So I figured I may as well start using my blog regularly with the one question on everyone's minds: WHAT IS GOING ON WITH CRYSTALDUST AND WHY HAVEN'T YOU PUT OUT A NEW BETA SINCE 2012?!!? It's pretty simple stuff, actually.
I haven't worked on CrystalDust in two years. And I haven't worked on any story elements for four.
There, I said it. Finally getting that off my chest. I feel like I may have kind of been leading everyone on about that, and that's not entirely all right with me. So I want to set the record straight on some things:
- No, CrystalDust is NOT canceled.
- No, I have not retired from ROM hacking.
- No, I haven't been working on Shining Opal in that time, either.
Now the bigger question is why? Why haven't I been working on CrystalDust these past few years, and why have I been continually saying "Coming soon™" when it's clearly not coming back anytime soon? Well, the answers to these questions also happen to be quite simple. Real life kept getting in the way.
You see, back in 2012 when I released Beta 2, I was in freshman year of high school. Things were a lot easier back then. Homework was easy enough, schoolwork was a joke, I had tons of free time that I spent at home because all of my friends lived too far away to hang out with on a regular basis, and most importantly, I had access to a laptop that the school lent me. This meant that whenever I had free time in a class or outside school (which I often did), I could be working on CrystalDust.
And work I did. I worked on that thing everywhere, from on the bus to in the car (contributing to the carpal tunnel syndrome that haunts my right wrist to this day) and things were looking up. Back then I had the plan to oscillate between Shining Opal and CrystalDust, finishing one beta and immediately starting on the next one for the other hack, which once I finished Beta 2 for CrystalDust I gladly switched over. But I wasn't happy with any of the elements that made up Shining Opal, making changes here and there, and eventually restructuring large portions of the hack. This drained me to the point where I was relishing the relative simplicity of CrystalDust, where I wasn't writing and rewriting my own story; everything was laid out for me and I just had to port it over in a way that honored the original. Plus it seemed way more popular than Shining Opal, and fans were already begging for me to return to work on it. So I did, leaving Shining Opal Beta 3 behind and eternally unfinished.
By this time, I'd become somewhat disillusioned with some work I did in CrystalDust Beta 2, so I started to put out small patches and changes to it, updating minor things like the trainer backsprites, Pokégear interface, and more. Eventually I moved on to even bigger changes like the bag menu revamp and new day/night system, but I didn't want to start on Kanto yet because I felt like doing so would mean that I'd completely eschewed Shining Opal for CrystalDust (which is what ended up happening anyway). The biggest of these changes was the brand new Pokégear system. And this is what ended up forcing CrystalDust into a hiatus.
You see, this was in 2014. School had stepped its game up, and I had no time anymore because of it. Plus, they'd taken our laptops. That alone severely limited the amount of free time I had to work on the hack, since I couldn't just work while the teacher was lecturing as I'd done so many times before. (Don't worry, I paid attention! Mostly.) Not just that, but my social life had finally gotten to the point where I was actually interacting with people during my off time rather than working on my hack. And when I was working on my hack in the little time I'd allotted it, all work was solely on the Pokégear. I couldn't start on new storyline content even if I wanted to, because the modifications I made to CrystalDust to get the Pokégear working would mean I'd need to either stop working on the Pokégear altogether (and I really didn't want to do this) or work on top of the unstable mess that was the Pokégear development ROM. Neither of those sounded attractive to me, so I decided to power on through and finish the Pokégear so I could finally start work on Kanto. But I never finished it.
I got to a point where my skills weren't enough. I finished both the Clock and Map Cards and was moving on to either the Radio or Phone Cards. You'd think those would be much more simple than porting the town map system from FireRed into C... But they weren't. I had no baseline from which to start, and figuring out either how to make single lines of text appear all at once and scroll like the Radio Card needed, or how to make an interactable scrolling text menu that you could call people from like the Phone Card needed just seemed like insurmountable obstacles. I'd been working on this Pokégear system for a year at that point, and when I hit that wall, I just crumbled from sheer mental exhaustion of constantly working on the same thing. I needed a break. Not just from the Pokégear, but from hacking in general. So I took it.
Throughout all of this, I always meant to come back to the main story of the game and continually promised that Beta 3 was being worked on and that it would come eventually. But fans slowly became disillusioned with the project, and so did I. I started doing tons of other things, including Two Idiots Play with Nick on YouTube and various other small projects. I upgraded my website during this time (I think), from MediaWiki (HAH) to WordPress (also HAH). I set up a newsletter for people that continually asked about where CrystalDust and Shining Opal were and proceeded to never use it, save for that one time I had a burning question about the trajectory of Beta 3 of CrystalDust and decided to poll some of the most dedicated fans. I started a Freeman's Mind animation project which ended up going unfinished, much like everything else I do. I graduated high school, broke up with my girlfriend, left for college, and made new friends. I spent a year of college continually unconfident about myself and my abilities, wondering if I could ever undo the damage I did by not learning how to study all throughout grade school. I started work on a new Pokémon mapping tool, which I hoped would spark my interest in hacking again. I fell out of contact with Nick. I went to work at Microsoft. I came back and was immediately bombarded by college again. I started a new Let's Play series with my pal Ray. I reupgraded my website (which is the version you see now).
I've pondered so many different ways to come back to CrystalDust, and if it was even worth it to come back at all. Does anyone even care anymore? It's been years. Well, I think people might still care. Some still post on the thread on PokéCommunity every so often, and I occasionally get comments on the project page on this site. Millions of downloads on ROM piracy sites, and thousands here. Yeah, people still care. People still await the comeback. And I think it might soon be time. I hesitate to actually confirm anything yet, because as always, real life has the way of getting in the way of projects I want to work on. But ideas on how to come back to CrystalDust properly have been laying dormant there, in the back of my mind, for years now. It would necessitate a complete revamp from the ground up, much like how I did Beta 2 Redux for Shining Opal. But this time, I'll have my own map and script editors (these alone will save me tons of time and ROM space) and tons more experience. I might use the Emerald disassembly which isn't much now, but will grow into an incredibly useful base that I want to be ready for.
Thanks so much for sticking with me, guys. I'm not going to close this with some huge announcement or anything, but just rest assured:
I'm not done yet.