Tag Archives: dungeon defenders

New content, redesigned gameplay balance for Dungeon Defenders Eternity

The original #DungeonDefenders now comes in an all-in-one package called Dungeon Defenders Eternity. The $15 #bundle includes “previously released material, new content, redesigned gameplay balance and cross-platform play.” Owners of the original game on PC, Mac and Linux can upgrade for $6.

There’s also a package with “less content” on Android Tegra Devices for $9.99. It’ll arrive on other Android devices, iPhones and iPad later this year. There’s also a browser version at Playverse.com. “Dungeon Defenders Eternity is in many ways a product of our players, built around feedback from fans. Having an open dialogue with our fans is core to all our efforts at Trendy, and that same philosophy is being actively applied to our work on the sequel as well,” said Trendy CEO Darrell Rodriguez.

DDE adds four new missions, with “more to come for free post launch.” It will also have a Hall of Triumphs where players can unlock special items, titles and pets for use in Dungeon Defenders 2. That game, last we heard, should be out sometime this year.

Reblogged from: joystiq.com


The hard lessons of game development for Dungeon Defenders 2

The hard lessons of game development for Dungeon Defenders 2

Trendy Entertainment began working on a #sequel to its breakout hit, #DungeonDefenders, about a year ago. This past June, after revelations of terrible working conditions at the #studio emerged, the company decided to reset #development on the game. Last week, Trendy re-introduced #Dungeon Defenders2 as a much more iterative sequel, and according to representatives of the studio, that’s the kind of #game that everyone there really wants to make.

Under previous Trendy president Jeremy Stieglitz, the studio originally took Dungeon Defenders 2 in the direction of League of Legends, adding multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) elements that represented a major shift from the role-playing/tower defense hybrid of the original game. But in addition to Stieglitz’s management style — which was reportedly that of a domineering boss — it turned out that very few members of the team at Trendy were actually interested in making a MOBA, according to marketing director Philip Asher.

That, coupled with a poor reception to the MOBA elements and Trendy’s growing pains as a studio, all came to a head four months ago.

“I think that that was a wake-up call to everyone in the studio that communication had completely fallen apart,” said Asher during a recent interview with Polygon, speaking of Kotaku’s report on the problems at Trendy under Stieglitz.

“communication had completely fallen apart”

“We were 14 people who were used to working together for years, expanded to a medium-size studio to try to make something that we thought would be impressive. But communication had fallen down,” Asher continued. “Like, we didn’t know how to run as a 50-person studio. We didn’t bring in the right people to help us run as a larger studio. And we got really far into a project that not everyone recognized [wasn’t] working, that our fans didn’t want to play.”

After numerous internal discussions, Trendy officials moved Stieglitz off Dungeon Defenders 2 and gave the project to studio director Dave Lloyd, who has been instrumental in leading the charge toward the game’s new direction.

“Upper management made, in my mind, what [were] all the right decisions to put this project in the right hands to really get something out that the fans cared about, and that’s what was important,” said Asher. “And if you were at our studio, it’s a night-and-day-difference between what it was before and what it is right now.”

Trendy has spent the past four months working on the new Dungeon Defenders 2. The studio is looking to take everything in the original Dungeon Defenders and make it better, while retaining the same basic gameplay that was so successful in that game. The sequel stars the same four heroes — the Squire, Apprentice, Monk and Huntress, although they’ve aged from children into teenagers — and they must defend the land of Etheria once again.

One of the major ways in which Trendy wants to evolve Dungeon Defenders‘ gameplay for the sequel is to deliver “complex tower interactions,” said Joshua Javaheri, the game’s lead technical artist, during a hands-on demo of a pre-alpha build of Dungeon Defenders 2.

In the original game, you could put different types of towers next to each other to bolster your defenses, but their individual abilities would remain distinct. This time around, if you plant different towers in the same area, you’ll see their powers combine with increased effectiveness. We dropped a frost tower and a wind tower together and watched the results with glee: The enemies were frozen first, and then the wind tower generated a cyclone that sucked up the hunks of ice; they shattered as they hit the ground.

This applies to the different characters’ skills, too. As the Huntress, we laid down a geyser trap, which lifts enemies into the air. That allowed the Monk to unleash his anti-air attack on the suspended foes. The Squire’s towers can fire cannonballs, which are also very useful against enemies frozen by ice towers. And because enemies take damage from falls, you can set up a frost tower by a ledge and then have the Monk use his chi blast power — effectively a Force push that also buffs teammates in the vicinity — to send frozen enemies plummeting to their death.

“We’re really, really trying to get the players involved in the strategy for all the waves [of enemies], not just when they’re placing towers and then they just play a mindless action game,” said Asher.

Trendy is trying to make Dungeon Defenders 2 a more strategic experience in every facet of the game. Instead of just upgrading a tower’s stats, you’ll now upgrade them to different levels, where you’ll see a change in the tower’s appearance as well as a more powerful ability. You also have the option of repairing towers, which costs less green mana than upgrading. In the build we played, there was no limit on the number of towers you could put down, but that may be different in the final game.

Another notable change comes in the phase of gathering resources and building towers. Treasure chests in the levels now provide two different kinds of mana: Blue mana goes toward characters’ abilities, while green is for towers. Asher explained that many Dungeon Defenders players shied away from using their characters’ powers, because there was only one resource pool and they wanted to save it for towers.

Trendy had to learn some hard lessons

You also have more things to worry about on the maps — in addition to the main gate lock you need to defend, the stages contain sub-objectives. This also means that rounds no longer have a single loss condition, but if you lose those side gates, it will open up additional lanes for orcs to pour into the arena.

We were playing the Windows PC version of Dungeon Defenders 2, which is currently in development on Mac and Linux as well. That seems surprising, since the first game saw tremendous success on its debut platforms, iOS and Android. According to Asher, the decision to focus on computers for now came out of lessons that Trendy had to learn the hard way.

“We were limited to an extent with what we were doing before, in terms of everyone’s talents at the studio and working on a mobile title. And that really was festering and came out,” said Asher. When the developers sat down this past June and discussed their options, they realized that “everyone wants to make a PC game.”

“We’re not going to make a game that we don’t want to play”

Although it’s coming out on computers, Dungeon Defenders 2 will be a free-to-play game when it launches next spring. Asher said Trendy is still figuring out the details of the game’s business model, and told us, “We have a couple of really cool ideas, which I don’t want to talk about yet, but they’re ideas that don’t affect the core gameplay.”

He added, “We’re not going to make a game that we don’t want to play.”

Reblogged from: polygon.com

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A Video Game Studio From Hell Investigation

Seven-day work weeks. Sexist decisions. An office environment so toxic, employees are terrified to speak up for fear of losing their jobs.

By Jason Schreier @Kotaku

That’s the atmosphere at the Florida-based game development studio Trendy Entertainment, according to current and former employees. Trendy is responsible for a popular tower defense game called Dungeon Defenders and is currently working on the sequel. Over the past few weeks, I’ve talked to nine different people with connections to Trendy, and obtained a number of e-mails and Skype logs that show a studio filled with fear and dysfunction.

Current and former employees describe the company as dismal and unpleasant, painting a picture of Trendy president Jeremy Stieglitz as a dictatorial manager who publicly berates his staff and, according to four of the people I spoke with, allegedly makes salary decisions based on gender.

I first heard about the many problems at Trendy from one whistleblower. That source quickly became two, three, and more. Employees were frustrated. They were tired of a miserable status quo at Trendy and wanted to speak out. Soon they were sending along e-mails and chat logs, conversations between each other commiserating about working at the company, snippets of communications with management. Altogether, over the last week, the picture of this studio that came into focus was ugly.

Many staff at Trendy don’t plan on putting up with the situation much longer: about a half-dozen developers have already left over the past two months, and according to the people I spoke with, an estimated 5-10 more junior and senior Trendy employees plan to leave once the first part of Dungeon Defenders II goes live in July. The company’s higher-ups are aware of this—and Trendy has had a few meetings over the past couple of weeks in order to talk about morale—but some are unconvinced that anything will change for the staff, who currently number around 45.

Long hours and tough management are not unusual in the video game industry; it’s common for development studios to subject their employees to periods of “crunch,” during the last few weeks of a game’s production, when staff will stay late and work weekends until that game is finished. But at Trendy, according to people who work and have worked there, crunch lasts all year round. Staff describe an atmosphere where everyone must work 10 to 12 hours a day for six or seven days a week, and some people fear losing their jobs if they question this arrangement.

Trendy president Stieglitz declined to address any of the specific allegations in this story, but the company sent over the following statement:

Trendy is a fairly young indie videogame developer experiencing some of the unfortunate issues associated with new companies finding their footing: long hours, quick growth, and on-going challenges stemming from working in a highly creative environment. Our management is focused on continuing to grow and develop a positive workplace despite these challenges. We are excited for our upcoming release of Dungeon Defenders 2 and hope that consumers appreciate the results of our efforts.

Based on what I’ve seen and heard over the course of reporting this story, “unfortunate issues” is one hell of an understatement.

Men Vs. Women

Last year, according to multiple people I spoke with, a man applied for a certain position at Trendy. After some back-and-forth, Trendy offered him the gig at a starting salary of $3,850 a month, but he turned it down.

Not long afterwards, according to the people I spoke with, a woman applied for the same position. Trendy offered her $3,000 a month—non-negotiable.

That’s a difference of close to $10,000 a year. I’ve seen the e-mails detailing both job offers, and while it’s possible that gender wasn’t the only factor here, one person close to the situation told me that both candidates had the same amount of experience. Others have said it’s a trend.

“Artists have been hired (and very quickly left the studio) on the motto of, ‘Hire a woman—we can pay women less than we can men,’” one person connected to Trendy told me.

Last week, a departing Trendy employee sent a letter to staff at the company, which I received from two different people. Although the writer declined comment—and asked us not to print what he had written—the note corroborates what others in the company have told me. One section, for example, says that upper management at Trendy pays women less than men. Another section of the letter accuses Trendy of publicly belittling employees and forcing them to work unsustainable hours.

Two different people told me that Trendy president Jeremy Stieglitz treats female employees differently than males. “He won’t even look at women,” one person said. “He would go [to] the room one was in and stand to the side and yell into the room… without ever going in.”

This uncomfortable behavior toward females doesn’t seem to be limited to the workplace: A Skype log obtained by Kotaku shows Stieglitz talking about one of the female characters in Dungeon Defenders II in terms that made at least a few employees uncomfortable. “Needs to be more like [a] Brazilian beach super model if you know what I mean,” he writes. “”It’d also be nice if the ass was attractive.”


Another person connected to Trendy told me that the team once created a seductive image of one of the characters that was meant to be an internal joke, but when Stieglitz saw it, he released it to the public.


‘Flying By The Seat Of Their Pants’

Employees describe Trendy as a company brimming with issues—one person started off a phone conversation with “I’m sure everything you’ve heard is true”—and many of those issues trace back to Stieglitz. All nine people who talked to me shared similar stories: Stieglitz, they say, is fond of threatening and screaming at employees, often in front of other people in the office. Two people told me they were afraid to request vacation or ask for weekends off, worried that Stieglitz would fire or threaten to replace them.

One employee tells the story of a cousin who passed away. The employee was too terrified to ask for time off. “I was so afraid of losing my job that I didn’t go to his funeral,” the employee told me. “It was probably one of my lowest points.”

Before 2012, according to two people, the studio had some serious financial difficulties. Staff would go unpaid for long periods of time, and many worked 80-hour weeks because they felt they had no choice. Last summer, when Trendy receivedan $18.2 million investment from a firm in New York City, some at the company thought conditions would get better. They didn’t. Today, employees say the hours are just as excruciating. Worse, people connected to Trendy say, progress on the game is constantly interrupted by Stieglitz’s interference.

Late last year, according to four different people, Stieglitz fired the lead designer onDungeon Defenders II and shifted direction on the game, telling the development team to start taking ideas from the popular arena battle game League of Legends. The motto floating around the company, employees told me, is “if League does it, we do it.”

“He threw out design work to copy League of Legends,” said one person.

“Interesting, creative ideas [were] thrown by the wayside because ‘we don’t have time,’ or ‘Does League do it? No? Then it’s a waste of time, we need to do what League does,’ said another person.

On top of that, people say the studio has been plagued with disorganization and dysfunction: work is often scrapped or drastically changed due to Stieglitz’s whims, employees told me.

“There’s no pipeline,” said one person. “Everyone’s flying by the seat of their pants all the time.”

“Jeremy does not believe in pre-production,” said another. “Choices are to be made on the fly, without any input from designers.”

Anonymous employee reviews on GlassDoor echo everything I’ve heard. “There are many very innovative individuals working for this company who suffer daily under poor working conditions, arbitrary deadlines and slimy management,” one reviewer writes. “I do not understand how the artist teams deal with the uninformed decisions made by upper management. It’s bad enough in our room and yet, I know they have it even worse off than we do. I have never worked for someone who is so afraid of his own employees before that he treats them like bad kids and while I may not be one of the vocal ones in the office I am secretly ashamed of working for this company by the way it treats the people it employs.”

Some at Trendy hope that by publicizing the company’s conditions, they can help inspire some change. If things don’t get better within the next few months, and people do continue to flee this studio, it sounds like there will be change either way.

From Linux Game News:

This posting is for information purposes only. And in no way does the content reflect the opinions of LinuxGameNews.com or its affiliates.

Reblogged from: kotaku.com

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