Long time no see, eh?
Frankly, HAX has undergone so many design changes and concept revisions that it boggles the mind. We are caught in a programming bottleneck resulting from the lead coders' need to eat, sleep, pay mortgage and other frivolous expenditures of time and money. I know that dev blogs are supposed to spin things the good way but if I told I had not had a crisis of faith with HAX, I'd be lying.
But, we are still here. Working on HAX as our time allows and dreaming of the day it will be complete. In the meantime, the whole MMO landscape around us seems to be in turmoil. Subscription is out but nobody can really claim to like the micropayment or premium models either. With Guild Wars 2 out, quest vendors are suddenly obsolete and many of the established rules of the genre no longer apply.
We do our best to change with the times but frankly, there is no telling what the world will be like when the game finally does come out. But at least, it will come out. In pieces, if necessary.
We've been at this for quite a while now. Sometimes it is hard to come up with a positive spin about our progress, or the lack of it. That said, the 2012 kick-off was genuinely good. We met, identified a major obstacle and roadblock that has been dragging us down like a stuck anchor and came up with a solution that will bypass the problem entirely. It means some serious re-design for some of the core mechanics but cuts down a lot of the programming tasks. All in all makes the planned launch version features much more manageable. Even if we are still in the valley of death, I am optimistic. This was a kick in the pants, in a good way. When you are doing garage development on zero budget, that's what you live for.
In other news, it has been revealed that the development budget for Star Wars: The Old Republic was 500 million dollars. For the sake of the entire MMORPG market I sincerely hope it was worth it. If it was not, the public image hit from the SWTOR bursting bubble is not going to spare anybody, including us. And marketing is and will always be our biggest challenge.
Getting the lead programmer back from Florida alive and well (as opposed to him turning into a person-shaped hole in the ground) was good but the progress made by our lead artist has been even better. He has been churning out webcomic strips for the storyline missions and continues to do an amazing job at it. We have to rewrite one of those missions (my foul-up, not his) but other than that content track is doing well. Now, with the roadblock/landmine removed and our assistant programmer showing signs of life, I hope the tech side can catch up.
So, we're back. But that was given.
We're also in a good mood. That's news.
The summer was quiet but we've been busy since then. Much of the user interface is now complete and the Lead Artist is immersing himself into the storyline mission graphics. There is going to be a change in the graphical style (to facilitate creating more art quicker, we can't afford to fool around) and I am hoping to be able to provide samples of it next week.
We have been very much inspired by other games that have or are about to come out this summer and fall. The biggest of all was obviously Deus Ex: Human Revolution, where especially the hub city of Henghsai made us drool until our keyboards short-circuited. Then there will be Hard Reset, Rage and the just-now announced Syndicate. This is a good time to be a cyberpunk.
I am about to start creating the proper texts and the coding department is fiddling with fine tuning and emergent bugs in what seems to last forever (and it usually does). Then again, we got our second programmer back from ”a personal leave of absence”, so with more coding power that bottleneck should sort itself out soon.
Still, ”nothing new on the western front” and stuff. I can see why other long-lasting projects have year-long radio silences. Our next public office will be at Alternative Party (Oct 21-23). By then I hope we will be testing the gameplay (basically playing the same level over and over again, recording bugs and omissions).
Feels Like Polish Already
We are back! From the Summer pastures. The Assembly Demo Event in Helsinki has come to mark the official end of the Wirepunk summer season. With everybody back in the capital area, we will be meeting as often we can and sitting down in the evenings to work on HAX. It will be done when it is done but it is moving forward. Since we don't have investors beyond our own back pockets, there is no one to pull the plug.
So HAX will be done. Sooner or later.
Basically, our immediate goals remains a single, feature-complete level and to that end many things feel like polish, although they are actually content creation, like the minimap graphics. The picture in this entry shows the program icons for the four primary programs you start with. You can level them up to 10 and if that is not enough and you are not short of MEM, buy 8 more.
One major design change has been the cloud-oriented Link and cloud-specific hax-codes. Originally HAX Codes were permanent level-specific upgrades but since our levels consist of "stacks" of similar levels with increasing security ratings, we changed the concept of stacks into clouds and HAX Codes acquired in one network apply to every network in that cloud. For ComNet this is an almost exploit as the security ratings go from 1 to 5. You can now grind ComNet 1 to get all the HAX Codes and they are just as good four security levels up.
Also, the concept of tags has been changed to "gangs" simply because it is much easier to explain. Gangs are interest groups within the HAX subculture. You can join 1 gang for very 1.0 of threat rating you have. There are no restrictions, so belonging in a gang does not make anyone your friend. However, it does enamble runner sync teams and every now and then you come across some loot that is worthless to you but will be uploaded to the gang, so that everybody can see that "Arkangel uploaded sim-porn for 1 cs!" If you are in a big and active gang, those one-stock gains may start to add up.
Clouds and gangs have the side effects that the chat now remains the same in both Link and Hideout modes, except that in the Link you always have the Log channel for system messages, loot lists and stuff. And the Link access page in the hideout now highlights clouds rather than individual levels but that is mostly cosmetic stuff.
So there. Don't worry, we will not change our name to Vaporpunk!