Monday, March 18, 2013

Shattered Haven 1.0 Released!

This one is uncharacteristically gargantuan, even by Arcen standards.  Josh, Zack, and I have all been working all weekend to get all this finished up, and in particular Sunday was an 18 hour day for Josh and Zack, and so far looks like a 25 hours day for me.

But it's all worth it -- I couldn't be more proud of what all the finishing touches we've put on the game.  Well, for one thing, the end of the game is actually complete.  Zack was designing away on Alden Ridge and Ganan Fields, as well as the final boss fight, while Josh and I were working steadily on implementing the voluminous story cutscenes that come at the end and near-end of the game.  A lot of the volume comes because of all the branching, really.

The release notes really gloss over all the coolest stuff; you get hints of it based on what sorts of scripting commands I added, but I don't say how they were actually used in our scripts and levels.  That's more fun to find out by actually getting there yourself!

The Shingen Rapid Prototyping Facility is one thing that has been pushed back to post-1.0.  I should be able to get that finished this week, but basically I wanted to make sure and take time to do that right.  It contains two of the endings, but they are both endings you can't get until New Game Plus anyway.  Right now there are two main endings that you can get, although there are some smaller things that vary based on your actions as you get to the last legs of the game.

Fun fact: there is a way for every character in the game, be they an NPC or a main character or what, to die.  Well, actually there are a couple of characters that won't be fatality-prone until the Shingen facility is in there, but that's a minority.  And keeping all the characters alive is not possible, by the way. ;)

There are a couple of other little extras that we have planned for this week in particular, but as of this release this is a complete game that you can play end-to-end. 

Level Editor!
Oh!  And the level editor is now unlocked -- I'll warn you that the scripting window is a bit nuts when the scrollbars come in, but that's largely because of the unity 3D lack of support for good scrolling multiline textboxes.  I've implemented some partial solutions there, but I'm going to take another crack at it this week.  That would be a useful thing to have for all our games, actually.

The Road To Creation
The creation of this game has really been quite a saga.  Originally it was just me any my wife working on it in 2008.  She did a good 30-some levels, I did around 60.  Then in the summer of 2008, Lars Bull -- the lead designer of Tidalis, you may recall -- came in and really gave me a huge amount of useful testing feedback.  The game jumped in quality.

Then I got stuck on something (how exactly to marry the puzzle and adventure elements, basically), and decided to take a "short break" and work on this game called AI War.  AI War was just a side project, in my mind.  Then of course that turned into something really cool and it became the basis of Arcen, and we were off to the races.

Four years later, in August 2012, we picked this back up again and started working on it in earnest.  I ported it to our newer engine, Zack started improving the levels and especially the overworlds, and he designed out the whole tutorial.

Erik and Zack and I had lengthy calls talking about the story up through around November or so, figuring out how to make all the elements I had started with really come together in a satisfying conclusion that made sense.  Erik in particular was really helpful on figuring out large plot points, because he's got such an encyclopedic knowledge of the macabre genres.  Not to say that Zack and I weren't holding our own.

Then while Valley 2 was really taking up everyone else's time, Zack was pretty much left all by his lonesome working on Shattered Haven.  I kept telling him we'd be back, heh.  Then as soon as Valley 2 came out, Josh and I jumped in with both feet and suddenly we were whirring along towards 1.0.  Zack had made enormous progress in the time since he'd started on the progress, and the overworld areas were a lot more intricate and Zelda-like than what I'd originally designed.

When Josh and I got onto this project, so did Pablo actually.  He started composing new music tracks for the game, and remastered the better of the stock tracks that I'd been using up until that point.  All in all we tossed out about three quarters of the music that had been in use prior to the porting, and the result was something much stronger.  This is the first Arcen soundtrack that isn't 100% composed by Pablo, but he did a lot of the more emotional stuff that you hear emphasized.

Around the time that Valley 2 was really getting underway, Heavy Cat Studios was also starting work on Shattered Haven.  They wound up setting that aside for a while, same as I did, but then came back to it starting in February.  "Blue," Arcen's new part-time art director, also spent a fair bit of time doing things like the cloud effects and some of the other things that make Shattered Haven pop.  I did the particle effects with Particle Illusion as usual, and I did the shadows and lighting.

It's been a really long road for this game, but we had a blast making it despite the long hours here at the end.  We hope that you enjoy playing it!

This is a standard update that you can download through the  in-game updater itself, if you already have any version of the game.  When you  launch the game, hit the big "Play" button and then you'll see the notice of the update having been found if you're connected to the Internet at the time.

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