By Björn Ritzl on Jan 24, 2022
Creating a one year roadmap for something as complex as a game engine is no easy task. Not only does a game engine span many different technologies and systems but it also does not exist in a vacuum. The platforms on which game engines and other software runs are constantly evolving, with new releases happening at least once a year. And with these releases comes changes and new requirements, often fairly easy to adapt to but sometimes of a very disruptive nature.
Each year we try to take this ever changing technological landscape into account when we draw up high level plans for Defold, and while we’ve done this for many years and learned a lot on the way, we know that things may change suddenly and without much notice, forcing us to adjust course and abandon planned work in favour of new opportunities or new requirements.
“The roadmap is our plan for the year, not a contract”
We try to communicate this as best we can; the roadmap is our plan for the year, not a contract to deliver exactly everything in the roadmap. As a developer it may be disappointing to not see that specific item in the roadmap delivered by the end of the year, but it usually happens for a good reason.
In this blog post we’ll try to explain some of the reasons why things don’t always go according to plan and how we try our best to adapt to changes and new opportunities. We will also compare the roadmap of 2021 with the actual delivered features, and finally also reveal some of our plans for this year. Before we start the retrospective of the year that has passed we need to go further back in time and set the stage so to speak.
This year marks the two year anniversary of Defold operating as a fully independent organisation without a corporate owner. Ownership rests with the Defold Foundation, a for-profit foundation with its headquarters in Stockholm. There are no ties to the former owner King, and any and all decisions made by the foundation are made with full autonomy.
The goal of the Defold Foundation is to oversee continued development of Defold in an open and transparent way and to ensure that Defold is available for free for anyone to use.
The foundation is working with a group of companies to execute on the vision and the goals for Defold:
“We wouldn’t be able to continue working on Defold at this pace without the support of our corporate partners!”
The work done by this group of companies has to be funded, and while the foundation itself received some funds when it was created two years ago, that money only covered a relatively short runway. Without additional sources of income the foundation would have been bankrupt by now. Fortunately the foundation has so far been successful at securing additional funding to pay for the continued development of Defold. The main sources of funding are:
The bulk of the funding comes from the corporate partnerships. We wouldn’t be able to continue working on Defold at this pace without the support of our corporate partners! The corporate partners fund general development of Defold and sometimes also work closely with us on specific projects, tasks and integrations.
The partnership with Rive is one such example where their funding allowed us to make significant improvements to the way the engine and editor can be extended with new functionality, and where the Rive integration was the first example of one such extension.
Another example is the partnership with Melsoft Games where their funding has resulted in very significant improvements to the stability and performance on both Android and iOS. The improvements we’ve made had an immediate impact on Melsoft’s hit game Family Island and over time also greatly helped Defold developers world wide through our regular release cycles.
The work done in collaboration with our corporate partners is also part of the reason why the roadmap diverges over the year as new partners are welcomed and feature requests are received from existing partners.
This option is obviously available to anyone. If you require a specific feature you have three main options:
In the 2021 roadmap we focused on four main areas of work. Let’s have a look at how we performed in each of these areas:
When it comes to platforms we made several planned improvements. Let’s start by looking at what we planned for Android and what we ended up with:
We did also deliver massive improvements to reduce crash and ANR frequency. We also delivered support for controllers and gamepads even though we considered it a stretch goal for the year.
Our plans for iOS were more modest:
We also planned for additional console support and while we did not deliver support for PlayStation this year it is something we guarantee will happen in 2022.
Another area we planned to put a lot of emphasis on in 2021 was that of Defold extensions:
We also planned for a move of the physics engines and Spine to extensions:
It might be worth mentioning that the community came through on this one instead as forum user d95mas released a full Box2D extension.
The focus on stability and performance is a never ending task, and last year was no exception:
“The fact that we did not deliver on these planned features is the largest disappointment to us as a team”
We had plans for several exciting improvements to Defold, but unfortunately did not deliver on several of them:
The fact that we did not deliver on these planned features is the largest disappointment to us as a team. The reason is mainly due to the work that we did together with our corporate partners. This work added a lot of new functionality to Defold as a product, only not the functionality we had planned at the beginning of the year.
So what is in store for this year? A lot! But we have decided to be a bit more conservative with our plans and also communicate changes to the plans better. We will still group work into four areas:
Besides the standard platform updates that we do each year we will also release PlayStation support. We are unable to commit to a date, but it is very likely that you will see support for PS4 announced before the summer.
We will continue to work on various extensions in 2022. We will update existing extensions as needed and add new official extensions when the opportunity arises.
Our plan is to work actively on securing funding for development of editor extensions that go beyond the existing editor scripting capabilities today. We want developers to be able to create new tool windows and gizmos in the editor.
Our top priority in this department is to fix the known issues in Defold when using screens with variable or high refresh rates. Culling is still very much in our plans as it ties into some of our goals for this year in terms of new features.
“There is very high value in improving the 3D support in Defold, without sacrificing anything in terms of performance, stability or engine size”
We’ve seen some amazing work done by our community to advance the use of 3D elements in Defold. Here are some examples:
Our goal will never be to take Defold in a direction where we try to directly compete with Unity or Godot in terms of 3D capabilities, but we do believe there is very high value in improving the 3D support in Defold, without sacrificing anything in terms of performance, stability or engine size.
For 2022 we’d like to take a step back and identify where we can get the most bang for the buck. Some of our current ideas include:
This part of the roadmap is still a work in progress. We will share more with you as soon when we have fleshed out the details.
It’s hard to summarise a full year of product development in a single post, and this post turned out way longer than initially planned! It is safe to say that working on Defold is amazingly fun most of the time and incredibly frustrating on occasion. With us on this rollercoaster of a ride we have our amazing community of passionate developers and our generous corporate partners. We thank you for sticking with us in 2021 and we look forward to working with you in 2022.