Hey everyone!

So you might have heard last month was a bit chilly down in Texas. It was pretty intense, my family was largely without power and heat except for a few intermittent 1-hour bursts we were super grateful to get at all, and many family and friends were in the dark and cold for a week or more. Lasting damage to the state's infrastructure aside, things are mostly back to normal. Grocery stores were still missing a few staples as of a week or so ago.

I won't go into all the details here, but fellow Texan and editor in chief of Gamasutra.com Kris Graft invited me to talk about the Great Texas Snowpocalypse on the official GDC Podcast. If you want to know more you can hear all about it there, and Kris has put in a bunch of handy links if you'd like to connect with local mutual aid groups to help Texans much less fortunate than me (personally my family is doing fine, and my relatives all pulled through in the end).

Needless to say it was not a good month to get lots of work done! So I'll be delaying the next build until next month. But I still have stuff to write about!

All that said I did make a little progress though. The major thing I've been working on is the final white hat minion, the Tank. This one is a bit weird because it's an entirely passive, reactive unit.

Let's go to the skill tree:

The first column is what I'm calling the Melee Vortex for now. Whenever an enemy attacks within the Tank's range, two things happen:

  1. The vortex blocks some damage from the enemy's attack
  2. The vortex retaliates against the enemy with an immediate counter-attack

You can then invest in various bonuses to augment this. For one, you can make the retaliation do more damage, or you can make it block more damage. But you can also add bolts of chain lightning to the retaliation (which will lash out against any other enemies even if they're out of range), as well as adding "zapped" status (which is a short burst of electrically-themed slow).

The second column is the Ranged Vortex. This is similar to the melee vortex, but only triggers in response to projectile, area, and other non-melee attacks from enemies. The bonuses are all the same except you get "shock" instead of zapped (shock is a short burst of electrically-themed stop).

As a reminder, white hat minions detonate when they die, or on a manual trigger (you can't recall them to get Juice back, you just blow them up). But don't worry - you can summon them back as often as you like for additional Juice. The Tank's explosion is a pretty standard circular AOE cloud of damage, but it has some interesting bonuses.

The first is code-named Heart Bomb for now. This increases the amount of damage the explosion does in proportion to how little health the Tank has. Basically this makes the explosion more powerful if the Tank dies rather than being manually triggered at full health (but manually detonating it at 1% HP still yields 99% of the bonus).

The next bonus is Blind status, which makes enemies miss their targets, and then you have more chain lightning and shock for the explosion.

Here's the Tank in action:

I'm still working on adding some clearer visual connections to make it easier to understand cause and effect, and obviously in the final balance it won't absorb 100% of incoming damage and then one-shot-kill anything that dares to attack in range.

Another thing to note is that there's two ways to interpret "when an enemy attacks in range." Does it mean the defender being attacked is in range, or the enemy is standing in range when it attacks? Or both? Chatting with some folks on the Defender's Quest Discord (I pop in there every Tuesday and Saturday) helped me work out some particular nuances with this, and I decided on "either case should work."

Ranged vortex was a bit more complicated because a ranged attack isn't instant and occurs from far away, but I arrived at a similar conclusion – if either the targeted defender is in range when the projectile hits, or the attacker is in range when the projectile is launched, this will trigger a response from the Tank. But only the first time either of those occurs – if both are in range it doesn't retaliate twice for one attack. This will require some visual connection like an electricity bolt or something to make the connection to the Tank clear. As a final point, I decided the edge case of "a projectile travels THROUGH a ranged vortex, but neither the attacker nor the targeted defender are standing within the ranged vortex" doesn't trigger a response, mostly because that adds a special burden to my collision detection code.

In any case, the way people seem like they'll use this unit is "I want to protect these defenders," and the above decisions are in line with that perception. We therefore also went with a square rather than circular range to make it super clear who is and isn't protected.

The basic philosophy behind this class is to provide a protective unit that can be specialized towards choices like – "be a giant damage sponge", "the best defense is a good offense targeting aggressive enemies" as well as further axes of focusing on anti-melee, anti-ranged, or just, "when things go south, go out with a huge flash bang that gives me a few seconds to salvage whoever's still alive."

What's next after this is Black Hat minions, and then a big push on level design. I won't spoil Black Hat minions too much just yet, but as a reminder, White Hat minions are themed as "machines", and Black Hat minions are "parasites."

Tune in next month!