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Not So MMO: How the Community Literally Keeps Dungeon Defenders Alive

By William Murphy on January 19, 2016 | Columns | Comments

How the Community Literally Keeps Dungeon Defenders Alive

Doubtless, many of you around here probably remember Dungeon Defenders, the Indie hit from 2011 (seems so long ago, now). A mix of tower defense and co-op RPG, players fended off waves of enemies while defending the Eternia Crystals. The game sold so well across various platforms that developer Trendy Entertainment has been long at work on a sequel. Make sense, right? The part that makes this interesting is that while Trendy works on DD2, it’s currently allowing its fans to continue development of Dungeon Defenders.

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We met with Travis Boyd, Manager of the Community Development Team, and Josh Isom the Community Manager of Trendy, to discuss how this unusual arrangement came to be. As an independent developer, Trendy eventually had to put progress on the original Dungeon Defenders on hold while it focused on finishing Dungeon Defenders 2 for the eagerly awaiting fans. While the community understood the decision, that doesn’t mean they weren’t sad.

So sad, they actually banded together and asked Trendy is they could continue working on the game, make bug fixes themselves, add more content, and do at least one final big patch to keep the game alive while DD2 was being made. And, not being a large studio or a corporation with lots of shareholders to worry about, Trendy simply said, “Sure! Why not?”

When Trendy put DD1 on hold, community asked if we can release more content, bug fixes, and do a big final patch. Really cool to have the community put a team together to work on the game while DD2 is getting polished.  A team of about 10 people was assembled, from programmer to QA, and a couple more are being added for visual effects and the like. What started as a plan to make one big final patch has turned into ongoing management of Dungeon Defenders, as long as Trendy allows it and the fans support it.

The community dev team has already put out one release in December, with a second on the schedule in about the next month or so.  Maps from Dungeon Defenders Eternity (a sort of spin-off that was not-so-well-received by the community) have been imported into DD1, along with all new items, new weapons, new pets, and new accessories. All the while the team also fixed some long plaguing bugs, made some changes that have been requested for a while, and of course… the Jester Towers were finally brought in which has long been requested.

There’s a check-in process from the community team to the Devs, and Trendy’s own QA team then checks each built. Then they release it to the public test server (a beta branch in Steam), and if it passes the actual community’s tests then it’s greenlit live!  Trendy and the Community team hope to keep this going as long as the fans support it, but Travis knows that DD2 will likely come out and take a lot of fans (possibly even himself) away from the original.

The next update, due out in February or March, will include even more new assets from DDE. The Boss Map known as Ember Mount will be added, along with even more new weapons, accessories. Plus a bunch of all new Tavern Themed items will be set to fit the release as well.

It’s really refreshing to see a developer take notice of their fans’ desire to see one of their products live on, embrace it, and let the fans take the game’s destiny into their own hands. Much like SWG Emu or Project 1999, Dungeon Defenders is living on thanks to the passion of its fans. The key difference being that the developer, Trendy Entertainment, is not only allowing it to happen but actively taking part in the ongoing development of the game.

Most games and companies would kill to have this sort of devotion. Most players would kill to have the developers take them this seriously. Maybe it’s time both realized they should meet in the middle.

William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, and lover of all things gaming. He''s been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002. Be sure to follow him on Twitter for all of his pointless rambling.