The last few days have seen nothing but multiple xperiments with reconfiguring the gameplay for Gratuitous Tank Battles until I hit the magic balance of excitement, fun and spectacle. This game design business is tricky stuff!

Tower defense is an accepted, well-known formula, but tower ‘attack’ is not, and at the very least, I want to ship a game that is fun to play as both attacker and defender in tower-defense style. So with that in mind, I played the game a lot and concluded that it had lots of design issues. The main one was traffic jams. I was trying to design a simple ‘starter’ map that had a single weaving path between towers, and you would place your units and away they would march. The problem was, that when you spot a certain difficult tower ahead, it’s all very well placing a unit that you think counters it, but that unit is then stuck behind 15 other units before it gets there.

Initially I’d been scared of multiple paths for all maps, because of the complexity for the player, frantically scrolling around. Then I realised that if the paths were vaguely parallel, this problem went away. if I shrunk down the map a bit, I could fit the whole screen in with one look (when zoomed out), and could get more of a grip on it, even with multiple paths.

There have been a whole host of other changes as a result. Lots of balance changes, plus the introduction of ‘supply drops’ which automatically drop on the path in the quietest areas of the map, thus encouraging the attacker to spread his attack over multiple routes. That seems to work, as it’s a nice trade-off between ‘those supplies look tempting’ and ‘I ‘m kinda fully committed to attacking this route instead’. Parallel groups of paths also encourage complementary units, so repair wagons can trundle along beside assault mechs, etc, and a sluggish or damaged tank doesn’t bring the whole army to a halt (just half of it :D) I have full support for units stepping sideways around such blockages, I just need to try it and see how it goes.

I have some crappy placeholder art still in the game, and tons to do, but the last few days, where I’ve totally ignored graphics and only fiddled with mechanics and balance, seems to be paying off nicely. It feels more like a game now, and less like a tech demo. I also ditched fog of war, although it may well return in certain modes.

6 Responses to “Design focus, supply drops”

  1. Xietanu says:

    Can any units move past each other? I understand that two tanks or large units like that might not be able to pass each other, but can infantry move around the edge of a slower tank? I could see advantages to either side; if they move around then the slower unit doesn’t hold them up, but you might want them to be held up (using the tank as a tank, soaking damage for the units behind it).

    The idea of the supply drops sounds like a nice one, though; definitely an interesting way to get people to spread themselves out.

  2. cliffski says:

    right now units cannot move through each other. It’s something I have thought about a lot. It’s a bit tricky (to say the least) in code terms, but I’m not sure the effort is worth the reward, in terms of gameplay. Right now, you know what order the units will stay in, throughout their journey, and with supply and repair vehicles, that has to be a good thing.

  3. Xietanu says:

    I can understand that, and keeping things a bit simpler for the user and the creator seems likely to be the best way to go :P Looking forward to hearing more :)

  4. Mike says:

    How are things working at the inlet to the map? One common tactic/exploit in tower defense games where the attacker can shoot back is to pile all your defenses on the map edge to allow the defender to place short range, high damage defenders well inside the max range of some of the attacker as they enter the map.

  5. Gerben says:

    I love how at this point it retains the add ships buttoon from gratuitous space battles, far left in the bottom row of buttons I see a federation frigate

  6. spillblood says:

    Yeah, you can definitely see that it’s based on the GSB engine.