Seasons turn

 

Hi Noxcrew Community!

Hope you’re all bundling up warm, the seasons are finally changing and Autumn is definitely making itself known!

Even with Avon’s joyous return to work after his holidays, things remain quiet around here news wise. While we did do some testing yesterday, on a super-secret project we’ve been working on, (can’t talk too much it just yet) most of the team are busy wrapping up the last little bits we’re all working on while the others start preparing for the next big project! (Hopefully it doesn’t take as long as DvD to complete!)

As such I’m extending ‘Showcase September’ into October (I’ll think of a name for it at some point) where I’ll start covering some of our more autumnal projects, starting (fittingly) with Autumn Mini-Games Festival and how we approached developing it’s cosy atmosphere.

I hope you all enjoy it and I’ll see you all next week!

Noctis


Back in 2017, following the surprising success of Summer Mini-Games Festival, we set to work on creating the first sequel in what would become the Mini-Games Festival series, Autumn Mini-Games Festival.

While bolstered by the success of Summer, we weren’t interested in just repeating ourselves. We wanted Autumn to not only look different but feel different, with new games, mechanics and activities to fill a world heavily drenched in the cosy feeling of an October afternoon.

I want to take you behind the fallen leaves and explore how we developed the atmosphere of Autumn and how it inspired new additions to the Mini-Game Festival series. I’ll also reveal a few secrets hiding in the hay that you might have missed.

World

From the very start of development, we knew that Autumn Mini-Games Festival was going to be set in a completely different area than Summer. While beaches are brilliant any time of year, it’s hardly a place one thinks of when thinking about Autumn. Instead, we decided to move the festival to a new location, one that was more in line with the season’s aesthetic.

For Autumn we wanted to try and capture the atmosphere of the season, of warm sweaters, pumpkin spice and nights out at the fairground. It should come as no surprise then that our first and final idea for the setting of Autumn Mini-game Festival was a quaint mid-west style lake town. Areas like this, filled with beautiful landmarks and a cosy sense of community, are often the first thing that springs to mind when people think of Autumn. They are depicted as beautiful natural areas with quaint little houses surrounded by red and gold trees, juxtaposing of the serenity of the town against the dramatic peaks of the wilderness. Between the end of summer and the beginning of Autumn, towns organise state fairs, covering buildings in bright decorations, a sense of excitement in the air. This perfectly complimenting our ideas of a festival visiting a village once a year as the season changes, from the warm and vibrant colours of summer to the cold tones of winter.

These sorts of towns are also the settings of Halloween films such as ‘Disney’s Hocus Pocus’’ or the ‘Halloween’ franchise, forever linking them with the season of spookiness and transition. This allowed us to add some more wild and untamed aspects to the map, rather than solely focusing on Autumn as a season of colour and warmth.

This, of course, helped in the designing of the map’s building and features, where we wanted to double down and highlight the stereotypical ideals of an American lake town. This meant filling the area with cosy wooden cabins, redwood farmhouses surrounded by wheat and the looming sawmill, a symbol of the industry keeping this town alive when the tourists leave for the winter.

Essentially everything people think of when talking about an American autumn!

However, despite pandering to the stereotypes of Autumn, we still wanted the area to make sense in its own context and how this place would function beyond the time that the festival was in town.

As such, houses are constructed from materials found ing the area like wood from the surrounding trees and stone from the mountains. We even developed animals to run around the area, adding another layer of authenticity, with cute squirrels and ducks found all over the town. They also help to bring life and movement to the map, something we noticed was lacking in Summer.

Transport

At the very start of development for Autumn Mini-Games Festival, we sat down and considered what activities would be suitable for the map and what mini-games needed to be developed. We couldn’t look to inflatable assault courses and other forms of beach entertainment for inspiration as we had with Summer Mini-Games festival as they wouldn’t have suited the environment we had developed, nor the time of year we wanted to capture. Instead, we started looking at activities that take place around autumn time, namely town fairs or carnivals.

We came up with several ideas, including a tractor based game where you raced to harvest wheat, a lazy river ride and a haunted house. However, we decided against them, finding them too passive and potentially dull. Eventually, we settled on go-karts.

When we were kids, Go-karts often appeared in activity parks or farm shops around the country. This naturally linked them in our heads with rural farmlands perfect for atmosphere we were trying to develop. Using the newly added hay bales and re-texturing blocks to look like tyres, we styled our course after these activity parks, helping it to blend better with the aesthetic of the world. They also added a different experience to Autumn compared to Summer, one that we not anticipated at the time.

Players started to use these karts to traverse around the map, something we hadn’t thought necessary as we purposefully kept the map small. This was done to ensure players could move between activities relatively quickly and not get lost. However, seeing players utilise an aspect of the map in this manner made us realise just how much players like using vehicles to get around!

As such, we started making the festival worlds bigger, adding themed vehicles to make sure that it still didn’t take too long to get between the different activities.

Fun fact, the sound of the go-karts was developed by Noxite, who didn’t realise that the karts would sound like bees when it was placed into the game. This slight goof would go on to partly inspire the bee vehicles in Spring Mini-Games Festival.

Mini-Games

In the same way that we used fairs to inform our choice of vehicle, we also looked to them to inspire our mini-games and activities. Due to the compact nature of the map we had created, we decided on 5 different mini-games with some representing the theme of the map, others using the environment.

Specifically, we wanted to work with the landscape that the builders had created and incorporate it into the games, something we hadn’t quite managed to accomplish in Summer. As such, we tried to use the lake as much as possible, converting a lazy river idea into a boat race, taking advantage of the updated boat mechanics to create more complex obstacles for players to complete. We also used the varying height of the area to develop parkour challenges, one overlooking the lake to provide a natural safety feature, the other an elevated obstacle course inspired by tree-top adventure challenges found in outdoor activity parks in highly wooded areas, both in the UK and USA.

The lake also became the basis of side activities that had been left out of Summer. This included the king of the hill tower, which became a bit of ticket fountain as players are automatically given tickets when stood on top of it.

In what would eventually become a theme for the mini-game festival series, the golf course was developed entirely by Avondale, our resident golf expert and somewhat of an old hand at developing Minecraft golf courses, having cut his map-making teeth, developing courses with his friends before joining Noxcrew.

However, unlike Summer with its reasonably flat course, Autumn posed the challenge of developing a course on rugged terrain and with variations in height as the course wound up and down the cliff face. This lead to some fascinating obstacles, including a piston machine with slime blocks to launch your ball on a blind drop off of the cliff face! It was also one of the few areas where we could incorporate a bit of Halloween fright with a giant spooky Jack’ o’ lantern guarding the entrance to one of the holes.

Lastly, it’s not a Mini-Games Festival map without a few hidden secrets, and Autumn actually has 2 hiding throughout the world.

Firstly, if you head over to the Saw Mill by the river, you’ll learn that it’s haunted by a spooky ghost! If you can summon your courage and descend into the mill’s gloomy depths, you’ll find that it’s all true! There is a ghost haunting the sawmill!

Not really, it’s just Old Man Fletcher dressed in a sheet handing out tickets in exchange for a delicious pumpkin spice latte! But the initial plan was to have a real ghost girl down there. Her story was that she had fallen down into the mill during a previous festival and had gotten stuck, wasting away until only her ghost and a spooky skeleton remained! She’d have haunted the mill looking for tasty treats to relive the happy day before her incident and maybe find peace. While a fun idea and definitely in line with Halloween, we felt a real ghost haunting a mill was too macabre for the world we had created. The idea was then altered to be more comical, with the stereotypical sheet over the head disguise standing in for the spiritual spectre.

The second secret lurks under the maize maze. If you manage to complete the maze, you’ll find yourself descending into an ominous warehouse with a spaceship in it and a strange alien on the wall! What could it mean? Have aliens invaded this small town? Are there aliens amongst us?! Probably not. The spaceship is not only a reference to typical alien tropes where aliens abduct cows but is also a reference to the Noxcrew project ‘Escape from BLOZARK!’’ The map was in development at the time, and we had a habit of putting BLOZARK easter eggs in all of our maps!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look into how we developed Spring Mini-Games Festival! Let us know which is your favourite mini-game in the map and which project you’d like us to pull the curtain on next!

 
Noctis MoriComment