Dungeon Defenders was a fun game that combined elements of loot-whoring action RPG with tower defense. And it really worked.
The game originally came out on mobile platforms in 2010, but really came into its own after the PC and console releases in 2011, spawning a significant number of DLC addons that helped keep the game fresh over time. Developer Trendy Entertainment eventually decided enough was enough, though, and started work on a sequel.
The intention from the outset was for the sequel's development to be led by fan feedback, building on the things that people liked about the first game and refining those things that were less popular. But Trendy had its own ideas for what it wanted to incorporate into the new game, too -- riding the wave of popularity currently enjoyed by games such as League of Legends and Dota 2, the developer had intended to include a competitive multiplayer mode that played more like a MOBA than the series' traditional arena-based cooperative PvE tower defense mode.
Fans were, to put it mildly, not all that happy, though Trendy was keen to reassure prospective players that the original gameplay would still also be intact. Some players were quite rightly concerned that Trendy's development of a completely unrelated mode would take attention away from the gameplay they really liked from the first game, though, and it could also be argued that, with Dungeon Defenders II's move to a free-to-play model, it was a fairly transparent attempt to compete with the big hitters of the MOBA genre -- an attempt that numerous other young pretenders have made, and almost inevitably failed; Dota 2 and League of Legends are far too well-established to be dethroned now -- at least until the next great thing comes along, anyway.
Rather than persisting with something that it was becoming increasingly apparent that no-one wanted, Trendy instead decided to admit defeat and retreat for a little while, completely rethinking Dungeon Defenders II in the process. Now, the company has announced, the MOBA mode is no more, and the game will focus exclusively on the cooperative tower defense/action RPG hybrid gameplay that made it so enjoyable in the first place.
"We've been listening very closely to our community, getting feedback from fans of the first game on what they want to see in a sequel, and we realized we needed a shift in our development focus," says Philip Asher, Trendy's marketing director. "We had strayed from making the kind of game fans wanted and the kind of game we wanted to develop. So we've nixed the MOBA style of gameplay and other 'extra' features we were talking about and instead are making the sequel we all want to play."
The new game won't just be a selection of new maps for Dungeon Defenders, though -- if it was, Trendy may as well just have continued releasing DLC. Instead, the team has focused on improving the core gameplay with new features such as allowing towers and abilities to interact with one another a la Paradox's Magicka series -- one example given is using a trap to douse enemies with oil, then using fire magic or a fire spell to light them aflame; another cites the example of launching an orc into the air, freezing him on the way up so he shatters when he lands.
"We're creating these synergistic systems as a way to allow players to discover and share new ways to play the game," says Daniel Haddad, lead content designer on the game. In other words, there should be less in the way of "correct" solutions for the levels this time, and the way the game's various mechanics interact with each other in potentially unexpected ways should now lead to a much greater sense of emergent gameplay and experimentation than in its predecessor.
Dungeon Defenders is slated for release next spring as a free-to-play game on PC, Mac and Linux. For those attending New York Comic Con between October 10 and 13, you'll be able to have a go at the game for the first time, and later in the month Trendy will be kicking off a large-scale initiative to get fans more involved in the development process, highlighting potential new features that they do and don't like.
Find out more about Dungeon Defenders II on the official site.