Creating Core and Sub-Core Destructions

Blog - April 22, 2014 - By Abe Abdala, Lead Technical Animator

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As part of our visual overhaul for DD2, we wanted to take a look at the destruction of Crystal cores and see how we could improve them. Originally, the cores in Dungeon Defenders played one simple explosion animation once they were destroyed, but since we’re moving away from static Crystal cores in DD2, we wanted a way to give meaning and context to the objectives.

To this end, we decided to have a full destruction animation along with VFX for main-objectives, sub-objectives, and some environmental sequences. Many of these animations are unique and tailored to the map, like the water tank in Siphon Site D. Some are what we call modular, or reuseable, such as the East Gate Lock in Greystone Plaza. Let’s talk about the process of completing one of these animation from an initial concept to the final, in-game implementation.

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Creating Destruction

Once the concept for a destructible object (like a main objective) is created, it goes into the modeling and texturing phase. This stage is crucial, since it is where the modeler and I decide where and/or how the object will be broken apart according to the concept. In some special cases, we have the luxury of having storyboards for the destroyed animation and VFX, which makes it much easier for us to plan out each stage of the animation.

Once the modeling is done, the object goes to the animation team where that plan is brought to life. The art director sits with me and we decide exactly what is going to happen for that respective destruction, always sticking to the main concept and style.

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After the environment, objects, and different broken pieces have been set up in the 3D application (eg; Maya, 3DS Max), it’s time to simulate a destruction. Time spent on the simulation varies from object to object. Some are very complex, containing rigid bodies such as pieces of wood or shards of crystal as well as cloth physics that involve several layers of simulations. Others can be rather simple and quick.

When it comes to simulations, there are many techniques that we use including Maya’s native Dynamics, Ncloth, Hair systems, deformers, etc. We choose the tool according to what is needed. And if we don’t have the tool we need, we create it. As a technical animator, I’ve created several tools to aid our process — especially when it comes to scene setup. This makes the whole process faster and more efficient, saving us precious time.

The Final Touches

After the simulation is at a decent stage, it goes into review. If approved, it enters the polishing state and gets imported into the editor, giving the VFX artists a chance to work their magic. Once both the simulation and its VFX are in the editor, a final review is made just in case further tweaking is needed. The level designers then implement the destroyed objects into the game, setting up the triggers and logic behind where and when these objects should blow up.

In the end, everything ties together to create a spectacular explosion that gives significance to the object and its impact on the space around it. The simulation of the larger chunks lends real weight to the destruction, VFX add power, and sound brings in that last, crucial component that makes it believable.

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The random winner of our PAX East 2014 Recap blog is ssjtrunks15!

Leave a comment to get your hands on the Dungeon Defenders II pre-alpha. We’ll pick a random poster and reveal the winner in our next blog post!

Want to see more destruction GIFs? Check ‘em out!


PAX East 2014 Recap

Blog - April 18, 2014 - By Laura Muriel, Community Manager

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When the doors opened at PAX East, things didn’t look good for the Trendy booth. The announcement rang from the PA: “The show floor is open!” And in the blink of an eye, people charged past us to get to Riot’s massive League of Legends booth. Others booked it to the Oculus Rift booth. And there we were, sandwiched in between the two, without a single person in our line.

But within an hour, crowds gathered around our monitors. Our line maxed out. And almost everyone who played told us the same thing: Dungeon Defenders II was damn fun.

For us, PAX East was about more than letting our fans play DD2. It was a chance for feedback from people who had never played before — some of whom had never even played the first game! Armed with a pen and a notepad, our team gathered their feedback. Here are the top 3 pros and cons:

Pros:

  • New and old fans really liked the faster-paced gameplay and revisions to tower placement — not being locked in place while build/upgrading/repairing.
  • People loved the new tower/ability kits and combo possibilities between players.
  • Players felt the difficulty of all three maps was spot-on. (We brought an early-game map, a late-game map and a special challenge map to PAX.)

Cons:

  • Chest & Key system was difficult for players to grasp. It was hard for them to understand how chests were instanced, what keys were, and how to use them. (In DD2, players get their own chests. Players are given keys to unlock those chests.)
  • The Relic system was hard for people to understand. Oftentimes, people were not picking up relics that would make them more powerful. This could also have something to do with the convention center.
  • On the early-game map, players wanted to be able to place more defenses (mana shortage). On the same token, players felt that they were able to place a good number of defenses on the late-game map.

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Of course, feedback is a two-way street. So we closed down our booth for 30 minutes on Saturday afternoon to hold a Q&A event for our fans. Co-creative directors Danny Araya and Daniel Haddad, along with Lead Technical Artist Joshua Javaheri, answered questions in an intimate chat at our booth. Highlights included a discussion about player hubs in DD2 (yes, you will have one), which hero was the hardest to mature (the Monk), and if bosses will be returning in DD2 (yes, and you may have already seen the first one).

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Every day at 4:30 p.m., we held a raffle at the Dungeon Defenders II booth. Everything we could possibly get our hands on, we gave away to our fans. This included DD2 pins, buttons, signed art prints, mouse pads, Razer headsets, scarfs, and mice, Dungeon Defenders T-shirts — and on the last day, we gave away 4 Defense Council codes. We hope you all enjoyed Brys’ (our MC’s) antics for the raffle! We received a ton of positive feedback for the raffle. We would like to thank everyone who posted pictures and commented about it online! It let us know we should definitely do raffles this way in the future.

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Cosplay and video games go hand-in-hand at any convention, and PAX East was no exception. We got to see people dressed up as all sorts of characters, but our favorites were the fans who came to our booth in Dungeon Defenders cosplay. We had a variety of heroes stop by, including a red DD1 Apprentice and a grown-up DD2 Squire. A Jester came to our merch booth and dropped some “mana” and some presents for the Trendy Crew. We even had a Propeller Cat drop in and say hi! It was great seeing our fans in their Dungeon Defenders gear. Hopefully next time you’ll see some of our Trendy Crew all dressed up as well!

We want to say thank you to everyone who stopped by and played the game. Thank you for sharing your feedback and helping us get a clearer picture of what we need to do to make DD2 even better. Without a doubt, this was our most successful, popular PAX adventure yet. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.

The random winner of our New CEO blog is StillPad!

Leave a comment to get your hands on the Dungeon Defenders II pre-alpha. We’ll pick a random poster and reveal the winner in our next blog post!


A Message to Our Community From Our New CEO

Blog - April 14, 2014 - By Darrell Rodriguez, CEO

Darrell

Greetings, Defenders!

My name is Darrell Rodriguez, and I am the new CEO of Trendy Entertainment. I’ve worked in the entertainment industry for the vast majority of my career, where I have been privileged to work with some of the foremost creative and tech leaders around at companies such as Disney, EA, LucasArts, and now Trendy Entertainment.

I am here to empower the developers at Trendy to achieve their amazing vision, technology, and creativity. I am here so we can continue to build games you will love and create technology that will empower other independent developers to take their games to a place they could not have otherwise gone. Like everyone at Trendy, I am a big believer in collaborating with you, our community. So I’m also here to build systems to empower, to better listen to you and to make your input a reality in the games we make.

I, like you, have been captivated by Dungeon Defenders’ unique gameplay and pledge to bring more of that to you in the future. Both in the form of Dungeon Defenders II, whose evolving art style and gameplay continue to impress me every day, and other (more secret) projects for Dungeon Defenders lovers. I ask for your patience and trust as I help guide your beloved Dungeon Defenders. I am human, and like us all, may stumble. But through listening and learning from you all, I am confident we will work together to make Dungeon Defenders future as bright as possible.

As an independent developer, funding is tight and decisions need to be made that enable survival and empower developers to make games you will play and love. So to start, I have a question for you. The Kickstarter concept of voting with your wallet to fund products you would like to see built has been popular for many independent studios so far. What are your thoughts on using this concept, not to fund a game, but to grow and expand one? For example, would you chip in with other players to help create new features or content for everyone to play as opposed to just buying content for yourself?

The random winners of our Wyvern blog are Baxter and Beorn424!

Leave a comment to get your hands on the Dungeon Defenders II pre-alpha. We’ll pick a random poster and reveal the winner in our next blog post!


Enemies and Balance: Chronicles of the Mighty Wyvern, Chapter I Special Edition

Blog - April 8, 2014 - By James Brawley, Level Designer

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Balancing the roles, quantity, and power of enemies in DD2 is no small task. The enemies we place in a level affect nearly every vector of difficulty in the game. This is one of the reasons it is imperative that we experiment not only with different types of enemies, but how we use those enemies, as well.

Wyverns were a staple of the original Dungeon Defenders’ gameplay, but it was clear the role of air units in DD2 needed to evolve. Fundamentally, an air unit poses a different tactical question than a ground unit. Units on the ground can be blocked using a barricade, permitting time to react to their presence. Wyverns required players to develop different strategies that were based around anti-air defense.

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The Trouble With Wyverns

But DD1’s Wyverns had numerous shortcomings, and in order to make Wyverns more interesting to engage in DD2, we had to resolve two main problems:

  • There was little variety in their behavior, making any gameplay that involved them monotonous and predictable.
  • They utilized extremely basic AI, flying straight for their objective without deviation.

Fixing these problems in the long term was going to take time. But there was nothing stopping the intrepid level designers from hacking their way around these problems. Early on, it was clear that we needed different types of Wyverns.

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Creating Different Behaviors

Initially we developed the Heavy Wyvern by creating a copy of the standard Wyvern, making him larger, and changing him to a rich purple hue. The Heavy Wyvern was a bit slower, but could take a much larger amount of abuse. We coupled this change with making the standard Wyvern much faster.

The difference was immediately noticeable in terms of strategic consideration. The heavy Wyverns did a fantastic job of diverting the attention of players, and when they appeared in early prototypes, everyone reacted to their presence. Internally, we had to devise new ways of counteracting the presence of the Heavy Wyverns. Players devised new defense setups to combat the Wyverns, such as groups of Frostbite Towers that would freeze and then shatter them when they hit the ground, or Cannonball Towers placed in positions that were advantageous to attacking air units.

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In another playtest, we created a small, fast, black Wyvern that could bombard players and their defenses from a long range. These opponents created a different type of player reaction: If not controlled quickly, the black Wyverns could severely disrupt the team’s defensive layouts.

Tweaking the Flight Path

Resolving the Wyverns’ flight paths was actually surprisingly easy. With a little manipulation, we were able to create a chain of flight waypoints that forced the Wyverns from a specific lane to follow a tightly controlled path. This allowed us to create predictable air lanes (making it much easier for players to position anti-air defenses) instead of having Wyverns simply spawn on the outside of the space and fly directly towards their targets.

The result of these two initiatives was much stronger aerial gameplay, allowing air units to play a clearer role in the combat space. But we continue to iterate on our air units with new ideas and new prototypes, so if there are any air unit types you might like to see in the game, leave a comment below and you could win a seat on the Defense Council.

The random winner of our QA blog is Ikulity!

Leave a comment to get your hands on the Dungeon Defenders II pre-alpha. We’re going to be at PAX East this week so there won’t be a blog this Friday. That’s why we’re going to pick two posters from this blog and reveal the winners in next week’s blog post!


The Spontaneous Combustion Obstruction

Blog - April 4, 2014 - By Levi Fink, QA

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Defenders! Welcome to another edition of QA’s bug blog: Ninety-Nine Problems But A Bug Ain’t One [working title]. We’ve got a great bug this month: A mysterious, truly awe-inspiring issue that seemed to affect players at random!

Fire in the Dungeon! Fire in the Deeper Well!

For seemingly no reason, players began to burst into flames. We’re not talking a little spark, either. I mean this was undeniably, spectacularly broken and unignorable. This happened so infrequently that for a long time we couldn’t reproduce it with any reliability.

Let me put it into perspective. You’re playing the game with friends, having a good time. You notice one of the sub-objectives is being swarmed. The exchange goes something like this:

“We need a hand by the East Gate Lock,” you say, pinging the map.

“I’m on my way,” they answer, rushing to your side. “Incoming Heroic Wave!”

As the horde falls at your feet, you celebrate your hard-earned victory. “Yeah! We rule. Towers for days. Orcs got no game.”

And while you’re taking a victorious swig of your brand soda of choice, you turn back towards your monitor and see…

…And so you say something to the effect of: “Sweet sassy molassy! щ(゜ロ゜щ) What’s happening?!”

Just as quickly as it appeared, it ceases. Not only was this bug very rare, occurring maybe one in every thirty games, but it was such a distraction that it completely captivated us, even though the fire visual effects only lasted two or three seconds at most. We gathered no new information as to what caused it or any steps to reliable see it again, so it slipped through our fingers for a while.

We had to extinguish this bug. We focused up, and after some time, we managed to get it to happen again. We found out it was due to a specific part of our Town Square map, specifically an animation, or what level designers call a “cinematic event,” that played as part of the background.

Bug Type: VFX
Time Spent On 100% Reproduction Rate: 4 months
Time Spent On Fix: 3 hours

After I saw the bug and began eliminating possible explanations, I remembered browsing through the internal build when I first started working here and going down each letter of the alphabet to find console commands. I found one for castleseige2 — yes, siege is misspelled in the actual command line — that made me catch on fire randomly, but I didn’t link the command to the bug since the fire didn’t happen right away. I had to do a lot of experimenting once I found the command, because using it once didn’t give any results. It only made me burst into flames maybe once in every dozen times, so I used another command to keybind the castleseige2 cinematic event. Spamming the bound key made the bug happen within seconds, which gave us a reliable way to see it and fix it.

What happened was this: There’s an animation of cannonballs striking the castle in the background of that map on the northeast side that helps visually communicate the siege. This animation has different parts to it, like say, a fire visual. The frequency of the animation sometimes meant that the fire visual would sort of “overflow” and wouldn’t know where to go. For whatever reason, it went to the last thing that was affected by something with a particle effect, like fire from a goblin’s bomb, for instance. The end result was that it transferred to enemies and sometimes even heroes.

This bug is easily my new personal favorite. Easily. ( ̄︶ ̄)

Let us know what you think in the comments. This bug is fixed, but we’re interested in hearing how you might use this awesome superpower of random self-combustion. Maybe to roast a few marshmallows during your victory celebration? Tell us below, and you could win a seat on the Defense Council. Until next time!

The random winner of our Press blog is HPTSparky!

Leave a comment to get your hands on the Dungeon Defenders II pre-alpha. We’ll pick a random poster and reveal the winner in our next blog post!


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