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Indie Delve: An interview with the lead developer of Noct

Noct is an upcoming 2D top-down multiplayer survival horror game, being developed by Toronto based indie developer Chris Eskins.


The game is played through the lens of a thermal imaging satellite that is looking down from orbit, after a mysterious apocalypse has plunged the Earth into an eternal darkness.

Players will explore single or multiplayer procedurally generated wastelands, ruined cities and claustrophobic environments as they attempt to survive the dangers of the world and the strange horrors that call it home.


The game has a Kickstarter campaign running right now that is over half way to their goal, with 12 days left to reach $22,000(CAD).


I stumbled onto Noct the other night when Eskins posted a few gifs of the game onto Imgur. Eskins told me that the community's response has been great, and that they've dubbed the game "Nope Hunter", which is a damn catchy title, albeit silly.

With an interesting new concept that lends itself to making the world seem eerily uncomfortable, and the aspect of being able to share that feeling with other players wandering within the world of Noct, I'm definitely excited to get my hands on this indie game.


I thought it would be interesting to talk with Eskins about how he feels at this stage of the project, then later on contrast that with how he feels after the project, and possibly down the road as he's moved on to other projects. So, let's get straight into it!

How long has Noct been in development?

Chris Eskins: Noct has been in development for about a year and a half now. It has been through various stages of prototypes to refine networking code, as that required quite a bit of local testing. Took me longer than I would like because I had to learn programming to build the game I wanted to make. From an artists perspective.. having to pick up a new programming language, learn an engine, and build it all into a nice working presentable package is quite the undertaking.


What have you worked on previously?

I have worked mainly as a freelance artist for studios within Toronto. My typical role would be generating art assets for web games and other advertising Multimedia. I've always loved to build games for indie Jams like Toronto's TOJAM, but it is rare that any of these projects would see the light of day outside those communities.


What are some specific design aspects of Noct that you feel make it stand apart from other games out there?


The first thing everyone notices is the grainy thermal imaging. Although this has been seen in games before, I still think it is a extremely unique visual spin. It causes this really creepy detachment while you play. While coming up with the games initial concept, I tried to think of elements from games I had played that I really enjoyed, and paired them together. Games like Teleglitch and Hotline Miami have set a high standard for Top Down Shooters, at least for me. It has to feel fun and be fluent, otherwise I don't think players will be engaged. So I tried to harness that with Noct, and introduce a creepy atmospheric overtone reminiscent within games like Limbo. The Multiplayer aspect is a big deal, I am a huge fan of Minecraft's networking open world instance concept. You know that guy, the one that plays an awesome game, and then says "Man I wish I could play this with friends"? I'm kinda that guy apparently. This is the type of game I would want to play with my buddies. That being said, I also want to be able to run solo from time to time for a different type of gaming experience.

Absolutely know what you mean with the multiplayer aspect. I always find it better to share in the experiences of game worlds with friends.


So you mentioned that you taught yourself to code, since you couldn't find a programmer. Was that just for Noct? Or had you been learning prior to starting your work on Noct?

I had been learning to program for quite some time. As an artist working with previous developers, it was a good idea to learn the systems where my art assets were being used. This allowed me to better optimize them for other developers to implement. For Noct, it was a whole new system to learn, my experience was restricted to scripting mods. Noct required me to sit down and start from scratch with a new language. Luckily C# is easier to pick up if you're used to things like Lingo and Lua.


Coming from originally being a visual artist, how has shifting to also doing the programming been? Do you enjoy the programming aspects of creating a game? Or is it something you feel you have to slog through?

It can be quite a daunting experience, usually it's one or the other. There are highs and lows to programming your own game.. Some days you're really happy that your "theory" worked on the first shot and everything is "Coming up milhouse" Other days you're stuck trying to fix a game breaking bug now introduced because you added a new feature. I will often question myself as to if I can code artistically, sometimes I feel that efficient programming doesn't always go hand in hand with creative off the wall solutions. Art is messy, but code probably shouldn't be.


Do you feel the way you think about game design has changed, now that you're responsible for creating more than just the visual aspects of the game?


There is a lot more follow through now. Prior to this, you don't really think about how the mechanics of the thing you're building will work, you just want to make it "look cool". Now instead of handing a design off to someone else to complete and flesh out, the process ends up being taken from concept to feature by one individual. I feel it takes more time, but due to that level of control, I can produce exactly what I had envisioned.

Do you feel like you'd want to take the role of the programmer, artist, and lead designer for future projects? Or do you feel like you'd rather have that responsibility spread out in the future, so you can focus on one aspect?


I think at a certain point I will want and need to hand those roles off to other team members for the success of the project. Eventually you have to stop micromanaging. That being said, there is something romantic about wearing all the hats and dabbling in every aspect of the games development, so even though it is super stressful and frustrating at times, I am happy to do it.

What do you feel draws you to game design, specifically?

The process of creation. The fact that you're telling a story, creating art, making something that will engage, entertain, or possibly inspire someone really appeals to me as a developer.


Have you had any thoughts on what you'll do after Noct?

I have a few experimental ideas I wouldn't mind trying, but honestly I haven't thought that far ahead. Right now all focus is completely on Noct!


If Noct ends up not being well received (which I'm hoping isn't the case), do you think you'll keep doing game design?

I think there was a line from Christopher Nolan's Batman that could be used here. I would most certainly stick with it. There is always the possibility of failure, learn from your mistakes and push yourself to do better. I think all game developers get frustrated at times and throw their hands up wanting to give up on their dream. Phil Fish's twitter feed recently was almost the very definition of that. Don't give in. There are always people out there that will not like your game, and quite possibly despise you for it. Are you making the game for them? Or are you making the game for the others out there who may enjoy it. Set aside all the politics, the popularity contest, and the vitriol. Just focus on doing what you love to do, no matter what people say.


I feel like I just typed out that answer. I hope some other aspiring indie devs take that to heart.

When are you hoping to be able to release?

I believe I have made significant preparations during development to ensure that the game meets the target date of July 2015. I also believe very strongly in releasing a polished title for people to enjoy. So making that happen is paramount.


Do you have anything to say to those out there that also wish to get into indie game development? Any advice? Warnings? Arcane spells?

Never be afraid to experiment with different game concepts and ideas. Bounce those ideas and concepts off as many people as you can! If a community wants to help you shape your idea/game, let them! They are the people who will be playing it! Be careful with Redbull.


Oh the dangers of energy drinks.

How do you feel about instant ramen at this point in the project?

[Game Development Intensifies]

Haha. Good answer.

Alright, is there anything else you feel readers should know about Noct?

I think if you enjoy top down games as much as I do, playing this one will be quite a unique experience. Imgurian's have claimed from the visuals that it's as if Hotline Miami and Limbo had a child, which I feel is fairly accurate considering the atmosphere of the game. If you enjoyed those games like I did, check it out!



I'll be checking in with Eskins after Noct's release, and see if there's any interesting contrast to how he feels after the project is complete.


The devs will be lurking about the comments, today, and answering your questions for a bit, so go ahead and pick their brains!

You can learn more about Noct, and donate to their Kickstarter campaign, by clicking this shiney link. Go on! You know you wanna do it!


If you have any positive or negative thoughts about this article, or would like to see more Indie Delves from me, let me know in the comments.

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