Nightcycle Fall Update 2022

Introduction

Hello everyone! It’s been a fun summer, and we have an exciting autumn ahead of us! For those who didn’t read our summer update, an unexpected surgery gave me a reality check that in order to stay employed as a game developer, I need to actually release games (who knew!).

Because of that, I decided to split SHL4 into 3 smaller games. My goal for each game is to develop technology that SHL4 would require to be released. After each game is created, theoretically there will be no obstacles in the way of SHL4 - I’ll just be able to use the technology developed to speedily create an amazing game. Broadly speaking, project 1 is about getting a sturdy foundation to release games with, project 2 is about improving my experience with making fun in-game combat mechanics, and project 3 is about improving my ability to make immersive worlds great for roleplay.

Project 1: Infrastruct

The first game as announced in the last post is called Infrastruct! It’s an open-world RTS road / train track builder game, where you connect various cities.

Goals

This game is meant to give me experience in a few areas:

  • Establish a set of API norms and workflows for in-game UI.
  • Get experience working with procedurally generated maps, as well as the best practices with dynamic map editing.
  • Implement a standard analytics workflow I can easily implement into future projects that can be improved over time.
  • Actually release a full game for the first time since Mortal Metal (2019)

Progress

Here’s what that looks like after ~2 months of work!

intersectionDemo

elevationChange

guidemo

Release

I’m very proud with the results, however as usual the game has taken longer than expected. I’ve mapped out estimates for the amount of time needed until I can release the game, however sometimes tasks take longer than expected so I can’t guarantee a release date atm. All I can say is I’ve estimated around 70 hours of work left, and that should have me releasing in October.

I look forward to sharing the game with y’all, and I’ve been blown away with all the positive feedback I’ve gotten from posting the prototypes on the company twitter. Really excited to see this release :grin:

Project 2: Super Hero Life Trilogy Remake

Once Infrastruct is released, I’m going to begin the process of rebuilding SHL from the ground up.

This is probably going to be the most exciting announcement made by Nightcycle in a while - we’re remaking. Basically, we know SHL4 isn’t releasing soon - if we’re lucky it’ll be out by this time next year, but this project is notorious for dragging on. So, let’s make up for it by giving Super Hero Life I, II, and III the love they deserve.

Basically, I’m going to make a single backend framework that each of the SHL games will run off of. They’ll all have their own unique outfits / maps / powers, but the functionality will be provided through a single set of scripts that can be maintained and upgraded across all games at once. Ideally, SHL4 will also eventually be compliant with this single backend to rule them all.

Each of the existing SHL games are quite unique. Each has issues that I intend to fix, and they have strengths which I want to keep and build off of.

SHL

After 4 months of part-time development, the first Super Hero Life was released in 2015 when I was 17 years old. After a few weeks of iteration and debugging it reached the front page. It was then maintained for around 3 months before I would move onto another project.

Issues:

  • I was still learning how to code at this point, so a large portion of the functionality was me editing free-model scripts that I only vaguely understood.
  • It’s not filtering enabled, which means it’s really easy to hack and probably doesn’t even function.
  • The character customization doesn’t allow you to go back and edit existing characters
  • All the things it does right, SHL2 does better - except for maybe parkour.
  • There’s almost nothing to do other than dress up as a character and fight.

Strengths:

  • The unique blue glow of the night lights is quite stylized and provides an interesting ambiance.
  • Having lived in NYC for a year, I can say the SHL1 map did the best feeling like a soul-crushing concrete jungle, it has a layer of grime to the design which I feel really makes it immersive.
  • The parkour system allows for some fun roleplay.
  • The map’s smaller scale allows for a much more social experience.

SHL II

After about 12 months since SHL1 was declared finished, I began working on SHL2 with the benefit of hindsight. I was 19 at this point and after 4 months of part-time development and 3 months of full-time development under the Roblox 2017 Summer Accelerator program. The game was released and went on to become my most successful game of all time. It received around 6 weeks total of post-release updates.

Issues:

  • This was the first SHL game I wrote almost entirely on my own without the aid of free models, however, this means I made a lot of dump decisions, and the code is a spaghetti mess that breaks every time I try to change anything.
  • The base customization system is garbage, and possibly broken. I have infinite respect for how so many people made cool-looking bases despite the limitations of the system.
  • The vehicles barely qualify as vehicles and just feel horrible to drive.
  • The quest system is repetitive
  • The combat stamina bar was well-intentioned to make combat more interesting, but all it really did was break immersion.

Strengths:

  • The customization in this game went all in on giving the players as much control as possible and is arguably the peak implementation of such a mechanic in the series so far.
  • The map was built for roleplay - every building has a purpose, and each building is distinct. It’s a very efficient map, allowing players to go to many different scenes on a small footprint.
  • The addition of Roleplay and PVP game modes to allow the catering to of multiple audiences with a single game.
  • The powers themselves are quite over-the-top compared to SHL1, and I feel that makes for much more entertaining combat and roleplaying.
  • The fun little pun display on the title sequence helped make the title sequence less boring + was a nice bit of wholesome fun.
  • Transformation styles + super power customization

SHL III

After about 9 months after the release of SHL2, SHL3 was announced and development began in the summer of 2018. It took the longest of any SHL game so far, with 4 months of full-time work followed by 4 months of part-time work.

It also was a collaboration between myself and the very talented @Ryferion1, who I would go on and partake in my second Accelerator program with. After releasing on Christmas 2018 following a month of paid early access, the game was hastily updated due to widespread reports of lag due to the much larger map.

It also enjoyed the longest post-release period of any SHL game, receiving around 5 months of updates until I moved on to my next project.

Issues:

  • The customization system was a downgrade in functionality (though it looked nicer), leading to less player choice. It also was initially monetized which proved to further limit things.
  • Despite being downsized, the map is still quite big in scale, meaning unless you had a transportation power it would take forever to find people. Also, despite being big, it’s quite empty. It has about as much interior content as SHL2, but it’s spread across twice the footprint.
  • The map art style is inconsistent, as it’s a split between my own work (low fidelity with emphasis on recognizable geometric shapes), the work of a professional blender artist (high fidelity with emphasis on detail to specific assets), and multiple contractors hired with a minimal budget (they weren’t paid enough to go beyond a first draft + I didn’t provide any real style guides).
  • The larger map has around 3x the parts as SHL2, and when it was first released it had 7x that many parts.
  • The in-game jobs system is boring and repetitive
  • There’s no base customization or vehicles.

Strengths:

  • This is the first SHL game that compartmentalized functionality with module scripts, making it a bit easier to update compared to others - hence why it got 5 months of post-release updates, rather than just the 6 weeks of SHL2.
  • The game supports dynamic weather and season changing.
  • The actual assets composing the character customization are quite nice, just limited in what they’re allowed to be used for.
  • Areas of the map (in large part thanks to the talent of Ryferion1) have a lot more character than prior games, which strived more for as generic as possible in order to allow players to fill the world with their own story. Syndicorp alone was an excellent addition to the SHL series, with my favorite area in it being the evil throne room.
  • The inclusion of community-generated billboards helped liven up the exterior of the map.
  • The cafe was the perfect mix of a cozy roleplay place + fun little easter egg.
  • The prison had its flaws, but I do like how it had multiple escape routes out + the general futuristic vibe of it.
  • The ability to set various post-processing / lighting effects, however, it was limited to a gamepass that also allowed you to change the time and weather for just yourself.

The Entire Trilogy

There are some strengths and weaknesses all of the games share which I’m hoping to fix.

Issues:

  • All of the SHL games are varying degrees of awful on the programming level, this makes new updates super risky as they can cause many bugs. The fact that all of the games were made at such different times in my professional development also makes it hard to share things between them, as they each have their own organization, naming conventions, dependencies, etc. My main hope in doing this is if nothing else to fix this problem, as I feel it’s the main reason I have been such a poor steward to the games in the past post-release.
  • The maps are all very static. If you shoot fire at a tree, nothing happens. If you run your car into a stop sign, it bounces off. You never open doors, you only ever walk through them like a ghost, teleport, or find that there are no doors at all.
  • You can’t invite your friends into your apartments / bases - which is stupid, the games are very social yet for some reason you can buy an asset you can’t show anyone? You can spend time making a cool base that only you can see? It’s ridiculous.
  • Due to a lack of viable vehicles, you have to have a superpower to get places.
  • Due to a lack of NPCs and parked cars, all the cities feel abandoned.
  • The powers are all fairly one-note, and you can’t use any of the passive abilities with the combat powers - aka no flying with a sword.
  • Despite most of the players being mobile, the games aren’t very friendly to mobile.
  • The in-game activities are lacking, all you can do is talk and fight and customize - this isn’t bad by any means, but being able to do that while say saving NPCs from a burning building, would be better.

Strengths:

  • Roleplay outfit providers, allowing you to quick dress up like a doctor in a hospital, prisoner in a prison, etc.
  • Roleplay emotes, such as removing your mask, striking a heroic pose, etc.
  • Character customization which empowered players to create their own unique in-game identities.
  • Maps built for roleplaying
  • Fun in-game lore and easter eggs.

Expansions:

  • Custom PBR materials in the character customization.
  • Allowing users to add Highlight effect style auras to their characters.
  • Adding dynamic faces, specifically the one that looks like the traditional Roblox head.
  • Converting existing assets to work as layered clothing + possibly releasing them as UGC.
  • Adding game modes beyond roleplay and combat, with options for player hosting and configuration.

Development

This won’t enter development for another few weeks, possibly as late as November. This gives me time to get Infrastruct playable + gather feedback from the community on aspects they want in the game.

I’m expecting this to take around 2-3 months in total, though I’ve never been great at estimating these things. Unlike with Infrastruct or SHL4, I’ve done all of this before - I’ll just be doing it again with the benefit of another 20-50% of dev experience + hindsight.

Release

I probably won’t update all 3 games at once, rather I’ll select one (probably SHL2 as it has the largest active community), then begin porting it. Your saves will transfer over of course. I’m not planning on removing any game passes either. You’ll just join the game one day and everything will be a lot more polished looking.

Project 3: Cyberpunk Roleplay Showcase


Dalle-2: “Snowy Christmas night in a cyberpunk city, digital art”.

I won’t be revealing too much on this yet, however, I have decided the game will be set in a cyberpunk-inspired setting. The goal will be to make a performant world with a ton of immersive mechanics. These mechanics will likely get ported to the SHL trilogy games as well. I want to become the master of making roleplay games, and this is my attempt to grow in that direction.

This isn’t really being designed as a game though - yeah people will hopefully play it, but I’m not making it with the goal of it being super successful, I’m making it as a mix of my desire to flex my game art minor muscles (before they atrophy entirely) as well as build up useful technology in a fun way.

As I don’t even know when project 2 will release, I don’t know when this will start. Once it’s done though, SHL4 will enter development for the final time - maybe even with a decent budget as hopefully, SHL1-3 + Infrastruct will give me some savings to work with.

Conclusion

Lotta fun stuff coming! I’m super excited for y’all to play Infrastruct soon, and I’m really looking forward to finally giving SHL1-3 the attention they deserve.

Thank you as always, and until next time!
-CJ

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