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Waves. That was a very broad theme. You can take it into a lot of directions. From physical, visual, to scientific. In quantum physics all particles are just wave functions waiting to collapse.
Anyway, fortunately the game devs that came before us decided to call periodic enemy spawns as “waves”. It aligned with ideas I toyed with when I saw this year’s diversifiers listed in advance. I’ve wanted to explore swarm mechanics for a while. I tried to both scale down my scope and to give myself a creative constraint by using only one button for controls. Less to debug, right? I kept the notebook nearby for writing down to-do lists and handy sketches of some of the problems I was solving too. It really helps to some something analog to work with, not just staring at a screen for hours. The last blurbs and the theme were just last-minute additions. I thought of having just a generic radar or space theme at first. But why not go the extra mile? Brainwaves, synchronization, lots of missiles. Very much like video games and anime. I finished the whole thing early by lunchtime on Sunday.
Players’ first questions were: “So what are the controls?” And my opening line would be always: “Just the spacebar. That’s it.” I had planned it to be difficult from the beginning. Trial and error was part of the design. It was supposed to be like breaking the fourth wall as attempting to ‘synchronize’ with the AI. That didn’t really come across well from the game itself. So the first thing I would improve on is putting in a tiny tutorial. Even if it’s just tiny unobtrusive bits of text that are presented in the voice of the game. That would help immersion better. It clicked with some players, though. There were those eureka moments where they got the hang of the controls. It was great to watch. One player even coined that there was a sort of ‘rhythm’ to the game. I kind of stole that and told that to the succeeding players that arrived.
The next point someone noticed was the aesthetic. Even with the low fidelity graphics, a player said I nailed a distinctive look for the game. I was very pleased with that comment. Some people gathered from seeing others play. Those synth sounds helped a lot too, I turned them up to max. Another player asked why the other guy made it look very easy when he was watching. Speaking of being easy, I noticed that players were getting ridiculously high scores. The first build I presented was way too lenient. It’s nice to give your audience the feeling of power but not too much. On another note, I put a high score counter on top. There were hardcore players who actually stayed a while just to beat that.