It’s fall now and I thought it would be a good time to give a detailed update on the progress of The Hex, which I have never really done before. I am unsure how many people are following the development, because I haven’t provided very much to follow! I don’t post too many gifs on Twitter; I often find myself wondering if they would make sense out of context or spoil the game. I’ve racked up a healthy amount of wishlists on Steam but I think these are likely drive-by wishlisters who liked Pony Island but aren’t necessarily waiting for The Hex with bated breath. However, I know there are some people out there who are curious how things are coming along. So let me tell you: quite well! But I ain’t makin’ 2017 like the trailer and Steam page suggested.
What is The Hex, really? This is something that I actually struggled with a lot in the first half of development. The initial premise was to make a game that was like The Hateful Eight or, more generally, a murder mystery involving enigmatic personalities and shifting power dynamics. It was an obvious step for me to make the suspects video game characters, as it seemed to justify the story being told in game form (which is something I care about) as well as provide a wealth of material to draw from. I also knew that I wanted to mix in gameplay from different established genres to create a consistent source of novelty in the experience. A lot of work was thrown away, and at one point the scope was narrowed, but eventually I arrived at the following structure of the game:
Explore the Six Pint Inn as one of the characters. This usually involves solving puzzles, speaking with the other characters, uncovering secrets about the story/world, and foreshadowing for the ‘flashback’ to come.
Play through a series of memories from that characters’ past. This is the meat of The Hex. Each memory plays entirely different, pulling gameplay mechanics from the genre of game that the character is from. This ranges from a platformer, to a Japanese-style RPG, to a first person “walking simulator”.
Switch perspective to the next character, and repeat.
Note: If you are familiar with some of my past games, you’ll know I’m not one to stick tightly to a formula. As the game draws closer to its conclusion, things become less regimented.
So how about those memory sections? These things really are the reason that the game is taking so long to finish developing. Not only do I have to create six unique game systems (each with their own way of integrating the dialogue system, saving progress, etc.) but I also subvert the concepts of these genres at some point in each one.
For instance, in Bryce’s flashback (the fighting game character) I not only created a simple fighting game system but also created a playable montage that does a camera cut every time a punch is landed, a fight against a timespace-warping clown that can pull shenanigans like making your healthbar attack you, and a scene where you use fighting game mechanics to cook pies. The programming alone is demanding, let alone drawing the art assets.
This should not be taken as complaining, just as an explanation. Doing both the art and programming is taxing, but affords me a creative freedom that I wouldn’t trade away. In the end I think this work will create an experience that is consistently novel. My hope is that the player will have a feeling of never knowing what’s next.
Where am I at now then? Four out of the six character sections are complete. They aren’t completely final, but they have been through multiple iterations of playtesting, are fully complete audio-wise (thanks Jonah), and are relatively bug-free. These sections include Super Weasel Kid the platformer, Bryce the fighter, Chandrelle the sorceress (JRPG), and Rust McClain the survivor (turn-based tactics). I’m currently about halfway through the top-down shooter section, and the sixth section is in early stages. Stuff like Steam integration, the save system, options menu etc. is all done. I enjoy using these tasks to take a break from creative stuff so they tend to get done well ahead of the game content.
The bad news is that I will definitely not release the game in 2017. I finally learned my lesson about promising release times so I won’t give an official one, but I don’t think it will be much later than February or March 2018.
So thanks for reading. If you played Pony Island, thank you again for allowing me to work on games full time. I earnestly hope I can deliver an experience that engages the same people who enjoyed Pony Island. I hope you'll like it!
PS. I updated the trailer with a bit of new footage. That new trailer is here: