Tools and Rules

01/03/2010 by David Wenger

Tools and Rules

As a software engineer at HPE, I get to develop tools that enable the
team to work more productively.  Improved productivity results in more
game content and a more gratifying experience for the player.  On
Defense Grid: The Awakening, I worked on new tools that helped our
artists and designers develop more content so the player gets even more
from the game.

Asset Viewer

One of the concerns when developing a game is how long it takes for an
artist to be able to see their art as it would look in the game. 
Artists use many different software tools to make characters and
environments come to life, but those tools usually don't know anything
about how the art will be drawn in the game.  As a result, we generally
create some additional software to allow the artists to very quickly be
able to see and evaluate their content in the game engine.

A new Asset Viewer software system has been a particularly fun element
of programming for Defense Grid.  This tool allowed our artists to take
new art (including towers, environments and particle effects) and view
that art as it would be seen in the game.  This allows the artists to
immediately get an idea of how object animations or lighting will look
without having to wait for a new build.  Making all the rendered content
for a game is a huge task, so helping the artists out with the Asset
Viewer was useful for them and a fun program for me to create.

Rule Sets

Another one of the cool things I worked on was the implementation of
Rule Sets in the game engine.  Rule Sets allow the designer to set up
specific ways in which a game level can be played.  The more ways you
can set up a level, the more hours of game play our designers can dream
up.  We might give you lots of resources with which to build up your
defenses, but then also make the enemy units stronger.  Or perhaps, when
playing on a higher difficulty setting, you have to fend off the
invaders with only a limited set of tower types.

As an example, when you first play the "Fire Control" level you are
playing with a set of rules that makes it challenging to earn a gold
medal.  But once you've unlocked the additional play modes you get to
challenge yourself by trying to play the same level with tougher aliens,
limited number of towers, or only green (first-level) towers.  Each of
these additional modes has rules that are uniquely set up by the
designer in order to provide the player more fun, additional game play
and new challenges.

During play-testing it was really cool to see how we could play a level
with one rule set and then play it again with a different rule set;
resulting in two completely different and exciting encounters, despite
it being the same map!  Our designers continued to tweak the rule sets
for each game level to ensure that no matter what the play style, you'll
have a really enjoyable experience.

Enabling the artists and designers on the team to create content better
and faster has been very rewarding.  I hope it leads to you having a lot
of fun with Defense Grid.

Posted in Defense Grid | Keywords: Defense Grid