The Kristala Dev Blog - Issue #22

Hello, all you beautiful boos and glorious ghouls! We're heading into spooky season, and there's no better way to celebrate an eerie action-adventure game than diving into the newest issue of the Kristala game dev blog.


If you're just joining us, welcome home! This is the only place where you'll get a monthly, in-depth look at the development process for our inaugural title, Kristala - an enchantingly delightful 3D dark fantasy action RPG developed lovingly with Unreal Engine 4.


As we move into the final quarter of 2020, our (incredibly good-lookin') dev team has been churning out new and exciting updates that we can't wait to share with you.



Kristala Featured at IWOCon 2020


Before we take a look at what's hot and fresh from the game dev oven, we first wanted to present an exciting announcement that we've been bursting at the seams to share with you.


Kristala has been approved as an official selection for the 2020 Indie World Order digital convention, IWOCon! We can't wait to exhibit the game alongside so many other talented independent creators, especially because IWOCon isn't like regular cons...it's a cool con.


Why, you ask? While most virtual conventions tend to be....well, conventional....IWOCon cleverly presents its games via a totally unique and interactive exhibition that invites you onto the salty shores and sand-riddled beaches of IWO island.


Anchor the ship and explore your way through various booths as a rogue pirate destined for fun and adventure. Come, sail away with us into the heart of indies...and don't forget yer eye patch an' parrot, matey!



We'll be sharing much more about this exciting con in the coming weeks, but for now, make sure you head on over to the IWOCon Steam page and Wishlist the app now to ensure you don't miss out on the fun.


There will be rum!



3D Asset Design


In our last issue, Nick had rounded out the month of August by getting started on the assets needed for our Nasahara Ruins level. Specifically, Nick was moving forward on the models that will detail the Kotakayan encampment located within the heart of this abandoned city.


Once upon a time, Nasahara was a thriving Anagativan mecca in Nisarga clan territory. The peaceful Nisargans used the village for trade, dining, and entertainment - holding lavish theatrical performances in the great, hulking coliseum that stands watch over the city.


When the Mad Kotakayan King waged war on Nasahara and set its streets ablaze, the Nisargan denizens fled in search of safer ground. Sadly, Nasahara's booming economy never recovered and, decades later, its crumbling, scorched remains have slowly been reclaimed by nature - and now the Kotakaya too.


Here's a look at Nick's progress on the 3D models for this bustling Kota encampment.



Speaking of the great Nasaharan Coliseum, last issue we shared the progress our 3D Environmental Modeler, Cass, had made on the large, detailed model for this important Nisargan structure.


As we alluded to above, the Nisargans used the coliseum primarily for entertainment, where the clan's talented thespians performed dramatic sagas, laugh-inducing comedies, and terribly tragic tales for the amusement of all who gathered near.


As the creatives of Ailur, none could put on a show quite like the Nisargans, which made the burning of Nasahara even more devastating to this peaceful clan.


Though no performance has been held in the coliseum since the Great Kota Rebellion, some say eerie laughter can still be heard emanating from its walls at night, leading many to believe the aging coliseum is some sort of portal for spirits stuck in transition.


Here's a look at Cass's finished model for the coliseum, complete with unwrapped UVs and applied textures.



Now that he's finally finished with the coliseum, Cass moves on to another important modeling task: detailing the cavernous sewer systems that run beneath the charred streets of Nasahara.


Nasahara's sewers play an important role in the gameplay progression for Kristala. And, as you might imagine, they're absolutely crawling with creepy creatures that are hungry for a taste of Anagativan flesh.


Here's a look at Cass's initial model for one of the sewer pipes that will comprise Nasahara's underground system. This particular piece was used to test the general size of the structures, so expect some changes to this model in future dev blog issues.



This month, we welcomed a new 3D Generalist, Karena, to our team. In addition to her impressive modeling skills, Karena is also well-versed in animation and now lends her double-threat talents to the ACS Games dev family.


While you'll get an introduction to Karena's animation work later in this issue, let's first take a look at our newest team member's modeling skills.


Karena began working through a list of assets needed for the Nisarga clan's capital city of Nisar. This impressive city is the largest in Nisargan clan territory and serves as the home for many of this nature-loving clan's most prominent citizens.


First, Karena tackled a few different variants of a simple picture frame that will be used throughout the Nisargan dwellings that pockmark Nisar.


Much like the rest of the objects found in the lush, forested lands of Nisarga, Karena took great care to add elements of the natural world to each of her models - like the raw wood details and green vines used on the frames below.



After finishing up the frame variants, Karena then moved on to creating a few versions of night stands that will be added to the list of furnishings that detail the treehouses of Nisar.


While some of her models resemble more traditional furnishings, others appear much rawer and unfinished - highlighting the organic aesthetic of the Nisarga clan.


Which of the below variants is your favorite? Let us know in the comments section below.



Did you know that each of the six Anagativa clans of Ailur all have a very unique lifestyle and aesthetic that's based on the topography of their individual clanlands?


Because of the denseness of the Ailuran forests, the Nisargans claimed their territory amongst the sprawling treetops of the massive Jhacanda trees that dominate their lands.


Not only do these sky-high villages allow the Nisargans to connect with the natural world, they also provide a distinct offensive advantage that allows members of the clan to spot dangers and avoid potential conflict well before either arises.


This sprint, we had 3D Generalist Shelly try her hand at creating a base for the trees that will eventually house these massive, airborne treehouse villages.


After nailing down an initial model, Shelly then went back in and refined the tree and its branches, altering her work so models would actually support the addition of a house. These are still a very early work in progress, but check out what Shelly's got thus far:



Shelly also lent her impressive texturing skills this sprint to some of the picture frame models Karena created. Stay tuned for updates on the trees and their houses - plus more of this beautiful texture work - next issue.



Last month, we shared the updates 3D Character Designer, Bianca, made to the Nisargan forest nymph NPCs she's been working on over the past few weeks.


Since then, Bianca made some incredible refinements to the nymph model, including the beautiful work you see below on the character's hair. We can't believe how soft, silky, and lifelike it looks - even in such an eclectic assortment of colors.


Pretty impressive, right?



After nailing the nymph, Bianca shifted her attention over to the base model she's been working on for our Kotakayan soldiers.


You'll be battling all kinds of intense enemies and badass baddies in Kristala, but none will be more prevalent than these Kota fiends. You may think it's the classic story of cat vs. rat, but you'd be wise not to discredit the entirety of this rodent-like race.


In truth, many Kota don't wish you harm. These soldiers, however, are at the mercy of higher-ranking commanders, and will do almost anything to please the powers that be. Make sure you keep your eyes sharp and your wits about you along your journey, young warrior.


These enemies come in all shapes and sizes, but here's a look at where Bianca's at on this initial base variant. You can really see the progress she made over the past sprint, and we can't wait to show off the finished piece in the coming weeks.



As you may know, we recently decided to give the model for our Anagativa player character a complete overhaul to better match its gorgeous concept. In our last issue, we shared a look at Character Modeler Pete's initial work on the revisions, and we're absolutely elated to update you on the progress he's made since then.


Because many of our story's major characters and NPCs are Anagativan - anthropomorphic feline/human hybrids - Pete took the time this sprint to model several variants of head shapes, necks, and ears.


This additional work to the sculpt will make it super easy for us to mix and match various details moving forward in order to generate a motley crew of unique characters while still maintaining proper Anagativa anatomy.


Ultimately, this will save us a ton of work in the years to come, and we couldn't be more appreciative of Pete's time and careful attention to detail. Behold!



Once final adjustments had been made to the model, Pete then tried his hand at a first pass using the XGen hair tools to give these Anagativa models a coat of realistic, lifelike fur.


In working with the tool, however, Pete realized it may not be the best option for the shorter fur we want for our tabby-like Nisargan characters. Essentially, in order to provide proper short-fur coverage, we'd need to use a ridiculous number of splines, which might ultimately become too much for Unreal Engine to handle. No bueno.


For now, Pete will continue testing with the XGen tool and export the model to see what we might be able to get away with without compromising performance in UE4. Stay tuned!




Programming


This sprint, Gameplay Programmer Will spent the bulk of his time addressing bugs within our current demo build and amending the tutorial section in order to force players through it and prevent them from accidentally missing crucial gameplay information.


First, Will reworked the system for enemy respawns before making revisions to a few pickups that were causing wonky camera issues. He also fixed a broken target-cycling bug and made some changes to the way the game loads vs. reloads to ensure respawn and reload functionalities work as intended.


Will then set up the functionality for our Pause and Equipment menus that walks players through the proper way to equip items and navigate the menu system. Afterwards, he applied the same logic to the Kristal Checkpoint and Magic Skill Tree menus too.


Here's a look at some recent gameplay footage that shows off many of these elements.




Level Design


For the past few months, Level Designer Joey has been piecing together the city of Nasahara, taking care to properly construct the charred, abandoned aesthetic we're going for.


This sprint, Joey was able to start placing some of the pieces 3D Asset Designer Nick created for the Kotakayan encampment that's nestled within Nasahara's walls.


Once Joey's done placing all assets, he'll then go back through the entirety of the level and begin strategically placing vines and greenery to make it appear as if nature has started to reclaim this once-great, now-abandoned city.


Let's take a peek at some of the progress shots Joey shared with the dev team over the course of this sprint.



Although we're incredibly excited to be moving forward with development for Kristala and building out new levels, we're still taking the time to carefully ensure our nearly completed Dalamase swamp level is as polished and engaging as possible.


Luckily, we have Lead Level Designer Tiffany's keen eye for both detail and smart gameplay leading the initiative.


This sprint, Tiff kicked things off by making some adjustments to the swamp environment based on some feedback we received from QA testers who tried out our PlayNYC convention build.


First, Tiff addressed the fog materials used in the Dalamase environment, updating it in various areas of the Kristala demo level (like the Kristal Checkpoint walkway) in order to create smoother transitions as players travel from no fog to fog.



Tiff then addressed other areas of the swamp environment, adding reactive water blueprints and materials and adjusting emissive strength to make the water more prominent in the dark atmosphere.



Tiff also came up with a clever way to help direct players within the water villages of the swamp - a revision made based on feedback received from those who played our convention build.


To thwart any confusion about proper gameplay progression in these abandoned fishing villages, Tiff implemented a color-based system that will alert and guide players when they are - or aren't - traveling in the proper direction. Pretty cool, right?



In addition to making some revisions to the Dalamase, Tiff also started work on detailing the initial biomes for each of the six Anagativa clan territories based on the concepts l_aciel created that were featured in last month's issue of the dev blog.


Specifically, Tiff worked on the layout for the tundra-dwelling Tandara clan. As a reminder, here's the concept Tiff's working from as she builds out this wintry wonderland:


And here's the work Tiff completed thus far on the in-game version. These biomes will of course be found in the game itself, but we're also building them out for a special reason that we'll share with you soon, but for now...enjoy Tiff's beautiful work thus far.




Concept Art


Last sprint, we shared l_aciel's base concept for the Kotakayan sentries that will constantly be patrolling as you embark on your Raksaka Proving in the Kristala demo. Though not all Kota are bad, these soldiers are acting under the direct orders of the leaders of the Kota rebellion.


Because you'll be meeting a lot of these whiskered fiends along the way, we knew we'd need several different variants to ensure we avoid any chance of model fatigue or repetitiveness.


As you can see from l_aciel's finished concepts below, these soldiers will vary in color, size, and level of difficulty. The smallest and weakest of the concepts is the one 3D Character Designer, Bianca, is using as a reference for the Kota soldier models we shared above too.


Now that this concept is finished, l_aciel will work on further detailing the Anagativan armor concepts we shared in Issue #20 of the Kristala game dev blog.




Animation / Rigging


We already shared the picture frame and bedside table models our newest 3D Generalist completed, but modeling isn't the only trick Karena has up her sleeve.


As is the case with many of our team members, Karena is a bit of a double threat. In addition to lending us her modeling skills, she's also volunteered to do some animation for us too.


We had Karena try her hand at animating a water wheel that will be part of a side quest in the Kristala demo. After animating the first gear, Karena shared a few tests with the team before completing the entire piece.


Here's a look at Karena's process. We're looking forward to seeing what additional rigging and animation projects we can set her loose on in the future.



While Karena tackled the water wheel, our Game Producer, Allie, focused her attention on rigging the updated model for our female main character in order to both amend and apply animations to it.


Because most of the animations Allie used for our existing character are customized, several tweaks will need to be made to each existing animation in order to properly work with our new model. We're looking forward to seeing this new badass kitty cat in action.



In addition to rigging the new character model, Allie spent a bulk of this sprint rigging the model for a boss character we've been keeping under wraps.


We're still keeping the secret safe for now (and we promise it'll be well worth the wait when we can finally unveil this creature to the world), but here are a few sneak peeks at the work Allie completed on this model thus far.


Now that the rigging is complete, Allie will bring this big baddie into the game build to see how it moves around in Unreal.



Sound Design


Need something sweet to feed your ear piece? Get a peek at the tracks that will be featured in the original soundtrack for Kristala by visiting our official Soundcloud page.


All songs are composed by our resident musical wizard, Adeel - who professionally goes by AdLibPiano - so be sure to head on over to his Twitter page and send him some love too.



Kristala Merch Alert!



Don't forget! We now have a Kristala merch store!


Make sure you check out our most recent products: the new 3"x3" and 5.5"x5.5" custom vinyl stickers and slaps. They're the perfect way to rep Kristala in your everyday life.



Kristala Stream Team Corner


Every week, members of our dev team stream their work LIVE at 9 pm EDT on Twitch.


Here's a look at some of our favorite stream moments from the month of September. Tune in live every weekday (except Mondays) to chat with our team and follow our dev journey.





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, dear friends...thank you for your continued support, and thanks for stopping by.


-The ACS Games Dev Team





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