The Generic TD
My First Game

Tower Defense

Note: This game was published in 2008, when I was just 14 years old. It was my first game, and more-or-less my first experience with any aspect of game development whatsoever. I’ve included it here because it was a meaningful step on my gamedev journey, but obviously this project isn’t in any way representative of my current abilities.

Sometime in late 2008, a friend of mine had come across a copy of Adobe Flash CS2 and was attempting to build a game. We were chatting as he worked, and I remember specifically that he was struggling with was circle-to-point collision detection. The tutorial he had been following only had examples of bounding-box collisions. Having just completed trigonometry the prior year and brimming with confidence in my understanding of circles, I offered to help him out.

We toyed around with his game (a very basic point-and-click shooter) for a few days before my buddy got bored and went back to playing video games. But he did leave me with his copy of Flash, and I kept on toying with it. As luck would have it, a Flash game portal we both frequented, Kongregate, would announce their “Driving Creativity Game Contest” very shortly thereafter. The aim of the program was to help new developers to learn to code and encourage them to pick up Flash as a platform.

The program was freely available to the public, and consisted of two main parts. The first was a series of tutorials, called “Shootorials”, introducing users to coding and building games in Flash via creation of a basic side-scrolling shooter. The second was a contest where the top rated games by new developers over the next two months would win a cash prize.

I resolved to make a game for this contest to see what I could do. Up until that point, I had kind of felt that video games were something entirely impossible for me to make in any meaningful capacity. Video games were complex and mysterious, and only the greatest wizards had the arcane knowledge to create them. The fact that Kongregate was explicitly encouraging first-time developers to submit games, coupled with the approachability of the Shootorials, helped subvert that idea and inspire some confidence.

After working through the Shootorials, I decided that a side-scrolling shooter wouldn't cut it in a contest where 90% of the entries were also side-scrolling shooters. I needed a more unique game to stand out. At the time I had been playing a lot of tower defense games (specifically a game called Flash Element TD, which was a recreation of a similarly named Warcraft custom game), so I decided that's what I would build for the contest.
Over the next two months I sunk all my free time into developing the game – learning to produce rudimentary vector assets in Flash, basic (very basic) animation concepts, and a whole lot of programming and debugging. I was surprised to find out that the most exciting part of the process for me wasn’t actually "making the game", but the iterative process of observing players and making improvements based on my observations. I held regular playtests with friends and family, and found each one to be immeasurably energizing.

After release, the iteration process became even more exciting. Now publicly available, I could browse the game’s comments section for all manner of feedback. Spamming the refresh button on my comments page, eager for a new nugget of insight that I could turn into a patch note, was one of those experiences that really solidified in my mind the idea that this is what I wanted to do long-term.

Ultimately my game placed #4 out of around 200 entries (just below the cutoff for a prize). Even though I didn’t win, the placement was high enough to convince me that this was, in fact, something I could do – I was one of the wizards now.