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SwarmBrent Silby has created another fast-paced and addictive arcade game developed entirely in DHTML—generally a combination of JavaScript and CSS—which means there is no additional plug-in required to run the game, just a browser that supports JavaScript (and most of them do nowadays).*

Swarm is an action arcade game that is similar to Brent's other bug-blasting game, Replicator, though it has a unique gameplay design all of its own. Bugs swarm onto the play field single-file, as in the classic arcade game Galaga, and begin infecting the solar cells. Protect the cells by shooting the bugs to kill them off. You may also shoot the cells to disinfect them and earn additional points.

Use the I, J, K, and L keys to move your ship forward, back, right and left in a circle around the play field. Your ship will always point in toward the center of play. Keep the Z key pressed to rapidly fire at the bugs that swarm, and at the solar cells.

Additional lives are awarded based on accumulated points: The first one at 50K, and each additional life every 100K thereafter.

Brent is definitely tuned-in to what makes arcade games fun, and Swarm is yet another testament to that. His expertise with JavaScript is impressive indeed, and it's always great to learn of a new game he designs. Like his other games, Swarm will take you back to the golden days of classic arcade shooters. Click.

*Note: One caveat that is important to know before playing: even though the game should run in any browser, truth is that Brent does some amazing things that push the JavaScript implementations of the browser you use. Therefore, the recommended browser to play his games is still IE. Firefox's JavaScript support is getting better, though you may not get the same performance that IE will give you.

Be sure to check out all of Brent's games at his Def-Logic website, and my previous reviews of two of his games, DNA and Replicator.

Thanks, Brent, for the heads-up about the new game. =)


wow this is a fun game, im anxious to get farther

ShadeOfLight July 24, 2005 9:48 PM

Hey Jay, your site is awesome! This seems to be another great find. I'm loving this game so far. My highest score is 92750 points. It's pretty interesting how the game controls too....thanks Jay!

Drinkdrawers July 24, 2005 10:56 PM

So many of these games are so hard on Dvorak...



Good point, Drinkdrawers.

Hey Brent - how difficult would it be to add a configuration screen to your games that allow the player to choose their own keys?

From a usability perspective, it's always a good idea to expect the unexpected. =)


Hi Jay,
Yes its a good idea. I used to use arrow keys but ran into difficulty with the mozilla based browsers. They always insisted on scrolling the entire page when the down key was pressed. This is not an issue with Flash, but it is a problem in JS/DHTML games. That's why I decided upon IJKL.

IJKL seems to work for the maximal amount of keyboard layouts worldwide and using Z X for the fire/jump keys helps minimize the possibility of keyghosting/blocking on older systems (you know, when you press 3 keys simultaneously one of them won't work). I know that German players have the problem with the Z key being in the wrong place.

I'll take your suggestion on board and perhaps start adding a key configure function with useful suggestions to ensure that the player is aware of these issues while selecting keys.

Thanks for the idea. This type of feedback is really important.



I don't know if it's just me, but every time i finish the second set of the first wave of bugs the background just starts flashing black and white and hte game freezes up.


Bork - the background does flash between levels once you kill the last bug, but the freezing is news to me. Out of curiosity, what browser/platform are you playing on?


Are you playing in Safari on a Mac. Sometimes Safari has an issue when these dhtml games try to clear off the screen at the end of a level. I've never figured out why. Try Internet Explorer :)



Is there any point in z key? If you hold it down all the time anyway (you could tape it down) maybe the ship could fire all the time without any keys being pressed?

And just a thought about ship movement, 4 keys is a lot, specially when they are not arrow keys, so how about using only 2 keys and making the ship actualy circle around the board?


I'm amazed that this would even be possible in Javascript and CSS. Completely flabbergasted. Well done Brent for pushing the envelope out so far.I'm impressed!


Wow, I tried it in Firefox and it was pretty spastic, and then it froze at the end of the wave. Unfortunately, I'm on a mac, and my copy of IE probably doesn't even have Javascript, it's such a decrepit piece of junk.

The IJKL thing is interesting, and I figured it had something to do with up and down having other functions. Something to consider would be WASD, which is standard in first person shooters as movement (leaving the mouse open for looking and aiming). On one hand, WASD is a common standard for non-dpad movement keys, but on the other, IJKL is on the same side of the board as the arrow keys. They're probably about equal.


One of the things I like about Jay's blog is the great discussion that goes on about games. I appreciate all feedback on my games.

The comment about having the ship circle around the outside of the screen is a good one. This is actually the way I originally designed the game. There are two reasons for the change. First, I had a great deal of trouble pitching the difficulty to the right level. When the ship moved around the outside of the screen, the game was always too hard or too easy. There was no middle ground. Second, I found using two keys (left and right) to be a bit confusing. I often found that if I stopped the ship at the top of the screen for a moment, then wanted to head RIGHT, I'd hit the RIGHT key, which of course would move the ship LEFT. Its hard to explain, but if you think about it that's what would happen.

The comments regarding using WASD are very interesting to me. Its something I've thought a lot about. The main reason for IJKL is that WASD won't work out on certain international keyboads. They have slightly different key layouts. I often consider changing, however, because I know that people are used to using WASD for other PC games. But if I change, then I'd feel compelled to make the change on all my games. I like consistency, and I like that people know what to expect when they hit one of my games. But the problem with changing them all over is that soooo many people are already used to playing those games with IJKL, and they may be put off with the change. Perhaps I worry about that stuff too much :)

Anyway good news for Firefox users. Firefox 1.5 contains a number of dhtml fixes. Javascript games run almost the same speed as IE in that version. Its due for release in September. You can download the alph if you are interested, from the Firefox nightly build site.

Play well,


Thought I'd let you know that in response to the discussion here I have updated Swarm. It now supports both control options. WASD with M to fire and IJKL with Z to fire.

Also, the freeze up bug in Firefox and Safari has been fixed. Thanks for bringing that to my attention.


Brent - you're amazing, good job. =)


Still doesnt play in Opera :(
Only shows "Loading images and stuff" text and after that nothing.


Sorry, Opera has very limited JS support. It fails on all but the very simplest of javascripts. Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari are really the best browsers for this type of content.


great game (and great site ;) ) there's another strange problem that i have with a lot of dhtml-game's in firefox: the search-as-you-type function interferes with these games as firefox tries to 'catch' all the keystrokes. Any solution for that problem (or is it just me and my strange computer?), besides turning off search-as-you-type?

keep going with those great games brent (i'll play them in IE) and with the great site jay!


The only way is to switch off Search as you type. I think in the next FF, it will be set OFF by default.

Its a shame the search as you type function can't be more intelligent. There is obviously no searchable text on a dhtml game page. It wouldn't be too hard for Firefox to detect that.

Nevermind. They play better in IE anyway :)


FINALLY! The shooting Ive been waiting for! *daka daka daka*

Gr8 game Jay


I love this game. Ever since it was updated on this site, I've played it every day. I know that sounds sad, but I just don't care. This game is so great, I bow to you Brent Silby, for creating this wounderful piece of gaming.

Today I got to wave 14, and my all time highest score, and I died, but I don't care. I really don't get bored of it, like I do with so many other shooting, kill all the baddies, games. I don't know what it is, but I can't stop playing once I start. I also like the fact that the graphics of the game is old timey, sort of makes me feel 5 again. Although the game has cheated me sometimes, by one of the swarm creatures appoaching me but touching me, but my ship blowing up anyway, or my shot hitting them but going right though. But this hasn't happen often so I really don't care about it.

The way the ship fires and moves is also a bonus on this game. At first I thought it sucked that the blasts could not go all the way to the other side of the board, but then realised that this was a plus, as more skill was needed to hit the swarm creatures, and to develop a game plan that comes in handy for every level, yet needs to be changed on each level to suit the swarms movements. The fact that the ship always points to the centre also makes the game easier, yet harder at the same time. Your one hell of a genius Brent.

The only bad thing I have to say about the game is the boss levels, they are just to easy. I have only died once on them, but that was only though distraction from someone tring to get my attention. NOT poor gaming skills.

Finally, I really enjoyed the fact that the games controls are IJKL and not WASD. It just seems to make the game better, and simpler to to pick up on.

Thank you so much for creating this great game Brent. And thank you Jay, for bringing this game into my life.

P.S. Sorry for the long comment, but I just had to express my joy for this masterwork.


Thanks for nice comments Quavers, I'm glad you enjoy the game.

Play well,
Brent Silby.

david silverman May 13, 2006 11:42 PM

Hey, this is my first time writing in and I dont have TypeKey, so I'm not sure this will come up. That said, this game is great!
As far as the controls, I found them pretty easy to adjust to and have no complaints; while I agree they were a little difficult at first, a few game sessions and muscle-memory kicks into gear.

The whole circling thing is also very interesting, especially with the shots only going as far as the circles center. It requires you to calculate not only the linear course of the shot, but its range in relation to the center

On the subject of only having only 2 keys to circle with, I dont really get how this could possibly be better. Maybe I missunderstood the suggestion, but it seems to me this would really limit the range of maneuverability. Its true you can do alright just circling at the same depths, but there really are times when moving in a bit or darting out can be very useful.

One other thing: a neat and rather difficult technique I've found to rack up points is to kill all but one bug(having first converted all the grey cells back to blue) and leaving it alive while you destroy any cells it converts to grey. For each grey square turned blue you get 500 points, except the last grey square, which earns you 5000 points. If you turn all the squares blue and leave one bug alive, said bug will convert one or two squares to grey slowly, while taking breaks to fly towards you. When it does this, zoom in and convert the few grey blocks its formed. Each time you do this you'll get the 5000 bonus points for clearing the last cell. You can pretty much do this forever, though its harder then it sounds and grows mind numbing. I suggest using it to rack up lives early on, or whenever you really need them.
Note: Its suprisingly difficult to pull off without killing the bug or running into it, and is nearly impossible to do on the later more hectic levels.


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