When most people talk of online gaming, they mean games like Counterstrike or World of Warcraft. But today I’d like to talk about online browser gaming.
There’s a lot of rubbish out there… mostly flash games that aren’t too flash. (Sorry) But there are some real gems. Like Desktop Tower Defense. Note: I added that link at my own peril. If you haven’t played it before, there’s a great chance you’ll start… and never finish reading this blog post. Please, wait… just five minutes! Just… say… no…
If you’re not aware already, DTD is an example of the “tower defense” genre. Basic summary: You see a 2D screen with a “start” point & a “finish” point. The play area may be an empty rectangle, or there may be a simple maze. You have money to spend on defensive gun turrets (towers) that can be placed in the play area. Soon, baddies try to march from “start” to “finish”. Each time they do, you lose one of many lives. The only way to prevent this is by putting towers in their way, and hoping they hold them off. Killed baddies earn you money that can be spent on more, or upgraded towers. (Repeat till fade.)
A few online sources (Wikipedia included) suggest the tower defense genre started with Atari’s coinop game Rampart. Certainly, there’s elements of tower defense there, but the manner in which you attack baddies in Rampart is much more like Missile Command than anything else.
The tower defense that you’d recognise in DTD really developed in the last decade in user maps for games like StarCraft, Age of Empires II, and WarCraft III. And DTD is a really addictive example of the genre.
I first played the game a few months ago. The first step was to pick my skill level. (Exhibiting my customary healthy gaming ego, I refused to select anything less than “medium”.)
I then got into the process of laying out towers, triggering waves of baddies, and hopefully blowing them away before they get too far. Soon, I was hooked. I learnt which towers were better in certain situations. How to prioritise what I was doing…
Yes, DTD is a real “just one more game” kind of experience. As soon as a game ends, you start thinking “If only I did X rather then Y, I would have got further…” And – you have another go. And like all REALLY addictive games, you find yourself thinking through tactics while you’re away from computer!
Soon, I’d completed the “medium” 50 levels, and I started “hard”. But I just couldn’t get much further than level 30. All the techniques I’d developed on “medium” were failing me. I kept trying & trying, and eventually I had to (gulp) look for help.
Now I’m not a “cheat mode” kind of gamer. I will do almost ANYTHING before I think of googling a “walkthrough”. But here I was, in the DTD forums, looking for some hints. And that’s when I discovered them. The DTD “hardcore”.
Once again, I was reminded. No matter how simple something seems on the net, there WILL be a group of obsessive fans. And – they’ll develop their own language. Here’s a line from one post: #49: 2 Storms + 20-30% Boost (2.4-2.6 SE) or Storm+L5 + 60% Boost (2.4 SE), +/- blizzard. No – I didn’t make that up. I just copy & pasted it.
Players were discussing all sorts of fancy techniques in the DTD forum; debating whether or not the “juggling” technique should be used. (Don’t ask) These people were way too hardcore for me. This was supposed to be a “lunchbreak” kind of game. Not something that required a thesis. So – I left the forum, and started playing DTD again.
I was determined to beat “Hard” using my “regular” skills alone. So I kept refining the mazes I built. Kept trying different combinations of towers. And soon, I was making real progress! I printed out a few of my more successful mazes. Tried to plan my strategy several moves ahead. Kept practicing… Kept improving those mazes…
Then, one night, it happened. I beat level 50.
Sadly, there was no great “congratulations” screen. No virtual victory parade. Not even a crappy listing of programming credits. But I’d beaten “hard” & that’s all that mattered.
I could upload my “winning maze”, to show you how I did it, but that would take the fun away. You really need to develop your own mazes.
Go on, have a game. (or ten)
Tell me how you go, in the comments… 🙂