Beatfense – Alpha 5: A New Hope

Beatfense has become a clear example of iterative design. The original idea defined a core mechanic – some kind of tower defense with randomly available items that the player must place on a grid. But it soon became clear that the original design was impractical and chaotic. That’s something that happens all the time in game design, I guess, unless you stick to a well known game genre.

Many problems have arised, as we saw in our previos post. But the most important one was the lack of a clear goal. What was the player supposed to do? Defend herself against waves of incoming enemies? That was, after all, the original idea.

We got some problems trying to balance enemy speed, pulse frequency and plenty of other parameters. Repeaters, for example, were not able to shoot until activated by the Pulse. And when disconnected from Pulse lines they became totally useless. Besides, enemies lacked… everything. Ok, they were just dummies for testing purposes, but we needed something more interesting.

So there are lots of new features in Alpha 5:

Changes on repeaters:

  • No more AoE damage. Repeaters choose an enemy within range and shoot at it with some kind of laser. This basic weapon simply deals 1 hit point (enemies have 4 hp).
  • Repeaters now have 10 hit points. They become more and more red when hit by enemies, but they recover 1 hp with each incoming Pulse.
  • Repeaters also have some kind of energy reserve that is replenished with incoming Pulses. As long as they have energy left they will be able to shoot (which reduces this energy). This way, we have time to organize our defensive network as Repeaters may defend themselves even when they are not connected to Pulse lines.
  • Color represents how much energy they have left. Yellow full, gray empty.
  • There’s a cooldown period between available Items (a few seconds), so you can’t just place Repeaters on the grid at will.
  • Forwarding directions have been reduced to a set that does not include North (East on the video), so Pulse lines die earlier by reaching the sides of the Grid. As a new Pulse won’t be created until the last one has vanished, this results in new Pulses being created more often. Moreover, the player can’t create Items on the right side of the Grid so easily. Getting there takes time and effort!
Changes on enemies:
  • Enemies are not brainless zombies anymore. They use Steering Behaviours to move towards a chosen target and orbit around it while shooting their own lasers relentlessly.
  • Right now they are completely independent. Each one chooses its own target and simply collides with other enemies, but we are considering adding Avoidance and Alingment (classic Boids behaviours) to create coordinated  attacks – that’s where Steering Behaviours become interesting!

Even when all this still requires a lot of balacing (there are dozens of parameters involved in all this action – item cooldown periods, shooting frequencies, hit points, accelerations, maximum speeds…) it’s already playable and quite a challenge. In this first sequence the player is defeated by the swarm:

In this one, however, the player manages to contain the horde and conquers terrain row by row…

And it’s precisely in this second video where we get a glimpse of what Beatfense may become. But we still have to chew on this a bit more! Stay tuned!

Beatfense – Alpha Chaos, 4.25 and 4.5

Here we are again, with not one but three new iterations of Beatfense!

We have finally added a simple Area of Effect (AoE) weapon to Repeaters. When they are activated they also shoot, dealing damage and destroying nearby enemies. With this addition the game is already playable, and two important flaws in the original mechanic have been revealed:

  1. It’s quite difficult for the player to design a proper defensive network because of randomness and high variation in the directions the Pulse is retransmitted. The random Repeater mechanic makes the game difficult to predict, and therefore it’s difficult for the player to define a defensive strategy. One ends up simply placing Repeaters on the grid in hopes that the Pulse will activate them, because it’s not easy to understand where a new Repeater will be useful. Lack of visual feedback, maybe? Should power-lines (that is, paths travelled by the Pulse) be shown? Fading power-lines out more slowly alleviates this problem, but it’s still there.
  2. As the player places Repeaters on the Grid their number simply increases, constantly. In orther to avoid superpoblation we considered many options: a cooldown period between available Repeaters, a maximum number of repeaters in the scene, Repeaters being destroyed by our own weapons or  a limited number of activations. We implemented this last option: ideally it would force the player to redesign her defensive network and it’s a more natural self-regulation mechanism. But in practice…

Well, check it yourself. We call it Alpha Chaos 🙁

We are not simply dumping this version, there are still many thing to try, but we wanted to implement different game mechanichs that should, ideally, lead to a game where the player is in control of the situation.

Back to the roots – sequencer mode – Alpha 4.25

We came up with a game mode in which the Grid behaves like a sequencer a la ‘Lumines’. Aiming to make it more interactive, the player can speed-up or slow-down the Pulse wave at will. Once again one may also place Items on the Grid, which now wimply behave as AoE weapons. Enemies are also a bit faster.

This mode deserver further attention: different kind of weapon (has anyone played Derek Yu’s Diabolika2?), enemy speeds, Item cooldown periods… It could be some kind of Challenge Stage… or a game in itself!

A step forward – mirrors mode – Alpha 4.5

Finally we developed a game mode based on a new item: The ‘Mirror’. Like Repeaters, Mirrors redirect the Pulse, although just in one direction, and shoot an AoE weapon when activated. But now the player may rotate them to modify the direction they are facing. That way she can create power lines at will by simply rotating a given Mirror. That allows her a tighter control of the defensive network! But it lacks something… we are still figuring out what!

Which mode will prevail? Not Alpha Chaos, we are almost sure about that… Which mode does look more interesting and promising?



Beatfense – Alpha 3: Adding some enemies.

It’s been a busy week with exams (Language Processors!), but some basic enemies have been added. They are randomly placed every 5 seconds at random positions by the Overmind (he’s the one throwing ‘rocks’ at your Core, we couldn’t call him Bob, right?) This is the change log since the last version:

  • Grid has evolved into a Singleton class so that other objects may easily get information about the current state of the game. Grid’s size, Cell status, in-game Items… That’s much faster than sending messages.
  • There’s a simple enemy generator called Overmind. Right now it just places enemies randomly at a fixed frequency. In a future it may decide the worst place to create an enemy, making the situation more complicated for the player. Mehehe…
  • A base Enemy class has been defined. Right now they just float above the Grid towards the Core. Their movement is not restricted by rows or columns.
  • They may collide with certain Items, damaging or destroying them if they are Destroyable. It won’t be good if they hit the Core, but not for now. In the video they destroy three Repeaters. Note that the Pulse does not affect them.
  • Enemies will have hit points, requiring a number of hits by Weapons or certain Items (Mines?) to be destroyed. But that’s for Alpha 4!
Once we implement basic weapons and destructible Enemies we will be able to test all this as a proper game. Will it make sense? It does in our heads… let’s hope its fun, at least, trying to prevent enemies from reaching the Core!