A Tower Defense Game

Aetherus is the working title of a game I’m currently working on. At the moment, I’m focused on creating a working level that will showcase the game’s setting, environment, and core gameplay loop.

The City of Aetherus

Aetherus is a vast high-tech city made up of interconnected floating islands high above the clouds in a yet-unnamed world. At its peak, the city stood tall atop these islands, elaborate and sophisticated, but not extravagant. Its intricate network of bridges connect each island to Ionar, the massive island in the center of the city system. In the center of this island is the towering Aureum, a shimmering, translucent blue crystal. Its energy, the Auria, is siphoned and used by the city to power its technology. This energy appears to be endless.

In the game’s current setting, Aetherus has been defiled by a formless entity known only as the Malevolence. It has taken up residence within the Aureum, becoming one with the crystal, and by doing so, corrupting the Auria. It is siphoning the crystal’s energy to feed itself, and with enough energy, it will eventually be able to break free from the crystal, destroying Ionar and the rest of Aetherus in the process.

Demo Level Concept: Cleanse the Fallen City

The main milestone goal of this project will be to design and develop a working demo level that will showcase not only the game’s gameplay loop, but also the game’s environment and visual style. I will need to design a level map that handshakes well with the gameplay loop while also communicating the essence of what Aetherus should look and feel like to the player.

Level Layout

The level map will be made up of several floating islands surrounding a larger island, interconnected by bridges. This center island will be marked by the Aureum crystal in the center. The city itself would appear to be a cluster, divided by pathways through which units can move. These pathways will eventually meet each of the bridges, allowing movement from the surrounding islands inward.

Layout Option 1 – This potential level layout features tight mountains divided by several pathways. Eight bridges span to surrounding islands.
Layout Option 2 – This potential level layout features a geometric city layout. “Foundations” will make up the bases upon which the player will build their towers. Eight bridges span to surrounding islands in a more symmetric format.
Layout Option 3 – This potential level layout returns to the first layout’s mountain ranges, but with wider pathways and a somewhat symmetrical design (relative to the first layout). Shaped mountain half-rings surround the Aureum, giving the crystal a substantial defensive line of tower spots. Nine bridges, instead of eight, span to surrounding islands.

Environment and Aesthetics

I envision the look and feel of the level moving through three phases as the player progresses through the mission.

[Phase 1] – The level is set high above the clouds, surrounded by a clear blue sky. In the city, the player should get a sense of a clean place made filthy. The Aureum crystal in the center is a deep shade of purple, representing the Malevolence’s corruption. Misty purple tendrils emanate from the crystal periodically.

[Phase 2] – The Malevolence has been driven out from the crystal into a towering physical entity surrounding the city. The sky turns a deep shade of purple and the lighting darkens. The player should now get some sense of fear with the environment changes. Misty purple tendrils now emanate inwards towards Ionar from the entity.

[Phase 3] – After the Malevolence has been defeated, the entity disappears and the skies clear. No sign of the Malevolence’s corruption remains in the city, and the lighting brightens. The player should get a sense of freedom and relief when they reach this phase.

This moodboard is a collection of images representing the visual concepts I seek to express in the demo level, and the game as a whole. The floating islands and cities represent the visual style, geography, and architecture of Aetherus – tall, geometric structures clustered together. The purple images reflect the visual style of the Malevolence’s corruption.


The player must prevent the Malevolent entities from reaching the corrupted Aureum by constructing towers across Ionar. If an enemy reaches the Aureum, the crystal will lose Stability. If it reaches 0 Stability, the Malevolence has reached final form and will explode from the crystal, destroying the city and ending the game. Defeating enemies will provide the player with Auria, which can be used to construct more towers. Upon defeating the tenth wave, the Malevolence will be driven out from the Aureum and surround the city. The player must survive a final, massive wave of enemies in order to defeat the Malevolence and complete the level.

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