Noxcrew turns 8!
Hello Noxcrew Community!
Today’s a special day for us here at Noxcrew because today, 23rd August 2019, marks Noxcrew’s 8 year anniversary!
8 years since Noxite founded Noxcrew and began work on Paladin’s Quest over the summer holidays. We’ve come a long way since those humble beginnings. From a bunch of friends who didn’t really know what they were doing, to a fully fledged company living our dreams and creating games for everyone to enjoy. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing but thanks to some grit, determination and all of your incredible support, we somehow made it to this point!
So, to celebrate our anniversary, I’m going to take you back to 2011 and through the past 8 years to see just how far we’ve come.
As I mentioned, our very first map was Paladin’s Quest, a medieval map following the exploits of Morris, a poor pig farmer who dreams of adventure and ends up on a quest to save the world. While the map itself is very crude compared to today’s standards, it does highlight our drive to innovate, to push Minecraft and map making to its limit, even back then.
In Paladin’s Quest, we added side quests, something that was rarely included in maps back then due to the difficulties with tracking and rewarding them. More importantly for us in the long run, we also included machinimas that could be played alongside the game when you hit certain points in the story, showing conversations with important NPC’s, guiding the player on their quest and immersing them deeper into the world and its lore. Remember, Paladin’s Quest came out before you could put text in chat or even before you could put sounds into Minecraft to simulate conversation! Everything had to be done through books or signs, so this was a big difference!
This experimentation with machinimas helped us develop our second project, Fable Hunters. A passion project for Noxite and xiLubez, it was our first jump into the world of machinimas. Following 2 vagabonds - Jasper and Flynn, Fable Hunters told the tale of unlikely companions thrown together by fate and crime on their quest to earn wealth and freedom! While admittedly a little rough around the edges, Fable Hunters paved the way for later machinima projects and taught us a lot about organisation, filming in Minecraft and developing interesting stories.
Unfortunately it wasn’t all innovation and excitement in those early days. Paladin’s Quest and Fable Hunters set a precedent that we’ve never really been able to shake. That of Noxcrew announcing projects and never finishing them, with Paladin’s Quest and Fable Hunters only producing two episodes rather than the extended series we’d hoped for. But that, for better or for worse, is the Noxcrew way. To be ambitious with our projects, regardless of whether it will be successful or not. Back at the start of it all, we just wanted to create fun stuff together, so if it didn’t work, we just jumped on to the next thing.
And that next thing became the project that would come to define our early years; The Noxcrew Gameshow.
Spearheaded by Noxcrew musician and game making genius Epic_Landlord, Gameshow was a loving tribute to all of the TV game shows we watched as kids, from 50/50 to The Crystal Maze, but reinvented with a Noxcrew twist, blending satire with a twisted sort of logic (I mean if you’re going to decide games using chickens you need someone to clean them up, hence The Butcher)
Bringing these sorts of game shows to Minecraft seemed obvious to us, but at the time, mini-games were in their infancy and creating games for the project was a massive undertaking. We had a huge world dedicated to developing game mechanics, all overseen by Landlord (who was building most of them anyway) to ensure that the games not only played nicely but fit into Gameshow’s bold and striking aesthetic.
Gameshow proved to be a success and runs throughout Noxcrew history, from its earliest years to the present day. 2 series were developed for The Noxcrew Gameshow, a pilot season with guests from the Youtube community and season 1 with 8 incredible community teams battling for ultimate glory. We would also go on to develop a live-streamed version of Gameshow to play with members of the twitch community. During that time, we had some amazing people come along and play with us. From the very first team, the lovely ‘Team Heros’ to our ultimate season one champions ‘The Ungentlemen’ to all the players who joined us on Gameshow Live, everyone who played brought their own flair and feel to the Gameshow and were a joy to work with.
We’re exceptionally grateful to Gameshow, not only because it was a big success but it also allowed us to do some incredible things that we never thought we’d do. Thanks to Gameshow, we were invited to numerous events, including Minecon 2015, last year’s Jingle Jam and the Insomnia Gaming Festival, where we met some lovely people including all you guys!
We were able to develop and host MCStrike, an action-packed Call of Duty style mini-game server which drew a lot of the builders to the team, some of which are still with us today. This would eventually evolve into the Noxcrew Factory server allowing players to get together and play Gameshow at any time!
It also gave us the confidence to experiment and develop stranger projects that were more in line with the Noxcrew sense of humour, including Noxpocalypse, a machinima where Noxite, Andrej and Roho try to survive after the apocalypse, Tales from Strangeland, a community based project where we told a story and the Noxcrew community drew pictures for it, highlighting their talents and our strangeness, Super Hole in The Wall, an exciting mini-game based on the TV show Hole in the Wall and streams like NoxFTB and the Jazzcraft streams (That was a really really long time ago)
The standout of these strange creative florishings, and the project that saw us step back into the map making scene after years of being seen as machinima creators, was Jeoffrey’s Chamber.
Created in 8 hours by Noxite and a small team of builders, the first Jeoffrey’s Chamber map was little more of a proof of concept, a way to test how custom sounds worked in Minecraft’s 1.6 update that had been released earlier that day. The whole map consists of the player, locked in a cage, being taunted by the enigmatic Emperor who declares you will never escape him. Despite being 10 minutes long at most, (though it can be completed in under 30 seconds) Jeoffrey’s Chamber was an instant success and we immediately started work on a sequel.
Taking 2 weeks to complete (thanks to some mob breaking on week one) Jeoffrey’s Chamber 2 was the culmination of everything we had learnt leading up to this point. It was characteristically bold and colourful, puzzles that were abstract yet logical and whose plot was a twist on the usual ‘save the princess’ story. The map sees Jeoffrey (aka the player) be berated, humiliated and belittled, rather than become the hero.
Instead the story is driven by The Emperor. A sardonic, egotistical overlord who is equal parts funny, annoying and terrifying, he controls the world and punishes any deviation from the plot with humiliation and occasional violence in his seemingly never-ending quest to punish Jeoffrey. Despite his overbearing presence and complete lack of empathy for Jeoffrey’s plight, The Emperor never becomes completely loathsome in Jeoffrey’s Chamber, with the absurdity of his actions muting any true malevolence he may possess.
It’s this natural inclination to create multifaceted characters, not just one note villains and heroes, that, I believe, helps Noxcrew’s stories come to life, even from our earliest days with the NPC’s in Paladin’s Quest. We like to create characters who are many things all at once, dim-witted but caring, egotistical but funny, academically intelligent but dithering and forgetful. These may seem like a contradiction but that’s how people are in real life, so why shouldn’t they be like that in our stories and the Emperor highlights this complex character creation in our work. (Hence why I like talking about him so much)
A third Jeoffrey’s Chamber map was developed and even teased but, due to disagreements about the direction of the story and the script, was never released and joined the growing pile of abandoned projects that we hope to return to one day.
This abandonment, however, resulted in the creation of our most famous map, Terra Swoop Force. Initially designed as a Jeoffrey’s Chamber style proof of concept to show off Elytra, which was added to Minecraft in the 1.9.15w41a update, TSF grew into a massive project.
Not content to just create a tunnel map, Terra Swoop Force became a vehicle for us to try and push Minecraft to it’s limit. We strove to experiment and create new ways of telling the story of the Geo Descent Labs, a team of scientists who send a group of agents to the centre of the Earth to find out what happened to a long lost bore drill and the 2 scientists lost alongside it.
Not only was the map engaging in a Noxcrew sort of way, it was full of features, animations and gameplay elements that had never been seen before in Minecraft maps (not to toot our own horn.) It had the (admittedly very long) introductory presentation, which presented a fully functional slideshow without any interaction needed by the player. It had Dr. Barney moving through the world, his face as animated as his body as he explained his tragic tale and insane plans. It had that dramatic ending sequence, complete with movie style credits that scrolled up the screen as the player is pulled back through the world to watch the results of Barney’s desperate final act. And it has one of the smoothest elevators in Minecraft, seamlessly moving players through the world.
Taking 8 months to complete, Terra Swoop Force was a massive success and put us on the map as a creative force, not just map makers. It’s the main thing we’re known for and to this day, the one project we’re asked about the most.
However, despite all of the praise and recognition,Terra Swoop Force very nearly marked the end for The Noxcrew.
For all it’s popularity, the map only made the team about $50, nowhere near enough to keep up with server costs and the team had to rely on Patreon to keep things running. At the same time, many members of the team were either at or heading off to university, giving them less time to focus on creating with the team. Things seemed to be winding down for us, despite developing Super Steve/Sky Runner and having a thriving community survival server, and Noxcrew very nearly shut down for good.
That all changed when we were approached to start creating for Minecraft bedrock and the Minecraft Marketplace. As difficult as it was to step away from our java roots, we jumped at the chance to keep creating together and dived into developing the first 4 bedrock maps of our career, Adventurer’s Dream, Destructobot 5000, Fallen Keep and Dustville. These maps were a huge learning curve for us, as we had never explored bedrock and had to learn its eccentricities after years of dealing with java’s quirks.
That, of course, didn’t stop us pushing the engine as far as we could at the time and, as such, Destructobot5000 and Adventurer’s Dream proved to be two of the most sophisticated maps we’d ever created, gameplay wise, up to at that point. Adventurer’s Dream became a full fledged game in its own right, with realms to explore and quests to complete with a huge final boss fight. At the same time, Destructobot took the MCStrike style shoot ‘em up format and introduced multiple enemies to fight, all with different attack styles and battle tactics.
These 4 maps cemented our place within the Bedrock community as creators of exciting, colourful projects and we built up from there!
We kicked it off with Summer Mini-Games Festival, a beach map filled with multiple minigames, calling back to our Gameshow heritage. We even incorporated Blocksetball, one Gameshow’s oldest games, into the map as a direct reference, complete with yellow and blue armour for players to wear.
Summer Mini-Games Festival, despite the multiple games we had to develop for it, took less than a week to complete! The following Mini-Game Festival series would grow in scope and size, culminating in the insanely colourful Spring Mini-Games Festival (which also included a Gameshow illumni in the form of Sprint V1), but never lost the sense of fun and mini-game madness we strove to create in the original map and in Gameshow.
Noxcrew’s first holiday season as Bedrock creators was also a hive of activity. In the past we’d celebrated the season without too much fanfare. This time, however, the team went all out and released 6 pieces of content!
This included Dropper of Horrors, a Halloween map that had been pushed back by technical issues, World of Horses, inspired by Avondale’s personal survival server, Elf Patrol, a passion project for Andrej, Noxcrew’s head writer, Pirate’s Christmas, a map that proved to be too ambitious even for us and was eventually recalled, Winter Mini-Game Festival and Ready Sled Go! which was released for free as part of the 12 days of Minecraft promotion.
We also re-introduced the Noxcrew Community Survival Server, a roleplay based survival world where Noxcrew, friends and our insanely creative community came together to build the towns of Cherry Point, Spawnville, the New Brick Order and others in a fantastic union of Minecraft brotherhood...only for it all to be destroyed in a nuclear explosion and everyone flee to the Nether City below (Our community is as weird as we are and we love it!)
Needless to say we were exhausted after all that creative work and it would take months before we got back to creating the sort of story based maps we were known for. But when we did, we went back to the universe that everyone was asking about: Geo Descent Labs.
Monsters of the Deep, as most of our maps tend to be, was initially conceived as a showcase for the 1.4 Update Aquatic, which completely overhauled Minecraft’s oceans and offered a wealth of new mobs, blocks and items to play and experiment with. This led us to think about our legacy of creating these sorts of showcase maps and decided that, after a year establishing ourselves on the marketplace, it was time to bring Alan, Sasha and the GDL scientists to Bedrock. While we couldn’t recreate Terra Swoop Force itself (yet) we could explore the universe and the people within it, setting the map before the end of the world to show off what GDL were up to before the events of Terra Swoop Force.
Developing Monsters of the Deep as an update aquatic map didn’t come without its complications. During initial development, it was announced that update aquatic would be split into 2 parts, with the full update being released over the 1.4 and 1.5 updates, meaning we were working without a lot of features including bubble streams, turtles and certain behaviours for the drowned and the trident. This resulted in Monsters of the Deep also being split into 2 parts, with the map getting updated once 1.5 was released to include all the new aquatic features as well as unlock previously blocked off sections of the facility. The update also brought with it a new ending that saw Alan discover Noxesium, definitively linking Monsters of the Deep with Terra Swoop Force and creating the foundation of the GDLU (Geo Descent Labs Universe).
Monsters from The Deep was another great success for Noxcrew and, bolstered by the community’s support and inspired by our fellow partners, we felt confident enough to tackle an idea that had been rattling around Noxcrew since we started building in Bedrock. We wanted to go Creative.
We wanted to create a world where players could build their own themed creations, a project that gave them the tools, blocks and skills they needed to create in that style and then let them run wild. However, technology had always lagged behind our ambitions and we focused on other ideas instead, waiting for a gap in our schedule to experiment with creating this toolbox idea.
However, as you might expect, when we finally jumped into this project, it didn’t go entirely to plan. We initially planned to start this new style of map with Castles and Dragons, giving players the opportunity to create magnificent castles then fly on the backs of dragons and lay waste to the world they had so lovingly created! But that didn’t happen. The dragons failed to cooperate and many of the props and items we had created failed to live up to our expectations. The project lost direction and was soon abandoned. However, rather than cast the idea of a creative map aside completely, we decided to take the concept and move it to a less fantastical environment.
Inspired by the towns of the Noxcrew Survival Server and the growing interest in suburban based maps, we started to develop a world where we could focus on getting the entities to behave as props and vehicles, rather than create new gameplay mechanics for each new thing as we had planned. Where players could build and decorate their homes like the elite without needing to learn all the tips and tricks of interior building. So was born Millionaire Mansions, which to this day is one of our most popular bedrock maps, and spawned the Creative Toolbox series.
This series really let our imagination run wild as we explored the worlds and themes we enjoyed creating and searched to find ways of giving players interesting props and features to build with in that style.
We finally got dragons to work in Castles and Dragons and created systems where villagers and dragons would fight on sight. We created warring alien factions with spaceships that really flew in Spaceships and Aliens (kinda necessary with a name like that) We went back to our machinima roots and created sets we would have killed for in the old days along with exciting sound effects in Movie Star and we created a living breathing city in City Living, with cops and robbers, hospitals and ambulances and more vehicles than we knew what to do with.
City Living was a massive undertaking, taking 5 months to complete, and ended our run of Creative Toolboxes (for a while anyway) bringing us back, as it always does, to GDL and the release of Monsters from the Ice, our biggest and most elaborate story map to date.
Finally we’re back to the present. 8 years of exciting and innovative creations. 8 years of massive successes and crushing lows. 8 years of Noxcrew.
So what’s next? What’s the next step on this epic adventure that started in 2011 and has led all the way up to now?
Of course we have plans, so many plans, but as the past 8 years have shown, best laid plans in the Noxcrew often go astray (and can take months to complete) so who knows what’ll happen to the team next.
What we do know is that we will continue to push ourselves to create the best maps and projects we can for you, The Noxcrew Community. At Noxcrew, it’s not just about creating stuff for us. It's about creating stuff with and for the community. Because without you, we wouldn’t be here.
Regardless of whether you’ve been with us from the beginning or are only discovering us for the first time, we are humbled every day that people took this little group of friends with a strange sense of humour to heart and have supported us through the highs and the lows.
From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.
We are so insanely grateful for the 8 years that we’ve had as part of the Minecraft community and we look forward to 8 more years of strange and silly projects!
Noctis and the Noxcrew team