Friday, July 29, 2011

Beta has been reached!

The current tower-defense project has reached beta! This means all the systems are finished, so it is bug fixing and careful balancing from here on out! My plan is to spend the next week working on loose ends and sprinkling some polish everywhere. Then the week after will be full playtesting on as many mobile devices as possible before it gets submitted to the online app stores for iOS and Android. It does take about a week for Apple to approve an app, so realistically the game should be live by mid August.

At this point there are quite a lot of features that will need careful tweaking and balancing. For example, the player receives benefits from upgrades, items and achievements. Then there are seven heroes with four different upgrades each. Not to mention, 20 unique levels that need the strength of the enemies balanced independently. It's all roughed out and playable. Each revision makes a tremendous difference that only increases the fun factor.

I scrapped the volcano theme and replaced it with a beach theme, because artistically it was far easier to pull off. There is also a new treasure chest "hero" that collects gold within a small radius (think of the thief in Crystal Defenders).

This has been a really enjoyable experience so far. Normally progress on a game slows down near the end, but this one actually picked up in speed because it became easier to work with Lua and Corona. I'm sure the next mobile game will be even easier.

Oh, and I selected my sponsors for Defend Your Nuts! The auction went very well and surpassed my expectations! But more on that later...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Desert and winter themes

Progress is still going smoothly. I've finished the tile sets for the desert and winter themes, so the only outstanding tile set set is for the volcano levels. The sooner I solidify all this content, the sooner I can begin to tweak the difficulty curve.

For developers:

For the walkable path, I use a total of six square sprites for each theme (horizontal, vertical, four corners). At first I attempted just to use one corner piece, but that easily causes seams and result in inconsistent highlights and shadows anyways. For a seamless horizontal piece, just create a square movieclip and then then tile it. Select one in the center, and then begin working from that because you can preview it as a pattern where the surrounding pieces are grayed out.

The props (e.g. skulls, snowmen) can be deleted during the game at the cost of gold. I actually create and place these as movieclips in Flash where each property name is the same as the name of its corresponding member of the sprite sheet. The level is exported as a .swc so I can I can use FlashDevelop to take all these levels and output debug text describing the location and type of each prop, formatted as Lua code so it can all be copied and pasted in one go. It may be a strange way of doing things, but it's very easy and rids the need to introduce a level editor because Flash is the level editor.

Friday, July 15, 2011


I decided to make some substantial changes!! The game is now grid-based and no longer features the ridiculous pods that limit where heroes can be created. Additionally, all of the interface design has been redone to make better use of the limited screen real estate! Although this entire overhaul took a couple days, it will actually make the rest of the project easier because levels will be easier to create... I'm going to need about 20 of them, so it would be great to make them all in a single day!

The rocks and mushrooms (and other future obstacles) can be paved away at the cost of gold to allow heroes to be purchased on those squares. Specifically, the dwarf will have only a 3x3 grid-cell attack radius, so it would be advantageous to remove that small rock in the corner of the path on the right side of the screen.

Below are the level design concepts from prototype to final. The final design borrows art inspiration from Plants vs Zombies, Bloom Defender, and Mining Truck...

Conclusion: the smooth windy roads were a failure for many reasons so it had to be fixed. Today marks the end of four weeks of development, so there are two more to go until beta. It's going to be a very busy couple weeks!!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Global map

I digitally painted the global map with different types of terrain where the player will be able to select missions. This is the first time I have painted a landscape successfully, so I was thrilled how the process made much more sense this time around. But now that I have looked at it a couple more times, there are many spots that need more work. At this point, many of the game's features are beginning to come together so progress is looking pretty good.

And the latest in-game screenshot:

Thursday, July 7, 2011

All monsters and heroes

I've been hard at work on the tower-defense game. Tomorrow is the half-way point and everything is on schedule. All the monsters and heroes are finished, along with special effects and some revised user interface art. The game is playable, but of course is not balanced yet because that comes last. Audio and music should not take long. I do all my art in Flash and then export everything to be packaged into sprite sheets using Spriteloq. Here is a screenshot of the main stage that I use to maintain consistency:

Heroes (6 of them) either attack with physical damage, fire, ice, or poison. Pirates throw bombs that do both physical and fire damage. Likewise, each enemy (20 of them) has a weakness to one of the elements. The icons on the right are the hero upgrade buttons. A lot of the work to be done next week is not even shown in the screenshot. It will include a global map to choose what path to defend (probably 1o) and some permanent upgrades the player can select through experience, initially constructed from a choose-your-own story at the beginning of the game. I've definitely acquired a lot of my inspiration from other tower-defense games, but especially the Protector series.

Update: I'm experimenting with different styles of environment art. I'm not satisfied with it, but it's still a whole lot better than the previous design. Environment and background art is my weakness, but no surprise I spend so little time doing it.