So, I have been trying all sorts of ways to improve my score just in case my brute force go as fast as I can strategy isn't going to bear fruit at the higher levels of the game.
5 ships and 5 smart bombs is not a lot to start with when you are trying for 550k. Right now, I can break 100k with regularity, but that's not nearly enough.
The way things are breaking down are distinctly divided into two speeds: waves 1-4, and everything else. At wave 5, it seems that the Landers crank up their desire to eat humans. This is just the way the game seems to play. So I'd say there's the "short game" and the "long game."
The short game (waves 1-4) breaks down into trying to make as many points as possible off of catching and landing humans, and making a lot of points to start off with. By wave 4, you have 4 Pods starting at beginning of the wave, so you'll have a bunch of Swarmers to deal with once you pop those open.
The long game (waves 5+) consists of trying to beat the crap out of everything without smart bombs. End of story.
My regular technique, when playing with extra men every 10k (the default of the machine), is to use at least one smart bomb every wave and trying to save as many humans as possible. The key to racking up a ton of points is keeping 10 humans alive to the end of a wave (that's 5000 points) and then smart bombing the pods (1000 points per pod, plus the points for the ~1-6 swarmers inside, which weigh in at 150 points each). This covers the 10k needed for a smart bomb, wave after wave and even with a little irregularity, the remains of a wave can make up the difference. All you have to do is use 1-3 ships a wave and you're essentially playing forever. That's easy to say when you've played a ton, but once you have the rhythm and motion down, that's the way it goes, score-wise.
So... This technique breaks down heavily when you don't get to rely on smart bombs and you can't expect to lose a ship or two each wave.
There are many ways to approach play, but all of them have one common result... No matter what you do, the game knows you're reaching the end of the wave and it starts throwing Baiters at you to 'hurry you up.' Those little sumanumbatches are just deadly and they get in the way of taking your time at the end of the wave. Plus they are frustratingly chaotic. I'm still trying to work out all their moves to this day. Maybe someone can enlighten me to the surefire way to deal with 'em.
The approach I am trying now is something I abhor: shooting all the humans so the landers can't make mutants out of them. This is the first time since I have started playing that this was something I'd try. So I'm giving it a week or two to get used to it on the off chance it has some positive effect on my play. I'm not sure that it's really making any improvements besides making me hate the fact that those are my men I'm killing! And at the end of the wave, there's only one little guy there. He's SO lonely!
I can't help but mention that the 5k I should be receiving for keeping them all alive isn't getting added to my score.
Once I go through this style of play, I think I'm going to try a happy medium, where I just let some of the landers get away with mutating. It's a bitch trying to stop them all, but when you're talking about 500 points for a catch and 500 for a safe return to land AND the bonus points at the end of a wave (not to mention that those men are with you for 5 waves), you are talking about a lot of points that you're essentially throwing away in exchange for some sense of security.
The thought I have had through all of this is that I'm setting every type of difficulty in front of myself so that it will all add up to a damn good game when the time comes.
When I started out learning Defender, there were just score plateaus that you hit and then you would burst to the next one and get stuck there for a while. I think there was some type of strategy / reflexes / thought process that you had to go through for a while before you broke through it. I remember this specifically because Sagness kept track of it and gave me that roll of quarters each time I hit the new plateau. Sometimes it took weeks or even months, but it was always achievable. Once we got to a million, we had arrived and the rest was just tweaks.
We'll see how things go for the rest of the month. I'll keep updating here and I'll keep updating the pics on Facebook. If you're enjoying what you're reading, leave me a note. I read 'em!