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Saturday, December 5, 2015

12.2.2015 - Developer Diary

Well, here we are again. A month short of another year, of promises yet to be fulfilled.

I wanted to, I don't know, write a little bit here and let everyone know how we're doing, and what the status is on Hypertension. Don't worry - everything is in order, but I feel that I should explain myself a little here. Get ready for an ultimate ramble of incredible text! ;)

Normally, when working on something like a modification for a game, there's not much pressure there. You are doing it for yourself, for your own amusement and for nobody else's. The project gets a couple of "cools" and some fans. A few years later and its one of the most anticipated releases for the Dreamcast console.

Older screen showing 2 player!
That sort of fits my description of the last 6.5 years of Hypertension's development. But you all know the story - started in 2008, Atari pulled the plug in 2011, we retrofitted it in 2013, then underwent a rewrite in 2014. For those of you who actually got to beta-test (and still own) a copy of Hypertension 2008, I would love to hear your memories and coolest moments from that.

Okay, so what about 2015?

2015...just...what a year. Good, bad, it's all there. But this year was definitely our year - the game evolved greatly as the game was being built and visually, it shows.

But we did not set any release dates this year like we did the years prior. In fact, I would say that this year has been our quietest year on record so far. In light of the tragedies the world has faced, we just simply don't have much to say.

This, of course, does not mean development has halted by any means. It simply, to put it bluntly, is a result of our publisher. That modification I mentioned in the second paragraph is now a commercial project with investment.

Sure - could we have just simply re-skinned the 2008 version and made lots of money? Absolutely! You can see this effort in the Midwest Gaming Classic 2014 trailer and the reaction we got! Despite me growing unhappy with it, the fans really ate it up. Eugene Jarvis really liked that version of the game - fucking Eugene, man!

But something wasn't settling right. Even though we were converting into 3D and using a newer version of our 3DGE engine, it didn't feel like the game I wanted to make anymore. The decision to restart development came at a time when we were working on the other game, SCOURGE, in 2010-2011.

WIP with normal/bump maps
Scourge, however, faced lots of issues with both the creative team and the programmers, and we simply could not have gotten it done with those issues. Too many egos and a dysfunctional development schedule really hampered our efforts and got in the way of the process. Even though that game saw considerable effort for a year of development (and on a much newer engine), I ultimately approached GOAT again with the situation.

They suggested we retool Hypertension and release it - after being cleared of the Atari mess, they wanted us to go back to the game that started it all. So we did.

But there was a catch: we couldn't use any existing assets, so...ENTER THE THIRD DIMENSION! BECAUSE SCIENCE!! Unfortunately, that took much more effort than we originally estimated.

Fast forward (or, rewind) to the beginning of 2015...the game was coming together with a brand-new team (save for Jason, who's had much more patience than I can ever dream of mustering). However, my responsibilities were mounting.

Yo Dawg. . .
Being the sole coder (at the time) of both the game engine and game logic was starting to hamper my ability to use my own creative imagination. The game's design was a mess of ideas gathered from 2008, Scourge, and tons of rewrites in between. Not to mention Jay Townsend's excellent SLaVE which I became involved in, I decided to bite the bullet and hire a principal designer for Hypertension.

The first two guys that contracted with us did excellent work. They came up with elaborate designs based on a skeleton document I managed to cobble together. Pages and pages of stuff...and at least 5 revisions between them both. But, as the team was really fusing together and making this fun again, I started paying attention to the actual design.

Not having to be in charge of that stuff and lead the technical side is a dream come true! But it truthfully became a nightmare, because the design documents were nothing like I wanted. Out of frustration, one team member quit and another was re-assigned. Once again, it felt like things were falling apart.

Then Connor Linning came along, the guy that really changed everything. Here was a fine gentlemen who developed games (Overlooker: get it!), composed music, and was really into horror - something the last two contractors sorely lacked. He instantly clicked with our team and myself. We share much of the same twisted sense of humor and design goals, so it only became natural to eventually appoint him in charge of the story and design.

Sanity Meter...a new addition to the game.
And what a payoff that was! As soon as that happened, we hired another programmer - Damir. What a technical genius - he was able to pump out, and continues to, enhance our engine for a newer generation of gamer. Not only does it look prettier, but we now have support for bump maps, specular maps, and per-pixel dynamic lighting. It makes all the difference in the world!

So with both bases covered - design and engine - I was ultimately able to take back control of the development process. For the first time and ever since then, I feel like my game is coming together the way I want it. After all these years, things are finally moving into place. Add our amazing 3D and level designers to the mix and we have one hell of a game.

Hypertension: Harmony of Darkness is truly becoming one of the greatest achievements of my life. Seeing something that you cobbled together in 2008 stand on its own legs in innovative ways is really stunning. It went from being a remake to a copycat to a original piece of work. It's invigorating!

So now all of that circles back around to - well, when will the damn thing be finished?!

He just wants a kiss!
When, indeed! Things are going so great and coming together that we are really taking our time with it. We don't show as much media or videos as I did in the earlier days, but what an evolution. Every time I post a new video they get so much love and excitement.

But now we are in the phase where serious development is taking place, the point of game development that requires absolute concentration and coordination. Long hours, juggling jobs and children and projects has taken its toll on my team and myself. But it's not in vain - we are working extremely hard to deliver.

Sometimes that means sewing up your lips and cutting off communication with the world. A development process that I was never a fan of until recently. Quiet time is what gets us going, and for good reason.

What we have is not just a game, not just a Blood remake or a 90's first person shooter. A deep, personal and emotional plot lay the foundation for a game that employs stellar graphics and sound design. Something fun, enjoyable, and lasting.

So, are we waiting then? Yes. While our engine is irrevocably nearing the end of its major features, the game itself is wholly different from the previous version. It's not just a shooter. It's a psychological thriller played from first-person...gunplay, survival-horror, and classically emulated.

We hope we can show off something either this Christmas or New Years. The MGC 2016 is in the early part of that year as well.

But as I've said before, because I'm a broken record...we have no budget. No kickstarter. No funding to speak of. I save whatever pocket change I can muster and send it off to my team members - hardware, currency...whatever I can do to keep us motivated.

It's slowly becoming less about the fans and media attention. I'm truly connecting with my videogame again, and it's finally fun. After these last few years of doubts and hard work, I'm home.

Please don't lose faith in us. Know that we know we're making one of the most ambitious and highly anticipated games for the system, pushing it graphically and poetically beyond anyone's dreams, even my own.

I have rambled enough. I hope you guys have found this interesting. Even though it was a bunch of text with pretty pictures. Going on camera is fun and all, but sometimes they say the way way to get it out of your system is to write it down.

Okay, I'm out. There's a game to finish! Remember - we love all of you! Positive vibes! Make sure to check our our Facebook page and get involved at our forums! <3 p="">

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Introducing Nick Gibson

Hey everyone, just wanted to give a shout-out to the newest member of our small team, Nick Gibson. He'll be doing 3D models alongside Jason to help balance the workload. So far, he's doing a real good job and he's definitely an asset to our team! Join us in welcoming him to our bloody world!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Poking my brain

Hey everyone, just letting you all know that if you've had your doubts about the new Wolfenstein, go ahead and trash all of it. It's the best game I've ever played, filled with emotion, awe, inspiration, and just about every mechanic I've seen in a shooter upped by a thousand percent. Such an amazing game.

One of the first logo Posters
I also want to take the time to let everyone know that the team here at Isotope is so grateful for your donations and support in getting Hypertension out the door. It's been a long time coming, and I know the wait probably pissed off a lot of people. It's the product of a lot of love, stress, tears, sweat, betrayal...lots of different things. When I play the game sometimes I get really into it, and sometimes I get really depressed. It's the kind of game that I turn to when I need to get my emotions squared away.

So much of my life was influenced by it and I feel a lot of it passed me by while this game was in idle. Now that I'm trying to get a team together to finish it, a lot of regret and depression fill me. I wish that I had focused harder and got it out quicker, and I wish that we found a publisher sooner. We faced a lot of hardships in our lives, every developer who's worked on this project as a matter of fact. I'm not sure they even read the blog or stop by, but if it wasn't for every single one of them, this project would not be here today, getting the support of the people that believe in it.

Old screen from 2008
I admit that I often struggle with my emotional state and seem erratic at times because of it, and lots of nights I cry because Hyper just wears me down. Having to go back and swap things out is sometimes a nightmare, and having to scrap tons of work that people did with love before Isotope makes my eyes swell, also. It's the reason TDGMods is represented with the game - every developer before made up TDGMods and since we re branded into Isotope to continue the title it didn't sit quite right with me. While this is very much an Isotope game, it's also equally a TDGMods game, and all the people who worked on it in the years passed.

Pineapple in 2009 filming
I try and not get down on myself for taking so long and letting so many things interfere with the game's development, but often times I feel like a failure because life sort of...swung me in its arms and I was barely holding on to what was important to me.

This game, Hypertension: Harmony of Darkness, is vastly important to me and everyone who currently works on it. Even though the past developers - wherever they might be and however they might think of the game (and myself) have moved on, we won't hesitate in the slightest to make your contributions known.

Dozens and dozens of people will be credited when it all comes to an end, I just really hope I'm there to see its completion off. Many times I've thought about quitting the project in frustration, in sadness, in shame. These demons I fight are becoming more overwhelming, admittedly, and it's nice to be reminded of what I'm fighting for. My daughter, my game, my sanity, it all needs to come back to me when I'm in my moments of complete frustration and despair. Your support and kind words help pieces of what I've lost back in, and make me remember.

Box-Art from 2010
Regardless of what people think of me personally, how I look, how I act, who I carry myself around is absolutely not reflective of this game at all. I'm simply a person with ideas, is all. I don't like becoming the face of this operation, because it's not ONE person, it's all of us as a collective. I can't speak for everyone, but I try my best.

I'm not sure why I've chosen this place, out of all, to write about these kinds of things. Maybe because this blog has always been something special for me to pour myself into, and when I had to restructure and go quiet for so many years, all of those things became twisted and choked me.

Isotope Softworks, LLC. 
Getting back to the programming and design that I've been away from for so long is nice. SCOURGE doesn't give me the freedom like this game does, being able to do so much with it.

I just hope it meets all of your expectations when we ship it. Until next time, readers.

-Corbin A.
Lead Designer, Hypertension: Harmony of Darkness
Isotope Softworks

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Harmony of Darkness - New Screen

He's back, in FULL 3D and hungrier than ever! How will you "feed" him? 

Hypertension: Harmony of Darkness is coming for PC and Sega Dreamcast Q4 2014!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


Sorry for the lack of updates! More GOALS hit so far and more donations have been acquired! From January, we have Valentin Jahns (20), Johann Harding (5), Emre Uysal (10), and Poker Money Clips (30). To start February off, we have Carlos Oliveros with 10. This is simply AMAZING that we are being supported in our efforts to deliver quality! You all ROCK! 

We have already blasted off to our freelancers to get the ball rolling! We want to thank our awesome fans for your hard work - it isn't going unnoticed and its already paying off!

We have so many things to show off now, new announcements, and a host of updates, so keep your eyes peeled! The February Projection Goal will be posted in the next week as we move forward! Thanks to all of us here at Isotope and TDGMods for supporting us into 2014!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

January GOAL update! $20 in, $20 left!


We want to give a personal thanks to Björn Tasto from Germany for donating $20 of our projected $40 for the month of January! This is extremely generous of him and with less than a day between posting and half of our goal complete, tells of great things to come!
Join us in thanking Björn Tasto again for his selfless contribution to our games! We appreciate it!

We are now half of our projected January goal - help us reach the other side so we can get our artist pumped with what he needs! 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Donation System is Live: Please Read

Hi everyone,

In the last message, I proposed a donations system to help keep us funded so we can continue/finish Scourge and Hypertension, in hopes that we don't further delay the game (possibly forever). In our third year already, we have absolutely no budget left and officially, we're in panic mode.

This is where you, the fans, can help us the most. Developing a budget game isn't easy, and developing it with nearly no budget at the stage we're at now is killing us. Months of potential work gone down the drain as we try to gather funds for ourselves, but we can't do it anymore. Not alone. You guys have the chance to help us by donating! This way, we can pay for the services we need to get our games finished and out the door!

Every month, we will make a new blog post with a projected goal for a service we require. This will change each month or so to reflect what we need at the time (to show you exactly where your money is going). We will have a system that shows how much we're down/up before the feature we need is completed. This will also tell you what game we're at, and how many features we have left before development is sustained. We will also keep a record of who donated to include you in the closing credits.

You might find this system weird since there's things like Kickstarter, but as you all know, we have a publisher and we cannot use a third-party like that. Not only will we appreciate the help, I know our publisher will too!


We need to raise $40 this month, to start an independent artist in getting the environments and layout completed for SCOURGE, specifically, so our 3D team can get the designs for various architecture complete and consistent. In the following months up until we no longer need him, we'll add this amount to whatever amount for the feature we need next. So, consistently, we need $40/month to pay this guy until we no longer need his talents. We're not that far off, we project maybe 3 or so months before we can cut him loose.

Please, any amount will help us out and rest assured, you will all see progress, mostly by keeping up at our Facebook page. I will continue to support this blog for our Donation Development system.

Thanks for your continued support!
-Corbin A.
Project Manager, SCOURGE
Isotope Studios

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Co-Founder: Personal Reflections, and how you can help get involved

As SCOURGE development continues full-force, we would like to take this opportunity to explain how exactly this comes to be and how you can truly help us make this dream a reality.

We are, undoubtedly, an independent development group. We started out like everyone else - at a small computer with big ideas. Years of hard work have paid off as we finally see the game progress in big ways.

But, the years of youth and carelessness are well behind us, as many of us are experiencing different things - college life, adulthood, newborn babies, gender outings, new careers, among much more. Just as the point of development reaches the fun part, these things collectively called "Life" come to drag us away. No longer are we able to slave away all day, every day, on these awesome projects.

Not to say we don't care about them, but these life events are positively dragging development behind. A small team of ~5 is not enough for a large-scale production without significant delays, which we have experienced since this project started. The id Tech 2 engine was more than we could chew at the time, which we're finally starting to grasp and handle, but there's only so many of us and we can't allocate one person to do the work of 6. Developers cannot do it.

The reason why we are putting out all of these help wanted ads is because we can't afford for production to slump. Times changes, games change, the scene changes. People change, publishers change, and we can't allow Scourge to fall behind. Using outdated tech is not what I mean, specifically, by "falling behind", because graphics in a videogame do NOT, by any means, make it enjoyable (though sometimes, it does help). Scourge is falling behind in the people who believed in it, in us, and sometimes, ourselves as well.

That's why we are asking for everyone to kindly put our ads out - STEAM groups, social networking, developer networking, forums, anything! The more manpower we can get behind this project the better. There are tons and tons of resources that we just don't have available to us because we don't have time to hunt for the people we need. We need the help of our fans and followers because our Dream is being threatened!

Level Designers and Coordinators are a HUGE deal for us. We need these people that can bring a little push to our group and help us get SCOURGE completed in a timely manner! Hypertension was nearly finished after 3 years of hard work - Scourge is nowhere near at that level and has never been. Part of it is, perhaps, to blame on the 3D technology we decided to choose and our inexperience working with it. The other part might have been to take on a project of ambition and complete indifference. The drive to do something that nobody has really done before has always been a special part of this project. There are so many young and ambitous people who open these editors for newer games like Half-Life 2 and Call of Duty - if they only knew that these editors are mostly backwards-compatible, and that they have a chance to work on a truly remarkable commercial project, right from the starting gate!

If that sounds like YOU, or anyone YOU might know, please have them contact us! Developing a game isn't as dreamy as some people might believe, especially when deadlines threaten the existence of said project. All it takes is a few weeks of catching up and you could be helping along a great production, a great team, and the community of fans and followers! Help make this fun for us again, help us regain our passion to continue to entertain all of you out there!

Shortly, we will be opening up a Donations system to keep us funded. Since our initial budget is gone and years of dragging have left the game in a less than desirable state, many would-be Champions of Design have opted out because we don't have the money to pay them! Long gone are the days where a whole paycheck of mine would go towards something you love and adore. We believe in Scourge and we know you guys do too. But we need this help to speed things up. Funds would go completely, 100% towards developer costs.

So help us out and please spread the word - any inquiries can be sent to our Facebook page, or my personal email. If you are also interested in our other project, Hypertension: Harmony of Darkness (also for Sega Dreamcast), feel free to send us inquiries as well! We are always looking for help on that project, too.

Thanks once again for believing in us, in our endeavors, and in SCOURGE. The game is looking and feeling fantastic and only YOU can help us achieve perfection!

Thank you all for hearing my words, its the people like you that make this job of ours so much fun!

Stay fresh,