[Prototype] Second Earth - Base Builder / Tower Defense Hybrid

edited in Projects
Robbie (@Squidcor), Jason (@Jaysong) and I have been working on a base building prototype for a couple weeks.

The game probably requires a pretty hefty PC to run it. In the final mission there are six hundred bugs in the final wave, and the game is far from optimized.

You can download the latest build here: https://squidcor.itch.io/second-earth


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This stemmed out of Robbie's interest in making a multiplayer tower defense game. The prototype doesn't have multiplayer, but the first thing we wanted to find out is whether we could make a fun tower defense game.

Early on we decided we wanted more a feeling of building (and defending) a base than building a tower defense maze (like so many traditional tower defense games). So there is an economic element, as well as a touch of Factorio assembly-line problem solving.

The visuals are very much placeholder (no artist has worked on this prototype). If anyone wants to suggest visual styles and visual references we'd be eager to check them out. We'd like the game to feel kind of realistic (so far as science fiction goes) and we want to satirize patriotism and colonialism (similar to Starship Troopers, both the movie and the book).

We also obviously want to hear feedback on the base-building game design, as that's what we've mostly worked on.

Thinking far in the future. If we were to actually pursue this. We'd be figuring out how to do the multiplayer, and probably running the missions kind of like a raid system (where players get together and choose missions that offer differing rewards), with upgrades and metagame progression between missions.

Comments

  • This looks really cool guys! Has kind of a Super Troopers feel to it.
    But that's probably the alien models.

    Will download and play this weekend & render some feedback.
    Thanked by 1EvanGreenwood
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    Gave it a play:

    1. Looks GREAT. Dunno what you're talking about the presentation is pretty amazing, from the music to the aliens scuttling to the buildings etc. Looks polished.
    2. The tutorial was confusing at first. I couldn't explicitly draw the connection between an "ore mine" and that building. I at first thought I had to send units out to where those pylons first jutted out to mine something there.
    3. I think more visual connection could be made between ores and the trucks, sometimes they had a hood on and sometimes not? And the ores aren't very visible? Maybe some kind of indication that the ore was picked up and dropped off?
    4. For a while a bunch of my defences were unpowered because the way the pylon construction worked it showed connections to things without being powered, and that LOOKED like I was powering them. Later I understood that if it's connected to the grid it looked different. So I guess that's fine, but the first comms were a little off.
    5. The seemingly random sandstorms were pretty frustrating and I felt like I couldn't do anything about them and they were completely random, which undermines agency.
    6. Also the aliens seem to randomly attack stuff or not. A whole swarm of them bypassed a pylon connection to go to my base, and one of them decided to hit a pylon and it disconnected the entire frontline. So if they randomly attacked then the results of a battle seemed randomly decided, if they decided to attack pylons behind turrets everything gets shut off. If they didn't I'd win. If a sandstorm randomly came I'd lose. Etc. Randomness feels a bit heavy-handed in a game like this? Or maybe I'm missing something and the alien behaviours are not actually random?
    7. Some things felt weird like there were x pylons left but other things cost x. I understand the design intent though. I think it's not a big issue, just a bit less straightforward in the beginning.
    8. The bigness of the spaces vs the tinyness of things being built feels... Like bigness for bigness's sake. Which I understand is what Factoria etc have. It feels more fiddly than it needs to be for me, but I guess some people enjoy fiddling with small things, or lots of small things, so that's fine. I think I'm not one of them (at least not anymore)
    9. There's something that feels clunky about the building interface. Maybe it's just the tinyness of everything (I know you can zoom but it just feels like I want to play at zoom out, so that's a hard one to square, I understand) Maybe it's the choice of colours (purple ore is kinda hard to read against dark everything), maybe it's the size of buttons. But overall they don't feel great to interact with.

    The seemingly randomness of the encounters really turned me off so I didn't actually proceed beyond the first mission after losing 4 times in a row :P The amount of waiting between waves probably put me off as well. I understand that time for construction is a good thing but maybe a fast-forward button would be good.
  • Thanks @Tuism!!!

    I think I have an idea to make the sandstorms feel less random. And I'm going to add a Fast Forward button for waits between rounds (although in multiplayer I'm not sure how that would work).

    If you've failed 4 times on the first mission then I'm thinking the first mission is too difficult (and possibly the whole game is too difficult). It would be pretty easy to add a difficulty modifier.

    I think we'll have a new build up later today.
  • I feel like the difficulty is in randomness or perceived randomness, when I feel like "okay I've got them", a few of them ignore everything and walk through and eats pylon and everything's dead. It's possible that the optimal/only way to win is to build walls to guide aliens and put pylons out of the path? That's counter intuitive in the genre, maybe that's a good thing?
  • I'm busy adding a new tower to the game (for some extra spectacle):

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    @Tuism , I think you'll find the same sort of design in a game like They Are Billions. Although in They Are Billions the zombies purposefully aim at all the buildings in their way (whereas most buildings need to be right in the path of the bugs for them to attack them).

    We're still fiddling with how the bugs path and how towers and walls interact with them. Our starting point is a lot closer to an RTS (like Age of Empires) than the mazing-style of Tower Defense. I think this is a good thing, potentially, but it isn't communicated.

    I'm also experimenting with exposing the enemy pathing:

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  • Ooooooh funcy :D

    So it was an expectations thing. I wasn't expecting them to do that so when they did that it was very frustrating, and felt random.

    Personally I'm not a fan of RTSs, but not having units to control might convince me otherwise :) (I like HOTS, not other mobas though :P) (Yes I have particular taste so I'm just a sample of one :P)
    Thanked by 1EvanGreenwood
  • I played it too, like it so far, Tower Defence is my favourite genre of game :P
    I think as Tuism said too - skip to next wave, maybe an expected amount or type of enemy reading , and tool tips for what each building does. I think batteries would solve the duststorms too.

    Love the atmosphere so far. I think to improve the visuals later, i would go with a kind of blade runner or NOD kind of theme - even like a future North Korean vibe, dark angular architexture with glowing lights.

    Also the ore part wasnt clear to me, but there is so much potential to expand there too, optomise your production vs spending on new towers. Research trees and customisable turrets would also be great.

    Im also thinking burrowed enemies coming out from under the sand.

    Last suggestion would be a nice synthetic voice for all the construction clicks and wave information. Ill play the next build and comment further :)
    Thanked by 1EvanGreenwood
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    We've uploaded a new build

    Some changes:

    - There is a display of the paths the aliens are going to walk (so you can see how your decisions effect their paths).
    - There are a couple new toys - Pheremone and Shock pads. A Thumper that repels aliens.
    - A capacitor that stores battery power. At the same time, machine gun turrets have less battery charge, but the capacitors charge them.
    - The Tesla tower is now a murder tower (instead of a stunning tower).
    - A couple more tutorial texts.
    - One new map.
    - A few of the current maps have better starting conditions.\
    - The game pauses after waves.
    Thanked by 1iceblademush
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    So I played this a little. I got up to mission 4 or so. Not very far into the missions, but here are my thoughts so far. I might play some more at a later stage and come back with more feedback. Apologies of the feedback comes of as a little negative. I think there there is a lot of potential here, I just got stuck a bit on the things that were frustrating me as a player. Also, full disclosure, I love me some city building games so bare that in mind when reading my feedback. :P

    1) I want the Q and E keys to rotate the camera.
    2) The first few missions at least feel very locked to me in terms of base design/building. I felt like I couldn't explore much of anything since it was "obvious" where buildings where supposed to go. I saw that in one of the later missions the area opened up significantly. I didn't play the mission yet, but I found this more appealing as I could spend time to plan out my base instead of just building the obvious things.
    3) I felt that due to the interaction between things like the mortar tower and the Trinium(?) mine I wasn't building a base, but rather several isolated bases. I almost feel like there wants to be a tension between expanding for resources, but being able to defend choke points but it's not quite there yet. I'm not being rewarded enough for overreaching to build that second ore mine, but I'm also not putting myself in a bad position by building towers on the edge of the map at the spawn point.
    4) I really like the mechanics of the roads/pickup drop off points. I would definitely want to see that expanded. It would be nice to be able to see a truck's "planned" route by hovering over it or something. I would also love to see little ghost trucks driving while in between rounds. It would also be good to see a estimate on income for resources other than the energy.
    5) The sandstorms confused me a little. I always felt like they came out of nowhere and they never had any real effect unless it was during an attack wave. I feel they would be more meaningful if they lasted longer but had a lesser effect. Straining the resources of the player creates more tension than just removing it completely.
    6) I would love for the guard posts to be more effective. I would like to see something like walls of size 3 between 2 guard towers creating a little road to patrol that spawns a guard every now and then. Or possibly having the ability to upgrade guard towers so that it's more relevant long term. Or even have it use the population resource instead of ore so that it ties in closer with the thematics. At the moment it's just a wall that shoots(in my head).
    7) I would also love to see something like a "tank garage". This would spawn a tank that would stop to fire at enemies. This will allow designs that hug the bases closer, but now the roads would potentially be exposed to enemies. I think that would be cool at least. :P
    8) I have some issues understanding the AI's movement. I can't quite tell what they are trying to do, and I don't understand their motivation. I didn't experiment too much with what their priorities are, so I might just be missing something obvious, but I was never sure if I should be walling everything off, or trying to leave gaps for them to pass through. I feel that a large part of a tower defense game is exploiting the simplistic movement rules for the AI and manipulating their path by maze design, where in this case they seem "clever" enough to take the best route which means I can't design a bad one for them to go down.
    9) I badly wanted to turn buildings like my garages and housing units to make the most of my routes. I might just be missing a button here, but it felt bad not being able to do that.

    Hopefully some of this was useful. Would love to see another iteration on this.
    Thanked by 2EvanGreenwood Tuism
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    Thanks for the feedback @Rigormortis !

    @Squidcor has been working on a barracks building that you can attach to your wall that make little soldiers patrol the walls, a lot like you suggested!

    I really like the idea of tank garages. At some point @Squidcor was suggesting a building that upgrades and arms trucks as they move past (to allow the trucks to shoot at aliens).

    We need to figure out a way to solve some of the things you are pointing out. Making the sandstorms more interesting I think is quite possible, but requiring more expansion of the base and making expansion to new resource patches a more interesting decision, is going to take a lot of reworking.

    Glad you like the road mechanics! The road system for a lot of players causes some frustration (which we need to solve). I think the planned paths would be rad and fairly easy to implement, I think the predicted revenue would be rad but very very difficult to calculate.

    I'd personally love to see the road/economy portion of the game expanded (with other resources and chains of resources). But the system could definitely use better feedback (especially if it gets more complicated).
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    I can't recall at the moment if the mines show anything, but it could be useful to show how much ore it can dump per minute/round/gametick. I assumed that covering more squares of ore made my mine more efficient, but I was never actually sure...and I didn't want to sit around to try and count something that should be readily available to me. That should be easier to implement and already go a long way to making informed decisions.

    Thinking back, there is actually a lot of information that I would have liked that I can't seem to get access to.
    1) How much HP do units/walls have?
    2) How much damage do units/towers do?
    3) How many people live in my colony(probably no relevance, but cool to know)?
    4) Which garage does a specific truck belong to?

    I'm sure that I could figure out what these values are, but I would rather be focussing on the strategy than trying to figure out something that is known/defined by design. In essence, I feel like my planning phase is crippled because I have to figure out values through trial and error.
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    The prototype is continuing, with @squidcor and @Elyaradine working on trying to make the base-building part of the game more narratively engaging (so that it feels less like a military base and more like building a small outpost where people live).

    The visuals have been improving steadily, @Elyaradine figured out how to do GPU instancing on the bugs (so the rendering overhead is much lower). There maybe be some terraforming visuals to share soon.

    The current version on Itch.io looks like this:

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  • edited
    @Squidcor and @Elyaradine have done some awesome work on making terraforming look cool. Still WIP.

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  • edited
    Holy heck the visuals are off the charts, the little bits of emergent stuff like the pulse waves and aliens falling into lava are great! And little dudes planting things! Will get the new version and try it out again sometime soon :)
  • Had a quick play and it is looking really cool.
  • This looks amazing. One of my favourite RTS experiences (against AI) is to put in a lot of opponents and turtle, just build this impenetrable fortress of overlapping defenses where the enemies grind themselves to paste against my walls.

    So, yeah, right up my alley. I'll give this a try tonight or tomorrow. :)

    Also, amazing work on the presentation, already looks like a releasable game. ;)


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    Love That. Welcome to NEW CAPE TOWN got me LOL
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    The Love, Death and Robots episode Suits is amazeballs... Reminded me a bit of Starcraft, and, well, this.

    Soooo.... Can we haz barnyards and mech suits please!?!?

    I kid. It looks like great fun! Will give it a play later.
  • The Love, Death and Robots episode Suits.
    They really need to make that into a full series.
    Thanked by 1Thelangfordian
  • This is an awesome game and has potential.
    From the simple (not to complex) mechanics to the aesthetically pleasing environment, this game is sure one I would play again.

    It has a decent amount of content and quality graphics for a RTS game. The smooth zoom in and zoom out is a nice touch as well.

    However, there are 1 or 2 things that frustrate me such as the turrets initially turning to slow and buildings don’t get highlighted when deleting. Turrets should snap to the appropriate direction according to the base, upon placement, rather than all facing the same direction.

    But overall, it’s a fun and challenging game.

    Some suggestions I would make is adding a fog border around the edge of the map to hide the ‘drop off’ most RTS games face. Perhaps add some more aliens with unique abilities could spice it up too.
    My question I want to ask you is whether the multiplayer you are planning to implement into the game will be more like co-op or verses (like Balloons tower defence).

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    Thanked by 2EvanGreenwood dammit
  • @Deatherlavish Glad you liked the game! There's a lot more work we want to put into it! (And specialized enemy bugs are in the pipeline).

    That's a good point about the towers' initial facing angle! And I agree we need to show what's going to be sold when you are deleting.

    With regards to multiplater, co-operative multiplayer is what we're thinking. We want players to be able to work on the same base together and share in victory or defeat against the aliens. A lot like some of the custom co-operative defense maps in Warcraft 3.
  • What I really liked about the game is the challenge it offers, its fun and you can get really involved in the game, especially when masses of aliens just rush at you. The graphics are amazing and the environment that you play in suits the games theme very well.
    I also like the aspect of the dust storms, makes you think strategically and plan ahead of time.

    One thing I’ve been struggling with is the second wave of “Generate your Tomorrow”. For the life of me, I can’t survive that wave. The difficulty for the second level is a bit high in my opinion, I’m not sure if there’s a special technique to beating the wave. Maybe a potential improvement would be to teach players different techniques that can be used and how to properly utilize what they have to use.

    I haven’t really been able to see all the maps, but I was curious as to whether all the maps have the same weather conditions and environment? You could create a lot of different biomes such as forests or water-based biomes with different aliens adapted to said environments. May add diversity from the desert type maps.




  • This game was a fun and very challenging game.it is very well made and the game itself is very beautiful in craftsmanship the art is done well and it is nicely detailed, it gets very hard very quickly and I sometimes struggled to get through levels even in the beginning, which is frustrating but also is very interesting because it gives the player a very stressful environment to play in as they stress as the aliens break through their defence
    this is what I liked most about the game this stressful situation where I would start to panic when the aliens broke through and I didn’t know what to do.
    There wasn’t much I disliked about this game the most I can fault it is when it doesn’t give the player enough information about the buildings like how much energy a solar panel gives and how much energy a gun uses up and also maybe a extended boarder or background so you don’t see the map end this can give the game a bigger feel to it.
    But overall, I think it was a very good game and it is going to be amazing once everything is polished to perfection.
    A question I do have is what inspired this game? because it reminds me of a mix between StarCraft age of empires and a hoard of mindless zombie like creatures.
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  • @coconutz Oh gosh, yeah that map is too difficult :(

    If you want to beat the level, just place the free turrets (the ones with white numbers next to the icon) and then place as many solar panels and capacitors as you can. The point of the level is to teach you that your turrets will fail you if you don't have enough energy for them.

    I am busy looking at that level and trying to make it easier, without making it possible to ignore the lesson.

    The biome doesn't change much in later levels. There's a bit more lava in some of the later levels. We do plan to have a few different biomes for different parts of the planet. Desert in the equatorial regions, with some jungle trying to reclaim the desert. Some radiation fallout zones. If we're feeling very ambitions maybe some coastal regions.

    @horse_ZA69 Theme-wise the inspiration is Starship Troopers. Mechanics-wise we wanted to make a tower defense game that had an economy. The closest game to what we're doing is "They Are Billions". But we've taken a lot of inspiration from Creeper World (for its energy grid and supply chain), Defense Grid (which is a pure tower defense), Factorio (for its conveyor systems), Anno 2070 (for its economy) and Revenge of the Titans (for the way the enemies pathfind). The main thing about They Are Billions that we've borrowed is the sheer number of enemies (we're still trying to improve our enemy count).

    If anything my biggest complain with They Are Billions is that it is too much like Starcraft and Age of Empires. I love the game, but the micromanagement of the units really slows the game down. I love the fantasy of defending against hordes of enemies, but I have more joy in pure base-building games like Frost Punk.

    Way back in 2009 I was inspired by the game Majesty to make a micromanagement-less defense game, and while that game didn't work out, the urge has been sitting with me. @squidcor actually has the technical skills to pull this sort of game off, so when it turned out we both wanted to make the same sort of thing we started making Second Earth.

    @squidcor came about his inspiration a bit differently. I think he'd tell you that he most enjoyed playing strategy games (in particular Age Of Empires) by completely turtling for most of the game and then way late in the game finally attacking the enemy. We think a lot of players prefer playing this way and RTS games have largely been a disappointment for their focus on sustained aggression (as a result of their focus on competitive multiplayer).
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