Waves² Early Access – Alpha 01 DevBlog

The sequel to Waves is almost here! Just a few days from now Waves² will be available as an Early Access title on Steam for $10 (It will be cheaper when it leaves Early Access if you’d rather wait). You can check out the trailer below.


Some History

Now first up I want to thank all of the fans of Waves for their support. When I made Waves 4 years ago it was just a quick project put together over about 6 months in my spare time. It has since managed to keep me employed for 4 years which was far longer than I ever anticipated. Over the last 4 years I have embarked on several projects, Waves: Arena Tactics grew out of my experiments into procedural generation and even during it’s Kickstarter the game concept changed so drastically that by the time the Kickstarter ended I was no longer making the game that began it. In all honesty I’m glad the Kickstarter failed because otherwise I would still be making a game that I since began to doubt the appeal of myself. Notorious was born out of that experience and developed rapidly into a very fun proof of concept; cementing it’s design direction as a multi-player focussed co-operative shooter. Still I got asked the question though “When will there be a sequel to Waves?”.

Now. Now is when. The particulars of why now are quite simple. I wanted to move Notorious from the Unreal Development Kit to Unreal Engine 4, it’s scope had grown so much and I was pushing UDK to it’s limits that the possibility of finishing the game in that engine would mean huge sacrifices. The problem was that it would take me a year or more to re-learn C++ and port all of the game code over to the new engine. Instead I decided to start with something a bit easier: port Waves to UE4 as an experiment. I gave myself 2 months to port the original game over; if I couldn’t do it in that time I was going to go back to developing in UDK and continue with Notorious.

After 2 months had passed I had ported Waves to UE4 and done so while improving all of the core systems. The game was far easier to create content for thanks to everything I had learned while making Notorious. I decided that instead of shifting focus onto porting Notorious (still a lengthy job) that I would focus on continuing to develop Waves using everything I had learned in the 4 years since it’s release and give the fans what they had been asking for. Early Access games are now an accepted practice in PC gaming and gave me something that Waves needed; willing enthusiastic play testers.

Two more months have passed since I got Waves working in UE4 and I’m typing this blog post. Waves² has a roadmap to it’s final release in place and is ready to play. In AAA development Alpha is when the game first becomes playable, I was ready for Alpha.

Alpha 01

Every month I will be uploading a Vlog on Youtube and an accompanying Blog post here detailing what’s coming up and going over what’s happened. The Vlogs will be relatively short and focussed on showing what’s changed while the Blogs will be more in-depth and go over why something has changed and how it fits into the overall vision of the game.

In case you haven’t watched the DevBlog I’ll quickly go over what you get here…

In Waves² there are 2 major changes to how the game works:

Health = Energy = Health.

In Waves the first time you got hit by any enemy your avatar would explode. This is no longer the case. In order to make the early game more accessible to new players your Energy Buffer; that was previously used to power SlowMo, is also your health bar. Any damage caused by enemies will now come out of your Buffer if possible. Any damage that can’t come out of your Buffer will cause you to explode. Generally this means you can take 3 hits from normal enemies before the 4th hit makes you go boom.

This comes with a risk/reward mechanic as your Active Defences (Slowmo or “Langour” in Alpha 01) require the same resource to be used. Should you exhaust all of your Buffer using Defences then you will be leaving yourself vulnerable and the next hit you take will kill you. Expert players will scoff at this change because in Waves so long as you had a bomb you were practically invincible, this is no longer the case as you will see…

Adrenaline Not Combos.

In Waves bombs were tied explicitly to your combo. Get a 10X combo and you got a bomb. Lose the combo lose the bomb. This was surprisingly difficult to explain to people yet was the main mechanic in getting good scores. Instead Combos work exactly the same (3 kills within 1 seconds of each other = 1 Combo) but now every time you build your Combo up you gain Adrenaline. Adrenaline is used to power Burst Attacks (The Smart bomb in Alpha 01) and kills from Burst Attacks count towards your Combo. So long as you are generating Adrenaline it will not deplete. Once you stop building Adrenaline it will start to deplete automatically and will be gone very quickly, this means that if your Combo ends and you had maximum Adrenaline you have about 5 seconds to start a new Combo or it will all be gone, fortunately you have enough Adrenaline to use a Burst and start a Combo that way.

This change should make it harder to chain bombs together forever (that plus the enemy spawning is less run-away than the previous game) and it requires a larger Combo in the first place to get your first Burst Attack (20 Adrenaline vs the previous equivalent of 10). However your maximum Adrenaline store is 30 so once you max it out it should only need 10 more to get another Burst ready.

Spawning Changes.

Enemy spawning now uses a completely different system to the previous game. It now uses a Hierarchical Behaviour Tree and is actually an AI that responds to the game state. At the moment it’s tuned to be similar to the previous game but it has lots more spawning patterns available to it and is less likely to just spawn hundreds of enemies every tick preferring harder to kill enemies if you are doing well.

In Alpha 02 there will be a system in place that causes enemies to Level Up based on the game length making them harder to kill and cause more damage. The enemies you encounter at the start of a round will still appear later on but won’t be a push over any more.

Arcade.

There are 4 Game Modes from the previous game re-appearing in Waves²:

* Crunch Time
* Survival
* Rush
* Chase

The only major changes to these modes right now is that Extra Lives are now spawned as Triggers in the arena and must be collected rather than being awarded to you during Survival and the starting time for Rush is down to 60 seconds.

GRID.

The newest and most experimental part of Waves² is called The GRID. It is a long-format version of the game where you play through a procedurally generated Grid (aha!) of objective based challenges. Completing objectives in each Node will earn you a rating for that Node (Bronze, Silver or Gold) and unlock surrounding nodes as well as give you a score that node. Your total score for the GRID is the sum of all of the nodes you’ve completed. You can try each node as many times as you want but it will only remember your best score for each node.

At the moment all of the Arcade game modes are being used in the GRID with the harder modes near the edges and the easier ones nearer the middle. Balance is a big problem here as it requires a lot of data to get the Objective generation right and I need as much feedback from the community as possible on which objectives are too hard/easy.

Progress on GRID is saved to the Steam Cloud but you can start a new game any time you want. You can only have one GRID active at a time though so you’d better be sure about starting over.

Alpha 02.

Alpha 02 is scheduled for sometime in January. As there is the holidays between now and then it’s not going to be a huge update.

Currently planned for Alpha 02 is:

  • More Arcade and GRID Game Modes (at least 3 more).
  • Music Jukebox + Placeholder Soundtrack.
    • I’m in talks with some musicians about an original sound track for the game and I want to support it with a Jukebox so you can skip tracks easily.
  • Enemy Progression
    • Enemies will Level Up over time and be tougher and more dangerous as games progress.
  • Player Progression
    • Leveling Up will now affect the Power Level of your Weapons and Defences. In future the order of how your Avatar Powers Up will be customisable allowing you to specialise.
  • More Graphics options & Keybinds!
    • I haven’t had time to get key rebinding in as a menu option yet but hopefully this will be in Alpha 02.

The Future…

Waves² is a long term project for me. I’m expecting at least 6 months in Early Access plus post-release support. To give you an idea of what’s planned I have created a lovely roadmap diagram showing all of the concepts and features that will go into finishing the game.

The best place to leave feedback will be on the Steam forums for the game but you can also email it to feedback@squidinabox.com. I can’t promise I’ll respond to every thread or email (I am but one man!) but I do promise that I will read all of them.

2 thoughts on “Waves² Early Access – Alpha 01 DevBlog

  1. Pingback: Sine On: Twinstick Shooter Waves² Enters Early Access | Rock, Paper, Shotgun

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