How King’s Free Defold Engine Is Boosting Indie Game Development

Giving their products away for free is a common thread between all of the games that King release, but this kind of generosity extends beyond just their games, it also includes their in-house 2D focussed Defold engine. Released to the public at GDC last year, it is completely free to use to create your own games, without any royalties or limitations. You can find out about it and download it here.

Ahead of this year’s GDC, King have been running a competition to promote their engine, giving developers the opportunity to submit their games and potentially showcase their game at the conference as King’s guests. Entries for that competition closed over the weekend, but we spoke to one of Defold’s creators and Lead Engine Developer at King, Ragnar Svensson.

TSA: What makes Defold stand out when compared to the bigger guns in the industry like Unreal and Unity?

Ragnar Svensson: King is a games company, and we know how to develop and ship games that people love and play over many years. The Defold game engine was built with close collaboration and input from our own games studios. The games that we make have to load instantly, deliver great player experience on a broad spectrum of devices, feature cross-platform functionality and more.

TSA: What were the aims you had when starting its development almost a decade ago?

Ragnar: For us, it is all about making better games. We wanted to give back to the games community by releasing Defold publicly and do something cool. Our game engine is designed to build high performance cross-platform games that can run on any device as well as on low-power devices, for example, smartphones aimed at emerging markets. Defold still supports Android 2.3 and iOS 7!

TSA: Now, two years after being bought by King, how widespread is its use within the company?

Ragnar: Defold is one of the game engines we use here at King and we started to use it initially because it’s a great tool, but also because it helps us to have our developers in our multiple studios using the same technology stack. In 2015, King released Blossom Blast Saga on mobile and Facebook, and this game was built using the Defold engine.

Over the past two years, we have really enjoyed seeing the indie community taking to the platform and making awesome games on it. Some indie developers are even working on mobile games and releasing free HTML5 builds because it is so easy to with Defold. Smash Bash: Date with the Desert is just one example of a pixel-art adventure.

TSA: Do you think that having the King name attached might pigeonhole expectations of what the engine can do? What are the best examples of pushing the engine to the limits?

Ragnar: This is an interesting question. I think you only have to look at our player base and the sustained success of our key franchises to know that we work very hard to ensure our games are of the highest quality.

As of the third quarter of 2016, King had three of the top 20 grossing games on U.S app stores for the 11th quarter in a row. Staying in these top charts demands tremendously complex technical solutions. Players may not notice their game on mobile continues from where they had left it on Facebook, or that it immediately loads and looks good on their three-year-old device. However, players tend to notice when a game lacks this in finesse or polish.

These are kind of challenges we are faced with and limits we’re pushing with the Defold engine. Try out Blossom Blast Saga on Facebook – a pure HTML5 game made with Defold that does not have Flash or any other fallback.

TSA: There’s certainly been a trend towards making game engines free for developers to use. Why do you think that shift has occurred and how has it been beneficial to you?

Ragnar: We develop Defold for games teams at King. Our roadmap and vision are mainly directed by internal needs, so releasing the engine for anybody to be able to use for free was a big move for us. We release fresh, new updates bi-weekly so that games teams and indie developers can both benefit from the engine.

We also believe a larger user base will contribute to a better quality product, which will benefit everyone, inside and outside of King.

TSA: And there’s really no catch to Defold being free?

Ragnar: There’s no catch – we don’t want to charge for Defold. We make games that people love and we’ve built a successful business around our games, which remains our key focus. The Defold engine and editor with full functionality are completely free of charge. No hidden costs, fees or royalties. Just free.

TSA: The competition that was running until last week ahead of GDC is a nice bit of outreach and, I guess, a kind of 1st anniversary celebration. Can you tell us a little about it?

Ragnar: This competition is very important to us. It’s been a year since we launched Defold as a free engine at GDC and since then, we’ve had an overwhelming response of developers using our platform to build games on. We think it’s important to recognize these developers by offering them an opportunity to come along to GDC and showcase their game to the industry. We’re providing flights to San Francisco, hotels and a space at the Play Area in the Conference Centre.

Indie developers in a lot of ways are pioneering new types of gaming experiences, mechanics and ideas. We believe that bringing the best independent game developers to GDC in San Francisco is a great way to help them ship better games. This is what Defold is all about.

TSA: What’s next for Defold’s development?

Ragnar: For the Defold engine, we have a really interesting few months ahead of us with some major new functions and tools being released. We’re also looking to support developers even further by launching a series of new initiatives. In January, we will be rolling out a free training session aimed at teaching developers inside and outside of King how to use Defold and the benefits of the engine. The training will take place on 27th and 28th January at our King office in London. It will be a great opportunity for people to learn how we work with Defold and how we create games here at King. We hope this will encourage people to want to use our engine and make new games that we can all enjoy!

Thanks to Ragnar for answering our questions. If you yourself are interested in using Defold, you can find out all about it here. It’s free! The entry window for the GDC competition closed last week, but we’d like to wish all those that entered the best of luck as their games go in front of the judging panel.

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  1. stealing other peoples work and them suing them over it is also a common thread for king.

    but hey, credit where it’s due, if this can help new developers then it’s good.
    maybe they’ve turned over a new leaf and aren’t the money grabbing scum they used to be.

    oh and it seems you left out the link to where to get the Defold engine.

    • I don’t think they’ve sued anyone for a few years now – which were ill advised suits, anyway – and generally seem to be more open, as far as I can see.

      Good shout. I though I’d added that link, but obviously hadn’t!

  2. At last i can make my Candy Crunch Sago game.

  3. Along with… oh, Hazlam beat me to it.

    Darnit, I can’t make that remark now.

    Erm….., Hazelam rigged the comments?

    Anyway, as much as I care less about King, it is good to see them changing from the mobile kings of being arseholes to helping out others. I’m getting sued because of this aren’t I? Sorry, I can’t help but think of them suing people when they are mentioned.

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