This week I (Vilya) have finally started working on Puzzle World, the small extension of Tai Ming’s second zone set in the north! It’s been a blast – but first, let’s take a look at something I forgot: the Giant Thorn-Worm boss portrait!



Based on Fred’s sprite, the Giant Thorn-Worm boss portrait is pretty straight forward, as it’s.. well, just a worm. Of course, it had to be adjusted in some ways: for one, it needed to be a lot longer than it is in the sprite, or it’d barely reach above the title text! I also added a few more spikes to its back.

Other than that, I tried to stay true to the sprite. Perhaps I could have added some texture to its skin, and maybe I will at a later stage – but I think it’s important that the boss portrait resembles the actual sprite as much as possible, especially when the sprite is as big as the Giant Thorn-Worm is.

As for the boss title itself, the main title will be “Giant Thorn-Worm”, with “The Threat from Below” as its sub-title. This is actually a reference to the movie Tremors, which was known as “Hotet från Underjorden” (The Threat From Below/the Underground) when it came to Sweden!


And now…. It’s time to begin! Using the sketches from last week, I’m going to create the backgrounds for each of the Puzzle World rooms. It’s gonna be a lot of fun, since this place will be totally different from everything else in Tai Ming graphics wise: bright colors and crazy color combinations everywhere! Wohoo!

To celebrate a completely new set of graphics, here’s a video showing the process of creating this room! Videos are definitely more fun to do when there are a lot of new graphics involved, so I’ll probably do one or two graphics for each new area, rather than spam a ton of videos of me recoloring and reshaping previously made objects from now on:


After finishing recording the video, I decided to add and change a few minor things before the finished room. First up, moving the question mark poster to the front – in the back it could be anything, and I think it’s unnecessary to confuse players about it:


Next. adding some balloons. I mean, it’s a theme park, after all – so it’s not really complete without a few balloons. Right?


Third, in the original sketch I had a “cool effect” around the first door of the theme park, which felt a bit redundant after I completed the rest of the room. However, after giving it some thought, I wanted to try creating it after all – in the worst case we’ll simply remove the effect again, but for now I kind of like it:


Here’s the finished first room after these changes:


And now: the first actual puzzle room of this brand-new theme park! This one is focused on statues, but solving it won’t be as easy as you might have thought – you see, the guys building the puzzle haven’t actually finished it yet, so you’ll have to figure out another way to get out of here.. :)


A step-by-step GIF of the design! Since most of the wall and floor stuff has been made already, there’s a lot less to do in this room. The banners are actually reused from the HQ (though resized and remade just a tiny bit), while the pillars and the puzzle parts on the floor had to be made from scratch.

Next, some half-built puzzle blocks in wood, lying around on the floor:


These puzzle blocks are made in wood and are supposed to be based on the ‘real’ puzzle blocks you find out and about in the world of Grindea. However, I chose to make these in wood so that when you travel to the present to fight enemies, there aren’t a bunch of puzzle blocks blocking your way as you battle – they have decayed and only planks will be left on the floor, which have no colliders.

It also serves to remind people that the guy who build this theme park is kind of cheap and would rather build the puzzle blocks in a cheap material than order the more expensive plastic- or stone versions… ;)

Finished version of the room:


Now, after focusing so long on Tai Ming’s second zone, it’s finally nearing completion and we can look on to the third and final zone! As such, we had a meeting where we discussed exactly how it will look and what will take place here…


Since the second zone has become quite big and advanced, we agreed that it’s best to keep the third zone smaller and a lot more straight forward, in order to pace things well. When you first enter this zone, you will see a weird celebration and a bunch of strange things happening in front of a lot of people outside an ancient shrine! I know I’m vague, but it’s gonna be really cool if we get it right!


Next, you’ll be sent back to the present, where you’ll make your way through the shrine itself. Here you’ll be sent back and forth in time seemingly randomly – the time warp thing has gone crazy it seems! There will be some battles and some cutscenes explaining what’s happening next, and things are getting quite scary..!


Finally, you’ll reach your destination: outside, on the other end of the shrine, is a meadow with an altar at the end. At the altar, you’ll find an artefact, and not one but two epic fights draw close…

I’m so excited to begin making the third zone now that it’s been designed much more thoroughly and I almost feel like the end of the temple is within grasp! Of course, there’s still a lot of stuff left (we’re still not done with the second zone, after all!), but having it all designed really helps a lot with looking ahead :)

Oh yeah, meanwhile, Fred has been finished one NPC after another! Soon all of Tai Ming will be full of people :D


Hello guys! Tai Ming’s second zone is finally coming together: this week I (Vilya) have finally finished up the last backgrounds (except for the Puzzle Cave, which we’ll talk a bit later in the post)! Aside from a few fixes here and there, the backgrounds are now officially done for this area, and “all” that needs to be added now are a ton of NPCs, and of course, the cutscenes.. :)

Let’s take a look at this week’s main tasks:

I quit making the second zone’s outdoor transition from past to present around the HQ, as we hadn’t decided if the area needed to become bigger to properly house the Giant Thorn-Worm battle. Since we decided to keep things as they are, it was finally time to get a move on and finish things up!

First up is the area around the dam, where you can adjust the water levels of Tai Ming’s second zone. As with all other present versions, it’s time to demolish everything:


Next, the HQ itself, along with the yard in front! At this point it’s actually not 100% finished – I’m gonna break the wall up a bit so you can move through the left side in the next step (and in the future I might break the right corner a bit for visual effect as well:


Finally, the area near the exit to the third zone! The main focus on this part of the job was the doorway to the third zone. In the past version, the door is open: here it needs to be closed, until you’ve gathered 3 emblems that activates the door opening mechanism. So, the emblems of the past needed to be removed, the door lowered, and some kind of ruin added to the whole thing:


In the end, I also had to add a ton of stuff in the editor to serve as colliders: this part of the area will be blocked unless you get here from the right time rift. Right not some of the items aren’t correctly sorted, but they will be once the game engine does its work!

It’s likely I’ll add more stuff here later if we feel like the blockade is too thin, but that will be in a future mixed bag update, in that case :)

Here’s the final result, for now:


Meanwhile, Fred has been busy filling this area with the NPCs living here! Tai Ming has attracted all kinds of people, ranging from collectors, priests, merchants and bar owners! Some might resemble characters from the present: distant relatives, perhaps?


Now that I’m finished with my share of the Tai Ming 2nd zone backgrounds, it’s time to move on to something different: the puzzle cave in the north part of the map! We’ve actually made a very basic sketch of the area, which includes all the rooms and what you’ll face there.

Be aware of spoilers if you look at the map below or it’s explanation, if you prefer to explore the amusement park on your own:


I already mentioned the rooms in a previous post, but now we’ve actually designed the rooms! The sketches above are very messy and basic, but they show in which order the rooms will appear, as well as and approximation of how they’ll look.

Room 1 is an introduction room where you’ll meet the owner of the amusement park and his workers.

Room 2 is the Ancient Statue Puzzle, where you’ll have to use statues get to Room 3, where regular battles will take place.

Room 4 is sponsored by Flying Fortress and features a Phase Shift puzzle (shown here), Room 5 is where the Monkey Madness takes place, and Room 6 is the “Path Puzzle” shown in the same post as the Phase Shift puzzle.

Room 7 is where you’ll find your mysterious treasure, as well as a hopefully fancy view! I both look forward to and dread making this map. Good thing I can make the other 6 first ;)

Next week I’ll start making the above rooms, while Teddy and Fred work on adding more NPCs and cutscenes to the village! In the next post we’ll take a sneak peek at what our plans are for the third zone as well, since we’re drawing ever closer to finishing this second part of the temple. Stay tuned! :)

This week, we’ve finished up the final interior of Tai Ming’s second zone: the monkey lab! Here is the past version:


Before designing this place, I (Vilya) had a talk with Fred and Teddy about what level of technology we wanted this place to have. We had plenty of options: we could either go full Flying Fortress style with lasers and very high technology, or we could go more primitive and ancient-oriented.

Since we wanted this area to feel quite modern for Tai Ming (making it stand out and all), we decided to keep it kind of high-tech, but not Flying Fortress laser-level. So there’s steel bars, lots of documentation, some glass vials and strange potions, some which will be animated and added later on by Fred!

After completing the above version, we decided to have one big cage rather than two small, with two monkeys in it. We also added some cracks to illustrate where a hole will be in the present, as well:


For the Present version, the walls & floor need to become more dull & dark, the glass windows have broken, papers have been shredded… and the poor monkeys who were stuck in the cage have died (unless… you decide to let them out) :(



Aside from these interiors, we also added a bunch of smaller stuff: changing the brown chests into purple ones on the banners in the past, to reflect the fact that the chests in Tai Ming will, in fact, be purple:


We also wanted to Tai Ming-ify the doors inside the ancient Collector’s HQ a bit, so I added some fancy door frame decorations to them:


Just for fun and some flavor, an optional chest has appeared in Tai Ming’s present state, as well! But however will you be able to reach it with all the rocks blocking the way?


There’s a couple of new characters, as well! This ancient version of Quinton (an ancestor, perhaps?) is the Quest Master of Tai Ming’s Collector’s HQ. He’ll give you one or two quests you need to complete in the town before you can proceed into the next zone:


Those of you who paid attention to the text screens in the Phase Puzzle course in Mount Bloom should be familiar with Tonee, who wrote about the course in some detail!

Well, here she is, visiting Tai Ming with her engineer friend from last week:


What they’re doing there? Showing off the latest Phase Shifting technology of course! These things don’t fund themselves, you know ;)

Finally, here’s another giant Thorn-Worm, the ULTIMATE version, made & animated by Fred:


How much worse can that fight get, really?! Whew…

Next week, I’ll finish up the graphics for Tai Ming’s second zone, while Fred works on some much needed NPC sprites for the area! Next after that, Puzzle World, the short mini puzzle-dungeon “hidden” in the north of the zone. Stay tuned! :)

After getting back from some days off, it’s only natural that you (or your team) have thought about a bunch of small improvements that could be made! So, after getting back last week, Vilya got straight back into fixing a bunch of things in Tai Ming’s second zone!

First, as we implemented more and more of the Tai Ming 2nd zone backgrounds, we came to realize we wanted to change some things around. One of those things were the placement of the cave entrance seen below:


Since this cave will be a puzzle cave, we thought it’d be a little bit funny if it was next to the graveyard, in order to illustrate how poor the owner’s business choices are. But we found it got a little bit too crowded, so we decided to move the entrance further to the right, and add a small fence to illustrate the end of the graveyard.

In the present, the puzzle cave has closed since many years, and instead the path to it has been filled with new tombstones:


Another thing we wanted to change was the windows of the monkey lab. Since this building is where a lot of scientific experiments take place, we want to highlight that this building is different from the rest, and in a way, more modern. We already have the more industrialized chimneys, but we also decided to add glass windows rather than the hollow ones from before:


And in the present, as time has passed and worn things down, the glass windows have broken and fallen apart:


Next up is of course finishing the remaining backgrounds needed for the area, including the ancient Collector’s HQ! When designing this place, we wanted it to resemble the Collector’s HQ in Evergrind City, only smaller since it doesn’t make sense for it to be as big as that one gameplay wise (you won’t really do anything in here except fetch a quest or two). So let’s take a look at what the Evergrind City HQ looks like:


And now, the ancient HQ:



We’re considering editing the doors a bit so they’ll fit in better with the Tai Ming theme. Also, there will be guards placed outside the doors like in Evergrind City, so you won’t be able to enter (though I guess it’s kind of rare to be able to walk through closed doors in this game anyway). The doors are only there to make the place seem bigger than it is, really!

As for characters in this area, there’s just a tiny amount of portraits left now! Of course, they will all need a bunch of expressions, but there won’t be too many all-new characters! This guy is the engineer that helped design the phase shift puzzle elements that are used in the course in Mt: Bloom:


We know gave a lot of people a headache (at least the more difficult, optional stage), so perhaps this is the guy you should blame? :)

Next, this fellow here is the key to a very old mystery: why do the guards in Tai Ming all look alike? The answer is simple – they’re all brothers! And their father is non other than this scientist, who currently works in the monkey lab:


When making this portrait we used the guard portrait as a base and recolored and repainted where needed, to make them look similar enough to be related.

Now, whether there’s a similar explanation to why the guards in Evergrind City look the same as well remains to be seen… :)

Finally, a little sneak peek of our next prototyping business: another ‘puzzle’ in the puzzle cave. Only it’s not a puzzle: instead you’re in the present, and the key you need keeps getting snatched away by monkeys:


How annoying, right?! Well, don’t worry! You’ll get the key eventually. At least, once we’ve finished the puzzle cave and all it’s background, which will be what we’ll jump into once we’ve finished up the second zone properly. See you next week! :)

Guys! I’m back~~ I (Vilya) took a few days off last week to spend with my family and recharge my batteries. It’s been great, and now I’m so pumped to get back to work! So pumped in fact, I got back one day early just to be able to write this post ;)

Unfortunately I haven’t prepared anything to show on the blog this time aside from having updated the FAQ on the main site with a bunch of new reoccuring questions + the removal of some old ones.

But don’t worry! Fred is cooking up animations like always, and while waiting for some graphics Teddy has taken the opportunity to do a little more work on the Housing (yes, it’s a feature that lives still!!)

He actually wrote a pretty long guest post about it over at my work blog, but to keep things brief in the recap, here’s how it currently looks:

We plan to release the housing into the game sometime after Tai Ming has been finished up.

Now, on to Fred’s animations – one of the last sets from the big worm battle!





Are you excited for this battle yet?! I know I am! Just gotta finish the rest of the Tai Ming 2nd zone backgrounds first, so I guess that’s what I’ll dive right back into now! See you next week~ :D

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:


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:


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



..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:



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):


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):


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:


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.


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:


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!


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?



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:



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:





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:



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)!



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:



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:


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..



…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:



Plus, some fixes here and there across the map:




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:




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




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.





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:



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:





..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)! :)