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Timed attacks by large numbers of identical enemies.

Players can encounter enemies in many games. In some of these games, the game causes large number of such enemies to stage massed attack against the players, and such attacks are called Waves. Zagal et al.[1] describe the phenomenon as: "A wave is a group of usually similar enemy entities that must be avoided or destroyed as they approach the player. There is usually a pause, or respite, between waves. One of the defining aspects of the wave is player interaction results in the end of the game (game over). Segmentation with waves is primarily used to increase the tension of the gameplay."


Each level in Plants vs. Zombies consists of a number of Waves that the player's plants must be able to handle. While small numbers of infected can be found throughout most of the levels in the Left 4 Dead series, most of the infected show up in Waves that occur based on an algorithm intended to create alternating periods of relative calm and chaotic fighting.

Using the pattern

Designing Waves consists of deciding when groups of Generic Adversaries should be encountered, and which types of Generic Adversaries if several different types exist. In games where Waves are intended to occur often, the design of them may instead be thought of as when Lull Periods should happen. One aspect of designing Waves is how they should change over time, or how different Waves should differ from each other. Typically, Waves become progressively more difficult — which easily makes a game support Ever Increasing Difficulty — but often the Waves also have different characteristics in that the individual Enemies may have particular Vulnerabilities or Invulnerabilities.


Waves is a way to modify how Enemies works in games, and can be used to create Challenging Gameplay as well as Ever Increasing Difficulty.


Can Instantiate

Challenging Gameplay, Ever Increasing Difficulty

Can Modulate


Can Be Instantiated By

Generic Adversaries

Can Be Modulated By

Lull Periods

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With



An pattern based upon the description of waves in the paper Rounds, levels, and waves: The early evolution of gameplay segmentation[1].


  1. 1.0 1.1 Zagal, J.P., Fernández-Vara, C. & Mateas, M. (2008). Rounds, levels, and waves: The early evolution of gameplay segmentation. Games and Culture no. 3 (2):175-198.


Jose Zagal, Clara Fernández-Vara, Michael Mateas