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.”

During the last year, iteration by iteration, the amount of procedurally generated content has been diminishing. At some point we had to ask ourselves what point does the procedural generation have anymore. That was when we started working on the editor, and after that pieces have started to click into place very fast. Last week was the real kicker and we could produce a near shippable quality 30 minute segment of the game in just a couple of days. That’s huge! It’s very rare that we can make such a big leap in just a couple of days.

But the main difference is really inside our heads. We now understand exactly what kind of game we really, really want to make. Sometimes when analysing the markets and looking at what kind of games are the topsellers, and worrying about the doom and gloom of indie developers, it’s easy to forget what your heart really desires. But if you listen carefully to yourself, you can perhaps hear a faint whisper. And if you keep listening to that inner voice, the voice gets louder, until it becomes a great booming voice that makes your bones shiver and skin tingle with determination: “YOU GOTTA MAKE THIS GAME!”

Listening to yourself is the greatest and most important skill a game developer can have. This is hugely important, but difficult to explain why. It’s the thing that guides us through the development process and tells us what the game needs and what it doesn’t. It’s the vision what the game is really about.

This is such an important milestone for us because now we have confidence in that this game will be great. It makes us want to pour all the love, sweat and energy we have to make the best game we absolutely can.

Speaking from personal experience, I’ve only had a similar feeling once before. That was when I was working on Grimrock 1. Believe it or not, Grimrock 1 was made in less than a year, from scratch to release. Looking back at it, I still don’t quite get how we managed to do it in such a short time. But the answer is, of course, simple: we had a clear vision from the start and we worked our asses off to make it happen. Now that same feeling is back and we are really relieved, happy, motivated and excited at the same time. Making a game hasn’t been this fun in many years!

In hindsight maybe setting up this dev blog in such an early stage of the project wasn’t the wisest idea, but we have always striven to maintain an open, honest and transparent view into the dev process. Mainly because we think it’s the right thing to do but also because (hopefully!) it’s interesting to follow us as we tread on the uncharted paths.

That said, as we now move into production mode (making the game in our heads come true!), we are going to take a break from updating this blog. That’s because we want to focus 200% on the game we’re creating. But when we do come back (and we will!) we will present to you Druidstone, the real deal. That’s a promise!

Petri Häkkinen

Developer

41 Comments:

  1. I like your decision to ditch procedural stuff in favor of handcrafting. Procedurality can make the game a little more replayable, but if the game is generic thanks to that, why would you want to play it again anyway…

    So, no more Lua coding insights until release, you say? That’s a pity. I’ve always enjoyed the articles. Yet at the same time, I completely understand how writing blogs detracts from your time and focus.

    Good luck to you guys!

    • We are definitely going to get back to blogging before release. We are just taking some time off for a while, so that when we get back, we have some concrete stuff to show you.

    • Can you give a rough estimate for the system requirements, or is it too early?

      • Hey Zo Kath Ra! Yeah, it’s a little bit too early as the engine hasn’t been fully optimized yet and we haven’t even tested the game on other rigs than our dev machines. But if I’d have to guess, I’d estimate the requirements to be a little higher than LOG2 but not sky high. Many outdoor scenes have way more polys than LOG2 currently, but it’s mostly because of grass and vegetation which should be possible to scale up/down with graphics settings.

  2. Save the random shit for roguelikes, RPGs should be handcrafted. Gameplay is king and tactical turn-based combat is why I got into RPGs in the first place!

  3. I completely understand blogging less to focus on production, I would like to agree though that it is very interesting to follow the journaling of this world you and your team are creating!

    It’s great to hear how excited you all are to work on Druidstone, I was a tad disheartened when I first heard you were going procedural (only because of how fantastic the hand-crafted nature of Grimrock I and II were. I’m seriously pumped to hear Druidstone is now gonna have that same level of craft applied to it.

    Good luck with development, I can’t wait 😀

  4. Thanks for the honest blog, and good luck with the production phase now!

    I’ve never been much into procedural games, so to me this all sounds positive. And when you say that you are going tighter with the game, well, that’s great! As much as Grimrock 2 was great, I honestly think I prefered the 1st, because the balance of different elements was kind of magical. The second was more, and different, but not necessarily better.

    As a composer, I’ve had sometimes that “feeling” that you got something special and need to hold on to it. I’ve learned to trust that feeling, as it’s an important one and one you often end up right about.

    Ah, and when you say chess/tactical, the reference that pops up is Betrayal at Krondor. Can you keep that one somewhere in a little corner of your mind?

    So… looking forward to some future news in a few months, have fun 😉

  5. Its great to see a group of developers so passional about their game. I will be sure to treat Druidstone with the same passion when I get the chance to play it! I am very excited with the direction you are taking, so good luck and godspeed!

  6. What a read. Wow. I am literally mind boggled by the fact that – as mentioned in a blog post comment before – you actually craft the games content now with the editor you developed yourself. Just fantastic. And like that, you also offer basically the potential to the whole community to craft stories by themselves like they could in Grimrock.

    Guys I want that this is a blockbuster. You gotta make so much money out of it, that you can do anything you want, but not that much, that you don’t do nothing 😉

    Looking forward to the product and more teasers.

  7. I’ve enjoyed these glimpses into the journey. It Will be interesting to see what you’ll come up with. Good luck!

  8. “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.'”

    And as developer John Carmack said famously: “Story in a game is like a story in a porn movie. It’s expected to be there, but it’s not that important.” 😛

    In all seriousness, I’m glad to see you taking what was good for Grimrock and putting it in Druidstone. I was a little skeptical about turn-based gameplay when I saw this back in 2016, but after playing more turn-based and tactical RPGs, then going back and playing Grimrock again, I started to notice some of the shortcomings of the real-time system that was in place. As much as I still love Grimrock 1 and 2, I think I’ll be able to appreciate the ability to flee when things get too crazy all at once in Druidstone.

    I’m really looking forward to this game! When do you plan a release date? And when you do finish it, do you think you’ll be able to release it on Steam?

    • Thanks for the feedback! I hadn’t heard about John’s comment before — he has a good point there 🙂

      Release date is not set yet, and it will take several months of dev work before we can start thinking about it. Release on Steam is definitely in the plans.

  9. Really looking forward to this, GRIMROCK-Fan from Germany here. Just wanted to tell you guys, that I’m really enjoying your blog-posts so far, and I’m also checking out Petri Häkkinen’s Twitter-Account on an occasional basis … even though I only understand about 20% he’s talking about, his dedication and drive are a huge motivational factor for me, since I’m currently knee-deep into my own little roguelike-hobby-project thingy. ^__^ I’m a bit biased about you guys abandoning procedural generation though, I’m a big fan of randomly created content, since it’ll keep playthrough fresh, but nevertheless I’m sure you guys will deliver an awesome game.

  10. Can I ask what are your plans are for determining turn order for this game so far? It’s my only big concern for this game as lately the rpgs that I’ve played which are turn based have used some variation of the round robin system which I’ve just personally grown to dislike greatly.

    To provide examples:

    In Divinity Original Sin 2 its hard coded that the player will have one turn than the foes will have one. Which has tended to throw off my stratagem for the encounters. One encounter I had killed a enemy knight which then proceed to move the enemy spell caster up in the turn order before my own caster could use the petrify spell on him as I had planned to originally.

    Or say in Ash of Gods a more recent release, their version of the round robin system is that it’ll switch between two teams constantly yours and the ai’s, both teams must cycle through every character they have in their parties. The issue with this is that once one the ai’s team has one character left that last character gets to act every time after one of your characters acts allowing it to quickly kill one or two of your own characters before the rest of your party can reach/kill it.

    I’m personally hoping its the classic roll for initiative + modifiers style of turn order. Yes, it can make come harder if not impossible if your down to one or two characters but for me it still feels better than the AI pulling a comeback when you’ve outplayed it for the majority of the fight.

    • In Druidstone the turns alternate. On the heroes’ turn, you can activate heroes in any order. You can even interrupt your actions, switch to another hero and then come back to the original hero. The order how you activate heroes and who goes where and when is crucial for winning. On the enemy turn, all enemies activate in the order determined by he AI.

  11. I think, loading this page near daily and looking for news is a clear sign of .. needing more insights. Still thinking that showing a youtube clip that features the in-editor-testing-on-click would create great awareness 🙂

  12. It’s been 3 months, please give us another update!
    We’re starving.

    • Wow, has it been three months already? Time really flies when you’re having fun! Rest assured we have not been slacking. Actually we have been making good progress with the game. The first 1/3 of the game is pretty much done (a lot of polishing work remaining obviously). The ending is always is the hard part which I think we are going to focus next. After that we can start adding more content, more equipment, abilities, new playable characters, finetuning etc.

  13. Nice update! Reading these and hoping for an exciting turn-based tactics game motivates us indie devs. 🙂

  14. Hello Petri, I am sorry to bother you with this question, but I am too curious. I understand that you work now on Druid stone project and I am very interested in the final product – the Druidstone game – I am interested EVEN MORE after you mentioned that the playable screens wil not be randomly generated, but manualy created. But still I have in my mind the Grimrock 2, which I have played latest. Why arent you coming with the version 3? Grimrock 1 was great, Grimrock 2 was much more better, so why not Grimrock 3? Is it really, that you dont make the game s for money or success, and you just wanted to change the project? I have read, that Grimrock 1 gave you (5 people) enough money to make another (as you did) part and when it was also successful, why not tale no 3? I have not played better (dungeon) game than Grimrock 2 for a lot of years. Thanks for coming with the real reason. Well for the Druid stone players – I ahve seen screens from the game and it will be I am sure great as well (even more after realizing that no procedural generation of areas will be implemented).
    Best you more great games.

  15. Cant wait for this game, Druids are my fav class of all time so a games all about them is my dream game. Cant wait to find out more. Been keeping tabs on this from the start.

  16. Cant wait for this game, Druids are my fav class of all time so a games all about them is my dream game. Cant wait to find out more. Been keeping tabs on this from the start.

  17. I hope it comes with an editor and EVERYTHING is editable. I want to try to remake vandal hearts using modern graphics.

  18. Looks great.

    I think random levels don’t really help replay that much. Diablo 2 included massive random levels and players mostly skipped those:) Random elements might be a good idea, as to make each play-through slightly different but I’m sure it will rock.

    You can always make dlc maps !

    When you release it I will buy it.

    good luck x

  19. “Focus on fun gameplay mechanics. We are not writing a book, not filming a movie, we are making a game, and gameplay is king.”

    I agree, though I hope the game will still feature a certain amount of story / NPC interaction.

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