To think the last update was over 4 months old...
I hope everyone has been well, as like many others I know. 2010 is a pretty big year not only because it's the start of a new decade, but because the playable Alpha build for VHEL Courier is "supposed" to come out later this year. How affirmative is this at the moment? Somewhat. Unlike the Alpha build, the Final build will, unfortunately, be pushed back to a later date. So essentially, you'll have to wait the long wait for any new news for a finalized release date. In the meantime, however, A LOT of new information is going to make it's way almost daily.
Since I've lasted posted, a lot has been worked on for the game. Systems have been pulled or reworked, characters have been revamped with striking new details (everything on Mod DB for VHEL right now is a lie), voice actors have been acquired (good ones), storyline events have been polished, new tech has been acquired, music has been getting better and better, and a barrage of other delightful, if not eyebrow-raising things have been on the rise. New feature updates, along with improved art, will slowly replace older assets in order to showcase progression thus far, so don't worry about missing any of the goodies.
Though the logo design is in need of some work, we finally have a team name! Maybe it's not the most original name in the world, but hey, it works! Nevertheless, this will be our identity as we continue on with game development and work on future additions to VHEL.
Voice Over Cast
Around November, I had taken the liberty to find the best possible voice actors for VHEL. Though it took several months to eventually rustle up a cast for the main set of characters, excluding the 30 odd roles yet to be filled, I have to admit, the wait and effort was 100% worth it. You can see the official list for VHEL: Courier's voice over cast in the new "Voice Over Cast" feature. Working with the cast like this is very rewarding since each and everyone of them provides input, a level of commit equal to my own, and strives for excellence.
VHEL: Courier's Gameplay
Previously, my focus was on creating a vastly immersible experience more along the lines of Ico where the atmosphere made most of the experience. Though my focus is still on making VHEL largely ambient and memorable in this regard, I do realize the faults to having a very minimalistic game that has 0 re-playability. Due to a number of other issues that hindered the game from even being genuinely fun and addictive to progress through, I tweaked just about every system I had on the table, and then ramped up the chaos to 11. The results are, at the least...interesting. Everything new about VHEL's gameplay is in the revamped "Gameplay" feature.
Storyline and Lore
At this point, the lore to VHEL is a razor sharp dagger capable of splitting a long strand of hair into two. In a word, it's "deep", and very, very complex (in a good way) considering how thorough it is. VHEL - Courier currently has 60 characters who you'll get to see and interact with, which is pretty insane considering that every single one of these characters are fully voiced, animated, and contain their own unique back-story and purpose. I pride myself on character design and creating something that others can come to love (the cast seem to enjoy them a lot more than I do, at times =P), so putting in the absorbent amount of time needed to personalize all these characters is 100% worth it.
As far as the main storyline is concerned, it's gone through more changes than I originally expected. What was meant to be a 300 page script is now turning into a 700 page script, which is roughly 12 hours of pure dialogue with voice overs. The script is written in such a way where the team can insert very pick-up-and-go situations that don't interrupt the fun of the gameplay, but make it possible for us to do very interesting scenes. Having refined the event system (VHEL's secondary form of game progression), the game length is definitely more than what I had expected.
Establishing a Community
From this point on, all information about VHEL's development will be out in the open. No more round-the-bush planning or teasers; we're gunning for the heart. As so, you, the supporter or onlooker of this project, can give your own personal advice, thoughts, opinions, or ideas, so that this project can grow WITH the community, versus being something that's almost entirely developer dependent. Beyond myself, it's clear that many individuals like what's here, so I don't see many reasons to cut those same individuals from getting the most from the project.
More "How it's made" dev videos will go up along with some of the things Tij and I develop in-game. Hopefully, we can create a strong enough community that not only effects some of the aspects within the game, like the art and the lore, but also the quality of the game towards the end.
Thanks everyone for your time, again! More updates will be coming your way, so stay tuned! =D