Halfway Development Update #2

Posted by bach,

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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:

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(click to enlarge)

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(click to enlarge)

Merry Christmas!

Posted by bach,

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We wanted to take a quick moment and thank YOU for a fantastic year! Thanks for believing in our game and pushing us to make Halfway the best it can be :)

We’re taking a break over Christmas and New Year’s – but we’ll be back in the new year ramping up towards the release of Halfway!

Have the best Christmas & stay safe!

Halfway Development Update

Posted by bach,

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We’ve been hiding away in our caves working like little madman on Halfway (we have the beards to prove it too). Today we decided to come out and share our progress. And because pictures speak more than words we recorded a gameplay video with commentary.

The usual disclaimer: Heavy work in progress :)

There’s a lot of new stuff in there that we haven’t shown before. Our previous gameplay pretty much only showed combat. In this new video you get to see how we’re integrating story elements and exploration bits into the game. Lots of other little new details in there as well, which we just forgot to talk about. We’re hoping to do another video update soon showcasing the AI, the homebase and other things!

Hopefully our chatter doesn’t bore you too much and will give you a much better idea of where we’re heading with the game. Looking forward to hearing what you think!

Update from our office in Hamelin

Posted by bach,

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This past week has been brilliant! It was the first time that Johan joined us here in Germany for a focused week of work on Halfway. We’ve made good progress in lots of areas and are moving forward at a steady pace. We’re really happy with how the game is slowly but surely taking shape. But we’re also getting to feel the reality of just how much work is still ahead of us. We really, really want to get the game right. But that takes time :)

So, in light of this we’re not going to do our usual friday update today. From now on, instead of the frequent weekly update we might start trying out a few different things. Maybe less frequent posts, but more interesting posts. We’d also really love to try video logs and/or live streams. Either way, we’ll keep you updated with our plans and we plan on sharing as much as possible as development progresses.

Thank you to everyone who’s been following us on the blog and various other outlets so far – We’re really excited about the game and can’t wait to put it in your hands!

Until next time!

Story Time (Part 1/2)

Posted by bach,

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As promised in last week’s post, this time we want to tell you a bit about the world and events within which Halfway takes place. The background setting of the game is a key component to how we build the game. It shapes all the little details that we are putting in the world, nuances in dialogs and interactions but also how we approach things visually. As always, these things are subject to change and we’re constantly tweaking things to make the world more interesting and consistent.
So, why not grab yourself a nice cup of tea or coffee and read through this first part of this rather word-heavy post :)

The Setting
In the year 2321 CE, scientists have achieved an incredible milestone: Faster-Than-Light travel. Through a freak accident the G.S.A. (Global Space Agency) discovered an anomaly while experimenting with gravitational fields, which lead to a quick development of engines capable of travelling at superluminal speeds. Equipped with that break-through, humanity very quickly started spreading across the galaxy and building a network of colonies in neighbouring solar systems.

The race to explore the universe caused the face of society to change dramatically. Governments started to weaken their hold, as all power moved to privately funded corporations around the world, leading the charge amongst them, the G.S.A. These corporations were responsible for some of the most radical reformations in society, one of the most controversial ones being the strict 3-tier social structure now commonplace in most parts of the world: Either you were born into the elite (A-Citizenship), employed by one of the large corporations (B-Citizenship), or unemployed and considered the outcasts and scum of society (C-Citizenship). Moving from one to the other of these social tiers rarely occurs. There are rumours of a small underground movement trying to oppose the grip the corporations have.

This vast expansion to other solar systems is carried out by large experimental colonisation ships, the crews consisting of all areas of society specifically trained to establish outposts of humanity in the distant corners of the galaxy. Driven by the prospect of glory many people gave up their normal life on earth to be part of the great human expansion.

Even though these colonisation ships travel at extreme speeds, the journeys are long and challenging. In order for the human body to properly deal with the extreme conditions of superluminal travel and to save on rations needed, the majority of the crew is cryonically frozen and only a skeleton crew handles the everyday tasks aboard the ship. Journeys may take months, sometimes even as much as a year.

G.S.A.
The Global Space Agency (short G.S.A.) was formed during the 22nd century by an unprecedented privatisation of national space agencies across the world.

During the 21st century not much progress was made in the area of space technology. Governments began minimising their investments in what seemed like a fruitless branch of science. However, space tech was still actively pursued by a few private companies who still saw a future in space exploration. Towards the end of the century, propelled by an assimilation of private space tech companies, a large buy-out of government funded space tech caused most countries to completely shut down their space exploration efforts. Out of this, the G.S.A was formed.

The leadership of the G.S.A had acquired all this technology to further their investments in asteroid mining technology. Their venture started paying off a few decades later with the deployment of the first large mining vessels to gather resources from asteroids.

With natural resources becoming increasingly rarer on earth the G.S.A. was soon able to recklessly force the government to their rules and regulations as one of the only providers of natural minerals. The discovery of the FTL drive further strengthened the GSA’s grip on the people and government, which was one of the initial triggers that caused radical changes in how society is governed in general.

And with this we’re concluding today’s post. Stay tuned for more details and background info next week!

Behind The Scenes: Character Portraits

Posted by bach,

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Quite unusual of us to post on a Tuesday, but we have a little video we wanted to share with you anyway :) As you you would have seen in last week’s Friday Update, Johan Vinet has been making some of Halfway’s character portraits. He also recorded a cool little time-lapse while making them! So click below to get a look at how he makes them (hint: pixel by pixel ;) ).

Oh, and the video is accompanied by another track from Halfway’s soundtrack. Enjoy!

Introducing The Crew

Posted by bach,

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In this week’s Friday update we’d like to introduce some of the game’s main characters. Oh, before we begin: In case you missed it we had a nice little chat with Developer’s Accomplice about us and Halfway, which you should definitely check out if you haven’t already!

Right, let’s have a quick look at the setting Halfway plays in: Goliath, the spaceship on which the events during Halfway take place, is a large colonisation vessel. These experimental spaceships are deployed to reach the far corners of the galaxy and establish new human outposts there. Even though they travel at superluminal speeds, journeys are long and challenging. For that reason everyone except the essential crew is cryogenically frozen throughout the duration of the travel.

In Halfway you control some of Goliath’s crew that have found themselves as survivors of a violent overtake from an unknown species. Each one of those people has a story and is not just another disposable unit. The dialogues and the way they interact with each other are an important part of how we tell the story in the game. But their character goes beyond just their “story”. They also have unique strengths and weaknesses that if you take the time to learn, will give you a rewarding amount of tactical variety to work with.

comanderX4Full Name: Staff sergeant Morten Lannis
Citizenship: B-Class Neutral
Staff sergeant Lannis is an excellent squad leader responsible for one of Goliath’s onboard security units. As an experienced veteran soldier he has pretty much “seen it all”. Thanks to his 25 years in the army he’s gained a wealth of experience and is a master at shooting with his favourite rifle RX-573 AT. Besides his preference towards rifles he’s skilled at almost any weapon. He possesses a strong aversion towards Stimpacks and any modern body-implants that enhance physical abilities. The young guns respect him, despite the fact that he’s quite the conservative.
Either way, SSG Lannis doesn’t worry about other people’s opinions. Besides, this mission is meant to be his last one as he is currently on his way to retire at the borders of the colonies.

male002X4Full Name: Corporal Samuel “Mule” Lankford
Citizenship: B-Class Neutral
Because of his physical stature, Corporal Lankford’s comrades affectionally call him “The Mule”. He is a big muscly soldier, which you wouldn’t want to challenge to a fist fight. Moreover he’s an excellent shooter, so you’re not likely to get close to him anyway if he doesn’t like you.
Due to a “reflex-enhancing” pharmaceutical trial, he suffers from a severe drug addiction. Unless he get’s his daily fix, he’s unlikely to even hit an elephant right in front of him.
Despite his addiction, Samuel is a trustworthy soldier and is held in high regard by SSG Lannis with whom he’s served for almost 20 years already.

female001X4Full Name: Jenna “Wild Child” Wallace
Citizenship: B-Class Negative
“Wild Child” might not be the most charming person around, but she knows how to stay alive and is always a step ahead of the game. She mostly keeps to herself but knows exactly what she wants. An in general, she always gets it.
Wallace, usually working as a mercenary, has joined the ship’s security personnel in order to pay for the trip to the colonies, where another job is waiting for her.
Her weapon of choice is a 20mm S&S X20 sniper rifle, and for that reason usually won’t be seen much up-front in battle. Rumour has it that the reckless mercenary is afraid of the dark. But one probably shouldn’t mention that in her presence, unless you are looking for a quick way out of life.

And that’s all we have for this week! The avid reader would’ve noticed that we promised something “moving” for today’s update. Well, we changed our minds. It’s now instead coming on Tuesday :)

Next week we will talk a bit more about the background story and world of Halfway, with some of the aspects already hinted at in today’s update. Thanks for reading!

Progress and Audio Bliss

Posted by bach,

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Halfway has progressed nicely over the last few weeks and we’ve been cooking up some interesting bits and pieces. But, it seems like we’re no different to any other gamedev out there and we are never truly happy with the amount of progress we made.

Simon is currently busy putting pixels on the next few environment tilesets, Johan is animating our first female character and Stefan (me) is bogged down in the details of UI design and code. We are also constantly putting more bits and pieces into the game’s story and character designs (one might say it’s a never-ending story – no pun intended ;) ).

Our main focus right now is to make the game fully feature-complete. There are still a few major features missing, which we’re hoping to get in place within the next couple of weeks and then we can entirely switch focus to fill the game with content and polish.

As many of you already know, Gavin Harrison is working as a composer and sound designer with us on Halfway. It’s been incredible to work with Gavin and the music he’s been coming up with is nothing short of genius. We’re really honoured that we get to work with such incredibly talented people!

Naturally, the best way to experience the music is to actually sit down and play the game. However we just couldn’t help ourselves and give you guys a bit of preview of what to expect:

(Click play for instant audio-bliss)

When composing the game’s soundtrack, Gavin has taken the same approach as we have with the rest of the art in the game. Basically: Keep the best from the warm and fuzzy retro stuff, and add a modern twist to it. So in Halfway’s soundtrack you can hear lots of retro inspired sounds, mixed with modern elements and epic orchestral sections. Of course, Gavin has made certain that all his retro gadgets are being utilised appropriately, so if you carefully listen you’ll hear a vintage Roland Juno and a Rhodes in there!

The way we are integrating the audio in the game allows us to dynamically change the intensity of the track. So if you are right in the thick of a battle the music will be driving and intense, but the next moment when your squad is recovering from battle it’ll calm down and sit in the back. We’re still working on fine-tuning this but we’re already happy with how much the dynamic flexibility adds to the atmosphere.

Of course there is still a lot more to come in the audio section, but we hope you enjoy the little preview. We’re hoping to do a little interview with Gavin soon and let the man himself speak!

Oh, and for those who’ve asked: Yes, we will make the soundtrack available for sale :)

Halfway Questions? Answers!

Posted by bach,

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What a week! Halfway has made the rounds to quite a few gaming websites this week (here, here and here to name a few), which is of course super exciting, but also a little scary :)

To make things easier, we’ve also setup a mailing list for the game, so if you want to be kept in to loop via old-school email, make sure you sign up here: Mailing List

Now, to the actual content of this week’s update: We’ve seen the same questions pop-up again and again over the last few weeks. We thought we’d tackle some of these today and at the same time give you more insight into some of the game’s various aspects.

BUT, here’s the important thing: We’re always open to feedback and the game is far from finished. A lot will still change and ideas will be further developed and change.

X-Com?!
We have no problem admitting that we’re big fans of X-Com. Let’s be honest, they’ve done an excellent job when it comes to streamlining the battle aspects of the turn-based strategy genre. We have taken inspiration from those ideas, especially when it comes to the battles. But X-Com is only one source of inspiration. Others to quote would be Jagged Alliance 2, Chaos Engine (visually), System Shock (story-telling). Mixed into the cocktail are also some of the japanese turn-based RPGs like Tactics Ogre. Of course comparisons only go so far.
All this to say: Yes we take inspiration from many games and genres, pick out the best, adapt them and make them into our own.

Does Halfway have procedural content?
Yes and no. What we don’t have is procedurally generated levels. Instead we have hand-crafted levels. As mentioned in last week’s post, we strongly feel this is the way to go for our game. With Halfway, we don’t just want to send the player through a series of randomly occurring battles, but deliver an engaging story with it. This is quite difficult to do with completely procedural content. We hope you will agree when you actually get to play the game.
A few aspects of the game are randomised, however. Battles are different every time you play them, with enemies being placed differently. Items and weapons have randomised elements to them as well. Plus there are events that happen outside of the battles which aren’t pre-determined (more on that below).

What about Squad customisation?
In Halfway your squad members don’t have fixed classes. Instead each squad member is made up of a tactical skills tree and some positive and negative perks. Some characters will share certain skills and specialisations. When a member has gained enough experience the player will be able to choose from skills and perks to customise their team.

We won’t put any limitations on what equipment a character can or can’t use. However, some characters will be better trained or experienced to make use of certain items and weapons.

An important aspect we wanted to ensure is that your squad is not just composed of “disposable” members. Instead they are characters with a story that you pick up throughout your journey in the game. They all bring a different angle to the story, and with that also certain abilities and specialisations that will be entirely unique to them. Learn how to use each member of your squad properly and you might just find some interesting new strategies to overcome the next level!

As a side-note: You as the player will directly play as one of the squad members.

What happens besides the battles?
After one of the first few levels, you will recover a sector of the space ship which will become your temporary headquarters. After every battle, you will return to the headquarters for strategic planning. Here, you can walk around your headquarters and talk to the other members of your small group of survivors, organise your equipment and put together a squad for the next level. Another aspect we’d love to add is that the player can delegate tasks to his remaining members, whilst he is out on the next mission. For example, they could go scouting for equipment, other survivors or just defend the headquarters to make sure they won’t be overrun by aliens.

We’d love to hear what you guys think, including any ideas and suggestions you might have. We’re thinking of doing another Q&A in the future, so if there are any aspects of the game you would like to hear more about, let us know in the comments.

The Editor & How we build levels

Posted by bach,

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One of the aspects we’ve always wanted to make sure is that our games come with good modding support. When we started working on Halfway, we knew that it’ll be something we want to plan for from the beginning.

Halfway is coming out later this year, and we will shortly thereafter release an entire toolchain that will allow anyone to build their own levels and campaigns for the game.

One thing we’re still thinking about is the various ways to make sharing of user-built content as easy as possible. We want it to be very straight-forward and an integrated experience. Stay tuned for more details on this front.

Before digging into some details about our level building process we made a video to get you a feel for what’s involved in building a Halfway level. The video shows Simon building a small level in just under 45 minutes:

All of Halfway’s levels are completely hand-crafted in this manner. We don’t use anything procedural to create the levels. We feel strongly this is the way to go for the game. Interestingly enough, we had a procedural generator in the early days, but soon decided against it. By manually designing the levels, we felt we had much better control over storytelling and the flexibility needed to create the detailed and atmospheric environment we had in mind.

To build our levels we follow roughly 3 steps:

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Dummy-Level: Usually, we have a rough sketch on paper of what we want the level to look like, along with the story and challenges the player will face. From that, we construct a dummy version of the level. We purposely make this abstract, so we can entirely focus on the core: How does it play? Is it fun?

Playtest: In the second phase we playtest the level. The editor allows you to play the level without having to quit the application. This makes for a very stream-lined and iterative process when designing levels. We keep going back over the design and playtesting stages until we’re happy with how it plays and feels.

Finalise the Level: Once we’re happy, we make the level pretty. This usually means replacing all the tiles and placing proper objects for things like cover, etc. The majority of time is spent putting all the little details in place that make the level atmospheric and unique. This certainly is the fun part!

And that’s about it :) Would love to hear what you guys think about the level editor & modding support in general. Maybe there are things we should consider?

Until next Friday!

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