and for more information about Trendy Entertainment and Dungeon Defenders, head over to their official sites. Get ready for some more great gaming, made with Unreal Engine 3, on your Android phone Dec. 23rd, 2010 when Dungeon Defenders: First Wave is unleashed onto the Android Market. For device requirements, check out the official press release.