a companion discussion area for blog.codinghorror.com

How to Get Rich Programming


I originally discovered the fiendishly addictive Tower Defense as a multiplayer game modification for Warcraft III. It's a cooperative game mode where you, and a few other players, are presented with a simple maze. A group of monsters appear at the entrance and trudge methodically toward the exit. Your goal is to destroy the monsters before they reach the exit by constructing attack towers along the borders of the maze. As you kill monsters, you gain cash, which you use to purchase more powerful attack towers and upgrades for your existing towers. The monsters keep increasing in power each wave, but if you're clever, you might be able to survive all the waves and reach the end.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2007/05/how-to-get-rich-programming.html


Wait a minute… Roller Coaster Tycoon was programmed by one man? In assembly language!?

Wow. I get skittish using C++.


To give Paul credit, his implementation is really clever. There’s an easy to use global scoreboard, and the game shows the specific playfield configuration each player used to achieve that high score, too:



The Warcraft III madness is truly viral…I spent 3 hours on a perfectly pointless game of X Hero Siege where you buff up your heroes to ridiculous (atleast by The Frozen Throne {TFT} standards) power levels and beat the crap out of everyone. No strategy, no brainwork just the silly pleasure of watching your hero attain power levels which are totally mindboggling (again, to a standard TFT player).

It’s interesting how the skill level has been gradually decreasing with the huge variety of multiplayer games available on the TFT platforms. First was Footmen Frenzy where you had to command huge armies (again, compared to TFT) with heroes who reached huge levels (25! cmp to Level 6 of TFT). Lol, once you reached such levels the game was merely an exercise in genocide!

Then DotA came along with only 1 Hero control and the skill lay in finding the right items to bolster your hero…no armies, TFT became an RPG. And after DotA we have all the other games like TD and XHS.

Is it a wonder that these games appeal to the public when most of the insane skill of TFT isn’t required?


I went to uni with a guy who is doing just that now, and he has made some awesome games :slight_smile:

if you are into anything flash, check out his journal.



Once the fad of the game fades, he won’t be making $96K from it anymore.

That’s the thing with stuff like this. It’s the equivalent of a musical one hit wonder.


Well, only making games you can do that…

but, with this new casual games development some consoles are betting on it (xbox live market place or something like that, and the soon coming wii virtual console for home made games).

Hm, I forgot, you can actually make a shareware program and get tons of money. Admuncher is a good example, but again, a good shareware program usually is written in assembly.


I’ve play a lot to warcarf III tower defense. It has started with the original blizzard map at four players. For the first time of my life, i have play a LAN game with my wife with no need to play against her. That game mode changes of the usual “No! Do not attacks now! Please let me five minutes.”

The team winning was a good time. I regret that collaborative games are not usual. Look at “Desktop tower defense”, it’s fun but honestly i haven’t play more than 3 hours to it (Oups, no more than 5 minutes boss). Ok, it is not a very good exemple, DTD is just a one man conceptual game. Compare World of Warcraft and Diablo 2, the interest is the same: kill mobs, gain xp, go kill bigger monster. On the two games you have a multiplayer mode. But why WOW players never stop? Because WOW is a team game, you can not win if you play alone. Same as Warcraft III Tower Defense. At my opinion, that’s the real cooperative part that make this games so addictives.

The fact that the programmers of “Desktop tower defense” earns monney is more annecdotic. How many peopple here have code their games? How many have earn monney with that? Coders do not play lotorry when coding. They programs because they like it, for the pleasure of coding, not for the money.


Well, about making big bucks as a single programmer, I still have reservations. Yes, there are examples of people that made it, but there aren’t many. Let’s just say it isn’t a safe bet.

Btw, If you were addicted by Tower defense, then give Master of Defence (http://www.master-of-defense.com/) a Try…

Is a simple, yet addicted game of this kind.


Tower Defense was, yes, originally from Starcraft. It wasn’t called Tower Defense back then… Starcraft didn’t have towers. They had missile defense, maze defense, and so on. The most common one was missile defense, where players would scoot around with their SCVs madly building missile turrets.

That was fun.


The tower defense games go way, way back. One of the classics:




That’s still one of the best games of the genre though you didn’t win by purely defending which you could say is just a minor variation, not something truly original.


Excellent Flash based single player variation, defend as long as you can. I made it to level around level 200 once.


Oh you poor poor one, falling for the same trap as everyone else.


(i am much into http://ec2-1.playr.co.uk/onslaught/index.php in the moment, it is much more munchkin :wink:


Roller Coaster Tycoon being written in assembly language is a red herring. Chris Sawyer is a damn good programmer, and he’d be a good programmer regardless of language. But he’s also more proficient in tools from old-school game development, hence the use of assembly language (remember that up until the mid-1990s, games written in assembly language were common).


“Make a Flash mini-game, let people play it for free, and watch the ad revenue pour in when the site gets 20 million pageviews a month.”

Better yet. Make a game that REQUIRES page loads and views. How is Kingdom of Loathing doing?


“No selling his soul to a publisher, no middlemen, just pure income, controlled directly by him.”

Actually, I’d like to point out that the income is NOT controlled directly by him. It’s controlled by the company doing the advertising, and can be taken away by them at any time for any kind of TOS violation. This income stream is a side effect of the popularity of this particular game and the (relatively recent) ability to make money selling advertising.

I’m just saying that there IS a middleman. Have you seen Google’s profit margins lately? So maybe the split is a bit closer to 50/50 than 15/85 like the railroad tycoon author (which is also very close to a recording artist royalty rate, btw), but it’s not a physical product either, with the additional overhead of printing, shipping and selling shrinkwrap at retail.

When that popularity goes away (as it almost surely will eventually) so does the revenue, and having one hit is no guarantee of having a second hit. Fortunately, he (the programmer) is aware of this, and he mentions in the interview that he’d probably have to make one new game a month to continue to make a full time living at it. But how many original (or even unoriginal but executed well) concepts can you come up with before burning out? 10? 20? I think the lack of graphical sophistication works for this particular game but will undoubtedly be a disadvantage for any others he might make.

Anyway, I don’t see it as a business opportunity at all, really. Building it and hoping they will come is not a business model that I want to rely on. Nobody is going to quit their day job to make money doing this unless they can already afford to not work for a few years. It’s a way to make some money from a hobby. Only after you get a hit, THEN just maybe you can have the confidence and financial cushion to get more serious about it. That’s just my opinion though.

I also have a serious issue with the fact that the only business model available to individual developers involves doing something that attracts enough attention to sell advertising. Maybe I don’t want to make a living facilitating that! Is there any way to achieve independent success WITHOUT resorting to advertising? That is a more interesting topic to me.


If many (if not all) IT companies are innefective, with many unproductives expensives and still are profitable then one-men-army company can obtain a high success without much trouble. This game is a example of it.

The risk is that a programmer can spend a lot of time in a un-profitable project.

ps :orange … again?.


There are plenty of 1-man software companies making a decent living selling software direct to buyers on the Internet. I know, because I run one of them. Personally I wouldn’t recommend writing games (or development tools) if you want to maximise your chances of a good return. The fact that a very successful game is ‘only’ making $100k per year rather reinforces this.


The Game is really addective


It’s not surprise that “one man” coded a big game. Not even in assembly language. There are tools that make assembly language as painfull (or not) as C++. On the other side, during “the old days” most coders coded alone, with just a guy for gfx and sound.

Paul - http://foro.recuperarelpelo.com/viewtopic.php?t=698