The last few months development of Corrosion has been very slow. As with all things, persistence has been cyclical and interest has waxed and waned. As a result, user participation is slowing too and I don't generate as much traffic any longer. Usually in a project of this magnitude and nature, where a long term commitment to develop is needed and resilience is a must, this usually leads to the slow death of the product. Disinterest, poor motivation or more interesting projects come along and kill any chances of a revival. I think it's even more dangerous the smaller the team is, because collective enthusiasm and moment counts and when you're essentially by yourself the strongest link in the chain is automatically the weakest.
Corrosion's code is already thousands and thousands of lines and I haven't even scratched the surface of what I want to do with it. I have decided that 2012 is going to be the year in which I either give it a proper go, reboot or scrap the project. By the third quarter of 2011 I wanted to reach the alpha stage, but Deus Ex and Skyrim severely undermined that goal. I'm still very far off, but there are still eleven full months in this year in which, if I dedicate myself, I can get a shit load done.
My heart goes out to continuing this project because I'm very happy with the stuff that's already been done and I've gotten a lot of positive feedback. There are quite a few people that want to see me continue and finish as well. The project is flawed, but you learn as you go and I have the feeling that even if I reboot the project, that six months in I will have regrets like I do now.
But rebooting does have advantages. I made many mistakes that prevent me from progressing as fast and as smoothly as I would like. Also, deciding to incorporate all the aspects of Shadowrun the way I would like is a very, very daunting and ambitious task, the likes of which I am not a hundred percent sure of will lead to a playable browser game, especially multiplayer. It's a case of waiting and seeing, tinkering and tailoring. Rebooting will likely net me a cleaner framework. Lots can be recycled and upcycled while the problematic bits can be canned. I have had several ideas about other projects to try, but I'm trying to keep my enthusiasm from wandering in that direction and focus it on Corrosion. A lot has already been done that would have to be redone. A lot.
Scrapping it has been on my mind too. Especially now that it appears an official Shadowrun browser game is in the making. Quite more high tech, done in a Unity type engine that will give a far more immersive type of play. It's of course unsure when that will be published (if at all), but I would love to play it myself so I can imagine it would wipe the floor with my relatively amateur, hobbyist game. Then there's the probable cease and desist I might be served, since I'm doing all of this in good faith, knowing that by the grace of the IP owners I am allowed to do this. At a whim they could shut me down.
But for now, I think it's a learning experience and character building as well. A project of this magnitude is forcing me to exercise my planning and strategy muscles as well as testing my fortitude. On top of that, and anyone who has made anything and seen a project come to life will attest, there is something invigorating and exhilarating in making something. Creating and nourishing something.
As some of you might know, I've been playing Dragon Age: Origins pretty solidly for the last few weeks. I had bought Mass Effect on Steam, talked about the richness of the game with Richard and he gave me his copy of DA:O because he said it had the same depth. I started playing it a little bit, then a lot, then abandoned Mass Effect all together in favour of DA:O (to be picked up later) and now I'm pretty hooked.
The game has an over-arcing storyline, with four sub storylines and several dozen smaller storylines running through it. The four sub storylines are like separate chapters in the story that you can follow in any sequence you desire. You can either go to Castle Redcliffe, where Arl Eamon, a powerful ally has been gravely ill. You can go to the Circle of Magi, who's tower has been overrun by deamons. You can go to the Dalish Elves, who have been set on by werewolves, or you can go to the Dwarves of Orzammar, who are currently without a king while two factions are vying for the throne.
I first went to Redcliffe, only to find out I really needed the Circle of Magi to finalise that storyline, so I went to the Circle of Magi after completing 99% of the story in Redcliffe. Then completed them both in succession and went on to the Dalish Elves, which I thought was a really solid storyline. That's where I picked up the Arcane Warrior specialisation for my Mage. Then I went to Orzammar and completed that last night.
What I only realised in Orzammar is that heavy armour suddenly didn't require higher strength to wear, but higher magic! I could finally take off those horrible robes and wear a kick-ass set of armour. Holy mac, the game suddenly took a turn for the awesome! The idea of the Arcane Warrior was one that I was attracted to almost immediately, but I couldn't figure out where to unlock it, so I chose the Spirit Healer as my first specialisation. It was the most practically applicable most of the time. I usually run around with Alistair as the main tank (champion/templar), Leliana for traps, lockpicking and archery, and Wynne for the needed healing backup.
Man, if I had know how cool the arcane warrior was, I'd have done the Dalish Elves storyline first and then the rest. I think I made a lot of mistakes with my build, and unfortunately you can't respec in the game.
Kane & Lynch: Dog Days, the sequel to Kane & Lynch: Dead Men was quite a ride. This time around, the story was simpler and the interaction between the two protagonists more interesting and more intense. The look and feel of the game improved greatly, and while there was still some snags with the controls, the overall gameplay experience improved pretty dramatically.
In Dead Men, Kane and Lynch are put together by The Seven, a council of top level, international crime bosses that Kane used to belong to. Kane stole money from them and he has to get the money back. The Seven stage a prison transport escape for Kane, who is en route to death row, where he is to be put to death for past crimes. They put Lynch, a wife-murdering sociopath, in the same transport and make sure that Kane is prepared to get busted out. After the escape, Lynch is tasked to help Kane retrieve the money he supposedly stole, while The Seven threaten to kill Kane's ex-wife and daughter. Pretty soon both Kane and Lynch get burned by The Seven but manage to turn the tables and start hunting for them all over the globe, this time as partners.
In Dog Days, Kane is reunited with Lynch who now lives in Shanghai. Lynch is working as a thug for some a British smuggler named Glazer, has a girl and regularly takes his medication. Kane has been travelling the world, pulling heists where he could, but it becomes evident from the trailer to the game that the last heist went horribly wrong and his entire crew got killed while he got away, without the money. He wants to do one last job and then retire and so he gets in contact with Glazer, to smuggle some weapons and he is met in Shanghai by Lynch.
Before taking Kane to his hotel, Lynch asks him to accompany him on a little job he needs to do; having a chat with a local thug who has been talking too much. He needs to teach him a lesson, and before Kane knows it, he's stuck in a gun fight that goes horribly wrong as they accidentally shoot the thug's girlfriend, the daughter of an important politician/mafioso. That starts a chase through the sprawl of Shanghai as they are trying to flee the city.
Controls and Atmosphere
The reason I wanted to talk a bit about both the look and feel as well as the controls of the game is because they are very narrowly related. First of all, the game is absolutely beautiful, smothered in neo-noire that atmosphere that's reminiscent of Miami Vice and similar shows and films. It shows both the glitz and glamour of a large city and simultaneously highlights that the shiny lights are only skin deep and that underneath that lies the filthy underbelly of a wicked, urban sprawl. The colours used in the game are all saturated neon colours of pink, blue and yellow and the setting is very rich and detailed. Also, the surroundings give a sense of endless openness and possibilities without letting you lose track of the path you're predestined to follow. From the sweat shops you invade to catch a thug, to the low-rent apartment blocks you race through to save Lynch's girlfriend, to the train yards, docks and airport you have shoot-outs in to get out of the city, all of them are covered head-to-toe in beautiful, rich detail.
The controls are a little tricky, but have certainly improved since the first game. The cover system works better and is more intuitive now, switching from one piece of cover to the next is also a bit more responsive, though the standard settings allow you to use the WASD buttons and RMB to walk and strave, you use the C to get into cover. All good. However, when you duck from one cover to the next, you use C+A to duck left, C+W to duck forward and C+D to duck right. I use the same finger (left-index) to hit both C and D. So a combo of those is a little tough.
The camera angle is also a bit problematic at times, but again, not nearly as terrible as it was in Dead Men. They actually chose a really interesting concept; a supposed third person carrying a portable camera to film everything. That camera man is always just behind whoever you're playing at the time, be it Kane or Lynch, and sometimes ricochetting bullets hit the camera and make it go static for a moment. The camera is almost always moving, giving it a hard-nosed reality feel to it, and when the camera man is running behind you to keep up, the image becomes blurry and you can hear him panting. Sometimes, in the thick of it, he loses focus on what you're trying to hit. The lighting becomes bad as fast-paced action leaves the camera struggling to keep up. The camera man is there, but he's never part of the story. It's very well done.
I thought this game was brilliant. From the rather brutal torture scene that leads into Kane and Lynch both running naked, cut up and bloodied into the streets of Shanghai, love handles and all, to the pixelated faces of the people you shoot in the head, supposedly because the camera man thought it was too gruesome for public consumption. The pace is fast and the panic on the voices of both actors is really well done, their frustration grows as they realise they are getting far too old for their gun-fighting antics. The only real complaint I have about this game is that it seemed a lot shorter than the first one, and that there was absolutely no end-of-game sequence, making the end of the game very anti-climactic.
I have said it before, and I'll say it again; Deus Ex: Human Revolution looks absolutely fantastic and it may very well trump Deus Ex. The potential immersion is phenomenal and I really can't wait to play it. I've been clinging to the Eidos twitter feed like a crack addict waiting for more footage and yesterday they released this. :)
One of the nicest things about having a project of the magnitude that Shadowrun: Corrosion has is that, if done right, ideas spawn and ignite new ideas. We always held the idea that Player vs Player (PvP) combat should be a large part of the game, not only in order to keep the game competitive, but also because we needed a reason to play Corrosion in a browser and being exposed to other players. If there was no PvP element, the game would be a single-player game with chat options, and that wasn't good enough. The idea of PvP spawned the idea of organised PvP, which is what our end-game is going to be about. (That and resource management.) So we started on PvP, single combat first in order to set the stage for the multi-player combat and in order to give players something more to do to make money, to earn karma and to tweak their character.
We've got a rough outline for ranged PvP combat finished and it's looking good and fast, which is good since the path-finding algorithms we're using in missions leave a lot to be desired, unfortunately. Having use for pathfinding, it's fast. Immediately, we came up with another idea; ambushing. Ambushing (or surprise) is already a part of the SR3 game system, where, before the combat starts, the ambusher and ambushee both roll a reaction roll, ambusher against target number (TN) 2 and the ambushee against TN 4, to determine if the ambushee could respond. If not, then the ambusher got a free combat pass to do his worst, which, when you've got enhanced reflexes, can be lethal.
Of course, this lethality of ambushing lead us to another idea; how about we drop the TN for the surprise rolls by one for a middle lifestyle, and two for a high lifestyles, and drop the ambush all together for a luxury lifestyle? That way, there are more reasons to aim for a higher lifestyle, which in turn demands a higher daily upkeep price, which in turn keeps the economy stable and flowing.
Right now, if you're victorious, you get 1 karma if your opponent had a higher reputation than you, another karma if your opponent had a higher rank than you, your rank increases, and you get between 5-10% of the opponent's nuyen. If you weren't victorious, you get one karma if either the opponent's reputation or rank was higher, but you lose 5-10% of your nuyen to your opponent. Also, your rank will most likely go down. This concept of earning karma and making nuyen through PvP introduces some new ideas; you could self sustain on PvP, never having to do one mission if you don't want to. This means mission rewards need to be competitive in order to keep a steady influx of nuyen into the economy, otherwise players would constantly fight each other and the same nuyen would exchange hands over and over. Nuyen still needs to be spent on increasing skills, attributes and gear, so the need for missions will remain, but to keep the economy healthy we'll need to keep an eye on things.
What if you want to safeguard your money? Couldn't you put it in an offshore bank account instead of walking around with it in certified credsticks waiting for some other player to come along and rob you? Wouldn't that be a great addition to customisable lifestyles? You start out with a small bank account where you can keep money stored for a lower level lifestyle and increase the size as the quality of your lifestyle increases? Perhaps you can buy expansions to a lifestyle, increasing your bank account, increasing your security or something to that effect.
Ideas aplenty, and more and more popping up as we go along. It's a great feeling, creating something and being infused with ideas. It sure beats sitting around being lead along by someone else's idea and never having any of your own. I like it!