Nooskewl is basically me, Trent Gamblin, and a group of freelancers whom I tried to make feel as if we were a team. The company itself was founded in 2010, but the idea to start a game company with the same name came while I was in high school last century! We’ve developed two “major” titles now, Monster RPG 2 and Crystal Picnic, as well as some smaller games. I want to talk about the development and history of Crystal Picnic, our newest game.
Obligatory 70s Movie Poster Replica
Crystal Picnic has roots dating back to mid-2010. Tony, myself and others had just finished the iOS port of Monster RPG 2, and while working on more updates, I was itching to create a new game. A guy I worked with on Monster (part 1) was interested in starting a project. We worked for a few months on what would be the first “Baryon” (the code-name we gave the game) prototype. It was a 3D game with a fixed perspective. This prototype was pretty much 100% scrapped later.
The Very First Battle Prototype
An artist who worked on Monster RPG 2 was also looking to make a game. I had promised him I would help him with a project since he helped me with mine. The direction he wanted to take was different than our first Baryon prototype. The guy I was initially working with wanted to make an engine (for Transport Tycoon-type games of all things) more than a game and I disagreed, so I ended up working with the artist on what we called “Ashes Fall” (still code-named Baryon.) We had a ton of big ideas for what we wanted. It was going to be a 2D action RPG at a huge scale. We worked on and completed a ton of levels. We eventually found someone to write a script for us.
The writer quickly lost interest because the story had no clear direction. I was letting the artist design the game and the story because it was “his” project. I would do the coding and build the levels. His wife actually did most of the artwork. At times I would despair because I didn’t have enough art coming in to keep busy. We ended up with a ton of empty town levels and one dungeon with a sparse set of enemies after about 3 years. Seeing that the story wasn’t being developed and that we were nowhere near where we should be content-wise, I couldn’t continue with the project as it was. It was abandoned.
Egbert and Frogbert
That’s when Tony stepped in. He had done all of the tiles and field-view sprites for Monster RPG 2 and the music for Ashes Fall. Tony had some characters he had been drawing since he was a kid, and pitched the idea to me of using them in a game. I remember him sending me sprites of Egbert, Frogbert and a girl who we never used. It seemed like a good idea. This was around mid-2013. The project seemed much more doable than Ashes Fall and we could use the code I had already written as a starting point. We started working on it right away and I had a little demo within about a week. We designed the gameplay and world together. OUYA was our primary (and only) target at the beginning. We designed the game to be played with a controller first and foremost.
Best Experienced On…
It became obvious that we needed a good story, as any good RPG has, so I went looking for someone to write one as neither of us was terribly skilled in that area. We found John and he churned out the story for us. We knew that we had something pretty cool at that point. Originally Tony was going to do both the graphics and the music for the game, but I suggested we find someone else, and after some arm twisting he agreed. We had a few choices to pick from for who would do the music, but it was a no-brainer. We chose Zoe.
For the next year we all worked away at the game. I spent 100% of my time on it. It might not show (I’m not sure) but we poured a massive amount of work into it. As often happens with these things we were a little too ambitious. I ended up cutting a bit of the end of the story off because we bit off more than we could chew. 4 years of working on the game really did a number on me. I had some serious health issues that prompted me to trim the ending. I still feel that even though it isn’t exactly as we planned, we achieved our primary goal.
I want to make console games and OUYA gives us a way to accomplish that, plus the staff is awesome…
We’re still working on a few small updates and ports of the game. I have definitely learned a thing or two since Monster RPG 2 as there are not nearly as many bugs or flaws to fix. RPGs are a lot of work, let me tell you. But every game is. I’m happy to keep on learning and making better and better games. The journey never ends.
Crystal Picnic Trailer
So that’s a brief history of Crystal Picnic, from start to finish. Now that it’s done, I’m planning the next one. OUYA will definitely be a target. I want to make console games and OUYA gives us a way to accomplish that, plus the staff is awesome. I grew up on console gaming (not having a computer and living before the cell phone age) so it will always be a priority.
…if you’re strictly business, I will tell you that our games are getting more sales on OUYA than any other console…
One of the best things about OUYA is the community. From OUYA staff themselves, to the OUYA users on the internet I run into, everyone is awesome! And if you’re strictly business, I will tell you that our games are getting more sales on OUYA than any other console. So there are lots of reasons for developers to love OUYA. And for a user, there are an absolute ton of great games.
Cake and Pickles for All!
Trent Gamblin is a self-taught programmer who has wanted to make games since first getting a computer in the 90s. Growing up, he would never rent a game unless it was an RPG. Today he manages things at Nooskewl.
Tony Huisman is a Canadian based freelance artist who started work with Nooskewl in 2009, working together on Monster RPG 2, Crystal Picnic and a few other smaller projects. Proud husband to his wife, Natasha, and father to his son Xander. One of Tony’s favorite pasttimes is kicking back with a nostalgic video game and a beer.
John Bardinelli is a freelance writer and author who’s been working in the gaming industry for ten years. During that time he’s written scripts for RPGs, built MMO worlds, created epic sci-fi universes, and even scripted a comedic love story between a floating robot and an electrician.
Zoe Coleman is a composer and sound designer based in Brighton, UK. Having graduated from the University of Sussex with a BA Hons in Music, she has worked on a variety of projects with collaborators worldwide.
- Final Fantasy III
- Potato Man Seeks the Troof
- Kung Fu FIGHT!
- Super Crate Box
- Heroes of Loot
- Sonic CD
- Amazing Frog?
- Ramble Planet