Saturday, 29 November 2014

Thin Vertical Slice

It's not even been a month yet, I feel like I'm jumping the gun with another update. But I've got so much done over the past few weeks I feel like if I left it any longer it would result in my brain exploding into an endless wall of text no one would care to read.

I'm going to present this in more of a bullet point form, as there are a bunch of small and large things I want to document here, so in more of less chronological order since since my last update:


Users are tangible things now, they have names, skills, homes and workplaces. They come in a variety of types, some separated by income brackets, some by affiliation. Different kinds of users will generate different amounts of network traffic, and their files and network traffic have different values based on what kind of user they are. A hacker will generate gobs of network traffic of a fairly high value, but has an extremely high security skill rating, which will make it much harder to steal from them. A low income average user has a lower security rating and lower value files and traffic.

Next thing I want to do with users is give them presence, so they can either be at work or at home, and depending on their job and function, this will effect gameplay. If a extremely skilled security officer in a corporate network is giving you grief, simply find out where he lives, hack into his home network, and set off his security alarm, causing him to go home and getting him off your back.


I always wanted to tie movement into the connections between networks. I still want to maintain the feeling of flying freely through cyberspace, so I've compromised and calculated the player's speed based on their proximity to network connections and how much bandwidth those connections have. The result will be that a player must more or less follow the connections between networks, and faster connections will act as highways between distant networks.

I've also replace the old camera controls with a new physics based camera. I think it feels much more satisfying to get around with these new controls. The camera accelerates, drifts, can spin and roll and interacts with the world more realistically. I also added a neat impact effect using the new post-effects (more on that later):

Traffic Visualization:

Network traffic is visible now on the connections between networks. Depending on that kind of devices are connected, and who is using those devices, different amounts of traffic is generated. A printer talking to a home network's switch will create very little traffic, whilst a web server connected to a firewall will create a significant amount of traffic. These effects can be seen in the video below, and are made all the more obvious with the new bloom effect (again, more on that later):

Network Entrances:

Networks are now contained spaces, with entrances consisting of devices like routers. You can 'pass through' a network by flying around it, but if you want to access the internal devices in the network, you first have to gain access to one of these entrances.

Once inside a network, they are kind of self-contained little levels, which you fly around and hack your way through. Still a lot of work to do here, I want to have the outside world sill visible through the boundaries of the network, though slightly blurred. And I would love to differ the style and appearance of varying types of networks. Cold, monolithic regimented looks for military and government networks, and warm, cozy, loose looks for home networks.


The Unity asset store takes most of the credit for these improvements. I found an excellent old TV tube shader to create the scanline, noise and chromatic aberration effects (check it out here:!/content/24046). I also added some bloom, glow, vignette and FSAA effects to some cheap graphics wins. The improvement in appearance should tide me over for a while and make me less embarrassed to show off what I have so far.

Messaging System:

This was going to start out as a tutorial system for new players, but I think will become much more integral to gameplay in the future. It's basically an email inbox. When writing the initial introduction message, it became apparent that a storyline could very well fit into this game, and as much as I don't really care for storylines in games, I do kind of look forward to writing one, no matter how flimsy, for HTP.


After creating a basic messaging system, I got a bit carried away and ended up writing a random mission generation system. I didn't really plan on having missions in HTP, but after having added them, I'm not sure how it would have ever worked without them. Here's a short video running through a simple 'steal the file' mission. The mission is only completable with debug tools, but it gets the idea across:

Name Generation:

Finally, after having added missions, and not wanting to simply waypoint the mission's goal out blatantly, I added random network name generation to the world. This will help me guide the player to a mission's target without directly revealing it, "Please steal file X from Mrs. Y, she lives near Z.". This was pretty fun to implement, I do love seeing procedural generation in the wild :) Though I have to say, most of the business names come off as a little 'new media' at the moment :S

Well that's it for now, I think I've got enough off my chest to carry on with the next push. I think the next thing on my plate is giving money a purpose and adding 'shops' to the game. Don't know how they're going to work yet, but I'll figure something out.

Now if you'll excuse me, there's 23 punk bands playing tonight for $15 and I need to get my drink on...

Hack the Planet!

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