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From a game design perspective, I've got the following idea:

Traditional Tower Defense game. - an open, mazeable field as monsters approach the castle.

"Towers" consist of ground-pounding units like foot soldiers, moats, and other things. yawn

However, I'm adding the following features:

  • "Town" - a separate screen for upgrading units and buying new abilities.

  • "Tap Defense" - There are archers sitting on the wall with excellent range - tap monsters to shoot them. RoF, Damage upgradeable in town.

  • "Tap Defense+" - for cash purchases, you can buy wizard spells that deal mega-damage (think Eagle in Angry Birds).

  • "Underground" - the paid version will come with Dwarven Sappers, which give you an additional screen of "mazing" and towers "underneath" the current map, so you can build defenses in at least 2 levels.

Is mazing, tapping, and 2 z-levels too much?

What kinds of things should be considered? I already know that pausing while placing structures will probably be needed (or wanted). Anything else?

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Have traps instead of towers underground ;) – Nailer Nov 2 '10 at 15:26
On a side note. I'm making a much more complex TD game than this ;) With economy managment as well. Kind of like a RTS-TD. – Nailer Nov 2 '10 at 15:38
Not a real answer, but: The base question is really "When does it stop to be fun?" and that can mainly be answered with playtesting. Does any of the elements feel tacked on? Is any of the elements so overpowered that you should always use it? Or on the contrary, are any of the elements so underpowered that there is no reason ever to use it? (Important is 'feel': It does not matter how much Excel Data you have that confirms that the element is balanced and makes sense, if it 'feels' wrong then it has to be changed or removed) – Michael Stum Nov 2 '10 at 15:51
@Michael, that's a real answer. I mean, I am asking when too much gameplay gets in the way of fun. I'm looking to do simple and creative, without getting as far as emergent like minecraft. – Stephen Furlani Nov 2 '10 at 16:59
up vote 5 down vote accepted

It's hard to decide in advance, how much is too much. You have to play and see.

But a loose guideline, you can count possible interactions that a player is presented with - simultaneously. Simply put, how many different things can you do at any moment? You want to present just ONE thing to a complete newbie (e.g. when the game just started), 3-4 for casual play and if there's more than 7, the game is probably hard-core.

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Thanks. I'll see how I can roll these different things into the game over time. It's a really good answer. Did you get 7 from 7±2 or some other heuristic? – Stephen Furlani Nov 3 '10 at 12:50
even for a hardcore game it's probably a bad idea to go past 7, but some things may be grouped together in one umbrella, especially if you never do them at the same time. Climbing and swimming grouped together as moving around the world for example. Especially if you use the same control scheme for both. – lathomas64 Nov 3 '10 at 14:11
Yeah, that's good old magical 7±2 (-8 – Nevermind Nov 3 '10 at 19:13
There are psych studies on how many "things" a person can keep track of simultaneously, 7 is close to the max. FEMA emergency incident command creates layers whenever a commander has more than 7ish subordinates he's directing, etc... I'm at work and can't look up the direct citations. – Patrick Hughes May 7 '13 at 0:25

Start with a traditional tower game, and once that is complete add on to it.

Unless you are asking is it too much for the user, in that case, I don't believe that would be that much for the average user to handle (just make sure to explain everything in a help button)

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No! Please don't explain it in a help button! Better show the player step by step, start with classic td maps, then introduce tap defence, some more maps, then introduce the next feature, etc. – Hinek Nov 3 '10 at 13:43
why not do both? – lathomas64 Nov 3 '10 at 14:11
both is fine, I know sometimes I run through a tutorial and first think, I already know how to do this, why are they showing me this, or two I forget and can't find the information anywhere – Spooks Nov 3 '10 at 14:13

Start with the most fun of the alternatives and make a game centered on that. Discard the rest. When you're done, come up with new features based on the one you implemented.

If you find that the basic tower defense is boring because it's been done hundreds of times (and I agree), just skip it.

Personally I like your description of "Tap Defense", but that is just a matter of personal taste. The idea would be to implement that directly, avoiding the "Tower" and "Town" mechanics. Later, you can add "Tap+" or other ideas.

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Agreed; a short, original idea is much more appealing to me as a player, than a long list of features. However, "Tap Defense" in particular seems very similar to the whole "Bowmaster" subgenre, where you fire upgradeable arrows from your castle at incoming enemies. I once planned a "rythm tower defense": a TD where you had to keep up with the beat and create musical combos with your towers, a la Patapon. Didn't get very far. – jSepia Nov 6 '10 at 5:07
As I said, it's just a matter of personal taste. You can go for a completely different idea if you prefer. My suggestion is to brainstorm a long list of possible variations, and then choose only one, your favorite one, and discard the rest. – CeeJay Nov 8 '10 at 10:40

Your first question should be, who is my audience?

If you know who's going to be playing this game, then you should be able to work out the appropriate level of complexity for that audience.

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The audience will be the casual "freemium" player. I think at least building towers and tapping is OK. – Stephen Furlani Nov 10 '10 at 13:56

Provided that your interface is intuitive and you don't price yourself too high, I don't think its too much at all. On the contrary, I feel that the tower defense genre of games is mature enough even with casual gamers, that they will not be intimidated by these new features.

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