Unnamed adventurer. He will chase the Dimensional Monkey (see previous post!) Pixel art on a tablet is certainly the best way to ramp productivity up!
After trying to balance all previous versions we are testing a new idea. It’s still some kind of Tower Defense, in a sense: we have to avoid enemies from getting to the left side of the screen. But there are no turrets. Gameplay is now simpler but much more interactive, and quite suitable for multi-touch devices.
We felt that Beatfense Alpha 5 lacked strategy. Placing Repeaters in Pulse lines was the only thing the player could control, but there was no relation between Repeater placement and enemy movements. One could just place Repeaters in a certain pattern and hope for the swarm to be contained, as enemies simply flew almost freely over the grid.
In many Tower Defense games, structures are placed so that the player can create paths that enemies will follow – players shape the battlefield, allowing them to devise defensive strategies.
We wanted to explore this mechanic, so enemies are now slower and come in waves. First wave has just one enemy, second wave has two enemies and so on… And they take Repeaters seriously – their steering behaviours won’t allow them to collide with obstacles. That way the player may create some sort of paths and divide enemy forces. But enemies shoot back as they move, destroying Repeaters! (they are ‘healed’ when they receive the Pulse). That way the battlefield changes constantly.
There’s also a crude resources management mechanism, although not that serious. Repeaters cost 2 points, killed enemies award 1 point and resources increase slowly as time passes. Just to prevent placing Repeaters everywhere… But it’s there just for testint purposes.
Anyway… now we have a weir prototype. It’s not as chaotic as previous versions, but it’s certainly difficult to understand what’s happening in the grid. All those Pulse lines going back and forth… We could take two paths now. Go on with Beatfense, adding more features (different kind of weapons, enemies, holes in the grid…), trying to balance all this… or go for something different, simplifying gameplay.
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:
- 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.
- 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?