And it's not hats!
Hidden Path Entertainment sure does know how to make some good videogames. Defense Grid and its expansion are a blast for any tower defense fan, but they've also done Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Age of Empires II HD. They're certainly a talented bunch, and now they're getting ready to complete Defense Grid 2 for just about everything except the Wii U.
As someone who is more or less tired of the genre, the big push for user-generated content (UGC) is what really has me interested in the sequel. Especially since users will not only be able to create their own maps on PC, but will be able to legitimately sell them through an upcoming Steam Premium Workshop and be given royalties.
One of the main changes from the original Defense Grid is how the pathing system works. There are now certain locations that players can place buildings in order to re-route the incoming waves of aliens. Defense Grid 2 will also show the player the aliens' current path, since it isn't always obvious how they will adapt, especially on bigger levels. From there it's a matter of placing towers effectively and using each type of tower to the best of its abilities.
Only 6 of the 10 towers were shown, and they were all pretty standard fare. The more interesting aspect about towers comes in the form of "drops," which are small upgrades to towers that will drop during normal play. These upgrades are permanently collected, so players can re-use certain ones if they feel it fits their playstyle. This should hopefully provide a good sense of progression as well as make the game feel a lot more personable.
There will be a handful of modes featured in Defense Grid 2, including cooperative and competitive multiplayer, a campaign, and challenge maps. When I asked CEO Jeff Pobst if the campaign could be played multiplayer, he said "I don't see why not," but would have to double-check with the development team just to make sure.
Competitive play will take on a Puzzle Fighter-esque quality to it. When one player kills a bunch of aliens in one area of the map, their opponent's aliens will become stronger in that same area. Players will also have a picture-in-picture style view of what their opponent sees. Unfortunately I didn't get to tackle this hands-on, but if pulled off correctly, this could be an amazing competitive mode.
As for indirect competition, Defense Grid 2 will sport leaderboards and real-time performance graphs. Levels will have medals for certain scores, the thresholds for which will be displayed on a real-time line graph of the player's performance. This way, players will know "okay, I just need a little bit more for gold" while they're playing the map. It will also show friends' scores on the graph as well.
There will be a map editor on the PC version of the game, allowing for the aforementioned UGC. The map builder was likened to "LEGOs," in that pieces will just snap together easily. The actual roads that the aliens walk on will be drawn, so players won't have to spend forever in a menu looking for the "180 degree turn" piece. The cream of the crop will then have the possibility to be sold within Defense Grid 2, with a percentage royalty going to the creator.
Mr. Pobst also told me that if possible, those maps might then be bundled into a map pack and sold as DLC on the console versions of the game. That "if possible" refers to the complexities of putting up content on other stores (PSN and Xbox Marketplace) that come directly from a community member who is splitting royalties with the development company. If that all works, then the DLC can happen.
Defense Grid 2 will enter its beta stage in May, and plans to release in the fall on PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, and the Xbox One, all at once.