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We just wanted to keep everyone up to date with developments around here, related to both N and TNG.
The Next Game
The bad news is, TNG is taking a _lot_ longer than anticipated, for several reasons.
In part this is due to the learning curve of having to move from a nice, simple, comfortable development environment into a totally unknown one. It's also due to the fact that this game is more complex than N (though still reasonably simple, so that the two of us can definitely get it finished).
We're trying hard to get it done, but we refuse to rush it because we intend to add to this game for a while after it's come out (as we did with N), and we don't want to have the same problems of not being able to implement new features because of hastily cobbled-together code.
There are also a couple other things we have to keep taking time out to work on, which sadly we still can't say anything about, but which should be very exciting.. and we'll let you know about them as soon as we can! This disrtacting work is decidedly annoying, but will hopefully work out in the end.
We can assure you that noone is more impatient to play this game than we are, and we're doing the best we can to remain calm and not get overly stressed about the pressure, impending bankruptcy, or high expectations. We've already lost about a month due to stress-induced shingles!
One thing we can guarantee is that we won't be releasing this game until we feel as good about it as we did with N.
The good news is that things are coming along very nicely. Most of the design has been completed and is working well, and almost all of the tech is finished, and we're really excited by how it's shaping up. For the first few months we were worried that things simply wouldn't work, but now we're confident that everything's going to work.. we simply have to get it all done.
We're sorry about the continued super-secrecy; rest assured that you'll be the first to know anything. We don't want to bother with screenshots/etc until we have something substantial to show.
The bottom line is that TNG will almost certainly not be released by the end of the summer. This is very dissapointing and frustrating for us since it means that we'll be missing the IGF deadline.. however, there's simply nothing that we can do about it.
For financial reasons we're going to have to take October off and work a contract, so that's another month of delay.. we don't want to guess about a release date because we've discovered that we're not very good at accurately predicting how long things will take.
Rest assured that the game will be done as soon as possible. We're sorry if this news is disappointing; personally we're more excited than ever because we feel that we've hit our stride and are on the right track, and all we need to do is keep working at it.
We've also been working a bit on the next update to N. This is something that we'd like some feedback on:
Over the past few months there has been increased cheating in the highscores; this has lead us to consider freezing the current highscores, and starting anew with a rewritten system that has more security measures built-in.
Re-starting the highscores is also motivated by our desire to integrate user levels more fully into the game; the idea is that it will be easy for people to drop in different sets of levels/episodes (such as Legacy) which will be identical to the current built-in levels in terms of functionality.
For instance, each set will be able to have a highscore server. (We would continue to host the highscores for the "official" levels, and we'd provide some sort of API -- such as a set of php functions -- so that anyone who wished to could run a server for a set of episodes/levels).
This train of thought led us to entertain even more extreme ideas: since we're developing new collision and simulation code for TNG (and in fact used the N engine as a testbed for some of it), if we re-start the highscores, we could make some adjustments to the gameplay itself.. previously we couldn't touch the gameplay code because it would have ruined everyone's highscores.
Being fans of Soldat, we're aware of how horrible it can be when the developer decides to completely change all of the things youve come to love; we don't want to _change_ anything really, we simply want to fix some of the things we feel we could have done better, such as:
-glitchy stuttering when running up slopes; this is by far the worst problem with the current system, and is easily fixable
-drones which can only move in 90deg increments; we had originally intended the surface-following drones to move smoothly across the actual surface of the world.. we just couldn't get that feature working in time. Now, we can; additionally this will make it easy to do other surface-related things, for instance to allow floorchasers to move along any surface (not just horizontal surfaces).
-randomness: currently there are a few behaviours which are annoyingly arbitrary, which leads to frustration and a general lack of fun. The best example is that chase-drones don't always chase you predictably.. we'd like to change this. Additionally, we feel that the chaingun drone isn't the way we intended: it's too random, since you can keep attempting to jump through its arc of fire, and occasionally you'll survive -- the proper way for it to behave would be to do what it currently does (fire an arc of bullets), but in such a way that if you're within that arc, you _will_ die no matter what.
Finally, you yourselves have given us several ideas about things which might be slightly tweaked; for instance, the phenomenon of "corner jumping" has made us toy with the idea of implementing a slightly different collision system to make it easier to jump (i.e there would be a window of opportunity larger than the current single frame for timing jumps). This is very similar to rocket-jumping: it was an unintended behaviour in the original Quake, but was then incorporated on purpose into later games.
If we do decide to overhaul the entire game, we'll also have the opportunity to experiment with new enemies and objects.
BUT: no matter what we do, we will preserve the current gameplay as a "classic" mode, so that all of your user-made levels/etc. aren't broken.
This is all hypothetical since we first need to get TNG finished, but we wanted to let you know what we've been considering. We're still going to release the source code, because certain improvements are simply too involved for us to work on (such as full integration of N and NUMA).. however we don't want to do this until we've finished N.
Anyway, that's all the news for now; we'll keep you posted on any new developments as they occur. Thanks again for all your support and encouragement, we couldn't be doing this without you.
Raigan and Mare