Hello, dearest of friends and finest of high-fantasy enthusiasts!
Welcome back to the newest issue of the Kristala Dev Blog, a monthly compilation chronicling all the magic and mystery the Astral Clocktower Studios dev team puts into indie ARPG Kristala every development sprint.
The last time we met, we were right in the thick of preparing an early, pre-demo build of Kristala for unveiling at the PlayNYC virtual convention.
While the virtual nature of the event itself prevented us from fully interacting with the folks who downloaded our build and gave it a whirl, we're incredibly pleased with the feedback we received and have been working hard since its conclusion to address bugs and improve overall performance.
We've got a lot of awesomeness to share with you today, so let's get right to it, shall we?
3D Asset Design
As has been the case for the past couple months, 3D Asset Designer, Nick, has steadily been chipping away at the long list of models he's working on that will be used to help detail our Nasahara Ruins level.
Ages ago, the Mad Kotakayan King unleashed a deadly siege on the once-great town of Nasahara, an Anagativan city located in Nisargan clan territory. The crushing attack left Nasahara burnt and crumbling, forcing its frightened denizens to flee to surrounding towns and cities for refuge.
To properly convey the lasting carnage that still haunts the empty streets and throughways of this ghost town, Nick's been focused on adding charred details to all his Nasahara 3D models.
This sprint, Nick started by finishing up the few items that remained on his furniture list - including sound and destroyed variants of two different dresser types, a twin bed, a queen bed, and a bunk bed.
Next, Nick created two variants for all four of the vendor signs that will be featured in the Nasahara Ruins level, then finished up a couple pieces for the Clocktower Park - an area within Nasahara that, as its name suggests, serves as a cheeky little homage to the studio name.
You can get a peek at our current progress on the Clocktower Park in our Level Design section below, but first take a look at Nick's gorgeous signage and beautiful flower boxes.
After finally finishing up the furniture, signs, and flower boxes, Nick shifted gears to his list of assets for the Kotakayan Encampment, a small settlement of Kotakayan sentries that lies within the borders of Nasahara.
He first tackled the Kota commander's tent, table, and chair; then finished up the soldiers' tents and cot, as well as a lean-to tent variant and a few other specific furnishings for important generals and Kota forces.
To round out this sprint, Nick whipped up a few bedside tables, a kitchen table and chair, a cooking station, some cots and stools, a few picture frames, and a set of utensils.
While Nick tackled the models for the small details in Nasahara, 3D Environmental Designer, Cass, continued his work on the enormous and beautiful model for the crumbling coliseum that serves as a focal point of Nasahara.
First, Cass finished up the structurally sound model for the coliseum before going back in and performing some demolition work on the building to give it the same damaged, aged feel as the rest of the ruined area.
Now that he's done with the model itself, Cass will focus on unwrapping the UV's before getting started on the detailed texturing for this colossal beauty.
Last issue, we shared the progress our 3D Generalist, Shelly, had made on her revisions to the six ancient crystal shards that serve as the focal point of Kristala's main storyline.
Before the great Shattering and the coming of the crystals, the Anagativa were just regular felines, and the Kotakaya looked like nothing more than your standard, unassuming rodents.
Because of their importance to both the story and the game, it was important to us to make sure the models for the six Sacred Crystals were not only unique, but beautiful and enchanting too. With Shelly's keen eye for detail (and impressive modeling and texturing skills), she's been able to capture exactly that with her new and improved crystal models.
As a reminder, the three crystals we showed off in Issue #20 of the Kristala Dev Blog are shown first, and the three additional crystals Shelly finished up this sprint are below. Let us know what your favorite one is in the comments section.
The Sykomanans are masters in matters of the mind - gifted in the mental arts of both telepathy and telekinesis. To represent this, Shelly played around with a few different designs before settling on the final crystal below.
Hungry for the light and moved by the intense energy of the sun and the storms, the Lyuminans have discovered how to use their sacred crystal to harness raw energy from light. You can see the intense, bright light captured within the Lyumina crystal Shelly created.
Wondering why there's a big crack in the Lyuminan crystal? You can read about the lesson the Lyuminans learned about never taking more than what's needed in this installment of our biweekly newsletter series, The Sagas of Kristala.
The island-dwelling Keozans claimed their clan territory at the base of a great active volcano. They utilize the hot magma of Ailur's core to forge awe-inspiring weaponry and armor. Their sacred crystal features a fiery inferno of molten rock and flame.
After finishing up her work on the sacred crystals, Shelly then tried her hand at creating a couple "Game Save" icons and graphics to be used throughout the Kristala game.
The colors of the graphics will change based on the colors of the clan whose territory is currently being traversed - or the color of the clan you're currently playing as (we haven't decided which it will be yet, but we're playing around with both options).
For the graphics below, Shelly utilized the bright green of the nature-loving Nisargans. The Nisarga clan is the only clan that will be featured in the Kristala demo. In the full version of the game, you'll be able to play as the Chosen Warrior from the clan of your choice.
Next, Shelly started a base model for our mutant fox enemy.
Though this isn't one of Shelly's most pressing tasks - and she'll be shifting focus to a few action items that are a bit more important in the coming sprint - we'll certainly share updates on this sly fiend as we receive them.
Speaking of more important tasks, Shelly has become the resident texture expert of the Astral Clocktower Studios dev family.
As such, she's been working through some of our old, existing models to give them all a bit of a facelift (like the models for the Sacred Crystals we shared above).
Here's a look at one of the revamped swamp houses that will be featured in the Kristala demo.
As Shelly's last task this sprint, she leant her video-editing skills towards adding some gorgeous effects to the final slides of the gameplay teaser Producer Allie created.
You can get a look at the full teaser in our Game Production section below, but for now, here's a sneak peek at one of the frames Shelly worked her magic on.
Last issue, we shared 3D Character Designer Bianca's progress on the model for our Nisargan forest nymph NPC. This sprint, Bianca continued tweaking and refining the model, adding detailed clothing and experimenting with hair cards and skin color.
Bianca manually did the retopology for the nymph, unwrapped and laid out the maps, baked the details, and started to spend time learning more about texturing in Substance Painter.
We're still refining the details of how these nymphs will interact with our players, but you can look forward to them being temperamental and quick to anger! We can't wait to see what else Bianca does to these beauties to give them that magical Kristala touch.
In addition to the forest nymphs, Bianca also got started on a base model for our Kotakayan soldiers. Although this model is currently in its infancy, we know Bianca will knock it out of the park. Stay tuned for updates in future Kristala dev blog issues.
As we get closer and closer to completing the vertical slice for Kristala, we've been working tirelessly to ensure all our 3D assets and models accurately reflect the level of polished professionalism we want Kristala to convey.
Part of this initiative includes refining the player character's model so that it closely matches the incredible concept art l_aciel has created for our Anagativan beings. Although Pete joined our team as a second Concept Artist (and is damn good at it too), he's proven to be an equally talented Character Modeler.
Because of his work on a ridiculously gnarly boss we're currently keeping under wraps (as well as the beautiful retexture he recently gave our existing player character), we knew Pete would be more than qualified to handle the task.
We'll have many more updates to share on the new model for our main character in the coming weeks, but for now, here's a look at an early progress shot Pete shared with our dev team. We can't wait to see what else he has in store.
In preparation for PlayNYC, Will spent most of his time this sprint fixing various bugs for enemy behaviors, spells, pickups, and stats. He also addressed some last-minute, temporary needs - like writing the content for our PlayNYC build's tutorial widgets.
The widgets were aimed to walk players through the pertinent information they'd need in order to properly - and efficiently - tackle the gameplay demo we'd prepared for the virtual convention.
While studio co-owner and Lead Level Designer Tiffany put the widgets together in Unreal Engine (you can read more about her work in the following section), it was Will who penned the written content itself. Take a look!
In the actual Kristala demo, the tutorial section will look a lot different and will include interactions with some important NPCs that you'll come to know and love as you embark on your journey through Ailur.
Some of the additional fixes Will implemented were related to music transitions within the game build, correctly tracking/updating purchases made within the Skill Tree menu, adding pawn sensing to all AI enemies, and modifying noise triggers for walking too fast, sprinting, or performing a backflip.
Will then made a few changes to various pickup items to prevent them from falling through other objects in the game build. Here's a peek at some of the pickups you'll find in the demo.
Next, Will worked on modifying the Reaping Winds spell to better pinpoint various targets as it was occasionally missing enemies when deployed.
He also modified our Twigativa and Dalakin enemies to be more readily targetable, addressed some inventory issues that were preventing potions and other items from properly working, and began building a system to keep potions and equipment in inventory upon death.
Here are a few clips of our menu systems and consumables in action so you can get an idea of how they're intended to look - and work! - in game.
Because programming a game like Kristala is no easy task, we recently added an additional member to the ACS Games family.
Kristina joins us as our second Gameplay Programmer, and while she's still working to get caught up on all things UE4, she's also been working behind the scenes on some important administrative tasks for our QA team.
We're looking forward to sharing more of Kristina's work in future issues of the dev blog.
You've already read a lot about our Nasahara Ruins level in this and other issues of the Kristala game dev blog. The aging, abandoned city is filled with a ton of ancient history and lore, and holds an air of both magic and mystery too.
For the past couple months, our Level Designer, Joe, has been working hard to match the aesthetic of the Nasahara Ruins level with the vision we have for it in our mind.
In addition to ruined, crumbling houses and singed, char-caked walls and buttresses, Joe's been adding a lot of additional details and unique features that have really started to bring Nasahara to life - including the gorgeous clock tower that stands watch at the very heart of the city.
Here's a look at Joe's most recent work on the level; we're pumped to get our new player character into the Nasahara Ruins level so we can share some actual gameplay clips of this stunning, post-war city.
As the PlayNYC 2020 virtual convention approached, studio owner and Lead Level Designer, Tiffany, worked on some necessary dev-related odds and ends to make sure the build was as polished and pristine as possible.
First, Tiff implemented the widgets she and Will helped create for our convention build's tutorial section. Once implemented, Tiff then adjusted the widgets' size, added auto-setting inputs, addressed a few minor grammatical errors, and then finished up with actually placing the tutorial section within the game build.
Beyond setting up the tutorial widgets and addressing a few other programming-related issues, Tiff spent a lot of time trying to package the build for the convention.
When the convention had concluded, Tiff worked on addressing some of the bugs our QA Testers discovered while testing the alpha build of the Kristala demo, like changing up the LODs on all assets to help with GPU usage, fixing a few lighting errors, cleaning up various files, merging a couple building assets, and adjusting streaming volumes.
Tiff also worked on figuring out why the camera was getting sucked into the player character's body before addressing some collision issues and increasing the radii for pickups.
Now that the frenzy of preparing for the convention is over, we're excited to have Tiff back to unleashing her wizardry on our various levels in progress.
Now that she's finished up the concepts for each of our Anagativan clans' crests and armor sets, l_aciel shifted gears this sprint to our Kotakayan characters.
Here's a peek at some of the base concepts she recently completed for the various-sized Kota soldiers. Moving forward, our 3D Character Artists will use these concepts as a base for all Kotakayan warrior models.
In addition to the Kota concepts, l_aciel spent the majority of her time this sprint working on a few concept sketches that feature snapshots of what life is like in each of the six Anagativa clans.
Not only will these incredible sketches be used to help our modelers and level designers build out the six clan areas and accompanying levels, but they'll also be used in the gameplay trailer we've currently got in the works.
Which of these unique biomes would you love to visit the most?