Wow oh wow. I agree with virtually everything you've mentioned here that as I was reading this I literally at times wanted to shout "OMG YES!" "EXACTLY!"
And I suppose this is why I really enjoyed DQ1 and why I continue to almost everyday keep checking your blog, forum and everything to see what progress is like as I so eagerly await DQ2. As you have demonstrated from this blog post of yours, you clearly (in my opinion anyway) know what it takes and can tick virtually all the correct boxes that make an excellent TD game.
As I was reading this, almost the whole way through it made me think of a TD game that I recently tried out and well admittedly continued to play for a few days until I realised that rather than liking it, I was TRYING to like it and as such stopped playing it soon after. And a lot of the things you mentioned here is where this particular game went wrong. This was a game on Kongregate by the name of "Prime World: Defenders" (PWD).
3D is totally unnecessary which is what PWD was. I've never understood the point of it in a TD game. I always thought that if devs put time NOT into all the 3D hassle and animations etc. but instead, put the time and money into making more levels, developing on the storyline, improving on the upgrade system and all that other stuff, that would be a far FAR better trade off and make the game much more enjoyable in the long run. 2D games can be made to look really good and aesthetic too so I don’t see why they need to strive for 3D. And quite often, it can actually have a reverse impact as they sometimes can look horrible and messy.
I also hate that system where you have to build things exclusive just to take out a certain type of enemy (or as you mentioned Lock and Key enemies.) Some games really take this system too far. Looking at PWD, you had to have annoying air towers, then there were invisible enemies, then you needed flame towers to take out the swarms. I much prefer as you mentioned, other ways to reliably take them down. And yeah, you did have invisible enemies in DQ1 but you didn't take the whole concept of exclusive enemies and exclusive towers too far and so it was fine.
You also mentioned about having 20+ towers to choose from and most of them ending up obsolete. PWD was pretty much like that. And in the end you could only take in a handful with you in battle. But even if you could take all of them in, you could only realistically still only use a handful. Like you said, I would much prefer a small selection of towers but have the ability of making them versatile by way of upgrades.
I also agree entirely about providing information. Complete information on your tower's capabilities, on your enemies capabilities, full effects of upgrades etc. unless and as you mentioned, information is deliberately left out for the sake of adding a bit of a challenge (as long as it's not done in an annoying way.) TD games and other RPG games are basically a game of numbers. You need the info to do the maths to be able to figure out whether you can do something and whether or not you need more. And when this is lacking in TD and RPG games and I cant make that decision because the game refuses to give me the info, it frustrates me to hell. As with a lot of TD games, this was also the case with PWD.
I think you did a very good job in DQ1 with balancing the capabilities of melee units with that of rangers. One thing I liked very much about the rangers was how they could NOT attack close range (even though the range area was still pretty large).
Although I don’t feel so strongly about the mazing thing, I do also prefer TD games where the map is predetermined and doesn't involve mazing. I do somewhat like what GemCraft did though. Maps were most often predetermined but there were still at times limited scope to alter the enemies path. I didn't quite like Desktop Tower Defence and another one I tried out a long time ago which I think was called Bubble Tower Defence or something as those relied heavily on mazing.
One thing I would disagree with… well… perhaps not disagree but say that I don’t mind, is the thing about scrolling. I can appreciate why it's better to have everything on one screen but let's just imagine you wanted to make a grand level of some sort and as such, you needed more space to really create a huge impact and make the level a really memorable one, maybe for the perfect send-off for that boss who has been a big enemy in your path for freedom and peace and whatever, then I wouldn't mind if I had to scroll for that kind of a map. I guess it would depend on if you had to scroll in multiple directions, but if you could do it in such that you only say needed to scroll in one direction, it could be good. Or perhaps, if it really bothered players, you could make an option to zoom out so that everything could be seen on one screen but that would obviously compromise on the aesthetics so that could be a no-no.
Anyway, to finish up, I really like how you ended your blog post, "Now go forth and make an awesome tower defence game". Although I cant make games and am on a career path that takes me no where near making games, soooo many times I've played TD games and other RPGs too and thought gosh I would've done this differently, and this too, and I would've tweaked this stat like this and come up with all sorts of criticisms in my head. The thing about DQ1 is that I didn't have many of those thoughts. It had characteristics in the game which when I played it, I felt like, if I made a game, I would've done this and this too.
And also one more thing, (sorry I promised the point before would be the last), and this is quite off point, but thank you so much for not going down that annoying Free2Play model when deciding you were going to make games. I cant begin to say how many potentially good games have been ruined with this annoying rip-off model. PWD again had this annoying model. It only truly satisfies a very small minority (ie the rich who can flash out money at will) but mostly serves to irritate the majority, even those who are willing to pay. I don’t know why developers continue to insist on this rubbish nuisance. Do they really earn a lot out of it? I wish there were some statistic or something which showed the earnings of games that went down this route as opposed to a conventional pay-a-one-off-price-to-play. I've only ever paid for games that are a one-off buy to play but not once have I paid for some special currency in an F2P. I really liked how you got a good demo up on Kongregate and used that to grab attention of the wider audience. Yeah there were some rants, but they were mostly by kids who couldn't afford or aren't allowed to buy it. I will never understand why developers go down that F2P route but I'm glad that someone of your talent didn't waste it by making a game that fell in to that category. Although I do think that there are perhaps ways to make F2P so that it isn't annoying and yet make money for the devs, I think it's extremely delicate to work with to ensure both parties are satisfied.
Anyway, I think this comment of mine is a bit too long. Got kinda carried away. Thanks for taking the time to post these stuff even whilst you're busy making DQ2. Really enjoy reading all your posts even though I barely comment.
I just felt like I had to comment on this one though.