You can’t help but notice Shane Neville’s lust for life when you meet him. Once a pro-BMX rider, he has spent most of his gaming career working on the AAA side of the industry. He worked for Electronic Arts, Relic and Longtail Studios before jumping into making Flash games himself. But unlike a lot of other independent jumpers, Neville never gained an overly negative view of the mainstream side of the industry. While EA may have put some pressure on his free time by having him work for over three months without a day off, the other studios he’d put time in with rekindled his love for making games. “Relic was fantastic,” he recalls, having been a producer on Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts. But once married with a family, the overtime becomes more of an issue, and once he went indie has was able to spend half his time watching his daughter.
I first mentioned Shane Neville after previewing his Flash endeavor called Ray Ardent: Science Ninja. The game is complete and it just launched on Armor Games. From what I played I highly recommend giving the game a go.
But Neville’s journey into independence has been an interesting one. He set the hard date of January 1st, 2010 to “go indie.” From there he has a two year plan that will lead him on a journey of releasing games and seeing how he can fare in the wild waters of self-creation. If he can’t scrape together a living after that time frame, he freely admitted that it would be time to reconsider and might head back in the other direction.
Once leaving the mainstream industry, he had to teach himself how to program, because he hadn’t actually coded anything since he was in high school. As a producer and project manager, you’re not necessarily the one creating the game, just making sure they get done. So with his first game complete, and quite good, Neville’s already come a long way in less than a year. Working alone, he’s had a lot of time to learn Flash while still taking care of his family. He’s not opposed to collaboration in the future, but for now he’s excited about where he stands.
Based in Vancouver, he also teaches several Game Design classes at the Vancouver Film School, as the two mediums are often closely related. Sharing his knowledge of Visual Storytelling, Project Management and Handheld Game Design, students are able to learn a lot from this industry veteran. And without looking back, Neville has dove headfirst into the Canadian Indie Scene, being an integral part of the recent OrcaJam in Victoria (we’ll have his take on the event as an exclusive write-up soon).
But why did he turn to Flash gaming instead of looking at additional mediums? He sees the platform as a unique opportunity for a lot of people to see his game. Oftentimes a good Flash game will get passed around and have over a million unique players within days. But because the platform is “unpatrolled” generally, it’s up to the developer to find the audience and its a task he’s not taking lightly. He had been seeking out the best possible sponsor for weeks before settling on Armor Games. And with their track record he’s sure to notch a lot of players. And the other reason he was drawn to Flash gaming, is that there are no politics in it. It’s all about the players and their experience, not the behind the scenes drama that may directly effect the final product. For instance in the world of AAA, they own all of your ideas. So he’d never even touched his own projects before completely severing his ties to the mainstream.
Ray Ardent: Science Ninja is the product of a lot of inspirations. The villains that map out the not-so-complex-but-funny story of the game are drawn directly from the covers and pulp fiction of Doc Savage and other such adventure tales. And with hilarious moments in dialogue throughout, you’re going to enjoy some comic moments that drop throughout the game. The game is fifteen different levels that are primed for speed runs and along the way you unlock eleven different powers that you can combine in different forms to help you pull this speed off.
With Ray Ardent now available, Neville is already off working on his next project. And he also wants to create four procedural games inside of a four month window. The idea of having four projects that you can play forever was fascinating to him. So from what I’ve seen of his first big project and the promise of more, Shane Neville is a developer to keep an eye on in the indie scene. He’s also a reminder that we don’t talk about nearly enough Flash developers around here.
As you take Ray Ardent: Science Ninja for a drive, just remember that Shane himself did all the voices. That might be the better look at who he is than any words I can write down. You can also find out more about his company Ninja Robot Dinosaur at its official site. And you can also track his progress via Twitter.