Trailer out & Steam page now open

Oh, boy! What a week! The release of the first trailer video and opening the Steam store page while juggling with press releases and PR has meant that progress on the development front has been quite erratic this week. Nonetheless, these activities are really important, for what’s a good game worth if only a few people know about it? In this time and age, it’s not uncommon for even big games with big publishers to fight for their place in the spotlight, so for small indies like us getting the word through on the right channels is crucial for success.

That’s why we’d like to ask a little help from you. Please consider wishlisting our game in Steam and telling your friends about it. The Steam page also has a full description of the game along with new screenshots.

Druidstone Editor

We are glad to announce that a very much anticipated feature, the Druidstone Editor, will be available as a post launch update. The editor will be the same tool we are using ourselves for building the missions for Druidstone. We have been amazed several times before by the quality of Grimrock mods, and with the power of the much more versatile Druidstone Editor with WYSIWYG editing capabilities at their disposal, we can’t wait to see what kind of crazy stuff the modders can accomplish this time.

Reinforcements

There’s a saying in game development that the last 10% takes 90% of the time. There’s certainly some truth to it. As you get closer to the finish line, you began to see all sorts of warts and stuff that you have been pushing farther on your to-do list to be fixed “one day”. That’s ok, it’s better to paint the picture with broad brush strokes first. But when that day finally comes and you realize the shipping date is getting closer and closer, the to-do list can slam on your face real hard.

That’s why we have asked our very good friend, Antti Tiihonen, the main level designer of Grimrock games and a man with many talents, to help with finishing Druidstone and luckily he said yes! Everybody, say hello to Antti! Antti’s here with us for the upcoming months polishing Druidstone and adding his magic touches to the levels in the form of more puzzles, secrets and so on.

In closing, here’s the brand new trailer for you to enjoy. Now let’s get back to the grindstone!

Druidstone reaches alpha!

We are glad to announce that Druidstone has just reached alpha milestone! Alpha in our terminology means that the game can now be played from the beginning to the end and all major features have been implemented. Sure, there are some rough corners and the fat and variety is still missing (more equipment, abilities and the like) but the main campaign is now there. It’s always a special moment to play through a game in development for the first time, and our very own Juho has been fully occupied with that tasks for the past days. Luckily, he encountered only three crashes (which have been fixed already) and a game breaker which caused all equipped items to get lost in the middle of the campaign (oops!).

Next week we are going to regroup, go through the feedback gathered during the alpha test and form a battle plan how to get Druidstone to beta. We suspect the TODO-list is going to be rather hefty, but this is normal and nothing to worry about. 🙂

To celebrate the milestone, below is a new screenshot from the alpha build, featuring Niederdorf Manor, an important location with a darker mood. The level is still missing beta level polish, but it already brings a nice variety to the wilderness and dungeon locations, don’t you think?

Hot Summer 2018 Dev Update

Hi! How are you, folks? Here’s a quick dev update before we head off to summer holidays!

The last update is already from February and quite a lot has happened since, as you’d expect. For instance, the guys have been cranking out new enemies at stellar speed and the enemy gallery is now up to whopping 37 enemy types, not counting variations. That’s a lot considering our art team consist only of our dynamic duo, Juho and Jyri who are modeling and animating all the monsters!

On the gameplay side we’ve been concentrating on building the length of the game in the form of new levels. Our current goal is to hit alpha, which is perhaps the second most important milestone for us (the most important, of course, is shipping the game). Alpha in our terminology means getting the game to a state where it can be played from start to finish without nothing major missing. The sooner we can hit alpha the better, because then we have more time to polish everything and make the game really great. We are not quite in alpha yet, as we need more playable levels to get there. That said, the first half of the game is pretty much in playable condition and the very last segment of the game is also done. Now we just have to fill in the gaps and then we can start adding new playable characters, side missions, secrets, new abilities and items, etc.

On the coding side we have progressed on multiple fronts as well. For example, the game now has a proper main menu and savegame system. We have also added a world map mode, where the party travels between adventuring sites. All in all, with these additions it’s starting to feel like a real game!

Ability System

Among many other things the ability system has been worked on. We haven’t really explained how the ability system of Druidstone works, so here’s a quick intro. Characters can have two kind of abilities: passive and active. Every character starts with a basic selection of abilities and you buy new abilities and upgrade existing ones with XP. Instead of a more traditional mana/energy point system, every active ability can be used a certain number of times per battle. For instance, one of Leonhard’s starting abilities is Whirlwind and his level in that ability is initially 2, so he can use Whirlwind to attack all adjacent creatures up to 2 times per battle. Using XP he can upgrade the ability to next level to add 1 more use of the ability, or he could spend the XP to purchase an entirely different new ability. The characters themselves have no concept of level; the power level of heroes is entirely determined by the abilities and equipment they possess.

We like this system a lot because it’s very explicit and simple yet very flexible and powerful. You can see at a glance which abilities you can use and how many times. Choosing when to use abilities is pretty tricky and key to winning battles!

Parting Shot

Every now and then we receive questions about whether we have any crowd funding options or if there’s any other way to support the development of this game. It’s super, super awesome to hear that people are willing to support us in this way! Crowd funding is unfortunately rather tricky in Finland due to legislation and would anyway probably take too much time away from finishing the game. However, we have been talking internally about the possibility of having some sort of paid beta / early access for those who want to support us. We have never done one before, but we have had very successful closed betas for Grimrock. Naturally if we would have a beta program, the game would need to be near shipping quality (we being very allergic to showing unfinished stuff!). If successful, it would allow us to spend a bit more time polishing the game and perhaps have a bigger budget for outsourcing stuff like music and sound effects. It could potentially also help in increasing the awareness of this project before it ships. On the other hand the whole “paid beta” thing seem to have a negative connotation caused by some projects taking ages to get from beta to shipping.

Anyway, we haven’t decided anything yet, other than we are open to this option and we’d like to hear your opinion on this. So what do you think? If you are open to the idea and would be willing to pay for beta access, what would be a proper price range for a closed beta? Naturally those participating would get the shipping version at no extra cost. And if this sounds like a terrible idea, we’d like to know as well.

So there you have it. In parting I’ll just drop these two sneak peeks, one of a new playable character and another one from the ruins of Arken Temple deep in the Menhir Forest. Enjoy and have a great summer…or winter for those on the other side! See ya!

Druidstone moves from preproduction to production

This is big! As you may have been able to read between the lines, the development process of Druidstone hasn’t been all roses and butterflies. What I mean is that there has been some uncertainty with the project which has made it hard to communicate clearly what the game is truly about. That’s because up until now we have been in pre-production mode where we still try ideas and see what works and what doesn’t. But now that has changed. We know exactly what we are doing now.

That means that many things in the game which we have mentioned in the initial blog posts have changed. Actually, so much that the game as it is now and how it will develop in the coming months does not resemble the one displayed in old blog posts that much. Sure, we still have the same basic premise, the same environments, the top-down view and tactical combat, but the spirit of the game has changed. Has evolved, if you will. What started as a procedurally generated RPG has transformed and will transform into a much more tightly focused game.

So what exactly has changed? Here are the main points:

  • Procedural generation is gone. Long live the editor! Every map and every encounter will be handcrafted.
  • Focus on deep and tactical combat system. We want to make the combat really challenging so that every action you make every turn is a careful choice. Like playing chess with fantasy characters.
  • Focus on fun gameplay mechanics. We are not writing a book, not filming a movie, we are making a game, and gameplay is king.
  • No fluff. We want to make a tightly focused game, the same design principle we had with Grimrock. No filler content. Less is more. Or as Antoine de Saint-Exupery puts it famously “A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

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CHRISTMAS MEGA-UPDATE!

Ho ho ho! Welcome to the Druidstone development MEGA-UPDATE! As they say, time flies when you’re having fun, but it’s still hard to believe three months(!) have passed since the last blog update. So what have been up to lately? Well, many things, glad you asked!

Druidstone Editor

For instance, we now have a full fledged level editor, which allows us to make much more detailed levels. A year ago, when the game design was more heavily oriented towards procedurally generated content, we thought that we would not need a level editor at all. The levels were supposed to be mostly generated with some manually crafted rooms thrown in. But as development progressed, we felt the need to make more and more hand crafted locations and the need for a proper level editor arose. We will still keep adding new features to the editor, but as it is now, it’s ready for some prime time and we can start making new content with it.

Druidstone editor


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Object decomposition in Druidstone

Warning! From time to time we are going to post some very technical material in this blog. This is one of those posts. Read on at your own risk.

Preface

Modern games tend to create new game objects by compositing them from separate reusable components. This is a very powerful concept as complex behavior can be built from relatively simple building blocks. Components can be things such as models, lights, animations, sound emitters and gameplay related components such as health and item components, just to give you some examples. In this blog post I’ll talk about how we use components to build the game objects in Druidstone.
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About proceduralism

To our surprise, there has been some heated discussion about Druidstone being procedural. We didn’t really expect that but in hindsight it’s easy to see that we should have communicated more clearly what it means when we say Druidstone has procedurally generated content. Otherwise it’s way too easy to get the wrong idea.

So let’s talk about proceduralism in Druidstone. Procedural games can be roughly split in the following categories:

1. Fully procedural games like Minecraft, Dwarf Fortress and No Man’s Sky, which generate the whole world procedurally. Most of them have sandbox type of gameplay.

2. Procedural games with some predefined content. For example, most roguelikes have special rooms that are handmade (often called “vaults” in roguelike jargon).

3. Games with handmade, predefined content in randomized order. E.g. FTL has designed encounters but their order is randomized and Binding of Isaac has handmade rooms whose order is also randomized.

So, which category does Druidstone fall into? Druidstone has a story that unfolds as your progress in the game, so option 1 would not work. Telling a predefined story in a fully procedural generated world would be almost impossible. Technically options 2 and 3 would both work but in the end we picked option 3 because it just fits better into the game design and is just so much easier to accomplish.
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Jussi joins the team!

Ladies and gentlemen, we’re pleased to announce that we have a new team member! Jussi Sammaltupa is joining the Ctrl Alt Ninja team as a programmer, essentially doubling the coding performance of the team. Personally I’ve programmed solo for so long that it’s refreshing to get to do team work and work together on those really hard coding problems that appear from time to time. Without further ado, I’ll leave the keyboard to Jussi so he can say hi. Welcome aboard Jussi!


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Dev update #1

Welcome back, friend! It’s time for the first Druidstone development update! The last two weeks have been extremely busy and productive and we have made some big changes to the game. Let’s get started with the biggest of them!

Party-based gameplay. Yes, there will be multiple playable characters in Druidstone! This is something we have been talking about internally every now and then, but until now we weren’t sure how this would work exactly. The upsides to having a party of characters are obvious, like more varied and more tactical battles, and as big fans of the good old Gold Box games we have always wanted to get this feature in. But there are also many implications to level design, death mechanics and how the story is told. For example, the levels need to be more spacious (wider doorways, etc.). What happens if a party member dies? What happens if the main character dies? Is there even a main character (are all characters equally important to the story?) Is there inter-party dialogue (yes, please!)? How does the dialogue scripts work if a party member is dead? These are just a few of the issues that need to be carefully thought about.
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Introducing Druidstone

DISCLAIMER: this blog post is from a time when Druidstone was still in preproduction. Almost everything in the game design has changed since then. For example, all the levels are now hand-crafted (procedural generation is gone), the main character is no longer a druid, and there are multiple playable characters. We are keeping this blog post here for historical reasons. To get a better impression what the game is about, please read the About page and later blog posts.

All is dark. Your mind is floating in the endless reaches of the great void. Barely visible, mist and dim fading stars in the far distance are the only things you can discern. Then, suddenly something in the darkness stirs… “Your time has not yet come” a deep resonating voice booms. A bright light flashes so intensely that it pierces your mind!

You hear the rustling of autumn leaves. You open your eyes and see an ancient pillar of stone covered in pulsating runes. You are standing in the center of a stone circle in the middle of a clearing somewhere in the Menhir Forest. A woman with skin of purest white steps forward and smiles at you. Her eyes glow blue, like distant galaxies. “What took you so long?”

Welcome to the Druidstone dev blog! This blog is about the development of a fantasy roleplaying game called “Druidstone: The Secret of the Menhir Forest” which we have been working on since fall 2016.

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