This week we continued working on polishing the combat system, this time on the feeling of the combo attacks. We tweaked once again the window between the consecutive attacks that could form a small combo. We also added a slope detection so the player cannot climb to places that he/she is not meant to. In this case, the character will decelerate when the player tries to climb something with a slope greater that 45 degrees.
One thing that was asked of us at PAX East was an option to auto hide the HUD, so the player could have a more immersive experience. This was easily added, although, every time the player gets hit, changes weapon/potion, has low stamina or the current weapon durability is changed it appears again for a few seconds.
Beyond that, it has been quite a grind to populate and wrap up the environments. Getting the mood of each location just right is a big challenge. Here are some shots of the game that showcase what we are going for in a couple of areas, but keep in mind all of this is still very much work in progress.
Cabin in the woods.
Very WIP water temple.
The artists have been fully focusing on character design and production these past few days. The Ancestor warrior we’ve shown before is pretty much done and will be game-ready as soon as the finishing touches on the textures are complete. Meanwhile, the final boss of this chapter is currently in the concepting phase, and we are confident this character will turn out to be a very fun and challenging obstacle for the player, due to the unusual weaponry that will be used during the fight.
A simple (yet important) prop has also been added to the game – elevators of Ancestor origin. These will be linked to a puzzle that links some areas of this chapter, and will allow the player to access otherwise unreachable places.
Testing the ancestor lift.
Gameplay-wise, the combat polishing is almost on point. We are really committed to making the “undead soldier” enemy feel like a threatening and convincing foe. He’s got some cool moves like the one shown below. The logic behind the “surprise spawn system” is ready to go, so it’s only a matter of time before we show you guys a humongous battlefield filled with bodies and a couple of unexpected encounters.
If you are too close, beware the smashing shields!
This week a lot of small tweaks, balancing and gameplay polishing was done: the stamina behavior was improved (now it takes a while before the stamina is regained after it was completely drained), the parry detection is more efficient, as well as the hit detection on enemies. Changing targets when locked is now more intuitive and the player can choose easily what target they want to attack.
Since it was clear that being immediately expelled from the Elk’s back while near enemies was frustrating for the players, a small change was made in the Elk’s stress behavior so that now the stress simply increases much faster instead, making the experience of riding more manageable.
Direct swap items on the Elk’s inventory is now possible, so there’s no need for the poor design decision of dropping the item and then picking it up again.
In the art department, the work on the new enemy is advancing smoothly. Here is HighPoly model:
Cursed soldier Highpoly.
We are also coming up with a new foe for the Girl to fight with, a big armored Ancestor that will require careful planning in order to be brought down.
Meanwhile, we also continue to replace old animations with fresh ones, such as this:
Pushing unlocked doors.
Since PAX East, our art team has been working on the new chapter. Hopefully, just by looking at the first enemy concept you can tell it’s going to be very different from the previous one. A more medieval approach, with epic battles and battlefields. We already have this area blocked out for quite some time, but both the look and feel of the enemies are still in the works. Also, some level design refinement will be done. As previously mentioned, the story and mood will get darker as the adventure progresses, and the upcoming environments will reflect that change.
Cursed soldier – Under-armor concept.
We are working hard polishing some aspects pointed out by some players during PAX (thank you for playing and giving us honest feedback!). A lot has been done in combat fine-tuning and camera behavior. Parries now work much better and are fun to use, and defending with shields now works properly, taking into consideration the direction of the attack (this applies to the player and the enemies alike). We also added some more visual feedback when an attack lands on bigger enemies (for example, if you hit their legs, they react to it subtly by twitching).
Like we’ve mentioned in previous updates, every time the player gets killed in the game, the Girl will awaken from a “nightmare” in the last checkpoint. That specific animation has already been implemented, as you can see below.
Waking up from a nightmare.
This week we’ve done a bit of enemy balancing for the Windmills’ area. Some ranged enemies were placed here in order to keep things challenging, but in a way that won’t make it too frustrating. The Woodified Enemies have been completely revamped with new animations, so the feeling of the first part of the game is getting close to what we had envisioned in the beginning.
Also, the Wanderer has more proper animations, while he is interacting with the player. As stated before, he will make frequent appearances throughout your whole adventure. And, in time, the Girl will learn more about him and his motivations.
This guy can’t play.
The final part of Chapter One approaches, development-wise. We are all working on this very last scene pretty hard, and we will show plenty of it further down the road but, for now, here are two ominous teasers!
Let’s see where this leads to.
This week various changes were made in the AI department, from simple enemies to mini bosses, and their behaviors have been polished. Also, some bugs that still persisted since our last showcase at Comic Con were finally fixed. Plus, we’ve added a simple stress meter that shows up while riding so players can tell for how much longer they can mount the Elk before needing to feed it some berries.
Our animator did a lot of new animations for our enemy models and gave them the appropriate mood and feeling. He’s constantly working on custom ones to replace the old placeholder animations that we still have in the project. Additionally, different weights are now assigned to each foe as they are instantiated, so that every enemy acquires a stronger sense of individuality. Here are the various forms of transformation of this type of enemies.
Hey! I’m walking here!
We’ve also been working on an important event that takes place in the final area of Chapter One – the meeting with the Kid. The player will be able to help him escape from the cage he is trapped in, eventually learning more about his origin as the journey continues.
Please save me.
Can I axe you a question?
Once again, part of the team was working on the first Prince’s boss battle, polishing moves, balancing and adding more animations so the battle feels epic.
Although magic and elemental effects were only supposed to be introduced at a later stage of the game (once the player learns the appropriate skills from an NPC) one of the attacks of this boss required the implementation of the “paralyze” stat. We opted to use this nomenclature because it can be used in every situation in which the player temporarily loses control of the character (such as “petrify”, “woodify”, etc).
Similarly, a placeholder radial bar (around the weapon icon), indicating the current equipped weapon’s durability was added. Before, this very important info was buried in the inventory stat tab.
Paralyze and Durability bar.
That’s a big fall.
We really wanted the Rift Windmills’ area to have its own particular mood and identity, and in that regard the skybox plays a big role. With this in mind, we came up with a brand new sky with some dramatic clouds, as well as silhouetted mountains in the distance. Now the scene looks a lot more unique and consistent.
The swamp castle view from the rift windmills.
This week we were working on the intro scene of the game, where we explain how the Girl and the Elk start their journey. It’s a small new area with short cutscenes and playable zones where the player and the companion meet for the first time.
Some AI balancing and behavior was also done, and the Elk now has two types of control (changeable in options). One is the first version, heavily inspired by the Shadow of the Colossus’ control scheme, and the other is more similar to how The Witcher or Dragon Age handle mounting and steering. We feel that adding gameplay options like this turns out to be appealing for various types of players.
Running from the swamp slugs.
The art team is making progress in the new Canyon-esque area, populating the scene with a few new stone and vegetation props. Developing the surrounding landscape is the current challenge we’re facing, blending 3d elements with 2d planes in order to produce a convincing and immersive atmosphere.
In-game view of the Canyon area, still work in progress.
The boss battle and arena is on the works too.
Remember the concept art for the Kid we have shown a few posts ago? We have finally wrapped up the model and textures for that character, and he is ready to be brought to life by our animator!
In-game model of the Kid.
On the environment art side of things, we have started to work on a new zone of the game, which is a canyon-esque area with lots of windmills. Here is a mood and shape concept piece that is meant to guide us while we produce and put together all the various new elements that will compose the scene.
Concept art for the new canyon area.
Comic Con Portugal was a blast! Lots of feedback and people testing and enjoying the game. We will definitely be back next year. For those who did not get a chance to play, be sure to keep an eye out for future updates.
Praise the Sun!
To everyone who got to play our game, thank you!
Once again, this week André was improving and fixing some stuff following the feedback we got from Lisbon Games Week. Some UI changes and rearrangement were done for a more readable inventory, for example. Two handed swords will also start to behave like one handed ones, since various testers sheathed the weapon by mistake in the middle of the combat. Also the Elk control and camera were improved, and probably a change in the controls will be made at a later stage. Since the prototype that the inspiration for the Elk control was Shadow of the Colossus, but maybe it is time to test a new control system, more similar to the Girl control. We will have the chance to test these changes at Comic Con Portugal.
We also revamped the area with the cave tunnels in order to achieve a more immersive ambiance.
Close encounters of the slime kind.
One last thing, we are having a lot of fun doing some promotion captures with the cinematic camera 😛
Wandering in the swamp.