Disclaimer: This is a rather technical blog post, and a testimonial about Excelsior JET.
The Halfway game code is written in Java using libGDX, a Java game development framework. Both the game itself and libGDX utilise a number of additional Java libraries which interface with system-dependent native libraries on Windows, Linux and Mac OS.
Writing a game in Java can be very convenient, as Java is a pretty powerful language, with an ecosystem driven by a very large community. The libGDX community for example is a very active and friendly crowd of game developers.
Publishing a desktop game written in Java is a different beast though. To our knowledge there aren’t that many libGDX games yet which got released on all three major PC operating systems simultaneously. We’ve had a couple of issues related to that. Properly bundling a Java runtime environment and interfacing it with e.g. Steam, while not interfering with the user system which might or might not (or doesn’t want to) have Java installed isn’t as easy as we hoped. It nicely works for most users, but resolving the few arising issues can be pretty time-consuming.
Enter Excelsior JET, a commercial software product by Excelsior LLC. Excelsior JET translates Java byte code into an executable which runs native code on Windows, MacOS and Linux platforms.
Excelsior kindly asked us if we are interested to try out JET and provide feedback, especially about their relatively new OS X version. We went on and created native builds for Windows (32 bit), OS X (64 bit) and Linux (32/64 bit, tested on Ubuntu and Mint).
Using JET to compile a native version has been enjoyably straightforward. Once set up, creating a build is a matter of pointing it to the game code & assets, and have it spit out an archive or installer with a native executable a few minutes later. Shell scripts are provided too which can be used to conveniently automate follow-up builds.
We’ve had to adjust one or two minor issues (read: wrong assumptions done by coder) in the Halfway code. There have been some questions about build configurations which were quickly resolved by the Excelsior documentation and their responsive support team. Besides that, the resulting native build just worked. Out of the box.
In theory, native code might run faster, though Halfway isn’t as computational intensive as other games. We didn’t do a more detailed performance analysis yet, but the native version runs at least as smooth as the Java version on our test systems.
Today we’ve released a public beta branch on Steam which provides a native build of the recent game version, Halfway v1.2.3. With this beta we want to gather feedback on a wide range of user system configurations. If you are interested to give it a try, please head over to the Steam community forum discussion.
Regarding Halfway we are not sure yet if we are going to switch to native builds in future updates. The game is released since a couple of months now, and the system requirements are slightly different to our Java version. We strongly consider use of JET as a valid option for future projects though, where we can integrate native builds much earlier in the development and release process.
The price of $3000 per seat and platform will certainly be a non-trivial issue for indie game developers. Excelsior is offering discounts for micro-businesses and free versions for non-commercial use.
We’ve finally finished up the modding tools and have decided to bring them out of beta.
To celebrate this we decided to go for a 25% sale on Steam, Humble and our own Humble-Widget. So get it while this sale lasts! For our existing players, we have added a small “thank you” into this update in the form of a extra hard gameplay mode (game mode ++). Play the extra hard version with tougher enemies and even greater challenges!
The mod tools are here, sort of. We decided to lunch the modding tools as a beta for everyone who wants to get his hands dirty right know. This means if you want you can already start making your mods and at the same time help us find some bugs that we may missed.
Currently the whole thing is Steam only, but the full release of the modding tools will be over all other versions too. So you don’t need Steam when we have them properly released.
Also as a bonus we added an extra hard gameplay mode to the game, currently playable in the beta as a mod, but will be added properly as gameplay mode with the full release of the game. I hope you like this.
Additionally it should help you get an overview how to setup a mod in the first place too.
Please note: This is a beta and some features are still missing, like uploading the mods and packing them into zip files etc. They will come soon!
In your Steam game list, right-click on Halfway and select “Properties”.
Navigate to the “BETAS” tab.
In the field labelled “Enter access code…” enter this code: halfwaypreview. Click on “CHECK CODE”.
In the checkbox above there should now be an item named “preview – Public Release Candidate” available to select.
Steam now should start patching your version, and display the game as “Halfway[preview]” in the Steam library.
How do I go back to the release version?
Just select “NONE – Opt out of all beta programs” in the “Properties / BETAS” tab. If you want to be really safe, you can follow up with selecting the “Properties / LOCAL FILES / VERIFY INTEGRITY OF GAME CACHE …” option.
How to setup an new Mod.
Take a look at the game folder and navigate to the ./mods/ folder. There you should find a ./game-mode-plus/ folder which contains the new extra hard game mode. To setup a new mod just make a new folder in the mod folder and copy over the files from the main game you want to change and create the same folder structure as the main game has.
Want some good music to make your first mod? We have something for you:
It’s not just a simple copy & paste release of the music of Halfway– all songs got a touch up and plenty of love. Additionally, it includes 4 unreleased bonus tracks that never made it into the game itself, but were too beautiful to just let them rot on Gavin’s hard drive. So what are you waiting for?
In other news:
We have some other nice little news for you:
Until the 22nd of September, you can get Halfway on the “End of Summer Sale” over at Humble Store and on our own website:
If you still not have bought our game and you are into TBS games: Go get it as long as the sale is on.
We are still working on the mod tools and the basic documentation but not much longer anymore, we have already successfully made our first mod ourselves and it worked as intended. So watch this space for some news soon!
We released Halfway, got a lot of good and valuable feedback from player and tons of love from all over the place. Released several patches that changed some of the things players didn’t like and improved on all aspects of the game.
We were really happy that on the technical side most things went smooth and now it seems that mostly everyone can actually play the game. (For the last few guys who still have some issues: We are working on it.)
Now we are super busy finishing up the modding tools for everyone and hope we can release them very soon.
The plan is to have an open-beta for the first set of tools soon over the Steam beta channel so we can collect feedback and fix all the bugs you guys may find.
As soon as we have everything tested and it is not breaking the actual game anymore we will release it officially.
Anyway, to show you a bit more in detail what you can expect from our map editor, we did a 3 part preview of the tools with me making a level from scratch.
You will be able to make your own campaigns and/or edit existing levels.
Tutorial part I: Basic tile brushes and collision:
We hope this gives you a good overview of what you will get with the map editor. There are more tools for adding new art or for changing other parts of the game, but this will be part of another video tutorial series.
Here is a small overview of some of the more recent articles about Halfway:
Kotaku: “Hope You’ve Got Room For More Turn-Based Strategy, PC Gamers”
Halfway has now officially hit digital store shelves! You can grab the game right now on Steam , Humble Store or directly from us via Humble Widget for $12.99/£9.99 with a -10% launch discount. The game is available on Windows, Mac and Linux!
“Halfway is a turn-based strategy RPG taking place a few hundred years into the future. You take control of a small group of people and guide them through cramped and gloomy corridors on board of the colonial spaceship Goliath. Use equipment, skills, locations and strategies to your advantage as you slowly fight your way across the ship.”
Even though the game has been released, we’re not done yet.. Soon, we’ll be releasing the tools we used to create the levels and campaigns in Halfway to the public and we hope you’ll join us in making lots of interesting new challenges for the community. Stay tuned for more details on this!
For now, we’d love you to check out Halfway and why not get involved in our community forums over at halfwaygame.com?
Update: We released some patches for Halfway which improve the stability of the game. Look in our Forum for the changes.
This is the big day we’ve been waiting for! We’re finally ready to announce when Halfway will hit the market. For this occasion we’ve also launched a nifty new Halfway website, which you should definitely check out here.
But more importantly, we’re very excited to announce that Halfway will be released on Steam and Humble Store on 22 July 2014. That’s next Tuesday!
The game will be available for Windows, Mac and Linux for $12.99/£9.99 with a -10% launch discount. We’ll be adding modding support in the form of a campaign editor, which we’re hoping to release very soon after the game is out.
Keep an eye out on the Halfway website for future updates and as we’re adding more content. And please come say hi on the community forums!
Now all that’s left to do is check out our launch trailer below and help us spread the word!
Wow, time’s flying! We’ve now officially passed the one year development mark for Halfway and we’re edging so close to release that we can almost taste the release day beer! Meanwhile we thought we’d give you guys a quick update on our blog on what’s been happening. If you’d like to get more frequent updates please check us out and follow us on Twitter (@robotality). We try and push out some little details and screenshots of our progress as much as possible on Twitter. Plus, we like hearing from you
On the team front, we’ve had Daniel Ludwig join the team as a coder. He’s a very experienced Game Developer and we’re really happy to have him on board (check him out on Twitter: @code_disaster).
So, where’s Halfway at? Well … we’re pretty much done. Which is a scary and at the same time ridiculously exciting statement. All the levels are in the game, music is done and all the features are there. We’re now spending a lot of time testing, tweaking and polishing to make it a round experience. A huge thank you to everyone who’s been playing and testing the game and has given us invaluable feedback!
We won’t announce the release date just yet, but keep an eye out for this very VERY soon. To finish up this short update, we’ve collected some animated gifs and screenshots from the last few months of development. Enjoy!
(Toilet cleaning in Halfway. Well not really, but you know..)
(A battle scene from Josh’s apartment)
(Preparing space-ship burgers in the homebase)
(Josh smoking a cigarette trying to figure out things on his equipment)
It’s well past time we crawl out of our game development caves and let you know what we’ve been up to!
I’m sure most of you are aware we’ve blazed way past our original timeframe of releasing Halfway during Q4 of 2013. There’s really one simple reason for that: The game just needed more time to mature. In fact, Halfway is still shaping more into the game it should be with every passing hour. It’s a wildly challenging and sometimes taunting task. But we’re more confident than ever that the final game we’ll be worth the wait. And we certainly haven’t always felt that way throughout development (Just being honest here!)
So .. what’s the actual progress we’ve made in the last couple of months?
We’ve overhauled the entire AI making it super smart (things like reacting to noise). We designed more then 15 levels. And if we’d have kept all the iterations needed we’d probably have about quadruple the amount. We re-introduced the ring menu and made various other UI tweaks. We’ve added ALL player characters to the game, totalling 8, and also added all enemy types except for one (Fun fact: All the units take up about three 2048×2048 textures by themselves, that’s A LOT of lovingly placed pixels). We added more than 100 unique items to the game all with charming names such as “The Devastator”. The music has morphed and shaped into something new and very very atmospheric. We fixed a lot of bugs and added a lot of bugs. And we could go and on.. But much better then as listing everything here we’re just going to show you what the current state of the game is in moving pictures. About two weeks ago we did a 90-minute live stream with Tiyuri from Chucklefish playing Halfway:
You might wonder why Chucklefish would be streaming our game. Well, the exciting news is that we’re partnering with Chucklefish to bring Halfway to as many people as possible. In more traditional words: They are publishing our game. But, Chucklefish are about as different from a traditional publisher as you could possibly imagine. Simply put, they are brilliant at what they’re doing (heard of Starbound? ;)) and we are super excited to get to work with them. This truly only means good things for Halfway, and for us.
So what’s next?
We’re of course still working hard at finishing the game as soon as possible. We’re not going to give a time-frame until we can guarantee it. But it’s in our own interest to get it out to you as soon as we can! Stay tuned for more details as things unfold
To finish up this development update, we have a couple of recent screenshots: