Monster Madness Online Interview with Jeremy Stieglitz: Resurrecting the undead

Dungeon Defenders was easily one of my favorite downloadable titles in 2011. The fact that I loved tower defense games certainly helped, but being able to actually influence the battlefield as a character that had its own progression was genius.

Jeremy Stieglitz, who is not only the co-founder of Trendy Entertainment but also the creator, lead designer, & lead programmer of Dungeon Defenders has created a side company called Nom Nom Games, and through that, wanted to revitalize a project he created on consoles, Monster Madness: Battle for Suburbia.

The game is still in its very early stages, Pre-Alpha 2 stage to be precise, but that didn't stop us from being able to get some more insight on Monster Madness Online, and what players can expect through the coming months.

1. Can I get a little bit of a background on the development team of Monster Madness Online?

I'm the co-founder of Trendy Entertainment and creator, lead designer, & lead programmer of Dungeon Defenders 1 (I also was the founder & creator of the original 'Monster Madness: Battle for Suburbia' console game). After DunDef, I wanted to get back into smaller-scale development so I founded Monster Madness Online's development team, 'Nom Nom Games', as a subsidiary of Trendy, to do skunk-works style development (highly agile, lean & mean). In addition to myself, we have the lead artist & level designer from Dungeon Defenders 1, Jerome Pourchier & Morgan Roberts respectively, on the team, and also the lead artist from Monster Madness, the absolutely amazing Alejandro Alvarez (http://valhein.deviantart.com/). Finally, we've got a bunch of fresh-faced game developers right out of school, most from the esteemed Guildhall at SMU. The team's about 20-strong, and they're among the best I've ever been blessed to worked with.

Monster Madness Online

2. What prompted the team to revitalize this game in an online setting?

I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Monster Madness (Dungeon Defenders in some ways was my attempt to recapture that feeling in a fantasy setting). At Nom Nom, we were looking for a title that we could do in a cross-platform (Desktop, Mobile, Web) environment, which for me meant easy-to-grasp, fun, online action gameplay. When I heard that the IP was up for grabs, I snapped it up. We felt that the best part of Monster Madness was always the faux-horror setting, the absurd anything-goes universe, and its amusing cast of characters -- which were all eminently adaptable to this new era.

3. What are the key differences between the console game and online game, outside of its focused multiplayer?

The new game is really a total revamp of the idea of Monster Madness -- it's a loot-based online action RPG ("Diablo with Guns"), whereas the original was a core action shooter (ala "Smash TV"). While still very much a skill-based shooter, the new game is also very much about statistics, spells, gear customization, team configuration, buffs/debuffs, balancing, and consumable popping. It's a blast! :)

4. How much has Dungeon Defenders influenced the design of Monster Madness Online?

Tremendously. I learned so much from creating Dungeon Defenders, including how (and how not) to scale a game post-launch. One absolute rule I learned is this, which informs every fiber of Monster Madness Online: be generous to your players. Reward them with loot, content, replayability, satisfiying progression and sheer zany fun-factor and they will reward you with 1000's of hours played. And that's what it's all about.

5. How does character progression work?

Needless to say, you get Experience Points for killing enemies, and upon reaching a level threshold, can apply those into core Hero Stat upgrades. Furthermore, you craft Gear from weapon parts collected from chests found throughout your missions. Gear can be armor, accessories, or weapons. (You can occasionally also find pre-crafted gear). When crafting a Gear Item, you can slot in a Gem to modify the stats of the resulting item; Gems of various types can have any number of effects, from modifying the weight of an item, to reducing or increasing its quality ranking, to adding upgrade levels or modifying the buffs a Gear can give. You can also Upgrade a Gear Item after it's crafted, through numerous levels, by applying more Weapon Parts. Gear can also have Ability Amulets slotted into them, which enables you to use those special Abilities (i.e. Spells) in battle. If you have a full-set of Gear that is of the same "set" type ("School", "Medieval", "War", etc) and quality level, you'll get a "Full Set" bonus to all of your Gear's stats.

Monster Madness Online

Pets -- which follow you around have active and passive abilities & attacks -- can also be hatched from Eggs, which require Food Pieces. The higher quality Food Pieces you give, the better the resulting Pet. Post-hatching, Pets can then be levelled by earning Pet XP, which they acquire through use. Finally, you can earn or purchase (for in-game currency, not real money) Consumables which are powerful one-time use items to help turn the tide of battle in a pinch. There are 5 difficulty levels, each with increasing types of powerful monsters, bosses, and higher-level enemies, which yield better quality & rarer loot.

There's also an optional Hardcore Permadeath mode, which if you can brave it, adds a significant multiplier to the rarity and quality of loot earned (Hardcore can be toggled on or off before any mission).

Everything you earn has a unique visual appearance in-game, and can also be further customized with skins, dyes, and extra attachments. All items can be traded between players and through our cross-platform online games service, Playverse, and through the Steam Economy as well (once we launch on Steam, which also has full Workshop support).

So yeah, progression in spades!

6. What are the differences between the four main characters?

Well, their personalities of course?! In all seriousness, they are actually nearly identical in terms of play mechanics, as we wanted your choice of character to be a personality thing rather than a gameplay decision. The only gameplay difference, currently, is that each character can use different "melee weapons", which also buff your stats -- so if you find a melee weapon for a different character, you might need to trade it or sell it to get a good one for your character. One neat, but non-functional, difference is that during the story missions the characters who are currently in-game will quip and interact with each other using dynamic dialogue trees specific to each event in a mission, so to get the full story, you'll want to try it out with different characters or have a varied team.

Monster Madness Online

7. With Sony's focus on F2P games, is there a possibility of the game getting a PS4 release?

I'd love to take this game to PS4. Sony, are you listening?

8. Since it's F2P, what will players be able to spend real money on to further support the game?

Only cosmetics: skins to change the look of characters and equipment, dyes to colorize them, attachments to add visual effects to them, expression-animations to better convey their personality, taunts for use in pvp. All functional items & equipment are earned, keeping it a level-playing field for all involved!

9. When is Monster Madness Online scheduled to release to the public?

You can play the online Alpha version right now at www.monstermadness.com, on Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, & Web Browser (HTML5 with asm.js, or Flash). Help us test it out & earn cool stuff! The full game will be released in June 2014. See you in Suburbia!

Charmander
Mike Splechta GameZone's Editor-in-Chief, retro game enthusiast, savior of kittens. Follow me @Michael_GZ
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