NAIR: A Simple Game with a Long History
by River L Starliper | published Oct. 25th, 2021
On Sept. 14, 2021, fourth year Game Design major Hailey Mott uploaded her newest game "NAIR" to the video game distributor Steam under the developer name “Teridax.”
What exactly is "NAIR?" "NAIR" is a simplified, two-player fighting game featuring only one air-based attack. The game focuses on “neutral play,” a style of competitive gaming in which neither player has an inherent advantage over the other.
Mott cites inspiration for this concept as coming from “Footsies,” a game released last year by developer HiFight on Steam.
"Footsies" is based on attacks from the Street Fighter series, while "NAIR" comes from Mott’s own experiences with Super Smash Bros.
“I built my game to function more like 'Super Smash Bros,' which has a simplified attacking move set but a more complicated movement system,” she said.
Mott describes the development of "NAIR" as a process taking place over several years.
"The game has had kind of a long, weird development cycle, where I kind of just wake up every year and and add something new to it."
“The game has had kind of a long, weird development cycle, where I kind of just wake up every year and add something new to it.”
The first incarnation of "NAIR" was built in about a month and a half in 2018, and was initially put together with no art, only hitboxes and raw collision data for visuals. This version was tested at various "Super Smash Bros" tournaments, and altered based on player feedback.
Mott then posted this original version of "NAIR" on a popular game hosting website — itch.io — where independent developers can upload and sell games without the fees and approval required of larger platforms such as Steam.
As for Steam, everything from the build of the game’s webpage to the detail of system specifications becomes more difficult. In addition, Steam developers must pay an entry fee to have their game listed, and are bound by a nondisclosure agreement that limits how much of this process they are permitted to discuss.
“Steam is a lot more complicated,” Mott admitted. “It’s a lot harder, but I think it pays off. They’ve got a huge platform.”
So how did "NAIR" make its way from itch.io to Steam? While itch.io is not quite as large as a platform like Steam, "NAIR" still acquired a significant fanbase in its early days.
When first posted on itch.io, "NAIR" got noticed by YouTuber Ninkendo.
“He retweeted it, and that put a lot of eyes on it,” Mott said.
Mott also brought the game to several in-person events, including ROC Game Festival, which collaborates with MAGIC Spell Studios at RIT.
As a Game Design major, Mott was introduced to a lot of the technology used to make "NAIR" a reality in her classes. Although, she goes on to explain, “Past that first year, the two paths have kind of diverged.”
While her education at RIT gave her the technological foundation to get "NAIR" started, it has evolved and continued to teach her things outside of what is taught in her classes.
“I don’t think most of my professors even know I made this thing,” she explained.
Throughout its development, "NAIR" was placed into a variety of different game engines and used by Mott as a tool to familiarize herself with technology not utilized by RIT.
The goal of releasing "NAIR" on Steam, in addition to growing the game’s audience, was to improve its online multiplayer infrastructure.
The growth of "NAIR" since it was announced for Steam on Aug. 10, 2021 has been “more natural,” according to Mott, with the trailer posted on Twitter gaining views on its own.
The game’s popularity continues to grow steadily since its Sept. 14, 2021 release. This was in part helped by a review from YouTuber “Big Yellow” which has amassed 15 thousand views.
“It’s been a really interesting experience.” Mott explained upon release of "NAIR." “I had hundreds of people playing it, and they all found all of the problems the software had immediately,” which lead to a continuous cycle of updates and improvements.
One of these issues regarded connectivity between online players. Having built "NAIR" entirely by herself, Mott had tested online connections by connecting her computer to her laptop, which is much different from real-world players connecting internationally.
Along with the large player base of "NAIR," there is also a sizable community of fans, primarily located on a fan-run Discord server.
Previously in charge of community management for RIT’s "Super Smash Bros" club, Mott is now faced with community management on a much larger scale as she interacts with the fan community built around "NAIR."
“I don’t think about it that often, but I’m always mildly worried that someone is going to say something stupid,” she said. Despite her fears, she still describes this experience as “exciting.”
While fans have uncovered issues with the game, they have also quickly developed strategies and defined the most effective ways to play.
“I am not the best player at my own game,” Mott admitted.
Having previously witnessed criticisms of the developers of games — such as "Super Smash Bros" — Mott is now quick to sympathize with these developers, having now experienced how different the worlds of development and gameplay truly are.
"It's been interesting seeing people take something that I made and run a mile with it, where I never could or would have. It's weird," she said.
“It’s been interesting seeing people take something that I made and run a mile with it, where I never could or would have. It’s weird.”
Mott is currently working on another game, with a small team this time. Much different from "NAIR," this game will be based in virtual reality (VR). Mott describes it as “giant and unwieldy” compared to the simplicity of "NAIR."
While pausing over the summer to prepare for "NAIR’s" release, development of this new game has resumed in full force.
As for whether fans of "NAIR" will enjoy this new adventure is still up in the air. Mott predicts that the games will have very little overlap between fanbases.
“It’s such a different thing from 'NAIR' in every way," she said.
Mott has not stopped adding to "NAIR" since the development of her new game has started.
“I’m still working on 'NAIR,' I’m still adding updates to it, there’s some more things I want to put in it,” she clarified.
These 'new things' include controller customization, a feature of the original release that she wishes to bring back.
Her VR game is not the only new project on the horizon, however.
“I have other fighting games I want to make,” Mott explains.
At the end of the day, most of Mott’s experiences with NAIR can be boiled down to one sentence: “It’s been a huge learning experience.”