Game Analysis: Desktop Tower Defence
May 23, 2009
During the course I studied the Flash game Desktop Tower
Defence, check it out at www.handdrawngames.com.
My ﬁnal assignment investigated the properties of causal and
(hard)core games and how they apply to Desktop Tower Defence.
Causal games - Jonathan Greechan’s factors
Low barrier to entry or easy to learn game play.
Simple controls, point mouse and left click for most causal
games on the PC platform.
Forgiving game play, allow the player to make some mistakes
without immediately losing the game.
Carefully crafted ramp-up in game play complexity that guides
the player into the intricacies of the game.
Inclusive rather than exclusive themes, gender neutral,
non-oﬀending themes rarely involving overt violence or
Provide fun and relaxation , rather than the adrenaline or
sensual stimulation typically served by core games.
Lower production budget than core games.
Short incremental play that does not force the player to
commit to extended periods of time to play.
Core games - Ernest Adams
Finding similar characteristics for core games was harder, but
Ernest Adams characterises the core gamer with:
“Well, they play games a lot. A lot. For core gamers, game
software is their favorite entertainment medium, surpassing
television and the movies. Core gamers spend a great deal of their
leisure time playing games, and if they’re not playing, they’re
reading magazines about games, surﬁng the web for information
on games, or hanging around the game store. They write
walkthroughs and build websites devoted to their favorite games.
They discuss them on bulletin boards.”
Core games - Al Yang
Al Yang oﬀers a diﬀerent perspective on core gaming:
“The ’hardcore’ level of games are born from the investment of the
players not the game itself, for instance a casual game can become
a hardcore game not from a change in the mechanics of the game
itself, but from the inherent energy invested in the game by the
player. For instance, something as simple as Tetris can be both a
’casual’ and ’hardcore’ game depending on the investment of the
Tower defence games
Luke Mitchell explains tower defence games with:
“Tower Defense games are all about... well, defending with towers.
Speciﬁcally, setting up guns, turrets and other types of defense
towers to try and prevent attacking enemies from successfully
destroying their target.”
The genre also includes games where the objective is to prevent
the enemies (creeps) from escaping. They enter the play ﬁeld and
the player’s task is to stop them from leaving it again.
There is usually an economy mechanic where the player gets more
funds for killing enemies and gets options on what kind of towers to
build, and possibly to invent new towers or upgrade existing ones.
The ﬁrst tower defence game was Rampart, then similar games
became popular as mods on other games.
Desktop Tower Defence
Desktop Tower Defence was one of the ﬁrst Flash games in the
tower defence genre. Basing the game on Flash technology exposed
it to a large segment of causal gamers. It was a huge success and
it had over 12 million plays in two months when it was released.
The player gets to build several diﬀerent kinds of towers. There are
several diﬀerent kinds of enemies, some have special abilities, like
speed, ﬂight or invulnerability to certain weapons. The objective of
the game is to keep enemies from escaping the play ﬁeld.
The game has a very friendly feel with cheerful sounds and
Desktop Tower Defence is clearly causal in it’s nature, matching all
the properties of a causal game given by Greechan.
But it has also attracted a core following, there are strategy guides
online, movies on YouTube, forums and a multitude of articles and
blog-posts on the game.
Some factors that have contributed to it’s success in core gamer
circles are the many diﬀerent ways to compete in the game. The
game has it’s own forum right on the site with the game. There is
also a scoreboard where players can compare their results to those
of other players.
The assignment started out with the objective of classifying
Desktop Tower Defence as either a causal or core game. But this
had to be abandoned since it is popular in both categories of
It would be interesting to compare it to other games in the tower
defence genre and to see what features exactly that have drawn in
causal and core gamers. There could be simple measures that a
game designer can take to make sure a game is appreciated by
both core and causal gamers, giving it a wider appeal.