After a long period of hibernation, Darknet is finally getting ready to emerge from its slumber! The Rift release is just around the corner, but the big news now is a Gear VR update that will be coming soon. There’s some important news associated with this update. Some of that is good news (new features! better puzzles! improved graphics!) and some of it is bad news.
The gist of the bad news is that, for crappy technical reasons, the new update has to be released as a separate item on the Gear VR store, which means that existing players won’t be able to carry their saved data over to the new version. There is a workaround, kinda, so it’s not quite as bad as it sounds, but it’s still quite bad.
Let’s get into more detail. And let’s start with the good part!
The Good Part
Darknet has had a fantastic reception so far, but there’s always room for improvement. In preparation for the PC launch, I’ve implemented a bunch of changes, and the bulk of them are coming to the Gear VR too.
Some of these changes are based on requests I’ve gotten from players. For example, some players wanted a more active “enemy” in the game. Up until now, the networks in Darknet have been mostly-static obstacles that the player has to navigate. In this update, I’m introducing Agents: enemy entities (software daemons, AIs, and white hat hackers) that will actively attempt to undo your progress and strengthen the network security.
Agents can be outwitted, but like most systems in Darknet, you’ll have to study them to figure out how they work. I didn’t want to upset the basic balance of Darknet’s difficulty or to insert Agents into every level, so they only appear in Regulated Networks beyond a certain difficulty level. I think they add a nice twist to the challenge, requiring new thinking and new strategies. Here's what the Agent looks like in action.
But I think my favorite new feature is the new set of puzzle variations. In Darknet, the node hacking puzzles start to include new twists as you proceed to higher and higher difficulty levels. This update doubles the number of puzzle twists in the game. Again, to make sure not to overwhelm new players, these only appear on harder networks, and I think they’ll add a lot of depth for expert players. They don’t have official names in the game, but in the code I call them “jump-lines”, “slow terrain”, and “supermines”. Like the previous twists, each of them can be either an asset or a liability, depending on context.
Beyond that, there are a host of other minor and major changes in this update. You’ll find a bunch of slight graphical improvements, lots of minor bug fixes, a few aesthetic adjustments (e.g. skill rating is now shown as a percentage rather than a number), a brand new "comfort mode" that removes most of the acceleration from the game, and localization into new languages (French, Spanish, and German) for the first time. And I promise this is not the last update! More languages will be coming, and I know that the new features will require some new bug fixes in the near future.
The Bad Part
Darknet was the first Android game I ever published myself. When I uploaded the original version, I didn’t cryptographically sign the file. That means that now I can’t send any updates because Android will not recognize them as coming from the original developer.
Oculus has worked with me to figure out how to get this new update to players. Essentially, Oculus removed the old version of Darknet from the store (but NOT from players’ libraries), replaced it with the new version, and gave a copy of the new version to everyone who owned the old one. This means that you might see two versions of Darknet in your library. (The new one has different cover art, though, so you should be able to tell them apart).
That’s all well and good, but there’s one big problem. Since they’re technically separate applications, the saved data won’t be transferred from one to another. Everybody who plays the new version will be starting from the beginning. Darknet saves its data through Unity’s built-in save system, which is great in many ways, but which doesn’t allow the data to be easily moved between applications. It’s possible that I could figure something out to make this work in the future, but for now, I don’t have a way.
There is a sort of workaround, though. If you want to get back your old upgrades in the new version of Darknet, I’ve implemented a “cheat code” to allow players to get free bitcoins. This relies on the honor system, but it’s the best solution I could implement on short notice. For those that want their upgrades back, here’s the cheat code. It won’t get you back your old skill rating, but you should be able to get back to your proper rating quickly by taking on more difficult levels from the start (which, if you’re a Darknet veteran, shouldn’t be too hard).
Another big reason for this update is that the old version (which uses older Oculus SDKs) won’t run properly on Android 6.0. If you update your Android version, you’ll need to get the new version. If you don’t update Android, you can always keep playing the old version and maintain your old saved data, but you won’t see the new features. Also, this initial update won't be available for the Note 4, but I expect to have a Note 4-compatible version ready soon.
I know this is a crappy situation, and I’m truly sorry to the players who will be affected. I’ve never been the most technically-skilled developer, and this whole situation is the result of my own mistakes and bad decisions. I want to thank Oculus for helping me figure out the best course forward and for helping make the switch to the new version, and I also appreciate the patience and understanding of everyone who continues to support Darknet as I muddle through. Thank you!