More looking at the past as a filler whilst we wait for the future to become the present.
, our first ( And quite possibly last ) crack at a Tower Defense game.
What went right:
Visually I think it's very strong. It's a good looking game. That was helped a lot by Lux jumping on board really late in the development and giving everything a lot more love, as well as designing the baddies.
Adding in the management and repair aspects, although I see those as a
plus, I think we're going to touch on them again in the negative pile.
It's not a typical tower defense, which was the
objective all along. I played a lot [ Of TD's ] when developing Ionic
and I was amazed by the number that allowed you to fast forward during
the actual "Combat" part. That to me defeated the object totally. I'm
placing my towers so I can see them shoot the crap out of the baddies,
it's the money shot and that's what I want to see, the pay off for
saving up for a nice new tower.
Any game which allows you to bypass that just strikes me as strange, you
may as well just reduce it to a text response, "2 creeps got through,
12 were killed, next wave in 3,2,1...".
The game feels arcadey, which was the one design philosophy that ran
through it's dna from the very start. I could see the appeal in TD
games, but couldn't really enjoy them. The plan was to make it feel like
a strategic R-Type, it needed to feel like a real battle as part of a
much bigger on-going war. Every shot, every explosion counts.
There's a lot of love in there, I really like the empty shells coming
off the cannons or the blue flame in the flame thrower or the 10 or so
frames of animation when the coin collecting droid is launched or the
wolf growl that's mixed into the cannon shooting sample to create that
guttural raw feeling.
The ADD blendmode. It's a thing of beauty and even though it has a performance cost it's worth every cycle it steals.
Using pixel bender for the RGB split worked really well too, much
quicker than the one in cronusX, allowing us to use it real time rather
than just for transitions.
Two pluses for Adobe there then, rather me.
I got the word bitches into the end credits. Rock 'n roll baby.
What went wrong:
The asset management was done early in the development. I got it
working, it felt nice, with the idea being that if people wanted more
depth they could tweak things to their liking and get more out of the
If you just wanted a pick up and play, then you didn't need to touch it and still be able to complete the game.
With doing it early on it was counted as done and dusted. I never
touched it once after that. That was quite a mistake as it transpires
that just be setting one of the sliders to max straight way ( I can't
recall which one, I'm guessing R&D ) you can unlock all the cool
weapons really early and basically skew the difficulty level in your
The coin collecting droids. Although I love this feature, it was a
headache to code. Every week or so I would notice that the previous fix
hadn't fixed it. They were literally the worst bug throughout the entire
So I did what all coders should do, I put a nasty kludge in there. If a
coin wasn't collected after a certain amount of time I assumed that the
droid was going to ignore it, so I just killed the coin and added it to
the players credits.
What a mistake. Even though it was explained in the docs, people still
noticed it and wouldn't have it that they hadn't lost out. Also people
assumed that if a coin went off screen by the player scrolling they
would lose it as well.
Players like to see something happening to confirm it's happened,
implication doesn't work well in games. Another lesson learned ( cronusX
had a similar issue, with baddies teleporting in on the player. Even
though a shield appeared and the player was never ever punished for
that, as that would just be really poor design, because it wasn't
communicated well enough people still thought they were being punished
unfairly, i.e. poor design ).
Our mate RobotJam warned me about doing one, saying they're a waste of
time. At the time we weren't getting the interest in selling it that we
expected, so producing a walkthrough was a final role of the dice, a way
to give extra value to the sponsor.
Rob was totally right. A complete waste of time, and painfully boring to make.
Balancing a TD is a complete bitch. It is so so hard to do. I looked at
so many TD's to see how they did it, and very very few do it well. A lot
just extend the game by adding far too many levels compared to the
actual content. I think we had 25 levels in this as any more would just
be grinding and slow the whole progress of the game down.
I think we got the balance quite good in the end ( If you ignore the bug
mentioned above ), and it's here in the negatives as it impacted badly
on the development time. It's one of those things you know are going to
be tricky to do well, but it's far harder when you actually try and do
Similar to the balance was the whole GUI. I think we did a good job, but
trying to please everyone is impossible. The best example is scrolling
the dreadnought. I added 3 methods, arrow keys, clicking the radar and a
drag bar. In total there was 7 suggestions on how it should be done,
including some borderline venomous comments about it not supported A/D,
as if by omitting those I was somehow spitting in the players face.
Getting a large amount of information to the player without forcing them
to sit through pages and pages of text is very difficult, and something
we spent so much time on.
Crisis of confidence. This is a tricky one for a developer to admit to,
you very rarely see it. I have certain comfort zones with development,
some genres I can piss all over without a thought Not that I'm
especially good, just some genres click better than others. Ionic was
well outside my comfort zone, so I found myself taking on board what
everyone said which created a lot more work, and the more I listened the
more I felt I was missing the mark and going out of my way to
When you have a lot of peers you really admire giving you suggestions,
and your image for the game isn't a 100% clear, then it's very difficult
to just shut down and pick the most relevant ones, they all seem
The attack waves, something I should have been strong at doing, were
average. By that point I was getting sick of the whole thing, so I
rushed through them to get them done. They're ok, but they should have
been a lot better.
We're nearly at the point where I wrap this up with a "I couldn't give a
fuck if no one likes it, I still think it's the best thing I've ever
done" type comment.
Firstly I want to express how much I dislike devs who feel like they
have to defend their games too strongly, you create entertainment and
put it out there for people to enjoy. Not everyone will, like not
everyone you meet in life will like you, no matter how cheeky your grin
or funny your words. It's part and parcel of putting something out for
public consumption, if you want the praise you've got to silently and
with dignity swallow the crap that comes with it.
All that build up is of course there to explain that I'm going to break
that rule, I'm going to be a whingy little bitch. Our blog, our rules. I'll regain my dignity tomorrow.
"we can't imagine why the developers neglected to offer the [A] and [D]
keys to pan from left to right—it would have made a substantial
difference in accessibility".
"Substantial" ? Really ?
"this is turning into a clickfest"
Yeah, it's murder isn't it, having to click things, in a game of all places!