2017 is over and I’ve got a rather long post ahead. I’ll be covering a couple of projects I’ve been working on lately, as well as some from my past (Squadron 42 for example). I’ll also be outlining the various changes coming to the Noonan.Design website. First up…
Jack B. Nimble
I’ve been rather quiet about what’s going on with Jack B. Nimble, but real life, work and game jams have slowed my progress somewhat. I’ll go into detail next month, but until then, here is a brief plan of what to expect in the new year.
- A detailed Jack B. Nimble iOS postmortem, including sales figures, trend data and my thoughts regarding the release
- More Jack B. Nimble video devlogs outlining the progress of the Steam port
- The release of Jack B. Nimble for Windows and Mac on Steam
- A final Jack B. Nimble postmortem for the Steam version and my plans for the future
I’m aware that I failed to meet some of my Jack B. Nimble goals set this time last year. But with game releases, a change of jobs, and a cross-country move, I feel I had a pretty good crack at it. And I’ll be honest, I’m not sure if Jack B. Nimble even needs a dedicated website; an App Store listing, Steam entry and Itch.io page seem sufficient.
Oh, and that was a subtle hint that I plan to release on Itch.io sometime following the Steam release.
No big updates here, as working out a good level design/art pipeline is a time consuming process. However, I do have a single early shot of the first test environment (with some work in progress assets).
Early days, but this shows my current plan and quality bar for level art. I’ve started a twitter account that you can follow for more frequent updates to the game @nd2game, and I also have a TIG devlog!
Star Citizen 3.0 is out now! So you can now play the final bits of content that I designed during my time at CIG. I wasn’t on the persistent universe team for long, so my contributions are few and far between. But if you’re interested, I did build a number of crashed ships across the moons for players to explore and loot (specifically, the derelict DRAKE Caterpillars).
Now onto the meat of this post…
Now that Squadron 42 has been revealed, I feel comfortable talking about my involvement – at least in the parts that have been shown.
Way back in 2015 (and before Star Marine), I worked on another component of Star Citizen, the Squadron 42 vertical slice. Initially, the vertical slice was my primary focus at CIG, more specifically, the first person segments contained within. This responsibility took the form of the level design and scripting of what would become the Chemline gas extraction facility.
I used my prior experience crafting stealth/combat encounters within the Far Cry series to build what was essentially a sprawling, interconnected outpost, occupied by vicious space pirates. For those interested, my key inspirations when building the base were Hadley’s Hope from Aliens (for the structure), Midgar from Final Fantasy VII (for the surrounding areas) and a sprinkling of the monolithic Strogg structures from Quake II (providing the weenies).
Acting as the testbed for first person combat within the game, the compound went through numerous iterations and changes. And in mid-2016 I felt that the level was in a good enough state for me to move on. Without additional core features, I wasn’t able to make valuable changes to bring the level design any further forward. So with confidence in the core layout and level walkthrough, I handed off my work to the rest of the team, as they prepared for a late-2016 reveal. Meanwhile I began work on Star Marine.
As 2016 came to a close, the team felt that the core features weren’t ready, and the vertical slice was pulled the footage from the (now infamous) holiday livestream. CIG even produced a video documenting the team’s thoughts; it’s well worth a watch, as it provides a level of transparency and honesty rarely seen within game development.
While the vertical slice was absent from the holiday livestream, Star Marine was not, and saw a wide release just days later. Three patches, and six months into 2017, I left the company.
By the end of 2017, CIG felt that the vertical slice was ready for the world and revealed it in their holiday livestream (only a year late). I’ve set the footage to start at the point where my involvement begins (around 53 minutes and 13 seconds).
As stated, I’ve been away from the company for six months, and away from the vertical slice for at least a year, so a lot has changed in that time. My initial reaction was simply; “I like what you’ve done with the place”. The expansion of the vent network within the base is especially awesome. I always wanted to extend the vent access to something more substantial. And boy did the art team make some stunning vents!
I have to say I was a little disappointed that the AI was still so far behind the visuals. It was one of the aforementioned systems I felt needed expanded upon in order to make wise and meaningful changes to the level design. That said, I can only see and comment on what is present in the video. Perhaps there is more going on here?
It goes without saying, the characters and environments look stunning; the CIG art team are top of their game. I just hope that there’s more from the AI soon, as Chris Roberts pointed out in his commentary, the walkthrough was definitely light on patrols (there was originally a much larger enemy presence).
No longer as a developer, but as a fan, I am looking forward to seeing how Squadron 42 progresses.
Star Citizen 3.0 also means that you can finally play my last updates to Echo 11 and Op Station Demien!
It’s a relief to finally see the levels released to the public. I only wish that they were available sooner; the active player count has been less than encouraging. Early days I suppose.
And to reflect…
As this is likely my final post on the subject, I feel inclined to comment on my time at CIG.
I’m proud of the part I played in the Star Citizen saga, and let’s be honest, at this point, it is a saga. From my initial work on Squadron 42 and the vertical slice, to Star Marine, and finally the Persistent Universe, I dabbled in it all and had a good time along the way. I talked a little more about this (and the community) in my leaving post. It’s hard to believe it all happened in just two years.
I look forward to jumping in some Star Marine in the new year and eagerly anticipate the release of Squadron 42, whenever that will be.
So the eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed a couple of changes to Noonan.Design in the latter half of the year.
Firstly, monthly updates haven’t been so… monthly. While forcing an update every month is a great way to keep myself motivated, it does lead to radically different post lengths, a lack of focus and variable quality. For example, I feel that while February’s post was informative and full of (what I like to believe is) exciting information, but it was also too much to take in. It covered too many subjects and resulted in several walls of text delivering an unfocused message. This is a blog, not a magazine, and I should treat it as such. Going forward I won’t be sitting on huge diary-esque drafts. I’ll post when I feel the need to share something when it is still current.
Secondly, updates were starting to mirror the content they were summarising. To combat this, I’ve made a simple change to the structure of the site. Project updates will now be categorised as “devlogs” and less specific updates will be categorised “news”. You can already see this represented in the sidebar of the blog. Which brings me to my next point…
I’ve decided to drop Pixel Dailies and Screenshot Saturday from the blog sidebar. There simply wasn’t enough content there to maintain a presence, and I don’t have plans to revive either of these.
Lastly, I don’t want to go into too much detail with this, but next year I plan to push for more evergreen content. This means posts that share design theory, industry thoughts and potentially some tutorial content (though this is rather time consuming…).
This will be the last update using this format. I’ll be mixing things up in 2018!
My portfolio is still “under construction” and is therefore currently offline. I’ll be honest, when you’re happy in your job and you’ve got a lot of projects on the go, a portfolio just isn’t a priority. That being said, I do get quite a few requests for advice on building a level design portfolio, and I feel that I should be setting an example. So I’m still aiming to at least have my level design portfolio online early next year.
The contact form on the contact page is now fixed. I apologise to anyone who had any difficulty contacting me in the last 2-3 months. I’ve moved to a secure SMTP service in place of the webmail I was using prior.
Ludum Dare 40
My final creative act for the year was to take part in another Ludum Dare event. I created a small stealth game called Rebel Call.
Until next time, happy new year!