Weeeee’re back! In fact, one whole week has passed since we got back to work and it’s time for a new weekly recap~

As you know, before taking this break, we launched a patch with the complete rework of our current skills in hope of making them more balanced (and fun). We’ve read all of the feedback coming in, and for now there aren’t any major changes we want to do (aside from a bunch of bug fixes that Teddy already has been working on). We will keep monitoring the feedback and possible change a few things, however: such as increasing the HP of certain enemies that have lost some of their tankyness due to the increased damage of most of the skills.

Now, to properly start the next step on our journey to actually completing this game, we had a meeting today discussing the additions of more talents! We have wanted to add a bunch for a while now, as mentioned before. For now, we’ve decided on adding 5 new Melee talents, 5 new Magic talents and 10 new General talents!

Starting with the Magic talents, some talents we discussed and confirmed will be added are:

Fast Talker – Increase Castspeed
Soul Siphon – Hitting an enemy with a wand projectile will grant the user some EP
Concentration – Increase resistance to having the (magic) spells channeling interrupted by enemy hits
Specialist – Increase damage depending on how many skillpoints you have in the same magic tree (as an example, the more fire skills you level, the stronger your fire skills will be overall)
Wand Master – Icreased damage from wand projectiles

As for the General talents, some you may expect there are:

Got You Covered – Increase buff duration
Metabolism – Increase EP regen
Health Insurance – Increase healing from health orbs
Lady Luck –  Introducing a low chance of enemy attacks missing your character
Utility Flow – Chaining Utility skills lower their EP cost (the more utility skills you use in a row the cheaper their cost in EP, up to a maximum percentage). A talent designed with the true support players in mind, who need more EP to buff a full team!
Kinetic Energy – Get EP from blocking attacks with your shield
Efficient Counter – Perfect Guarding lowering the EP cost of the next skill

And the Melee talents we’ve decided on so far:

Knowledge is Power – MATK gives ATK
Riposte – Perfect guarding within x range of an enemy deals some damage to the enemy you guarded against
Blood Thirst – Killing an enemy grants increased attack speed for a short duration
Combo Starter – After a normal attack, your melee skills have increased critchance for a short duration

We’re currently experimenting with a melee talent that increases the attackspeed of your next normal attack(s) when you’ve been out of combat for a short while. In the general tree, there will also be at least one talent relating to the bow.

We’re also considering increasing the number of talents in the general tree to 21 (as opposed to the planned total of 20). The reason for this is that we’d like to fit all talents in a single page, without the player having to scroll down. Our idea is to go for something like this (super early mockup WIP, obviously, we’ll have to adjust all of the graphics to make this work):

It’s a bit cluttered, but with a few adjustments we hope it won’t be too messy on the eye. We believe, at least, it will be better this way than to introduce scrolling. In the Magic and Melee talent sections, things won’t get as cluttered either, as they won’t have as many talents: at least for now, our max total is 15 each.

As for Arcadia, now that the first stage of the Arcadia is done – that is, the main buildings – it’s time to take a look at it and see where things can improve. As a reminder of what things looked like where we left off, take a peek below:

As you can see, not a lot of details or even finished pathways. The reason for this is that I wanted to be sure all the distances felt nice when actually inside the game, after the main buildings were properly made.

To check this, Teddy uploaded the background into the game and we could run around as if it were a real map, only without any colliders or the ability to actually go inside any of the buildings. While doing this, we did feel like the distances are fine, but we came up with a list of other changes which will be what I’ll be working on next:

* The map’s size will be increased in each direction. The reason for this is not so that there will be more room for the buildings, but rather so that more of the edges can be seen, such as the background that will be painted in the top part of the map, or the woods that will serve as the edge of the map.

* The Clock Tower will get another floor and I’ll remake the clock in its middle part to become a lot bigger and detailed enough that it will show a different time depending on if it’s daylight or nighttime.

* The Arena will be reworked: we’ll make it a lot bigger, to make it feel epic enough.

* The Aquarium and the Bank will both be moved slightly to the right, aligning the path to the bank with the path to the cinema. This to make a little more space between the farm and the Aquarium.

* The top, middle part of the roof of the Aquarium will be turned into a pool of water, where silhouettes of fish can be seen once you start catching some!

* The benches in the fountain/garden area will be moved a bit higher, to make more room for whatever characters might find themselves sitting there in the future!

Along the way I’ll also start making the proper paths and decorate the areas with flowers, fences and other small things. Already, we feel this place is a lot more vivid than the old Arcadia was, and by the end of it it’ll hopefully be a truly cool and polished place :)

Now, time to fix those things! First up, the clock tower:

As some of you mentioned, it’s a little short, so we’ll make it slightly longer (though honestly, not by much: we still want the bell on top to be clearly visible when you enter the building). We also wanted to make the clock bigger and more detailed, so that when you change what time of day it is, the clock will change as well. Also, some silly decorations, because why not:

Next up, some minor detail additions for the Cinema and Inn, adding some fences and decorations. Proper grass, flowers and further details will be added once this second iterations of town is completed:

Moving on to the Arena, we decided to make it larger (and in turn, more detailed) so we made the top part of it higher, and the whole thing wider. For decoration, we added a few posters showing upcoming challenges or fights to take place in the arena. I mean if they don’t advertise what kind of stuff goes on there, how will the NPCs of Arcadia ever get interested enough in going? Gotta sell those tickets!

And here’s the new and improved, slightly bigger arena:

We’re also preparing the Aquarium change(s)! First by moving it and the bank to align with the cinema, and next filling the top part of the Aquarium’s roof with water. In the water you’ll see fish silhouettes once it’s properly added to the actual game:

Finally, increasing the size of the map:

It is rather a lot bigger now, but most of the extra space will be covered in trees and only serve to not make it feel like the map is cut off too close to you. It does feel a little more epic if you can imagine the vast forest expanding around the town, after all!

And to end things this week, I’ll throw in a brand new portrait!

Since I got back I wanted to try a slightly different rendering style for the final sprite (particularly for the eyes), which I think turned out alright:

After A LOT of crazy testing, the skill rework patch is finally up and running for Frontline users!!

There are so many changes (to skills) in this patch that a lot of them aren’t even covered in the patch notes: it’d just turn out too long and detailed. Basically, pretty much every single skill has been adjusted in one way or another. Some have graphical improvements, some have new mechanics: most of them do more damage than before.

Because this is such a huge overhaul, we’re (as always) looking forward to your feedback. We have tried to balance things to the best of our ability, but of course there are sure to be things we have missed or situations that haven’t occurred to us where certain skills might end up too weak – or too good. So, as you play the game, please share any and all thoughts you have on the “new” skills, maybe especially those that have had their mechanics reworked, such as Smash, Titan’s Throw or Chain Lightning!

Aside from editing every skill, here are some of the other changes that goes live with this patch:

* Magical weapons (wands) now produce an orb that shoots in a straight line from the weapon if it does not hit an enemy directly. Longer range for magic user, yay!

* HP and Arrows refill upon reaching a boss fight

* All spells are now able to crit

* Refunding skillpoints is a lot cheaper, and the cost is based on storyline progress rather than character level (as it was before)

The full patch notes can be viewed here.

Now that this patch is up and running, we’ll await your feedback on things and take a much needed week off to recharge our batteries before the long and cold Swedish winter sets in! Because of this, there will be no blog updates (including the weekly recap), until we’re back on Sep 11th, upon which my workblog will resume as normal. The weekly recaps will returning on the 18th.

First thing we’ll do when we get back to the office is discuss all of the feedback we’ve received over the week (which we’ll keep monitoring in case of game breaking bugs), and decide if there are more changes that need to be made, and if so, which ones. So make sure to share your thoughts on the rebalance, so we can fix anything that may not be working as well as it should! Best place for that would be in a comment here or at the forums. We look forward to hearing your thoughts :)

But aside from the rebalance stuff, we also continue working on the Arcadia things, and the second to last plot of the Arcadia Rework houses the player statue! It’s been available in the original Arcadia for quite some time, and showcases a statue version of the character that has your highest score.

For the rework of the town, instead of having your statue standing rather randomly in the middle of things, it now has its very own plot with surrounding decorations, making it more of a centerpiece. The stand of the statue is also a lot bigger compared to the previous version as well, again to make it seem a little more epic on its own.

In the version below, the character is in full color – keep in mind it’s just a sample. The real statue will be…statue-colored, like it is in the game at this point.

And now, only one main piece left of the rework: the Fae tree! This tree will house a bunch of fae, which needless to say brings more NPCs to your town, in the shape of tiny colorful sprites. The fae will be animated and added once it’s in the game, but for now, here’s their home:

And here’s the finished thing! Of course, the map still lacks paths, a bridge and a ton of decorations among other things, but now all of the main pieces are made and it’s time to start phase two, polishing and moving things around if needed:

And finally, to celebrate having completed a rather large milestone in the Arcadia rework, here’s another desert portrait I made: It’s been a rather long break after all! This time we’ll make another sailor lad from the Merchant Isles:

Like most of these characters, his story is not fully fleshed out yet, but we’re drawing ever closer to putting the town together. Exciting times ahead!

Truly, last week was not so much about art or programming as it was testing. We really want to get the balance right this time, so we’ve decided to play through the game at least once per skill, giving each of them chance to be the main skill in a playthrough. It’s truly a challenge to tweak the numbers to make them mathematically balanced vs each other, without losing the soul of each skill.

Because the game is already quite a few hours long, and we want to make sure each skill scales well as the play progress through it all, it means A LOT of the work week has been spent “simply” playing the game over and over, taking notes on how each skill feels at various points of the game. To our aid, Teddy has made a number of shortcuts, i.e. we can now walk through walls to skip certain puzzles. That’s basically the only skip we use, though, as we still want the level and gear to be as true to a real playthrough as possible.

With each skill completed, we’re getting close to evening them all out, and right now most of them feel a lot more powerful than they did previously.

As we started playing the game using the new version of Blade Flurry (shown last week), we realized we weren’t quite satisfied with the way it looked now, so Fred took a small break from testing skills to make a third version, which is kind of a mix between the two earlier ones (note that this is currently a WIP and hasn’t been fully finished yet):

Chain Lightning will get a slight rework. Instead of seemingly randomly jumping to any enemy within a cone-shape before you, the skill will now favour the enemy you’re looking straight at (though if there isn’t one there, it will jump diagonally still). The main target will then take a bulk of the damage, leaving less damage for secondary targets the lightning then jump onwards to. We hope that by making this change, the skill will feel more satisfying to use, as you can select which target you want to kill first rather than doing rather underwhelming damage to a bunch of them.

The Flame Thrower might get reverted back to its original form, where you could move and damage enemies at the same time, although your movement speed while using the skill will be greatly reduced based on your cast speed. This will, at least, likely be true for Story Mode, where it no longer feels very strong compared to the other skills that got buffed. However, we have not tested these things out in Arcade Mode yet, so it remains to see how OP it feels there at the moment.

Balancing skills between Story Mode and Arcade Mode will probably be one of the biggest challenges during this rebalance period, as the modes are so vastly different from one another. In Story Mode, it’s rather unlikely you’ll ever be as tightly surrounded by enemies as you tend to be in Arcade Mode, which means some skills will work a lot better depending on which of the modes you’re playing. We’re trying our best to balance this without having to change any of the skills EP cost or damage in just one mode.

And in other news, we’ve decided to make respeccing a lot cheaper than it currently is. For a while we considered making it free, but we feel a low cost will give the player a bigger sense of impact as they level skills, compared to if you could just change things around free of charge at any time!

Hopefully, our great rebalance will draw to a close this week, as we all have looking forward to taking a week’s break from 4th and 8th September, just to recharge the batteries before the great long autumn and winter rolls over Sweden. Finishing the patch up just before then would be ideal, as we would be able to return a week later and go through all the accumulated feedback. Fingers crossed!

Now, as more stuff is added to the new revamped version of Arcadia, it’s time to create the Cinema! While we’re still not completely sure this will be available at the end (it kind of depends how well we can solve some of the issues with the mechanics), for now we’re fairly sure we want it there in some shape or form.

Inside the cinema, you’ll have the option to replay previous arcade runs and show them off to your friends. It won’t affect your current runs in any way, but we feel it would be interesting to be able to review a previous run and see where things may have gone wrong – or simply use it to brag of your achievements in front of your friends ;)

Some grasp the mechanics of Grindea almost immediately, others struggle to land a perfect guard for the whole of the game (so far). To help the latter ones along, and add a challenge to the ones who think they’ve mastered the fine art of the shield, we’re adding the Dojo!

In the Dojo, you’ll be able to practice perfect guarding against different sets of enemies, earning headbands in different colors to show at which level your perfect guarding technique is currently at. This mechanic might (likely) be added to Story Mode as well once it’s been implemented, making sure everyone has a chance to practice perfect guarding and becoming masters of the shield!

The theme of the left side of the map is more tranquil and nature-y than the rest, as we’ve decided to put most of the decorative spots in this part of the map. One of these is a small garden with a fountain, which serve to bring more people into town (and more people equals more quests)!

Like the other decorative slots, this plot in itself does not affect the mechanics of your arcade run, but the quest(s) you unlock with it might:

Only two plots left! Drawing close to the end:

This week, the skill rebalance and Arcadia Rework continues!

Fred and Teddy are both hard at work getting new and reworked effects and mechanics into the game, and one of the possibly bigger changes have been coming together over the last week: the new chill and freeze effects!

The ice skills, or rather the Ice Nova and Ice Spikes, will both be able to chill and freeze every enemy on the game! Previously this was reserved for regular enemies, but now they’ll affect bosses as well, drastically improving the skills which have been rather underwhelming against bosses before.

Because there was no way we could use the old effect on enemies as big as the bosses, we had to sit down and try to solve this issue by making an entirely new freeze shader instead. This was all done by Teddy and has had several steps of iteration, two of which can be seen below:

After some effects were added by Fred, we’re left with the result seen below:

The difference between a chilled and frozen enemy is pretty drastic. A chilled enemy will have a slightly altered hue, snowflakes appearing around them and frost beneath their feet. Every once in a while, an enemy might be frozen, which makes it completely unable to move. If an enemy is chilled first, the chance of this happening doubles.

Visually, a frozen enemy is tinted blue and becomes shiny, the frost and snowflakes remaining around it. There’s an increased chance of landing crits on frozen enemies, but they will only remain frozen for a short period of time or until you’ve hit it 3 times with regular-damage attacks or once if it’s a hit with bigger impact (such as the final hit of a gold-charge Heroic Slam).

Fred also wasted no time jumping into refining and reworking the effects of various other skills. One that’s getting a visual and mechanic change is the Flamethrower, which as mentioned earlier won’t deal damage as you move. This meant new smoke effects had to be used:

When we talked about this last, we decided that neither silver nor gold charge would deal damage when moving. However, upon seeing various players distress at the idea of making it that much less OP, we’ve decided to try to keep the damage-while-moving on the gold charge level (which also has new graphics, by the way!):

We’ll balance this with a damage reduction instead, and if we still feel it’s too OP we might still do the full nerf with no damage while moving. Our initial idea with Flamethrower was that positioning would be key to use it, and being able to move and do damage at the same time kind of takes away from that, which is the reason we wanted to make this change to begin with (aside from the skill being too OP, especially at silver level, compared to others).

Hopefully this compromise will keep the fun feel of the skill while not making it too crazy good. It’s always difficult nerfing skills in any game because when you’re used to a skill being really OP, it typically also feels really great using it. Using such a skill after a nerf will of course cause some disappointment, but hopefully the game will be better and more balanced overall after some of these have been made.

Next, there’s been some additional graphics added to the Smash and its new ball!

Each time you hit the ball it changes color and does more damage. After three hits it’ll disappear, so you have to summon it anew. We’re still fiddling around with the arrow indicating which way the ball will go, and the graphic is likely to be changed again, at least slightly.

We’re listening to all of your feedback on our changes thus far, and it’s no secret Smash is the source of a lot of discussion. We’ll continue on this path for now, finalizing this version of the skill and uploading it with the rest once they’re done. Once you can try all the rebalanced skills all at once we’ll see how things turn out! There’s still a possibility Smash might get scrapped altogether, it all depends on what you guys feel when it’s all patched and ready for testing.

Finally, here’s a bunch of the new and improved effects Fred has been working on:

Now, time to focus on Arcadia and its rework. There’s a lot of stuff left to do before it’s anywhere near complete, so it’s time to get a move on! Here’s the next part, featuring the Inn, which will house several characters that are able to give you quests, and will help in making Arcadia a more lively town with more inhabitants:

The clock tower is a brand new addition to Arcadia, by which you’ll be able to change the time of day from day to night (and possibly somewhere in between: we’ll see!). In this video I also add the Bishop, with a new and improved Grindea statue, and remake the old notice board:

Another addition to Arcadia which weren’t available before is the farm! This building will house a set of animals – once you catch them. You’ll have the option to either let the animals roam free in town or keep them inside the pasture surrounding the farm, where no doubt Oak will be working:

And with these new additions, here’s where we’re left:

Still some way to go, but it’s starting to come together. With this, all the houses in the starting area have been finished, only missing the proper paths and decorations. The farm is the first building on one of the unlockable plots, meaning technically I could finish up the first part and add it to the game. However, since we want to make sure all the distances and stuff work out, I’ll complete the rest and make adjustments accordingly, before finishing up the area with more decorations and pathways.

Next week, there will very likely be more of the same, as we continue to get the Skill- and Arcadia Reworks ready! Stay tuned :)

As mentioned before, our next main goal is to do a complete rebalancing of the skills in the game. This includes making bigger changes to some of our old darlings, such as Smash.

Smash has been kind of difficult to use since hitting the first enemy does not do a lot of damage: it’s smashing it onto others that’s the main source of epic damage. However, in some cases this isn’t exactly easy to do. In fact, most of the time it probably isn’t for most people, unless they’re in a very crowded area. If you’re facing few enemies, it might be hard to aim where the first one will go, making it near impossible to optimize the damage. Against bosses, the skill has been more or less useless.

So, how do we change this? I’d lie if I said we haven’t considered replacing the skill completely, and I suppose it might still happen. However, our first try will be to improve aiming and giving you something to use against bosses or in those cases where there simply isn’t enough enemies.

SO: the next time you charge your Smash skill (once the patch airs), a magical ball will appear in front of the player. You can hit this ball instead of an enemy, smashing it into approaching foes (or bosses) for maximum damage. To make aiming easier we’ve played around with a couple ideas as well:

In the first one, a set of dots appear behind the ball, indicating where it’s going, including how it would bounce off walls and the like.

Below, there’s a second version, using a more cone-like shape. It’s important to remember that both of these indicators use placeholder graphics, and that in the end, regardless of which one we pick, it’ll look more fitting to the game.

As it is, we feel the second one has better potential of having a clean look, so it’s probably the one we’ll go for. Hopefully these additions to the skill will make it a little more fun and useful. Otherwise, it’s probably back to the drawing board for this skill!

So, now you’ve already seen some of our work on improving the skills, but as mentioned we have plans to improve or make tiny adjustments to almost every single skill in the game. This is all part of our rebalancing effort, which hopefully will end up with the game being a more fun and stable experience regardless of which sets of skills you pick. Here’s the complete rundown:

1-Handed Skills

Dodging Strike will get increased damage, and synergy with Reaper’s Blade (the new utility skill). A Gold Charge Dodging Strike will now automatically cast Reaper’s Blade on the target in front of you: level one by default, but if you put more points in the skill it will automatically use the level you have it at.

Piercing Dash will have its damage improved slightly.

Shadow Clone will be automatically nerfed as we lower the damage one 1-handed normal attacks, but it’s likely we’ll lower the base damage of this skill even further.

2-Handed Skills

Smash will be changed, as you’ve already seen. A ball will spawn when charging the skill, giving you something to hit enemies with for maximum damage.

For Titan’s Throw, we’ll add the option to get your sword back by channeling for a short while at bronze level. Right now, you have to pick the sword up manually until you get the gold charge, but we felt this has been limiting this skill a great deal. So instead, you’ll now be able to get your sword back from the beginning, though it won’t deal damage to enemies on its way back until gold charge.

Magic Skills

The Fireball will have increased speed, a graphic update (part of which has already been shown), and a more polished on-hit effect.

For the Meteor, we’ll increase the damage, and add more aoe.

You will no longer be able to damage enemies while moving, using the Flamethrower. If you start moving, the flames will die down until you stand still again.

Frosty Friend will have a cap of how many enemies can attack him. On the first level this will be a single enemy, but with each charge level he’ll be able to occupy one more enemy. This is to make sure he won’t be a complete meat shield, distracting all the enemies at all times. Instead, he won’t be able to die when shielding.

The Ice Spikes and Ice Nova will get a damage increase. As mentioned last week, you’ll also become able to chill and freeze all enemies (including bosses) with these skills.

Summon Plant‘s melee plants will have increased range, while the ranged plants will have less range.

Chain Lightning will get increased damage, possibly decreased range.

Static Touch will likely remain unchanged, but we are discussing whether to make a change so that you collect the cubes by battling, and by keeping on battling enemies they will get more and more charged. With this change you’d either be able to unleash the cubes upon a single enemy by using the skill again, or they’d be unleashed automatically when they’ve reached max charge level. Again, we haven’t decided whether to actually make this change yet, though.

There may be more changes than the ones listed above, but these are the ones we’ve discussed so far. As each skill gets its makeover we might have to adjust the others more.

Meanwhile, in the Arcadia Rework we finally get to the part with the Player house! This is especially important since we want to use what we make here in Evergrind City (for Story Mode) as well! In this first part I’ll begin with the house itself, and make another, shorter video later featuring the immediate surroundings.

 

The colors I selected were based on the Collector color scheme, which is blue and yellow. Seeing as the technology behind the house is designed, developed and used by collectors, we though these were fitting colors. Next, it’s time to add some much-needed decorations around the area!

 

Short video, but it makes a lot of difference for the house. The fence surrounding the house is based on the fence around the gardens in Evergrind City, as we intend to move the place more or less as-is to Evergrind, with some minor adjustments.

And here’s the full version of the town, with this added plot of land! Getting there, one step at a time:

Finally, in the desert, we need a few more Sailors – it is a port town after all. So here’s another sailor from the Merchant Isles, to help fix that problem:

A little over a week has passed since the new utility skills went live on our Frontline beta, and we’ve had some time to discuss your feedback and make plans for our next step(s).

While we were ready to rework any skill that people felt were too unbalanced or difficult/boring to use, it seems we won’t have to: most of the skills have received positive feedback, and the main points of discussion have been whether some skills have been too OP or not: often with different people claiming the very same skills are either too OP or too underwhelming. Hopefully these issues will be solved through some proper balancing.

In regards to this, there’s a number of changes we want to do to Barrier specifically. First of all, we’ll change the color of the damage numbers that show up when the barrier is absorbing damage, as well as some kind of indicator for when the it’s is about to run out of HP. Hits on the barrier will also count as damage taken in Arcade Mode, meaning it will lower your score. You also won’t be able to resummon the barrier more than once per Arcade Room, since it’s such a powerful spell for getting through the floors (albeit with a drastically lower score).

Now, as for what’s coming next….

Instead of polishing these skills further and adding them to stable, we’ll be finishing up a more or less complete rebalance of nearly all of the skills currently in the game. This will give our sound designer some time to crank out sound effects for the new ones, and makes for a bigger, more interesting stable update.

Some of the changes we are looking into here are:

* One handed weapons will do less damage. Right now they are a bit unbalanced compared to two handed weapons since you can hit way more often with 1H attacks.

* Cast Speed will increase the speed of skills, and not just the charge time. An example of this would be the insect swarm dealing it’s damage faster (and by doing so, run out faster as well), the cloud summon hitting more often or your character finishing a blade flurry attack quicker. These will all be balanced properly, so that summons that block a portion of your EP won’t be affected as much by cast speed as skills that need to be recast.

* We’ll experiment with being able to freeze bosses: Fred will look into suitable visual effects for this, which has been our main concern, as we can’t make individual freeze graphics that suits all bosses the same way we could with regular enemies. We’ll also make a change so there’s a bigger chance of freezing enemies that are chilled (slowed), or possibly that an enemy has to be chilled before it can be properly frozen.

* The magic weapon improvement mentioned previously: the addition of an orb that unleashes from magic weapons as you hit. The orb will trigger when you’re too far away to reach an enemy with your attack, essentially increasing the range of all magic weapons. However, the orb in question will always do less damage than if your weapon hit the enemy directly, and the damage it makes will be based on your magic attack.

* New talents, at least 5 per talent tree, with a maximum of 10 extra per tree, in order to avoid players having to read through too many talent descriptions to find what they’d like to level. These will be discussed in a later meeting.

There will also be, as mentioned, slight edits of nearly every skill, and Fred’s actually already begun working on one of those! Let’s take a look at the fireball:

You might wonder what this new animation has to do with skill rebalance. The thing is, we found that some of the skills were a little lacking in effects, which made them feel less epic or impactful than they actually are. This is by no means true of all skills: so don’t worry, we won’t spend too much time on remaking skill animations now! In fact, for the most part, it’ll be minor adjustments to damage, speed or mechanics.

For the fireball, though, it being the very first skill that was created, it was time for a little upgrade. This goes to show how far we’ve come as graphic artists: the first one being made several years ago, one of the earliest props of the game, while the latter is Fred’s latest version. It looks a lot better, right?

Speaking of animations, we also have a brand new Focus animation! Since we wanted the player to be able to move around as they use this skill, we wanted the character to float in the air: both to make things easier for us, and since it just looks better when channeling the skill compared to trying to look zen while running around!

Below you can see it in action with the indicator/timer and the proper effects:

In Arcadia, we slow down a little and start looking at the details. There’s some vital parts missing, such as the mountain which allows you to enter your arcade runs, as well as actual paths and greenery! Time for a fix:

With these new details you can actually begin to see things coming together a lot better. There’s still a bunch of extras that need to be made: a few trees and bushes, for instance, but the parts that have been made so far already look a lot more finished!

With Arcadia’s rework, we want this Arcade Mode town to feel different from the rest of the world, so almost all graphics will be made more or less from scratch, rather than reusing old sprites. This means not only the buildings, but also the greenery needs to be remade. And the next step on that mission? Trees and bushes!

Above is a few of the sketches I made to get an overall concept of what the greenery of Arcadia could look like. In the end I thought it would be cool to use spherical shapes for the trees and bushes. First up, a bush:

Next, using the newly created bush as a base for creating a tree (with some edits):

These trees and bushes are made so that when you put them next to each other, they kind of blend together, making it hard to see where one prop ends and the other begins. We feel this will create a cool effect when creating small groves of trees:

Next, I made another variation of both the trees and bushes with a more oblong shape, in order to have some variation in the greenery:

And since I like these new bushes a lot more compared to the ones I made for Arcadia previously, I went ahead and upgraded the shrubbery around the well, using the new ones as a base:

Finally, in the desert portrait area, it’s time for a portrait of a woman living in the village (they aren’t all tourists or merchants!):

Finished version below:

After a couple more weeks of designing, implementing, polishing and remaking, we have finally patched the frontline beta to include the new set of Utility skills! With the addition of these skills, we expect the game change a lot for some players, if not all – we suspect a lot of you have longed for something to use spare silver points on, and many of the Utility skills offer new paths of gameplay. In short, we can’t wait to see how you guys use them, and what the feedback will be.

While we hope it will be possible to balance all of this properly (we’ve done our best so far, but we’re always ready for your feedback on what’s broken and what may be too lame), we are aware that depending on your feedback, we might have to rethink certain things. For instance, if every single one of you hate a specific skill! Because of this, it’s important to let us know what bothers you (and what you like!) so we know how to proceed. As always, feel free to share your opinions on this patch and the skills here or on the forums!

And as always, to see the full patch notes, go to this forum thread. Now go ahead and try them out!! :D

.. and in the meanwhile, let’s take a look at what our previous workweek looked like, with the Utility skills coming together:

First up, some skill Icons, starting with the Focus skill (the very first frame of each WIP-animation shows our current placeholder icon made by Teddy, and the last frame is my reinterpretation):

Focus is the meditate skill which allows you to channel EP by holding the skill button, and allows you to cast a skill for free after a set amount of time. Since it’s EP focused, we decided to use a purple background (as the EP meter is purple).

Next, the Barrier, which in our game kind of looks like a bubble engulfing the character, and so I wanted to focus on that in its skill icon:

For the blink skill, we had a bit of a hard time coming up with something that would resemble the skill at all, in such a limited amount of space. The color of this skill was later changed to orange/yellow to avoid healing associations:

Next, Death Mark, or as it’s called now: Reaper’s Blade, fittingly using a skull (I modified the one used in the animation where boss-Vilya yells out insults at her minions in the second battle), and added some decorations based off of a sword behind it. Red, as it’s an offensive skill that will help you deal a lot more damage:

For the Stasis icon, I focused on the stasis effect, which grays out an enemy and disables them from combat. In this case I took a Rabby sprite, turned it black & white and painted some background patterns around it. In the final version of this, the whole thing is black and white, however, I added more color to the background later to make sure it stands out from when the skill is unavailable (at which point all skills are grayed out):

Finally, for Challenge (or as it’s called now: Provoke) I brought out boss-Vilyas insults once more! As you yell at the enemy you’re targeting, your own character will begin cursing at them in a similar way, so I thought it’d be nice to use the same graphic indicators for the insults:

And here’s the lineup:

In the end, we decided to divide the buffs into three, so they’re now divided into one that boosts you damage and crit, one improved version of haste (increased cast and attack speed) and a defense and shield boosting buff. The icons of these can be seen below, along with their “buff timer” counterparts:

Our reasoning is that separating attack/castspeed from the damage buff allows for more varied builds, and each of the buffs can be stronger than they could be if they buffed more things. With that in mind, we’ll likely cap each of the Utility skills at three silver points as well, with each level making a bigger difference.

Now that the buffs are in place, it’s time to implement the targeting system for them. As mentioned in a previous post, you’ll be able to buff your friends in multiplayer one at a time, with a system similar to what we use for the Frosty Friend: you start channeling the spell, and as you do so several arrows will appear showing your friends. Press in the direction of the friend you want to buff and the buff will land on them. To buff another friend, simply cast the spell again and press in another direction. In order to buff yourself, you’ll need to press upwards after channeling the spell – but only in multiplayer. In single player the buff will automatically target yourself.

Our first idea was to show each character’s face along with the arrows, but as Teddy started implementing this targeting system, he came up with a different plan: showing the entire characters, including what they’re doing:

While this wasn’t exactly what we had in mind from the beginning, it kind of grew on us as we tried it out. At the very least it makes it easier to know which direction you need to press for which friend, as you can check what they’re doing right now and compare it to what’s going on in the arrows, while our previous idea would make things a little confusing if you had several friends with the same face and hairstyle.

One might argue that this version is a lot more messy, and I supposed they’d be right: however, seeing as you’ll not bring up this interface a lot after confirming which direction your friends are in (most likely you’ll just quick-cast your buffs as seen below once you get a hang of it, anyway), we don’t view this as a too great drawback.

As can also be seen above, if you bring up the cast menu again after buffing everyone, you’ll see a timer counting down on top of each character. These timers show how much time is left before the buff runs out, which makes it easier saving up EP. Once the buffs run out an icon and text will appear above each character which indicating that this has happened (as seen below). This will only be visible to the one who cast the buff(s). You can always recast a buff before it runs out, so long as you have the EP to do so.

In the above GIFs, the arrows used are placeholder arrows (the Frosty Friend’s arrows, to be precise), with the character stuck randomly on top of them. Because we didn’t have any arrows that fit this purpose already, I made a bunch. The bottom image shows how we intend to place the characters on top of them, which is slightly different to how they’re standing on the Frosty Friend arrows as well:

The next step on our quest to implement the Utility skills was making the proper menu backgrounds for it! The old one was rather outdated, and in fact much older than the rest of the skill menu:

So the first thing we needed to decide was what kind of layout we want to use for these guys. Three in a row, or two next to each other with the buffs centered beneath them?

To avoid any confusion when jumping between the different levels, we decided to go three in a row, but make them slightly longer so they’d be more visually pleasing. Next, time for some decorations, beginning with a sword to don the offensive utility skill section:

For the defensive utility skills, I made an edited version of a shield that’s used in a different section of the menu (the talent area, to be precise):

Finally, for the buff section (which we haven’t given a proper name yet – might become something else entirely), some magic and glitter:

And in the end, here’s the new and improved utility skill section! At this point still missing the title texts and actual skill graphics, but that’s for Teddy to puzzle together with the engine:

In Fred’s department, the Utility skill stuff kept going on. First, the development of the blink:

From the beginning, what you see above is the effect we intended for the blink. However, because of how it looks when you’re not travelling in a straight line (for instance, if you blink diagonally), it became more of a hassle than we first anticipated. We could either rotate the effect in engine, which left us with a bunch of ugly artifacts, or we could have Fred make the effect in 8 directions – both options which weren’t too great.

So, we ditched the above design and decided to go for light globes spawning around the character instead instead:

In the newest iteration, the globes are a bit smaller than what is seen in the above GIF, but it sill gives a good idea of what it looks like.

For the Stasis skill, we still needed one more thing: an indicator of some sort above the enemies as you target them, before you unleash the skill. Fred came up with a bunch of suggestions based on our initial discussion, where we though it should either be a clock or an hour glass, indicating time stopping for the enemy in question:

In the end, we decided to go for the hourglass, and as an added bonus, Fred made a quick animation as you unleash the spell on an enemy: having the hourglass either turn of shatter as the skill lands. While we liked both ideas, the shattering hourglass is the one we’ll use in the game for this skill:

The Focus skill, which allows you to regenerate EP faster, got a new indicator appearing beneath the character:

The purple lines serve as a timer, of sorts. If you channel the spell until all four lines appear, you’ll be able to cast the next skill free of EP. We’ll also have a different channeling animation for this skill, possibly where the character is hovering above air – but at the time of writing this (which was before the patch) we’re still uncertain whether this will be available in the initial patch, or if it will be added in one of the many upcoming bug fixing patches once you start trying out (and breaking) these new skills!

Finally, a little sneak preview of the work in progress of that damage buff we’ve been talking about:

We’re not 100% it’ll look like this once it’s done (could be a little too big for a skill that will be cast rather frequently), but it’s just a bit too funny not to show!

Now, I hope you enjoy the patch and come back to us with lots of feedback. Actually finishing all the skills seem like a big step closer on our journey to finishing the game as well, wohoo :)

Last week was all about the Arcadia Rework for me, something which will continue to be the main focus for a long while to come. As you can tell, it’s coming along at a steady pace, one building at a time!

This week I will begin creating the underlying decorations, grass and paths between the various spaces. Since we’re also fairly sure about the Utility skills, I’ll also start creating their icons, while Teddy and Fred continue to deal with testing, testing, testing and skill graphics!

We’ve had two major discussions these last few days, both in regards to the new Utility skills. First, about the buffs: we are currently disagreeing whether it’s better to keep them as we originally planned (one buff for the offensive stats and one for the defensive stats), or to separate them further. Specifically, there’s an idea it’d be more interesting the have speed be it’s own buff, allowing the current Haste skill to remain (only balanced so it’s more useful). However, there are those of us who feel the “package” buff is a more interesting buff to use, even if it means the speed stat won’t be buffed as much as it could have been if it were its own buff.

Currently, we haven’t actually made up our minds about this! What do you think you guys would prefer? Two buffs: one for offense (damage, speed, crit) and one for defense (defense, shield reg, EP reg), or three: one for damage and crit, one for speed, and the defense buff left as is?

We’ve also talked about the amount of silver points spent on each Utility skill. We’re considering whether to have each skill have 5 levels (as was planned), or if it’s better to cap them at 3 each.

With 5 stages, the skills become more of an efficient silver point sink, but the skill improvement between each level will be rather small. With 3, each point spent on the skill will give a bigger upgrade, but you’ll also finish leveling the skills much sooner. Currently we’re leaning towards 3, as it seems more rewarding to the player that way, but we haven’t fully made up our minds yet.

If you have any ideas in regards to these discussion, feel free to share in the comments! We love to hear your input and what you think about decisions like these – after all, we want to do what’s best for the players :)

Now, last week we left Remedi with his wagon surroundings looking rather empty! Time to remedy (ha) that, and give him some fancy flowers for his collection:

The idea is that, before you’ve unlocked this plot of land, the wagon won’t be there at all, leaving only some dirt in a half circle. A sign describing what will appear there will be in the middle of it, and we’ll probably use some flavor text, such as describing how an alchemist might be lured there if you just get some interesting plants for the dirt (done automatically by paying the amount needed by the sign).

For now, this is what it looks like in its completed form:

As Arcadia continues to grow, it’s time to add that central piece of decoration, right below the mountain where you set your course for another arcade run:

It’s a well! And not just any well, but one of those visual plots that will help increase the number of people entering your town! Instead of being functional in the sense it adds a specific mechanic, it attracts NPCs that might give you a quest or two :)

And here’s the progress on the big map:

In the portrait department, it’s time for another kid roaming the streets of the desert/harbor town:

I have all kinds of ideas for this NPC, though I’m not entirely sure they will actually be realized, so I’ll keep quiet about them for now. All I can say is that Heero Yuy of Gundam Wing might have been an inspiration!

Finally, what Fred and Teddy has been up to: more skill work! The graphics for the Utility skills are coming together one by one, and here’s a few examples of the Barrier skill, tarting with it’s breaking due to a bee attack:

In the current iteration we’ve decided not to go with our original plan, which was that a barrier break like the one seen above would cause you to take the remaining damage (if any) after the last of your barrier hp is used up. Instead, it’ll now absorb the whole attack, keeping you safe from harm even as it’s close to breaking. Our reasoning for this is that it feels more satisfying being able to completely shield yourself from harm, especially against strong enemies which might be able to hit through the barrier with just one attack. We’ll balance this by lowering the amount of hits and hp the barrier can shield you from instead, but if it still ends up too OP we might bring back our original plan.

Of course, after a barrier break you won’t be able to recast the skill for a little while as well, as seen above.

Next, what it looks like as it expires due to the time limit:

After about 10 seconds it fades out, at which point you can recast it so long as it didn’t break due to taking too much damage. Finally, below, you can see the perfect guard effect as you bring it out in the right moment against a bee:

And here’s a closer look at the effects:

We’ve also begun implementing the Death Mark graphics seen in last week’s post! We are, however, considering changing it slightly, perhaps making the sword red and adding a skull, making it better fit its rather ominous name!

And to end this post, here’s a first iteration of the Challenge skill:

This, too, will be further improved. Below you can see an effect that will be added to the animation, to better indicate in which direction you aim your skill. Eventually there will be a speech bubble with curses thrown at the enemy as well:

Onwards we go! With some luck, these skills might be available as soon as this weekend for Frontline players, but it depends a lot of any more bugs that may surface as we continue to test these out. Fingers crossed!

It’s another Monday, and work on the Utility skills is in full progress!

As Teddy continues to prototype, I thought it would be fun to take a look at these very early stages of each of the skills! First up, we have the Defensive utility skills, three skills that are bound to change the game play slightly for at least some of you:

First among them, we have the blink (as seen above). As mentioned in the earlier rundown of the utility skills, it auto-targets some distance away as you tap the button, but you can also move the target around (if you have the time).

It’ll have a base cost of some energy, with a 20 more energy increase each time you spam it. If you stop using it for about 3 seconds currently, it will reset to the base cost. These costs will be lowered slightly for each silver point you spend on the skill, culminating in being able to use the first blink for free. The exact numbers are subject to change with further testing.

Next, the shield/barrier! It has an amount of HP, much like your physical shield, based on a percentage of your own HP, which increased per level spent on the skill. It can take damage up to his amount, but will always break after 4 hits regardless of how much damage they do to your shield. If your barrier gets crushed, you’ll take the remaining damage from the attack (the amount it failed to shield you from) as regular damage and you won’t be able to recast the shield for a little while.

Finally, the meditation/focus skill. It regenerates your EP faster the more you’ve leveled it, and if you channel it for two seconds the next skill you use will be cast free of EP cost. The circle underneath the character indicates when that happens!

As for the Offense skills, we first have Death Mark!

This skill has a new targeting system, which can be seen above. It basically aims at whatever enemy is the closest to your target, which you can move around the screen so long as you hold down the spell button.

Everything you see here is prototype graphics, so it will likely look a lot different in the end, but the general gist of it is that as you do damage to a target with Death Mark, a meter of some sort (in this case it will probably be a sword) will start to fill up. Once a set amount of time has passed, the mark will trigger and deal bonus damage based on how much you’ve already damaged the target. The more you’ve filled the meter, the more damage it will do when it triggers – so you better try to get as much damage as possible on your target before that happens, to maximize the bonus damage. If the damage Death Mark will do is enough to kill the target, it will automatically trigger and execute the enemy for you before the timer runs out.

Taunt/Challenge lacks all of the relevant graphics, but works much as described earlier: you challenge an enemy by shouting some insults at it, causing the both of you to deal more damage against each other. Upon leveling the skill, you’ll be able to target more enemies. Of course, in multiplayer, taunted enemies will prefer the taunting player when looking for things to attack, so your friends will be safe.

Sleep, or rather, Stasis is the skill we’ve come the furthest with graphics wise. The mechanics are fairly straight forward and as described previously: the targeted enemy gets put in a stasis from which it’s released either when a new enemy gets put under the effect, when you hit it, or simply when the timer (individual for each type of enemy) runs out.

Here’s the first prototype version, simply freezing the enemy in place:

In the second iteration, a flashing light was added to indicate when an enemy is about to come out of stasis:

Finally, some visual effects were added, and as it is, we’re already pretty satisfied with the way it looks right now – we might just add some small effect for when an enemy gets hit by the spell and otherwise keep it the way it is:

And, since the Utility skills will be implemented much sooner than the desert enemies, Fred has paused the creation of those beast and began work on the spell effects needed!

We felt Death Mark is the skill that’s perhaps the most reliant on the right graphics, and nearly impossible to really get a feel for without them: we want to be able to feel the urgency of trying to fill up that meter, and the satisfaction as it triggers and executes the enemy.

As such, Fred began sketching on multiple versions and ideas for what it could look like, with the guideline that we wanted it to be a sword:

He also began making the actual animations, first showing how the meter fills up:

And then the indications for when time is about to run out (the flashing outline):

He’s also begun work on the shield/barrier skill from the defense section, which will be a bubble of sorts, surrounding the character. We’re still working on tweaking the transparency levels and overall feel, but we think we’re getting there:

The rest of this week we’ll be testing all the billion ways each spell can break the game (which they do, a lot), by playing through the entire thing using each spell on every enemy in every possible way. While we won’t be able to find all of the bugs or problems this way, hopefully it’ll make them more or less fully functional before we hand it over to you guys in the Frontline beta! Multiplayer will need a whole lot of testing of its own, both to make sure the effects are syncing up between users, and to bug test the friendly targeting (as some of the Utility skills will be used as buffs which can be cast on anyone in your party).

At some point I will be called upon to make the proper skill icons for each of these, though I’m not sure if that will happen this week or later when we’re 500% sure these are the skills we’ll actually end up using (that is, once we’re certain none of them feel too boring as we try them out properly on our bug testing runs). Until then my art focus will be mainly on continuing the Arcadia Rework, as it’s what’s next on our to-do once the skills have been finished (and the occasional desert town portrait). Slow but steady!

Fred, meanwhile will be focusing this week on creating more of the Utility skill animations and Teddy will be put on major polish and bug hunting duty. At the moment, we don’t have an ETA for when the skills will be available on Frontline: it’s all very dependent on how broken they end up being on these playthroughs.

We’ve already had lots of talks about small edits we’d like to see on each of the abilities, so they’re not even in their finished form as it is right now! No major changes in terms of mechanics, but lots of tiny timing-things and such. For example, whether Death Mark should trigger automatically once the meter is full, or if it should still wait for the timer to run out. In this case we decided to keep the timer fairly short, and have it wait for it to run out before it triggers, even if you’ve done enough damage to fill the whole thing. Our reasoning for this is to make sure you can’t spam it too often, in multiplayer, for instance – as you’d be able to fill the meter a lot faster with four people who might all also have the ability (though we’ll try to balance this as well). Our goal is to make it fairly hard filling up the meter before the timer runs out, so it’ll be a bit of a fun challenge to try and fill it as much as you can when battling.

Hope you guys are enjoying your summer!

And another week goes by! Last week we finalized Housing and finally managed to get a Stable patch up and running with the whole thing, meaning that (unless there are many more bugs that need fixing), it’s time to focus our attention on those Utility skills! If you are one of those waiting for Stable updates, please go ahead and try housing out, and let us know about how to make it better in the future or any bugs you might find! The full patch notes can be viewed here!

I know a lot of you are sad to hear about there still not being a healing skill, but hopefully the inclusion of the barrier skill will soothe that blow slightly, while still keeping true to our design. So far, we’re all happy about the skill ideas and hope you will be too!

Teddy is currently prototyping the Utility skills using whiteboxing methods (meaning he’s winging the art with what we already have or extremely simple paint art), just to get a feel of how they’ll work in the actual game. Sometimes it becomes very clear even at this stage that some things just don’t work the way we’d like it to, and if that happens it’s unnecessary to have Fred make complex animations for skills that will get cut!

So in the meanwhile, Fred’s continuing to work on the desert enemies until we’re satisfied with the first bunch of skill prototypes, and I’ll continue to focus on the Arcadia Rework, which is likely to be the next step after the Utility skills have been implemented and the skills and battle systems have received an overall rebalance. I’m also continuing to create portraits every now and then, for the inhabitants of the upcoming desert/harbor town, to avoid spending multiple weeks doing nothing but portraits once we get there! Stay tuned :)

For now though, let’s look at what’s been going on last week (aside from the stable patch)!

First up, a list of those Utility skills mentioned last week! Keep in mind, all of the names are working names for now and the effects might differ slightly from the descriptions below, depending on how things work out in the prototyping stage.

First up, the offensive ones:

Challenge – A taunt of sorts, where you make one enemy focus his whole attention on you. This means that if the enemy is currently attacking someone else (in multiplayer for instance), it will immediately target you instead. Under this effect, you’ll deal more damage against this enemy, but it will also deal more damage against you. So, a double edged sword, if you will.

The targeting works much like a projectile: your character will go into a shouting animation in the direction you’re currently facing, and the debuff will apply to the nearest enemy inside the effect.

Death Mark – A debuff that uses a earth spike/meteor style target which you can move between enemies as you hold the skill button. Once you decide which enemy to target they will get a marker on them that will look like a meter of sorts. As you deal damage to this enemy, the meter will fill up and once it’s full or a timer runs out, it’ll deal a percentage of the damage you’ve already done to the enemy as bonus damage. It will also trigger immediately once the damage it’d deal is enough to kill the enemy.

Sleep – A skill that puts an enemy to sleep and makes it unable to attack. However, if you hit the enemy it will wake up and return to battle. The duration each enemy sleeps may vary on their type and level. There will probably be a global limit for this skill, where only one enemy can be asleep at the same time. This means that if you or any of your friends cast the skill on another enemy, the one currently sleeping will wake up as the new one falls asleep.

For the defensive skills, we have:

Meditate – A skill that you hold to regenerate EP at a greater speed. As we rebalance the skills it’s likely we’ll edit how EP works slightly, making it regenerate more slowly (among other things) – which means this skill will be more useful for more people than it might currently be. We also have an idea that if you charge x% of your EP and reach max using Meditate, the next spell will cast will be cast for free.

Shield – A shield you can cast around yourself or a friend that absorbs some damage. If the shield HP runs low and you get hit by an attack that finishes off the shield, you will take the remaining damage of the shield-breaking attack, so beware!

In single player, this shield is cast like a regular skill, while in multiplayer holding the button will bring you into a wheel (like when you control the Frosty Friend), which shows the faces of you and each of your friends characters. Press up to cast the shield on yourself, or right to cast it on player number two, etc.

The shield will also have some kind of perfect guard effect, if you manage to cast it right before you or your friend would get hit by an incoming attack, but we haven’t decided exactly what this will be yet.

Blink – A short-range teleport ability that auto targets some distance away. This means that if you tap the skill you will blink across the screen, but if you hold the button down you can move the target around to change where you land.

Finally, there’s the two buff spells:

Offense – Boosts damage, speed and crit.

Defense – Boosts defense, shield regeneration and EP regeneration.

One important disclaimer in relation to these skills is that they’re all subject to change depending on your feedback or our experience while testing them out! For now though, this is the lineup we’re looking at and right now we all agree it’s gonna make things much more interesting :)

Now, time for another portrait: the summer fae luring her winter fae friend to the desert town!

As with the other harbor/desert town characters, nothing has been properly decided about these characters, but my general idea is that she took her friend with her, and while she enjoys herself he has a hard time dealing with the climate! I guess we’ll see if that story makes it in the end, once we finally start implementing the town.

In the Arcadia rework business, it’s time to introduce Remedi’s Alchemy, an important part of your future arcade runs…

In this first part we focus on the wagon itself, and in the next we’ll add a bunch of interesting surroundings: strange and mystical flowers that have luring the alchemist to this remote town!

Finally, let’s end this week by taking a look at what Fred has kept himself busy with: the Solem animations! In order of appearance: Appear (spawn), attack, dig (for when he charges at you), grab (as he appears from beneath your feet to hit you), and a regular movement animation!

Important to notes is that these are still in the ‘sketch’ stage, so they need some cleaning up (as you can see on a few, there are holes in the middle of the poor Solem). This is the way Fred prefers to work when he creates animations: first making a rough sketch, then filling in more and more details until they’re properly polished (and all holes removed).