HE1, HE2 and the Community

Hello everyone. As you might know, we've spent the last couple months working hard on the new version of Hacker Experience, and I must say it's being a very challenging and fun experience for me. But this post purpose isn't to introduce a new gameplay/feature of HE2. Instead, I'd like to go through some things I learned since HE1 was launched, and how we want to develop Hacker Experience 2 and its community.

Learnings

1 - I love programming

I spent 30 months developing HE1 before launching it. Back then, it was just a side-project to fill my CS course grid time. Those were though but fun times.

2 - Burn out hurts

The day I prepared to launch HE1 I was feeling tired, but very relieved. I was burnt out after all those months, and I just wanted to start working on something else. I couldn't think of spending even a minute of programming on the game. I'd spend hours reading technical books, programming

3 - Releasing a product is just the beginning

I thought that after I launched my product, I was done. Boy, was I wrong. This seems obvious, but try to use my point of view as a programmer: After so long working on a product, finally people can use it. Except for basic maintenance, my job here is done.
I never though of the possibility that people might like my game. People might want to request new features. People might have troubles, need support. People.

4 - I'm not a people person

To be honest, I always knew that. However I was young and I still had to see my social anxiety affect my professional life. It just did. I couldn't reply support emails, tickets, messages. I couldn't give my players the support they deserved. I was frightened and wanted to give away the game right after I released it.

5 - My users are awesome

Yeah, you are. Even though I was away from the game for a long time, the community managed to help itself. People would ask for help on the forums and get replies from other players. Some players excelled at this! It's always unfair to quote names (because I always forget someone), but we must salute Palatura, our freshly-named community manager, for all the help he has given to the Hacker Experience community. Thanks!

As you can see, I learned a lot with HE1, mostly from my mistakes, and I don't want to commit them again on HE2. If you missed me at HE1, or would like to see more support from me: my sincere apologies.

The Community

On a meeting scheduled earlier this week, the entire team involved on Hacker Experience 2 development reached the conclusion that we must work for our customers above all else. We also concluded that I had handled HE1 community the wrong way, by not being an active member of it, or not helping players very often. That's totally my fault, as they were not involved on HE1 development, yet they agreed to help me on that. Yay!

So from now on, you will notice some changes. We will be around more often, not only on the game forums. We will be more active on our e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Google+, this blog and any other social media we have to go to meet our players.

Hacker Experience 2 will be developed on a customer-oriented fashion. A new feature must always be a good addition to the player, not a burden. Customer support should be top priority with outstanding quality, not some place with robotic, pre-defined answers. We want you, players, to love the Hacker Experience franchise as much as we do.

Hacker Experience 1 players will notice this change too, but we all must agree on priorities. As the only person capable of understanding HE1 code, I'll keep fixing critical, blocking bugs. Game is not loading? You can't install software? No one can DDoS anyone? I'm here to help, and you can count on it.

However, we must set a vision on the future, for a greater good. HE1 is unmaintainable, and new features are probably impossible for me to work on. Every hour I spend on HE1 is one hour less I could have spent on HE2. The same applies for our overall support. We will focus on answering questions about HE2 or fixing critical bugs, but the majority of (common) questions about HE1 gameplay must still be answered by the community. (Read below: we need your help!)

As a hacking simulation lover, and someone who played probably all games of this genre out there, I can say with the utmost confidence: Hacker Experience 2 is becoming AWESOME. I can assure you that, if you like HE1, you will love HE2. However we have a small team with very limited resources and time. You do the math. It's a much better deal for everyone if we keep focused on HE2. Rest assured we will do our best to keep our community engaged and let you know what we are working on.

Transparency

I said earlier that I'd like to let you know how we are developing HE2. Our main focus is on the customer aspect. We want you to love the game and have a unique experience.

However, another aspect that we all value is transparency. This is our second main focus.

Open source

On our announcement post I said HE2 will be open-source. I reiterate that. As someone who relies on open source software on a daily basis, releasing HE2 as open-source software is the least I could do.

An open source game means you can download it, run a server on your own computer, see and study the code that powers our servers and even collaborate directly to the game, creating new features or interfaces. In a world of privacy scandals and massive data leaks, having the possibility to look at the source code gives us all more trust on the overall system.

Currently the game is still being stored on private repositories because everything is changing very fast, so we don't want to confuse developers with backwards-incompatible changes and game design pivots. As soon as we have a stable enough version of the game, we will release it. This might happen at the same time the game gets launched, or before. We don't know yet.

What we do know is that we need your help. Ideas, translations, design, programming, forum support or even moral support. Whatever it is, whatever you can help, we accept it. We want to build a strong, trusting community of collaborators, and you are an import part of it. Currently all you can help us with is ideas and support, since our code repository is not public yet, however that is already substantial. We will post HE2 features here and we'd love to hear your feedback. For example, I'm writing a blog post about how software (filesystem) will work, and we want to share with you all new features we are adding to HE2.

Community Participation

As a player of HE2, you will be granted the right to vote for, or against, a new feature. New features will always be discussed and rolled out only after majority approval. If it's not something good for the players, there is no point for us to work on it.

As a benevolent dictator for life, I will make sure to settle disputes or major disagreements on the game, always focusing on what is better for the final end user - you!

Hacker Experience 2 will be a game where you can turn to your friend/parent/partner and say "Hey, you see this game? I helped build it. My work is in there. And you can play it."

A side note about cheaters/scripts/bots

We are aware of some scripts or bots on HE1. We hate that too, specially because it goes against our transparency goal.

In face of those problems, we redesigned the game mechanics to discourage repetitive actions, like camping logs. You can still do that, but with a risk. The entire game is being developed in a way to block any fraudulent/malicious attempt, which we will not accept under any circumstances

I'm afraid that the work required to detect and block bots on HE1 is massive, not being worth for us to create extra measures other than captchas or login rate-limiting. However, we have studied the nature of those scripts, which has helped us create awesome bot detection tools for HE2.

As always, if we find out that someone is using bots on HE1 or HE2, he/she will be banned.

Evolution

We have a lot of feature requests that are amazing, but we also have a small team that is working full-time on HE2.

One important concept to understand is that Hacker Experience 2 will be an ever-evolving software. This means that we are focusing on releasing a minimal game as soon as possible (that you will still have weeks' worth of fun!) and keep it growing, by uploading new features and gameplay on a regular basis.

In order to keep it organized, and also for you to know what is coming next, we will keep a roadmap of features. For example, defacing a webserver was a very requested feature. It will be added to the game, but probably not on its minimal version. It is on the roadmap, and we will probably add it to the game a few weeks after it's been released.

Other stuff

I know you all have a lot of questions related to HE2 (and HE1), and we want to answer them all. I'd love to schedule a reddit-style AMA (Ask Me Anything) with the entire development team, though I'm not sure how it works. It could be a video streaming, but our English isn't that good so reading & writing would be easier for us.

So, let me know what you think of this post, an AMA or any other question. We are here to help. And we want to prove that not by posting on this blog, but by actually spending time with the players, listening to their questions and helping everyone, everywhere. (If you don't have a question, but do have a suggestion, we'd love to hear that too!)

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São Carlos, Brazil Website
Former PHP victim, currently working with Python, Docker and distributed systems.