Hello, dear friends and fantasy aficionados. Thanks for tuning in to another exciting issue of the Kristala dev blog!
If you're just joining us, welcome! This is the place where we bring you a monthly peek into the development process for 3D dark fantasy ARPG Kristala, an indie game developed using Unreal Engine 4 by women-lead Astral Clocktower Studios.
This month, in addition to our typical development sprints, we've also been hard at work prepping a super special convention build of Kristala for the upcoming Play NYC convention.
We've got more information on the convention—plus details on how you can enter to win a FREE PS5—coming up later in today's issue, but for now, let's dive into our updates for June.
Astral Clocktower Studios x Game Raven Review
Before we dive into this month's actual development updates, we wanted to take a quick moment to share something super cool we recently participated in.
To help strengthen our message of diversity and inclusion, studio owners Allie, Tiffany, and Sarah recently sat down with the lovely folks over at Game Raven Review to discuss what it's like being women developers and gamers in such a traditionally male-dominated industry.
You can listen to our episode of the Game Raven Review podcast right meow!
Since embarking on the huge endeavor to completely revamp the entire Kristala demo, we've had our artists and modelers working hard to recreate some of the props and environmental elements that already existed in the original Dalamase demo level.
Why redo everything again, you might ask?
Since redesigning our player character and making her aesthetic much more realistic, we realized we needed to revamp everything in the entire level in order to make it all work together as a cohesive vibe.
After Concept Artist Harold reimagined each level area in the demo, we then had him concept out the individual props that will be needed to carefully detail each environment.
Here's a look at just some of the props Harold was able to complete this month. You can get an in-depth look at all of Harold's concepts—including detailed story tidbits and lore about each design—by becoming a Kristala Patron and joining our upcoming Patreon campaign.
In addition to fresh, realistic props for the redesigned Kristala demo level, we also tasked Concept Artists Amanda and Jonathan with freshening up the designs for some of the enemies that populate the Dalamase.
Once a bustling fishing village in Nisargan clan territory, the Dalamase was abandoned years ago after being ravaged by angry Kotakayan soldiers during the Great Kota Rebellion. Lead by the Mad King Edam, the army laid siege to the Dalamase's rich waterways.
The villages' frightened Anagativan denizens fled the area in search of safer lands, and now all that remains in present-day Dalamase are a few mutated, native Ailuran species—including the bloodthirsty leeches by Amanda and pungent Gromphas by Jonathan pictured below.
Wanna know more about this baddies and get a glimpse behind our art process? Stay tuned for details on how you can get monthly comprehensive and even more detailed issues of the Kristala dev blog for just $1 a month!
In addition to working on the character concepts for some of the enemies featured in the Kristala demo, Amanda also worked this sprint on designing a stunning, gothic-inspired clock tower and set of gears to be used in the new Astral Clocktower Studios logo.
After redesigning the Kristala game logo to better match the new, realistic look of the demo, we decided to freshen up the studio logo too. We really liked the concept of the existing logo, but we wanted to see what it would look like with a more realistic clock tower.
After Amanda presented her vision for the revamped logo, we handed it off to our marketing team to add in the studio name and pull everything together.
Here's a peek at Amanda's original design, followed by the final version of the new ACS logo.
If you've already been following our development journey, you may recall that our modeling team was recently working on creating new consumable items that, when used, allow players to warp to various areas featured in the Kristala demo.
This sprint, we tasked Concept Artist Ila with creating the actual designs for these consumables to help our modelers better capture the look we wanted for these unique pieces.
You can get a look at how the model for this concept is shaping up in the 3D Modeling section of today's dev blog issue, but here's a peek at the concepts for the two warp consumables that can be found in game.
It's no secret that any ARPG game needs a ton of weapon designs, which is why we've had our Concept Artist James working on a bunch of unique, steampunk-inspired weaponry for our rodent-like Kotakaya NPCs.
While our feline-esque Anagativan characters are masters of the magic contained within the six Sacred Kristals of Ailur, our Kota characters are masters of science and technology. They're super skilled at creating mechanically beautiful weapons and armor adorned with gears, sprogs, and tons of bronze.
Here's a sampling of just some of the stunning Kotakayan weapons James designed this sprint. See all of James's weapons and get a glimpse into his design process by joining us as an official Patron when we launch our upcoming Patreon campaign in just a few short weeks.
We've shown off a ton of Lead 3D Character Modeler Pete's impressive work in the past, but we'd be willing to bet you didn't know that Pete is also an incredibly talented 2D artist too!
This sprint, we tasked Pete with creating fresh concepts for the three base variants of the Kota soldiers that you'll be battling throughout the entirety of Kristala.
While we already had existing concepts and models for these beasties, they didn't properly capture the same realism showcased in the model for our new player character.
Here's a look at the base, mid-size, and large variants for the new Kota soldiers Pete designed.
In addition to creating the new soldiers' anatomy, Pete was also able to work on the armor concepts for the smallest and mid-size rodents.
Just like the Kota weapon concepts James created above, these armor concepts skillfully integrate various steampunk elements to beautifully highlight the mechanical and scientific prowess the Kotakaya species possesses.
Wanna check out the 10+ armor mockup sketches Pete initially created before landing on the final design featured below? You can see those (and much more) by tuning into our monthly Patreon updates!
One of our favorite parts about watching Kristala come to life is seeing how our favorite concepts translate to 3D form. It's really cool seeing how two artists can visualize the same item description and add in their own unique touches to the piece.
This sprint, our 3D Character Modeler, Bianca, took a break from character design to jump in and help us with modeling a ton of the revised pieces needed for the Kristala demo—including some of the weapons needed for our Kotakayan enemy NPCs.
We already showed you some of the Kota weapon concepts artist James designed above; now here's a peek at how some of them look in 3D form. We really love how well Bianca modeled out the gears and bronze details on these pieces.
With Bianca working on weapons, one of our talented 3D Generalists, Hassan, continued working on some of the aging, moss-caked dwellings that populate the abandoned fishing villages of the Dalamase.
We're absolutely blown away at how detailed and realistic this particular shack looks. The haphazard shape of the house and the mismatched, random boards really help highlight the hodge-podge, thrown-together aesthetic that's a trademark of our Nisarga clan members.
If you've been following our dev journey for a while now, you may be familiar with the acorn-adorned lamp posts that were used in the previous version of the Kristala demo.
Because the level is meant to be dark and moody, we knew we needed to place various light sources throughout to allow players to not only see where they're going, but to see properly during combat too.
Although we liked the idea of the original lamp posts, they didn't quite mesh well with the remote and run-down vibe of the Dalamase. The new versions of the lamp posts that Hassan whipped up this sprint are much more suited to an abandoned fishing village.
You can see a bunch more of Hassan's beautiful 3D models by tuning into our monthly Patreon updates. We'll be sharing details on how to become a Patron in the coming weeks.
Did you know that the Anagativa who hail from the Nisarga clan are known for their love of nature? In fact, most Nisargans are physically and mentally unable to find peace and solace unless they're immersed in the natural world of Ailur.
It should come as no surprise then that all our Nisargan levels—including the Dalamase level featured in the Kristala demo—are largely detailed with natural elements such as trees, flowers, ferns, vines, fungi, and other exotic flora.
In order to ensure we don't create boring and repetitive environments in UE4, we've carefully crafted a ton of varied models of trees and other natural elements to help keep things fresh and exciting in the game environment.
This sprint, our resident 3D Environmental Modeler, Cass, worked on modeling several of the gnarled and claw-like trees you'll find throughout the Dalamase and its individual level areas—especially the Dark Forest. Check it out!
Last month, we welcomed a new 3D Generalist, Fede, to our growing team of modelers. Fede not only brings a ton of talent with him, but a wealth of experience and knowledge too.
To get familiarized with the world of Kristala, we had Fede try his hand at modeling a quick test version of the smallest variant for our Kota soldier enemies. Using the concepts Pete created as his guide, Fede impressed our team with how fast he was able to lay out this base model.
Stay tuned to future issues of the Kristala dev blog for updates on Fede's progress on this important enemy.
In addition to working on a base for the Kota soldier we shared above, Fede also made quick work of the updated design for the Gromphas enemies that will be featured heavily in the Kristala demo.
These sharp-toothed, six-legged creatures are originally native to the Dalamase's overgrown forests and muck-filled bogs. Now mutated by the curse that's befallen Ailur, the Gromphas are known to omit a putrid cloud of noxious gas that is poisonous when inhaled.
Here's a look at Fede's model for this baddie beast. Support our upcoming Patreon campaign to get insider access into the modeling process for creatures like the Gromphas and Kota soldiers.
In our last issue, we shared the progress our 3D Generalist Nick had made last month on the Twigativa enemies you'll find in our Dalamase demo level.
Comprised of branches and twigs from the towering Jhacanda trees that are native to this Nisargan clan area, the Twiggies possess a unique kind of mysterious magic that allows some of them to suddenly come to life and attack.
We really love the long, vine-like strands of material that can be seen on this enemy's hands and feet. Surprisingly, this model turned out to be quite the undertaking thanks to intricate details like these.
We'll walk you through Nick's entire process for modeling and texturing these Twiggies in the comprehensive version of today's dev blog. You can unlock access these detailed issues when you become a Kristala Patron.
If you recall from earlier in our modeling section, we talked about how we had to get creative with placing various light-emanating items in the Kristala demo level to ensure players can see where they're going.
Over the past few weeks, our 3D Generalist, Joe, has been working on detailing and fine-tuning the model for one such item: a luminescent mushroom lantern that can be found in the Dalamase.
This sprint, Joe refined his textures by adding in more color variation to the mushrooms and the crystals that can be seen on the lantern below. Check it out!
In addition to the shroom lantern, Joe also started on the model for an impressive Kotakayan Great Hammer using the concept crafted by artist James as his guide.
As is the case with many of the other Kota weapons we've shared with you, this Great Hammer is adorned with lots of bronze detailing, bolts, and gears to give it that signature Kotakayan steampunk vibe.
Last up on our list of 3D models to showcase this month is the updated design for our crystal-encased butterfly consumable that can be used in game to activate Kristala's warp system.
After working up a base version of this item, 3D Generalist Karena then honed in on making sure the crystal material really embodies the same fragmented look of a real-life crystal shard.
Here's a peek at Karena's base model, including a video that showcases how she carefully crafted each nook, crack, and cranny you can see on the model below.
After nailing down the model itself, Karena then spent some time this sprint adding textures to the piece and recrafting the entire butterfly you see encased within the consumable below.
We really think Karena perfectly captured the same essence of this piece's 2D concept in her 3D recreation. What do you think?
With so many fresh 3D items, weapons, and props created on a daily basis here at ACS headquarters, it's no surprise that our Level Design team has been super busy placing all the new goodies into the Kristala game build and finetuning each level area.
To kick things off this sprint, our Lead Level Designer, Tiffany, worked on creating a custom water material to use in the various ponds and pits that can be found in the demo.
Once she got the material itself where she wanted it, Tiff then worked on ensuring the water was fully interactive and responsive to player movement when engaged.
In addition to finetuning the water material in UE4, Tiff also spent some time adjusting the lighting and fog in the Dalamase to ensure it perfectly captures the right amount of whimsy and mystery.
You can see in the comparison shot below how important and necessary proper lighting is in a level, especially for a dark fantasy game like Kristala. Without the right lighting, this body of water shifts from a creepy bog vibe to a paradise oasis.
After nailing the fog and lighting, Tiff then added a bit more fantasy and fun to the world of Ailur by creating two stunning, luminous moons for the already gorgeous night sky featured in the Kristala game build.
We especially love how Tiff made one of the moons blue and the other purple. It's a small detail, but it really helps highlight the fact that Ailur is a fantasy planet that—despite its elements of realism—also features elements of the surreal.
Last up this sprint, Tiff spent some time finessing a bunch of the individual level areas you'll be able to heavily explore when you play Kristala.
Here's just a few of the dozens of incredible screenshots Tiff snagged from Unreal Engine while working this sprint. Stay tuned for details about our upcoming Patreon campaign to gain instant access to tons more stunning shots like these.
With Tiff working on a bunch of the water villages and pathways of the Dalamase, Level Designer Ian spent some time this sprint laying out the underground Cave level area that's home to a special, secretive NPC you'll meet in the Kristala demo.
In particular, Ian worked on placing groups of bioluminescent mushrooms to help illuminate this dark and damp area of the Dalamase. Have a look!
Next, Ian moved above ground to help Tiff detail some of the previously untouched areas of the demo level, adding trees and ferns, adjusting the lighting, placing fishing shacks and other structures, and then covering them with vines using the spline tool.
Lastly, Ian spent some time this sprint creating a custom mud material to be used as a base for the ground of the Dalamase. He also worked on some leave-behind footprints to really drive home how mucky and muddy portions of these Nisargan clan lands truly are.
Wanna get a peek at a previously unrevealed level area Ian's been working on that will serve as the arena for the Kristala demo boss fight? Stay tuned for the launch of our Patreon campaign to become a Kristala Patron and get inside access to this secret area.
While there are a ton of programming updates from ACS team members Andy, Rodrigo, and Julian—our three wonderful (and incredibly talented) Gameplay Programmers—we unfortunately can't share many of those updates with you today.
Why, you might ask?
With much of the Kristala vertical slice already complete, the last bit of gameplay we have to program centers around the final major boss fight of the demo—the details of which we've been purposefully keeping hidden from the public eye...until now!
We're super excited to announce that we'll be spilling a ton of juicy details about the demo's boss fight in our upcoming Patreon campaign, including what the boss looks like, some of its tragic backstory, and hints about what you can expect as far as gameplay mechanics go.
In the meantime, here's a look at our updated weapon trails Rodrigo was able to work on this sprint outside of his work on the boss fight.
Rigging / Animation
Just as you read in our Programming section above, there's a ton of content our Animators have been working on this sprint in relation to the major boss fight that will be featured at the conclusion of the upcoming Kristala demo.
You can join us as a Kristala Patron to see a ton of the custom animations our Lead Animator, Klaus, has been working on for this super secret boss. We'll be sharing details about our Patreon campaign launch soon, so stay tuned!
In addition to working on the animations for our boss, Klaus also started working on the skinning and base animations for our new female player character, who will be brought into the Kristala game build super soon.
With Klaus working on the female main character and the model for our demo boss, Animator Mario spent some time testing out retargeted animations from Maya in 3DS Max.
Because Klaus is more familiarized with 3DS, we decided to make the switch so that he can work best in his program of choice.
Here's a look at one of the retargeted animations Mario created for the old Kota soldier models we'll soon be replacing with updated versions that match our new soldier concepts.
Events - Kristala at PlayNYC 2021
We're super excited to announce that Astral Clocktower Studios will yet again be a featured exhibitor at Play NYC this year!
The convention is back live and in-person at the Metropolitan Pavilion this August, and we'll be presenting the first official build of Kristala that features the revamped demo environment we've been raving about in today's issue of the blog.
Not only will you have a chance to meet all three of our lovely studio owners and some of our dev team members at the convention, but you'll also be one of the first people ever to explore the new and improved Dalamase demo level.
Not familiar with this incredible event? Check out this recap video from 2019's con to get a feel for what kind of vibe and energy you can expect at Play NYC. See if you're sharp enough to spot studio owners Allie and Sarah too.
Kristala Original Soundtrack
Music is an important piece of the Kristala puzzle. Not only does it help set the mood and provide some background noise, but it also serves as an important storytelling device.
Because of this, we've been working incredibly hard to ensure the original soundtrack for our 3D dark fantasy action RPG is packed with harrowing tracks and magical songs that really allow players to feel something.
You can get a peek at some of the tracks that will be featured on the original soundtrack for Kristala on our official Kristala Soundcloud page.
All songs are composed by our incredibly talented resident musical wizard, AdLibPiano.
Welp, that'll do it for another exciting installment of the Kristala Game Dev Blog! Thanks so much for tuning in and lending us your support. It truly means the world to us.
If you've been digging these development breakdowns, we'd love to hear from you! Leave us a comment here or join our Discord community to chat directly with our dev team and stay up-to-date on all things Kristala.
Until next time, dear friends, thank you for your continued support...and thanks for stopping by.
-The ACS Games Dev Team