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Those Wings You like Are Coming Back in Style

  • Stoic
  • 05/21/2019 03:18 PM
It's been five years since Volrath and I actively worked on a project together. It's pretty hard to believe we've been inactive for so long. There were many reasons we went dark but that's for a different blog post.

I just moved back to my homestate where Volrath lives and we discussed working on another project together. I started playing through some of our old projects for inspiration. I hadn't touched or seen X-Noir since 2015 and forgot most of it. During my playthrough, Volrath joined in and we've been having a fun time doing a let's play together and voicing the characters just like we used to do whenever we playtested our games together.

We've been discussing doing a sequel of sorts to X-Noir for the last few years but other than a rough draft of the early game we haven't made any progress. It's been a long time since we've done any serious game make and it's honestly quite intimidating thinking of starting a new project. Playing through X-Noir again, I realized there was a lot of potential for a remake.

X-Noir is described as a "unique combination of logic-based investigations, action RPG gameplay, black humor and science-fiction." It's our most experimental project to date, and ended up being kind of a mess. The action combat is clunky and simplistic, as expected from an action RPG in Ace. The logic-based investigation sequences have a bit too much guessing, and there's a lot of needless back and forth around the city. The story is also a bit all over the place, especially in the beginning. But in the mess there is beauty.

Volrath and I take a very organic approach to game development. We draft a rough outline of the mechanics and story early-on for our games but we leave a lot of room for ideas to emerge later. In the case of X-Noir, we didn't really figure out the identity of the game until around Case 4. By then we had more confidence in the characters, story, and investigational sequences. Because we committed to having an action combat system, we still had segments where Eddie fought off enemies but these were given less focus. We realized the Anxiety mechanic was going nowhere and it just became a superficial aspect of the game.

I've had a lot of time to think about how I'd approach X-Noir if I did it all over again. I would ditch the combat completely, which tonally never fit with the game. In its place, there would be more focus on the Investigation and Interrogation sequences. The Ace Attorney series have been a big source of inspiration, as well as the Zero Escape trilogy, Hotel Dusk, and Danganronpa titles. Eddie was an attorney, and his best friend is a cop, so modeling the game after the Ace Attorney Investigation series would make a lot of sense thematically. I'd also like to rethink the Anxiety/Depression system to have a bigger impact on the overall plot.

Right now Volrath and I are just talking about it. We still have to complete our playthrough and decide if a remake of X-Noir is something we want to do. We fleshed out the world more in Labyrinthine Dreams, as well as the sequel that we're still planning, and it would make sense to remake the game that started it all. I know there isn't as many fans of these games as our titles in the Solest universe but I'm hoping there are still some subs here that would be interested in seeing us taking another swing at this strange sci-fi detective game.


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Got any Dexreth amulets?
Ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh! I didn't think I'd see the day!

Ahem... Unhealthy amounts of fanboying aside, it would be absolutely amazing to see this game getting revitalised. While personally, I did enjoy the combat aspect, it's true that the game as a whole probably wouldn't suffer much if it were cut in favour of other types of gameplay. I've never played an Ace Attorney game, so I can't say anything about that. But in my opinion, gameplay-wise, the puzzles and environment-based challenges have always been X-Noir's strongest element.

Usually, I'm not even that interested in either the detective or the sci-fi genres. But despite the pacing issues here and there, the setup and incredible quality of the writing of the plot in X-Noir make it a notable exception to me.

So yeah, this sounds like a great idea to me, and it's awesome to hear that you're both considering becoming active in game development again! If there's ever anything I can do to try and contribute, just give me a poke any time.
Thanks NS. It's really comforting to know that even after five years of inactivity I can make a blog post on an inactive project and you'll still reply within an hour with the same level of excitement as if we never left. I honestly don't know how many people would care to see a X-Noir remake. Maybe 10 if I'm being generous? It would be more a way for us to dip our toes back into make commercial games using material that's already been tested and we can build upon. It also ties in with Labyrinthine Dreams nicely.

I'm glad you enjoyed the combat. Having played through 3 cases the combat is actually pretty good by VX Ace standards. But it's one thing if you removed the game wouldn't be worse off and might even be improved.

The AA games put more emphasis on using evidence that you collect when investigating a crime scene and gathering information to then use in a court when you're cross examining witnesses and finding contradictions in their testimonies. The Investigation series, which is a spinoff, takes place outside court and has most of the same mechanics as the AA games to prove probable cause and obtain an arrest warrant which would be closer to what would be happening in X-Noir. There would also be a focus on puzzles as well of course!

Thematically we might approach the game differently as well. Calling it "X-Noir" probably gave people the impression it would be more modeled after a classic film noir. We were going for more of a neo noir vibe with sci-fi elements like X-Files. Noirs tend to either have a black and white aesthetic or a look of being underexposed where even a scene outside on a sunny day looks dark. There is also a fatalistic tone where it feels like the universe is conspiring agains the protagonist which Eddie certainly believed but the game didn't really convey. After all, he was going up against homicidal mutants and killer robots with barely a scratch and had a lot of support from his friends.

Once we start pre-production we'll probably setup a general Discord. I've done that for other projects I've produced and it's a great way to keep the team on the same page. I'll send you an invite once it's up.
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Self-proclaimed Puzzle Snob
NeverSilent is the ultimate fan! I'm an Artbane stoic fan myself, but I believe NeSi holds that trophy. I remember playing and recording a little bit of a playthrough of X-Noir a while ago, back when I didn't play through games to their entirety, but if I were to stream this now, I think I'd enjoy it just as much as I did then. I'll put it on my list of to-streams.

I remember we actually talked about a spiritual successor to X-Noir which involved some aspects of mental health, grey and gray morality and the such like. It sounded extremely interesting, but the details are eluding me. It'd be nice to have one of those talks again. I'm on the RMN Discord if you ever want to pop in and send me a message!

Love your work, and love to hear that you're back at it again with the game development. I've recently got back on that buzz, too. Blessings to both you and Volrath!
It's good to hear from you Cash. I do think I remember having that conversation but the details elude me as well. We've been discussing Hope Valley since 2015 and the project has morphed and evolved since then. We were discussing doing a remake of X-Noir first to ease our way back in to commercial development. We'll see how far we get.
Heya, first time posting here. I just wanted to say i have been a fan of you guys for a long time! one of my first games i downloaded from here was X Noir, along with Master of the wind (Solid RPG with a fantasy/Super hero theme). X Noir, the first time around, was a really great experience for me, as i am a huge mystery buff. After reading your blog about making a remake, i was excited and hope to play it when it comes around. I still need to play your other games though, but they be great time on a quite day.

Hope you have a good one and will be keeping my hear to the grapevine on any news form ya, cheers ^^
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