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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Dev update #3

Summer vacations are over and we are working hard on Druidstone!

Before the summer vacation we had quite a productive week. Some of the contributions were already mentioned in the last blog update, but a couple of things did not quite make it to the blog post.

First: we implemented grass rendering. What a difference does it make! My desk is facing away from the window, and of course we keep the window blinds closed like proper geeks do. To calm my nerves and induce lucid dreams of childhood summers in the Finnish forests, I can just stare at the wind blowing through the Menhir forest. Aah, lovely, I can feel my blood pressure dropping!

Second: Petri tweaked the camera angle a bit. It’s not exactly isometric (or axonometric), as it has perspective projection, but the world is now rotated 45 degrees around the vertical axis. This makes it possible to move the camera a bit closer by default, which brings out the detail in our models, making everything look great. But don’t trust just my word for it, see the screenshot down below.

After the vacation, we have introduced a bunch of new monsters, restructured the whole game – acts are gone – and rewritten artificial intelligence. But more about this later!

Cheers,
Jussi

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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