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 🙂
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.
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.
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:
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?
Last week was a really exciting week for us. Seeing the word about Halfway getting out there and people showing interest. After a while, it’s so easy to lose any sort of ability to objectively judge your work. Will people actually like what we’re making? Or are we just wasting time here? So it felt good to finally have it out in the open! 🙂
A huge thank you from us to everyone who’s spread the word and shown interest so far! We got a nice write-up over at Indie Statik and had a chat with Gaming On Linux. We also got a nice mention on VG Naut.
We’re also aware that we haven’t shared many details about the game yet, stay tuned as we rectify this over the coming weeks. Reality is, we’re still working out quite a few details and we will share our progress with you as we make it.
For this week’s update, we thought it’d be great to give you a first glimpse at the game in action. Keep in mind, this is early alpha footage and a lot might change again and we still have many things to add:
The video shows the core battle mechanics in Halfway. At the heart of it, every character of your squad can be controlled via 6 basic actions:
Tactical: Every character has it’s own unique set of tactical abilities which are unlocked as the character levels up. These abilities give you various strategic options. When used properly, they can make all the difference. Attack: Attack a visible target with the currently equipped weapon. Reload: Yes, weapons do need to be reloaded. Move: Depending on your character’s agility, you can move further. Defend: Gives you character a reduced hit-chance until the next turn. Items: Use items such as medpacks, grenades and more.
These are the basics of how you control your squad in Halfway. Of course, there are a lot more details to go over, especially how exactly the characters uniqueness comes into play and how items and tactical abilities work. But that’s for another week.
Hope you enjoy the gameplay video and please let us know what you think! 🙂
“The room is flooded with a dull, red emergency light. As you look up, you notice that all the other cryo-tanks around you have been violently destroyed, except for one. The untouched chamber houses another member of your squad, who has also awoken. Dried blood, broken glass and cooling liquid cover the walls and floor. Suddenly, the blinking light on the door’s intercom catches your attention …”
Welcome to the world of Halfway! Before we get to the details of the game, let’s recap the last few months:
At the beginning of February we sat down to brain-storm what our next game would be. We knew one thing for certain: we wanted to make something that we ourselves would be willing to pay money for. In fact, this has been a guiding thought throughout the entire development process so far. Ultimately, if we wouldn’t spend money on our game, why would anyone else?
Next, we wanted to create a game that at its core was strategically focused, but also brought with it a distinct atmosphere. It was important to us to not just create a game, but to deliver a whole world with it. A world the player can identify with and would be interested to explore.
Straight away we embarked on the journey of prototyping and figuring out the core mechanics of our game. After about a month and a half, we had hit rock-bottom. We had created a prototype that was playable, but wasn’t exactly fun. We also struggled to find our visual style and, as if all that wasn’t enough, the game concept had grown far too complex for us to finish in any reasonable amount of time. It was time for us to really re-think our game.
What followed was a fairly painful stripping away of ideas and bringing a sense of focus to the game. Luckily, we ended up with a much tighter gameplay. The product of the months that followed is Halfway. So what exactly is Halfway?
Halfway is a turn-based strategy game taking place a few hundred years in the future. You take control of a small group of people who are witnesses to a violent overtake of their spaceship by an unknown species. As you fight your way through the dark corridors and rooms of the ship, you will uncover more and more details of what has taken place. For now, all you know is that in order to survive you will have to fight, face your fears and outsmart the enemy. Here’s what it looks like (click for full resolution):
At the heart of the game are tactical gun fights. Battles are conducted in a typical turn-based manner with transparent but interesting tactical decisions. The whole game is entrenched in an engrossing storyline that unfolds more and more the deeper the player delves into the game. Your squad will be built out of distinct characters you pick up along your journey, each with their own part to play in the whole story. You will develop skills and find items as you uncover all the corners of the spaceship, adding a touch of RPG elements to the game.
Halfway will be released on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux later this year. We’re looking at a potential tablet release later.
There is a lot more we want to share with you, so keep an eye on the blog as we will release updates frequently.