Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tower Defence

I was chatting to someone yesterday who, it turned out, had never heard of tower defence games. Admittedly it's a strange little subgenre. What's most strange about it is that despite being one of the more OCD elements of the real-time-strategy milieu it seems to have become largely the province of "casual gamers".

The premise is that a bunch of enemies will troop across a screen from point A to point B, and it's your job to install a bunch of automatically firing turrets along the way to wipe out the nasties before they reach their destination. Typically the enemies will come in waves; you'll have limited resources to build your towers, but every enemy killed or wave cleared will grant bonus cash.

As far as I can tell the first instance of tower defence gameplay appears in Atari's classic Warlords (1980), although it's more properly inspired by Westwood's Dune II (1992), where correct alignment of your turrets and tanks was key to success.

Anyway, to educate the uninformed I thought I'd trot out three of my favourite browser-based tower defence games, and let the gameplay therein say more than the written word ever could.

Desktop Tower Defence 1.5: The undisputed king of browser-based tower defence. Clean, engaging graphics, a good mixture of depth and intuitiveness, and a wide range of modes to try.

Vector TD 2: Deeper than Desktop, with more turret options, and with more freedom to set your own pace. Simple vector graphics emphasise the tactical element of the game.

Bloons TD 2: Monkey versus balloons in a kid-friendly grudge match. Turrets here don't snap to a grid, which can throw off those who like an orderly turret layout, but a lot of charm and a wealth of turret options compensate.

Try them out, but be warned - these are very addictive games!


Matthew Gallant said...

My first experience with Tower Defence was on Starcraft Battle.net. Various incarnations of the map became a staple of the "custom maps" playlist. They included a secret tower defence level in Warcraft 3 as a result of its popularity in Starcraft, I believe.

juffles said...

...because we needed MORE ways to destroy our productivity. You're a bad, bad man Greg. :)

Anonymous said...

Bloons was fun!

GregT said...

Starcraft / Wacrcraft tower defence is adequate, but there's something special about towers that shoot honest-to-God pellets. It's very life-affirming, watching pixels being shots at geometric shapes.

GregT said...

Thanks, cricketk. Bloons is my least favourite of the three but I suspected it might appeal more to those who aren't quite as enthralled by measuring tower stats and designing optimal turret grids.

Chris said...

I've not heard TD tracked back to Warlords or Dune II before, so I find your claims here interesting. Will investigate further... :)

Also of note: PixelJunk Monsters on PS3 download. The most polished of the TD games I've seen, and the only one to support multiplayer co-operative play.

Greg Tannahill said...

I'm not saying Warlords or Dune were your classic tower defence game; I'm just saying they developed the gameplay conventions. Warlords was all about the turrets (cannons); Dune 2 introduced real-time grid-snapped base building with a heavy emphasis on defending using both non-moving base turrets and tanks (which were effectively just mobile turrets).

If you haven't played Dune 2, by the way, you probably should. It's a little difficult to go back to its primitive UI after modern RTS games but it's not a coincidence that it founded a genre.

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