Archive for June, 2013

Reading Data from a csv file

June 24, 2013 Leave a comment

I’ve got a working tower data importer for this game. Upgrades are also working and I managed to fix some bugs. Here’s what the game looks like right now.

My tower data is stored in a csv now. CSV stands for comma-separated values. It’s a simple spreadsheet format that gets stored as a text file, which makes it really easy to read. Writing the code to read the file wasn’t hard at all, though I did have some weird issues with Excel. For some reason, the first time I save a file as a csv, Excel saved it as tab-delimited instead of comma-delimited, so it didn’t work at first. Once I updated the csv manually, it worked perfectly. Here’s a sample of my data csv:


So, to explain how I set it up: The first value is the number of towers available. The second and third were just headers for the data below it so I could keep track. The second line is the name of the first tower, followed by the number of levels and the type of bullet it produces. The next row is just headers again so I could actually read the csv without confusing myself. The next 4 rows are the actual data for each level of tower. I include fire rate, which is actually the cooldown between shots, damage, range and cost. Last is the image to use for that level, so that I can change the tower’s appearance as the tower levels up.

And now the code to read the file:

var rawStatsString:String = new TowerStatsCsv;
var currentRow:int = 0;

var rawStatsArray:Array = rawStatsString.split("\n");
var rawHeaderArray:Array = rawStatsArray[0].split(",");

for (i = 0; i < rawHeaderArray[0]; i++) {
    currentHeaderArray = rawStatsArray[currentRow].split(",");
    towerStats.push(new Array());
    towerStats[i]['bulletType'] = currentHeaderArray[2];
    towerStats[i]['name'] = currentHeaderArray[0];

    for (j = 0; j < currentHeaderArray[1]; j++) {
        currentRowArray = rawStatsArray[currentRow].split(",");

        towerStats[i][j] = new Array();
        towerStats[i][j]['damage'] = currentRowArray[damageCol];
        towerStats[i][j]['fireRate'] = currentRowArray[fireRateCol];
        towerStats[i][j]['range'] = currentRowArray[rangeCol];
        towerStats[i][j]['cost'] = currentRowArray[costCol];
        towerStats[i][j]['image'] = currentRowArray[imageCol];

Most of this is pretty self-explanatory. First I read the contents of the csv into a string. .split(“\n”) splits the string into an array of rows. .split(“,”) gives me an array containing each of the “cell” values of that row.

I’m struggling with what to work on next. I’m definitely thinking I want to get a functional main menu with level select and a save system to track level progress. Definitely thinking about adding some sound back in to the game, but not sure if I want placeholder stuff again, or something that could actually be used for the final game. I’m not sure if I want to add some abilities for the player to use during the game to give the player something else to do. Also considering adding a couple different enemy types and maybe one additional tower type. Any feedback on what I should add next?


Moving Groups of FlxSprites

June 19, 2013 Leave a comment

Now we’re getting somewhere. I’ve got enemy and tower status menus working. This is about as much as I had before switching to Flixel, so from here on out it’s real progress again. Here’s a video of the current game.

The status menus were a real challenge. In regular AS3, I would just add bunch of different objects to a sprite, and those objects would all move with the sprite. You can’t add objects onto a FlxSprite like a regular AS3 sprite. I thought that maybe I could create a FlxGroup and add all my objects to that and they would all move together, but I was wrong.

Fortunately, FlxGroups were the right way to head. You can iterate over all objects added to a FlxGroup. If you create a baseline FlxSprite that will function as your upper-left corner, you can move that object and then move all the objects in your FlxGroup in relation to that sprite. Here’s the code I used to move my StatusWindow group around:

public function move(point:FlxPoint):void {
    var startPointX:int = this.bgSprite.x;
    var startPointY:int = this.bgSprite.y;

    for (var i:int = 0; i < this.length; i++) {
        this.members[i].x = point.x - startPointX + this.members[i].x;
        this.members[i].y = point.y - startPointY + this.members[i].y;

    this.upgradeButton.label.x = this.upgradeButton.x;
    this.upgradeButton.label.y = this.upgradeButton.y + 3;

Interesting note about that, FlxButtons can be moved using their x and y, but for some reason, the labels don’t move with them and have to be moved separately.

This worked perfectly to move the window to based on a FlxPoint. In order to get the window to follow an enemy as it moves, I had to add a target variable within the StatusWindow class. This tells the window which object to follow around the screen. Unfortunately, x and y coordinates are Numbers (AS3 version of a Float) and they get rounded to an int before being drawn. For some reason, this can cause stuttering when you’re telling one object to follow another. To fix this, I round the x and y coordinates of the followed object before telling StatusWindow to follow it. Here’s the code for that:

public function findBestLocation():FlxPoint {
    return new FlxPoint(Math.round( - 50), Math.round( - 70));

This function will later be used to keep the window on the screen, without flowing onto the menus or off the edge of the screen. For now, it just offsets the location of the target object.

Oh, and I almost forgot that I added win and loss conditions to the level. You can see at the end of the video that a little text appears. It says, “You win!!! Press enter to return to menu.” That’ll have to get changed at some point, but it works. There’s also a loss condition when your invisible health drops to 0 that also directs you to return to the menu. They both switch a gameIsOver Bool to true in my PlayState. This causes the game to skip the update loop and instead checks to see if the user is pressing enter to return to the menu. Here’s the top of the PlayState’s update code now:

override public function update():void
    if (gameIsOver) {
        if (FlxG.keys.justPressed("ENTER") ||
                FlxG.keys.justPressed("P")) {
            FlxG.switchState(new MenuState());
    else {
        for (var i:int = 0; i < gameSpeed; i++) {

I’ll be adding the rest of the stats to the bottom menu, along with actual buttons to press to change game speed. Then I think I’ll export my tower stats to a csv file or something and make the game import the stats. That will make it easier to balance the game later. While setting that up, I’m going to add an ability to declare several levels for each tower so they can be upgraded.

Overriding Inherited Functions in Flixel

June 12, 2013 Leave a comment

I now have working tower select buttons on the side menu and the ability to pause, unpause and speed up the game working again. In order to get these abilities working, I had to override Flixel’s default update() function on PlayState (an extention of FlxState). Things can get messy real quick when changing those inherited functions, so I’ll share some of the issues I ran in to, but first, here’s a video of the game’s current status.

First of all, when I override the update() function for a FlxSprite, I’m usually trying to add behavior without removing the default behavior. To do this, I start with this basic function override:

override public function update():void

    //Add new code here

All this does is override the inherited update() function, with a new function that calls super.update() (the inherited version of update). You can then add any additional code as needed.

My favorite addition this iteration is the ability to speed up and slow down the game. I did this by rewriting PlayState’s update() function to this:

override public function update():void
    for (var i:int = 0; i < gameSpeed; i++) {

This was a really simple way to add this feature. It just runs the update code as many times as needed per frame in order to reach the requested speed. Note: if gameSpeed is 0 or less, the update function won’t be run at all, effectively pausing the game.

Now, for anyone that’s played a standard Tower Defense game, you’ll know that you usually want to place some towers before the enemies start coming. To do this, the game should start in a “paused” state and then let you “unpause” to start the enemy waves. If you haven’t played a Tower Defense game, think of it like the Sims. You go into build mode to add your furniture so that the Sims aren’t getting in your way while you place things. Having this pause function lets you do that.

Unfortunately, I placed the code that enables you to press buttons and that let’s your currently selected tower follow your mouse into the TowerMenu.update() and Tower.update() functions respectively. Those functions are called from FlxState’s update function. And when gameSpeed is set to 0, FlxState’s update function is never called. To make matters worse, the code that tells the towers to fire is located in Tower.update(). So if I just call that function while the game is paused, the towers would keep firing.

My solution was to move those pieces of code directly into the PlayState class. Since the code only affect one specific object (the currently selected Tower) and not every Tower object, it’s okay to take that code out of the Tower class. So here’s my new PlayState.update() function:

override public function update():void
    for (var i:int = 0; i < gameSpeed; i++) {

public function runNonGameUpdates():void
    var tileWidth:int = Registry.currentLevel.xWidth;
    var tileHeight:int = Registry.currentLevel.yWidth;
    if(this.activeTower !== null) {
	this.activeTower.x = FlxG.mouse.x - FlxG.mouse.x % tileWidth;
	this.activeTower.y = FlxG.mouse.y - FlxG.mouse.y % tileHeight;
	if (FlxG.mouse.justReleased()) {
            this.activeTower.placed = true;
	    this.activeTower = null;

That Registry.towerMenu.checkMenuButtons() is where the code checks if menu buttons are being pressed. Flixel doesn’t have a function to check if a FlxSprite was just clicked, so what I did was add code that would get checked when FlxG.mouse.justPressed() is true and again when FlxG.mouse.justReleased() is true. When pressing the mouse, the code checks to see if your mouse is on top of a button and then sets that as the active button. When the mouse is once again released, it checks to make sure your mouse is on top of the same button. If it is, the button’s clicked function is activated. Afterwards, regardless of whether a button was “clicked” the active button is cleared out. Here’s what the code looks like:

public function mouseButton():int {
    var i:int;

    for (i = 0; i < TowerMenu.buttonCount; i++) {
        if (FlxG.mouse.x >= TowerMenu.startX
                && FlxG.mouse.x <= (TowerMenu.startX + buttonWidth)
                && FlxG.mouse.y >= (TowerMenu.startY + 
                    (buttonHeight + buttonGap) * i)
                && FlxG.mouse.y <= (TowerMenu.startY + 
                    buttonHeight  * (i + 1) + buttonGap * i)) {
            return i;
    return -1;

public function checkMenuButtons():void
    if (FlxG.mouse.justPressed()) {
        TowerMenu.buttonPushed = this.mouseButton();

    if (FlxG.mouse.justReleased()) {
        if (TowerMenu.buttonPushed == this.mouseButton() 
                && TowerMenu.buttonPushed >= 0) {
        TowerMenu.buttonPushed = -1;

So now that I’ve got this code working, it’s time to add the bottom menu that tracks current funds, health, waves remaining and some victory/loss conditions. I think that will bring me back to where I was before I switched to Flixel. So far, it’s been a lot easier using Flixel. I’ll definitely be using it for any future game jams, because it makes prototyping a lot easier.

Drawing Lines in Flixel

June 7, 2013 1 comment

I managed to add bullets and lasers back into the game recently. Lasers turned out to be a much tougher challenge than I thought it would be. I’m still used to drawing graphics using Flash sprites. FlxSprites offer the same functionality, but use different functions. There’s also one additional catch with FlxSprites.

The Catch: Default Flixel Sprite

The Catch: Default Flixel Sprite

Flixel has this weird habit of inserting a default sprite if you don’t add a sprite yourself. This means that if you try and jump straight into drawing a line, the default Flixel sprite jumps in and then gets partially overwritten by your line.

Here’s the code I had been using:

var tempWidth:int = this.x -;
var tempHeight:int = this.y -;
this.drawLine(0, 0, tempWidth, tempHeight, 0xff0000, 2);

Find the width and height of the line. Draw the line from the bullet’s origin to the target’s origin. Seems simple, right? Unfortunately, Flixel only draws graphics within the actual height and width of the sprite. So to fix that, we have to create a sprite big enough to encompass the entire laser beam, move the sprite to the top-left corner of the laser’s length and draw the laser from the tower to the target.

Here’s the new code:

var tempWidth:int = Math.abs(this.x -;
var tempHeight:int = Math.abs(this.y -;
this.makeGraphic(tempWidth, tempHeight, 0x00000000);
this.x = Math.min(this.x,;
this.y = Math.min(this.y,;
this.drawLine(startPoint.x < ? 0 : tempWidth, 
    startPoint.y < ? 0 : tempHeight, 
    startPoint.x > ? 0 : tempWidth,
    startPoint.y > ? 0 : tempHeight, 0xff0000, 2);
The end result

The end result

Next I’ll be adding the “Wave” type tower back in and adding some UI so you can actually see the stats on the towers and enemies. Almost back to where I had been. Flixel has made the code for this game a lot simpler and taken some of the weird bugs out of it too.

Learning to use Flixel

June 4, 2013 Leave a comment

I kept running into errors associated with objects not being deleted properly with my old tower defense engine. Part of it is because I wasn’t putting in proper destroy commands into my classes. Part of it is that I had no idea how to create a proper game framework. One that registers each object and deletes those objects when they’re no longer needed.

In comes Flixel, a flash-based game engine. Flixel breaks a game into “States” that can be created and destroyed without worrying about objects lingering. So a menu state can be opened to start the game, and when you load the game state, everything from the menu is cleared from memory. More importantly, when you exit to menu and then reopen the game, everything from the old game has been cleared out. No more invisible towers that start shooting at invisible enemies as soon as you load the game (this happened more times than I’m willing to admit).

This is your brain on Flixel

This is your brain on Flixel

Flixel is an open source game-making library that is completely free for personal or commercial use. Written entirely in Actionscript 3, and designed to be used with free development tools, Flixel is easy to learn, extend and customize. -Flixel homepage

Flixel provides a large list of helper classes that takes care of some of the more basic programming needs. FlxGame is the base game class. FlxG controls global variables. FlxState can be extended to create new game states, though you only need one for your game to work. FlxSprite is the basic sprite, but with some animation automation, movement controls and automated cleanup. There’s lots of other classes that I haven’t yet dug in to.

Flixel sprites don’t have an addEventListener() function, which makes it harder to confuse yourself about which object is listening to which other object. From what I’ve read, the proper way to handle event checks is within the update function of each object. Flixel also has a class called FlxGroup which allows you to perform collision checks and tests against every object within the group. I’m currently using the FlxGroup as my enemy manager, tower manager and bullet manager.

I’ve started recoding my Weekend Tower Defense using the Flixel game engine. I’m not sure if recoding this Tower Defense game has just become a way to learn how to make games or if I’m actually planning on releasing this game eventually, but it certainly has been a learning experience. So far I’ve got a basic engine that loads up a map and spawns a series a waves to march across the map’s predefined paths.



Since finding Flixel, I’ve also found DAME a free tool for generating levels from tilemaps. You can create multiple layers in each level each using different tilemaps. It certainly makes creating new maps very easy and provides a nice visual tool for doing so. It supports several different export formats from a basic csv to an AS3 class that makes loading levels a breeze. It’s supposed to allow you to create paths, but I’ve haven’t yet been able to figure that tool out and have instead been defining paths manually.

Deadly Alien Map Editor in action

Deadly Alien Map Editor in action

All in all, I think learning both these tools will help with future games. Flixel especially has been teaching me a better mindset for creating games. It also seems like it’s much easier to prototype a flash game using Flixel than the old way I was doing it, so maybe it will really pay off when I move on to the next game.