In this article I'm going to tell you a little bit about some changes in ToT's level design! The new levels are pretty unique and exciting and I'm looking forward to telling you all about them. Read on!
The original level design in ToT was pretty simple. It consisted of a series of maps that filled one screen length. Each map had a door that the player was tasked with protecting. Certain parts of the map were obstructed creating different paths for units. If you lost this point the player would fall back to a secondary position, a new map.
Having the complete levels on screen with the units at the size that they were drawn did not allow for a lot of variety in the levels. I didn't have the real-estate to create the tactical situations that I wanted. My original vision of the game also had many more units than I could fit on one screen length. All of these gripes led me to try levels that were larger, scrolling levels that were also isometric. This is a big change, it meant we needed to add a mini-map, tweak the UI, redo the level art and more. Luckily, I'm not in a rush and it was still early on in development.
So far the change is looking really good, but I still wasn't happy with the levels. There was something too simple about them for me. When the Battlefield 4 beta came out, I noticed it had this fun little feature on the map where you can raise/lower a gate. This got me thinking about how I could have something similar in Tyrant of Terror.
I decided to add draw bridges. Draw bridges that have switches to raise or lower them. In ToT the player has limited control over what happens on the battlefield. They place units, tower, and traps. They can sometimes execute a special move at any location. It can't be as simple as allowing the player to click on a switch because I didn't want the player to have that much control over the environment. What I wanted was for bridges to be a nice little benefit that may help you out for a while, but something that can also be lost.
After thinking about it for a while I decided to re-purpose the thief unit. In ToT the thief unit has faster movement than other enemies and spawns in special locations in the map. These spawn points are typically separate from the bulk of enemy forces. They also can run on a unique path. Thieves now have the ability to hit a switch and lower a draw bridge. When a thief lowers a bridge it really changes the flow of traffic. The end result is that enemies begin to take a more direct route to the player. This change will often catch the player off guard as the player has deployed his/her units elsewhere in the map. When a bridge is lost a player will need to adjust their strategy.
Below is the design for our test level:
Ok I know that's a lot to take in. I'll go over everything.
The white represents blank space and the filled in gray area represents ground that the game's units can stand on. You'll notice text that represents different areas of the map. This is mostly for our reference. The three areas are called zones and represent three different stages the battle can end up in. The Last stand zone contains the power orb. If the player lets the power orb be taken they will be destroyed.
The green square represents enemy spawn points. Spawn points exist just off screen. All enemies except for thieves come from these enemy spawn points. The green lines that extend from them are enemy paths. You'll notice that these paths go over bridges if they are down. If the bridge is up they go around. One thing to note is that the intensity of a particular spawn point may depends on what zone the player has been forced to. If the player is pushed to the Fall back zone the nearby spawn points will become more active and the spawn points in Funnel will become less active.
The blue square represents a thief spawn point, and the line that extends from them is a thief path.
You'll notice the thief path goes strait to the orange square, and that's the bridge switch. If the thief gets to the bridge switch the draw bridge is lowered.
The red line is a smash-able door. These are what separate the three sections of the map. When an enemy gets to one of these doors they begin attacking it. The door has it's own health, and once that health reaches zero the door is smashed enemy units will pass through it.
You will notice that the first area, Funnel has three smash-able doors that can be lost. Its possible for a player to lose this point and then boost defenses to make sure the enemies don't get into the next area, but it becomes more difficult when two doors are lost, and almost impossible when three are lost. The fall back zone contains just one door, but all enemies will converge on it.
If the door in Last stand is lost the enemies will have access to the throne room. In the throne room there is the Tyrant. (who will be pretty outraged about the battle getting this far!) Any enemy can pick up the orb and run with it. If the orb makes it back to one of the spawn points the player will lose the level.
The player can recover the orb by killing the carrier. After 5 seconds of not being picked up by an enemy the orb will warp back to the throne room.
The player should always watch out for thieves, they are weak but fleet of foot and if a thief gets hold of the orb it may be difficult to retrieve. Before the bridges the sole purpose of thieves was just to steal the orb and run with it.
All of this culminates in levels that are pretty dynamic and rather intense. Levels can easily go wrong and will demand a smart response from the player. In Tyrant of Terror players are kept on their toes throughout the course of every level.
Ok I think that's it! I'm expecting 2014 to be a huge year for both Tyrant of Terror and Mad Science Games so make sure you keep an eye on us. Follow me on twitter, I post all of our articles there.