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The Kristala Dev Blog - Issue #32

Welcome, beautiful creatures!

You just left reality and fell into a portal to the fantasy world of Ailur, the fictional planet that serves as the setting for 3D Dark Fantasy ARPG Kristala—an indie game developed by women-owned independent game studio, Astral Clocktower Studios (hey, that's us!).

Since our last issue of the blog, there have been a ton of exciting changes and updates that we can't wait to share with you, including a summary of our exhibition at the fifth-annual Play NYC tabletop and video game convention.

Join us for a rundown of our first in-person con since the pandemic began, and then we'll dive right into what our ridiculously talented development team has been up to over the past month as we get closer and closer to completing the vertical slice for Kristala.


Kristala at Play NYC 2021

Since the pandemic began, we've exhibited Kristala at a few awesome virtual conventions like IWOCon and Game Carnival; and while these cons are fun and feature a ton of interesting panels and industry speakers, they don't quite replace the value of in-person conventions.

That's why we were super excited when we learned that this year's fifth-annual Play NYC convention would be held in person (with tons of awesome precautions in place to ensure all devs, speakers, and attendees were kept safe and healthy).

In addition to being our first in-person convention in over two years, Play NYC was also the first time we've exhibited a version of Kristala that features our brand new player character and custom combats a fast-paced, exciting mini-boss fight!

You'll read a lot about the work that went into making our Play build smooth and seamless in this issue of the blog, but check out this article from our friends at NoobFeed and the following video from Piercing Metal that explain a bit more about the exclusive build of Kristala we exhibited at Play NYC.

We can't wait to go back again next year!


Concept Art

If you've been following along with our game development journey over the past few months, you likely already know that we've recently made a ton of changes to the look and feel of the Kristala demo.

...And we're talkin' "replace every shrub, flower, tree, house, and enemy" changes.

In order to initiate these changes, however, it was vital that we had proper environmental and character concepts to work from so that our 3D modeling team was fully capable of bringing the Kristala that exists in our minds to life in Unreal Engine.

When we last left off with Concept Artist James, he'd been working on redesigning a ton of the Nisarga clan weapons to better match the realistic feel of our updated player character and level design.

This sprint, James worked up fresh designs for a bunch of the armor sets that will be featured in the game, which you can see pictured below. Each set has its own purpose and lore in planet Ailur's vast history.

If you'd like an in-depth walkthrough on the meaning behind each of these sets, consider joining us as an official Kristala Patron to receive tons of behind-the-scenes story goodies.

With the updated armor sets handed off to our 3D modelers, James then whipped up a few fresh concepts for some of the remaining items in the Kristala demo that needed to be replaced with newer models, including:

  • Keys to unlock various gates and doors

  • Rings and tail charms that will assist during gameplay

  • A wooden door for an important level area

  • Sketches of disturbed graves (did someone say zombies?!)

  • Patterned carpets to adorn various Nisargan dwellings

As mentioned above, you can get additional details on each of these individual pieces (and the roles they play in the Kristala demo) by joining our new Patreon campaign, where we regularly share a ton of behind-the-scenes tidbits and exclusive content.

While James worked on completing the above item concepts, one of our other talented artists, Harold, started reimagining some environmental pieces for each of the six clan capital cities.

While the Kristala demo will only feature one clan of Anagativa, the Nisarga clan, the full version of the game will allow players to choose between six unique clans, each with its own culture, customs, and magic specialties.

The entirety of Anagativa clan territory on Ailur is comprised of six vastly different biomes, each one coinciding with a specific clan. As a result, members of each clan have adapted their unique way of life to match the environment in which they live.

Check out all six of these sweet pieces Harold designed this sprint. Let us know which clan environment you'd choose to live in by joining the conversation in the Kristala Discord community.

Once finished with the environmental concepts for the six clan capital cities, Harold then joined James in completing a few designs for items that still needed to be replaced with custom assets in the Kristala game build:

  • Modular tunnel pieces

  • In-tact and broken Amulets

You'll notice that the amulet in the second concept below includes both an intact and broken version. There's a specific role the damaged piece plays in the Kristala demo's core storyline, and it coincides with an NPC we've been keeping under wraps up until this point.

We'll soon be unveiling more details about this character in an exclusive Patreon post, so be sure to join one of our three affordable tiers so you don't miss out.

When we last left our third Concept Artist, Nicholas, he had just finished blocking out the general shape and build for an important and resourceful NPC featured throughout Kristala: Brutus the Blacksmith.

Like many Anagativa hailing from the islandic Keoza clan, Brutus has a wide build with broad shoulders and strong, muscular arms and legs. Because of their adeptness at crafting weapons, many Keozans have evolved to possess this same brawny stature.

Like other talented blacksmiths that came before him, Brutus utilizes the hot magma flowing within the active volcanoes that pockmark Keoza clan territory to produce impressive blades, axes, staves, and other powerful weapons and armor.

After taking some of these details into account, Nicholas further refined Brutus's concept, testing out several ways to somehow incorporate the Keoza clan crest—an insignia that features an anvil and hammer—into the character's clothing and adornments.

As you can see in the progress shot below, we ended up deciding to add the clan crest as an embossed emblem on Brutus's leather apron.

Nicholas is still working on finetuning this character's overall aesthetic, but we really love the progress he was able to make on Brutus this sprint. Check it out!


3D Modeling

Much like our concept art team, our 3D modelers put in a ton of work this sprint to create fresh designs that will replace a bunch of the existing assets featured in the Kristala demo.

If you were able to catch the last issue of our development blog, you may remember that one of our talented 3D artists, Bianca, has been hard at work creating a ton of weapons for our rodent-like Kotakaya NPCs.

This sprint, Bianca slightly shifted her focus to work on creating some fresh Anagativan weapons instead. While Kota weapons and armor are adorned with tons of brass gears and other steampunk-inspired elements, Ana weapons have a much more organic feel.

Here's a look at some of the gorgeous pieces Bianca whipped up this month.

While Bianca chugged away at weapons, 3D Generalist Hassan worked on creating a few important environmental pieces needed to replace a few old, existing assets in the Kristala game build, including:

  • Magic flower consumables that boost XP in game

  • Several intact and crumbling gravestones

  • Decorative rocks and modular cave tunnels

  • Several sets of stairs to access various level areas

  • Welcome signage for The Dalamase, the level featured in our demo

You can learn more about each role these elements play in game by joining the ACS Games family as a Patron. Doing so earns you access to behind-the-scenes goodies like lore, secret characters, interviews with our dev team, and much more.

In the last issue of the Kristala dev blog, we showed off some of the props our 3D Environmental Modeler, Cass, had been working on that will be used to detail the various water villages that comprise The Dalamase.

Decades ago, a devastating war broke out on planet Ailur between the feline Anagativa and the rodent Kotakaya. Led by the Mad King Edam, the impenetrable Kota army laid siege to the ample waterways and forested paths of the peaceful Dalamase.

As a result, this once-bustling cluster of fishing villages was completely devastated, and its frightened denizens fled, never to return again.

In fact, the Dalamase remains abandoned to this day, with aging fishing nets and shabby lanterns, rugs, and furniture now the only signs of the life that once thrived here.

Here's a look at some of these items Cass was able to work on this sprint.

When we last checked in with our Lead 3D Artist, Fede, he had made some serious progress on the fresh models for our small-, mid-, and large-size Kotakaya soldier variants. He'd also started modeling the intricate armor for the smallest variant.

This sprint, Fede was able to continue working on the soldiers and armor he'd started, polishing up details and working on intricate textures.

Soon, Fede will be experimenting with our custom fur shader and working with hair cards to create realistic fur for these toothy baddies. Here are some shots of Fede's WIP.

With the Kota soldiers well underway, Fede then spent some time this month working on a few mutated enemies you'll find in the Kristala demo, including the gnarly leeches and undead Kota baddies pictured next.

Many members of the Myrtuna clan (one of the six clans of Anagativa that inhabit Ailur) are extremely gifted in the art of necromancy; they possess the ability to communicate with those who have passed on from this world and dwell now in the spirit realm.

This is the reason why enemies that have already perished—like the Undead Kota in progress below—are able to walk now again amongst the living. Stay tuned to see how these creepy creatures progress even further.

We showed off a few of the Nisargan weapons one of our 3D artists, Bianca, created when we kicked off our 3D Modeling section, and now we'll be showing off some of the Kotakayan Great Axes 3D Generalist Joe was able to model this sprint.

The bronze details on these axes—including all the gears, screws, sprogs, and tubes—are all indicative of the overall aesthetic we're aiming for for the Kota species.

We can't wait to see how these impressive pieces look in the hands of our newly redesigned Kota soldier enemies.

With the axes complete, Joe was then able to work on designing one of the many light sources that will be used to help illuminate the darkest corners of The Dalamase. The stunning lantern pictured below is powered by the organic magic of the Sacred Kristals.

After nailing the painting and texturing in Maya for the lantern, Joe then worked on properly setting up this model in Unreal Engine.

He initially struggled to get the smudged look of the glass textures to show up properly in UE4, but after applying a multiply node he was finally able to get it juuust right.

Here's a look at the original lantern in Maya, followed by some of the shots Joe snagged while trying to get the glass textures to appear properly in engine.