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Show HN: Airmash – Multiplayer Missile Warfare HTML5 Game (airma.sh)
1535 points by fivesigma on Dec 10, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 304 comments

I opened this game in an incognito tab. And started dev tools. The entire game is only 2.8 MB. It loads fast. Such graphics, much small. A lesson for modern web developers about website obesity and performance.

Yes, also the immediacy of experience. No signup, no prompts or forms, no friction. Just one click and you’re immersed in the action.

When companies clutter first experience with legal disclaimers, signup offers, and every other thing, I wonder if they are always carefully balancing the competing interests of business and product design as a big picture weighing everything together.

To the extent they do that’s great, but it seems sometimes its a lawyer trying to do and think only of their job, a marketing person only thinking of their job, sales only thinking about revenue, rather than globally optimized decision.

And developers only thinking about the development experience. In my next project I'm going to monitor the gzipped size of my deployed site as part of continuous integration.

npm bundlesize might help you: https://github.com/siddharthkp/bundlesize

This is what gets me... here's a dependency to reduce the size of your dependencies. I understand that it's useful, but at what point enough?

It is a development dependency though. So it does not get included in the final bundle at all.

I mean this is nice but it's really not a lesson for web developers. The fact that this is 2.8mb doesn't really teach a web developer any lessons, unless you think that large website payloads exist because developers are literally too lazy or don't know how asset optimization works.

Instead, having worked in web development, I know that website payload size is often driven by having to include vendored javascript for business reasons (analytics and social are big culprits) or because your boss doesn't give you the time to focus on performance because for the business, it is good enough and they want to use their limited web development resources to do something other than shrinking javascript payloads.

Another thing, you're impressed by the graphics and how the developer was able to include them while keeping the payload small. It seems to be made using vectors and particle effects. Both of these techniques are not heavy in terms of payload. Shaders and particle effects are generally very small amounts of code. Think about how this is different for a website that heavily relies on all sorts of user-generated content: jpgs, mp4, gif, png, etc. Much larger assets than a few shaders and svg.

>unless you think that large website payloads exist because developers are literally too lazy or don't know how asset optimization works.

For what it's worth, I do think this. It's easy to just drag another JS library into your code without thinking of how long it's going to take to load.

I don't know what to tell you if you're convinced that's the problem. I know and work with many web developers who do care about performance. I follow the blogs of many web developers who write about performance.

I don't doubt that there are junior web developers who don't know much better. But I don't really meet anyone who says that they just don't care about performance.

Caring about performance means weighing the decision carefully when choosing vendor libraries that fill up your payload. You can consciously care about performance but still be negligent to the things that affect it.

I see competent devs reach for libraries all the time when a simple solution already exists within the language. It's easy to feel like you're doing the right thing by not reinventing the wheel.

Areas I see this happening a lot in are anything dealing with file systems, HTTP request/responses, database connections, DOM/string manipulation/parsing/validation. The common theme among all these things is usually a lack of understanding of what the library/package does well enough to implement the specific use case needed.

Let me just point out that you can care deeply about performance and still lack the skills to achieve it.

Yes, I agreed with you in my post.

> I don't doubt that there are junior web developers who don't know much better.

I just think it's very... puritanical the way that people bemoan the state of websites as a personal failing of web developers as a profession rather than the a result of what kind of deliverables their employers care about and are willing to pay for.

Whenever I see the term "web developers" in this context, I'm assuming it means all of the decisions they make given the requirements and inputs from others in the business.

I think the web is currently terrible and I think modern web-development is to blame, but that includes the people behind the web-devs making the decisions that are being pushed onto the web-devs.

There are a lot of things to blame for the current state of the web, but ultimately the current practice of web-development (and whatever behind-the-scenes processes that involves) is clearly the biggest reason why.

See in my mind that’s like blaming construction workers for condos built quickly with shoddy materials. I don’t choose the materials I work with most of the time. I have worked on maybe one greenfield application in my entire life. It was really small and performed well. Everything else has been making the best out of bad decisions made by other people.

I agree that it isn't fair, but that's also just how it goes. I get blamed all the time for poor decisions made by my group, even if I agree that they are poor decisions.

Website payload is easily measurable (it is probably the most easily measurable factor), and optimizing it is attractive to developers. That doesn't mean it is the most important factor, much less the only important aspect of development.

Rather than "lazy" or "don't know", how about:

- it's fast enough

- have other priorities (security, stability, usability, functionality)

- optimize developer time


> it's fast enough

It's fast enough for people with as good computers and Internet connections as me, who are also employed at the same company as I am, and so do not use anything but the product on their computer at the same time.

> optimize developer time

Saving 1h for a developer for each 30min wasted over the lifetime of the application * number of users. Yeah, that scales right. Electricity is free too.

So you're writing all your web applications in hand-optimized assembly language? respect

If improving performance is not a significant concern to your customers or benefit to you, further optimizing performance should probably not be a significant concern for you.

Your time is the least scalable thing you've got - you're not getting any more of it.

No, of course not. I just try to write code in a performant way the first time around[0] - it's usually more than enough.

The problem here is lack of effective feedback on the market. You may be writing your application totally bloated, and due to the nature of software, you might not notice any significant impact on your business. It turns out that your application may be lagging just enough to make it unusable for the 1% of your userbase that has shitty connection... that's basically an accessibility problem.

But then that "accessibility problem" actually impacts your customers too, just not in a way most of them can tie back to you. It's your app, plus that other app, plus that third app, and suddenly their stupidly powerful[1] computer becomes sluggish, and they can't get any work done.

Performance is commons. Unless you're writing bare-metal embedded, your software is not running alone on the machine. By producing bloated code, you're implicitly taking away your users' productivity beyond what you could with little extra care. It's something that I try to keep in mind when writing software, too.

(Also, RE developer time tradeoff - people seem to not appreciate how software scales. If you save 100 man hours of development time at the expense of 1h per user over their whole use of the application, with 1M user you just wasted the world 1Mh - 100h = 999.9k man hours. Something to keep in mind, too.)

Related: http://idlewords.com/talks/website_obesity.htm.


[0] - It's usually entirely possible to write code both fast and clean, if you don't overdo abstractions. As a bonus, the code is usually simple.

[1] - Compared to what they had 5 years ago. User-facing software seems to be not gaining useful features, but rather constantly losing them. And yet it becomes only ever slower, for no actually good reason, just accumulation of bloat at every level of the stack.

So is there any situation where you would say that the gains from performance optimization are marginal?

Also, you fail to consider the opportunity cost of developer time. It's not free. Your business needs you to do other things. Also, like GP said, there are factors to performance beyond payload size. Do you actually develop web applications for a job where someone else decides the priorities?

> So is there any situation where you would say that the gains from performance optimization are marginal?

Yes! But the current trends around software - and in particular web stuff, both in-browser and in-browser-but-pretending-to-be-native - very, very far from that point.

Look, I know that business has its priorities. But I have a right to dislike a business based on its priorities, and I believe chasing ultra-short-term gains by resorting to shitty engineering is a bad thing, and I do avoid using products of such companies, and I do call it out when I see it. Ultimately, business priorities are determined by the market, and I'm doing what little I can to create market pressures towards user-respecting solutions.

And yes, I've been doing webdev as a regular employee, and I always pushed against both needless inefficiency and user-hostile "features", with quite a good success.

We're on the same side. The difference is that I see most developers to essentially be like me: wanting and knowing how to do the right thing, arguing with their Bosses and PMs, but still failing to get performance to be as big a priority as they'd like. You seem to think that since you care and have been able to deliver the kind of performance you want, that other people must not be trying hard enough or know how to write well-performing apps.

Maybe you can share some advice about how you get your boss or PM to care about performance. Because I've tried your arguments, and it's not like by explaining the amortized cost of performance I'll get an extra week or sprint to improve performance.

If you balance pay vs. skill and the rarity of such an incredible web game...things are quite the way they should be. Reality. No one is going to pay an average web developer to care that much because they themselves do not care enough to invest in the talent or the time involved.

Even if you're a great developer, you might not be getting paid to care about performance. If "loads fast" is not a deliverable your employer cares about, they are not going to give you the time or budget to care about performance. Think of how many websites, especially for marketing purposes, are built by contractors who are getting tasked with making shiny, asset heavy websites that look good on the nice macbooks of businesses paying them. I've never seen a heard a client say "oh and make sure the page loads in under 2s" to be honest.

When you're talking about code written for hire, you have to separate the developer's priorities/cares from the company's. There are many, MANY companies that do not care about performance or quality, where good enough means "At least won't actively enrage customers." These companies sometimes hire individual developers who do care about performance and quality. But if you're Third Developer From The Left on Project 123, what you personally care about is irrelevant.

This is one of the reasons I got out of actually writing software as a profession. My interests as a developer rarely aligned with my employers' business goals. I got tired of the whole "Cram features as fast as you can, quality be damned" mode of development and bailed.

I'm increasingly feeling the same frustration with the industry. What do you do nowadays, if I may ask?

Still in software, but I've been bouncing back and forth between product management and project management. I feel these roles (esp. Product) better allow one to "set the tone" on the priorities, compared to the individual engineer role. I can focus on what is the business case for undertaking engineering activities, manage risk, and help management balance features vs. quality. Suits me better. If I want to code I do it at home on my personal projects 100% on my own terms.

Yes, thank you. I suspect all of these people complaining about the size of web pages don't actually work as web developers. Especially because they think the only aspect of performance that matters is payload size.

facebook takes 25s to fully load

Not on any of my devices. And time until “fully loaded” is just one piece of the performance pie.

This is true for the sites, however then it's the vendors who are then lazy and put out bloated packages, which is much worse since they have an outsized impact on all the sites they're included on.

Yes. Not only that, it's the cumulative effect of having to include tags from so many vendors.


Commenting like this will get your account banned, so please don't.


Am I horribly out of touch to think that 2.8 MB seems big for this level of complexity? I'm not saying every web game needs to be a js1k, but that's roughly the size of a well-above-average SNES or Genesis game (e.g. Super Metroid or Phantasy Star IV).

Yes, but that's what the world without Flash games looks like. :)

As an obesity geneticist, I fully approve of your invention of this term! LOL

Haha. This term is quite old actually.


> 2.8MB

> small

> website obesity

Phis is not a website, but my throttled phone connection disagrees either way.

Please have a look at js1k. Or go directly to size coding, e.g. .kkrieger, which is a FSP game techdemo in 96kb, see https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14409210

This is the kind of gaming experience I'm hoping webassembly will bring. No installation, just visit a website and play.

Why do you need webassembly for that, since this game already works great right now?

So that you can write in something saner than JavaScript, for starters.

You can already compile C/C++ (and I think Rust) to JavaScript via Emscripten.

Yes, you can use Emscripten with Rust.

For more CPU demanding games, that is. Like AAA games.

Isn't that the gaming experience Flash already brought?

You had to install Flash though.

It was really nice to see browsers simply incorporate slow but steadily all the APIs that made Flash worth its plugin install (canvas, opengl, webaudio, input devices, sockets). Instead of battling head on with it they simply made it pointless since you now have the same capabilities inside the engine.

> You had to install Flash

That's a choice by the browser, just like wasm.

Gameplay feedback:

  Mohawk (helicopter) and Prowler (stealthy) don't seem worth it.
The helicopter dies from a single stray rocket, random spam and attacks from behind. Alt+arrow for strafe worked in DooM because field of view always pointed away from the player. Here, strafing is hard to get used to. Since there are already 2 keys for ability, why not make one of them "strafe left" and the other "strafe right" ? Also, because helicopter lacks a clear point, it's harder to aim.

Stealthy Prowler is very slow and not especially fun to play. To the point that only effective way to play is to cloak after every rocket fired. You crawl towards a victim, then shoot at close range, then recloak. Visual notification is quite subtle, there's no sound and you end up mashing the ability key never quite sure if it already worked. So it kinda works against newbies... but sneak attacks are also effective with Goliath (the fat one) and Tornado (multifire). So I don't see the point. And here's the kicker: advanced players see it because they play (and aim!) by radar. This is an issue when fighting away from the crowd.

Thoughts on upgrades: - I would appreciate a kind of "laser sight" upgrade. Each level would render a laser line in front of your plane, and the line would get longer with levels.

I agree on Mohawk. Mohawk would be more worth it if score degraded a little more slowly. As it exists, Mohawk is a one-way ticket to the bottom of the scoreboard because it's so difficult to stay alive. (By the way, if you're reading and didn't realize, you can select any other ship any time. The buttons look disabled but they aren't.)

Prowler is awesome against the Goliath. So, so good. In fact, I'd say the Prowler is the Goliath's main counter, and when I lasted ~15min at #1 in a Goliath, it was a skilled Prowler that finally started annoying me, made me start missing my deflects, and knocked me off my balance. I was thinking the Goliath is unnecessarily OP, but the Prowler handles it. (Smart Prowler pilots: go stalk Goliaths.) Might OP the Prowler, but making it shoot a spread like the Tornado might turn the Prowler into basically an instant-backstab Rogue. Now that I've typed that, yeah, that'd be OP, don't do that.

This game is heavily influenced by Subspace/Continuum, and it's fairly obvious. I could even tell which ship mapped to which fighter in this, and I appreciated how well my skill transferred. My main annoyance was that score drop. I maintained about a 5:1 KD across 500 kills and regularly flopped from #1 to #25 to #2 to #30, because the score you lose on death is a little imbalanced. A few deaths in a row and you can lose 10-15 places, which seems a little rapid. Maybe knock a little off that multiplier on death, but leave the killer's score gain alone? The only way to stay near the top is not die, which makes sense since it's called a bounty, I suppose. Still rough.

Other random feedback to the author: Inferno needs a buff. That speed penalty hurts and is a pretty rapid way to die -- I noticed I was avoiding it as I played. Most of the power-ups and abilities could stand to last quite a bit longer, too. And spawners could really use a lockout on shooting for the same duration as their protective shield; you can spawn in, immediately press spacebar, and probably get a kill on a surprised person who happened to float through where you pop up with no chance to avoid.

Great game, though, I didn't expect to get sucked into a browser game for three hours. I'll be playing it again.

Tip I didn't realize until a long way in: 1, 2, 3, 4 map to upgrades. I was the idiot using the mouse.

I think the rapid score moves are psychologically useful. For every person who slides rapidly downwards on a few unlucky hits, there's another who gets a few good shots, shoots up the board, and thinks "hey, I'm actually not bad at this!" which might make them more likely to stick around.

Mohawk is strong on the side, spraying continuously. If they can be flanked its game over (tho a good player can reposition). I didn't play CTF though.

Prowler is not very good against Goliath because the Goliath can deflect, and its deflect ability unstealths the Prowler. Only a Goliath who has bad reflexes and goes in a straight line gets hosed. And one rocket doesn't kill the Goliath. And as soon as they know Prowler is on them, they're on their toes.

Even in a FFA game a Goliath is easy to take, but only once they unloaded their energy bar or took a few hits. Other players can help with that, consciously or not. And if the Goliath has a large bounty on their head, it is in their interest to help. FFA isn't literally FFA all the time. Sometimes interests align. The bounty system aids that, and its fun. K/D ratio is the real, publicly hidden score.

As a player you should avoid being near the spawn points. You learn where they are after a while. Planes always spawn facing north.

I find the Goliath simple to take down with a Prowler. Even when they discover you, you're close enough to fire. Even with a skilled player as long as you're not directly in his line of fire you're safe.

Then you played against bad Goliaths. You get slowly to them, and you don't one shot them. If they don't go in a steady line either (which they shouldn't and wouldn't if they knew enemy was around), then you won't kill them. When I played Goliath, Prowlers weren't my concern. My concern was resource starve or multiple vs 1 (the former usually due to the latter). A Prowler is great to one shot others; damaged airplanes and Mohawk. You don't easily one shot a Goliath. Not in the least w/o external help.

it doesn't matter what direction you're in. That first shot is a surprise attack. Immediately cloak and turn, and ram it two more times the same way, and he's dead. He can decloak you, but it won't stop you. Sometimes you get unlucky and the missile flips, but not often.

Ah, you got unlucky. Yeah whenever I read "lucky" or "unlucky" in gaming I frown. Its a self deception to deal with the painful truth that you didn't play good enough.

That wasn't luck; that was skill. They reacted to your missile. Either you're in range of him and he can decloak you, or he has enough time to deflect, or is resource starved due to bad play or overburdened from you (unlikely given you're Prowler) or others (bingo), or he is actually not moving in a straight line which he shouldn't (a premise you ignored thus far). Especially not if you just rammed it already, or if you kept killing them. Like, hello anticipation? Heck, if you kept killing them then they shouldn't stick to Goliath.

I found the Mohawk much more suitable to kill Goliath. He can't deflect all the missiles, and if he does its just a matter of avoiding him enough. As long as you can aim you'll deplete his resources way faster than any other airplane can. I found it great in CTF (though not in FFA; although FFA doesn't interest me as much as CTF). I find FFA unrewarding because you can't compete on K/D radio and there doesn't seem to be some kind of goal (the bounty # just dampens your K/D ratio and seems to be have the purpose of a recent scoreboard). To me, FFA is practice for CTF/BTR. Ironically, a good enemy of Mohawk is a skilled Prowler who can anticipate movement and aim. Didn't see many of those around though.

Another observation is that the Mohawk is great to spray with the flame buff.

Its also funny how much more defensive people play in BTR. If they put in that effort during CTF and FFA I'd have a way more difficult time.

Were you BeatDaddy on the Euro server? I was zkdbnz.

Reason I bring this up is to back up this point with a caveat: a skilled Prowler pilot is able to solo take down a Goliath only if the Prowler is faster (with upgrades).

On the EU server, the meta was missile spam fest over Europe. So I took the stealth ship to the North Atlantic and Arctic Ocean. There, the playstyle of the Prowler is one of patience.

Your first goal is to never die. Period. This is how I was able to be consistently top 4, and off-and-on #1 on the server depending on the other players's fluctuations.

The second objective is one of cowardice. You are paper thin. One hit will decloak you and worse, you are so low health that a single helicopter missile will finish you off. This means the playstyle is to find a handful of jet pilots that are dogfighting. Be close enough to them you can zip in, but far enough away you are still on the outskirts. This means you have to learn to be incredibly agile dodging missiles and learn how to read dogfights, which takes practice. It also means no one else gets to see your skills doing this, and therefore will assume you are a shitty pilot.

The third rule is one of ruthlessness. As soon as one of the dogfighters is damaged, swoop in on top of them and fire right before you pass over them. This takes timing so you don't run into other missiles (rule #1). The reason for this is because you do have 1 shot before you have to flee and re-stealth. But the other reason is for the surprise factor and hiding amongst the explosion (if you hit your target). It buys you precious milliseconds to re-stealth.

With this playstyle I rarely died, and went after the top dogfighters over Africa: k, jj, test, qjp (?). After a couple of pickoffs and being told to fly a real plane, I sat near the top of the score board regardless of fluctuations.

That is, until BeatDaddy came along. A Goliath pilot of great skill, he took out most challengers. However, as a Prowler I was able to almost solo him until jj out of the blue took my kill. So I killed JJ. :)

The strategy is simple. Only shoot the Goliath from the sides or back (avoiding the big missile) and only when in range of the AoE effect. Why? You want to force the Goliath pilot to waste their energy spamming the AoE. You have time on your side, you can hit them once every 10 seconds or so and still whittle them down because of the slow Regen.

But beware, big missile is 1 hit kill!

I never was able to fully solo BeatDaddy, as once I lost my upgrades from an unrelated death the Prowler cannot tackle a more upgraded Goliath.

For Goliaths the optimal strategy I found was to tail them and wait until they ran into some trouble on the front end. Its easier to make it a pack kill. Wait for a moment of weakness and then finish it off.

In general the optimal strategy seems to be sniping. Stay on the edges of the map (N. Europe, mid Africa) and then sweep in to more highly trafficked areas and pump in missiles. If you are ever hit retreat immediately until you recover your health. That's a pretty low risk way to stay at the top of the leaderboard.

JJ here, that was a nice skirmish, well done on the stealth kills.

Thanks, had a lot of fun! Hope you did too.

You should definitely get a proper plane ;). k

> Your first goal is to never die. Period.

> The second objective is one of cowardice.

Those should be your goals in BTR and perhaps also in FFA (with less punishment so requires more discipline). If you find yourself unable to follow this playstyle I recommend trying out BTR for a while and apply the lessons from adapting your playstyle there on FFA. But FFA is just warming up for CTF/BTR IMO.

The reason why I quoted this is that it is untrue in CTF. Cowardice doesn't yield you the flag in CTF so you need some people on offensive. How many? That depends how good your defensive holds as well as how good you're at intercepting (f.e. I like to switch to Predator when I want to intercept). In CTF, the strategy you mentioned allows for a strong long term solution because defending is much easier than offending. But sometimes you need to sacrifice yourself for the team, or you need to attack (which puts a massive crosshair on you). Getting a lot of kills (and pretty much therefore upgrades) isn't difficult whilst you're not going for the flag. Also, if you're escorting the flag carrier your first goal isn't you not dying; its them carrying the flag to safety. There are some tactics like spraying and stopping the enemy with distractions but that won't stop players who have strategic oversight. At best you're a nuisance to them; that could be your goal.

The Mohawk (helicopter) is great in CTF because of its speed and because it can put pressure on key points, and its a strong contender versus stationary and slow. Strafing required some practice but eventually you will get the hang of it. Its sometimes a bit "YOLO", like for example flying through explosions where I am not entirely sure if its friendly missiles or not. Then I end up with say an upgrade, but I wasn't sure it was safe. I took quite some risks grabbing some upgrades. Defensive upgrade can safe you there. Another thing to remember with Mohawk is that Prowler can be seen on radar and they cannot keep up with you if you don't want them to. If you can strafe and spray and be a bit unpredictable with your movement you can give other players a hard time aiming (although I found many people to be rather terrible with aiming).

> I never was able to fully solo BeatDaddy, as once I lost my upgrades from an unrelated death the Prowler cannot tackle a more upgraded Goliath.

That's because the Prowler isn't that great against a Goliath; it is good to snipe one shot kills.

I found the best recipe in non-CTF for Goliath is to ignore them. The Goliath players are constantly playing "you can't kill me nanana". True, I can't, but you can't kill me either in my Prowler/Mohawk/Predator/Tornado and even Goliath itself. Instead of seeing them as a target you want to kill, see them as something which is out there to lure you to beat them in tennis or (ping) pong where they have an easy time to bounce all your balls back. Yet if you don't play, you can't lose, and meanwhile you can win from all the other players and they (the Goliath players) can't beat you either. If more people would do this, it gets very boring for the Goliath players. That's when you read in chat "I'm at the Canary Islands come and get me". I'm still chuckling on that one. You just know he's bottomfeeding from noobs who go for the "challenge", to grab some upgrades.

That's for FFA. That doesn't work in BTR though. BTR makes for a very boring Goliath matches IMO. In CTF, Goliath is very weak IMO. I don't see the point. Its very slow, it can't easily build up upgrades, and it can't troll/lure. It can sit on a chokepoint but then there's other stronger contenders. Only thing is 2 or 3 of them I couldn't get past when they were defending. Cause I couldn't kill them and they shot me. But that was me soloing on offensive versus 5 people on defensive. Some good Tornado players were also able to kill me. And in the end I did get past.

I don't agree Prowler is good against Goliaths. Even if you find one that stays on the edge of the crowd and doesn't use radar, it takes so long to kill a G because of your poor damage potential. It's easy for another player to swoop in and steal your kill. And it only gets worse as Goliath upgrades Defense, Speed, and Energy.

Prowler is even better against Mohawk, especially those staying on the edge. One shot, one kill, they don't see it coming.

I was playing Goliath last night (boop, FFA) and both of these craft do have their uses - they're actually far more worrisome to the Goliath than a Predator or Tornado.

The Prowlers are great at whittling down a Goliath and otherwise being a psychological nuisance; while there is some counterplay involved a lot of it comes down to a mixture of luck and intuition.

The Mowhawks are just downright nightmares over open water. They fire much faster than you can deflect, can maintain enough range to avoid the missiles you do deflect, won't die outright to one of their own missiles you've deflected, and will often outrun your missiles. In open waters they should win a 1v1 situation through overwhelming bullet hell mechanics; your best bet is to take them into mountains where you can limit their movement advantage.

I do think it would be interesting if each craft had its own upgrade line, but I imagine that'd muck with being able to change frames during gameplay.

I really enjoyed this, primarily playing as the Tornado.

The main issue I had with the game was trying to get to spectator mode - it was a very short amount of time between respawns which was great, but hard to actually hit when trying. I'd suggest either or both of a hotkey to enter spectator mode, or a button to spectate after next death.

To me it seems like Goliath becomes way stronger than any other ship once you have a lot of upgrades. Basically impossible to kill someone playing it safe with a max upgraded Goliath

Upgrades are designed in such way that Goliath benefits from them more than other aircraft.

Defense: +5% per upgrade. Goliath gains the most, while a Mohawk (helicopter) with 2 Defense upgrades blows up from a single Predator (default) missile. But you still need those 3 or 4 defense upgrades to survive a stray missile, or more importantly - a Prowler.

Speed: extra speed is not much needed on already fast aircraft, sight distance is limited and human reaction is limited.

Energy: it lets Goliath deflect and shoot more often. Others are not as energy intensive.

Goliath is strong, and I haven't seen a very good player playing it (I was leading the list with it for some time). But I think a Mohawk (helicopter) player would eat it whole. Mohawk has high rate of fire so reflecting missiles isn't much use. It's also fast and its missiles are fast, so it should be like shooting a fish in the barrel. Oh, and you can strafe!

Impossible 1-on-1, maybe. Bring friends/enemies and a Goliath goes down quick, especially if you can time your shots as the Goliath is deflecting someone else's.

If it takes multiple attackers to reliably bring down one Goliath, that's clearly overpowered.

It doesn't. You can take it down fairly easily with the prowler. Takes about 3 shots. The prowler easily takes out Goliaths and Mohawks. It's a great unit.

The Tornado (3 missile) can take one out if the shots are well timed, i.e. waiting for other players to attack and it uses a number of deflects.

Another upgrade idea: anti-missile system. Rather than destroying, slowing or deflecting missiles, it would draw a vector in front of each missile as it gets close to you. Higher level could warn you earlier and draw more useful vectors.

The prowler can be very useful in CTF. Nevertheless, I think it should be faster when its not cloaked ;-)

Actually I think all aircrafts could use a a little bit more speed.

I'd be happy with more turn speed on all aircraft. Or maybe dual-stick control. :]

Helicopter all day! That fire rate is so good! To each their own :)

Ya. Just spam attach in a straight line to wipe out everyone in your path.

while I agree about the prowler, i was holding #1 for a solid hour or two in the mohawk. It takes some strategy (mostly about orienting yourself north frequently), but it still is useful. I agree, if POV could be toggled to follow, it would be really solid. also, leveling up defense makes it suck less.

"orienting yourself to face north" is not a strategy, it's an interface deficiency. Yes, it would really help if viewport rotated with your aircraft !

The prowler is one of my favorites. Can take out a goliath or mohawk easily. The other units usually need assistance to destroy.

Request: a campaign mode where you download my cities' map and let me flyover and protect it from inbound hordes. Maybe let me network with other players in my city to coordinate defence or watch our neighbourhoods burn!

This is incredible! Were you a Subspace Continuum player? The similarities are many and my (albeit not great) skills translate right over. Although discrete life/weapon energy removes some of the 1v1 strategy, it doesn't feel lacking at all. Dogfighting is a lot of fun, lots of generally pleasant players in from HN. Love it! Wasted hours grinding level 4 but the rainbow flag was worth it so I can dominate with flair :D

This. Is. Ace! Thank you!

Callsign: tseug

If (s)he isn't a Continuum player, I would be astounded. The default ship is pretty much the Warbird without a bullet. It handles like... identically.

To the developer, if you want another, I develop another popular online game (TagPro) and I desperately want to help you make this a bigger game. This has incredible potential, and it mirrors a game I've been developing for like a year. I haven't had this much fun with a webgame in a long time.

Feel free to email me, my email is in my profile

TagPro is amazing, thanks for developing it! I love games with such simple controls and goals that lead to emergent strategies.

[0] http://tagpro.koalabeast.com/

I'm glad you like it! I've taken a leave of absence because my IRL situation has become intense, but I'll definitely be going back. If you like the particle effects, that's my doing. If you don't, well, blame LuckySpammer.

I started building a lil thing inspired by Continuum: https://github.com/danneu/p2-space-arena

Never did much game dev before but it gave me a lot of respect for people who can build one. It would probably take me a year just to figure out lag compensation.

I'm amazed by how well this works on mobile. I literally played this game for about half an hour on my phone in the HN app web view because it's just so much fun. I'm used to normal web pages that don't even really work on mobile and this game just worked seamlessly without any problems whatsoever. Great Job!

Meanwhile, I tried 3 different browsers and can't get past the "enter your name" screen on mobile. Apparently native inputs are too dated to use.

Admittedly mobile was a bit of an afterthought and I only tested it on 4 devices. What device are you using?

iOS 8.1.2 model A1532. I don't upgrade because it will slow down my phone.

Probably not worth supporting. :) Adding new features and figuring out ways to keep people playing might be much more worth your time.

It says, right on the mobile mode interstitial, that it "requires the latest mobile/tablet hardware." And yet, you seem surprised when it doesn't work on older hardware?

> Probably not worth supporting.

I was going to disagree because the same countries that really like web games are often the ones using older handsets, but Apple themselves say only 8% of handsets are on iOS < v10: https://developer.apple.com/support/app-store/

1 in 10 handsets isn't a market you want?

Even at it's peak apple only had 23% market share. 1 in 10 out of 23% is 2.3% and not everyone plays this game on a phone so the percentage is even lower in reality.

Not this game but in general.

Good point about market share though, hadn't considered that.

Worked fine on my aging Nexus 5X.

Aging?! Worked fine on my S4!

Works fine on the iPhone 6 running iOS 11

you're doing something wrong

Kind of reminds me of SubSpace. I think, it has been a very long time since I've played it.

Yup, pretty much same mechanics.

The netcode in subspace was a bit better, probably due to needing to deal with 200ms+ pings that were common back in that era.

Thought the same exact thing. Whatever happened to SubSpace?


Subspace Continuum is an anti-hacking fork released in 2001 (Subspace was released in '95) and is now the only official version of the game.

It's still alive, to some extent. Priit Kasesalu (of Skyroads, Kazaa and Skype fame) wrote an alternative client back in 2001: Continuum. Some of the bigger servers (EG, TW) are still around. Many of the smaller ones like SFSS have long since perished.

Yes! Loved that game. You could mount each other and create the almighty LevTerr. I wonder if it's still alive

Trench Wars zone is still alive and you can play the game. Though there are always the same <100 players around: http://www.subspace.tw/

This really is an addictive game and the attention to detail is amazing. As a web developer myself, I'm quite familiar with building a typical web application but nothing close to this. If you ever decide to write a piece explaining how you built this at the high level, peeps like myself will find it extremely valuable.

Reminds me of `Raptor: Call of the Shadows`: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j19rc8YB3sY

Plenty of nostalgia there as that was the first computer game I ever played and a classic from the 90s.

Swear I used to play that on my dads amiga - good times.

Same here! Played it on my dad's old black and white display AST laptop :-)

That was a lot of fun! One quick request - can the level-up popup not appear square in the middle of the screen? That can be a real problem if you happen to level while you're in the middle of a fight.

One other quick request, now I think of it - can the key event handler pass F11 through? Being able to un-fullscreen would be handy.

Awesome game! I look forward to the writeup on the tech stack and how it's done.

I had this problem and the solution was to use the game's `f` keybinding for fullscreen instead. Or open the game in a separate window, because ALT-F4 is the only way to close it.

Is it just me or is this becoming a more popular Internet game format. The reason I ask is because Slither.io uses this same idea.

Here's a list of several hundred(!) games in the IO format: http://iogames.space/

This is the so called "io game" genre, started by agar.io.

The new era of Flash-type games?

"io games": Massively multi-player, real time, no login, no rounds (continuous game), just type your name and play.

There probably were a few flash games like this, but didn't caught on like it has now.

How do they pay for server cost? Someone told me slither.io had made it's owner millions. I'm assuming there are ads?

Yea they show ads in between game sessions.

Casual Collective with their robot battle games from 10 years ago. Though they did have more configuration, you could just add your name, pick a bot and play.


http://everybodyedits.com was one of the first MMOs I played with no config (except a name and a map to join). In addition all of the maps were editable. So it was unique in that every map was completely user created.

What I said... It's not a new idea, but it didn't made a genre back then. It was a very different internet world, too.

Really fun game. Very smooth and addictive. Curious to know about tech stack

I think pixi.js and websocket + node backend.

How long has this been released? Seems very polished. How long did it take you to build?

In the changelog (https://airma.sh/changelog) it says today (10th Dec 17) was the first release.

I'd implied the same from the general player skill level. It's nice to play against people who are just as bad as me for a change!

A lot of friendly fire among the HN crowd. "Make go boom" appears to be our goal.

There are teams?

The Brits seemed to be fairly good towards each other :-D

This game reminds me of XPilot released back in 1992: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XPilot

Some gameplay footage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LiO6XYt8M14&list=PL192CF249E...

Apparently these are called "io games". I was visiting family last month and watched my nephew play these for hours.

Large list here: http://iogames.space

Staying #1 is incredibly exhilarating. My strategy was upgrading defense and staying out of big clusters while still shooting towards them.

Yes, that strategy works well. I've also found that "hitting the brakes and they'll fly right by" works really well in a knife fight.

What does it use for networking?

Just plain ol' Websockets. But with a twist.

I use 2 WS connections mirroring some packets on both, to deal with head-of-line blocking.

Interesting. Could you talk more about this?

(Not OP but I had the same idea)

When a packet is lost in a TCP stream, it must be retransmitted, and until the client receives it, all further packets are stuck in limbo (received by the client, but cannot be seen). For this reason, most games use UDP instead, and are designed so some packet loss is acceptable (if I received where you are at frame N, it no longer matters if I receive where you were at frame N-1).

Minecraft uses TCP, that's why in very populated servers occasionally you can see the whole world freeze for a second.

In the browser we have UDP with WebRTC data, the problem is that not all browsers support it, it may not work in some places and for now it's more difficult to work with.

An easy compromise is to use several TCP connections, so if one packet is lost, instead of having N packets stuck for a moment, you have 1/N where N is the number of connections. And if important packets are sent through all channels, the chance that they arrive too late is much lower.

Do both websocket connections send the same data, or do you split your data logically between two channels (movement data vs state data)

I interleave information that becomes redundant (like the position of players, I can handle losing every other packet for a while, interpolating/predicting missing info) but send important data in all channels (like when a rocket is fired, it's just one event that must be seen).

Again, I'm not OP but I did similar things and explained what probably happens with this game.

What DiThi said (read his excellent post)

There's also another important detail. Due to delayed ACKs on Windows and battery-preserving TCP stacks on most mobile devices/laptops, some of your packets will be delayed. Even with TCP_NODELAY. Desktop OSX/Linux do not display this behavior.

The only solution I have found, and it's a rather crude one, is to blast the server every 50ms with a 1-byte packet. It is ugly but it works well.

Will do when this is over. Right now I'm trying to prevent servers from melting. HN traffic...

Also want to show appreciation for your work.

I tried to create a game similar to this (I spent 6 months on it). Very basic Geometry. Circles. I got the concept working well locally, but I ran into problems on how to deal with the networking. I got things running in Node with SocketIO and so on but there could be 400 players, each made of upto 8 moving pieces, and each can fire several times a second.

I spent a lot of time on a book, "Real time collision detection" and generally I have fond memories of the whole project and trying different partition and slicing up space.

However, how to package and deal with this snapshot of world "over the network" or for example "how to smooth any lag relative to the client"... this middle region was largely undocumented or ill accessible to me.

I will look forward to when/if you write any thoughts.

I will definitely do a write-up but you're right. It's really hard to find info on any of that online.

A lot of trial and error.

Do you have a blog? Been visiting this daily to see if there's a new update about the write up on networking trial errors. :)

I am still playing :D

You've done a great job! It's stayed very responsive for the time I've played. I haven't even noticed any dropped packets, so your method for dealing with them seems to be working very well despite the high load.

Nothing too fancy. Just proper devops and a lot of testing.


That is fancy. It is actually so beautiful I got emotional.

THE comboy of bitcoinity fame? I'm honored.

I remember donating back in the day!

Huh wow, thanks :) I need to make bitcoinity working as stable as airma.sh does. Congrats on the well earned success btw, clearly the game is here to stay.

It would be sweet to be able to change fire from spacebar to something else. Spacebar tends to be big and loud.

Where are you hosting it? That looks quite custom to gaming

It better be! It's my homegrown panel that I use for all my projects.

I would love to hear more about this dashboard in your write up. Would love to create something like this myself :)

Do you have a blog or write ups about this process / your workflow / etc.? I feel as a novice I could learn a lot.

Is it an home made dashboard or do you use some standard tool?

Great job with the Game. Would love to read an article about how you developed this game and handled initial traffic.

Really looking forward to a write-up!

Would be nice to know what you use for hit detection and interpolation, it seems very smooth!

Fantastic game. Enjoyable, simple. Wish you all the best with it. Thank you for your outstanding work

Very curious about this as well. I was expecting this submission to be an endorsement for WebRTC.

WebRTC really isn't suitable for multiplayer gaming due to it being entirely P2P. You need the server to operate as a single source of truth and enforce clients to play by the rules.

Having both models works well...

TCP from a master server to every client.


UDP low latency links from every client to every other client.

The client code sends a sample of received UDP packets to the server over the TCP connection, who will then verify that all info contained in the packets is true and accurate and nobody was cheating.

It's a nice model because you get the super low latency between clients, and at the same time within a few hundred milliseconds you can detect cheaters and kick/ban them.

Obviously, you have to design your game to handle asynchronous lossy information from many different sources and nobody having a complete and whole view of the game until half a second later or so. Thats quite do-able though by timestamping every event and then running rollback-able or checkpointed synchronous simulation on all clients.

Know of any games that have implemented this method?

It is not entirely P2P, a server can act as a "peer" for all clients and handle the connections itself.

I'm not that familiar with WebRTC, but can the server not act as the only peer?

Is it entirely P2P? It seems like it has use cases for streaming audio and video, where low-latency is desired and dropped packets are acceptable.

Yep. The server provides signaling (who the peers are, what data is being requested/should be snet, etc) but you're absolutely correct: WebRTC primarily envisioned for high-bandwidth peer-to-peer suitable content such as video/audio/file-sharing.

People have tried using it for gaming (e.g. server is the master peer) but it's tenuous and folks should just stick to WS.

I played it for two minutes and immmedialy had great memories of Subspace multiplayer.

And it even still exists! store.steampowered.com/app/352700/Subspace_Continuum/

Very nice game, but I couldn't enjoy much because of my high ping. I'd like to see an South America and Africa servers. AFAIK AWS provides South America servers for Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Are there any plans on letting anyone host their own servers?

Does this remind anyone else of the old Subspace/Continuum game?

YES!!!! It’s the first thing I thought of... are we getting old?

+1 for flat earther physics with teleportation from north-pole to south-pole :) Just kidding, well done.

Played on the pc for about 20 minutes; great fun but controls mess up sometimes (shooting). Tried on my iPhone6s but screen isn’t correctly; bottom 20px or so are missing in safari.

Great fun though!

Kudos! I appreciate anything that works out of the box with uMatrix blocking enabled.

Gameplay wise: looks like you may want to slow down the reverse speed... or not it's pretty fun as is

What did u use too make the game?

PIXI.js for the graphics. Serverside is mostly Node.js.

No websockets for persistent connections? How are you handling RTC?

Open up the Network tab and you'll see that it's using WebSockets.

Ah. Sounds cool. Would WebRTC serve better here?

This reminds me of two very popular age old games (from around 1990's) called Inner Space and Critical Mass.

[1] http://www.sdispace.com/index.html

[2] http://www.windowsgames.co.uk/critical.html

Love this game :)

Would love a write up on how you achieved such smooth responsive game play!

Needs error handling for unsupported browsers, which seems to be anything other than bleeding edge latest browser version. Can't get past "enter name", it just sits there doing nothing. I prefer to hold off on bleeding edge browser versions because backwards compatibility is a good thing to test for.

Well great... i'm addicted. There goes my project deadline.

I'm not proud that most of my kills were AFK, but meh, I mostly sustain myself on low hanging fruit.

All's fair in love and war.

Great game!! can i ask you which hosting are you using ? how many servers what are there configuration ?

What a very well executed fun game. And it performs extremely well on my lap top. Great job!

I don't know if this is HN effect or what but I just dont't get to the game. All I see after log in is some terrain and, a few moments later "Destroyed by " someone. No units movement, nothing.

Works fine for me on FF57/Linux. Tons of people on too .. lots of fun and addictive.

Everything is running smoothly so it's not the HN effect.

Might I ask what OS/Browser/ISP are you using?

I also have this problem. Windows 10, Chrome (hardware accel disabled), Comcast.

I had to enable hardware acceleration to get more than 1 frame/second. It was smooth with hardware acceleration turned on.

I'm running chrome on ubuntu on a dell xps 13

Maybe the JS Comcast is injecting that says you need a new modem is having an adverse effect, or maybe you just need a new modem. /s

The game space is a little crowded i felt. Otherwise pretty cool game ! Do you plan to open source or do you know of a HTML5 game of similar complexity that is ? Would love to read the code.

On the map I played, everyone spawns in over Europe. However, there's a whole entire world and NA and Eastern China was typically pretty barren

The gameplay reminds me a bit of an old favorite of mine - Starport: Galactic Empires. I wonder of games of that nature could undergo a revival as browser games.

Arrrgh, clicked too! So much fun and beware - addictive!

Works great in Firefox 57. But Chrome 63 on Linux 17.10. With GPU accel. The bitmap sprites are just rendering as weird grey bounding rects :(

I have tested all browsers on Linux. Got a screenshot?

Chrome 63 on Mac is working fine.

I have now accidentally closed the game twice ctrl + w and bookmarked once ctrl + d but the game itself is so much fun :) +1 from me

Use mouse mode :)

Actually arrow keys are good enough to avoid that trap

You know, I really had stuff I needed to do today...Thanks a lot... /s :) Awesome game, can't seem to stop playing

This was definitely thought out. Can't even put Zalgo text as a username and have it fill the screen to cheat :^).

Please add regular sign-up form as well! I do not want to use one of my social network profiles to save my progress.

WOW -- where did my last hour go!

Really enjoyed this even after playing a few minutes. Good graphics and nice controls.

Congratulations, great game.

1. Was cross-hair/radar lock, omitted on purpose to improve screen on time or would any upgrade give that ability ?

2. Analytics - In the free for all, do see players avoiding other players if they see their country flag on them?

I can't seem to get my aircraft to move forward using a keyboard. Flying backwards is fine, but using the ^ key is a nogo. Controller works fin theough!

OS: Windows 10 (Build 16251) Browser: Firefox Developer Edition (58.0b10 64-bit)

Same issue on both Firefox (57.0.2) and Chrome (62.0.3202.94) on Windows 10 (build 16299.64). At least for me forward doesn't seem to be completely ignored; while holding it down it will occasionally spurt forward a bit.

Off topic, but did they really have 16,251 builds of windows.

Is that low, high or normal(expected)?

Raymond Chen has got a video exactly regarding this! (https://channel9.msdn.com/Blogs/One-Dev-Minute/One-Dev-Quest...)

normal, modern dev with automated builds and git creates a build every time you commit (or every push), and you can commit for a missing comma so ... with 10 or more people working on it on a daily basis it can go up very fast

ah, yeah that makes sense - I was thinking of “releases” not so much “builds” and thats why it looked weird to me...

Also I believe that this is the kernel build counter, and it's the same counter that's used since Win95. Someone has published a list: https://www.gaijin.at/en/lstwinver.php

edit: it's not the kernel build counter and MS has cheated with it in the past, but it has stayed sequential across the whole NT tree (as this is where any post-2K Windows originates). https://www.howtogeek.com/140411/learn-the-secrets-of-the-wi...

I had to refresh the page once or twice throughout my play time because of key issues.

Damn, this game is so addictive, and so well done. Congratulations!

I wish there were more stuff to upgrade/unlock, I've reached level 6 and even't unlocked anything in the past 3 levels.

Hi from "Moz://a" in the game!

There should be an option for following/friending people, I had fun with a few guys and I'd like to know if they are logged and where they are.

This game should be monetized, a couple of ideas:

1. You could sell "upgrades packets" in the login screen, so that one can start playing with an upgraded aircraft from the very beginning. 2. There could be other aircrafts that could be either unlocked with enough points or bought.

> This game should be monetized, a couple of ideas:

Sure, but please no P2W (Pay 2 Win).

> 1. You could sell "upgrades packets" in the login screen, so that one can start playing with an upgraded aircraft from the very beginning. 2. There could be other aircrafts that could be either unlocked with enough points or bought.

That's P2W. That has nothing to do with gaming, but with insecure people who wanna pay money to feel good cause else they can't win. And those who don't pay end up as being NS (narcissistic supply). Fuck that.

I don't know how to monetise the game other than serving some adds in the screen during the warming up. But please not via P2W mechanics. It ruins the equal playing field, and it lowers the quality of the game cause the good players who know about the mechanism won't fall for this.

This game is great. I opened it and lost an hour then and there. Well done, OP!

This thing is addicting as crap. Hahah just spent the last few hours. 3.15 KD!

Completely playable on a 2009 MacBook. Thanks for keeping it tiny and clean!

super addictive game! IMO, when you're at the top, it's a bit much to lose so many upgrades since they take a lot of time to farm! Also, perhaps shared killing-scores and team mode!! Good job!

Really fun! I was super excited to see that it also supports controllers but for some reason there is at least a one second delay between button presses on my xbox controller and the game :(

Are you using Chrome? Gamepad API is a bit buggy on 62.x

Yeah I was. I'll try it on Firefox, thanks!

Holy crap that game is fun

Man, that game is addicting.

I have so much work to do but can't keep off it!

This is super addictive, well done. Runs incredibly fast too. As a strategy tip, you can fly in reverse, it's great for dodging missles and maneuvering in general.

So much productivity for today. :) Very nice game. Congrats.

Great game, would be nice to be able to switch off controllers though - when I bumped into my G29 it immediately registered and I had to start steering :)

Works buttery smooth on Chrome 53 on Android over a cell connection (90ms latency). Can't wait to review on desktop to view the WebSocket traffic!

Awesome game, played for almost ah hour already!

Now somebody say web apps are not the future.

BTW, it does not recognize 4 simultanous key inputs on Firefox 57. Other than that, it is really cool game! Great job!

That is up to your keyboard hardware. Unfortunately, most consumer level keyboards can't handle that.

Please forgive the random reply, but it's the closest to a direct message I can get. :)

Suggestion: place powerups in areas of the map that have not seen combat recently.

It seems like almost all the combat is over Europe, and the other areas of the map are almost always completely unpopulated. The most fun fight I had was when one other aircraft and I got into a dogfight near SA/Antarctica. It lasted several minutes, just the two of us. Even so, it only happened because I followed him there, and apparently he was just exploring the map.

So if you were to track combat activity on something like a heat map, you could spawn upgrades and powerups in cold areas of the map. This would encourage players to go hunting for them. As a result, different areas of the map would see combat regularly, and the hotspots would move around.

Also, if you spawned players in away from other players, it would encourage encounters around the map instead of concentrated in one area.

Finally, I use WASD in home-row position, and I'd like to rebind the the shoot and action keys. If you could make this possible, it'd be great.

Thanks for sharing your work. It's a fun game.

Oh, I didn't know that. Thank you very much for the quick reply!

It's well coded, very fast, small size, runs even in mobile, and the most important it's funny to play!

Very good on mobile, got in first place a couple of times. Should stop disclaiming about the mobile experience

And I quit... This is too addicting...

Really slow in the seattle area. Not sure if this is because of servers being overloaded right now.

Such a simple and good looking game. Fantastic! Gives you a sense of just how big our oceans are.

what is the backend tech being used?

I just played the game for 30 mins on my iPad Pro and its really fun and addictive, great work!

Very fun! I think the Mohawk helicopter has the most potential due to its strafe ability.

Really demonstrates how far clean responsive physics and simple mechanics will get you!

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