Dex was developed over several years. Just like its titular character in the story, the game was subject to a lot of iterations and experienced a lot of useful improvements along the way.
The first publicly accessible version was Early Access on Steam. In that build, you could run amok through shabby parts of the city of Harbor Prime – from the Scrapyard to the Centre, and from the Chinese Quarter to the area of the Sewers where an old contaminated chemical factory lay. The inventory was in the form of a grid, into which items were placed according to their respective size. In this version, it was possible to complete just a few side quests, and only a limited selection of implants were available.
The next updates were related to the combat system – this part of the game went through scores of iterations as we tried out different systems and strategies for the enemies’ artificial intelligence. In the end we settled upon a combination of so-called “Behavior trees” alongside our own system for attack bursts. After that came an update with augmented reality and cyberspace. One of the iterations of the AR included time retardation – as opposed to time freeze – so the hacking of enemies had to be done quickly.
The main storyline, including those locations outside of Harbor Prime, were not added to the game until very late in the production. Then, we filled in the dubbed dialogue, side quests and a system of journals and tutorials. With all that done, we had successfully completed the Early Access program and could release Dex for real.
The first released version of Dex on Steam contained all the main game mechanics, but a lot of them were not finalized. We then broke up the grid-based inventory system into categorized lists of items, added to the game save system, fixed some imperfections in the combat system, improved gamepad support, completely redid the user interface and added several new languages.
Our work progressed with the making of a DLC bonus – Dex was given three now outfits and special skills related to them. They were made obtainable in a special, newly-added location.
Even though, for most of the development, there were just one or two programmers and about the same number of testers, we did our best to listen carefully to players’ feedback and fix any overlooked bugs in the game. This also contributed to the release of several corrective updates on Steam.
Of interest to some, and we hope no great regret, might be the few things that did not get past the prototyping phase:
Throwable explosives and EMP grenades, a cyberdeck (configuring your hacking skills by mounting chips to your dashboard), more guns (a flamethrower, shotgun, drone gun), weather effects, hacking civilians and stealth (hiding in the shadows).
So far, we’ve just talked about the PC, Mac and Linux version. In our next article, we will take a look at how we got Dex to other devices.