Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Minimaps and forecasts and…

There are so many flavours of tower defense.

I haven’t seen another TD game with a minimap yet, but I’ve seen them (like Defense grid) with a ‘forecast’  GUI that shows you what is approaching. I quite like the forecast bit, because it creates an emotion of panic or dread, and emotion is vital to games. I haven’t decided to implement a similar feature yet (and anyway it doesn’t matter for attackers), but I am intrigued by it.

Minimaps aren’t normally required because TD maps are often small, but mine are big, and I think a minimap is very handy, especially if you have a big screen and can afford the real estate. Plus, the minimap will toggle on and off anyway, so it would be silly not to put it in, as it’s all coded etc.

GTB has fog of war, so you can only see X pixels radius around your units. I like this, I like it a lot, but again, I don’t see it in other TD games. My variety is a constant FOW, so exposed areas return to shrouded entirely once the unit that illuminated them dies. I like that too, but YMMV. Right now you can toggle it off, but that may change. Maybe I’ll force it on when playing challenge maps.

GTB has instant building, so far…. I may change this. I know that it’s a big part of some TD games that you need to plan ahead and get those towers built before the enemies get close. I’m not sure whether I want to add a construction delay or not. Possibly….

I’m pretty sure there are a thousand other decisions like these, and as with all decent game design, you can never really know what the right decision was until you have implemented both ideas, tried them a lot, and asked a few opinions. Obviously that takes extreme time, and extreme effort. I’m beginning to see that having a nice spangly engine with cool explosions and effects is only a small chunk of making this game…

6 thoughts on Minimaps and forecasts and…

  1. “X pixels radius”? Please, don’t measure things in pixels! They’ll end up being too big on my laptop and too small on my desktop… unless you’re forcing the screen resolution, in which case I won’t be anywhere near able to take advantage of the 5′ 200dpi screen I’ll have in 10 years.

    I’m really looking forward to GTB being an awesome game (at least on Windows machines), it would be even more awesome if it avoids the pixel-size-related problems that have prevented many of my favorite older games from aging well.

  2. “My variety is a constant FOW, so exposed areas return to shrouded entirely once the unit that illuminated them dies.”

    Does this mean the area goes completely black or does some sort of after-image of the last thing the unit saw remain? I think I’d find the first option too frustrating, because as soon as something happens to a unit while I’m busy with a different frontline or handling something in the background, I’d lose vital information. The second option would be more logical, because your troops keep you constantly informed about their status and when their last message is “OMG, big mech of type XY is coming right at me ARGHL….”, it should be reflected on the map.

    It’s good so see that you keep all those different options in mind and I’m very curious about the final game :)

  3. Your blog is unreadable when images are turned off because the background and text color are both set to black in the CSS. (I browse with images off because I pay $6 NZD per GB.)

  4. Maybe delay the building for at least a few seconds? Instant just makes it too easy to be extra sneaky (in ways that just aren’t cricket, if you’ll forgive the british-ness :P ). That’ll give you a chance to have nice build-up animations. I’m a big fan of dropping things in from orbit, but I doubt that’ll fit your theme ;-)

  5. The thing about fog of war (on challenge maps as you propose), and the GSB ‘hard’ missions was that the denial of information at the outset just meant that I played an exploratory or ‘reconnaissance’ round first to see what happens and what’s there. In GSB it just added and annoying throw-away round before I could really play the mission, with the overall effect of the match being exactly like a regular mission but I have to spend a stupid chunk of extra time to get the same information. If GTB challenge mode with fog of war is anything like GSB’s then I can only see myself doing the same thing. Your style of game seems to be at the outset to be about grand strategy and planning, but this denial of information is trying to shoehorn in rapid tactical changes. I’d say pick either strategy or tactics and go with it.

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