The Kristala Dev Blog - Issue #29

Welcome back to another exciting issue of the ever-enchanting Kristala dev blog!


Although this is typically the only place where you can get a monthly peek into all the development that goes into Kristala—a 3D dark fantasy ARPG from female-lead Astral Clocktower Studios—things will soon be changing.


In a few months, we'll be kicking off our very own Patreon where you'll be able to get even more detailed and comprehensive dev blogs that include first looks at new models, inside access to previously unrevealed characters and NPCs, and a glimpse into how our programmers, artists, modelers, and animators do their thang.


Plus, for just a few bucks a month, you'll unlock access to exciting interviews, educational tutorials, informative walkthroughs, and intimate, live development streams hosted by various members of the ACS team.


We'll be sure to keep you posted on all the sweet deets as we near our Patreon launch date, so be sure to stay tuned to our socials and public dev blogs for updates and announcements (including an exciting kick-off contest where you can snag a FREE PS5). Score!


In last month's dev blog installment, we introduced you to the progress we'd commenced on the overhaul we're currently giving to the entirety of the Kristala demo—including characters, enemies, levels, and more.


Ready to see how things are going now in the fantasy world of Ailur? Let's dive in...



Concept Art


In our last issue, we introduced you to a bunch of new team members that recently joined our growing family, including our newest Environmental Concept artist, Harold. Right away, Harold dove into creating fresh, detailed concepts for each level area in the Kristala demo.


This sprint, Harold continued working through his list of concepts, starting with a few pieces that show off the small, abandoned fishing villages that lie at the heart of the Dalamase swamp.


During the Mad Kotakaya King's reign years ago, Dalamase was hit especially hard by the Kota rebellion and its Nisargan denizens fled the area in search of safer ground, leaving behind the aging shacks and algae-covered cabins that remain in Dalamase to this day.


Here's just one of the three concepts Harold created for these unique water villages. We really love the contrasting blue and orange tones in this piece.



With the concepts for the water villages complete, Harold then moved on to creating a piece that showcases the Graveyard area of the Kristala demo and its accompanying Mortuary House, a landmark that plays an important role in the demo's gameplay.


Here's a look at the front- and back-yard views of the Mortuary House area.



As you make your way through the Dalamase, you'll eventually encounter two bodies of water-like substances that tie into gameplay—a Poison Pit and a Leech Pit.


While you can probably make some assumptions as to what roles each Pit will play in the game based on their names, we're keeping the exact details under wraps for the time being.


For now, feast your eyes on these eerie and moody concepts.



What's a good fantasy ARPG without a mysterious Dark Forest and a creepy ol' Spider Maze? Those with arachnophobia beware, because we've got more than one eight-legged fiend that dwells in this dark and creepy level area.


Judging by the size of the webs in the concepts below, you better believe these babies are not only enormous, but also hungry for fresh blood.


If you want to see more of Harold's stunning concept pieces, be sure to stay tuned for details about how you can become a Kristala Patron and see even more gorgeous artwork.



With Harold tackling our environmental pieces, our newest Character Concept Artist, Amanda, took a stab at redesigning and imagining some of our demo's enemies (and by "took a stab at," we mean "absolutely killed it," of course).


Up first on Amanda's list of creepy crawlies was a redesign of the branch-like Twigativa enemies that are sprinkled throughout the Dalamase.


Although some of these Twiggies stand still and remain without sentience, others unexpectedly come alive without warning. The trouble, of course, is discerning which ones are just lifeless mannequins and which are poised to be a royal pain in the tail.


Here's a look at the concepts Amanda created for the Twiggies and their weapons.



Because the Dalamase is a swamp-like environment with plenty of darkness and moisture that's perfect for fungal growth, we knew we had to include some mushroom beasts in the demo.


We really love how Amanda took this task and ran with it—creating the two unique shroom creatures you see pictured below. It goes without saying, of course, but we're pretty sure that these fungi aren't actually fun guys...


For an in-depth look at these character concepts and their accompanying turn-arounds created for our 3D modelers, stay tuned for more information on our Patreon page where you can get a special, behind-the-scenes peek at our process.



Back in the world of environmental concepts, another of our artists, Ila, took on a concept from our ever-growing list of items and props.


Because of the curse that's befallen Ailur, many of its villages and towns possess a dreary and ominous aesthetic that makes the world of Kristala incredibly dark and dim. To help players see during gameplay, we've had to get creative with some of our light sources.


One such illuminating item is this adorable, glowing mushroom lantern Ila created. Be sure to check out our Environmental Modeling section for a look at this piece's 3D counterpart.



Next up in the realm of items and props are the Kotakayan weapon concepts pictured below that were created by our super talented Concept Artist, James.


If you're new to the Kristala dev blog, you may not yet know that our rodent-like enemies, the Kotakaya, are specifically designed to have a Victorian, steampunk flare...which means their blades and staves are adorned with lots of bronze and gears to amp up the steampunk vibe.


One of the magic staves James designed below was created for a super important Kota character that we'll be revealing in our upcoming Patreon content. Stay tuned for more details on how you can become a Patron and be the first to devour new Kristala character reveals.




3D Character Design


Last sprint, 3D Character Designer, Bianca, started blocking out the model for our new fish-mage Gilsanka enemies.


This sprint, she continued creating various details and refinements for her base sculpt—adding in aquatic webbing to the arm pits and shaping the spiky dorsal fins and back plates you see pictured in the screenshots below.


Bianca also modeled out the intricate ropes, shells, hooks, and cloth pieces that comprise the Gilsanka's armor. We especially love the scale-like indentations Bianca has started to add and we can't wait to see how he looks with painting and textures.


If you're curious about the backstory behind how the Gilsankan mage got its magical powers, stay tuned to the Kristala game dev blog so you can learn how to become a Patron and get exclusive access to Lore pieces featured in the Sagas of Kristala before anyone else.



In our last issue, we showed off the realistic fur our Lead Character Modeler, Pete, had started creating using hair cards and a custom fur shader.


This sprint, Pete continued on the fur journey by utilizing a plugin for Blender to edit the individual hair cards and have them follow a more orderly flow of fur. The plugin helps the fur look less rigid and scruffy looking, which ultimately helps us achieve a more lifelike look.


The texturing featured in the below video is just a stand-in, but you can see how this plugin helps us better tame this feline fur.



As Pete continued playing with the Blender plugin, the custom shader, and the hair cards, he got closer and closer to the realistic look of the fur that we're going for.


In order for the hair cards to work properly with the textures, the plugin, the shader, and the cards must all work in tandem. If Pete changed just one of the three even slightly, it would yield drastically different results on our character.


Take a look at the two screenshots Pete shared with us below to see how altering just one small thing changed the way the fur appeared.



After a ton of additional research and experimentation, Pete was finally able to get the fur to a place that really makes it look lifelike and realistic with our Nisargan player character's tabby-like textures applied.


This fur-creation process ended up being a huge undertaking for our modeling team, and we really learned a lot about how hair cards can be created and manipulated to achieve the results we're looking for.


If you'd like to get an in-depth tutorial about how to create realistic fur like this in Blender using hair cards and a custom shader, be sure to join our upcoming Patreon for a step-by-step walkthrough from Pete.



Earlier in today's issue, we showed off the revised concept our Character Artist, Amanda, created for the Twigativa enemies featured in the Kristala demo.


This sprint, one of our 3D Generalists, Nick, started modeling the base for this branch-like baddie. Although the silhouette for this creature is relatively simple, its twiggy details proved far more challenging than initially thought.


Luckily though, Nick was able to get a nice head start on replicating the stiff and mannequin-esque vibe of this enemy's concept. Catch more of Nick's work in the Environmental Modeling section coming up next.




3D Environmental Design


Over the past few weeks, our 3D Environmental Modelers, Cass and Hassan, have been working on modeling and texturing the various shacks and cabins that pockmark the Dalamase swamp.


Because there are several water villages featured in the Kristala demo, we wanted to create a nice selection of varied swamp-house models to make the environment super unique and dynamic so as to avoid model fatigue.


Here's a selection of some of the models Cass and Hassan whipped up this sprint.



As we've alluded to several times already in today's issue of the dev blog, many of the villages that dot the Dalamase were erected over various bodies of boggy swamp water.


Why? Before it was ravaged and taken over by the Mad Kota King's army, the Dalamase was a booming fishing town known for its rare selection of exotic fishes. Its denizens built their villages right on the water so they could catch their wares at a moment's notice.


Naturally then, the houses featured in these water villages would need some connecting bridges to allow Nisargan fisherfolk to navigate from one structure to another. Here's a few of the bridge models Cass and Hassan created for this very purpose.



Last issue, we showed off the models our 3D Generalist, Karena, started working on for the crystal consumable items players can use to access our warp system.


After finishing up the piece, however, we realized that the model and its textures didn't quite match the realistic look we were going for with these chunks of crystal shards—even with a sweet glass material Karena added to create some additional depth and dimension.


After several attempts at finessing the piece, Karena decided to scrap the initial sculpt and start over from scratch. We're really diggin' the realistic look of the new model so far, and we can't wait to see how it turns out. Stay tuned!



We already showed off Nick's work on the new Twigativa enemy models in the 3D Character Design section of today's dev blog, but that's not all he worked on this sprint.


In addition to the Twiggies, Nick also revisited a few of his old armor sets to add additional refinements and details that better match the vibe of our revamped demo level.


Specifically, Nick revised the fine stitching you see on the Nisargan Leather Leaf set pictured below. Just wait 'til you see this new armor set on our revised player character in the revamped Kristala demo level.



Last up on Nick's to-do list this sprint was modeling some of the clubs, blades, spears, and staves our fish-mage Gilsanka enemies wield. We're obsessed with all the sea-like details included in these weapons—like the barnacles, claws, and rusted metals.


These are just a small sampling of the Gilsanka weapons. If you'd like to check out the full selection, stay tuned for details on how you can become a Patron and get a detailed, inside look at how we design and model our weapons and armor.



If you've been staying up to date with the Kristala dev blog, you'll know that our third 3D Generalist, Joe, has been working on modeling the gigantic Jhacanda tree featured in our Treehouse Clearing level area.


As its name suggests, this towering tree holds in its branches a large Nisargan treehouse that may or not contain valuable treasures to help you during gameplay.



With the tree finally finished, Joe then shifted gears to work on a list of items and props needed for our eerie Nasonder level.


During the Great Kota Rebellion, Nasonder served as an underground dungeon that held hundreds of Anagativan POWs. In addition to being held against their will, the prisoners were tortured daily by savage Kota soldiers driven by a deep and dark hate.


Some remnants from this bloody Rebellion—like the torture table Joe created below—can still be found in Nasonder's cells to this day. Travelers beware...



To round out his sprint, Joe began modeling a glowing mushroom lantern that'll help light your way as you traverse the murky, overgrown pathways of the dark Dalamase.


Using the concept we showed off earlier as his guide, Joe effortlessly captured the whimsical allure of this helpful prop. He's still working on adding some more detail to the lantern and some varied color to the mushrooms and crystals, but we already love where this is headed.




Level Design


Revamping our entire demo level is no easy task, but there's no one better suited to take on the challenge than our talented Level Design team.


Over the past few weeks, our Lead Level Designer, Tiffany, has been carefully blocking out the revised version of the Dalamase, placing materials and detailing each level area to match the dark and whimsical concepts created by our Concept Art team.


Tiff naturally started with the initial level area you'll encounter in the demo—the very first Kristal Checkpoint of the game.



After getting the landscape materials and swamp assets laid out, Tiff then started adding vines and moss to the trees, strategically placing some glowing mushrooms, and establishing the right amount of ferns and additional plant life to help set the mood.


She also played around with the lighting and set up a cool fog material to amp up the fantasy aesthetic even further. Take a look at these stunning graphics that highlight just how much careful detail Tiff is putting into the new level.