On Halloween 2002, we released Natural Selection to the public. It marked the end of 18 months of non-stop work – and fun. I really had no idea what the response would be and if anyone would jump into the Command Chair. It was a grand experiment and I was thrilled.
The pace picked up even more over the next few months as we worked to fix problems with server "lag" and balance. The "lag" was excess server CPU usage, it wasn’t network related at all. We had done a lot of playtesting, but we did it on a rather beefy dedicated server, much more powerful than the average Half-life server which is paradoxically, is not usually "dedicated". With the release of NS v1.04 (go back and play now and see if you still think it’s the best!), we had a strong following that learned every aspect of the game. Including the "jetpack rush". By executing the do-or-die strategy of recycling your base structures, a cunning Commander could get a handful of shotguns and jetpacks within fours minutes or so, which were extremely hard to counter by a 2-hive Kharaa team.
Then came development of v2.0, which promised to change the whole game. Instead of merely changing balance, it added new maps, new abilities and removed those alien abilities that weren’t well thought out or implemented (R.I.P., Babblers). NS v2.0 saw unprecedented internal balance playtesting, with the formation of the NS "Veteran" program. Love ’em or hate ’em, they were good and they knew how to push the game to its limits. At the end of July in 2003, NS v2.0 was released.
Then came v3.0: we attempted to bring in new FPS players by adding Combat – game mode that allowed play without a Commander. We’re still not sure if this was a good or bad move, but it has always been surrounded by controversy.
Now that we’re essentially done working on NS, we are focusing on the future. I moved to California, Max joined as Technical Director, we un-hacked the web-site then rewrote it. We started working on NS2 but still spent a lot of time trying to raise funds. I wrote Zen of Sudoku to bring in some money, and Max wrote Decoda, to let us write NS2 quickly and make it very moddable and also to increase our cash flow. This year we also embraced the community with open arms with our blogging, podcasting and new monthly community newsletter.
Now we have a small (but great) team working with the full Source engine (no more modding!), working on NS2. Money is still a big problem for us, but we have prospects and we’re still here. Just as importantly – you are still here. You folks have always been our most important asset and the reason we keep working. We’ve Your donations have kept us in business and we shall make the best game as your reward.
Happy Halloween everyone. One day we’ll all celebrate it together.