King of Gamedev: What is Defold?
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King of Gamedev: What is Defold?
24 March, 2016
Interview

The announcement of Defold at GDC 2016 was actually kind of a surprise for us. Who would have thought that King (which most recently became a part of Activision) would like to get into the engine game. However, it’s not as simple. Defold – a new game tech from the creators of Candy Crush Saga – is totally free, no strings attached. You’re not really sharing any future revenues or buying a licensee. So what exactly is King trying to get from this?

During the GDC 2016 we had a chance to ask this question to the man behind Defold – CTO of King Thomas Hartwig. He shared his thoughts on the current features of Defold, discussed the way this technology can help indies and talked about the future of mobile game development.

What is Defold?

Thomas och Christian-80lv-5

King has a game engine. For a long time it was used internally to build our games, but this year we decided to open it up and make it available for everyone to use. We believe it will bring a lot of good value to indie developers. Basically it’s a 3d engine, but the tools, which we are providing to the community right now are designed to work with 2d. Of course you can add 3d models and all that stuff to the engine, but it’s still going to be used in 2d games.

The Defold Editor 03-80lv-2

From day one our technology was designed to build games for multiple platforms. So far some the most prominent platforms for Defold are Mac, Windows PC, iOS, Android. The big platform that we support, and which we’re incredibly proud of, is HTML 5. It’s a great tool. Supporting this platforms we make sure that your game will look and work the same way on your mobile device and in your browser and running at a decent frame rate.

Why give it away for free?

Giving engine for free is a great way to increase adoption of the technology. From our perspective it’s all very logical. We’re using Defold internally. We are heavily invested in it. We have a fairly big team working on it constantly. The main reason for us to share this technology is to make a better product.

The main reason for us to share this technology is to make a better product.

We believe that the more developers are actually using this technology, the better it will become. We’ll benefit from this internally, when we’ll be building our own games. We’re not an engine company, so we don’t need to make money from this engine. It’s not going to be like lot of other companies have it: you start free and when you get to a certain limit it all changes. Our technology is also centred around small bite-sized kind of games. There’s not a lot of engines, which focus on this sort of thing.

Community

Defold is our product. We’re heavily invested in it. We’re building a community around it: forums, channels, groups (Defold Forum, Defold tutorials, Defold getting started tutorials). We’re improving the documentation on a daily basis. King can also help with marketing and promotion of Defold games, but so far we still have to set the guidelines and figure out how the whole thing is going to work. Right now we are focused on making a really-really good product.

Defold Office 2-80lv-6

The big thing which we are currently working on is extensibility. We have invited a number of indie developers to try Defold during the last 6 months. The main thing they were all crying for is extensibility. They need the tools to extend the functionality of Defold with plugins or some other ways. This is what we’re currently working at.

The key is to make sure that developers and artists, the people who are actually making the game, really fall in love with the product. We’re not going to artificially drive adoption with marketing campaigns and that sort of thing.

Is it for programmers or for artists?

The Defold Editor 09-80lv-3

If you want to build a game with Defold you need to do some coding. It’s not kind of “drag and drop” engine. If there’s a huge need from the community and our internal teams, we can actually add that kind of stuff. We might be thinking about that right now. But today in my understanding it’s really hard to do a unique game that’s going to just created with drag and drop. Doing a game without writing a single line of code is not going to happen.

Doing a game without writing a single line of code is not going to happen.

What does the future hold for game development?

Christian och Thomas-80lv-7

VR was big last year on GDC and it’s even bigger this year. This technology is definitely going to take a while before its going to be widely adopted. There are a lot of devices and it’s great. King is mostly in mobile devices and bite-sized gaming experiences. We’re building something you can play on the way home on the bus. You pick up the phone and play the game. I believe mobile will continue to be super big and grow. These are the kind of games that are super easy to access and have a great mass market appeal. Let’s take Candy Crush. It became so big. It literally taught a new generation of people to enjoy mobile games. Personally I would like to take this new iteration of gamers (which may not even consider themselves gamers) to a new kind of immersive experience. I would love to see my mother, who’s an avid Candy Crush player, to have the same kind of immersive experience, which I had while playing Counter Strike a 10 years ago, in an new format.

Thomas Hartwig, Co-founder and CTO of King

Special thanks goes to Oleg Pridiuk and Susannah Clark for help with arranging this interview.
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