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August 1, 2007

Internet Time-wasters II
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 05:49 PM * 44 comments

As if I needed something else to distract me from what I should be doing….

From the comments in Internet Time-wasters here at Making Light, I was introduced to Tower Defense Games. Specifically to Desktop Tower Defense.

The concept is simple: a bunch of little-bitty icons try to cross an area. Your goal is to stop them by putting up towers that shoot at the little-bitty icons. As time goes on the icons (called “creeps”) get faster and stronger. You have to build more towers and upgrade the ones you have to keep up with them. You get points (or “gold”) for killing the creeps that you can use to buy or upgrade your towers.

Some of the towers include pellet towers — they shoot fast, but don’t hit hard. They’re cheap, so you can use ‘em to build mazes to keep the creeps under fire from your stronger towers. You have splash towers. They shoot very fast, and hit hard. They can get expensive. You have dart towers. They can hit a bunch of creeps at the same time. The strategy comes from building paths and choosing towers that will stop the creeps, with their various special powers.

Dark creeps are slow, but pellets bounce off them. Spawn creeps break up into multiple daughter creeps that can go between towers. Hitting them is like hitting a blob of mercury. Flying creeps aren’t affected by the mazes you’ve built, and only certain towers can shoot at them. And so on.

Combination play is Very Good to Do. For example, combining a Freeze tower (slows down the creeps) with a Bash tower (strikes multiple creeps at the same time, slow but strong), is wicked. The creeps are kept in range of the basher for long enough to do some serious damage.

Eventually you run out of creeps. And you win. Or, you run out of lives, and you lose. The game actually has an endpoint! Hurrah! (The group name if you want to compare scores with other ML readers is Making Light, BTW.)

By contrast the endpoint of Flash Circle TD, comes when you lose. Which you will, eventually. That happens when there are 100 creeps on the board at the same time. A new wave starts periodically, each wave tougher than the last. They enter the board and just circle it until you’ve shot them down or they’ve overwhelmed you. Again you have the choice of slow, expensive, heavy towers or fast, light, cheap towers, with upgrades possible. All have special properties: shooting at air units, at ground units, or at both—striking one at a time or many at a time.

For something that’s as frustrating as this is, it’s remarkably addictive. (Oh, and there is a mute button. Which is a good thing.)

Then there’s Onslaught. Again, the goal is to put off the day when you’re overwhelmed as long as possible. The creeps follow a set path (which you can edit). You select towers and place them. Here, you can select whether you’ll upgrade range, strength, or rate-of-fire of your towers separately. The neat thing with this game is that you can put various towers together in order to build super towers—combinations that have wonderful properties. Not all of those combinations and specials are documented.

Simple as drool, highly addictive—what else do you need when the cat is already waxed to a high sheen?

Here’s a list of Tower Defense games. I haven’t tried them all.

Comments on Internet Time-wasters II:
#1 ::: CosmicDog ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2007, 06:07 PM:

Thanks, Jim.

We writers always something to do other than writing, otherwise we wouldn't be real writers.

#2 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2007, 06:47 PM:

Oh, shiny! Sure, friendly-looking elves, I'll come dancing under the hill with you...

Per the ITW I thread:
via lifehacker: Ban Time Wasting Web Sites.

Of these, I can recommend through experience:
* PageAddict. Measures and/or limits how much time you spend on different types of sites. You set the limits, so that "work research" sites are unlimited but "blogs" are 1 hours a day, say. Useful for learning exactly how much time you're spending and where.

[you discover you can edit the time limits in Pageaddict]

* LeechBlock, which you set up to limit access to websites by hour and by day. For example, no blogs and no PageAddict before 5pm on weekdays, but no limits on weekends.

[and if that doesn't work]

* Invisibility Cloak, a greasemonkey script, which makes a site invisible to you until the time you've specified (25 O'clock = not ever).

That reminds me, I should go look at my Pageaddict et. al., files. Gosh, how funny-- for some reason I put in all the sites from the first ITW. I wonder why? They can't be that bad, can they?

As I said then, there's going to be a book not published next year, filled with all the stories unwritten this year because of these websites*. But that's ok: that book wouldn't have been read, because the readers were trying for a perfect score.

* If you are an author, please install these programs.

#3 ::: Konrad ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2007, 07:21 PM:

And here's another list (with some overlap).

#4 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2007, 08:06 PM:

Hi, my name is Michael.

I first realized that I had a problem when I stayed at work until seven o'clock trying to get past that flying wave, you know, #78...

No, I didn't think to put the freeze towers only on the left/right guys, so that the swarmers would only have to cope with the one set of targets at a time..

um, excuse me, I've got to go home now.

#5 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2007, 09:17 PM:

I just have to put in a good word for Tasty Planet, in which you are a single-celled organism that eats things. You get bigger as you eat, and so you can eat bigger things (screen cap), including cats, cars, police officers, and so forth. You can play free for an hour, so if you just promise yourself you won't buy it (only 20 bucks) after your hour is up, it's safe!

#6 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2007, 10:16 PM:

My favorite defense games of this style are shock defense and ant buster.

I was able to get to the last level of shock defense (it has a last level). I've yet to figure out how to get past more than a few levels on ant buster.

#7 ::: little light ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2007, 11:04 PM:

God, I've wasted too many hours of my life on Desktop Tower Defense. A coworker got me addicted.
On the bright side, I owned y'all on the Hard scoreboard.

#8 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2007, 11:23 PM:

Greg London @#6: Great, now I'm hooked on Ant Buster. I love the way they laugh when they take a piece of cake.

#9 ::: jere7my ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 01:24 AM:

Oh, good lord. Desktop Tower Defense ate my life for a couple of weeks in July. "Yip-pee! Yip-pee! Doh! Doh! Doh doh dohdohdoh... Yip-pee!"

I posted my maze and strategy for beating Hard here, and then never had to lose sleep over it again, because the bonus challenges do not exist.

Fully-upgraded Splash towers are the bee's knees, assuming a sufficiently large and stompariffic bee. Like Mothra. Only a bee.

#10 ::: Jason ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 10:26 AM:

If any of you want something more 'hardcore', go buy Warcraft 3. It has tons of user made maps which are essentially what all these tower defense flash games were based off of.

Prettier graphics, more dizzying array of options, and an endless array of tower defense maps, each with their own arcane, blithely confusing rules.

#11 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 10:58 AM:

now I'm hooked on Ant Buster.


But if you figure out how to get past level 10 or so, lemme know. I think there's a seqence of guns and upgrades that probably work best based on how you slowly accumulate money, and how many hit points the ants gradually get.

After some number of levels, the ants have way more hit points than the guns I have can handle, and they can walk from one end, to the other, and back again, with plenty of hit poitns to spare.

You can downgrade a gun and get some money back, so once I get up to a certain level, I've tried selling off the weak guns and starting over with better weapons, but I always get overrun.

Basically, I go several levels without losing a piece of pie, and then all of a sudden, I'll lose the whole thing on one level.

#12 ::: Jason ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 12:47 PM:

Greg : just arrange them in a semi circle around the ant hill. Then upgrade each one according. I put a laser turret thingy by the pizza to get stragglers.

Keep in mind the ants are always trying to find the path of least resistance.

Using a good mix of triple shot, sniper, gas, and laser, I was able to get to level 66.

#13 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 03:10 PM:

I was able to get to level 66.



(picks self up off floor)

Holy crap!


So, you mean a "quarter circle", not a semi circle, I assume, right?

What guns do you start with and upgrade to? I put down a gun and upgrade it to sniper as I get the money. Then put down another gun, and upgrade to sniper. (sniper 2, I think. I stop when the next upgrade is like a thousand bucks or something.)

I can only fit maybe three guns in the inner circle. Do you just jam the next layer in as tight as possible?

Do you do a row of one kind, then a row of another? Or do you have a certain mix within a row?

I figured out Shock Defense and got to the last level there. But whatever I did there isn't the same for Ant Buster. It's been driving me nuts.

#14 ::: Jason ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 04:58 PM:

Oh, right, quarter circle. Jam them all as tight as possible. I can get four in there. I only use sniper at the end.

Basically the issue is that the ants move really randomly, and the accuracy of those towers is shoddy at best. So your best bet is to either get them coming from a long way off (laser tower near the pizza), or to just cluster up close, and spray and pray (triple shot towers).

It's important to start OFF with four at the start. There are many mitigating factors to consider. One is that starting towers get MORE expensive, so try and plunk down the ones you think you'll need in the future.

Wow... I"ve thought WAY too much about this.

#15 ::: Gursky ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 09:29 PM:

These games have been eating my life for months now.

Goddamn it.

#16 ::: Gursky ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 09:31 PM:

Oh, be sure to try Momentum Missile Whatchamahoo on the second list. That one had me in its maw for a while, but at least it's not as time consuming as Onslaught.

#17 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 09:47 PM:

Mary Dell @5 - I played the free hour of Tasty Planet last night, and in fact have been working on convincing myself all day that I do not really after all want to spend $20 on buying it - I could easily sink days into it.... (simple minds and all that).

#18 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 10:11 PM:


Hey, I got to the mid 40's on Ant Buster! Cool!

I was spreading my guns out all over the field trying to chase the ants. When you pack em in around the entrance that makes it a whole lot easier.

Will have to try some variations, see if I can get to sixty.

#19 ::: Alexis Duncan ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 10:57 PM:

Last night I was able to get up to around level 70 on Ant Buster. (72, maybe? The ants had 2k or 3k hitpoints.) Basically I had an ice cannon near the hole and another one near the cake, a couple of long-range guns that could hit the slowed down ants anywhere, and a heavy gun near the hole to weaken them as they come out and finish them off as they try to escape. Earlier on I had 3 triple guns around the cake but I sold them off/converted one to an ice gun as they seemed to become less effective.

#20 ::: Jason ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 11:30 PM:

Greg : right on!

Alexis : Wait... there are ice guns?!

#21 ::: Alexis Duncan ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 11:34 PM:

Alexis : Wait... there are ice guns?!

IIRC, the upgrade path is heavy -> impact -> ice -> ice 2. Minimal damage, but with repeated hits they can slow the ants down to a quarter of their normal speed.

#22 ::: Joe McMahon ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 03:04 AM:

Tasty Planet's from Reflexive? Uh oh ... whew. Not Mac. I tried their Ricochet Lost Worlds and immediately bought it when my hour was up.

#23 ::: Joe McMahon ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 03:07 AM:

Oops. Tasty Planet's available for the Mac.

#24 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 12:27 PM:

I'll admit that I've just skimmed this thread, since I'm not into online games at all. But gee, I sure spend a lot of time every a.m. reading "Making Light"! Complete addiction.

#25 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 01:53 PM:

I've still not forgiven whichever Gracious Host(ess) posted the original thread--Boomshine is too much fun. I will *not*--will *not*--get involved with something that requires serious strategic effort.

#26 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 01:57 PM:

Joann @ 25:

Nooo! I'd finally forgotten about Boomshine. Not only was it addictive, but I kept trying to figure out how to get a screen capture at just the right moment during the explosions: think of the possibilities for matching those colors in yarn and doing a Fair Isle pattern.

Or maybe that's just me.

#27 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2007, 02:37 PM:

Sarah: No. It's not just you.

#28 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2007, 12:24 AM:

Now I'm glad I'm just addicted to SecondLife.

#29 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2007, 12:41 AM:

Must... stop... placing... towers.... Damn you, James D. MacDonald!

#30 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2007, 12:48 PM:

Sarah, TexAnne #26, Sarah #27:

That's about the best proof I have seen yet for the existence of visual practices. It's amazingly clear that knitters do indeed see the world differently. I would never have seen the connection between Boomshine patterns and Fair Isle in a million years.

#31 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2007, 04:25 PM:

Tired of defending against abstract icons?

Spend the night fighting off zombies.

#32 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2007, 06:09 PM:

Another time-wasting game...

Using YouTube videos, how many steps is a performer from Django Reinhardt: either sharing a stage with a performer, or connecting by playing the same piece.

I've got Leslie Fish down to 5 steps, beginning from the Loscon 3 Celtic Session videe with Joe Bethancourt, who has a video on YouTube of him playing Malaguena on 5-string banjo, That links to Yehudi Menuhim playing the same piece on violin, who performed with Stephane Grapelli. And Stephane Grapelli was part of the "Quintette du Hot Club de France" with Django Reinhardt.

I suppose we could call this game "Belleville Rendevous".

#33 ::: Ema ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2007, 10:04 PM:

Sarah @ 26: Oops, me too.

#34 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2007, 10:14 PM:


Ah, "The Last Stand". Nice game. It has an end point, if you make it sufficient number of rounds, you win. Which is nice. Zombies don't keep coming at you in infinite numbers, for all eternity.

I think my "likability" rating for it went up a couple points when I played it a second time and found out that if you find enough guns, (you always find them in the same progressive order), then you will find a Barrett 50.

Christmas is coming. Order one for me now to avoid the rush.

Suffice it to say that the Barrett 50 will literally mow down a line of zombies with a single shot. I believe the term the kids are using these days is "sweet".

#35 ::: Greg ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2007, 02:01 PM:

Immortal Defense astonishing:

My review:

#36 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2007, 11:57 PM:



I gave serial lasers a try for a while. Worked so-so. But the problem was trying to get them to link, and cover the rear. Once a line got past the lead laser, all of them became independant entities, and the game was; in pretty short order, dead.

So I figured out how to make combos. A couple of cannon, to hold the line, then a rocket launcher. Max that out, get the range up and have 4-8 rockets in holding pattern. Then the laser, max it out for rate and damage and a you get a couple of laser rockets (actually, lots, but never more than four around the entry point).

That will hold them off to about level 200. In the meantime I populate with lots of cannon, maxed/combo-ed to make land mines, of every shape and form.

The third time I tried this strategy (just finished) I made it to wave 350, killed 3404 of them and had 3,000 in the bank.

Is there a league for Making Light on that one?

#37 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 03:21 AM:

I've now played a few games of "The Last Stand". A few thoughts about it:

* Don't obsess about keeping your barricade at 100%. You probably only need to worry about it when it's below 50%.

* For the first couple of days, concentrate on finding people. More people makes the nights easier, meaning less need to fix the barricade, and more efficient barricade maintenance when you do need to repair it.

* If your aim is good, you can do pretty darn well with the hunting rifle. There's nothing in the game more fun than having a fast-running zombie enter and dropping it in its tracks. (Ripping 'em up with the chainsaw is a close second.)

* Once you get to the Barrett gun, the game starts being less of a desperate struggle for survival and more of a turkey shoot.

I've actually started finding the base game a little easy. One I played last night, I got to the Barrett on the 16th day, which meant four nights of turkey shoot, which was a trifle dull. I've been contemplating challenge games...say, try to go through the whole game with only the initial handgun. I did just try one where I never repaired the barricade at all. Lost that one on the 14th night, so it certainly did up the challenge factor.

#38 ::: Trip the Space Parasite ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 02:29 PM:

I seem to be getting worse at Desktop Tower Defense as time goes on! This is terribly unfair!

Curse you, Jim McDonald!

#39 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 04:45 PM:

Woo-hoo! I got on the Making Light board! (At position 91, but to quote Davy Jones, "Fer naow...")

This is sooooo cool. (I don't spend money on games; back when I first got to go to Earlham College for humanities my senior year in college, I would go to the arcade and play Galaga. For one quarter per day. Never more. I got pretty darn good at it after a few months. I shudder to think of what I'd have done with Tower Defense back then, but thank God an Apple ][e didn't have the oomph to run Flash. Oh, wait...)

Wouldn't it be cool to write an evolutionary strategizer for Tower Defense? Man. If I had the time, I'd do it. But unfortunately, I'm too busy playing fricking Tower Defense. Oh, and not working.

#40 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2007, 06:49 AM:

I used to have a little fantasy about building some kind of Garden Tower Defence to discourage local cats from scratching up Hazel's seedlings. Maybe by squirting water at them. Now, though, I have learned the lesson of Ant Buster and realize this can only escalate until irresistible waves of waterproof cats with millions of hit points swarm all over us.

Still, the vision of an Ice Gun II hampering those evil felines with thick coatings of frost as they creep remorselessly towards their Shit In Langford's Flowerbed goal ... it's tempting, tempting.

#41 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 10:50 PM:

I seem to have hit another plateau on Ant Buster,
around level 60 or so. Can't seem to figure out how to get past it.

Ah, well.

#42 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 03:38 AM:

Huzzah! Boo-yah! I be the only person on the ML scoreboard at Desktop Tower Defense to beat Hard with 20 lives!

...and yet, I'm still only 10th place. Clearly there is a method of point-scoring which I have not yet discovered?

#43 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 07:20 PM:

Here's one I have tried yet: Bloons Tower Defense for those who love Bloons.

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