Contributing to Tower Defense as a Genre

By: Chun-Kai (CK) Wang, CEO Kooapps


Summary

  • Amazing design walkthrough from Wade
  • Save the Cave took 3.5 years of development to soft-launch on Android
  • Started off as a multiplayer TD game that makes collaboration easy
  • Redesigned game to have interesting strategies based on map environment

Save the Cave on Android

After three and a half years of development, we finally soft-launched Save the Cave on Android along with an interesting design walkthrough (below) from Wade, our game designer. We have an amazing team behind this game and I could not have been luckier. This is just the beginning (plenty of updates coming) but I’d like to take a moment and share our story.

Design Walkthrough for Save the Cave

Stephanie (co-founder) and I started talking about a mobile, freemium, multiplayer tower defense game in January of 2012. Actually, here’s our original design document. I grew up playing Starcraft & Warcraft 3 and along with it, many tower defense mods. Not realizing how hard it was designing a TD game, we were excited. I’ve played a handful of multiplayer TD mods in Starcraft but none of them had a fun collaborative experience. I was either building the same tower as my friend by accident or frantically pinging the map because both of us assumed the other would cover that entrance. GG.


Two years into development of prototyping, plenty of bugs and difficult staffing issues, we soft-launched on the iOS App Store (Canada only), hired an awesome game designer from DigiPen (Wade) and hoped to finish the level design in a few months. That did not happen. Instead, we realized our game didn’t have compelling game mechanics. Sure, we had multiplayer working and collaboration was effortless because of hero design (maybe more on this later) but we couldn’t convince ourselves that this was a game we’d be excited to show our friends.

For the next two dozen design meetings, we focused relentlessly on the level design. We wanted each level in Save the Cave to be a different experience. One that tower defense fans could say they’ve never had before and one that we could show our friends.


We found it. After redesigning each level more than a half dozen times, we found a game mechanic that was not only a great fit for our prehistoric theme but also added a completely new design dimension/vector that allowed us to design each level differently. This game mechanic is the environment.

In typical TD games a common strategy is to create a choke point (usually with an ice or poison tower) and create massive area damage at the choke point. Kingdom Rush (one of our favorite TD games) adds to this concept by rallying melee troops that further strengthens the blockade/choke point. The issue with this approach is that it is repeated for every level in the game.

In Save the Cave, we use the environment to create these natural choke points for the player to take advantage of and because it is part of the map/environment, we can create it differently for each level without overloading the player with decisions. This makes each level so much more fun to design and play, it’s amazing. Make sure to watch Wade’s design walkthrough below. Yup, embedding it again here in case you’d like to re-watch it (you want to, it’s amazing).

Each level really is a different experience.

Design Walkthrough for Save the Cave

It took us years to develop a game we think the world has never seen before. And while Save the Cave is far from polished (omg… we have over 200 tickets in Asana), we would love to hear everyone’s feedback in our in-game forums!