Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

22 December, 2006

Weekend Design Challenge: Game analysis
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 8:31 PM

This week, we’ll do something fun and bring things back to a practical level.

A game I’ve been playing lately is a Flash game called Tower Defense by Roman Sanine. For those of you not familiar with this type of game, you build defensive towers to attack enemies that travel along a defined path. The goal is to kill the enemies before they get to the end of the path. Towers have different ranges and damage types, and some variations of these types of games have the towers have special abilities.

You can find the game here. Here’s another link, but the site seems to be over bandwidth.

This game is a rather simplistic version of this type of game. In fact, the game is extremely stripped-down in terms of graphics. But, this makes a good game to study that won’t take a very long time. Studying games like this is an important part of being a good game designer.

Here’s some questions to get you started. Feel free to comment on other aspects as well. Don’t be limited to what I list here!

Gameplay: How are the different towers balanced? What is an optimal strategy for the game? How does the strategy change as the game advances? How is the game balanced between different options? What are the meaningful options a player has?

Mechanics: Describe the basic mechanics of the game. What imbalances are there? How did you determine the imbalances? How could these problems be improved? What minor changes could be made to improve the gameplay? What other mechanics can you evaluate?

Quality: What are the bugs in the game? What interface issues are there? How could these be fixed?

Presentation: How do the functional graphics help and/or hurt the game? How could you improve the graphics? Is information conveyed well by the existing graphics? What information is obscured due to the presentation?

I’ll post some of my thoughts a bit later. :)


  1. No interest in game analysis? I thought this would be a fun little exercise. It’s also something I do when I play most games.

    Post your thoughts, I’ll post mine in a few days or so.

    Comment by Psychochild — 28 December, 2006 @ 12:58 PM

  2. The game is interesting and addictive and overall I felt that it was worth my time to play it, but after a few hours it had run its course, fun-wise. As far as I can tell the furthest you can get in the game is level 83/84 through the use of maxed out plant towers placed at the end of hallways and in the center of the map. That being said I do not believe the game creator’s claim that he reached level 90 unless:

    a. He utilized a bug to do so
    b. There is a way to increase damage through a specific combination of elements

    Max level plant towers offer the highest Gold/Damage ratio of all the towers except for the level 3 flower tower (which I believe is impossible to upgrade to). The first level flower tower is second best, but has too short a range and too slow a rate of fire to be relevant (second level flower tower is actually a Gold/Damage downgrade!). Fire towers are next best but have short range. Water towers are the worst of the towers damage wise despite having the longest range. Storm towers seem useless.

    I do not believe that the towers are well balanced. In my testing there does not seem to be any advantage at all to building anything other than plant towers. In fact it is possible (and quite easy) to get all the way to level 54 with one, properly placed, plant tower (upgraded as money permits) and nothing else. So the argument that other towers are stronger and thus better in the early levels does not hold water. The only other tower that I am intrigued by is the 600 gold fire tower upgrade which does 2050 damage. It has a good ratio for its cost, but because of its dismal range I cannot find a placement where building multiple fire towers do more damage than plant towers.

    If it were possible to get the 3rd level of the flower tower, it would be theoretically possible to advance further in the game. However the player cannot earn the 23000 gold until level 72 (assuming none spent), and I do not believe it is possible. Even if the third tower was achievable, considering the flower tower’s slow rate of fire and terrible (and shrinking) range, it probably would not be able to kill all the dots before they ran out of its range.

    Towers do not shoot their next shot based on a set timer but rather when their last shot hits a target. Therefore the less distance the shot has to travel to hit the target the faster the tower will shoot. For this reason, towers placed at the ends of hallways firing at 90 degree angles at oncoming dots will shoot at a much faster rate than towers placed elsewhere. Therefore towers placed at the end of hallways facing the direction that dots are moving will do more damage than towers placed elsewhere. I believe that the single most effective spot to place a tower on the map is a plant tower placed at the horizontal corner of the center horizontal path because it covers the most ground and is situated on a corner.

    As far as bugs go. One particularly annoying one is that occasionally, when you place a tower near another one, the old one disappears. When it happens it basically forces you to restart as the loss of a fully upgraded tower is generally fatal at the later stages of the game.

    I’m interested in hearing your thoughts.

    Comment by Joe — 29 December, 2006 @ 9:42 AM

  3. 87 score no problem

    Comment by Josh — 3 January, 2007 @ 10:51 AM

  4. Yeah, I realized that right after I posted the comment, and that’s a neat way to have the same types of towers do different things. It’s a neat mechanic, but it’s the only mechanic in the game.

    Comment by Dan C — 20 January, 2007 @ 8:18 PM

  5. Yet another interesting variation on this theme. The towers have a nice bit of variety, too.

    Have fun!

    Comment by Psychochild — 5 March, 2007 @ 2:47 AM

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