Following a huge discussion on the forums we've taken the ideas on board and are working towards improving the IRIS side of gameplay. With that in mind we've got quite the feature list to implement / modify... Starting with a restructuring of the class system - we're doing away with the current weapon based classes. Instead, we're swapping to a different 2 class system; assault and support.
The assault class can choose from any of the four primary weapons, while the support class can only select two of them - the P90 or the FN303. But they do however gain three sonic trip alarms and the ability to supply other players with extra ammunition. The fourth weapon is the FN2000 assault rifle, which provides long range firepower allowing us to cover all the "bases" as it were.
The FN303 on the other hand is a less lethal weapon that launches small paintball style projectiles that contain the nerve toxin "Sarin Oxime" - used to knock 617 unconcious, the IRIS team have been innoculated against it's main effects but still suffer short term side effects (blurred vision and disturbed respiratory functions).
Along with the altered class system and new weapons we're also bringing in the idea of "secondary" equipment which covers; a LAM unit, flashlight, light amplification goggles, sonic trip alarm and an adrenaline shot. You can take only one of these, each has a positive and a negative - without the LAM for instance you won't have a crosshair, but you gain access to a flashlight or sonic alarm instead.
The thinking behind this is to try and improve the teamplay aspects of the IRIS game, by requiring players to think about which equipment they take and the roll they want to play, a player going for full assault might take the fn2000 and the LAM so they're more accurate, while a support player might take the fn303 and an extra sonic alarm.
Some of these extra features have required a re-think of the IRIS HUD - we're now including a 180 degree radar that shows only other IRIS members, the ultimate aim is to have it show the location of non-pigsticked corpses along with alive players in a hope to increase the atmosphere and tension for IRIS players.
Supply characters will not only be different visually, but they will also show up on the radar as a green dot to help players get close to them before requesting ammunition to be supplied. Triggering sonic alarms will also cause a dot to appear on the radar to help aid IRIS members tracking movement through the devices in ways other than their audible alarm.
The final "major" change (all the changes we're making are fairly major but some of them are so background that they're minor to the players") is an alteration to the hidden selection method. Rather than using the current "he who kills, becomes" we're swapping to a weighting system, whereby working as a team and staying close to team mates will improve your chances of being selected to play as 617.
Weighting will of course also be assigned for damage done and getting the kill, but you'll get more weighting for killing 617 near a team mate (and hence possibly saving him) and for using the 303 (capturing him alive). You will lose weighting for team damage (including hitting them with the 303) and massive amounts for killing a team mate (to the point where you'll have to work extra hard to get a chance back again). Your weighting will be permanently set to zero if you choose to forfeit hidden selection.
As you can see, we've got the artwork for the new weapons in place and will hopefully have them nicely animated and properly in game within the next few weeks. The code is in place for the FN2000 and the majority of the FN303 code is in place (though some values need tweaking and testing).
While these changes are fairly huge in scale we intend to introduce them in small lumps, such as the new weapons, then the supply class, etc etc. We'll hopefully be able to maintain a reasonable release schedule and get each change tweaked with feedback from you guys before moving on to the next. (Obviously, things might go horribly wrong and we'll be massively delayed so I make no promises!)
There are a couple more bits and pieces that are on the drawing board right now, we'd like to make the IRIS HUD more of a feature by giving them more information through it (player highlights when requesting ammunition, visual location of a sonic alarm etc.) We've also discussed a couple of things that will impact 617 play style quite severely, but it's all in an attempt to slow down and "stealthify" the game play.
Well, that's it for now, we should be bringing out some regular news updates about our progress (I'd like to say weekly, but I don't want to lie so close to the end!) though they may be thin on the pretty pictures side of things.
Feel free to discuss the features mentioned above in this forum thread.