What's Next for Wavedash Games

The journey to build upon the best of Icons: Combat Arena

By: Chris Kovalik / @CAKovalik

(Above) Concept art for Vortex Rising. Shows how our game will begin by building off existing characters and combat from Icons as the narrative and game shifts to tell new stories and provide new experiences.

A second beginning: Wavedash went up for sale

For those who do not know me, I am the first investor in Wavedash Games. As we all know, Wavedash sadly shutdown operations in October 2018. I led multiple financing attempts to save it, but instead the Board of Directors arranged to sell Wavedash Games to the highest bidder.

So I said, "Screw it!" and became the highest bidder.

Through a new company I created, called Vortex, I officially bought Wavedash Games and Icons: Combat Arena in May 2019. Since then, I’ve been hard at work with two ex-Wavedash developers to continue to work on Icons: Combat Arena.

There is a new direction going forward.

We’re finally ready to share a glimpse of that direction with you all. First, let’s talk about Wavedash Games and Icons.

In hindsight, we see several clear reasons Icons: Combat Arena did not thrive:

  1. Icons spent a lot of time and energy designing a game to “win over” Smash Melee players. Instead, Icons could have tried to design a game that would appeal to a broader audience, so it wasn’t so reliant on a single demographic.

  2. Icons core differentiation was its free-to-play business model and polished netplay. It was not enough. Icons could have differentiated further with in-game experiences that cannot be found in other platform fighting games.

  3. Unappealing monetization. Icons launched lootboxes in the wake of EA’s Battlefront 2 debacle. Icons could have launched as a paid game, increased its price as new content was released and only swapped to free-to-play when it was ready to do so.

  4. Safe character design and art style. Many of Icons characters were very familiar. The art style itself was reminiscent of major gaming titles at the time it was launched. Ideally, Icons could have put more energy into defining a look it could own rather than borrow. This could have had an additional benefit of reducing the potential budget for the game.

Vortex is changing the game.

Quite literally, in this case. Going forward Icons: Combat Arena will be renamed with our working title, Vortex Rising. Beyond its name, the important points above provide a clear path forward for our team to work through for Vortex Rising.

Before the fun stuff, let’s cover the basic updates and polish in core gameplay that we continue to refine:

  • Game physics

  • Character movesets & balancing

  • Input delay & buffer (input lag reduced!)

  • Netcode quality and stability

Vortex Rising’s target first impression

We want Vortex Rising to look and feel like it offers something new to players. Apologies in advance for being vague here, but we’re not ready to share exactly what we’re doing. Instead, we are proud to share what we want Vortex Rising’s first impression to be:

  1. Collaborative and competitive core. Our online play will feature cooperative team-based gameplay. What does a 2v2 or 3v3 fighting game look like? Is it pure chaos or can it be tamed into something much more competitive? We hope to answer these questions with Vortex Rising.

  2. Unique gameplay. Our default gameplay includes beloved elements from other fighting games for the first time into a platform fighting game. We are experimenting with several risky but original ideas to push these concepts even further.

  3. A perception of being easier to learn. Tutorials, controls and core gameplay will vary in new and unique game modes to help beginners and button mashers graduate to an endless depth of advanced play. You should feel comfortable inviting a friend to play this game with you and they should feel good about being able to play alongside you.

  4. Gives you something fun to work towards. Playing should push you to want to go further, dig deeper. Watching a match should inspire you to rise to a challenge.

Be patient… sort of.

You can actually sign up to play our Alpha right now at https://www.vortexrising.com

That said, we’re a small team working part-time with limited funds. This is not a million-dollar funded studio like Wavedash was. That doesn’t mean we haven’t made a ton of progress, though!

For some features, we can work at lightspeed because we are leveraging assets created for Icons. For others, mostly involving changes to character models and animations, they’re prohibitively expensive. It’s not very intuitive how long certain game modes, changes or features will take to add into the game, but a lot can be done with our core team.

That’s ultimately why it made sense to acquire Wavedash - beyond saving something that means the world to my team and I.

If you apply for Alpha access, hopefully I see you online! We run Community Playtesting sessions three times a week on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Our Discord community has daily discussions on character, stage, and gameplay design as well as Developer Q&A Streams and Presentations on content.

Until you get in, we will be making periodic updates here.


P.S. If you want to get a little more on what's in store - leave a question below. Maybe I will answer it! You can also check out this blog post I wrote about game design: https://oh.substack.com/p/oh-how-to-make-games-people-play