Hi, I'm Blake. My first game was '89 Doors', a rage game where you escape mazes whilst being pursued by an insatiable creature of hunger, and now I'm working on a tower defence game called 'Forgive Me My Henchman', where you play as a typical head 'bad guy', deploying henchman and sabotaging a building in an effort to stop a one man army action hero.
The advice I took and changes I consequently made are what I wanted to write about today.
First piece of Advice - have ‘No Scrolling’. They said that scrolling maps reduce the ability for the player to focus on what’s important, and also increase the stress of the player because the player spends mental energy worrying what is happening off screen. Many Tower Defence games can simply overcome this issue by having the entire room size match the view size, meaning that there is no need for scrolling whatsoever.
For my game, however, scrolling will be inevitable simply because of the game’s design, and changing these fundamentals would simply cause more harm than good. Regardless, this advice did get me thinking – even if scrolling is inevitable, are there ways that I can reduce the need for it?
Turns out there are. I discovered ways that I could automate certain processes, reducing the need to micromanage mundane tasks. I also added a ‘zoom out’ control, allowing players to see more of the screen at once. The effect of these changes has been that the game is now more fun to play, because people can spend more time focusing on what’s important and engaging, and less time navigating around the screen.
Second Piece of Advice - provide ‘Total Information’. The writers suggest that providing total information (i.e. precise numbers about hit rate, damage, range, etc) creates a game that tests thinking, as opposed to the player’s success relying on guesswork, or simply luck. They mention that developers can add challenge by intentionally withholding information, but that often unintentionally frustrates the player.
As a result of this feedback, I have started adding healthbars to all enemies. I do feel that the healthbars subtract from the game’s aesthetics, so I have made the display of healthbars optional. I think putting the choice of displaying stats or not in the player’s control is a good move, because it gives the player a chance to choose the experience that suits them best.
Third Piece of Advice – provide 'Total Time Control'. When I used to play Plants vs Zombies 2, I would often reach a point where victory was assured. From then on, there was nothing to do except wait. When a game loses that interactive component, it can become boring. However, a few updates later, PVZ2 had introduced a ‘fast forward’ button, leading to wait times being greatly reduced. Even though this was not a game changer, it was still a feature that did improve my PVZ2 gaming experience – it simply makes sense to offer the same convenience to people who play my game, so this is definitely a feature that I will include.
Final Thoughts - What I’m noticing is that my game keeps on evolving. As I am going through level design, and playing the levels, I am discovering what features add to the fun experience, and what features detract from it. As a result, I am always making constant tweaks to my game. Although these tweaks slow down the development process, it will definitely be worth it.
If you want to read more about some Tower Defence design tips, then I suggest reading the links that I did. They are:
- Optimizing a tower defence game for focus and thinking
- What makes a good tower defence game?
I wanted to end this by saying that this is my last blog entry for the year – I will be taking next Sunday off, but then will be back at it next year. I wanted to say happy holidays and thank you to those who choose to read my blog. I hope you have enjoyed it and found it useful and/or entertaining.
Next year will be a grand one, and definitely a year of big changes and growth.
See you in 2016!