Greetings, friends and fantasy aficionados!
Welcome back to another installment of the Kristala dev blog. Here you'll get a front-row seat to the exciting development process for indie game Kristala, the inaugural title from female-lead Astral Clocktower Studios—an indie games studio based in Central PA, USA.
Since we last met, we've been kicking dev for Kristala into high gear and we're super stoked to share everything we've been working on over the past month.
In today's issue, you'll get an update on all the custom 3D assets we've been working on for the capital city of Nisar, plus a peek into our process for creating a fully functional facial rig for our female main character. We're also giving you a special first look at some new environmental concepts and progress made to our newest WIP level area.
Ready to take a break from the mundane and dive head-first into the magic of Kristala?
We've got you covered.
3D Asset Design
In the Kristala demo, you'll play as the chosen warrior from the nature-loving Nisarga clan.
Members of this cheerful and artistic clan value the power and beauty of the natural world; because of this, the Nisargans built their clan villages and towns amongst the sprawling Jhacanda forests of Ailur.
One such town is the capital city of Nisar—a cozy conglomerate of tree homes and huts that are situated high atop the thick boughs of the mighty Jhacandas.
Over the past few sprints, our 3D Environmental Designer, Cass, has been working on modeling out the three individual sets of tree houses that will be featured in Nisar.
This month, Cass was able to fully texture all three sets of Jhacanda tree houses and officially cross this ongoing task off his to-do list.
Let's take a look at Cass's impressive work.
Now that he's no longer working on the Jhacanda houses, Cass was able to shift his focus onto another big architectural modeling task.
In the Nisargan city of Nasahara—the burned city—stands the remnants of an old Kristal Cathedral. During the Great Kota Rebellion, Nasahara was ravaged by fleets of Kotakayan soldiers who set the city's streets ablaze under orders from the Mad King Edam.
Though many important Nisargan landmarks were ruined during the siege, the Kristal Cathedral of Nasahara remains erect to this day. Its crumbling pillars and singed passageways are now grim reminders of the carnage that nearly claimed the entirety of the city.
Although Cass already created an impressive model for the cathedral last year, he wanted to revise his structure to better match the current aesthetic of the level, which shifted over time as our Level Designers worked through detailing the Nasahara level.
Take a look at Cass's updated cathedral model below. We're looking forward to seeing how Cass textures this beast of a model once he's done crafting it.
With Cass hard at work on the Cathedral, one of our 3D Generalists, Karena, has been working on creating some custom 3D assets that will decorate the individual tree houses and huts featured in the Nisargan level areas of Kristala.
Because each of the six clans of Anagativa featured in Kristala has its own designated traits and characteristics, our dev team has been cognizant of adding minute details to each individual model to help show off individual clan aesthetics.
Naturally then, each asset featured in the Nisarga clan levels possesses a subtle nod to the Nisargans' overall naturalistic vibe—including the wooden textures and leaf details showcased in the 3D assets Karena's been working on over the past sprint.
In our last issue of the Kristala game dev blog, we showed off the initial model of this quaint table and chairs Karena's been working on for Nisar. Here's an update on the textures for the outdoor table and leaf shade Karena created.
Once the table itself was completed, Karena then moved on to detailing its accompanying chairs. After working on some initial square-shaped seats, Karena wondered whether a set of round-shaped chairs might better match the circular shape of the table.
To combat her uncertainty, Karena created two sets of chairs to share with our team.
After reviewing Karena's work, we collectively decided to utilize both the regular, square-shaped chairs in addition to the stump-like chairs in the Nisargan level areas of the game.
Here's a look at the final, textured pieces for this fun, outdoor table set.
With the table and chairs crossed off her list, Karena revisited a model she'd previously created for a rope bridge. These bridges will connect the tree houses of Nisar and allow the town's denizens to safely travel from one abode to another.
We really love how detailed the bark and rope textures are on these pieces. Check it out!
For Karena's last task this sprint, she began modeling a natural-looking wooden bed frame and accompanying mattress and pillows for a Nisargan sleep setup.
As we mentioned prior, our 3D modelers are incredibly adept at adding individual clan aesthetics into each of their pieces. The twisted branches and vines featured on Karena's bed frame model below are definitely fitting for the nature-obsessed Nisarga clan.
In addition to mastering the six magic specialties of the ancient Sacred Crystal on your Raksaka Proving, you'll also be faced with battling an unrelenting stream of skilled Kotakayan soldiers decked out in steampunk-esque attire while playing Kristala.
With some incredible concepts from our art department as her guide, our 3D Character Designer, Bianca, has been working on modeling a few base armor sets for our three variants of Kota soldiers.
This sprint, Bianca finished texturing and painting the armor set for the smallest variant of these rodent-like soldiers.
With the first armor set completed, Bianca then moved on to modeling the battle attire for our mid-grade soldier variant.
We really dig what she's got thus far and can't wait to see how she paints and textures these pieces. Once completed, Bianca will move on to crafting the third and final armor set for our burliest Kota soldier variant.
In 3D Generalist Nick's neck of the woods, some incredible progress was made on a few important, custom 3D assets that will be featured in our underground sewer level area.
Beneath the streets of Nasahara lies an intricate sewer system that was used by the city's Anagativan denizens to escape the fire and brimstone of Nasahara's intense burning during the Great Kota Rebellion.
Within this underground level area lies several impressive stone structures that will be available for exploring in the game. This sprint, Nick kicked things off by modeling the open bathroom and group bathroom structures pictured below.
Once the pieces were modeled, Nick then moved on to texturing them. He created both a "clean" version and a "grungy" version to help highlight the dirt and soot that has accumulated underground over time.
You can see both versions of the bath houses below.
Before diving into his final sprint task for this month, Nick first took some time to retexture our female player character’s whiskers so that they work properly when skinned/animated.
You can see some additional update shots of the whiskers later on in this issue, but here's an initial look at the retextured assets Nick completed.
The last task Nick completed this sprint was to model a Nisargan Leather Leaf armor set based on the concept created by our incredibly talented artist, l_aciel.
We've included a photo below of the concept itself to help refresh your memory on how detailed and intricate this armor set is.
Nick started by modeling out the base armor set your see featured on the right. Once the base set is completed, Nick will then build upon it to create the cloaked version and accompanying helmet featured on the left to fully complete this gorgeous set. Stay tuned!
If you've been following our dev blog over the past few months, you'll know that our third 3D Generalist, Joe, has been working with various programs to find a solid method for creating realistic fur for our Kotakaya and Anagativa characters.
This sprint, Joe tried a first pass at using hair cards for our base Kota soldier variant. After his initial attempt in Unreal Engine, Joe realized that the result still leaves much to be desired, both in terms of hair-card placement and shading.
Thankfully, after a second pass using the DitherTemporalAA node plugged into the opacity, the fur looked much softer and a bit more realistic, as desired.
That said though, the shader is still pretty basic and only utilizes the default masked shader with a bit of subsurface coloring.
Ideally, the Hair shader can be used again once Joe has a better understanding of how the tool works. He'll continue playing around with hair tools until we land on a solution that works best for our characters and properly captures their intended look.
With the fur tasks on the back burner for the time being, Joe moved on to creating a realistic Kotakaya skull that will be used in conjunction with the Anagativa skulls he'd previously created.
Both skulls will be used to help highlight the history of carnage and destruction that took place in various level areas featured in Kristala.
Now that our Level Designer, Elsie, was able to move on from detailing our Nasahara level, he's been making some headway on the next level area on his list—the underground sewer level.
As we mentioned earlier in this issue, this sewer system was used by the Anagativa of Nasahara to flee the carnage of war and escape to safety when Nasahara was set ablaze by Kotakayan sentries.
The sewer system remains largely abandoned to this day, but don't be surprised if you encounter signs of life as your traverse this eerie level.
Let's take a peek at Elsie's progress on adding a bit more detail and intricacy to the sewers.