Follow our account for notifications like updates, devlogs, and future games.

THE STORY

The evil necromancer has escaped the tower, and overrun the kingdom with his vile minions! They will kill any elf they see, including you!

Find and activate the 4 Obelisks to open a portal, and protect it long enough for your allies from the elven homeland to rescue you. You can use gold coins to summon helpers one at a time. The summoning sickness will leave them unable to move, but you can place them in a defensive formation around the portal to keep it safe. If a minion touches the portal when activated, the obelisks will reset and need to be activated again.

HOW TO PLAY

Use WASD or arrow keys to move around, and the mouse to aim your bow. You will fire automatically in the direction aimed. Enemies will drop gems when killed, which can be picked up to gain new abilities.

You can also right-click to place defenders (the game will pause while you choose their location) for 1 coin each. You will get the coin back if the defender is killed.

DISCORD

Join the Discord to suggest ideas, report bugs, or discuss strategy: https://discord.gg/gSX5Svk5fp

TOWER ESCAPE

For the full story, play Tower Escape:

CREDITS

Programming Ben Sarsgard
Pixel Art Immunity
Additional GraphicsAdmurin Ansimuz
Music & SFX YouFulca


Updated 19 hours ago
Published 23 days ago
StatusIn development
PlatformsHTML5
Rating
Rated 5.0 out of 5 stars
(10)
AuthorSlightlyMadman
GenreAction
Made withUnity, Aseprite
Tags16-bit, 2D, Action RPG, Arcade, Bullet Hell, Fantasy, Pixel Art, Retro, Roguelite, Singleplayer
Average sessionAbout a half-hour
InputsKeyboard, Mouse
LinksSteam

Development log

View all posts

Comments

Log in with itch.io to leave a comment.

Great update. 

I like the defenders having health and not always going down in one hit. The addition of the building aspect of this game is quite surprising.

You've created a means for someone to create a kill box and funnel the enemies in.

Is that what the walls are for? You have them cost 3 coins, and they block arrows. Someone can't sit behind them and shoot. If you could shoot over the walls, I'd use these. They're in a very early state, though. Perhaps new variants will exist in the future.

I applaud how you did something new.

They're cool to have, but 3 elemental defenders gives you more bang for your buck. The elves are meat shields, just the same as the walls are.

The defenders being able to use elemental effects makes them so much better.

My favorite thing is the increased detection range. These guys used to be useless because they took too long to aim and fire, and by the time an enemy walked up, they'd already be dead. 

They're still best used in large groups, but the fact that they can see a foe from farther away now means you get more use out of them.

What are the differences between the types of towers, by the way? Is it listed anywhere?

Also, is it a bug that enemies can spawn outside of the map? If you go to the corners, imps will spawn and try to force their way through the barrier there rather than appear in an open space.

(+1)

I'm glad you like the changes! It's much closer now to my original vision, it just took some time to get there. Yes, you can technically make funnels and kill boxes with any defender, but the purpose of the walls is to make something with lower maintenance that you can use for part of your structure. I like to build a "back" with walls, then use knights for the sides and front so I only have to keep a close eye on one place. You can also line the outside of your walls with archers if you don't mind replacing them periodically.

I'll be adding stats in mouseovers to the defender cards, but currently it's:

  • Archer: 2hp, shoot speed 1, range 7
  • Knight: 5hp, shoot speed 3, range 1
  • Wizard: 1hp, shoot speed 2, range 5

They will spawn outside the map sometimes, I'll prevent that at some point, but for the moment the game actually periodically picks them up and drops them somewhere inside the map, so they won't build up out there.

(+1)

GGGGGGGreat
(+1)

Would you mind tweaking the coin and health level up behavior to not show up if you're at max health or have a certain number of coins?

Getting 3 options per level up means it reduces your chances of finding something you want.

I'd like the health more if it gave you extra maximum health when you're already at full, or it trickles over. Does it do that already? I only bought some when I was at 4 HP.

To get the most out of your elemental arrows now, you'll want to focus on turning all the arrows you have into elemental ones first, and then go for the upgrades. 

I actually like this system more. You have guaranteed effects vs a % chance.

For the elements, anyways. Is the maximum you can get for multishot +2 arrows now? I'm thinking, unless you add a piercing power up that makes arrows continue to go through enemies, you'd be better off skipping multi shot for an elemental arrow.

Because they apparently do not stock. You can't multishot acid arrows for example.

Two arrows simply kill potentially two enemies, but are more likely to have one or both of them miss. 

A pool of acid, ice, or a fire effect keeps providing benefits. If you filled up your quiver with acid arrows, you could count on frequent pools of acid to help clear out enemies. 

I suppose the multishot would balance out if they fused together at some point, and you could shoot more than +3 arrows.

But the coins and health options reduce your chances of finding more elements, especially since buying an element means you now can buy elemental power ups for that element.

Actually, how about letting us spend coins for a reroll? It gives them another use. Or you could create reroll tokens and put them on enemies. 

So this update is much harder, mainly because bad RNG could easily screw you.

My first 5 level ups had health and coins. I'd have gotten farther if I got the strong options from the start. 

Your damage is way slower, and the enemy's escalating means you spend a lot more time shooting them. They end up outpacing you unless you can put together a good build. 

So I suppose your list of priorities are to pick an arrow power up. Exclusively purchase that one. Skip level ups unless they raise your damage or let you buy the power up you want, and then you hunt until you're able to get setup.

The damage over time effect of ice makes it interesting. That's a nice change.

This system of each arrow having an element to it could lead to future special arrow types, though. That would add a whole new level of complexity. 

Like if you purchased a fire arrow and then bought acid on that slot. What if it created a stronger, corrosive fire?

Or buying acid and then fire means the acid pools will set people on fire and also melt them.

(+1)

You raise an interesting point, there should either be no max health at all, or the heal option should not show up unless you're down 3. I'll also be adding a reroll, I think a coin is a high cost but I guess it's still better than missing an entire upgrade. Maybe I'll increase coin availability to compensate.

There should not be a limit to the number of multi shot boosts you can take, I think you've just been unlucky. Maybe what I'll do though is have each subsequent boost give you more arrows, so multi-shot initially gives you 2, then the upgrade gives you +2=4, then the next is +3=7, and so on. Combined with +damage upgrades, that could really give you some crowd clearing ability.

I may experiment with mixing upgrades (such as acid spreading fire), I'll need to think on that one.

entertained me for hours. finally managed to get the portal up but i couldn't fight off all the demons. got it up again, same story. then i got too cocky and kept trying to level up to become even more powerful. then uh. this happened?

they couldn't hurt me and i couldn't hurt them so i tried to place some towers around to thin them out so i might be able to push my way through.
which. uh. well, they were coming at a faster rate than i could kill them. so i decided to risk it and…
oh well :(

Ah, you went into a gap between trees that's small enough for you to fit but they couldn't come in after you? That's an interesting situation, reminds me of a classic horror movie setup where you're hiding in a log or something from a monster that can't get in, but you're also just trapped! If it "felt" like a bug though, I could probably do something to prevent it.

Nah, it wasn't really a bug. The only reason it was a problem was because I was being chased by a mob of dudes, lol.

that was super fun! tha map spawned the most perfect barricade of trees and rocks and I just chilled inside but i got too greedy and went out of my fort to collect some coins got murdered. <_<

Ha, nice! I'm going to be improving their pathfinding so they'll go around obstactles soon, but for now enjoy being able to exploit their stupidity!

(+1)

Great game, only critisizem is that it gets stale fast. Add more variations of enemys with new ai, attacks, etc, add some stage hazards, more upgrades that do things other than change your arrows a little, etc. Make a discord so i can dump all my ideas on the devs and know when the game gets updated. Great job so far!! Keep up the good work :))

Discord here, thanks for mentioning I forgot to add it to the page https://discord.gg/k4V3kXkzk4

I'll be adding lots more features as I go. The enemies are one of 4 sets I have that I'll be adding, and the abilities are just a few to get started, there will be much more variety soon. Please do share any ideas you have, I'd love to hear them!

awesome game! tho i have yet to beat it, i wish there was a way to heal. i understand the desire for difficulty but maybe you could have different difficulty settings? or make one of the upgrades a heal thingy. looking forward to updates either way !!

Thanks, yes healing abilities are planned for sure. I will either add difficulty settings or some level selection with different difficulties, so one way or another there will be some choice.

(+1)

😊👍

Great playthrough, thanks for posting this! It helps me a lot with working out the pacing and balance of the game. I'd love to hear any feedback you have about what you liked or disliked and how you thought the game felt, if you feel like sharing!

Hi Dev! I really enjoyed playing your game, I thought the concept was unique and interesting! Can't wait to see what else you make, thank you and have a nice day

(+1)

I like the update. Have you considered traps as a mechanic? Reusable, resettable traps you can plop down? Could be a nice alternative to the player spending their gold on a tower.

Pit traps, bombs, glue traps. Maybe walking over one would reset it? It's a more active mechanic than the set and forget of a tower, but the traps would be consistent if you can have the enemies step into one.

The other thing about the tower system is that you could assign a feature to them that disables enemy spawns near them.

The main difficulty in this game is of learning where you need to stand. If you stand in the same place, the enemies will spawn in a predictable manner. If you move around a lot, enemies can spawn directly on top of your towers, or right in front of them inside your lines.

They're programmed to appear outside of your line of sight, so you can get weirdness if you run out to collect points and then walk back to find they appeared and wrecked all of your guys.

Could it be a thing that they all appear from the edge of the map and then gradually move towards your position? Then the defense aspect would always be consistent.

You could mix in some flying enemies who can soar over obstacles to keep up a steady amount of pressure on the player.

And add a climbing feature to some enemies. I think it's really cool how they can get stuck on things, but you wouldn't have to worry about pathfinding as much if they could group up and then climb over each other's heads to get over something.

As far as the power ups go, I think they're balanced. I personally like the one that lowers your spread. Being able to effectively snipe enemies and make a wide stream of arrows hit where you want them to be a highly useful tool.

And it apparently upgrades your speed, too? I assume this is the speed that the arrow travels? It doesn't seem to increase firing speed like the shoot power up does.


The only one that feels like an oddball to me is ice, because the others all have an effect that kills. Fire creates massive explosions. Acid was so powerful you had to make it work a limited number of times. 


And then we've got ice. Perhaps it could apply a frost bite effect that makes enemies unable to attack until they warm up? That's something an ice specialist would love to have. It means they have more chances to protect the portal. The guys can't hurt it if they're still chilled and are blue.

Thanks again for the update. This is my most anticipated game, and I'm always happy to play it.

(+1)

Thanks for typing all this up, great feedback here!

Traps are an interesting idea, how are you thinking they'd be distinct from towers? Would they get used up as a minions enters (or multiple of there's >1 activations), then you get your coin back? I can see that being useful when/if I add routing to towers, so you can create trap mazes.

Great point about the screen edge spawns causing problems with towers. I'll consider having them spawn from the map edge, but I'm worried it would create situations where the action is too far away from the player (especially if they get stuck behind obstacles).

Flying and ghostly enemies are definitely planned, both able to pass through obstacles!

The accuracy upgrade increases the arrow's travel speed, yes, not the player's walk speed. I find it useful for defending the portal.

Having ice slow down attack too is a great idea! I personally do feel it's useful, because it can slow down an unlimited number coming at you, unlike acid which can only kill a few. It however is less useful that fire because that's your real crowd control.

That said, I'll sadly be nerfing the fire effect. I was actually looking into some performance issues and realized it was mostly due to a runaway effect in fire spreading. Basically when a minion is in the process of dying, but not dead yet, fire could spread back and forth multiple times. This basically meant a minion who dies while on fire turned into a bomb that spawned lots of fires which spread to adjacent minions. It's kind of cool actually, and I'll almost certainly be adding bomb effects like this later, but it was actually a bug that was allowing fire to spread and wipe out whole crowds instantly.

Well, a tower is a guy who keeps shooting or providing a benefit simply for existing. A trap would require maintenance. If you place a tower in the right spot, he can keep shooting people and won't get into trouble unless an enemy bumps into him while walking towards you.

If you're running, and you drop down a tower, he's going to get shredded before he even gets off a shot. The thing about the towers is that they don't have a very far detection range. The enemy has to be within a few spaces of them before they can see them, and by then it's usually too late.

A trap would cause damage to an enemy, but then require you to reset it. You could walk over it to fix it. Or dismantle it to reclaim your coin.

There could be interactions between traps and towers, with a tower who resets traps.

A bit of a shame about the fireball explosions. Thought that was 100% intentional.

The spread power up is good. It's interesting that firing speed and arrow speed are two different stats.

(+1)

I'll be adding in an exploding arrow ability soon, so don't despair! I will also be implementing upgrades to the arrow effects so that the spread chance and speed of fire can be increased, more closely resembling the old effect as well (but without killing the framerate).

(1 edit) (+1)

Found a bug, if you start the defend the portal event, and then activate an obelisk again by walking into it, the red screen goes away and no more monsters spawn in, not sure what time the game ends because haven't beaten it(did reach 7 minutes), but waited a good bit and it didn't end

Thanks for the report, that should be easy to fix! Also looking at that I'm thinking I need to tone down the light source on the towers lol

(+1)

The music sounds like something out of breath of fire or some other old rpg. I love it!

Thanks! All music is by YouFulca https://youfulca.itch.io/

(1 edit) (+1)

Really nice  game!
You did a lot of things really well and the game has a nice cohesive theme and gameplay loop.

I'm sure there are lot a of great things that you have planned for this game but haven't gotten around to yet. 

Here are some of the things that felt a bit off for me:
-The precision upgrade mostly just felt like a negative, once you have a lot of arrows nothing is getting through anyways. 

- The damage boost rendered most of the elemental upgrades somewhat useless. Not sure about the best way to fix this, I think maybe adding a negative like damage + 1 but firing speed is reduced.

- Speaking of Elemental upgrades they are very different in terms of value:

-- The Acid is S tier, it honestly just makes the game way too easy once the player has upgraded it alongside firing speed and additional arrows. I would consider adding a timer that limits how often the pools can proc on enemies.

-- The Fire is OK, balance wise its pretty strong (A Tier). I personally didn't like using it mostly due for clarity reasons. It can be difficult to tell if an ignited enemy isn't dead or just died, this lead to some frustration. 

-- The Ice Upgrade is a straight up downgrade (Garbage Tier). It offers no damage and even worse is blocks your own arrows which lowers your overall dps. I would swap the collision box for a larger slow zone (trigger) that reduces the enemies movement speed by ~50% while they are in the zone.

- I think the end-game would be better if the fight lasted for longer but the portal had a healthbar so it could take a few hits instead of resetting the whole fight because a single enemy slipped through.

- And last but not least the clones are really only useful as a early detection system so you know what direction the portal is going to be attacked from next. They literally do nothing else mid-late game. They would feel much less arbitrary if they were more useful, an easy fix would be to give them roughly 20% of the players upgrades.  This would probably also mean that the difficulty would need a slight boost of course. 

Great points, thank you for the feedback! I personally have found precision to be nice while protecting the portal, but you're right it's at best kind of a "I have nothing else left to choose" option. I'll be adding and expanding more and will flag that one for either rebalance or removal.

I think I'll change Acid pools to get "used up" after a certain number of hits in addition to their time limit (which may need to be reduced).

Good point about fire, I've been burned (haha) before thinking a unit was dead and walking into it. Speeding up the extinguish animation may help here, as well as potentially reducing the size of the sprite overall.

That's a great idea to have ice blocks no longer be impassable but instead slow down movement, I'll definitely try that out! My only concern is that makes its strategy a little too similar to acid, but I'll see how it plays.

I'm rebalancing the end at the moment, one idea I'm playing with is removing a win condition and having a timer that instead ticks up while the game gets progressively harder so you can try for a high score of survival.

I'm currently working on adding two new tower types: knight who attacks close range, but can take many hits, and wizard who gets elemental attacks. They'll either have their own upgrade cards or inherit the player abilities. I'll also be adding coins and some more advanced pathfinding to the mobs so that you can get into some more classic Tower Defense gameplay here.

Thanks again for playing! Let me know if you agree or disagree with any of the above as well. I should have an update by the weekend with some of the above addressed.

(+1)

Your fixes for the Acid and Fire sound great to me.

I get what you mean about an Ice zone have mechanical overlap with the acid pool, it would require a little more programming but you could add a "shatter" mechanic to the Ice effect so after a set amount of time a frozen enemy would break into shards that traveled for a set range that did damage to other enemies on contact. 
For balance you could make it start with a single shard and every 2-3 levels in Ice would add an additional shard. Also as long as your projectiles and ice effects are on separate physics layers you can just stop them from interacting via Unity project preferences (this way other enemies and the player are still blocked but projectiles pass through).


I'm not sure the Ranger, Knight, Wizard summon idea is super cohesive with the rest of the game/mechanics. It feels like it's being shoehorned without a meaningful reason.  (Granted you could have a story element in mind that I know nothing about, this is just my opinion based off the blurb about "Helpers with summoning sickness").

I like the idea of adding towers but I think something like a totem might be more fitting, you could allow the player to choose a element (or maybe a spirit animal) and depending on their choice you could offer totem upgrades like your current system or a even a skill tree. 

For example if you used a element system:

Nature (Acid) has the Forest Totem that has skills to confuse the enemy, heal the player, do an AOE  slow, etc..

Ice would get a Magic Totem that could shoot piercing Ice projectiles, do weak AOE damage (like a blizzard effect),  after a charge it could an add Ice armor to player that could absorb a hit, etc..

Fire would Grant a Lava Totem that could provide an area where the player could move faster, it could randomly fire lava projectiles like a tiny volcano,  boost the
players attack speed, etc..


I'll try to hop on at some point this weekend and check out up the update!

(+1)

So, it gets to a point where you can't win.  There are 4 "sides" to the portal, you can't see, and the waves are endless.  Most of the monsters didn't even reach the portal before the timer stopped.

Also, and this is huge.  PLEASE, please add a locator for the portal.  I can't keep track of it in the middle.  I eventually put my little (quite useless) men in a horizontal line across the board.

Otherwise, it's a pretty good game.  I played for like 20 minutes.

Thanks for playing! That's a good point, since it gets progressively difficult over time it could reach an impossible state if you're not able to upgrade on pace with it. I'll see what I can do to tweak that accordingly.

I'll definitely be adding a locator for the portal to help find your way back. Do you think it would be useful to add for the obelisks as well, or did you enjoy the challenge of searching for them?

I would say that once you discover the obelisk, it stays on your map.  I mean, I didn't actually enjoy looking for them, but if you had a fog of war on the map to help you remember where you'd been, that would probably be perfectly fine.  I'm sure having to memorize where everything was affected my gameplay and I wouldn't just give them the obelisks

(+2)

eventually its just fucking scorched earth with napalm arrows

When I was first implementing fire transferring between enemies when they touch, I messed up and made it infinitely add back and forth, causing this nuclear reaction which crashed the game:

(+1)

honestly you should be able to buy a nuke in this game as an actual game mechanic

(+1)

This was a cute game but i wanted to see it having an ending... i hope you add one in the future! (if it already has it im gonna play this game until i get all the perks maxed.... i played it for 15-20 minutes already but okay 👀

(+2)

It does have an ending, you need to activate the 4 obelisks and then protect the portal. It's not terribly obvious in-game so I'll be adding some better instructions and clues. You'll need to make good use of the towers to complete it.

(+1)

Absolutely loved the game, have always been a fan of tower/defense games and love the upgrade system in it! I look forward to so much more and left a follow!!!

Your game is first in the video)

(+1)

Hey, really cool game! 

Agree with other comments, a bit hard at start, and would be nice to have some indication to where the obelisks are, because I spent the first half of the game only trying to survive. I would also make the portal stand to more than just a single hit, or make the towers a bit stronger, I didn't manage to protect the portal and I played for like 30 min.

I have a similar game, and I'd love to hear your opinion https://beorgames.itch.io/hero-battle-fantasy-arena


Cheers!

(+2)

Really nice game, initally very hard when you only shoot a single arrow every few ticks.
but becomes increasingly easier nwhen you shoot like 6 arrows every othe tick that can ignite, freeze and acid puddle all at once :-)

saying:
cool game, love it, I reall enjoy these kinds of "fight wave of monsters and choose a new upgrade every 10 dead enemies or so" kind of games.

onbly wasnt initally obvious what to do since I hadnt read the instructions so I unintentionally grinded a while before activating the obelisks and defending the portal :-)

(+1)

This game is super fun. I like it because I like Vampire Survivors, Pixel Survivors, and Brotato.

You got the difficulty right. I enjoy the variety of options. This game is different from the ones I previously mentioned because you focused on upgrading the character's base capabilities rather than adding on new gimmicks.

I'm very excited to see what happens next.

One issue I found is that the sound effects can overlap and become very loud. I shot like 4 imps at once and their death sound was very loud.

This game has good music too. It reminds me of Final Fantasy.

(+1)

Thanks for playing, I'm glad you like it! I think the core gameplay is pretty engaging at this point, and will be adding more skill upgrades, but next I want to see if I can expand on the tower-defense aspect.

I know exactly what you mean about the sound issue, I'll look into it and see if I can fix it.

(+1)

Having completed the game, the one thing I'd like is a bit of a grace period after activating the final tower.

A bunch of enemies spawned on top of me and started walking towards the portal. Before that, the enemies had managed to spawn and reach the portal before I got to it.

I think I completed the game after activating the towers 4 times.


There could be an arrow pointing to the portal or a 15-30 second grace period to help you reach it in time.

It would also be nice if the game told you what happened when you failed.

I got careless with clearing out enemies, and they touched the portal, and then the screen goes back to how it was before. Perhaps the game could tell you what you did wrong when you fail? So you know that it's giving you a chance to try again, and the portal getting touched isn't game over.

My favorite part is that the upgrades all feel like logical progressions. It matches your other game. We can assume that Elves simply gain power when they slay enough enemies and collect experience/gems. 


And this allows them to evolve in a way. Everything the elf heroine does in the game is an expansion of something she can already do. 


It gives you room to add new characters and make all of them actually play differently. Someone doesn't just choose a character that has a good bonus and then play the same build.

They pick a character class. You've managed to take the Survivors genre and do something different.


(+2)

Having played more, I can say I like your tower system. The guys are pretty useless unless there's a lot of them, which is probably the point. They're just meant to cover up your openings. 


They're a good addition because they make other kinds of builds viable. I think I like this a bit more than your other game. It's an incredibly fun game.

(+1)

Do you have any thoughts on how the towers could be integrated into the gameplay better? I'd like to eventually add the wizard and knight towers as well, so you could stack the lines with melee in front of ranged. At that point though, I worry that the game would just become confusing because it's straight tower defense in the middle with vampire survivors on the outside (although maybe that's ok).

To give you more time to build up a defense, I could actually have the waves pause completely for a minute before the big rush starts. That would also address you other issue with spawns at the obelisk you just activated.

(+1)

Well, you could spawn more bosses who would heavily encourage the use of these towers. The AI could make them always prioritize a tower first over chasing you.


There could be optional treasure caches where you rob the evil wizard's coffers to get more tower guys. They spawn on the map, and it's a handful of strong guys defending them. They drop coins.


It gives the player the choice of hunting down the obelisks or building up their defenses. It seems the longer the game goes on, the bigger the waves become? So there's a reason to try to finish things quickly.


The towers could patrol an area or be set to follow the player, or chase down and engage enemies within their range.


IE, you drop a knight, and he'll step into the melee to scrap with some imps. Perhaps his special ability enables him to body block people, so up to 5 imps are stuck on him and can't progress.


Then you're looking at an army simulator where you can respawn your guys when they die.


That's a genius idea, by the way. I love the fact that the coins are refunded when your guys die. It makes the tower system not frustrating at all, and you're free to create strategies. To plan. To make mistakes.


And in the future, you could make a boss who swallows towers when he or she defeats them, so that the coin disappears until the boss is killed. It would keep the player from just repeatedly using them over and over again.


There's also the idea of adding in synergies.


Like if firing an arrow at a knight meant you could bounce it off his shield, and then it'll ricochet into a different direction. Firing an arrow at a wizard's fireball will create a flaming, exploding arrow.


The player gets some tangible bonuses for using the towers and is encouraged to create and use them.


And then you could have another option that lets you sacrifice coins for EXP. So if someone wants to, they could get more personal power and forego towers. It creates an alternate route and play style. 


Likewise, if you had a monster tamer character or mechanic. If you could drop coins and non-boss enemies walk over them, then maybe they become your towers.

The monsters could have their own advantages that put them above usual towers, but maybe the coins don't come back when the monster dies. Possibly it doesn't need a drawback at all? Potentially, it's better as a character class option, and that class has no access to normal towers.


You could also have upgrading towers as an option. The tower gains EXP just like you do, and they'll walk over and collect points. Then they grow stronger.


If you made a cleric or paladin main character, they could have more interactions with the towers via buffing and healing them. Some of their upgrades could focus on improving allies and making them harder to kill and thus ensuring they can survive long enough to upgrade.

(+1)

Wow, thank you for all this, it's a treasure trove of ideas!