Feature: Dungeon Defenders Pushing Cross-Platform Boundaries

Since the beginning of video gaming, entertainment software has been attached to certain platforms, whether its been arcade cabinets, home console devices or consumer personal computers. The omnipresence of the Internet, however, has led to a rise in cloud services that allows cross-platform functionality like never before. This extends to gaming, with game streaming possible and the ability to play across multiple disparate platforms now a reality. We talked with GameSpy Technology Marketing Director Sean Flinn about his company’s cross-platform middleware, along with Trendy Entertainment’s COO and co-founder Jeremy Stieglitz and Marketing Director Philip Asher about their title Dungeon Defenders, which will soon be available for several modern platforms.

Talk to me a little bit about how the partnership came about in the first place.

Jeremy Stieglitz: When we first started with Dungeon Defenders, we knew we wanted online multiplayer with matchmaking and we knew we wanted to be on multiple platforms and didn’t want separate networks. While Xbox takes care of itself, there’s still iOS, Android, PS3 and PC and we couldn’t even consider developing for all those platforms separately. At first, we didn’t consider the cross-platform abilities of GameSpy, we just wanted a low hassle way to incorporate online play. We use Unreal Engine 3, so it was pretty drag-and-drop for our game with our three man tech team. We thought of enabling cross platform-play when we realized there really were no barriers to doing it and it was implemented easily after we integrated it with the game.

Sean Flinn: They came through our GameSpy Open program which is available for all platforms for free. It really stood out because they asked questions about Android ahead of where it was on our internal roadmap. We knew they were pushing the technology and that was exciting to us. [GameSpy technology has] been cross-platform enabled for quite a while – you go back to the Dreamcast, we implemented cross-platform play for 4×4 Evo. It really lived up to expectations that we had and it’s great to work with the guys that we think are on the tip of the spear as far as cross platform technology that studios are reluctant to try. That bet paid off, with something people have dreamed of.

Dungeon Defenders in action.

Speaking of cross-platform play, Quake III  had some issues with Dreamcast players not being able to match the precise control that PC users had with the mouse and keyboard [not implemented by GameSpy but by id. -ed.]. How do you deal with different input methods?

Jeremy Stieglitz: With Dungeon Defenders, there are three control schemes; there’s touch, gamepad and mouse/keyboard, so we had to come up with a design to keep it consistent between the platforms. The idea we had was that [the users] wouldn’t know who was using what format and it wouldn’t matter. So we came up with net instructions that would abstract out what was sent over the network; it’s not the raw value of the input. So with that, we kept the functionality consistent and we developed our games for that method, otherwise every game would have to do that differently.

I’d also like to add that having auto-aim helped us greatly on mobile and console! Another big advantage [for Dungeon Defenders] is having a focus on co-op play. One of the biggest advantages for cross platform in co-op is that you don’t have to worry about someone having a competitive advantage; there is competitive multiplayer but it’s not the primary way to play the game.

Talk to me about the reception at PAX Dev.

Philip Asher: It was received really well, and it was standing room only while we were presenting. People wanted to know how to integrate multiple platform support into their games. We got a huge boost and a lot of people were coming up and asking if they could play with friends on other platforms. We had a live demo of the technology, with people playing on a PS3, PC, an iPad and an Android phone that really got a good reception.

Who won among the platforms?

Philip Asher: It was a co-op session, so technically everyone won!

Did fans give positive feedback have for Dungeon Defenders at PAX?

Philip Asher: We definitely did. People liked to see technical wizardry. There’s a big difference between hearing about something and seeing it actually happen, so it provided a big boost for us.

Jeremy Stieglitz: One of the advantages is the large fanbase on Android and iOS. We have over a million users, and it’s been helpful to roll those players over to the PC and PS3 so even though Dungeon Defenders hasn’t launched on those platforms, we already have an active player base.

The Dungeon Defenders.

For GameSpy, talk to me about what you feel like you offer to indie operators.

Sean Flinn: I think the great thing is that we don’t offer them anything different from AAA developers, like what Nintendo and Take-Two, have. We offer the technology free-of-charge for those that are getting their feet underneath them. We do have plans to monetize the services down the line, but they’ll be affordable.

Jeremy Stieglitz: A really key factor was the technology was easy to use; if it hadn’t been workable out of the box, it would not of been viable for us. It was very straightforward for us and we didn’t have to bang our heads against the wall and the Unreal Engine 3 integration made it easier for us.

Sean Flinn: Using our low price point-of-entry, those interested can download [the technology] directly from the website and ask questions in the forums without jumping through hoops — it’s very much initiated by the developers. We just released a new version of our tech, so Unity developers will see improved ease of access to what they’re doing.

Talk with me about the exciting potential for cross-platform development with GameSpy Technology.

Sean Flinn: Cross-platform is something we have more plans to expand on. We understand why [developers] don’t do it; different platforms can make it intimidating to migrate. They realize gamers aren’t tied to one platform; they want to transcend platforms. They want to play on multiple versions of the same game; leave off on mobile and play on PC and finish on PC and play on console. Sometimes you want to play across platforms and it’s the way players play today. The trend is towards “games as services” and enabling players to vault those platform gaps is great and we’re glad we’re helping people share experiences especially as mobile platforms mature. There’s also cloud based saving and stats tracking, which is all in our tech.

Philip Asher: We agree with what Sean has said about the benefit from having a userbase together online as opposed to multiple separate platforms. A PC gamer can play with a mobile gamer and that just expands the overall player network.

Do you think we’re heading towards a future where format either matters very little or not at all?

Jeremy Stieglitz: Definitely. Games as service has been a trend over the past year or so and is a continuing trend and a big part of that is cross-platform play and cloud gaming. In terms of the games themselves, it is a good thing for indie developers because it decreases monopoly players. We don’t want to interrupt [users’] play and it creates a userbase that transcends platform and that increases the total number of potential players to ALL players everywhere, not just who owns an Xbox or PS3.

We think the trend is towards more mobile development and not less. It’s going to get easier and easier to make more and higher quality games. That’s coupled with a rise in capabilities to deliver enhanced games and the acknowledgment that not every game has to be Call of Duty. The quality of games from indies is equivalent to what you’re getting from AAA studios. There’s a realization that fun doesn’t have to be equivalent to the price tag.

This is a trend that is not going to just benefit developers but gamers as well and I think the platforms that don’t adapt . . . players will play them less and less. I think it’s smart for Sony to cooperate with the cross-platform design; we feel the trend is towards enabling cross-platform play.

It’s like with the mobile MMO Pocket Legends that works across iOS, Android and soon on PC — once you have that convenience you’re not going to want to go back.

Sean Flinn: One of the mottoes we have is games are designed to be played with other people. PC gaming and video gaming spent a little while in the single-player space but people in the 70s and 80s remember that most games were originally designed to be played around other people [in the arcade]. As evidenced by the rise of FPS deathmatch in the ’90s, anyone who gets into multiplayer there’s really no going back and what Dungeon Defenders has done is extended it to cross-platform players and struck down these barriers, allowing people to have more fun.

Seems like it’s a good time to be a developer working for yourself.

Jeremy Stieglitz: It’s a good time to be an indie. I think traditionally, monopolies stayed with large platforms, but this is a large opportunity to have a player-based markets.

So will cross-platform play be enabled on release?

Jeremy Stieglitz: We hope to have cross-platform play on release if not shortly thereafter. Its difficult to release things super synchronously. The only thing tricky about this is we have to do a mobile update through mobile certification and go through iOS approval. So the idea is to have it on the first day, but there’s a lot of moving parts.

Anything that you’d like to add?

Jeremy Stieglitz: Game is out on October 19, 2011 for Xbox Live Arcade and PC!

Thanks everyone!

_ _

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Star Trek Online Boldly Going Free-To-Play

Cryptic’s Champions Online has gone free-to-play and soon it will have company. Owner Perfect World indicates that Star Trek Online will be free-to-play by the end of 2011.

“Cryptic is working on the free-to-play model for Star Trek Online,” said Perfect World CFO Kelvin Lau. “This is going to be launched by the end of this year.  So I think free-to-play model we have a bigger potential in U.S. market and also in China market.”

“[Cryptic] will help us grow in the U.S. and the Europe, and further strengthen our R&D and operations around the world,” added Perfect World chairman Michael Chi.

Source: seekingalpha.com

Team Bondi: For Sale

According to reports, Team Bondi has entered administration. Documents filed with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission indicate that Riad Tayeh and David Solomons of de Vries Tayeh have been appointed as joint administrators of the company.

“The appointment comes weeks after the business was rumoured to be selling assets and intellectual property to filmmaker George Miller’s studio KMM,” wrote Patrick Stafford. “When . . . the Team Bondi office [was contacted] this morning, it was informed the company was no longer located there. It was also told that no person would be available to handle media inquiries going forward.”

Source: smartcompany.com.au

Dead Island Comic Available Online

Recently, Deep Silver made a Dead Island comic available at Comic Con. However, they’re making it available as as a digital comic on Marvel’s site.

The prequel to the FPS series “introduces journalist Roger Howard, who has traveled to Banoi to investigate the illegal exploitation of the island’s resources.” Instead, he discovers a terrible surprise, which we’re guessing is zombies.

Source: marvel.com

Deus Ex Character Causes Controversy Over Stereotypes

While Deus Ex: Human Revolution has earned its fair share of plaudits, at least one part is causing controversy. An NPC called Letitia the Trash Lady talks in a fashion that some have called racist and insulting, prompting a response from Square Enix.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a fictional story which reflects the diversity of the world’s future population by featuring characters of various cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds,” reads the Square Enix statement. “While these characters are meant to portray people living in the year 2027, it has never been our intention to represent any particular ethnic group in a negative light.”

Batman: Arkham City – Robin Edition

Those that pre-order Batman: Arkham City from Game or Gamestation will have an exclusive access to the Tim Drake Robin DLC pack. This will unlock the “Boy Wonder” as a fully playable character in the title’s improved challenge mode.

Robin will have his own fighting style and crime-fighting gadgets and will come with his Red Robin character skin. The DLC will also come with will also come with two additional challenge maps – Black Mask Hideout and Freight Train Escape.

DC Comics Risks With Comic Reboot

The newest issue of Justice League, Detective Comics and Action Comics will all carry the number one, resetting their long and tangled continuities. While the Flash is the one giving the story reason for the new timeline, it was DC managers looking to counteract negative sales trends over many, many years.

It’s a risk to bring in new readers at the expense of the old and also ties into parent company Warner Bros. attempts to tie in the properties to TV shows and movies. “[This could determine] whether or not DC Comics, as a comic-book publishing company, will continue in the future,” said Rich Johnston, a blogger for Bleeding Cool. “There’s an awful lot at stake here, and that’s why they’ve thrown everything and the kitchen sink at this.”

Late last year, writers started devising a plan that would disentangle certain story elements (like Superman being married to Lois Lane) and renumber the entire line, hopefully bringing in new fans while not alienating the old. “I certainly wouldn’t buy a DVD series of a hit show and start at Season 7,” said Jim Lee, co-publisher of DC Comics. “I would want to go back and start from the beginning.”

The move also follows increased plans for reboots in the comic-based movie industry. Sony Pictures is releasing The Amazing Spider-Man, starting fresh from the previous Spider-Man trilogy started in 2002. Meanwhile, Man of Steel is a reset of the Superman franchise given a soft reboot in Superman Returns and follows The Dark Knight Rises, itself the third movie in the reboot of Batman.

“That whole attitude of, “˜Oh, go ahead, start over, reboot,’ people get tired of that and it worries me,” said Jim Shooter, a former editor in chief of Marvel Comics who now holds that title at the comics publisher Illustrated Media. “As storytellers, I don’t know where we wandered off to.”

The business model of shipping 22-page comic books to shops every week is on the verge of collapse in and of itself; DC is already planning for the future with digital versions being sold of all their new comics.

“It’s hard to see it persisting into the future in exactly the way it’s existed before. It’s going to stop as soon as it stops becoming profitable,” said Laura Hudson, the editor in chief of the Web site Comics Alliance, who added. “I love print, I love going to the comics shop, I’ve done it for more years than we can count.”

Source: New York Times

HP Doing Another Run Of TouchPads

HP recently slashed the price of its TouchPad to $99 from $399 and $499 after only six weeks on the market, when the company decided to do a drastic shift of their own business. While the webOS tablet is likely finished in the long run, HP announced that high demand for the device in its cheaper form has pushed them to do another production run.

“Despite announcing an end to manufacturing webOS hardware, we have decided to produce one last run of TouchPads to meet unfulfilled demand,” said Mark Budgell, Social Media Strategist for HP PR. “We don’t know exactly when these units will be available or how many we’ll get, and we can’t promise we’ll have enough for everyone. We do know that it will be at least a few weeks before you can purchase.”

Source: HP blog

 

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Halo Combat Evolved: Anniversary Pre-Order Art Book

Microsoft has revealed that those that those that pre-order their copy of Halo Combat Evolved: Anniversary from Game and Gamestation will receive the special edition collector’s booklet. Its material will be based on the art book “Halo: The Art of Building Worlds” from Titan Publishing.

“This 24 page, 170 x 135mm booklet contains a collection of ground-breaking art from the history of the Halo games including concept art, sweeping landscapes from the Halo universe, and of course the evolution of the Master Chief,” explained Microsoft.

Steve Jobs Departure May Hurt Disney Too

While Apple is the most prominent company that will suffer from Steve Jobs semi-retirement, they are far from the only one. Walt Disney Co. and, by extension, their brands ABC and ESPN to Pixar may suffer as well; he technically sits on the board, even if health issues have kept him from attending a majority of meetings.

“I wouldn’t say he’s been a passive board member at Disney, but it’s come pretty close to that,” said Tuna Amobi, a media analyst with Standard & Poor’s. “People understand that his health issues have somewhat limited his ability to contribute fully as a board member . . . [and] are somewhat forgiving of that—he takes no compensation for his board role.”

Jobs has, however, lent his expertise in helping Disney revamp their own stores, with things like interactive displays and center stage theaters. These sorts of insights will be sorely missed if Jobs stops contributing to Disney.

“It’s a basic governance challenge: How do you create a succession plan for someone who can’t really be replaced ” said Ric Marshall, chief analyst with GovernanceMetrics International, an independent provider of corporate governance ratings and research. “You have to replace them as best you can and be prepared for the company to experience change. Disney itself is a great example of that. It’s like working Walt Disney all over again.”

Source: AdWeek