Thursday, February 17, 2000: We had a chance to get a one-on-one with John Hight and Mike Booth of Westwood Studios Recently. The driving forces behind the Action RPG hit Nox. We talked to them about the experiences througout the development, things they are working on adding to Nox post-release, and the future plans of the World of Nox all in this exclusive 1 on 2 interview with the boys behind the game.
John and Mike are good good buddies, and when they met 3 years ago at the Computer Games Developers Conference, Nox was first shown in it’s first draft to John, he decided after some time playing it (distracting his final decision, which games tend to be great at doing) that Nox was simply a game that he had to pursue. Mike joined with Westwood, and the real dirty work on Nox began.
The rest is, how they, say, history. (History in which we have archived written by John Hight himself, click here to learn the story of it’s creation right from the man who helped make it.)
Azrael: Hello John, Mike. Thank you for this chance to finally get to talk. First and foremost, for the reading audience would you please tell us your position in your own words, and during the development of Nox and what your position entailed.
John Hight: I was the Executive Producer and the Creative Director for the game. I made the decision to publish Nox, signed Mike (Booth) up to bring it to Westwood, and oversaw the development of the game. I also pitched in and managed the creative staff for the game (designers & artists), established the story and scenarios for the solo game, honed the user interface, and guided the overall design.
Mike Booth: I am the creator of Nox, and was the Technical Director during the game’s development at Westwood. I was responsible for the multiplayer design of the game, as well as the design and implementation of the game engine, spell system, physics, and so on. To accomplish this, I managed our team of talented software engineers, and worked daily with John on high level design and gameplay issues.
Az: So what was the initial reaction to that first meeting between the two of you (Yourself and Booth)? Did you both go home excited from the CGDC just itching to get it all started and raring to go?
JH: I liked Mike right away. He’s very forthcoming and determined. He’s been playing games since he was old enough to walk so we swapped a lot of stories about favorite games. I knew he had the smarts and the passion to make a cool game.
MB: I actually remember being a bit intimidated when John and I first met. He was an Executive Producer at a major game publisher, after all! Being the cynic that I am, I was worried that he was just pretending to be a nice guy, but was really a shark. I quickly realized, though, that he really WAS a nice guy, and I was very lucky to have run into him. We had a great first meeting, and I left raring to go!
Az: We’ve heard inklings of Nox’s earliest roots. Why don’t you tell us how the game evolved and what all it’s first designs and concepts were based around? Inspirations? What was the original game intended to “be” as a final product?
JH: Mike should cover the original concept. When I saw Nox it was a spell battling game where wizards cast spells by pressing combo’s on a gamepad. Multiplayer was split-screen on a PC. Since then, we added two more character classes (see all three together here) and built out a whole solo game experience.
MB: When I began the Nox project, I originally wanted to make an updated version of Atari’s Gauntlet, which is one of my favorite classic games. I had also been playing a lot of Mortal Kombat and Magic the Gathering, and I quickly realized that a medieval game would be the perfect vehicle for a sort of real-time Magic the Gathering spell combat system. The goal was to create the ultimate “wizard battling” game, where players could throw spells at each other, but also be able to counter those spells, and out-think each other with clever spell combinations. I was hoping to capture the feel of some of the epic wizard battles I had read about in various fantasy novels.
The Mortal Kombat inspiration came in in the way spells were executed. A spell was cast by tapping the gamepad in a certain pattern. For instance, down-down-up was a fireball. This is where the spell syllables and “hand gestures” came from. However, we found this to be a large barrier for new and less dexterous players, so we modified the spell interface into what we have now. There is still a sort of key-combo system for spellcasting, however. By using the R, E, and W keys, you can still build your own spell patterns, after a fashion.
Az: With Nox now virtually almost all over the world, a public demo released before it’s actual release date, and of course the Meet Nox Tour still going strong at this time, is the kinds of reactions you are getting on the game coming as a surprise to any of you? Or did you two know from the start that Nox would be a success?
JH: We knew it was addictive. The team was playing the game every night and still enjoying it after a year. With so many games being talked about our greatest fear was that Nox would go unnoticed. We actually shortened our already belated Christmas break to get the demo done just so people could get a taste of the multiplayer aspect of the game.
MB: As John said, we knew Nox was addictive. We still play it constantly, and are STILL thinking of nasty spell combinations to play on each other. Everyone who had played the game during our Nox Tour really had a good time – even those who didn’t expect to like it.
Az: What sort of things perhaps are you interested in seeing put into Nox post-release? People seem to really want a Map Editor and Multiplayer Bots, any chance at all of this happening?
JH: We’re listening very carefully to the Nox community. We want to give players whatever we can without messing up the game.
MB: I try to personally keep up with the Nox community – what they like, dislike, wish we did, wish we didn’t do. It is impossible to please everyone, but we will definitely take all of their input to heart, and consider it for the future. As for a Map Editor or multiplayer “bots” – those are very good suggestions, and we are considering them carefully. (Post your thoughts and suggestions of course in the Official Nox Forum here)
Thanks to Superjack for posting this on Reddit.
Interview from old hecubah.com (offline since early 2000s)