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The Kristala Dev Blog - Issue #27

Hello, all you sweet beings and beautiful creatures! Welcome back to ACS headquarters for another rousing installment of the Kristala game dev blog.

Here you'll get an inside look at the detailed development work done for 3D dark fantasy ARPG Kristala, the inaugural title from the team behind Astral Clocktower Studios—a female-lead indie studio based in Central PA, USA.

In today's issue, we're servin' up some serious updates on a few large-scale, ongoing 3D models and concept pieces. Plus, you'll also get a chance to check out the improvements we've recently made to our menu systems, as well as some other programming goodies.

In other news, the dates for IWOCon have officially been announced! The event kicks off on March 26th and runs through April 2nd, so be sure to check out our Events section for more details on the Kristala booth and which game island we'll be featured on.

In addition to the excitement for IWOCon, we've got some other incredibly awesome updates happening behind the scenes. We can't say too much just yet, but you're definitely gonna wanna tune into next month's dev blog to see how ACS kicks development into high gear.

For now, let's leave reality behind and take a step into the dark fantasy world of Kristala.


3D Asset Design

In February's issue of the dev blog, we introduced you to the newest large-scale model our 3D Environmental Designer, Cass, had started working on—the great Kristal Cathedral of Nasahara.

This impressive Cathedral is one of the last-standing remnants from Nashara's glory days. Once considered a thriving mecca for Anagativan art and entertainment, the Nisargan city of Nasahara was set ablaze during the Great Kota Rebellion, forcing its frightened denizens to flee the city they call home in search of safety and solace.

Tragically, many important Nisargan buildings and landmarks were ruined in the devastating fire; though the stunning Kristal Cathedral of Nasahara remains standing, its crumbling passageways—once filled with laughter and joy—now serve as grim reminders of the carnage that nearly swallowed the entirety of the city.

This week, Cass continued chipping away at the base model for the Cathedral, adding a secret attic area that will house an important NPC you'll will meet along your journey.

After creating a full, intact version of the Kristal Cathedral, Cass then went back over his work and started "ruining" the model to make it match the eerie, decayed look and forlorn, abandoned feel of the rest of Nasahara's aging structures.

Take a look!

Now that both versions of the Cathedral models are complete, Cass can begin unwrapping the UV's before diving into the tedious texture work.

Stay tuned to hear more about the Cathedral and the mysterious attic NPC in future social posts and development blogs!

With Cass tackling Nasahara, one of our talented 3D Generalists, Karena, continued working through various models for 3D props and items found in the Nisargan capital city of Nisar.

In our last issue of the Kristala dev blog, we showed off the initial model Karena completed for a Nisargan-themed bed. This sprint, Karena was able to tackle the UVs and begin texturing.

She then started working on modeling out the actual bedding for the bed, and dove into learning more about nCloth and how it works to help get the comforter and pillows just right.

After attempting to delete edges on the bed frame in an effort to reduce its polycount, however, Karena realized her initial model wasn't going to work.

This prompted her to create a simpler version of the bed, complete with beautiful vine and leaf detailing to help bring out the Nisarga clan's natural aesthetic.

Moving forward, Karena will texture the bed's pillows and comforter with an eclectic, quilt-like pattern to further highlight the quirky, hodge-podge look and feel of this nature-loving clan's homes, weapons, furniture, and armor.

When you embark on your Raksaka Proving at the beginning of the Kristala demo, you'll quickly realize you must also battle your way through hordes of gnarly, angry Kotakayan soldiers who are mercilessly hunting you and actively working to see you fail.

Because these rodent-like fiends are one of the most prevalent enemies you'll encounter in the game, we wanted to make sure we created a few different base variants to avoid any monotony during gameplay.

Using a few detailed concepts from our art department, our 3D Character Designer, Bianca, has been working the past few sprints on modeling out each of our three Kota soldier variants and their accompanying armor sets.

With the first variant completely finished, Bianca was able to get a successful bake for the second model this month before moving onto the base sculpt for the final rat and armor.

We can't wait to see how all three Kota variants and their detailed armor sets once they're completely done. Stay tuned!

Speaking of armor, let's check in with one of our other talented 3D Generalists, Nick, to see the progress he's made on the models for our Nisargan Leather Leaf armor set.

As part of our upcoming overhaul to the Kristala demo level, we're working on revamping some of our weapon and armor designs so that they better match the intricacy and realistic nature of our updated player character.

Since the existing starting armor set for our Nisargan character wasn't incredibly detailed, we decided to whip up a new base armor set that we then reused to create a much stronger set of armor that will be found later in the game.

Here's a look at the initial concept for this beautiful armor, followed by some progress shots Nick shared with our team while working on this stunning set. We're super blown away at the attention to detail Nick put into this model.

In addition to the peaceful, nature-loving Nisarga clan you've read a lot about in this issue, Kristala also features five additional clans of Anagativa—each with its own distinct culture, magic specialty, and overall vibe.

To showcase the uniqueness of each clan, we had our concept art team draft up six simple crests to help further highlight each clan's individuality. Using these concepts as a guide, we tasked Nick with creating 3D versions of each clan crest that will be used throughout the game.

To start, Nick created a few different versions of the Nisargan crest—one variant that's free floating and a second variant that's more like a standing statue.

This gorgeous crest features the signature leaf from the mighty Jhacanda tree crossed with a Nisargan stave and Rosethorne sword. Here's a look at this crest's initial concept, followed by Nick's 3D rendition.

Next up? The eerily mysterious Myrtuna clan crest.

Because only the most skilled and revered Myrtunans possess the ability to open their third eye, the impressive achievement is not only coveted and celebrated, but it's also depicted heavily in Myrtunan weaponry, armor, and other this Necromancing clan's crest.

Here's a look at Nick's 3D version of the Myrtuna crest.

Once the base model was completed, Nick then went back in and carefully textured this crest to make it really look as if it's carved from stone. We really think he nailed it with all those thin cracks and bits of chipped paint.

Nick painted the Anagativan head featured in the crest below black—the signature fur color of most Myrtunans—and used a glowing purple emissive for all three eyes.

After sharing some initial shots of this crest with the team, we had Nick amp up the emissive in the third eye even further to really make it pop. Check it out!

If you've been following our dev journey, you'll know that our third 3D Generalist, Joe, has been working with various programs over the past few months to find a solid method for creating realistic fur for our Kotakaya and Anagativa characters.

After looking into how we might be able to knock the polycount down a bit on the fur while using hair cards, Joe realized that all the planes he'd initially created each had extra, unnecessary edges.

As a result, Joe ended up playing around with a few different hair alphas; he realized the fur can look really nice depending on the angle and lighting, but that he might have to manually adjust a bunch of the planes to get them to better wrap to the model.

You can see this highlighted in the screenshot below.

With the fur proving to be a bit more of a headache than initially intended, Joe decided to put the hair cards on the back burner for the time being so that he could focus on a few of his other modeling tasks—including a set of torture tools that will be featured in an underground level area called Nasonder.

In short, Nasonder is a super dark and dreary dungeon that was once used to imprison both traitor Kotakaya and captured Anagativa at different points in Ailur's sometimes-brutal history.

Because of this, Nasonder is one of the few level areas in Kristala where you'll find both feline and rodent enemies...many of which are vengeful, tortured souls helplessly caught in limbo between life and death.

Here's a look at some of the torture tools Joe created that can still be found in the damp dungeons of Nasonder to this day—serving as grim reminders of the destruction and carnage that once took place in this most infernal of areas.


Level Design

With our recent decision to give our demo level a complete overhaul to better match the realistic look and feel of our new player character, we didn't make a ton of new progress in terms of level design this sprint.

Instead, our Level Design team took some time this month to carefully comb over the existing environment and plan out the individual changes and revisions that will need to be made in order to get the Kristala demo level where we need it to be.

We're really looking forward to seeing all the exciting updates we have in the works for the Dalamase swamp, but for now we're just having fun enjoying a few vintage Kristala gameplay clips that feature the demo level as it currently stands.



This month in programming land, Studio Owner and sometimes Programmer, Tiffany, tackled a few bugs we found within our demo Tutorial section, including finally getting the icons functioning as they should and then properly setting them up in the appropriate menus.

They now update when you switch from controller to mouse/keyboard. Win!

Tiff also updated a bunch of the icon prompts to enable the option to manually set icon size and change font color and family.

Then, Tiff discovered how to get the icon display widget onto the interact widget before updating the settings widget and swapping out a few inputs so they work properly in game. Here's a look at some of these updates.

Speaking of improving menu functionality, Tiff was able to make it so the icons in our Settings menu possess the functionality to display dual buttons (like the special attack LT + RT), which will ultimately help us with input mapping in the future.

The menu now also displays Ctrl, Shift, Alt, and Cmd keys if/when they're mapped that way.

Lastly, Tiff made some revisions to the Boss and Tutorial Walls we're working on implementing in game, adding a smoke effect and redoing the materials on the wall itself to make it more accurately match the visual we have in mind for these access-barring assets.

The walls will prevent players from entering various restricted areas until certain tasks have been completed—like defeating a boss or completing the tutorial section.

We may ultimately end up altering how these walls appear, but we figured we'd show off the work Tiff got done on them thus far.


Concept Art

Over the past several weeks, our Character Concept Artist, l_aciel, has been working on completing a detailed concept featuring the base armor sets for our three variants of Kotakayan soldiers.

This sprint, l_aciel was finally able to fully finish this ongoing concept. We gotta say...we really love how these guys turned out.

We're especially diggin' the random, scraggly tufts of fur that can be seen poking out of the biggest ratty boi's armor set.

With l_aciel hard at work on the Kota armor concepts, Environmental Concept Artist, Ila, has been working on a few environmental pieces featuring the Nisargan capital city of Nisar.

Ila has already created three beautiful concepts that depict the sprawling beauty and colorful villages of Nisar. This sprint, she was able to get started on a fourth piece that showcases the wonderfully ethereal Kristal Cave of Nisar.

Though this is just a rough first pass on the concept, here's a look at Ila's progress on the Kristal Cave piece so you can get a feel for its general look and feel.

Stay tuned to next month's dev blog issue for a look at the finished piece!


Rigging / Animation

In the last issue of the Kristala dev blog, we showed off the progress our Studio Founder, Game Producer, and resident Rigger/Animator, Allie, made on the custom facial rig for our new character model.

This sprint, Allie was able to fully finish the facial rig after working on the jowl, nose bridge, and bottom-lip control joints.

With Allie's final adjustments, we now have incredible accuracy and control over the character's face. Since she utilized more than just blendshapes for this rig, Allie will now ultimately be able to make the character's facial animations much more detailed and expressive.

With the facial rig finished, Allie then continued her work on implementing the new character model into the game build.

While checking the character in UE4, Allie discovered a strange issue affecting the model's arm, neck, and hip that was creating random misalignments in the model's skinning.

Stranger still, the issue seemed to only affect the alignment on the left side of the model's body, leaving the right side inexplicably unaffected.

Here's a look at a few screenshots from Unreal Engine that show the odd misalignments we referenced above. Once Allie fixes these areas and properly re-rigs the model's teeth and tongue, she'll finally be ready to fully get the character implemented.


Events - Kristala Featured at IWOCon 2020

Kristala has been accepted as an official selection at the 2021 IWOCon digital convention, running Friday, March 26th through Friday, April 2nd!

Sail the high indie seas with all of us here at Astral Clocktower Studios, plus countless other indie developers as you explore the map in a fun, engaging mobile app.

You can wishlist the IWOCon app now on Steam! Also, be sure to check out this recent issue of IWOCon Dev Talk to read an interview for IWOCon featuring yours truly. ;)


Sound Design

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.


Kristala Stream Team Corner

Here's a look at some of our favorite dev stream moments from the Twitch vault.

Although we're not currently live streaming on a regular basis, we'll let you know where you can catch more in-depth development streams for Kristala super soon. Stay tuned!


Thanks for tuning in to another installment of the Kristala Game Dev Blog. If you've been enjoying our monthly development updates, we wanna hear about it!

Register for a site account and leave us a comment, or join our Discord community to chat directly with the members of our dev team and stay up-to-date on all things Kristala. You can also follow our dev journey on social media via the links below.

Until next time, thank you for your continued support...and thanks for stopping by.

-The ACS Games Dev Team


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