Waves² Alpha 4 – What is it?

Alpha 3 has had it’s final patch today bringing the total number of Items up to 36 and thee total number of Item combinations to 46,656 (not counting the ways you can distribute the Upgrade points which I don’t know how to calculate but is immense).
That means I’ve started working on the Alpha 4 update today and wanted you all to know what’s going to be in store.

Now as a quick aside I’d like to mention that there is a backstory of a sort to Waves² it’s just never really been a prominent part of the game. The idea is that the game itself is an operating system used by hackers to navigate Cyberspace. That’s why enemies are called Bugs and Viruses and why every Arena that gets generated expresses it’s seed value as an IP address (that plus they are much shorter and easier to remember than 32bit integers).

In GRID mode you are hired by a Corporation to perform acts of Cyber Espionage and Sabotage on one of their Competitors. It’s completely illegal and if you get caught you get hung out to dry by your benefactors. The GRID itself represents a Mega-Corporations mainframe within which is a Core server you are trying to access, loot and crash.

I’m trying to move the game mechanics and terminology towards expressing this backstory more fully and for that to happen the GRID needs to change.

It’s About Game Modes

Currently there are 5 Game modes both in Arcade and populating the GRID. Authoring a Game Mode is pretty easy from a technical point of view but there is a big difference between creating a Mode that works well in Arcade and a Mode that works well in GRID. In fact I’d argue that none of the Arcade Modes work well in GRID.

GRID is supposed to be about completing objectives rather than chasing high scores, it’s intended for those players who want more of a content driven experience (think Binding of Isaac or Gungeon) rather than those who want a mastery driven one (IE Waves). GRID is also supposed to be about Procedurally generated content and currently isn’t really delivering on that idea.

So here are my goals for making GRID more of it’s own thing:

  • Exploring the GRID should be more like playing a Roguelike.
  • GRID Game Modes have a Primary Objective. Completing the Primary Objective “Wins” the Node and ends the round.
  • GRID Game Modes have several Secondary Objectives. Completing these will reward bonuses. These are similar to the objectives in GRID now.
  • GRID Game Modes will be procedurally generated from “Rules” modules (I’ll explain further down).

Going over each of these points in order then…

More Like a Roguelike

Currently after every game on the GRID you get sent to a game over screen and then back to the GRID menu. In the future you will instead have the option to either attempt one of the unlocked Nodes adjacent to the Node you just played or to “Disconnect” and return to the menu.

Going back to the menu is essentially “Returning to Town” and you will be able to buy Items, change your Loadout and resume playing from any Node that you have unlocked. Continuing on however will allow you to retain your current Level while Returning will reset it. The time it takes to Level Up in GRID mode will be much higher than in Arcade mode.

There will be multiple levels with the “Stairs” down guarded by Bosses (Bosses have always been on my list of things to do) and the difficulty of the GRID will be increased as you descend.

Primary Objectives

Primary Objectives are conceptually “Missions” or “Jobs” from your benefactor. Completing these will unlock some of the surrounding Nodes in the GRID. Completing a Primary Objective will always end the current round and send you to a summary/navigation screen where you can choose to Return, Continue or Retry.

Primary Objectives might be very simple such as Surviving for 3 minutes, defeating a number of Waves of enemies or killing a specific enemy. They may also be more complex such as trying to Upload a Virus or Steal Data.

Regardless of the specifics all GRID Game Modes have an ending condition to them which is unlike Arcade modes. Primary Objectives also bring with them failure conditions (such as losing a life, taking too long or failing to defend a macguffin). Triggering a failure condition will also end the round.

Secondry Objectives

Secondary Objectives aren’t visible to you the first time you play a Node. Once you complete the Primary Objective they will become visible on a Node and you can go back and try to complete them. If you happen to complete them by accident on your first attempt then they will be revealed right away.

These are essentially what is in place right now. Completing these will yield rewards called Scripts (one use items) which can be used to perform various tasks such as re-roll a Node, Identify the Node (revealing the Objectives and any secret information about it), Reveal the Boss Node and other such tasks.

Rules Modules

Rules Modules are modifiers to the base gameplay of Waves. These make up what defines a game mode.

As an example let’s break Rush down into it’s Rules Modules as it would exist under the new system…

  • Lives – infinite
  • Time Limit – 60 seconds
  • On Death -10 Seconds
  • On Level Up +10 Seconds
  • On Cube Kill +30 Seconds
  • Cubes Spawn every 60 Seconds.
  • End Condition – Time Limit Expires.

Currently all of this is defined in a single object and is inseperable from each other. By breaking all of this down into it’s discrete parts they can then be re-assembled more easily into new game modes. Ultimately I imagine there will be dozens of these modules which can be combined in new interesting ways and it may take a while to tune the algorithm so that it’s not generating impossible to complete game modes. It may even open up the possibilty of allowing players to combine modules to create their own game modes which can be shared on the forums (however that is not within the scope of Alpha4).

The First Step

So where do I go from here? Well my first step will be refactoring all of the Game Mode code so that it can support the Rules Modules method of working and then recreating the existing Game Modes within that frame-work. That shouldn’t result in any noticeable changes to the game and will probably be part of a Alpha 3 patch at some point in the future.

Once that’s done I’m going to focus on re-working the GRID UI and game flow to better represent the desired Exploration game play.