Dev Blog 3: The Struggle of Design

Hey there, folks!

After last week blog about our journey into the making of tutorials, we wanted to share with you more about our creative process when dealing with a new boss.

As we are re-designing the tutorial we decided to add a mini-boss to give the player a taste of our combat system that is however catered to new, inexperienced players.

I introduce to you the Watchdog:

He fell numerous times, pierced by the Crusaders Spears. But every time, he arose again, stronger. Once all the Crusaders had been slain or fled, The Watchdog was left to roam the Battlefield, forgotten by both the enemies and his Master.

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Now if you are still reading you might be thinking ” who is this lanky little dude?”catroomguardian.JPG

Doesn’t look like the “Watchdog” does it… ?Well, neither according to us.

We always start out planning from a document where usually we list three important sections about the boss(in this case miniboss):

  1. The Idea and background story and where we want the boss or encounter to transmit to the player. In this case, I can only post the quotes text already present at the top of this article but you’ll find more in game.
    Screen Shot 2018-08-04 at 20.53.03.png
  2. Some reference pictures which I (@jakkizz) rely always heavily on as a starting point or direction for the sprites.Screen Shot 2018-08-04 at 20.50.17.png
  3. All the description with paint pictures of the attacks which look something like this:
    Screen Shot 2018-08-04 at 20.48.22.pngWhich is usually followed by a more technical description of attacks which could include the amount of damage, the type of attack, and how the implementation is gonna be if the attack it’s very complex.

 

From the Idea, to whatever I feel like drawing, to final concept.

(Disclaimer: @jakkizz Talking and I’m NOT an artist but a programmer, this is the result of my foolish idea that I could actually learn how to make sprites in less than 3 months)

First thing I usually do is starting with a color palette which I build up, usually depending on the environment and or the “mood” of the boss. I always try to pick a different color for important objects like the weapons or the limbs of the Boss: I noticed that this helps read much better the movements before the attacks and kinda guides your eyes through the animations.

After picking the colors and doing my first pose I instantly send it to John (@Fire_WasTaken) and here starts our back and forth.

Again starting point:EMML3UG.png

The first thing we noticed missing was the fact that supposedly this guy went through battles for a long time and he has been hit, hit hard and numerous times. So we made him hunched over a little more and I added some spears on his back:

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We started to see the “watch” part in the sprite but the “dog” part was completely missing, so we started experimenting a little bit with the helm, which we thought could give character to the miniboss:

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And as you can see out the first try was completely off as we tried to push the character in another direction. We were still missing the dog bit so we decided to straight up use a wolf/dog head as a helm.

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I was already more happy at this point but I was still unsure about the sad “don’t leave me out at night please” dog look that the new helmet was giving. So we went back to looking at references and we found a very good one:

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This is what we wanted, hungry and angry, like a real beast should look at it’s pray. So I put myself at work and I tried to make it more threatening.

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First I tried with some sabertooth, that ended up looking more out of Ice Age 3 than a proper horror movie, so I decided to stick to the reference and keep them upwards, sticking out of the mouth.

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The eyes and the grim smile were giving to us the right feel, still, something was off about the stance. I thought that he was still not threatening enough, it looked more like a limping patient than a beast. Weirdly enough I remembered Ikkaku from Bleach, and a stance that has always been on my mind ( I would love to do a similar boss with huge weapons, quote me on it Kotaku) :

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Which led me to spread the legs a little.

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Perhaps a coincidence but the same night while I was working I saw a tweet from Kojima about the new Godzilla trailer.

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After watching it I got what “beefiness” in our boss was missing and so I added more flesh on the back and a little tail at the end which would also make an excuse for the weird feet stance.

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And this is our final result (unpolished)!

I am sure that even this form could have been made better with more iterations but with each boss, we usually give us a time frame in which we need to start working on the animations after having the concept completed (so to also keep up with the programming side, we like to have few essential key-frames to start implementing the whole animator and AI so to have a playable version as soon as possible).

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This is it for today, folks!

Till next time!

Dev Blog 2: The Art of Tutorials

Howdy, strangers!
If someone were to tell us that one of the hardest things we’d be tackling in our game-building process was “developing a functional tutorial”, we would’ve probably laughed our asses off. Making the combat feel exciting? Sure, hard. Designing and implementing Bosses? Yeah, we’ll probably mess that one up.

But here we are, months into developing, with arguably a fun combat system and interesting bosses (I might be slightly biased about that one), and at our 3rd attempt of a Tutorial area.

Where did it all go wrong, you might ask? Let me tell you…

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For our 1st Tutorial, we decided to go through the “Dark Souls” route. No hand-holding, no prompts. The player would find various “tutorial stones” around the beginning of the game, and he could interact with them to read about the commands and mechanics. We’re a Souls-Like game after all, right? That ought to be the way!

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Turns out, it is not. Although we definitely do share similarities with Dark Souls, our game also gives the player slightly more abilities than Dark Souls does at the beginning. Besides the basic movements, dodges, and attacks, the player would also get a “Rage Buff” mechanic, a “Discharge” attack that interacts with the said mechanic, and a charge-up move that builds as you deal damage.  We would’ve never guessed, but it turns out that giving a new player that many buttons and mechanics, and then say “Good luck!” turns into a pretty abysmal experience. On top of that, our initial area was very open, with no clear sense of direction.

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NEW_______________(unpolished)unity_2018-07-28_15-49-07.png

Many players would be totally lost, and after finally finding their way into the 1st Boss, they would get pretty much smashed, since they didn’t grasp the basic mechanics of the game, either because they ignored the Tutorial Stones, or they rode them quickly and then forgotten all about it in their attempt to find their way forward.

We brought a demo with the said tutorial to a convention in Italy (Svilupparty).

We had a great turn-out, having our demo being played pretty much 9 hours straight by players, some new, some returning trying to finally defeat that pesky boss.

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It was a great experience but having to constantly “remind” the players about the mechanics and seeing maybe 3% of the total being able to defeat the 1st Boss was quite a shock.

That experience really, really opened our eyes to how a proper tutorial was KEY for our players to get into the game and be able to tackle the tough challenges ahead.

Once returned home, and resumed working, my good friend and Co-Founder Francesco told me his plan. He wanted to make a new, exciting tutorial. He wanted a quick, thrilling encounter that’d keep the player engaged while teaching the mechanics. We came up with this “Dark Crystal”, engraved on a gate, that would create “darkness-like” tentacles, and the player would learn the mechanics as he fought it off, trying to progress.

I was somewhat skeptical, mostly because the tutorial experience was really compressed, teaching all the mechanics in a row, and having the player repeating them only once. But as I looked into his eyes, I saw pure, burning determination. Is it at that point that I knew he would not only be able to make it. It is at that point that I knew, without a doubt, that not only he’d succeed, he’d triumph.

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Alas, it was a total flop.

For a lack of time, and maybe planning, we ended up with a very bare-bones concept of the 2nd tutorial. It basically ended up being a short encounter, filled with quick-time events, and, shamefully, a couple of bugs.

Not only did players still struggle to learn the mechanics, but, to our complete horror, many would quit right after completing it, not even reaching the 1st boss. We ended up making the tutorial way “Over the top”, with constant action, new prompts, and quick-time events (that, funny enough, are nowhere else in the game). We think the tutorial was so intense that some players thought “well, that’s the game, I guess” and just stopped playing after completing it.

Returning from the convention, the whole Team felt pretty down, dreading the idea of having to re-design the tutorial once more. But this time, we truly felt we had enough experience to come out on top.

We decided to solve the issues we had in the previous tutorial iterations with two changes:

> We make the initial tutorial area much, much longer. We added sections in which the player would be forced to learn and utilize the mechanics of the game to progress, while re-designing the aesthetics of area to make it more interesting and, hopefully, keep the player hooked.

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> We also scrapped the Crystal idea and designed a whole new Boss, conceived to consolidate the skills the player has learned so far while keeping the player engaged with an exciting fight.

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Our hopes are that this new experience will have new players come out of it with a good grasp on the game mechanics, while craving more challenging Boss fights.

Will it work? Will it flop? We’ll figure that out at our next Event.

Speaking of which, this seems like the perfect time to announce that we had the pleasure of being invited to showcase our game at the Milan Games Week later in September, and then EGX in Birmingham right after that!

We’re extremely pleased to be in such big events, and we cannot wait to showcase our next Demo.

That pretty much wraps it, folks. We’ll probably send out more information about those events and where you can find us there in the following days.

Till next time!

Dev Blog 1: Sprites & Shards, oh my!

Hello everyone!
We apologize for a long time since our last update, but we’ve been all very busy with working on some core features that we wanted to absolutely implement before our next events (More on those soon!). We’ll definitely start doing more updates as new, interesting features roll into the game.

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We are going through a restyling of the game which mostly affected the player animations and the backgrounds as well as most of the objects in the world. We decided to make the sprites clearer and bigger, to be able to distinguish the different elements that are present on the screen while trying at the same time to keep our dirty/dark look.

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The player had a quite big overhaul, with an all-new sprite sheet and animations system, that will hopefully enable us to achieve more cool stuff in the future (some examples further down). Two of the most drastic changes to the player are the cloak and the sword, which are now handled as unique 2D/3D objects, detached and animated on Unity.
We always wanted to experiment between 2D and 3D, and we’re glad out the first trial went well.
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Most environment elements have gone through a restyle, increasing their size, changing colors palette and lighting.

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We’ve finally started to implement our Talent Tree System and Shard System.
For this post, I’ll just give you a quick introduction to the Shard System, but in the next, you’ll definitely get an insight into the Talent Tree as well!

Shards

Shards are unique items that are obtained after defeating bosses.
They are the embodiment of the Old Gods and contain their very power.
The player will only be able to equip one at the time, but you will collect many as you go through the game. These Shards give you exciting, unique abilities; you might’ve spotted one at the end of the trailer!

Each shard has two Effects: a primary Effect and a secondary Effect.
The primary Effects, although their on-use is unique and different among Shards, will always have the same rule: they charge-up over time, and are then ready to use.
Secondary Effects will instead have unique mechanics and charge-ups or might be entirely passive.

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On the UI you can see a Shard indicator on the right, which indicates the primary ability, and a secondary Icon on the left (in this case, a vial) which displays the secondary ability.
The Secondary Effect of this shard charges up whenever the player deals damage and is then ready to use once a limit is reached.

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This particular Shard has its primary ability being a very strong and wide attack. Not only is the damage quite high, but it’ll also provide some utility, in the form of a short hop performed before the swing, and its damage greatly counting towards the charge-up of the secondary ability.

The secondary effect will instead provide a defensive tool, protecting the player from harm, and reacting to any aggression towards the player with a deadly counter-attack.

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This is all for now. We’ve got some big events coming up in the next months, expect an update about those in a few days!

Till next time!

Thanks to Svilupparty 2018

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The team had a blast presenting for the first time ever the earliest build of the game to the Italian community at the Svilupparty 2018. Stoked to have met so many wonderful people. We want to give a huge thank you to the organizers and all of you who played the game and spent the time to give us feedback. We are back at work!