Skibi Castle Tower Defense Designer Note
Map Description: Skibi Castle is a tower defense (TD) map with mini-games presented between every wave of attacks. Lots of fixings make this TD unique: Hero builders, multiple gameplay modes, a comprehensive scoring system, automatic map restart, and original mob levels.

My Plans For Skibi 6: I wanted to push all aspects of gameplay in Skibi 6. A short laundry list of what I wanted to do would have looked like this: a new and powerful but very micro-intensive race, new mini-games, a much harder “Impossible” mode, new cool tower and Hero abilities, trigger and point optimization, tower upkeep gameplay (e.g. curing and flame rounds), a mini-game mode, a multi-board, and a score screen. The toughest thing to bang out was the Arcane race, that required more triggers than any other gameplay element to support the unique ‘reagent’ mechanics. My favorite of the features I implemented was the score screen, which was something I always wanted and which stemmed from my time working on sports games.

Why I Gutted Challenge Mode: I was never happy about how this came out, and there are better implementations of “Tower Wars” out there. At the time I put together Challenge Mode, I hadn’t played Enfo’s Team Survival map that much. But after I did, I realized how much better Challenge Mode would have worked if the main gameplay of Skibi wasn’t focused on strategically building towers. Challenge Mode had pretty bad triggering too. I was a total “noob” at “spell effect on cast” events and all the extra data the spells took up just wasn’t worth it. If I were playing Challenge Mode, the last thing I would want as a gamer would be to get owned by something I didn’t understand and not be able to respond to it.

Why I Gutted Hero Siege Mode: The biggest feature I had to cut was this mode, which I stated on my old forums was going to be implemented in the next version of Skibi. This mode turned out to just not mesh well with the general TD gameplay of the map. On top of that, the feature only added minimal gameplay that had already been better explored in other maps, and was simply not worth the added implementation time.. It also felt conceptually wrong in a Tower Defense game to have to kill your leaks, and it would have been a nightmare to balance. In case you were curious, Hero Siege Mode was going to be a tougher version of Skibi where the mob waves were so badass that a couple of mobs would always break through and “leak” into your castle. Those leaks would be transported to a section of the map dubbed “Skibi’s Castle,” where you would control a Hero to kill the leaked mobs.

Why Lore Tool Tips Were Gutted: This was my saddest cut. A multi-board with about 10 players intersects a longer tower’s tool tip. Such a polish thing would have been ignored if I was a modder, but not here. Instead, I opted to create dummy Lore for each tower on the (3,1) position that contained the flavor text, solving the issue quite cleanly from a design standpoint. However, that resulted in much longer loading times, and unfortunately, as an employee of Blizzard, I also couldn’t favor the use of 3rd party optimization tools to reduce loading times – I actually care about whether or not localization gets the map in a usable state. The final loading time of Skibi on my work computer, which is a pretty decent one, was 15 seconds longer with the Lore abilities, so they were cut.

Biggest Lesson Learned from Blizzard: Thinking much more about the audience has been the most important thing I’ve learned here thus far – you want to cater to hardcore audiences but also make gameplay accessible to newcomers. Skibi is very difficult overall, but I had unconsciously made a lot of design decisions that made the experience more streamlined for new players, which in turn helped me better integrate myself into the Blizzard design team. If you haven’t noticed, all the tower tool tips in Skibi 6 are very crisp and short. I was asked to rework the tool tips that every Skibi fan knew by heart to make them more meaningful for first-time players, so I boldly designed a tool tip system that I felt was appropriate for new and skilled players. It’s hard for anyone to parse multiple lines of text in a fast-paced game like Skibi, and that is the lesson I would like to impart to all modders. Make a mod simple for people to play, then hook them in later!

Technical Difficulties: Immolation is faked for all enemy waves in Skibi 6. This was done to solve a technical problem that arose from having too many long-range towers processing their targets, resulting in massive UI slowdown. The way I overcame this challenge was by setting the point value of “flame” units to be equal to their flame damage, then using a unit group variable to allocate the damage.

There was also a very nasty divergence bug that was occurring frequently on wave four back in Skibi 1.0 – 2.2. This was happening because the original Skibi workers had upgrading attacks that had an increasing number of damage dice rolls. It took a long time to pinpoint this issue, and I’d like to thank Shvegait (creator of Burbenog TD, one of my favorite TD’s of all time) for pointing me in the right direction.

Map Trivia: Little did you know...

  • Skibi is the combination of my wife’s screen names, “Skoto” and “Chibi.” It was a joke that stuck.
  • Fired Mini-Game: Whodunit? Furion was arrested for burning the house and sent to the Emerald Dream for life.
  • Funniest Old-School Skibi Bug: Destroying the gates between Extermination & Arachnophobia with your Tauren Chieftain and using him to kill all the Spiders.
  • Most Annoying Mini-Game to Balance: Bombardment (Kill the Reinforcements)
  • First Mini-Game Implemented: 300 Blind Mice (Extermination)
  • First Race Implemented: Military
  • Random Mini-Game Inspiration: Kandy Man was inspired by Kodos Tag.
  • Favorite Place for Skibi Inspiration Prior to Blizzard Employment: Target’s Pizza Hut in San Rafael, CA.
  • Oddest Bug Pre-Ship: Massing Tempest Poison Dragons gave you a 100% chance to crash Warcraft III. It had something to do with casting Life Drain on dead units, hence why they were changed to what they are now (although they’re no longer as cool :-).
  • The first version of Skibi had a string array of insults that were randomly called and displayed on-screen if you leaked. Didn’t sit very well with the public so I removed them asap. (Actually I removed them because I thought they might have been the cause of the divergence bug. :-)
  • Reaver..Yoffin…what?: Anagram for “Final Fantasy Forever”
  • Exploding Sheep: Have you found them yet?
  • Best. Fan. Ever.: Keil S. (catfan)
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