Candy Crush developer King made its own engine, Defold, freely available back in March.
And although it's been in use internally at King for two years, powering Blossom Blast Saga, for those outside the company it's very much the new kid on the block in the engine space.
So to learn more about Defold and what it's offering, PocketGamer.biz caught up with King's new Evangelist Oleg Pridiuk, the man responsible for pushing all things Defold from the firm's Stockholm office.
Take it or leave it
Pridiuk, formerly of Unity between 2009 and 2014, has experience of building up a game engine's user base.
But when it comes to Defold, one of the best ways of selling it is the fact that King doesn't need to sell it at all.
“We solve our problems with this tool, meaning that people can solve similar problems with this tool as well,” Pridiuk explains.
We're not selling anything, we're not buying anything. We're just giving stuff away.Oleg Pridiuk
“We're not selling anything, we're not buying anything. We're just giving stuff away.”
So, this raises the obvious question: what's in it for King?
“The short story is, we want people to make better games,” he says.
“We believe that we're the only technology - not just a bunch of source code and SDKs that you have to assemble and make your own game engine in the pipeline, but the whole engine - for a small team to use and make a game that is very performant on mobile and HTML5.”
Giving something back
As such, Defold is targeting a young demographic of would-be game makers that Pridiuk feels are being let down by the existing crop of tools and engines.
It's being used in educational institutions worldwide, and King is even working with a Swedish university to launch a free-to-play game development course using Defold.
“We're trying to address the problem where game designers - young, creative people - have lots of ideas for games in their heads, but they don't have skills and tools to implement these ideas somehow,” states Pridiuk.
“There are basic tools to create basic games, but people outgrow these tools and they have to start from scratch.”
The idea behind Defold is to bridge the gap between beginner and seasoned professional without limiting potential or overwhelming users with complexity.
“We thought, what if we make building blocks for you guys?" he says. "Building blocks with some logic, that you can use to assemble the games that you have in mind.
“And when you have enough experience, you can stay with our tool… as soon as you learn scripting, you will be able to modify the scripts we provide and tailor them to your needs.
“As soon as you learn animations, you're free to modify your own art or our provided art to make it even better.”
In the shop window
Another scheme King has announced to encourage Defold adoption is that some Defold-made games will be awarded cross-promotion across its portfolio.
We're going to help teams who use Defold through soft launch.Oleg Pridiuk
With King responsible for some of the world's most-played games, like a certain Candy Crush Saga, this is not be sniffed at.
“Since then, we have not announced much, if anything,” says Pridiuk. “We are going to do this in Autumn.
“We're going to help teams who use Defold through soft launch, and some will also get our help to hard launch their games.”
The terms and conditions are yet to be finalised, but he adds that they will be made public soon.
And as with all things Defold, the messaging is clear: “You cannot purchase the service, you can only get it for free".
Thanks to this lack of monetisation, the pressure for King to acquire users with Defold is massively diminished.
Unity's recent focus has shifted to Unity Ads, as that's where the bulk of its revenue comes from. Unreal Engine 4's approach to taking royalties necessitates a large pool of developers to generate meaningful returns.
Not so with Defold.
“At this point, we're shaping the engine to King's internal needs - those are the primary stakeholders, that's not a secret,” says Pridiuk.
“We're investing in the industry, and we want to help the people that are struggling… the young talents.
He concludes: “With time, we believe that more and more people are going to jump on our engine just because they like the experience.
“If they don't, that's also fine.”