• Grinding and the Burden of Optimal Play
    Just before I announced Darknet, I sent an early preview build to Ben Kuchera, a writer at Polygon. The resulting article was generally positive, but there was one negative point that came up right away:
    “It sounds grindy”
    This was a bad sign. (For those who don’t recognize the term, “ grinding ” refers to mindless repetition in games.) I hate grinding. I’m fundamentally opposed to it, and I’ve always made an effort to keep it out of...
  • Productivity Strategy Guide
    Welcome to the strategy guide to “Productivity”, The Game of Getting Shit Done! In Productivity, you play as E McNeill, an indie game designer struggling to finish his “first big game”, Darknet. Can you complete the project before the final deadline?
    This strategy guide explains some of the basic gameplay systems of Productivity. Read carefully! New players often find these systems to be confusing, illogical, or contradictory, but understanding them is critical to achieving your objectives. Good...
  • Unknown Answers
    In college, I regularly played D&D with my closest friends. As you’d expect of a nascent game designer, some of my favorite sessions were the ones that I ran as the Dungeon Master. I created the world, guided the story, and acted out all the NPC characters, and it was a blast.
    In my early DM sessions, I would put the players in carefully-bound scenarios where I could anticipate and react to all of their potential choices. If they...
  • Music: DN-B102
    Part of an ongoing series about Darknet's music, direct from the composer.
    //begin DN-B102 This post will focus specifically on the non-videogame-related influences that have helped me shape the sound of Darknet’s music. I grew up loving any and all cheesy cyberpunk movies I came across (Johnny Mnemonic is my personal favorite) and their impact on my music is inevitable. However, I wanted to talk about some specific influences that I consciously try to work into the soundtrack to...
  • Network-Layer Strategy
    I’ve written a lot about the core hacking gameplay in Darknet, i.e. the puzzles that represent the bottom layer of gameplay. Occasionally, I’ve mentioned that there’s a whole other layer of strategy above all that, but I’ve neglected to give any detail. Time to fix that!
    Here’s an overview of the “network layer” mechanics in Darknet:
    First, the absolute basics: There are a bunch of nodes , and you want to capture them in order to get money....
  • Music: DN-B101
    Part of an ongoing series about Darknet's music, direct from the composer.
    //begin DN-B101 On last week’s blog , I got all the formalities out of the way. This week, I’d like to share how my personal journey with Darknet began. On January 13th of this year, I found myself on my way home from an urgent care clinic. As my wife drove us home, I pawed lethargically at my phone. I was woozy from a broken elbow and a wound...
  • The Coolest Features I Cut
    Until about a month and a half ago, Darknet was going to be an MMO.
    You probably think that sounds crazy. It was meant to! What a great headline it would be! And I really thought I could pull it off. I still do.
    Darknet wouldn’t be a traditional MMORPG, of course. There would be no avatars walking around, grinding mobs for XP. In fact, it wouldn’t be real-time at all. Instead, it would simply take your offline...
  • Music: DN-B100
    This post is the first in a series about Darknet's music, direct from the composer! Expect more posts periodically, with more samples of the in-development soundtrack.
    //begin DN-B100
    Hello! I am Alfredo Barraza--hacker alias: Dormilón. I’m originally from Chicago and have been living in Los Angeles since 2002. Beginning in January 2014, I began working on music for Darknet. Throughout these past few months I’ve found that it’s been quite a natural fit for me--I guess...
  • Hacking Revised Again
    A couple of months ago, I wrote about revising the core hacking gameplay of Darknet. The puzzle was too chaotic, and there wasn’t enough variety, so I made it turn-based and added special types of enemies. Both of those changes were good, but they weren’t enough, unfortunately.
    The basic idea of the puzzle was this: The player had to spread “hacks” into the center of the puzzle, while security programs (guided by simple, deterministic AI) would try to destroy...
  • Theming and Naming
    I tend to make really abstract games. Auralux , my first full game, is about dots colliding in space. Bombball , my second, is about circles pushing each other around the screen. That’s my style! As a game designer, I’m primarily focused on gameplay mechanics rather than narrative, and I’ve always appreciated the mechanical freedom that abstract games offer.
    Darknet is different. This time, my game actually has a strong narrative theme: Cyberpunk Hacking .
    That said, I...
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