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!

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