The first half of 2017 is finally over, and I'd like to share what has been done, specially after our last post.
7 months ago, on the very first day of this year, I made a thorough schedule of the Hacker Experience development, already accounting for the new side-project (HEBorn/HE1) and possible delays. It was my expectation to deliver the first testing version of HE2 during the month of June, and HE2 itself (as presented on the trailer/website) on September.
Well, it's safe to say we won't hit the June deadline for HE2 initial testing, but we are not too late for this deadline - and missing it on the first place happened for a really good reason. Let me explain.
Up until May we were on track with this deadline (June for BETA, September for Stable). Then something good happened. "Accidentally", I secured some seed money from an investor who felt in love with the project. Naturally, several meetings, drafting the contract, following due diligence, legal and tax requirements took a good amount of my time. For almost two months I couldn't contribute with a single line of code. This may seem little, but it accounts for ~40% less human resources / development power within HE2.
As I've said before, we were financially stable. We still are. Since the crowdfunding campaign ended, I never looked for additional investors or sponsors, the reason being that 1) we were financially OK and 2) I knew this would take a lot of time from me, which would be better spent developing the game. There's also another reason: usually, venture-backed money would go against our ideals; e.g. forcing us to "exit" or "do whatever it takes to make as much money as possible", including gathering private data for future leverage.
Enters the "accidental" part. I was contacted by a known investor (individual) who shared the project's ambitions. After sending our business plan, which was written 2 years ago, he made a nice offer that surprised me in many ways, mainly because he did not demand what I'd expect from the typical venture capitalist. Our team still have full autonomy on the entire project vision, the same one from 1 year ago.
Anyway, back to the schedule. I believe if we kept working at the rate we were on April, we'd probably have HE2 Alpha ready on June, or at most July. This unexpected detour did impair our progress, but it comes with a greater good: we now have the means to expand our team to specialists within their area, the main one being interface design. We also have the money to start a Mobile development team - but that will happen only after we launch the Alpha version of HE2.
Now that everything was sorted out with the investor, I could start from where we left off on our schedule. However, an important variable has changed (money), so it made sense to create a whole new plan. It goes like this:
Both HE1 and HE2 will be different, specially on the presentation part, but so far they are the same. This means that all work done on HE1 applies to HE2, and vice-versa. We should keep this "HE1 == HE2" mindset for as long as possible, because it means our work is more efficient. I believe once we split both into two different projects, development speed will get slower due to specifics of each one.
HE1 is free, so if we desperately needed money it would make sense to focus on HE2 as soon as possible. The original plan accounted for this, but this is no longer true. Instead, the most our community wants right now is to see actual progress, so getting HE1 right is our new focus.
(This does not mean development of HE2 is halted. It's the opposite: 95-100% of all work done on HE1 also applies to HE2. Once this rate drops substantially, it's probably time to split development into two projects.)
With that in mind, what would be the HE2 Alpha and Beta testing was merged into HE1. The first version of HE1 is planned to have all the basic game mechanics, including most kinds of software, NPCs, missions, law enforcement and features in general. Once we have this base game (which shares the same foundations between HE1 and HE2), we will split into two and make the first release of HE2.
This base version of HE1 - let's call it HE1 Beta - is planned to be ready in 8 weeks, i.e. late August. We'll then work in parallel to 1) split and release HE2 as an executable/steam download; and 2) further improve HE1/HE2 core mechanics. This next step is planned to take 4 weeks, so late September. By then, we expect to have all major features released on both HE1 and HE2 versions. This is phase one.
Phase two starts once we have the foundations for HE1 and HE2, expected on early October, and its main focus is on specializing HE2. During 4 weeks, two different teams will work on 1) implementing map-related features of HE2; and 2) implementing an initial version of HE1 mobile app. That's late October. The next 4 weeks will be dedicated to 1) polishing all features of HE2 and 2) based on the HE1 app, start work on HE2 mobile app. That's late November.
Finally, for the last 4 weeks of the year we'll focus on 1) getting the HE2 mobile app at par with the Desktop client and 2) ensuring all features shown on our trailer are properly implemented and released.
Phase three starts on 2018, and I do have some ideas of what to focus on, but this calls for a more accurate planning on the first day of 2018. Rest assured we don't plan to stop working on HE2 once all promised features have been released. We have several exciting ideas that never were made public during the project, mainly because they depend on a stable release of HE2.
So, in short, our new plan (and schedule) is to have:
- Base HE1 at the end of August;
- Base HE2 at the end of September;
- Fully featured HE1 & HE2 w/ mobile app at the end of November;
- Stable HE2, mobile app at the end of December.
Surely, unexpected delays can (and probably will) happen, but based on prior experience I believe this schedule is realistic. Considering a worst case scenario, I'd say we could be at most 1 month late for the first phase (Base HE2, est. September) and at most 3 months late for the second phase (Stable HE2, est. December). In any case, we'll keep you posted here on Leaks.
As always, if you don't like the schedule or think the game has been taking too long to get released, you can request a full refund at email@example.com.
One major thing has changed. After so much time working on HE2, we've come to realize that building the game is easy - we can definitely do it - but building a community and achieving our noble goals related to education and awareness is extremely hard and we can't do it alone.
(Related: "Code is the easy part" by Evan Czaplicki)
We could keep things unchanged: the game would be developed, released and enjoyed by many players around the world. But we'd never reach our project's goals (which go beyond building a great game).
Based on our past experience and mistakes, we've came up with a plan to grow an inspiring community of players and contributors. We believe that's a crucial part on getting anywhere near our objectives.
We'd love to have you as a member of this community. Please read the post introducing the new Hacker Experience community. Also, take a look at the Contributor Task Force. And did you meet Ghaleon, our new Community Manager?
By the way, this month also marks 1 year of development since the Indiegogo campaign ended :) If you've reached this far -- thanks for your patience! We know the development is taking longer than expected, and we know you are anxiously waiting for HE2 (to the point of being frustrated, after possibly several months of your backing). If we knew the game would take this long 1 year ago, we would have told it right away. Lots of unimaginable things, good and bad, happened to us. Add to this major design changes and lack of experience, and you can easily get 1+ year of development.
Despite (or because of) this, you can rest assured that:
- we won't stop working until we release HE2 with everything presented on the trailer;
- we won't stop working after HE2 has been released. We have lots of ideas for the "1.1+" version and we are eager to try them out.