1. Sundown
2. Marshmallow Ego
3. Cubes
4. Sidetracking
5. Realization
6. Be Humble
7. Portal
8. The End

Halfquake Sunrise.

Those words mean a lot to me. They hold the power to invoke emotions of all kind in my brain; good and bad.

It all started with the moment I suggested Sunrise as the new appendix for the new Halfquake installment to my friend nicknamed blackjack. There were other suggestions, but they're forgotten.

I was so full of myself that I didn't listen to anything else and just said - alright, that's the new one. Halfquake Sunrise. My new child.

I let "the world" know by announcing the game on my website on October 21st 2003. Here is an interesting, shockingly embarassing excerpt: "It won't be about sadism anymore, but about art. Visual and acoustic art. I've had dreams again about a black and white world, as I had before Halfquake Amen. I guess a new Halfquake will come. And it's going to disappoint you all. Because I've changed and I bet you won't like it."

I remember that the idea was to collaborate with TheAwake this time (he was the one who started and mainly worked on The Present). I prepared the first few test maps, created the intro track and the actual ingame intro and the first map. I sent it to TheAwake and his response was, in a nutshell: "Meh."

So, basically, a virtual shrug. A sigh.

Surely, there must have been something wrong with TheAwake's eyes. It looked like Halfquake Amen! It already had two music tracks that blasted out of the speakers from the intro to the end of the first trap. It featured a super serious intro speech that spoke of the meaning of life. This game was a winner! Why did TheAwake not see it?

Let me go back in time a little further.

When I released Halfquake Amen on September 1st 2002, some people said it was awesome, plenty of times. I was 18 years old back then. A popular german PC magazine had spent half a page talking about it, so basically gamers in, for example, Austria and Germany now knew about my game. I strolled down a street in Vienna and every time I passed a newspaper kiosk selling that magazine - I felt proud. I felt superior. That was a dangerous height.

My ego inflated like a giant marshmallow man. And that got me thinking: Since everything shooting out of my hands was mistaken as gold, I had to forge another piece in the series. Only logical, right?

Fast forward to the first abysmal impressions of Halfquake Sunrise, which didn't blow TheAwake's mind (and I hold his honesty in the highest regards).

What followed were a few weeks of healthy self-doubt. TheAwake had sent me test maps as well, but shortly after creating the HQS projects page, the project was more or less on hold. I worked aimlessly on music tracks that I thought would fit the Halfquake universe. And I remember experimenting with the Half-Life code, changing the camera to a 3rd-person perspective, so it looked like a sidescroller.

Vino contacted me on June 13th of the year 2004. He offered his programming skills, saying that he had worked as head coder on the Half-Life mod "The Specialists" and was currently hacking away at things like Half-Life Chess. He offered to search for more people and even ask Valve contacts for any solutions we'd need.

At this time I already had a new vision for HQS, which I explained to Vino as follows:

Direct quote: "HQS will be a Jump'n'Run game and the player should change direction when he/she presses the opposite direction .. precisely: the player presses the "right"-key, his model walks east ("forward" in hl-terms)... then he/she presses the "left"-key and the model turns around for 180 and walks west.. I guess you get the idea.. I thought about that a long time now and I couldn't get a proper solution .."

It was fine, at first! My brain came up with a handful of ideas and sooner or later I had a (more or less) finished intro (which you may know), and five additional unfinished maps. Vino also convinced me that working with an SVN repository was a good idea, and I loved seeing the commit number rise (in fact, I called it "addictive").

Vino even managed to add a captions system that was able to display speech bubbles with dynamic text in them directly above monsters (NPCs).

It wasn't meant to be. The player had to be a special size of 32x32x32, which meant I had to compile all maps using a specific hull file. That worked - however, once inside the game, you couldn't quicksave and quickload while being on the ground - else you'd get stuck. You had to jump for each quicksave, else you couldn't move upon reloading.

I fell back into that depressive mood and wrote stuff like this: "I just want to be the one I was 1 or 2 years ago. Someone who was working on Halfquake Amen, with a goal in his eyes and later with a goal achieved. The person I'm now is just messing around, experimenting, trying to find something new, but everything the person does is worse than the goal he has already achieved."

It didn't help that people's expectations were slowly but steadily blowing up in my face.

After a long time of silence, I contacted Vino in October 2005, telling him that I was giving up, aborting the project. I mentioned that the words "Halfquake Sunrise" gave me a bitter taste in my mouth and that I wanted to "kill everyone who asks me how it's doing", and I went on to describe the pressure "of people telling me not to screw up and to include the fucking dragon and the sadism train in HQS". I closed the email with the following words:

"I'm quite aware that I'm an arrogant egoist by doing this all, and I will always get those embittered feelings when I look back at the failed project that was called Halfquake Sunrise, and I also know that this won't bring back the time you spent on this project either. I bid you farewell and maybe we'll meet again sometime. Have a nice day and good luck with your other projects."

Unsurprisingly, I was bitter (and painfully overdramatic). Vino replied with an offer to switch to Half-Life 2, I hesitated, agreed and then shot the project down again a month later - for good.

Let's take a breather.

The years 2004 and 2005 were an interesting time for me. I was about to finish vocational school, we were moving into a house and I was working on Personal Halfquake and the Halfquake Amen Comics - two projects with basically no end in sight; that was a huge problem, but I'd only realize that some time later.

I kept distancing myself from HQS. Since I didn't know where to go with it, I started making flash games in 2005, such as a tribute to Hurt and Phabetal, and began working on yet another long-time project, just to do something: Antaran's Journal.

But - I was still creating music tracks for a non-existing game, some of those only reached a few ears up until today (they're super depressive and could drive an entire country to commit mass-suicide, so I'm keeping them under wraps).

And because things weren't screwed up enough, I created the April Fool's joke Ultimate Contra Force War in 2005, which definitely backfired. A handful of people noticed the jokes, but nearly everyone was disappointed, disgusted and confused. Including me!

Near the end of 2005 I was looking around for completely off-the-wall solutions for Halfquake Sunrise, the end result was a 2D adventure, completely told with photos. The player would start in a house and then have to escape after hearing haunting noises coming closer, jump into a car, drive it and then after an "accident", run away across fields and through the woods.

That idea didn't last very long, although I can recall it vividly. It would've required lots of work, getting 360 views from maybe a thousand spots, adding a ton of sounds and voice overs. It was a neat idea, don't get me wrong.

But it wasn't the Halfquake Sunrise I'd been looking for.

Early 2006, I finally came to my senses. I realized that PHQ, the HQA Comics and Antaran's Journal needed to be finished. Done. Gone. Or else Sunrise would never come to fruition. Hence my attempt in February to work on all projects - at the same time, despite civilian service. The MS' Insane Working History was born (you can read the entire thing here). Basically a poor man's Twitter, where I posted short status updates (which sometimes mutated into diary entries).

After the dust had settled a little and I had arranged my thoughts, I posted a lengthy note about the state of Halfquake Sunrise. (Ironically, I got an angry email about it even after the actual release of Sunrise, so I had to take it down to stop the confusion.)

Afterwards I found enough time to release Turnament and - the full collection of songs that I had made for Halfquake Sunrise up until that point, calling the album Remains. I realized that most of the songs weren't about Halfquake anyway, rather about me trying to create it. Only three songs were left out (including the intro track), as they were actually more fitting for a still non-existing Halfquake game.

On November 16th 2006 I wrote about trying to end PHQ development after investing over 1500 hours and that my plans were to finish Antaran's Journal and the HQA Comics first thing in 2007. "When that's done I will devote all my spare time to the other beast in the darkness - Halfquake Sunrise," were my exact words.

A completely overhauled Farm website went online on February 19th 2007. The look didn't change at all mostly, but it was now a platform for all the things I had ever created. Ever since then it's been 100% muddasheep projects, turning it into my personal website. A week later I turned off the old one.

I've obviously been trying to get stuff done, out of the way and re-organized. I was freeing up my mind step by step. Yet, again I've come up with another thing that should keep me busy: Posting more farm news entries than ever before. I remember clearly that I made it a priority to post more stuff (almost every day), just to keep visitors interested and coming back. I hadn't realized back then that spreading out content results in thin content.

Antaran's Journal quietly ended on April 26th 2007. One more project done, but I wasn't quite satisfied with my newly gained freedom of the mind. I jumped back at more projects like Taskless Sheep, another (abandoned) flash game, and regular movie reviews - clogging up my brain yet again. It just wouldn't end! And I didn't realize it.

After dealing with real life issues, updating I'm a Dragon, posting daily Farm entries (including a new section called Muddasheep's Daydream) and announcing yet again that I would finish the HQA Comics sometime in June of 2007 and start with HQS afterwards - my body finally grinded to a halt. I broke.

Imagine a thousand wailing and screaming voices in your head, telling you what to do, trying to tear you into pieces. Then you kneel on the ground and summon a shockwave that sends them all into oblivion. That was sort of the feeling of that one moment.

The newly found clarity showed me that my energy had gone into the wrong areas. A month later I wrote that from then on I would stop writing useless crap and only post news when absolutely necessary. There were too many people prying on my ideas - that's what it felt like - and I had to rebuild a wall that let me have my privacy again, as stupid as it sounds.

I just had to find myself once again. My thoughts were out there, but they were needed inside my head.

The HQA Comic ended twelve days later. Antaran's Journal was available in book form. PHQ and IAD were on hold. And I finally started Halfquake Sunrise in secret. From scratch.

Shortly after starting to map for Halfquake Sunrise - the actual version that I finished almost three years later - Valve released a new game; actually, it was a collection of games called The Orange Box, containing Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Team Fortress 2 and - a little game called Portal.

I've basically finished Portal the day it came out. My mind was blown. The whole collection of games was very inspiring, but my focus always returned to Portal, as I realized that Portal was similar to Halfquake in a few ways, and it disturbed me greatly that people started to praise things that Halfquake also offered, albeit in a less professional manner. I became jealous.

I showed BJ the whole game and we both agreed - with Halfquake, we were allegedly really close to something, close to achieving greater success; and Portal did it instead. Portal, to me, was the successful side of Halfquake: the general idea (which we more or less stole from the movie Cube) of a greater entity throwing helpless people into a social experiment. The other side, the side that hindered Halfquake from becoming a world-wide commercial sensation - was me.

Obviously, I was to blame for it. My stubborness to include weird voiceovers, weird humour all over the place and weird stylistic choices turned Halfquake into something most players out there wouldn't want to touch even though it was available at no cost. It remained something peculiar that only the most curious would want to examine (and perhaps get something out of).

Not only that, but I felt people's already vast expectations might have blown out of proportions even more. In an organizer entry, I wrote: "I can't live up to anything with HQS. Whether HQ1, HQ2 or Portal. I don't even know if it lives up to my own expectations. But I have to get it done. I just have to."

All those people rejoicing over Portal, posting its one-liners and the Still Alive song everywhere were causing my world to collapse, almost so far as to make me stop again. But I chose to build on that. I chose to ignore it. I decided that, even though there were similarities, Halfquake was a different beast. It was mine. And I'd make it go new places.

Instead of giving up, I just went on, fueled by the newly found inspiration by Valve's games, driven by the fact that I had the power to create my own world, regardless of other people's opinions, which was something that had intrigued me ever since I was a child.

Throughout 2007 and most of 2008, I slowly built Halfquake Sunrise in secret, barely even showing anyone any screenshots. It was this exact foundation that was needed to get Halfquake Sunrise made. And it had only taken me four years and three false starts to realize that. Here's a look back at the other sunrises.

Halfquake Sunrise finally grew in size and was released on June 1st 2010, after another three years of work. Certainly, along the way there were a few more hardships (a dragon may have eaten my keyboard), more doubts, more whining, and more health issues, but never enough to make me abandon it again. I saw it through this time.

And I learned my lesson. Only to probably fail again in the future. But that's why I have friends and fans to pick me up again whenever I feel down, and especially Auri, who has to live through all of my phases in a front row seat. So, thank you, all of you.

This article was about me trying to get Halfquake Sunrise started. The actual development process is available for reading in the complete collection of all of my organizer entries from years 2007 to 2011. I've added pictures, links and various comments to make it more fun.

Take care, though: That's the real me in there. You've been warned.

Muddasheep Organizer Entries 2007-2011

Muddasheep ~ November 6th, 2012