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Update for June 2012. Mapping, modelling, Character Development, Weapons and playtime are all addressed.

Posted by agent00kevin on Jun 26th, 2012

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Hi all, its time for a NovaCor progress update.
Mapping

Mapping is progressing slowly but steadily. I have finally taken the time to start building some areas in Source that were drawn out as concept works early in development. They are coming out better than planned, and very much fit the theme I have set.

Some of the earlier areas will not be making the final cut, as they do not quite fit the theme I have developed. Here are a few preliminary screens of one area in development. The others are still in Dev textures, and I dont post Dev shots. 

News Screens Concept Concept

Some fine detail has been added over the past couple months to some of the maps that are further along; mainly the Labwork maps. There is still some detail to add, but its getting there.

News Screens

Ive also been reskinning some models and reworking others. Many have been edited and recompiled for efficiency; resulting in less vertices and less surfaces rendering. Pictured are some of the equipment models I recently reskinned. I also reduced the vertices on these particular models as well.

News Screens

There has also been a lot of behind the scenes work going on. Ive been editing the plotline and locations visited in the Mod, as well as working on a very important - and thus far overlooked - aspect: Character Development.

Not only have I been working on developing the Main Character, but his allies and enemies. Its something I had overlooked in the past as I developed the maps and overall visual theme, from textures to architecture. So, Ive turned a lot of attention on developing the attitude and personalities of Administrative Personnel, your few close friends, and a couple main enemies you will love to hate. Soon, I will have a rundown of the lead characters for you to pore over and get to know.

Weapons

Now, about those weapons. I really like the Pulse Rifle we 'borrowed' from Aliens, but it will be cut from the final product. This is to be an all original work, and we have enough talent and skill in the weapons department to make our own weapons through and through. Our weapons animator is busy with school right now, but we remain in contact and discuss the future of NovaCor regularly. Our modeller is involved with some other Mods, but has not abandoned NovaCor. (as far as I know that is) We have a custom Assault Rifle partially animated and fully modelled, as well as some work Ive been doing on more custom weapons. Some will not be traditional weapons, and will need to be constructed from parts and tools found on NovaCor. I felt it was more fitting to the theme and Main Character's position on the station to go with a mishmash of standard weapons brought aboard by NovaCor Security, and weapons made by the player out of the tools and parts available to a Engineering Tech on board.

NPCs

NPCs have also been part of the behind-the-scenes work going on lately. Ive been working on some redesigns of the NovaCor uniforms and NPC faces. The ones currently in use were made waaaaaayyy at the beginning of the Mod, and really do not fit the quality of the rest of it at this point.

I am also considering removing the Infected and replacing them with something more sinister, akin to the fastzombie from Half Life 2. Something scarier, and more threatening. There will still be Infected Crewmen, but they will no longer leap and claw the player - they will bludgeon him/her with weapons instead. One of the reasons behind this is that they just dont act quite right and the animations will not play as well on a human skeleton as they do on a freakish, twisted creature. I worked on it for several weeks and it just is not up to my standards. Opinions on this matter are welcome and appreciated!

Playtime

Lastly, Ive also decided to go with a more reasonable goal as far as play time goes. I was originally shooting for 8-12 hours of gameplay, but after 15 months of development I have decided that may be too lofty. With only one map near completion, (but many, many others in progress) it seemed daunting to try and create such a large amount of content. I have shifted my focus to producing a shorter, but higher quality Mod, as opposed to pumping out maps and repetetive battles and puzzles. The goal now is an attainable 4 hours of gameplay. This will allow me to make better models, better maps, and a better Mod.

Updated Main Menu

Post comment Comments
shadowflar3
shadowflar3 Jun 28 2012, 6:05am says:

A great post, Kevin. I wish all the mods had people like you in charge.

I think the fair amount of work you have poured into textures and mapping is really showing in the screenshots you have posted throughout the development. They are providing an excellent backdrops and settings to whatever you want to take place there. I think the audience - the mod watchers - have shifted their focus on the development of characters, enemies and weapons as well.

As for the NPCs, my advice is to hang on to your standards whenever you can. But I wish that the quality issues won't prevent you from ever releasing mod. In a mod community it is not a big deal if you will fix something with a patch or another beta version later on. Using sort of placeholders is acceptable, and if I were you I would work on the crucial matters that must be solved before the mod is playable at all (if there are such).

I would say you have already made a good decision about the gameplay hours and amount of levels already. And remember to scrap and save for later the things that you don't see finishing in time or at all. Lower your release aims rather than postpone the release date.

I know you don't probably think about releasing so much and it might sound like a distant thing, but I think it is important to have some schedule and some aim. Try setting some deadlines for yourself and the team (you don't have to publish them) and see how well you can hold on to them. Ask yourself things like: If I had to publish the mod in 2 days, what would I do?

Things like this will guide your thoughts on the right things and makes it easier to prioritize the many things you must be dealing with.

+3 votes     reply to comment
agent00kevin
agent00kevin Jun 28 2012, 8:29pm replied:

Quality issues wont stop release; its just a matter of time. I do think about release though, and set a goal for myself of early 2013. I was going to go for the end of 2012 but thats a big time for new commercial releaseswith the holidays and stuff. I wouldnt want to be overshadowed by all the new games coming out for Christmas season 2012 :P

I do need to work on prioritizing though. I just do whatever I feel at the time, with no real structure as to what gets done and when - I just know what all needs to be done, and kind of do what I feel like I would enjoy doing most when I sit down at the PC after work.

+1 vote     reply to comment
8472
8472 Jun 28 2012, 7:31am says:

I think aiming for the smaller number of hours (although, four hours is no small feat by any means) is probably wise, few game developers can pull off 12 hour games that stay interesting the whole time. :)

I'm glad to hear you're making steady progress, this mod is probably the only one I have faith in -- in regards to being released and being a good game.

I thank you and your team for your dedication, because you are doing a fantastic job on the project.

+2 votes     reply to comment
agent00kevin
agent00kevin Jun 28 2012, 8:38pm replied:

Thanks for posting!

I think 4 hours is not bad IF I stick to the design in the Lab maps. Re-use of space without making the player bactrack all the time, and lots of little things to occupy the player along the way. Im trying to pack a lot of content into each level, making the player want to or need to visit every room and do something in it to finish a level. Whether that be fight a boss, just find something, or figure out a puzzle. For instance, one of the Lab levels isnt very large at all, but it took me 20 minutes to complete it - and thats knowing where everything is and what to do once I get there. So, Im hoping for 30 minutes for players who are playing it for the first time. Im going for something like that with every level :)

As one of the few who finished and released a good, original Mod, I greatly respect your opinions and advice.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Metalspy
Metalspy Jul 1 2012, 9:21pm says:

This has been in development for only 15 months now? It feels like I've been following this mod for a way longer amount of time! And I can't do anything else but agree with aiming for a smaller number of hours being probably wise ;)

+1 vote     reply to comment
agent00kevin
agent00kevin Jul 1 2012, 9:37pm replied:

Actually, you are right; Its been more like 18 months. I looked at my screens and the oldest one I have of 'NovaCor' is Dec 2010. There was a time when this was called 'Old Skool' and it had a completely different theme.

There was a lot of wasted time on stuff that is far below my current abilities and standards, which amounts to about 6 months of time in development that produced nothing but better skills and understanding of the SDK. Id say about 12-15 months of real progress and a 3-6 month period where I was still coming to grips with Hammer and the overall design. Then there was the time before that when I had the old theme, setting, story, etc.

I really started working on this with just a basic idea of what I was going to do - which was a BAD idea. I then went back to the drawing board, and got organized. I roughed out the story and locales, then started redesihning the entire look and feel of the Mod.

So its hard to judge exactly when NovaCor as it is now started, which is why I based it on the earliest screen of anything that was NovaCor. You'd have to flip forward some more to find any maps being used, and even then they have been drastically redesigned and improved since then.

+1 vote     reply to comment
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