A big happy birthday to Flash Element TD, my first Flash based Tower Defense game and probably one of the most popular flash games of 2007 is now 1 year old today! Here is a look at the making of the game as well as how it managed to hit 70 million loads in 2007!
In the beginning…
It was back in December 2006 I started work on FETD. I was not even intending to make a full game, I just wanted to replicate the mechanics of the Tower Defense maps I loved to play in Warcraft 3, specifically ‘Creeps’ moving along a path and been fired upon by towers. The code for this was quite simple and after about an hour or two I had circles spirling around a box and getting hit with lines when they were in range.
What you see above is the ‘Hello World’ of game development, several of these prof of concept programs were made to check that Flash (Well I) had the capability to produce the different elements of a TD game. Other test programs investigated the effects of ‘splash’ explosions (damaging all around a target, the amount of damage falling off over distance) and slowing or only hitting certain types of creeps (flying)
This is quite fun!
The next step was to simply give the creeps a counter for their health (HP) and make the lines reduce this number when they made contact with the creeps. Before you knew it the basics of a TD were born and I quickly got swept up in the project adding different towers, making the creeps have different properties, adding the gold and interest as well as elemental towers and wood bonus levels.
Working long nights progress was quick and it was only a matter of days before a version which would be recognizable today was up and working. Development was not all plain sailing. There were some quite comical bugs that saw creeps running off the map, become invisible or invulnerable to tower attacks, as well as change from one type of creep to another when they died! Making FETD was definitely a challenge for me as it was by far the most complex game I had made at that point and I had under-estimated the amount of work involved. You don’t think of the little things when you start out, but these little jobs (like making the creeps turning to face the way they are moving) add up to a large portion of the time spent making a game.
It was Paul who came up with the saying ‘Tesco coding’, for those of you who are not in the UK Tesco is like Wallmart and their slogan is ‘Every little helps’. Another saying I like is ‘Optimize till you die!’ but I think Paul’s is more catchy :) Probably as much time was spent on optimizing FETD’s code as was spent making it in the first place. Almost everywhere I looked there were saving to be made. I started with the functions that were been run the most often: Tower targeting, creep movement, tower projectiles, splash damage. All of which had multiple re-writes to try and reduce the time they took to process. It was mostly a case of loading a map up with 100+ creeps and 20 towers and watching the CPU graph in task manager to see what it peaked at. I would then make some changes and re-run the test to see if it reduced the load.
World, meet FETD.
There were a couple of beta versions knocking around in December 2006 but the first finished version was launched on the 5th January 2007. The game was quickly picked up by the likes of Digg and Stumble upon which gave it a phenomenal start in life, going from zero to over half a million loads a day in its first week! By the end of January the game had been loaded a total of 9,685,040 times!
On the 12th the link had fallen off the Digg site but thanks to 100’s of links from peoples sites, forums and blogs traffic remained high for a further week. While the game was been played I was quickly fixing bugs and exploits that were been reported, releasing as many as 5 updates a day. The server coped well with the traffic, I think I peaked at around 90gig of bandwidth in a single 24 hour period, shortly after I reduced the quality of the graphics and dropped the bit rate of the sounds to knock around 300kb off the total size of the game. I switched to this lower quality version whenever traffic spiked and reverted back to the original for the more quiet times of the day.
Flash Pirates ahoy!
As well as people playing the game on my website the swf file (the single file that contains the games code) was quickly spreading over the Internet. Flash game portals as well as peoples personal webistes were taking a copy of the game and putting it on their sites for their visitors to play. By the end of January over 300 unique sites were hosting a copy of FETD. By the end of Febuary this had increased to 471 and by the end of June was at 708 unique domains, accounting for almost half of the games loads each day.
The last update to the game was made back in February 2007 and it has remained unchanged since. I would estimate the time spent making and tweaking the game to be around the 100 hour mark, including making the site with scoreboards, instructions and setting up a simple forum. One year on it can be found on 944 sites, It is still loaded over 195,000 times a day and since launch has been loaded a total of 70.5 million times.
Fun with numbers.
- The game is 803 KB, it therefore uses 152,915 megabytes a day and has accounted for 52.7 terabytes of bandwidth in 2007 (a terabyte is 1,000 gigabytes… a gigabyte is 1,000 megabytes) that would be the equivalent of downloading over 13 million MP3’s!
- 50,000 of the 172,000 people who have loaded the game today have done so on the official site, the other 122,000 are playing the game on other sites that have copied the game.
- There are 211,000 results in Google for “flash element TD”
- The official site is ranked 24th for “tower” in Google
- (out of 130,000,000 results)
- It is in the top 100 for “flash” in Google
- (out of 1,160,000,000 results)
- 969 sites currently are linking to the official site.
- There are 111 videos on youtube of people playing the game.
So what now?
Over the last 4 months the number of loads has slowly been increasing, so there is no sign of it slowing! Maybe another 70 million in 2008 is possible! Although I stopped working on FETD in February, over the last few months I have been working on a sequel, Flash Element TD 2. The game takes the classic ‘build towers along a path to kill creeps’ but with an interesting twist… you have to prevent them from taking your elements! It has more creeps, more towers, more options and multiple maps! More info will follow shortly on this game when it is launched, which should be soon!
Thanks for reading, and thanks to all those who played FETD in 2007, if you are one of those people who lives under a rock and have not even seen it then you should Play FETD now!All graph and game load information thanks to MochiBot.com (keep track of those flash movies) The Google information was just taken from google.co.uk on the 2nd January 2008 by searching for the keywords mentioned. The YouTube stat was taken from the search results for “flash element td” on the same date.