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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="">


ledill-vd-plas said...

Interesting read, glad that your game is going well! screenshots looks very very cool, keep up the good work!

PS: i'm loving that last picture, creepy draw :D

zZaRDoZz said...

Gads, early Hypertension? I played the beta daily 09-11. The *Miskatonic University* level was taking on a vibe that screamed 90's shooter. Fast, powerful enemies, first from blood, then from hell's nether regions, made that level bleed pure action. I can only hope the new hyper maintains the frantic 'battle for life' feel that the early game had mastered.

Florian Wallin said...

As a big Dreamcast fan , you cant imagine how much i am looking forward to this game. Keep up the good work , even if they are few replies here im pretty sure alot of people are interested in this game !

Greetings from sweden !

D Lauv said...

Hi. I just found this article a couple of nights ago.

I'm extremely excited, because the subject matter is so up my alley it's unreal. Hope you guys put all of the love and polish into it -- as long as it takes -- and unleashing it onto the world is something of immense pride.

Needless to say, I'm snatching up this bad boy whenever able.

OneStar said...

My most anticipated indie DC game. Any chance we have some new footage coming soon?

Also, is two player support still planned?