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Hacknet developer interview

Hello fellow geeks,

We like to deliver on our promises and last week we mentioned that there will be an interview with the developer of the game Hacknet and this is it. GeekOut would like to thank Matt from the bottom of our hearts for taking the time to answer our questions and we wish him well on the continued development of the game and we look forward to whatever he decides to develop next.

First, a little introduction, Matt Trobbiani (at the time of writing) is 26 years old and lives in Adelaide, Australia. Adelaide is a smaller but in my opinion nicer city than Melbourne and Sydney I spent some time there a few years ago and really enjoyed it. He is the sole developing on Hacknet but does give credit to the other indie talents that helped him with music etc. Hacknet is published by Surprise Attack Games, who have helped Matt out with sales and marketing of it.

What inspired you to make Hacknet?

Hacknet logo

The game was started in a 48-hour game jam between friends with the theme “UIs and Interfaces”. I had just written a weird immediate-mode interface system and was basically looking for an excuse to put a bunch of buttons on the screen, so the theme was perfect. I started throwing buttons and text boxes onto the screen without a strict direction in terms of how I wanted it to work mechanically (as in, how the gameplay would work, and what the puzzles were), but with a strict adherence to the “feel”. My only direction was that everything I did had to work towards the goal of making the player feel like a hacker.

This is kind of backwards from how I had designed before that, but always staying true to that feeling comes before anything else. This was really the inspiration and drive behind all of my choices in the game.

How long did it take from concept to initial release?

It took about 3 years from the initial jam to release, I worked on it in between other projects in my spare time.

What sort of research did you do to make the game?

Research went into a lot of the tooling and systems for security I wrote. They’re meant to mirror slightly outdated tools, and make some jokes about old security problems and weaknesses for those that might have a history with them. It’s all old information, I have not really been able to keep up to date with anything anymore.

Can you tell us how the success of the game has changed your life?

The success has been amazing, and there’s no doubt it’s changed my life. I’m incredibly lucky! I have gained a lot of freedom but also a lot of extra restraints at the same time. I quit my day job basically immediately, and I’ve been working full time on support, promotion and more content for the game since. The community is now partially controlled by Surprise Attack Games but I have to say the community itself has some amazing members ready to help where possible.

Have you always been a developer?

Yeah, I’ve been making things forever. I first started making “games”, or something like them, with Starcraft custom maps.

What influenced you want to become a developer?

I think the two biggest influences that pushed me to become a developer were Starcraft and Warcraft 3 – playing and making custom games for those communities was amazing. As for Hacknet specifically, I played Uplink for the first time when I’d already been making games for a while, and thought it was incredible. Uplink was pretty old at the time but felt so fresh and different and interesting. I remember thinking at the time how much I would have loved to make something that people felt about the same way I felt about that.

Zerg_colony_(StarCraft)

Do you have any heroes in the world of games development?

Chris Delay of Introversion is a big inspiration, and I think a lot of the early talks from Jon Blow (of Braid fame) about game design really helped shape my thinking in a good way. The list wouldn’t be complete without also listing IceFrog, of Dota fame a lot of the design in that game is straight up incredible.

Have you played anything recently that has consumed your time

I’ve sunk a lot of hours into Rocket League and Stardew Valley! I loved SuperHot, and I still play Hearthstone from time to time. I’m also a huge fan of the Dark Souls series, so I’m looking forward to getting stuck into 3 once I’ve got a bit more time.

Can you tell us what is coming next for Hacknet?

Before the year’s out, I’m hoping to have translations for the game released in a whole bunch of languages, mod support (with steam workshop support for custom campaigns and community created content), and an official DLC. I’m also hoping to sneak in a multiplayer update near the end of the year, should be really cool.

Are you working on something entirely new yet or any further plans other than DLC?

With the chaos of Hacknet, I’ve been pretty consumed by thinking about this project since release. There are a few branches of it that I’d like to explore more. Specifically using it for education and training purposes – I want to make a branch of the game and use the design and code work that went into it to make an educational version of Hacknet, to teach people terminal and cyber security skills, and introduce people to computer science concepts in a more approachable way. There’s a lot of interesting stuff there!

Hack progress

How do you now get your Geek on?

I had a big bread phase for a while and eased myself off of it via a handmade steamed bun phase, which was pretty interesting too. Right now I’m really into mechanical keyboards – really unique ones with special switches and custom keycaps. I’m writing this on a Topre 87U from Japan – it’s got special Topre electrostatic capacitive switches (for that “good feeling of one-ness with cup rubber”), black-on-black PBT keycaps, and a custom red spacebar. I’ve also got a StrikeBattle TKL board with Cherry Brown switches and Custom Tai-Hao PBT Keycaps. It’s also got rubber directional keys and a gold number three that I got from a keycap manufacturer I visited in Taiwan.

I spend so much time typing, it’s pretty cool to have a really nice setup for it! If you’re interested, the subreddit (/r/MechanicalKeyboards) has a lot of good information about it. It makes me want to produce special custom Hacknet keyboards, but with my tastes in switches and keys at the moment, it’d probably be way too expensive to be practical. I’ll probably end up doing it anyway.

Again we would like to thank Matt for taking the time to talk to us. We love his enthusiasm not only for his own product but his obvious love of games and mechanical keyboards. We will watch what happens with Hacknet with great interest. If you have not bought his game you really should. If Matt ever makes it over to the UK we would love to sit and grab a few beers with him and see how he is doing. I’m sure he would be really welcome at our regular Meetups.

If you have any feedback on our interview or anything in this article then please drop us a comment or get in touch via Reddit, Facebook or Twitter.

One response

  1. Pingback: Party Hard – Review | GeekOut South-West

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