The unrealized potential of Slither.io

It’s been a long time since I’ve become so consumed by a game, let alone one so simple as slither.io, the extremely addictive modern revival of the classic game Snake. Slither is sort of an iteration of “.io” MMO games. Agar.io was the first “.io” that gained internet fame by introducing a simple browser-based game where everyone is playing against each other in real time. Websockets enable you to see everyone’s movements happening in real time on the screen in front of you. Slither works the same way but players can move much faster creating a more exciting gameplay.

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Slither grew rapidly when it was introduced this spring; it topped App Store searches, (that’s how I discovered it) but the browser-based game is perhaps the most popular of all.

On YouTube, players have been creating videos that regularly surpass millions of views. I admit I’ve watched plenty of them myself, they are strangely hypnotic.

Meanwhile however, development seems to have slowed down. No features have been introduced in quite a while. The iOS app has had one major update that added a virtual joystick to the screen, but it’s still very buggy — the virtual joystick regularly freezes on me forcing my worm to straighten out in a kamikaze death rush.

And curiously, they still haven’t added analog controller support, a simple feature to add that would vastly improve control. But that’s just one of many improvements to the game that the creators seem reluctant to make.

Necessary extensions

If you look in the Chrome store, there are dozens of extensions for Slither that improve the game. They do things like:

  • enabling user-controlled zoom
  • enabling parties, so friends can get in the same room
  • offering more snake skins
  • even a snake skin creator
  • graphics customization to improve performance

These would be simple things that slither developers could add right off the bat, at least for the browser platform, but they haven’t!

We want an Observation Mode!

A low-hanging fruit for the slither team would be to add an observation mode. Look at the millions of YouTube views! People want to watch! And with worms now growing over 330,000 in length, it’s getting more and more exciting. A banner ad slapped in the corner could pay for their servers. The mini-map could show users where to find the biggest worms, so they could pan around and watch them as they try to survive and grow to unsurpassed lengths.

We want a Bot Designer!

Another interesting aspect of Slither is the bots. A.I. controlled worms are part of the game and appear most often in newly-spawned rooms. They act as “seeds” that populate the new room. They are easy to kill and not very hungry. Some hackers have figured out how to spawn their own bots in the game. Most appear in small groups and simply move in a straight line until they die, but some are smarter and can dodge you when you try to cut them off.

How cool would it be if Slither offered a simple IDE to script bots. I’m really starting to dream now, but you could have up to X amount of bots, and a dashboard to check in on their performance. How long they got, how long they lived, how many worms they killed.

We want Simple Stats!

Speaking of how many worms they killed, we want a kill-count! It’s a great measure of skill in the game. And conversely, you should be able to see how many times you’ve died in a session. Who was the worm that killed you? Why not offer a player the ability to get in the same room again to seek playful revenge. These sort of things accentuate the competitive aspect of the game.

Wishing and Hoping

The slither team is likely small, and hopefully busy. If they are hiring, I’d sure love to help. But I truly hope they start to capture the huge potential of this game. It’s a phenomenon unto itself that deserves development. Like the worms themselves, they could amazingly get bigger than they already have.

Written by

Dreamer and schemer, designer turned developer. Lover of music and fine ales.

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