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Arcade Highlight: Tower Defense Tycoon

Arcade Highlight: Tower Defense Tycoon

There’s no shortage of Tower Defense games. That’s not surprising, considering their simple design and satisfying feel. Watching hordes of enemies being slaughtered by your strategic placement of a vast array of death machines is rewarding. So what makes this week’s feature, “Tower Defense Tycoon” different? For one thing, it actually has a story, and a funny one at that.

Game creator David ‘Skrow’ Eirich weaves a light hearted tale of the grand opening of a new tower defense theme park with dynamic enemies who have abilities that will test and challenge your carefully placed towers. The game eases you into the experience by making the track very clear, and slowly introducing new abilities and power-ups. If you’re looking for a polished, strategic, and funny game to play, check out Tower Defense Tycoon, now featured in the StarCraft II Arcade.

We asked David some questions about his game and process.

Question: How did you get started in game design?

Answer: I’ve always been compelled to create games, but it used to be games on paper or games with a deck of cards.  I have a passion for computer programming and playing video games; so video game design is the perfect creative outlet.  Everyone needs a hobby.

Question: Do you have any examples of the paper or card games you made?

Answer: I introduced the concept of Rube Goldberg contraptions to my circle of friends.  We regularly played a paper game where each player had to quickly draw the next component of the machine until there was no more space on the page.  I also created all kinds of games, puzzles, and mazes for my school's newsletter, long before I had access to a computer and learned to program.  

Question: What made you want to make games with the StarCraft II editor?

Answer: In my opinion, the StarCraft II editor is the most accessible way to create video games. It has built-in models, sounds, APIs, etc., so you can immediately focus on creating games rather than relying on custom-made assets.  The best part is that you already have a distribution system to share your work: the StarCraft II Arcade.  I began using Blizzard’s editors when I was a still in school and students generally don’t have access to the necessary budget and team members to make custom art assets, or a way share and promote games.

Question: How many people worked on Tower Defense Tycoon and what roles did they have?

Answer: This game was an entirely solo project.  I had my wife and a few friends play some test games once it was finished, but that’s about it.

Question: That’s cool that your wife was part of the development process. Besides beta testing, did she offer feedback on other elements such as the towers or the humor of the game?

Answer: My wife was actually a major inspiration for the game, and she acted as my target demographic.  She enjoys serious games that have a fun and approachable style, like World of Warcraft or Plants vs. Zombies.   From the start of development, my goal was to make a fun game that would appeal to someone like her, as well as having a deep strategy for hardcore players.  She is also the funniest person I know, so she was able to help tighten up a lot of the game's writing.

Question: Do you have any funny stories about the design process for your game?

Answer: Anyone who’s played “Tower Defense Tycoon” knows that I don’t like air levels -- those levels where flying enemies soar over your maze of towers, most of which can’t even attack flying units. I wanted to make a jab at air levels in my game, so there’s a part where your park releases a press announcement that “nobody likes air levels.”  I continued to expand on this little joke until it got to the point where the concept of ‘air levels’ essentially became the villain for the entire game.  What I found funny was how this message resonated with the players.  After I originally published the game, my inbox filled up with e-mails of support and agreement (mostly in all caps) that air levels do indeed suck.    

Question: How does the game work? What is in store for a first time player?

Answer: The game is very approachable for new players, especially for anyone who has already played a handful of tower defense games.  The game is a “classic” style tower defense on a fixed track, which acts as your Tower Defense Theme Park.  Spectators will pay admission to enter your park and watch your towers annihilate waves of enemies.  Meanwhile, you will be building up your park with useful facilities like restaurants, hotels, admission booths, and restrooms.  The game has a ton of surprises for a first time player, including special enemy waves and epic boss fights like you’ve never seen before in a tower defense.  

Question: What do players who want to conquer the game and be great do to reach that goal?

Answer: New players should just have fun.  Any tower in the game can be used as the focal point for a great strategy, so be on the lookout for bonuses and upgrades that work well with your favorite towers.  There are many ways to beat the game and different strategies to explore.  The best players have proven to be significantly better at the game than I am and I’ve seen some clever solutions to finish it on the hardest difficulties.  For players who have already completed the story mode, I recommend improving your skills by playing “TD Tycoon [Experts Only]”, which is a fast paced version of the game with the story elements removed, published in the North America and Europe regions.

Question: Without spoiling the strategies, can you give any hints on these creative builds? Can you share your own personal favorite?

Answer: My favorite strategy is to build flying towers or the “Mobile Towers” and purchase the "Combat A.I." upgrade.  This upgrade gives the towers a mind of their own, and it's so much fun to see them zip around the track taking out dangerous targets, stopping enemies who are about to leak, and focusing on bosses.  They have lots of hidden tricks too -- they'll leave enemies barely alive so other towers can score the killing blow, and they also have a secret synergy with Kinesis Crystals I suggest you try it! 

Question: Are there any tweaks coming to “Tower Defense Tycoon” that the community can look forward to?

Answer: You can count on it!  The current game is pretty much in its final form right now, but in Heart of the Swarm I will be working on a major overhaul to make a competitive version of the game.  In addition to the familiar tower defense game, players will be able to work with or against one another to drive each other’s parks out of business.  I want to incorporate a lot of social elements to the game so that the most experienced player isn’t necessarily guaranteed a win.  Furthermore, players will be able to earn experience to unlock new towers, upgrades, and facilities.

Question: Do you have any plans for other games or future goals as a game designer?

Answer: Maybe one day I might be able to turn game design into a career, but for now I’m really enjoying the absolute creative freedom from developing Arcade maps.  I have more game ideas than I have time, so it’s hard to say exactly what I’ll be doing after I’m done with the competitive version of “Tower Defense Tycoon.”

Question: What’s the best way people can follow you and your work (Twitter, Facebook, Website, etc.)?

Answer: I do most of my development work in secret.  I only have one chance to make a first impression, so I generally don’t demonstrate my work that’s in progress.  When my projects are complete, they will always be posted on, and anyone can feel free to contact me there as user “SkrowFunk” or e-mail me at

"No air levels? Is it my birthday or something?"  Spyrian

"Tycoon is a compelling, story-driven Tower Defense game that will actually surprise you."  Cloaken

"One or two may have made it through my gauntlet, but the others were blown to smithereens!"  Aldrexus

"This is by far the most accessible TD game I’ve come across. Also, it’s hilarious!" Traysent

"I’m having so much fun! Is it Spyrian’s birthday or something?"  Kaivax

Tags: arcade

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