This is big! Mikko “Mikki” Rautalahti, a dear friend and a talented writer who has worked on hit games like Alan Wake and Quantum Break, has joined the Druidstone team! With Mikki on board the rest of us can concentrate on game mechanics, levels and balancing, while Mikki is stabbing away at the story, writing missing dialogue lines, filling gaps, and do what is necessary to make the characters and the world really come to life. Mikki and I have a long history and the idea of working together has always been on the back of my mind. Previously other projects and timing has prevented this, but luckily the planets finally aligned… So, without further ado I’ll pass the mike to Mikki and let him introduce himself!
Let me start off by talking a little bit about how we got here. In a lot of ways, this feels like the culmination of a long process: I’ve known Petri for a good long while now — we both worked on Alan Wake together at Remedy, back in the previous decade — but we haven’t actually had a chance to work together directly after those days. When he and the Almost Human gang started working on Grimrock, I was very much into it; it was a lovely union of the classic and the modern, and it was executed with what I thought was exceptional skill and clarity of vision.
We briefly discussed some potential collaboration at that point, but Grimrock really didn’t end up being the kind of game where my services were needed. Over the years since, there have been a bunch of different ideas and concepts. I was still working at Remedy at the time, and their office was right next to Ctrl Alt Ninja’s, so we’d see each other regularly. (Not sure what the difference between Almost Human and Ctrl Alt Ninja is? In practice, the answer is “not much.” It’s mostly just a business thing.)
So every so often, Petri would go, “hey, we have something new we’re working on, wanna come over and see what you think?” And then he’d show me something clever and exciting they’d worked up, and we’d talk about it. The idea of working together on something often came up, but they were in an inconvenient phase with their work, or I was way too busy with something else, and it just didn’t come to pass.
Until now. Now the stars are right, the words of power have been spoken, and a pact has been made, and here I am, just working on Druidstone like it ain’t no thing.
But it is a thing. I’ve been in this racket for a long while, and I’ve been involved in a lot of projects. Some of them I genuinely loved and believed in, others I didn’t; some I worked hard on, but you will never see anything about them, because they didn’t get made for one reason or another. It’s a tough business. For me, Druidstone stands out from that crowd. It’s not a big AAA production, and that means there’s very low latency in decision-making — there’s a small roomful of people, and if they think something is good, that’s it, done, decided. There’s no external validation required, no notes from the IP owner’s marketing department, no brand new executive producer on the publisher side suddenly upending everything because they just got appointed and God forbid they fail to make a splash. There’s just the people in that room, working hard to ship a game they really give a crap about, that they have a personal stake in.
I don’t mean to romanticize indie game making too much. I know making games is never easy; indie, AAA, whatever, creative labor is just super hard, period. But for me, right now, Druidstone’s exactly the sort of thing I want to do. I’m enjoying the immediacy of it. I like the elegance of its design, how the combat works, and I like that it’s also a brightly colored fantasy game. It kind of wears its heart on its sleeve; it’s very sincere about what it is. I like that we can make it funny and cool and weird. I like that it’s not just something people make because you have to do something, and it might as well be this. It’s being made with passion.
That’s something I can get behind.
I am, of course, coming into the project at the tail end of its development. A lot of effort has already gone into building the story; Petri and Janne Sundqvist in particular have been working on it. Still, with all the critical development work being done, it’s fair to say the story track needs some extra love. Somebody really needs to bring it home, make sure all the pieces fit together, take a look at things with a fresh eye, polish it all up. So there’ll be some heavy lifting involved, but I think we’ll end up with something that’s a lot of fun. There’s a lot going on in Menhir Forest, and I look forward to showing you a secret or two.
First of all apologies for the long break since the last blog update. Unfortunately the realities of game development, or really the crunch mode where we have been for the past months, has meant that we had to sacrifice updating the blog in order to concentrate fully on development. Now as we are gearing towards beta and finally the launch, we’d like to get to blogging more often… Well, let’s see how that goes!
Ok, that thing sorted out, let’s talk about today’s subject, which is randomness as a game design concept and how it affects Druidstone. Randomness can be found in many places and in many forms in a game. For example, are levels fixed or randomly generated (tried that, didn’t work for us)? Are combat values such as hit chance, damage, damage reduction and so on random numbers or fixed? Are enemies in levels randomized? What about loot drops and items? Is enemy AI based on random behavior or do they follow strict deterministic rules? Each of these questions can be answered independently, so you end up with a design space with a large number of different combinations, each with their own feel and effect on gameplay.
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.
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. 🙂
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.
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.”
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!