Not Just a Tower Defense Game

The last time I posted, I had just gone through a bit of color-scheme experimentation, and conceptualizing of what I wanted the visual style of the game to be. This update will be a bit of a jump from that, as I want to explain what my new approach to the story and gameplay of Aetherus will be.

First, the narrative. Originally, I envisioned Aetherus to be a massive city, spread out over a network of interconnected flying islands above the clouds. The evil Malevolence had poisoned the city by corrupting the Auria, the energy that powered the city itself. As it fed off the city’s Aureum crystal, it would spawn twisted creatures across the various islands, forged by its own mind or stolen from the ranks of the living.

Next, the gameplay. The player would play a third-person experience as they controlled various individuals in a turn-based system, setting up typically static defenses using the abilities of these individuals and then letting the wave play out. Rinse and repeat until the final wave was defeated. As the player made their way across the myriad of islands, they would discover new characters to add to their party and bolster their defensive capabilities.

Revisiting the basic level layout for ‘Cleansing the City’, the game’s demo level.

After starting development on the demo level (white-boxing, which I’ll explain in the following post), I had a thought: what if I made the game first-person instead of third-person? What if I gave the player a character they could control, letting the player use weaponry and explore the map? These ideas came from my own whitebox testing, where I created a simple first-person-controlled character to move around the map to judge object scale. My first realization was that the mountains I had made were too shallow, the island too small, and the bridges too large. Sure, I could reduce the width of the bridges, but that wouldn’t change the fact that the island, and the subsequent pathing I had made around the mountains, was too small. Everything would either need to be scaled way down, or the island remade. Second, everything felt too spaced-apart. There was too much space, and the island felt less like a formerly-populated city and more like a newly-discovered frontier. 

I then wondered what it would be like to actually keep the first-person character. Perhaps the player could fight enemies head-on, instead of relying just on towers to do the job for them? It would make the game much more action-oriented, which I liked. However, implementing this new first-person aspect into the core gameplay loop would require major adjustment, including adjustment to the story to account for the new game world.

A sketch of how my original concept for Aetherus would have looked like. The player would have used the comprehensive UI to command the battlefield and construct new towers.

A New Vision

Aetherus, as it now stands, is no longer a classic tower defense game. Now, the player controls an as-of-yet-unnamed character whose purpose is to defend the corrupted Aureum while the Auria Stabilizer structure around the crystal drives out the Malevolence. The game is now in first-person, and makes use of a modified wave system that gives the user control over when the waves appear.

Significant changes to the game:

My intention with this new concept is to create a game that is more action-oriented and exciting, while giving the player room to breathe and relax. I intend to give the player a lot of control over what happens in the game, between choosing how to spend their Auria (whether it be on defense or on unlocking new utilities) and even when to fight with the adjusted wave system. Now, the player can try out an offensive playstyle rather than being restricted with a purely tower-based defensive playstyle. Players can explore and discover new structures and items. Action-oriented players can enjoy face-to-face combat.

A sketch of how this new vision of Aetherus might look like, with its new first-person perspective. The UI now includes both a minimap (bottom-right) and character portrait (bottom-left).

New, Not Complete

This vision still has a long journey to go before it is complete. I have so many ideas for features I want to add to the game: a wider variety of unique structures, new systems like weapon forging and enchanting, characters with different abilities and traits, and even new areas. One example of the beginnings of some of these plans is the entrance to the Mine next to the Aureum. Eventually, the Mine will be a full-fledged area that players can explore. It could be a mini-hub or sorts, with NPCs the player can interact with, or a larger, more hostile area where special treasures can be found. Though these are just ideas, you might see the foundations for some of them as I post more development updates.

That will wrap up this update post! I’ll be posting a development update shortly, showcasing the progress I’ve made on white-boxing and the basic models of the game’s various structures.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *