Phantom Fortress Post-Compo

Posted by (twitter: @deathraygames)
March 13th, 2014 8:44 am


Hi All! I’ve been working on the post-compo version of my last mini-LD game – Phantom Fortress – and could use a few more play-testers.

The (HTML, Javascript) Game:

Phantom Fortresshierophant_160_leftghoulbat_160_right


The basic premise: Build up, build down, customize your rooms to earn gold, souls, arcane knowledge, stone or ore… and do battle with the constant flow of invading humans by clearing corpses and building more goons!

Let me know what you like, don’t like, want to see more/less of. Just leave a comment on this post or on the original game page.

I have a development plan for the rest of the game, but want to get some input before I overdo it on certain aspects which players might not even want. Thanks! (for more info, follow my twitter or tumblr)


7 Responses to “Phantom Fortress Post-Compo”

  1. jurassicmarc says:


    From the beginning, the game was extremely confusing. I had no idea who or what I was (I thought I was one of the attacking characters, building a ghost-filled dungeon). Once that was figured out, I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do until I analyzed the resource scheme. Once I figured that out, I had a purpose – to build floors that would generate continuous resources (gold and soul shards) without spending too much aka. resource management.

    However it took a while to figure out what arcane knowledge was and how that was used. I finally stumbled onto the “Tips” page where I learned that arcane knowledge leveled up my main ghost character.

    From that point on, the game got a little boring. I didn’t even know I could build upwards because there was no ever-present graphical cu (maybe a faded arrow could have helped?).

    I then looked for a higher purpose, and focused in on building the best-of-the-best: a Wizard Eye and a Portal room. But now I’m done and I’m bored.

    The Portal doesn’t seem to do much of anything and the Wizard Eye kills enemies more quickly. So now I have no more motivation to play – I have no purpose as a player. This is exacerbated by the next point.


    I peaked at 11 levels, fully stocked with goons. Well before that though, the game was already lagging. At this point it is unplayable. Some things that seem to create lag seem unnecessary. Why do goons need to have their name appear EVERY time you mouse over them? I found the visuals more compelling than the names, which have no use. The same goes for the different levels – the names fade in over them to distinguish them, but this doesn’t grab the eye as much as say – highlighting the entire level in a light shade of white. Which leads to the next point.


    Hit regions are pretty bad – most of the time I click on a floor, it doesn’t select it and I have to click it again. This is made only more problematic by the fact that the selection indicator (floor name) is not clear or compelling enough to draw my attention and instill the confidence that I’ve selected the floor.

    Regions extend into enemy skeletons as well – when an enemy dies, sometimes their skeleton is hiding UNDERNEATH another character and cannot be clicked until those characters move out of the way. This is extremely annoying and further makes me as a player feel like I have less control over the game.

    Finally the addition of goons to the levels has the same problem – Most of the time I click on a goon, it doesn’t seem to register my click. I end up having to mouse over the sprite itself, even though a faded white highlight box appears, seemingly to communicate that I can click anywhere within it. User experience: it doesn’t perform the way I would expect it to.

    The menu is bad too. I found the browser scrolling to be obnoxious, as it often obscured the pop-up menus for building. Yes you have a zoom feature, but unfortunately the zoom levels are way too extreme to be helpful. The right half of the screen is consistently empty and unused so perhaps you could stick menus there as non-scrolling elements that occupies that right half of the screen where there is nothing? That would help lessen confusion.


    The animations are also confusing and do not facilitate an understanding of the rules of combat. For one, the spawning of enemies seems totally random, contributing to an even greater sense of loss-of-control as a player and therefore a more muddied purpose. The bouncing of the characters get EXTREMELY fatiguing after a while since it draws SO MUCH ATTENTION to them – my eyes tire as they dart back and forth between all the objects bouncing around for my attention. It would have been preferable if the enemies (or any ground-based characters) shuffled their feet along instead of bouncing.

    This frenetic action also distracts from the combat which itself has unclear mechanics. It is not clear whether combat occurs when two sprites overlap or not. It is highly unpredictable – sometimes damage is taken, sometimes not. There appears to be no logic to it, which again, exacerbates the feeling of the player having no control. Add to that the unclear rules for who takes damage – I still have no idea if certain goons work better against certain enemies – furthermore, I have no idea what the rules are for a goon taking damage vs an enemy, or for both to take damage.

    Therefore to me, combat, which seems to be a large part of the game, is an overly-animated, illogical nuisance that distracts from an already unclear purpose.

    And why do characters need to bounce back so much when they take damage? It looks fake and seems to be used inconsistently. Couldn’t they flash red when they take damage instead?


    Finally, I guess my main character is the regenerating phantom. But I have no sense of identity with it or any other goons for that matter. I have no idea how much damage they deal, how much health they have, or how much health the enemies have for that matter. From the “Tips” section I guess the phantom gets more powerful when I rack up arcane knowledge but by how much? How does that translate? My arcane knowledge is incrementing constantly – does that mean the phantom’s health and power is increasing at the same rate? Is it tiered?

    It would have been great to have some sense of a status update so that I can more clearly identity with this phantom and strategize its use. Perhaps I could have strategically moved it to different floors to defend them. Which brings me to my next point.


    There doesn’t seem to be an penalty in this game. Why are the enemies attacking? I thought maybe they were stealing resources, but no, that’s not the case. It seems like they’re just an obnoxious nuisance, killing off my goons as they work. Which, I guess I need goons to make a level effective? I didn’t even understand this crucial mechanic until later as it seemed like once I built a room it worked for itself. This is only further reinforced by the notion that the goons exist to defend/attack against the oncoming enemies, rather than being productive workers themselves. I mean, is my ghost REALLY picking up that pickaxe to work in the mine? Perhaps you could have had character types – workers and goon defenders. And maybe the purpose is to reach a resource goal with your workers, and defend them with goons from the thieves who come to attack the workers but ALSO steal resources if they make it inside the fortress.


    Ultimately the game has a lot of flaws – but I mean, I played it until level 11 despite all of this. I only stopped when it became too laggy and I had built everything. So I think you really have something good here, it’s just a matter of finessing it into something that is more intuitive, more streamlined, and more empowering for the player to make strategic decisions within their control. While the controls were unclear, it lent it a strangely compelling explorative feel. But there’s a fair amount of work to do.

  2. jurassicmarc says:

    FYI I do user experience design for a living – so if you have a need for that I’m open to collaborate. I think this is a really cool game (you made this in 24 hours?!?!!!) so I’d love to see it expanded for wider use :)

    • deathray says:

      Thanks for the great input! No plans to monetize the game in the near future, so I can’t hire UX help even though it would be nice… but happy to have your input. If you’d like to playtest future versions, check my tumblr & twitter or send me your email address and I can send you a notification.

  3. deathray says:

    Thanks so much for taking the time to play thw game all the way through and write such a great analysis. You’re definitely spot on with your criticisms…

    Performance / Lag — this is definitely top on my list of things to fix! I’m not sure what is slowing it down, but my goal is to make it mobile friendly, so it’s something I need to dig into.

    Confusion — I plan to add an introduction which should explain who you are, what the overall goals are, and how the game is played. As a developer who knows all of this already, it’s something I’ve been putting off; thanks for drawing attention to it.

    End Game / Higher Purpose — I can appreciate that you’re left like “what now?” Seeing as there is no win condition or end game. I’m thinking of improving this by adding more high-cost goons and a few tiers of ever-more-powerful enemies. When that’s done, the game will end by casting a big spell to either doom the world or salvage your soul.

  4. deathray says:

    Combat — Yes, the enemies spawn randomly which I’d like to maintain in some manner, although I was thinking of adding in waves of enemies too so that you can be warned and (mentally) prepare for combat.
    in general the action is meant to be a simulation that you mostly just watch unfold. Your job is mainly selecting what to build. Do you think it needs more interaction?

    Animation — Personally I think all the hopping around and knock-back effects adds some character to the game as you’re watching the combat. I could add some animation to the graphics but dont want to add that complexity at this time (lots of art to re-do). I’ll take your criticism to mind though and see if I can dampen the magnitude of things.

    Character / Mechanic info — I understand no numbers are given so it’s hard to tell what’s good other than by price. I thought it could just be up to the user to learn over time but I’m just being lazy. I need to add some numbers on the goons and the floors so people can understand the mechanics and make informed decisions.

  5. deathray says:

    Penalties — The goal of these enemies is total annihilation, and if you do not constantly rebuild they will be successful. I guess it is too easy to stop this? I do want to add Thieves who will try to sneak through and steal resources, but since it requires quite a few new mechanics, that may be on hold for a bit.

    I definitely need to add a way to show that the room is active / earning you resources so you can see the result of an attack or forgetting to add goons to an empty room. Ideas?

    One of the constraints is trying to build for a mobile screen… it has definitely made the menus and feedback more challenging. I’m open to any/all new ideas for this!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

[cache: storing page]