Incoming wall of text! The quick summary:
- Stuff's broken, repairs are incoming;
- I'm considering dropping the Battle Network relation, what do you think?
As noted in the main announcement about the forum upgrade, Cyber Grid is currently unavailable. It needs a similar amount of rework to what happened to the forums, to modernize the layout and use the new data structures. I'll first see what additional work the forums need, based on the initial feedback, then I'll convert the game's pages to the new format.
Moving on from that, let's talk about Cyber Grid proper. Let's be blunt, the game isn't in a great shape right now. The long-promised defense update has been on hold for quite some time, as I focused my efforts on the Creeper's Lab. At some point, I accidentally pushed some of the new code online, which broke the battle engine. This is going to be messy to solve; I've since changed my workflow to avoid a repeat of that.
The backend of the battle engine might be rewritten completely. The current version is unfinished, unstable and very prone to breakage, and I'm thinking that a rework under a new model would work better.
The chip selection screens, upgrades library and so on are fine. While they need some love too, including a visual overhaul, I believe the current design is sound.
The entire thing has to be playable both on desktop and mobile. The forums now have a full support for mobile, so you can see how an interface can adapt itself for various screen sizes. The attack minigames already have some level of mobile support with the so-called mouse controls: tapping a touchscreen works equally as well, it only needs to be presented properly.
Beyond all this, going through my notes led me to think about something else entirely...
How about splitting this off from the Battle Network franchise entirely?
This entire game concept was originally designed as a web-based, multiplayer focused Mega Man Battle Network fan-game of sorts. Due to various limitations (notably, having no way to have real-time battles), the entire battle setup was designed very differently, as a turn-based system, with minigame-based attacks and a limited ability to dodge, yet still used known chips and characters. It was never meant to be a 1:1 of the game series proper.
There's also the issue of timing. While this might have been fitting ~10 years ago, as the series was winding down, most players are detached from it nowadays. Having it directly linked to a game series gives it a hook to fans of that franchise and allows a shorter description, but having it independent gives more flexibility and doesn't risk alienating those not familiar with the series. It also opens up a lot of potential growth, without having to stay lowkey due to using another company's property without permission.
Of course, something like that would need some core changes. Forget about the chip library entirely, the elements would need a rework, reusing any known (and beloved) characters is a no-no, and so on.
How I'm picturing it
It's no secret that I love the Internet, the concept itself and its technologies. Everything I've done online for years is centered around that, like building communities, online games and so on. The way I see it, dropping the Battle Network branding doesn't mean that the concept itself has to be abandoned: how about taking the core ideas of the franchise and remake them with a modern setting?
The setting of the game would remain the Internet as a whole, but grounded a bit more in reality. You'd design a character to represent yourself online, but which doesn't have to be you. Different body build, gender, whatever. For all I know, your fan-made Battle Network characters are still valid. We're talking about a digital entity, your personal avatar on the web. You'd use it to explore, battle (it's still a game, gotta have battles!), and trade with others.
Modernize the concept. View the Internet more like a social network of sorts, where you connect from person you know to someone they know to get to a destination.
Customize your character. What we have that are currently named "Upgrades" and raise your HP, speed or attack power could be presented as add-ons, plugins or even mods to reflect how games and software can be edited. Have each such upgrade have an amount of memory assigned to it, creating a natural limit to what you can equip initially. This memory limit expands as you build your power through the game.
A special move that temporarily boosts your abilities could be called overclocking. In battle, a negative status effect could be lag, forcing a slowdown or corrupting your movements. Frame dropping would make it harder to read enemy attacks. Replace the Aura concept with the motion of a firewall.
That still leaves a lot of concepts to define. There's a battle engine, okay. What are we fighting? Still viruses? Online trolls? Corrupted data? Something else entirely? I'm not sure on that point yet.
That's where my thought process is at the moment. I don't have all the answers, but I have an idea of a direction I'm considering taking. What do you think? Is it better to drop the links to the Battle Network franchise to create something that can stand on its own? Or would it be simpler to stick to a fangame of a known franchise, with the limitations that implies, yet with a widespread amount of existing content to build on?