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The Joystiq Indie Pitch: Waveform


Indie developers are the starving artists of the video-game world, often brilliant and innovative, but also misunderstood, underfunded and more prone to writing free-form poetry on their LiveJournals. We at Joystiq believe no one deserves to starve, and many indie developers are entitled to a fridge full of tasty, fulfilling media coverage, right here. This week, developer Ryan Vandendyck describes the beauty of a sine wave in an innovative wavelength platformer, titled Waveform. A Kickstarter for Waveform is counting down rapidly -- if you like math, space, or fun indie games, give it a look and donate to the cause!

What's your game called and what's it about?

The game is called Waveform, and you control a wave of light transmitting through space. By adjusting the wave's amplitude and wavelength, you line it up to collect objectives, avoid obstacles, and interact with a whole bunch of objects that affect the path of your wave, and the world around you, in interesting ways. It's a simple and strange concept, but a ton of fun to play. It's designed to be effortless for anyone to jump into and enjoy, but the gameplay hearkens back to old-school action games. We like to think of it as fast-paced fun distilled down to its purest form so it's fun for everybody -- those looking for a unique and interesting game to experience and those looking for a challenge.

How did the idea to play with light and dark matter come about?

Back when I started this game in 2009, I had an idea to make a game that focused around one core gameplay mechanic. And, coming from a mathematical background, I ended up thinking of what it would be like to play a game as a sine wave.

I prototyped that within a few days and found, a bit to my surprise, that it was fun manipulating a wave in a game! But I didn't really know what else I wanted the game to be about. So I started thinking about waves and figured I could either make the game about sound waves or light waves. At the time I had no musician working with me, so I didn't want to go with a highly audio-dependent design -- so I decided on light waves. From there I just started adding features and mechanics that had to do with light, and a lot of things flowed pretty easily from that decision, like adding mirrors to reflect off of, particle accelerators to boost through, and the dark matter to sap your light away. What started out as a simple doodle on a piece of paper emerged as a fun game all about wave manipulation.

What's the coolest aspect of Waveform?

Dynamically manipulating a wave as the central gameplay mechanic is the coolest aspect of Waveform. It's unique, and although it sounds a bit strange it's both a lot of fun and strangely mesmerizing. I've had people play the game and do horribly, but say they're still having a ton of fun just manipulating the wave.

Anything you'd do differently?

One thing I'd definitely do differently is put the game in front of more people more often. Every person that played the game had a unique way of looking at it and valuable feedback to contribute, and I regret how often I was toiling away on the game in relative isolation. Also making the game while working full-time at another game development company was very difficult. It had its good and bad points, but it did make development tricky.

How does working for an established company compare to indie development?

The primary difference is how many different types of responsibilities I have as an indie developer. In addition to the coding and design, which is already a hefty amount of work on its own, I have to manage a team, make the website, handle all of the business affairs, etc. At an established company, I just focus on the programming or design tasks given to me, so there's a lot less stress and pressure there. I also get paid at an established company instead of having to spend away my life savings, so there's that difference too!

Do you see yourself as part of a larger indie movement?

I feel like I'm beginning to join the larger indie movement. Coming from an industry background I was used to a sense of isolation and secrecy from other people, so for a long time I just slaved away on my own. But I'm starting to reach out to other indies and the community and I hope to continue to get more involved! I've recently started blogging about the game's development, and my experience working on it while working full-time in the industry, and I'm hoping that sharing the story of Waveform will help us form our identity within the larger indie movement and in the minds of all the fans of indie games out there.

Describe some highlights (or lowlights) of pitching a new game to independent festivals or collections.

Well the highlight is being able to wrap up your game in a fun little package and show it off to the world. The versions of the games we've sent to festivals or collections were very stable and polished, since we wanted to make sure they made a good impression. We also used these to show to other people to get feedback as well, which was a valuable experience.

The lowlight is all the work that goes into making those stable, polished versions of the game. It's usually at least a week of work to create a demo experience out of the game and make sure there aren't any bugs there that hinder the experience. And although some of that work does pay off in the long run, like bug fixing and polish, a lot of it ends up unusable in the final product and represents some wasted work.

Sell Waveform in one sentence:

Control a wave of light transmitting through space in a totally unique game experience -- modify its wavelength and amplitude to restore light to a dying galaxy!

What's next?

Our Kickstarter project is going on now, so that's our primary focus at the time being. But we're targeting a February 2012 release of Waveform, so that's the next big upcoming milestone. After that it's my plan to support Waveform in a variety of ways after release. We have some new level packs we're hoping to make following the launch of the game, and actually a number of spin-off game experiences as well. Because of Waveform's uniqueness, there are a lot of gameplay possibilities that would work well in the game but were not included in order to focus on refining the core experience. But since we've already put in the work to make a robust engine, the plan is to create some spin-off games that take the gameplay in a new direction while still focusing on the core idea of manipulating a wave.

Waveform needs some love -- jump on its Kickstarter page to help get this game finished. Time is ticking!

If you'd like to have your own shot at converting our readers into fans, email jess [at] joystiq [dawt] com, subject line "The Joystiq Indie Pitch." Still haven't had enough? Check out the Pitch archives.

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