Noxious is an indie game that has been getting a lot of recognition lately since it’s release and rightfully so. It was developed in five months from scratch by a team of Full Sail University students as a class project. I had the pleasure of interviewing some of them and got to learn more about their team and the game itself.
Noxious is a 3rd person Sci-Fi shooter where players will assume the role of Dr. Nathaniel Stryder, a researcher who works in a facility which does probably very illegal things under the guise of scientific experimentation. After things take a terrible turn for the worse, however, Nathaniel gets trapped in the same facility he works at with the same creatures he worked on. You must escape the facility as, to your knowledge, the last researcher alive. The game can get surprisingly difficult at times, but is really all worth it in the end (and fun!).
The Misfits team had little to no experience making games in the past and have come a long way since attending Full Sail University. This will be a two-part series on Team Misfits and their game they created in little time, Noxious.
When talking about the development there were some really interesting facts coming from the team. The game was built in five months from scratch, custom engine, 3D models, the works. However, not all five months were dedicated to the game’s development. When asked when development began, Rebecca Howell, the team’s collision system programmer, said that “we had about 2 weeks of tech design, and about 1 and a half month for core gameplay”. Ryan Nash, the game’s Art Lead, had to say that “we started with 2 months of design, the first month was basic gameplay ideas and storyboarding the whole game through to try and get an idea of what the experience would be like. We spent so long just trying to work out different game modes and what they would do. The second month (at least art wise) was starting concept and gathering reference for our art style and asset list for the game. The programmers during that second month began working on the core systems and getting the game basics in there. It wasn’t until the third month that we really started 3D production, and then it was just make what you designed and planned out. Which is harder than it sounds.”
One notable thing about the team is that the team originally consisted of 16 members, but after a few cuts they were pegged down to 13. I asked why this was and Rebecca Howell mentioned that it was not the choice of the team. “People get cut from the team because it is a school project. It was never the team’s decision to cut anyone, it was the school’s. If they feel someone is not contributing enough they get cut and have to start all over.” The cuts didn’t help the team at all, either. When asking if the cuts had set the team back or made things harder, they responded with a flurry of yeses. One of the people cut was the Internal Producer. Jerry Scoughton, the Sound Coder, felt that losing the IP made things a bit easier. “As a programmer, I honestly felt that losing our producer made our job a bit easier. We didn’t have to use the scheduling tool Hansoft and we were put on weekly milestones. The hardest part was that we couldn’t secure class rooms and so had to wait until 5 PM to use the game studeio to work on our project as a group. As for losing the artists I could not say. I would geuss it made it a bit of a crunch for the remaining artists but they certainly didn’t let on that they were any worse for the wear.”
Robert Reategui, who did character creation, visual effects, rigging and half of the animations, felt much differently as an Artist. “Oh yeah it made it harder, because that team member’s work still needed to get completed because it’s still planned to be part of the game, so their work is then pushed off to the rest of the tea mates. When I say the rest, I mean me. After the enemy artist was fired, I was in charged of taking on his remaining work and cleaning up the current work. After our animator was gone, I was also left with completing the rest of the work an fixing up the current work. That’s why I have so many titles on this project.” Lauren Holloway, the Animation Lead, felt that losing the IP was a blow because they were no longer able to access rooms to work “so we had to scramble to find some to be able to work”.
Cuts aside, I asked the team if there were any difficulties that were a challenge overcoming during development. The most common answer seemed to be simply “scheduling”. After the cuts, the team went to a 5PM-1AM work schedule, and having other classes on top of it kept them working longer days. They all felt that scheduling pretty much “sucked”. Ryan Nash had to say that different personalities, opinions and ideas coming together for the first time posed problems as everyone wanted their idea in the game, which had lead to arguing during the design process. “Hatching out the game itself and, like Alan said, we continued changing design and re-thinking things pretty much all the way through development and it just came from playing and being like, “Man, we should do this instead” or ‘It would be cool to do this’”.
The game was developed in such a short amount of time, so I asked the team if they ever had doubts about the game’s completion. I got mixed answers, but largely “no”. Eric Hollaway, one of the team’s artists, said yes. “We had our doubts especially in our alpha month. A lot of things went undesigned, so we had to really flesh out ideas in the midst of deadlines. It made it hard.” Jerry worried more about it being fun rather than it being completed. “We might have worried some about the fun factor, just because who is to say what is considered fun?” Ryan Nash said “not necessarily completion, but maybe it’s degree of completion. Like based on the things we wanted and the time ew had, there was always possibilities of having to cut things from the game. For example the Tank was not working too well for a while and we were told that if he wasn’t working by a certain point we would have to take him out. If that was the case, I think the game experience would be a lot less complete than it is. So I think we always thought the game would finish, but we wanted to get as much stuff in there as possible.”
Richard Alan Small, or “Smalls” as the team calls him, was the Tech Lead and Project Lead for Noxious for the last 2 months of development. He said “after our first month of development, Alpha, we were very worried that we couldn’t complete the entire design process we had created. Ryan and I had quite a few discussions about what we needed to cut and what we could simplify while keeping the main gameplay in. The first thing we ended up doing was redesigning the whole level, and even cutting a whole room. We originally decided to cut the Tank as well, but in the end managed to get that in, and are very glad about that. Overall though, we always strived to get the most gameplay out as much as possible.”
The most impressive of all is the short amount of time the engine was built. Richard Small had a lot to say when I asked him about the engine; “We built it using C++ and DirectX for our rendering side. The only third party support was from FMod for sounds. The engine itself was built in only 3 months, but you have to account that we didn’t just do an engine, we had to build the game as well. The engine is fairly stable though it has a few faults in it that we just never had the time to fix. Such as swappable shaders and built in LUA scripting support. Included with that is that if something is wrong with the engine, you don’t have to depend on a third party developer to fix it. You do it yourself”.
Robert Reategui added in his opinion on the engine from an artist’s perspective; “From an art side, it was a little difficult because we couldn’t put in things that we wanted since the engine didn’t support it and it would take too much time to make the engine support it, so we had to find a lot of workarounds”. Louis Doran, the team’s Environment Artist, had to say that “we as artists were use to UDK since it was the only engine we had worked with before. Going from that to a custom engine without a lot of time under the hood and not knowing anything about the dev side we were a little confused on what was a realistic request”.
Overall, the team works well together and has made a great game. Look out for part 2 of this two part series coming out soon.