Post feature RSS War machines, Towers, & Mines - A Design Overview

Learn about the overall design of the retro tower defense game Whitevale Defender.

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Whitevale Defender - Game Design Overview

A handcrafted, 2d, retro, tower defense game created with love by one person

Welcome to a series of articles that I will be writing that chronicles my adventure in creating this game over 18 months of my life. The game will launch on Friday May 25, 2018. Between then and now I will be writing about 20 articles that describe my 18 month journey and add plenty of details about the game itself.

Hello everyone. I want to talk about the overall design of my tower defense game as I sip on lots of black coffee. But first, lets start from the beginning.

I used to play A LOT of tower defense games

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But most PC strategy games, at least 10 - 20 years ago, were multiplayer. To really have fun you needed to face off against a human opponent. There were AI opponents, but back then the AI kind of sucked and were very easy to defeat.

My group of friends didn't share the same love of strategy that I have. So poor me, I had to either play against the easy AI, or get totally stomped by a complete stranger. It seemed those extremes were the only options I had.

Then I discovered tower defense games. The first one I ever played was a custom map created inside the Starcraft 1 level editor, named Turret Defense. It had one path, one type of turret, and I could play it by myself. The enemies just followed a simple path but it was still challenging to beat.

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Starcraft 1 Brood War: Turret Defense

I think what draws me in about tower defense games is that they retain a lot of the same strategic decision making as a multiplayer game, they are challenging, and I can play them by myself.

Those same reasons is why I want to create a tower defense game too. To give people that challenge and strategic thinking while being able to play alone. So here we go, the overall design of Whitevale Defender.

Here's the gist of Whitevale Defender

You have a castle in the middle of the screen that the evil King Balmek wants destroyed. But you must protect it. If the castle falls, you lose the game. All the basics of a tower defense game are here. You build towers that cost money. Money is earned each wave. Enemies follow a path to your base to try and destroy it. You upgrade your towers. But below I highlight some differences that make Whitevale Defender unique.

1) Multiple Criss Crossing Paths


I want the position of your towers to be very important. So one way I achieved that was making the paths the enemies follow intertwine with each other. So it's possible that one tower can cover multiple paths. One of the challenges is finding those positions for your towers that can best cover at least 2 paths.

2) Build Towers & Utilize Tools

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The image is the HUD from the game. As you can see I have highlighted the buttons for building towers and using tools. Of course you can build towers in a tower defense game. I will go further into detail of the towers in a future article. But I want to point out that you have a set of tools at your disposal too. Tools allow you to react to situations in the heat of the moment. Such as setting a trap or repairing your castle. You may notice in the image that several of the buttons are locked. I will talk about that a bit further down.

3) Manage your money

There's one design choice in most tower defense games that has always bugged me. You need money to build towers and the only way to get money is by destroying the enemies. This may not seem like such a bad thing. You might be thinking, "well yeah you're getting rewarded for performing well in the game", but hear me out.

The happy way to play is that you build towers with your money, which destroy all the enemies, which gives you money to build more towers. But the opposite is also true, if several enemies get by your defenses you lose out on the money, which means you can build less towers, which means you continue to let enemies through your defenses until you eventually lose the game. This death spiral effect never felt very good to me. So it works differently in two ways in Whitevale Defender.

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Earning a set amount of money at the end of a wave

1) After every wave has ended, you always get the same amount of money (possibly more) regardless of your performance. This means that if you are doing poorly (about to lose) you can move around your towers, change your upgrades, etc. and still be able to win the game. Just because you screw up on one wave doesn't mean you automatically lose.


Mining drills collecting minerals for you

2) You can build a structure that collects additional money for you, named a Mining Drill. You build it just like a tower, except instead of shooting at enemies, it collects money over time, but it costs money to build. So you have to balance when you build a Mining Drill and how many.

4) Unlock New Towers, Tools, and Blessings

Every time you play the game, whether you win or lose, you will earn crowns. Crowns are a currency within the game that you can spend to unlock powerful rewards that completely change how you play the game.

Unlock rewards

We've already talked about towers and tools (both of which you can unlock with crowns), but there are also blessings. Blessings are passive powers that you can take into each game with you. There are 8 of them in total for you to unlock, but you must only choose two each game. For example, there's a blessing that will automatically repair your castle by a small amount after each wave.


That is the gist of Whitevale Defender. I will leave you with one final image of the core loop inside the game.

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To recap:

  • Your castle in the center must survive, if it is destroyed you lose
  • Build towers to defend and utilize tools in the heat of the moment
  • Multiple criss crossing paths to emphasize the importance of tower placement
  • You earn a set amount of money each wave regardless of performance
  • You can build mining drills to increase the amount of money you get each wave
  • You can unlock rewards that completely change how you play

If you are interested please click the Follow and Watch buttons in the top right of this page

For even more, follow me on twitter: @Fib_Pixelmonium

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