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There are a lot of classic game engines out there (Real Time Strategy, Turn Based, etc), of which you can find countless variations. All of them have a basic starting point which involves units, buildings that produce units, unit/building parameters like health, damage, etc, a map canvas. These can be simulated at a very basic level, no graphics, no animations.

I want to build a Tower Defense type of game, and it would be great if i could build a very basic prototype just to simulate parameters like health, damage, speed, range, etc.

Does such a tool exist?

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Or, it does not exist, would't it be useful? –  Victor C. Jul 12 '12 at 11:56
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GameMaker is great for prototyping. Above that, for TD as you are describing you could always use an existing Warcraft 3 map and edit it. –  Jonathan Dickinson Jul 12 '12 at 13:18
    
Thank you! I'll will consider both options. –  Victor C. Jul 12 '12 at 13:41
    
I've been wondering this for so long myself. I have used Game Maker but I was wondering if there were other options out there. I was even considering building one myself –  Jeff Jul 12 '12 at 14:02
    
GameMaker is exactly what i was looking for. And it seems pretty straight forward. –  Victor C. Jul 12 '12 at 14:20

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Have you considered using a map editor of an existing game for building your prototype?

Since you've mentioned wanting to build a Tower Defense game, why not use the map editor from other strategy game to script your idea? StarCraft II has, as far as I know, a very powerful editor that has already been used to create a lot of different mods (MOBA maps, tower defense maps and even a third person shooter of sorts).

There are a number of advantages to using an already existing game editor instead of a bare-bones tool or engine:

  1. It's much easier to get people to give you feedback if they don't need to install new tools in order to play your prototype. Also, some games (like StarCraft II), offer you ways in which you can publish your mod and get it front of as many players as possible;
  2. You have an existing set of assets (unit models, sounds etc.) so your prototype can look decent while you're building it (having box graphics everywhere might turn some players away);
  3. You may discover that, after developing your idea for a while, you don't want to rewrite it for another game engine. Instead, you have the option of developing your prototype as a mod of an existing game (as was the case with games like Counter-Strike or the original DotA).
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I'll certainly give Starcraft a try since i already have it installed. Thank you. –  Victor C. Jul 12 '12 at 13:42

Here at PreviewLabs, a company specialized in game prototyping, we're using Unity3D as an all-round tool for game prototyping.

We like having full control over the prototyping process, and the best way to do this is to write the entire prototype from scratch, while limiting the scope and focusing on what matters. This gives you the freedom to make any kind of change to your game's concept, without being limited by existing systems or code you didn't write.

If you're using a genre-specific game development tool (such as a specialized game engine, or a map editor of an existing game), you need to know whether any innovations you may want to add can be implemented easily using this tool - and that's not easy, as you don't necessarily know up-front what you'll want to change after playing your prototype for the first time.

One example of a tower defense game we prototyped was for the game Siege Breaker (a free-to-play game on iPhone and iPad). For this one we also used Unity3D, in combination with some pre-existing C# pathfinding code. Since Unity 3.5, they also have a built-in pathfinding solution, so you may want to have a look at that too.

There's also an article comparing the prototype and the final game for Siege Breaker on our blog: http://www.previewlabs.com/siegebreaker-game-vs-prototype/

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