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The Kristala Dev Blog - Issue #35

Greetings, beautiful beings! Thanks for joining us for another exciting and epic issue of the Kristala Dev Blog. We're so glad you're here.


If this is your first time joining us, welcome to the family! The dev blog is where we share all the behind-the-scenes dev action for Kristala, a 3D Dark Fantasy ARPG developed by the incredibly talented team at women-owned indie game studio, Astral Clocktower Studios.


Many of our friends who've already had a chance to play early builds of Kristala have lovingly referred to it as Cat Souls...and they're not wrong. Kristala does feel like a traditional indie Soulslike game in many ways, but we've also lovingly baked in a ton of elements that will appeal to fans of other genres too.


If you're into story-centric RPG games like Elder Scrolls Online, Skyrim, and Legend of Zelda, you're totally gonna be blown away by Kristala's in-depth narrative and all the intricate lore that's waiting to be unraveled.


In short, we don't like putting Kristala into any one box, and our overall goal is to create an epic video game that enchants and engages all players in some way, whether they're fantasy aficionados or combat connoisseurs.



 

Concept Art


When it comes to creating unique environments, characters, weapons, and other items—especially ones for an alien, fantasy world we dreamed up from scratch—we wouldn't get very far without our concept art team.


They're the ones that establish the initial overall vibe of the game world, and without our talented group of concept artists here at ACS Games, the world of Ailur wouldn't be nearly as cohesive and detailed as it is now.


And with a dark fantasy action RPG like Kristala, there's pleeenty of concepts to go around, especially when it comes to weapons and armor.


Take a look at some of the recent armor concepts our talented artist James created this month. Both the Nisargan (top photo) and Myrtunan (bottom photo) sets you see here are male versions of existing sets we'd already created for our female main character.


Ladies first, right? ;)




James also spent some time this sprint creating new crystal concepts for our Health and Mana consumables—plus some designs for custom VFX that will trigger when the crystals are consumed.


These items replace our existing potion consumables, a decision we made for a couple different reasons. First, we felt like potions tend to be heavily utilized in many existing RPG games, and while we dig potions, we also wanted something fresh that was a bit more in line with the world of Kristala.


Secondly, the animations that trigger when a potion is consumed take significantly longer to play out compared to the new VFX animations we have in the works for these crystal designs and results in having to halt the player while the animations play out.


With quicker animations, players will be able to heal up or get a boost in magic more quickly and without having to stop moving to perform the animation, which will definitely come in handy during intense moments of combat.


Here's a look at the designs for these new crushable crystal consumables (try saying that five times fast) followed by James's concept for the custom VFX that will trigger when a crystal is consumed.


  • Red Kristal = Health Consumable

  • Champagne Kristal = Eminence Mana Consumable

  • Purple Kristal = Malediction Mana Consumable






While rethinking our initial decision to use potions for the Health and Mana consumables featured in Kristala, we decided to work up a new design for our poison antidote consumable too.


Instead of a drinkable tincture, we landed on this poison shot James designed, which will definitely come in handy when traversing the abandoned villages and waterways of Dalamase.


You can also find several other items that will help protect you against poisonous flora and fauna you find along your Raksaka Proving...like a powerful shield that protects against toxicity and special fruits you can eat to better maintain your health.




Last up for James this sprint was to create a design for a new kind of pickup we'll be implementing in the Kristala game build: Kristal Memories.


These special pickups will reveal pertinent story information to players in the form of brief voice audio or cut scenes. While our written Journal pickups are optional to consume, these Kristal Memories will automatically play when picked up by the player.


We decided to implement them this way to highlight the connection hopeful Kristalans (those who are able to communicate with the six Sacred Kristals of Ailur) have with the Kristals themselves.


The Memories thus serve as key fragments from the past that the Sacred Kristals strategically reveal to players as they progress along their Raksaka Proving.



With James working through his list of concepts, our newest concept artist, Jud, tackled a redesign of the front gates of Nasahara, a once-thriving Anagativan city in the heart of Nisargan clan territory.


So, what happened to the city that makes us categorize it as once-great instead of just great? During the last Kota Rebellion, Nasahara was ransacked by the Mad King Edam's unrelenting army of soldiers.


The devastating attacks caused the city's denizens to flee for safety, leaving its streets, buildings, and homes charred and singed. Although the Mad King's army wasn't able to completely topple Nasahara, the damage had been done and it remains abandoned to this day.


You can read more about this terrible travesty as part of our ongoing lore series, The Sagas of Kristala: a rich compilation of stories detailing AIlur's past and chronicling the characters and events that drive Kristala's gameplay.



 

3D Modeling


Now that we're so close to completing the vertical slice for Kristala, our modeling team has been able to work ahead on assets for new levels and finish up some outstanding pieces still needed to fully finetune and detail Dalamase.


One such remaining item was this set of giant, moss-covered stone stairs 3D Generalist Bianca whipped up this month. Although these stairs were crafted to be placed in our Dalamase level, they will definitely be repurposed in additional levels too.




Each of the six clans has its own designated clan territory on planet Ailur, and at the heart of each territory lies the clans' capital cities. No matter which clan you choose to play as in Kristala, you'll always start your journey in your chosen clan's capital city.


Once she'd finished with the steps for Dalamase, Bianca then started working on some assets that will be featured in the Nisarga clan's capital city of Nisar.


Situated amongst the great Jhacanda forests of the west, Nisar features a series of treehouse villages connected by wooden platforms and winding stairways.


Unlike the abandoned Dalamase, Nisar is a bustling mecca of Nisarga's most prominent clan members, and important NPCs hailing from other clans—such as Brutus the Keozan Blacksmith.

Here's a look at some racks Bianca created that will be featured in the Blacksmith quarters.




Bianca wasn't the only member of our modeling team who worked on items for Brutus's dwelling this month. Our 3D Environmental Artist, Cass, also tried his hand at whipping up some tools and items to detail the Blacksmith hut located in Nisar.





Remember some of the items we mentioned earlier that will help provide a defense against poisonous plants and creatures you encounter in Dalamase? Well, the Nisargan Blight shield is definitely one of those items.


Featuring a series of clawed Anagativan hands clasped around a skull, this impressive shield is imbued with a powerful eminence magic that repels poison and venom.


We've shown off 3D Generalist Joe's progress on this shield in previous installments of the Kristala game dev blog, but after a few other minor tweaks and revisions, the piece is now completed and ready to be implemented in Unreal Engine.






With the Blight Shield now complete, Joe also spent some time working on the base model for a few candles in various states of use.


Because Kristala is a dark fantasy indie ARPG game, many level areas are either abandoned, set in a dark environment, or a combination of both. Because of this, we've had to come up with clever ideas for adding ambient light sources that aid visibility during gameplay.


You'll definitely find candles like these used heavily throughout the game.



Another 3D asset we've shown in various stages of progress over the last few issues of the dev blog is the Angler Dagger you see pictured below, created by 3D Generalist Karena.


This dagger is designed to resemble a fish, making it undoubtedly a blade that can be found in Dalamase, an old fishing village located on the outskirts of Nisargan clan territory.


Before it was ransacked by Kotakayan forces during the Great Kota Rebellion, Dalamase was a busy area for trade, especially the trade of exotic fish. Though the Angler dagger can be used to ward off enemies and challenge foes, its original use was intended for flaying fish.






We discussed earlier in today's issue how the starting point for each playable clan lies in its respective capital city.


This month, 3D Generalist Hassan worked on bringing the starting point for players from the Nisarga clan to life, including creating the treehouse that serves as the starting point itself, as well as a few pieces of furniture that will be placed inside.


Using a design from our concept art team as a guide, Hassan first began piecing together this stunning wooden abode, then carefully textured it to make it look properly aged and lived in.







With the shell for the starting point completed, Hassan then began digging into his list of secondary assets that will be used to detail this starting point as well as a ton of other houses and huts featured in Nisar.


We're blown away by how realistic this chair, writing desk, and couch look in Substance Painter...and can't wait to see what they look like once they've been added to Unreal and placed properly in the Kristala game build.


Check it out!





If our 3D Modeling section feels a bit light this month, that's because some of our team members have been working on a couple projects we've been carefully keeping under wraps for the time being.


Both our Art Director, Pete, and our Lead 3D Modeler, Fede, have been working behind the scenes on some asset and character models that will be included as part of a HUGE announcement we have coming soon.


Because this announcement is top secret, we can't reveal everything Pete and Fede have been working on just yet...but we can give you a little peek to hold you over in the meantime.


You can also join us on Patreon to be first in-the-know about this exciting project when reveal time comes.




 

VFX Design


This month, we welcomed a new team member to the Kristala dev family! Daryll joins us as an in-house VFX Specialist, just in time to bring some of artist James's VFX concepts to life to be included in our vertical slice.


We showed off the new crystal Health and Mana consumables James designed earlier as part of our Concept Art updates, and we're super excited to show off how Daryll brought them to life in Unreal Engine.


With the consumable effects completed, Daryll will now tackle all the custom VFX still needed for spells, enemy attacks, warps, and other goodies.


You can definitely expect to find those in future issues, but for now, here's a reminder of what James's 2D concept for consuming an Eminence Mana crystal looks like...followed by Daryll's 3D versions for both Mana crystals and the Health crystal.




 

Level Design


With only minor tweaks and detailing left to complete for the vertical slice of Kristala, our Level Designers have been able to start working ahead on new level areas and projects.


If you haven't heard already, we've got a super huge announcement coming before the end of the year, involving a project some of our team members have been working on behind the scenes in addition to the work we've shown off here.


Both Lead Level Designer Tiffany and Level Designer Ian spent a majority of this sprint working on said secret project, and while we can't show you progress shots from that project just yet, we can show you a bunch of gorgeous screenshots and clips from the vertical slice.


Here are some images from the most recent Kristala build so you can see how things are looking and coming together. Stay tuned to our socials for more information on our upcoming big announcement too.















 

Programming


In our last issue of the dev blog, we introduced you to a new addition to our Programming team...and this month, we welcome another new member into the mix: Gameplay Programmer Ricardo.


With a wealth of experience working with Unreal Engine (and particularly with enemy AI), we first tasked Ricardo with working on the behavior for a few of the enemies you'll meet in the vertical slice for Kristala.


Specifically, Ricardo worked on ensuring our Spider enemies are formidable foes when met in combat. Here's a peek at some of Ricardo's work from this sprint. We can't wait to see how these eight-legged creepy crawlies look in our Dalamase level.






Once the Spider AI was in a good place, Ricardo then spent some time working on implementing a climb functionality for our player character.


The ability to climb is one of the special skills you'll be able to acquire and level up on in the Feline Skill Enhancement leveling tree that will be fully functional in the full version of Kristala. For the vertical slice, however, only the climbing skill will be viable.


You can read more about the Enhancement tree when you get to Lead Gameplay Programmer Rodrigo's updates further down in this section, but for now...here's a look at some progress clips Ricardo snagged while working on the climb ability.




With Ricardo busy wranglin' spiders, Programmer Federico continued working through his growing to-do list as he further familiarizes himself with Kristala's code and standards.


First, Federico fixed an issue in our leveling menu, addressed a bug that was causing the game's Poison meter to show on screen after the player character was revived, and learned how we make Behavior Trees.


Once that was finished, Federico played around with the AI for our Leech enemies before turning his attention to the game's destructibles. After running into a few snags along the way, he was able to properly implement the code that allows players to destroy objects when dodging, rolling, or attacking.

Here's a video Federico recorded showing one of these issues he ran into while working with the destructibles.



While Ricardo worked on Spiders and Federico worked with our Leeches, Gameplay Programmer Julian spent some time ensuring our new Twigativa enemies were behaving properly in game, especially with the custom animations we recently implemented for them.


These Twiggy enemies are meant to resemble the feline-like Anagativa of planet Ailur. They're also the only enemy featured in Kristala's vertical slice that aren't native to the forests of Dalamase.


They were instead created by a special NPC for a specific purpose. We're keeping both the character and the reason the Twiggies were bestowed the gift of life under wraps for now, but here's some gameplay footage showing off Julian's work on the Twiggy AI.



Last up in the realm of Kristala Programming are some updates from our Lead Gameplay Programmer, Rodrigo.


This sprint, he was able to integrate Wwise for our Sound team to work with, adjust the health bar for enemies to only show for the individual enemy being targeted in the moment, add the new Kristal Memory items, and implement a new wooden shield as the starting shield in game.



Next, Rodrigo made some adjustments to our Equipment menu, adding our player character to the menu screen so that players can physically see new pieces of armor and new weaponry being swapped right on screen.


This is still a work in progress, but check out how this is looking so far. We really love the nice visual element this change adds to the menu system.




Remember that Feline Skill Enhancement Tree we mentioned up above? Rodrigo spent a bunch of time this sprint working on implementing the code needed to make the Tree functional, as well as setting up the Skill Tree in our menu system.


As you can see in the videos below, there are four categories for which you can acquire and level up on individual feline-related skills, including:


  • Stealth

  • Movement

  • Combat

  • Vision


For example, the Climb ability we were talking about earlier would fall under the Movement category. Locate pebbles and bricks made of Tiger's Eye throughout the game and cash them in on the Feline Skill Tree to boost your skill level and acquire new skills you don't already have.


We're so incredibly excited to see this particular skill tree in action in game. Stay tuned to future issues of the Kristala dev blog for more programming updates.




 

Rigging / Animation


Much like the rest of our dev team, our Animators, Klaus and Mario, have been working hard to ensure everything is squared away in the animation department before we package our vertical slice, including the custom movements for all enemies and our player character.


This sprint, our Lead Animator, tweaked and refined all the animations for the small variant of the Kotakayan soldiers you'll meet in combat in Kristala.


Here's a list of all the Kota soldier animations he finalized this month:


  • Attack and Combat Combos

  • Shield Bash

  • Idle / Idle Patrol

  • Directional Staggers

  • Directional Strafes

  • Walk / Run / Run with Shield Up

  • Shield Block


Klaus also made some amendments to the "hit wall" animation for our player character before handing it off to our programmers for implementation in Unreal Engine 4. Here's a look at that animation, as well as a few clips of some Kota soldier animations too.






With Klaus finalizing everything for our player character and Kota enemies, Mario continued to work through the custom movements needed for our poisonous, flea-like Gromphas enemies.


We've shown off Mario's progress on these toxic chompy bois in previous issues of the Kristala dev blog, and we're stoked to show off the polished versions in today's issue.


In addition to omitting a cloud of poison when provoked that will seriously eat into your Health bar if you breathe in too much, the Gromphas also summon smaller bugs to help attack you. You'd be wise to make quick work of these guys if you want to live longer.


Here's some gameplay footage featuring Mario's custom Gromphas animations in action. Stay tuned to future issues of the dev blog for more updates from our talented animation team.




 

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.


 

Thus concludes another rousing and exciting installment of the Kristala Game Dev Blog! We couldn't be more excited to be inching closer and closer towards the deadline for our vertical slice, and it's such a pleasure having you along for the ride.


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, sweet creatures, an immense and resounding thank you for your continued support...and, as always, thanks for stopping by.


-The ACS Games Dev Team










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