Over the course of the development of Secrets of Grindea, which has gone on for five (5!) years now, we’ve had many different ways of keeping track of decisions made in the past and where to head in the future.

Unfortunately they’ve varied in usefulness – turns out, simply talking about something in the group and then expecting everyone to remember the outcome of that conversation doesn’t work quite that well. In fact, more than once we’ve had the exact same conversation several times, with different outcomes, where people have changed their opinion over time, or we simply don’t remember which idea we thought was best.

To solve this we’ve used a variety of documentation methods – we’ve kept our meetings documented physically through a notebook I’ve (Vilya) brought to them, and sometimes we’ve used our “agenda” document (basically a to-talk-about list for each upcoming meeting) to document what we talked about and what it resulted in. There’s also been attempts to have a Upcoming Quests document, an Arcade Mode document (with future arcade mode mechanics), and a Story Mode document with random bits and pieces about the game written down randomly.

After trying to navigate through these documents for a while, searching for the answer to another one of our eternal “what did we say about subject x?” questions, I decided it was time to clean things up.

So, over the last few days I’ve been merging all of our documentation – the quest documents, the contents of my notebook, the Story Mode- and Arcade Mode- documents and ordered them properly in a single Google Docs document:

Documentation

In order to keep things easy to find, we decided to sort this new all-powerful list area by area in chronological order, starting with a “General” section for things affecting general gameplay (such as visible healthbars for co-op), and ending with all things Arcade Mode. Thanks to their “new” (at least, I hadn’t seen it before) outline feature, it became very easy to navigate through the content once I was done, but if the feature wasn’t available I’d probably created something similar in a regular text document, adding a table of contents in the beginning.

We’re very glad to have this new documentation method, which hopefully will save us some time when looking up what exactly we decided after having discussions, and why we came to that conclusion. It is likely we’ll still have to talk about some things again, of course, as we do tend to change our minds around – but at least now we don’t have to take it all from the beginning again!

Now, this week hasn’t been all about documentation, of course. We’ve also continued work on Tai Ming’s second zone (which is drawing closer and closer to completion, art asset wise anyway). In order to prepare for the Giant Thorn-worm battle, we’ve made a battle-worn version of the HQ outdoors:

HQBattle

We also continued on the government/administration building from last week, creating it’s present state as well:

Administration

Administration

..and finally, yet another character joins the fray! When I made this guy (yes, it’s a he – or it’s supposed to be, anyway), I had some a vision of some kind of mix between Remedi the alchemist in Evergrind City, and a vampire. Yeah I know, don’t ask where these ideas come from. I have no idea! Anyway, he’s supposed to sell potion in Tai Ming’s second zone, and here he is:

Portrait02

Portrait

That’s all for this week! Next week will most likely be an animation special, as I’ll be taking a couple days off (first vacation days this year!! wohoo) and probably won’t be around to write the next post :)

See you!

Last week I vaguely mentioned that we’ve been doing some puzzle prototyping! In fact, we’ve done quite a lot of it, and here’s the first sneak peek of our in-house testing of two of the puzzles in the upcoming puzzle cave you’ll have to make your way through!

The first one is the phase shift challenge, where you’ll phase through time to reach your goal. For this puzzle, you have to move mirror blocks around both in the past and the present! When we make the correct graphics for this, we’ll have to make some kind of indicator for where the time rift is on the puzzle (currently simple blue u-shapes in this sketch version):

PuzzleCave-PhasePuzzle

This is actually already the second iteration of this phase puzzle. The first one turned out to be more complicated than we first thought, even though the solution itself really wasn’t. The problem was that going back and forth in time really confused our brains (and, I admit, mine was the worst – I just panicked trying to figure out what to do, without finding a solution at all – ha)! So, we had to make the puzzle a bit easier. I guess we’ll save the mind-warping ones for an optional puzzle somewhere :)

Next up – the statue puzzle. Here you have to push some statues around, trying to figure our which one to move where. The only way of doing this is to cross check between the past and the present: where do I need to move statue x in order for it to hit button y as it falls? There’s also a hole that needs filling, and a cage of some sort holding a statue that needs to be released (currently illustrated by a barrel, hehe):

PuzzleCave-StatuePuzzle

I’m currently very positive about these puzzles – they make you think a little, but they’re not too hard to solve once you know what to do! Definitely looking forward to completing this puzzle cave and give it some proper artwork :)

Speaking of prototyping, Teddy has been hard at work creating the water transitions in Tai Ming’s second map! To celebrate his success, he made a guest post about it on my blog, but I’ll post it here as well:

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In game development, sometimes you encounter things that are so annoying to implement that you need to vent on someone else’s blog. This is one of those times.

watertransition

Task: make a short transition between low water and high water, to be played when you close or open the dam in Tai Ming. Easy enough, right? Well, yes, but sometimes it’s the easy things that end up melting your mind!

Here are the assets involved (excluding the background) in creating the transition above:

watertransition

The stuff in the pink square (top left) are overlays needed to preserve the illusion of depth. These had to be placed at heights intertwined with the stuff in the light blue square (bottom left), to make sure the right mass of water is behind and in front the right rock piece. Oh, and the rock pieces had to be cut out of the background with pixel perfect precision! The piece of grass was needed to hide the edge of the water on the left side.

In the dark blue section (top middle) are all the waterfall animations that Fred had to make! Each of them was a small puzzle of their own. The top four sprite sheets were pieces that can be used to create waterfalls of any height, needed for when the waterfall rises. This custom made waterfall must appear and disappear the correct way to fit with the “appear” and “disappear” animations. Note on the bottom spritesheet how the foam does not despawn until frame 5, meaning it must keep playing until then!

In the green square (middle bottom) you find Fred’s favorite pastime: animated water edges. These appear when the water has reached the top, hiding seams and creating some nice motion. Due to the uneven edges of the rock walls, however, these things don’t look proper at all while the water is moving! Something else was needed to hide the water’s edge during this period.

To this end, Fred made ten tiny particles, to be placed along the water’s edges! These are found in the red square (upper right). I had to be careful that these particles didn’t behave nonsensically, for example making sure that the water drops always flew away from the walls, to avoid water ripples on the vertical parts of the background.

After a few decades of fine tuning positions, timings, particle abundance and fading, we finally arrived at the point you see in the gif. I should’ve never quit law school!

Note: In reality, Teddy loves even the dreary parts of his job, and is quite happy he quit law school!

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Next on our interior list, we have the government/administration building (we just keep calling it random things), where your goal is to get a citizenship-emblem in order to progress the story. Since you’re not from Tai Ming, and have only spent a very short while in this town, this might prove harder to get than you’d first hope.

After all, with a several year long wait list to even visit the city, getting citizenship here must be quite hard indeed. But I guess, if you could find another way into the building, there’s a chance you might accidentally happen upon one of those citizenship emblems, and nobody would blame you for keeping it, right?

Administration

Administration

And finally, there’s this new character – another collector! Since Tai Ming has a Collector’s HQ, it’s only logical that there are a few collectors running around doing collector-y stuff:

portrait02

portrait

Where exactly this guy will appear and what he’ll do hasn’t been decided yet, but it’s likely he’ll be near the Collector’s HQ in map 2 :)

It’s been yet another week, and work on Tai Ming’s second zone continues!

Vilya has been making more interiors and characters, more boss testing has been made, there’s been some playing around with future puzzles… Lots of stuff! Let’s take a look at our more important new graphics:

First up, some new interiors. Moving below stairs in the Inn, it’s time to take a look at the inn’s storage room! Here the innkeeper stores whatever things he does not need, and it also houses something you need to progress the story:

StoragePast

StoragePast

StoragePresent

StoragePresent

The next house belongs to Tessen, the young girl you met in the first map of Tai Ming. She has now grown up to be a young lady, living in her own house in the second zone:

TessenHouse

TessenHouse

When making this map, we wanted it to resemble her grandfather’s home in the first zone, so we made sure to bring some of those items over in order to give the player a sense of recognition (hopefully)!

There’s also another character, with another portrait! This guy is another one of those “silly” portraits, featuring the villager in charge of Tai Ming’s dam. He’s kind of a slob and loves drinking, plus he tends to fall asleep on the job. Oh well, good thing you can take charge of raising and lowering Tai Ming’s water levels for him (and in doing so, reach some new places on the map)!

Portrait

Portrait02

Meanwhile, Fred has been cleaning up the boss animations, turning them from sketchy versions with stray pixels going wild here and there, to smooth and crisp finished animations! Take a look at these before and after versions of its dig- and tail wiggle animations:

CleanupDig

CleanupTail

This week we’ve continued working on the interior of Tai Ming’s second zone. Vilya started with the Inn, making a Past and Present version of its first floor:


InnF1Past

This past version of the floor will in time be filled with NPCs relaxing after a long day’s work, enjoying food and/or a drink! The present version, meanwhile..

InnF1

InnF1

…will house a fight! Which is the reason why we’ve removed some of the furniture, and made the tables lie on the floor (it’s usually better having less stuff blocking your way when you’re busy fighting).

We’ve also added another character, a scientist assistant whom you’ll meet in the Monkey lab:

Portrait01a

Portrait01b

Plus, some fixes here and there across the map:

Fixes02

Fixes01

Fixes03

Last but not least, Teddy and Fred have continued working on the worm boss, which is nearing a completed state gameplay-wise! Most of the graphics are still WIP, but here’s a taste of what our current inhouse prototype of this boss looks like:

Worm01

Worm02

Worm03

And to end this post, here’s a few complimentary animations of the above boss, made by Fred:

WormRoll

 

TailWhip

Hello guys! Another week has passed, and work with Tai Ming’s second zone continues :)

Vilya finished up the present version of the outdoors, with the exception of a few details and the area surrounding the Collector’s HQ – we might need to tweak the size of that part, so it’s paused until we’ve done some testing.

Zone02_graveyard

Zone02_graveyard

Zone02_lab

Zone02_lab

Since the interior of these buildings haven’t been finished yet, it’s possible (or even likely) we’ll add or change things around once we know exactly how they look. We also plan on ruining the chimneys of the monkey lab in some way, but haven’t gotten around to that just yet!

Meanwhile, Teddy and Fred have been hard at work prototyping the next boss fight, featuring the giant Thorn-Worm:

WormDig

WormSpawn

We just added a super early prototype of one of its attacks today for inhouse testing, so I’ll go back to doing that as soon as I’ve finished writing this blog post!

There’s also a couple of new characters on the block:

Portrait01

Portrait02

Portrait01

Portrait02

..aaand, we’ve finally decided what to do with that locked cave in the top left corner (seen in the graveyard GIF)!

Basically, the cave has turned into a series of puzzle challenges of various types. Some involve time travelling, others don’t – but the idea is that “hidden” inside the cave is a WIP ‘Puzzle World’, a place where the people of Tai Ming were supposed to be able to go to challenge themselves with some puzzles (after paying a hefty entry fee).

(Putting this area next to the graveyard might not have been the best marketing decision, of course.. Not the best place for something resembling a puzzle-themed amusement park!)

There will be five different rooms, plus an entry room where you’ll be introduced to the theme park WIP and its owner!

Room #1: Ancient Statue (enemy) Puzzle
Here you’ll have to use the statue enemies in a creative way to solve a puzzle with several buttons!

Room #2: A Key + Monkeys
Here you need a key to get to the next room. Only problem is, there are a bunch of monkeys also wanting the key, and they won’t let you have it! You’ll have to kill the right monkey before he throws the key to one of his friends.

Room #3: Path Puzzle
In this puzzle there will be statues (or other things), which you can move around in the past, that will fall in different direction in the present. With this knowledge, you have to push the right statue to the right place in order to fill a series of holes in your path to the next room!

Room #4: Combat Room
The puzzle here has long since stopped working, and instead you’ll have to battle a series of enemies.

Room #5: Phase Shifting
A puzzle room originally sponsored by the crew at the Flying Fortress, now it’s an advanced phase shifting puzzle where you have to shift through time!

As always, typically of Pixel Ferrets, we’ve probably overdone this a bit – turning our vague encounter & 1-2 puzzle cave into a ancient half completed theme park-ish thing! However, there aren’t that many rooms, and the mechanics will hopefully be kind of straight forward (here’s to hoping)! :)

Are you ready for some super early Monkey previews? Good, cause here they are:

Monkey01

So, this is a very early prototype! One thing that definitely will be changed is the actual throw, which is a bit too high. The Monkeys also shouldn’t turn into brawler bots as they attack you… ;)

The monkey has two attacks: it can hit you or it can throw another enemy at you. Each enemy it throws will have have a different kind of impact as it lands: the statue sends shockwaves in 4 directions, the plant releases a ton of seeds, and the thorn-worms will simply do a ton of damage!

Monkey02

Oh yeah, right now the thorn worm don’t have the proper sprite for when they’re carried, so they kind of look like silly Digletts getting carried around, but in the future they will be rolled up!

You might wonder why we didn’t implement this enemy before releasing the first zone, but the answer is simple: it doesn’t appear until you’ve completed a (mandatory) quest in the second zone :)

Aside from the Monkey prototyping, we’ve also worked a lot on the backgrounds of Tai Ming’s second zone! One important mechanic there is that you’ll be able to raise and lower the water levels, and in doing so things will, of course, change on the map. First thing we need to add is two different states of the water levels: one where they are low, and one where they are high. When the levels are low, you should be able to see some of the ground through the water, and when they are high, you won’t be able to access the lower area of the map:

Water-Low

Water-High

In the future, there will be decorative water effects animated along all the edges as well, making the water feel more alive!

We’ve also started turning the Past version of the outdoor map into its ruined, present state:

EntranceIsland

InnIsland

EntranceIsland

InnIsland

A lot of things are still subject to change here! Lots of small details missing like no cracks on the roof of the house in the first image, and too much darkness in the hollow house in the second. There’s also a chance we’ll edit things as more interiors get added – certain things on the inside might change the way the outside looks, etc :)

Finally, here’s some more Thorn-Worm boss animations from Fred:

Giant-Thorn-Worm

We’re back for another recap! In case you missed it, we already added a tiny patch to the Frontline beta, featuring some bug fixes but also a solution to a problem a lot of people have been having with the first zone!

I’m of course talking about the fact that it takes a while before you realize you can push the statue out of the way in the past! To, hopefully, solve this, we’ve added a couple of things that hopefully nudges you in the right direction:

fix01

First up, we added the above NPC, pushing a statue back and forth in the top part of the map. He is based off the stonecutter in Evergrind City (an ancestor, perhaps?), and speaking to him will further explain that the statues are light and movable!

fix01b

We also added the remnants of the statue trail to the ground in the present, hoping that it will make players think about possible ways to get around the rubble:

fix02

A lot of you have already made it past this puzzle, so it’s gonna be a bit difficult to tell whether these additions actually help or not. Hopefully, once the temple launches on the stable beta, we’ll get some idea based on how many people ask how to get past the statues :)

Some other things we’ve been working on includes a bunch of hats:

Hats

The statue hat is already in the game, while the rest will be Arcade Mode rewards or found in the next map, where the monkey enemy will be introduced!

And speaking of the second map, work on it is progressing smoothly so far. Here’s the present, ruined version of an interior we posted before:

granny

Fred, meanwhile, has started working on the next boss battle, which will take place in the next map as well! This features a giant worm, and here’s a little sneak peek of what that will look like, surrounded by its spawn:

Masken

The first Tai Ming zone was released on Frontline this weekend! Wohoo!

If you don’t know what Frontline is, here’s a forum post explaining what the two beta versions are, and how to swap between them on Steam.

Last week was all about getting stuff ready for this patch, so here’s a quick recap of the most important things:

First up, we changed the Plantae Hostilis’ (or the cute little moss-enemy) attack a bit. In previous iterations the flowers it launched exploded on impact (with the ground), but since then we reworked it a little.

Basically we had two options that we tried out, one where the flowers took root and grew large, only to stay on the playfield for a while before exploding. Running into them would trigger the explosion as well, so you had to care where you stepped.

The second option was more or less a mix of the old version and the version mentioned above. The flowers would grow large before exploding after only a short while:

Flowers

We thought this version was the better one, in the end, since it made sure you really saw where the explosion would take place clearly (it was a bit of an issue with the old version, where they just exploded upon landing), while not filling the area with more things to avoid.

There were a bunch of new characters to be made as well, so Vilya has been on portrait duty:

 

Portrait03

Portrait00

Portrait01

Portrait02

And let’s not forget, a new addition to some of Zhamla’s portraits:

zhamla_crown

We’ve already received a ton of great feedback, which has given us food for thought! Overall you guys seem to like the area, which we are incredibly happy about! There are some minor things we’d like to change for clarity’s sake though, and a few bugs that need to be straightened out. The usual stuff! That’s what we’ll be focusing on in the upcoming week, likely :)

Meanwhile, enjoy these animations made by Fred:

RelicMaster

Shieldd

Bag

Hello guys! It’s another weekly recap, hopefully the last before we add the first Tai Ming map to frontline! Here’s what we’ve been focusing on this week (perhaps more than usual, remember that this blog is full of spoilers about what’s coming up next):

expressions01

First up, expressions! Due to all the cutscenes in Tai Ming (it’s very character- and story heavy!), it’s only natural that a lot of expressions need to be made for the important characters. Above is the first boss, who ends up being the reason for your time travels in the first place. She’s a priestess from the old days, still guarding the old site of Tai Ming, the ancient town of the collectors after all these years…

Next is Zhamla Meer – a young, bright kid who just wants to have fun, but who may not get quite what he wants:

expressions04

…because of his very stern adoptive father, Sizou! This old man has taken care of Zhamla since he was a baby, and has very high hopes for his ward:

expressions05

Zhamla can take solace in the fact that he has a true friend in this girl though, who is Tessen, Sizou’s biological granddaughter! Zhamla and Tessen are growing up together and are the best of friends. So, there’s still some fun to be had even with a stern mentor/grandpa looking over your shoulder:

expressions06

And then, we have the guards! No town is complete without guards, right? These guys look very similar to one another, and there’s a very good reason for it hidden inside the village!

expressions02

And lastly, Zhamlas teacher in sword fighting, Faita:

expressions03

There’s also a couple more character portraits, one which belongs to this shield, who also happens to be a sentient artifact (though not the one you’re looking for):

portrait_shield

portrait_shield

And of course, we can’t have an area with enemies and no drops! So, here’s a bunch of drop appearances as well:

Drops

We’ve also played around with adding memories/ghosts here and there and Tai Ming’s present version. These eerie figures will appear here and there across the maps and fade away if you get too close:

ghost

Aaaand, since there can never be too much polish, we added a few more rifts to the ground, so the big one blocking the path doesn’t feel to lonely:

Ravine02

Ravine03

Ravine04

Now then! We aim to have the new Frontline patch up and running sometime during the weekend (Friday if we’re lucky), so wish us luck on that! Hopefully there are no nasty bugs blocking the way :)

This week we’ve continued on work on the first Tai Ming zone!

Interior0

Remember this old ruin? In our first iteration, we wanted this place to be blocked off and unable to enter. Well… We changed our minds. Instead, we want something ‘useful’ to the story to be in here, as we, well, found it to be the best place for it. So! Time to add another interior, although this one does not exactly come with a lot of decorations:

Interior-Ruin

After implementing this version to the game build, we felt like it was a bit too empty compared to the pretty crowded past version…

Interior

SO we thought we’d try adding some of the furniture, but old and broken due to the long time that’s passed, of course:

Interior-GIF

Interior-Ruin2

On a similar note, we wanted to change some things around in this room as well:

Chests01

Instead of having the four chests intact in the present, we thought it would be cooler if one of them had fallen apart, and another was opened. Just to mix things up a bit and create more of a disordered feeling:

Chests02

Next up! The old collector’s guild will be very much up and running in Tai Ming, and as such, what better way of showing their prowess than having collectors do all kinds of quests in and around the town? Of course, there aren’t exactly many fun quests for a random collector to do here, so some just have to do the boring things. Like painting fences:

Painter01

Of course, even these lower ranking collectors need portraits as well:

Painter02

…and a bored expression for good measure:

PainterExpressions

Also, Teddy made another time warp effect:

TimeWarpNew

While we liked the older one, it almost felt too ‘fluid’ and unepic. With this new one, you really get the sense of zoning between two different maps. We also like how the world kind of melts away, although it was pretty cool how the old one kind of merged the worlds together as well. For now, we’re gonna stick with this new one, but we’ll see what we end up with in the end!

Speaking of Teddy, he has also started implementing multiplayer for this zone, so that’s getting us one step closer to releasing the first map on Frontline (though we still have some work to do)!

Finally, have some yummy animations from Fred:

NPCs

StatueBreak

TimeRiift

And that’s all for this week! See you next time :)