So last week our goal was to each come up with one or a few design ideas for the first floor in the final dungeon, after which we’d go through each of our suggestions and pick our favourites, building our dungeon one floor at a time.

As we mentioned, our guidelines were to remind people of the journey they’ve made throughout the game, bringing back “old classic” events and mechanics. Some of our ideas for the first floor, representing the very beginning of the game, ranged from battling your own sword and shield, a bullet hell with wooden swords, bees circulating around you and attacking you one by one, or an arena where you battle a block puzzle that comes alive.

In the end we decided to combine a few elements of the early parts of the game, namely the arena trials, finding your shield and sword to proceed and battling the Black Ferrets on the bridge. Our main idea is that you’ll start on a Pillar Mountains looking area (perhaps even a pillar), where you have to find your sword and shield by fishing and solving a block puzzle while the Arena commentator Mr Plott comments on what you’re doing, and you’ll only be able to proceed after handing your items to Grandpa Joe who blocks a bridge over which you’ll battle an ever increasing amount of Teddy & Freddy, culminating in a battle against Vilya herself before you’ll be able to progress to the second floor, a floor which will be centered around the Pumpkin Woods.

We also decided on some details around the dungeon. Previously, we’ve decided that the thing that turns the dungeon into what it is is an ancient artefact mirror, which transforms the tower into challenges to stop you from reaching the top. As such, we want to incorporate various mirror effects here and there (like for instance, Grandpa Joe shattering into glass pieces when you show him your sword and shield, enemies spawning by appearing through mirror glass and such). We also reiterated that we want the main focus for each floor to be something iconic to each part of the game, focusing on the story beats and ‘feel’ of certain areas.

Next up, the Pumpkin Woods floor! For the this we felt the key component was the curse of the woods, making you unable to progress, and the hunt for each of the items needed to clear the curse. To capture this, our idea is to create a set of rooms with a ‘lost woods’ feel where you’ll end up back in the first room by taking the ‘wrong’ exit, and having you battle five mini bosses in a room each.

The mini bosses we have in mind here are Pumpking and Helloweed from Arcade Mode, plus a similarly difficult mini boss based around Jack o’ Lantern which will also appear as an Arcade Mode floor boss later on! We’ll also design a challenge based around the Jumpkins and Ghostys.

For the Jumpkins this will most likely involve a living-vegetable like mayhem room with loads of jumpkins, while the Ghosty challenge idea we have so far is more about finding and defeating the correct one out of a bunch that will surround you – though our ideas here are still very much up in the air. For now, our main focus around this floor is the feel of having to cleanse the wood once more, this time by collecting the items from more difficult enemies than simple elites like you had to the first time around. We’ll dice into more specific design details once we get to this floor, our overall idea holds regardless of how we design the challenges.

Once you’ve defeated all of these mini bosses and collected their key item, you’ll be able to cleanse the curse with the aid of a Grindea statue, just like in the original Pumpkin Woods, complete with a minor appearance from Bishop; after that, it’s onto the next floor, featuring the Flying Fortress! :)

Now, you’ve seen a bunch of Bishop’s attack animations made by Fred, but now that we have a basic sketch for the arena, it’s time to start some prototyping of the fight!

At the moment, Bishop has three distinct attacks/patterns, but we have plans to add more as we go along. For now it’s a sword-throwing attack, a giant scythe attack and an attack where a bunch of Bishops emerge from the ground with spears:

We know Bishop disappears a bit into the dark background when he’s towards the top of the fight area, but we have plans on making him more visible by adding a shader that makes a subtle aura or outline around him when he’s against the dark parts. Other than that, what do you guys think so far?

In Arcade Mode, it’s high time we get a proper map through which you can track your progress! As such we’ve been talking about various ways to illustrate this, ending up with illustrating them as isles:

Now, the layout of these isles isn’t in it’s finished version here, the idea is that we want to illustrate how you move upwards a bit more, so we’ll play around with how we place the isles as we move on; and as such might change the design of these isles a bit as well.

On top of that, there are two more isles missing – that of the room where you get your reward for finishing Arcade Mode, and the bonus floor you get to only if you’re strong enough! These will only be added once they’ve been made in their proper forms in the game, though, so I know exactly how to design their isles.

In Fred’s department meanwhile, it’s all about Bishop and giving him more animations! Let’s have a look:

So we’re drawing ever nearer to that final dungeon, and now that we’ve had some time to think about it, we’ve discussed taking a different approach to it!

We’ve gone through several iterations already, although none of them have actually left the sketching board as of yet. At first we wanted the dungeon to have one floor representing each major area in the game, then we considered mixing various themes together and at some point we wanted fewer floors but more of a mishmash of everything…. The only thing we’ve really always agreed upon throughout all this has been that it shouldn’t be super long – often we feel like when players get close to the end of a game, there’s always a risk of getting fatigued and running out of steam just before the final boss, an effect that is often made worse by overly long and complex final dungeons and boss fights.

Our latest idea is to have several shorter floors – some or possibly most just a single room’s worth, and each floor will touch upon something you’ve seen or experienced in the game, but in a sort of strange way – imagine something like the creepy version of Startington, but decidedly less creepy and with more gameplay elements!

Our mission for this week game design wise will be to come up with a bunch of room ideas for the first stretch of the game, up until Flying Fortress, and present our ideas on Friday. Which events throughout the game do you find most iconic and would be something you’d expect to see represented in a dungeon like this? And how do you feel about the length of final dungeons? Do you expect a super long finale, or do you prefer it to be a little shorter?

Now, time for a bunch of mixed things: a bunk bed in Trick & Treat’s house, some new better looking graphics for some of the ambience box sounds, and a new item based on a backer’s request! :)

Another thing I’ve been working on recently has been sketching a couple of the last bunch of maps needed for Story Mode, one which is the room where your card collection is shown and which will grant you a special reward once you’ve collected all of them:

This room will be in Mount Bloom, in front of where the dragon carving on the floor used to be. In this initial sketch, it doesn’t look very mountain-y, but that will be remedied in the final version, which will probably look slightly different in the end, but the concept will remain the same: slots for cards on the wall, and some similar looking decorations across the room to make it look more interesting.

The other room I’ve been sketching has been the strange realm where you’ll battle Bishop! In the beginning we wanted this battle to take place in a surreal dream world governed by Grindea, but after some thought we changed our mind; while Grindea is light, we feel that Bishop is more of a dark creature, and having his battle be in a proper Bishop-y realm would be best.
As such, my design for the room is a bit more grim looking that our initial plan:

Again, it will likely look slightly different in the end, especially once the proper graphics are made, but you get the overall concept and colour scheme!

Time to start working on the background for the card cave! As you can see, the Mount Bloom mountain walls make it feel a lot more like a cave than in the sketch:

I haven’t made the slots for the cards yet, as they will need to be animated with glowing lights and such I thought it best to leave that up to Fred for now so the size of them will work out!

In Fred’s department, it’s been all about figuring out the look for one of the most important characters in the game that hasn’t yet appeared in the game in her physical form…. That is, of course, Grindea! She’ll appear as part of the ending, so we’ve been figuring out how to illustrate her form by having Fred make a ton of sketches!

Here you can see the progress of how it’s evolved:

Originally, we envisioned her as more of an ordinary character, but in the end we went for a bit more shapeless approach, and so these last two are our current favourites! What do you guys think?

Some more stuff we’ve been talking about recently is tying up a couple of the “semi-started” quests we’ve been foreshadowing around the world. One such thing is the Scarecrow quest – remember the scarecrow that talks about the purple garland in Pumpkin Woods? While we’re going to rewrite her(!) line a little bit, we will end up with a quest dealing with the curse of the pumpkin, while also solving another question mark of the world – the house on the little island in Evergrind City. We’ve decided to let there be a bridge there from the beginning, rather than you having to fix one, and inside will be a worried father talking about his missing daughter, who is a collector. At some point in the story, once you’ve progressed far enough or you’re strong enough, he will appear in the Collectors’ HQ asking for your assistance in finding his daughter; who, it turns out, has been cursed into a scarecrow!

Another thing you might have forgotten about (but we surely haven’t) is the grave up in Seasonne! The grave will be reached through a cave which we’re about to make as well, and which will give clues about the owner of the grave – a math genius who is depressed about his attempts at math caves not being as popular as his rival in Port Monnaie. There will be a different kind of math puzzle here as well, but the quest itself will be given after speaking to the ghost inhabiting the grave outside the little cave system.

We’re also going to (finally!) add the option to turn a couple rooms in the Temple of Seasons into spring, revealing a hidden room in one such room where you’ll get a trinket that has been in the game since pretty much forever, but which you haven’t been able to get yet because we never actually got around to making it possible to turn the room in question into its spring version… Oops!

More to come as well, but there isn’t that much left on our list for Story Mode now! :)

Now, before we dive into more upcoming stuff here’s one more thing that’ll go into the patch we’ll release soon(tm)! This guy could be seen in a blog post last week in the shape of a spooky sprite made by Fred, a strange creature found in the bonus Pumpkin Woods map!

The girl cursed into a scarecrow is a collector as well, so here’s her portrait since we’re doing collectors now anyway:

And here we have her beloved father, who at some point in the near future will seek your help in saving his daughter:

Meanwhile, Fred keeps polishing up the last remaining effects and things happening for this patch, as well as sending off a video with instructions to our sound designer! Here’s another sneak peek of that upcoming strange demon creature in the bonus Pumpkin Woods map:

Hello everyone! Have you enjoyed your weekend? It’s time for another week and another meeting, this time discussing the next quest we’ll implement for Story Mode.

As you’ve seen before, Fred has been working on a bug net animation for a quest where you’ll capture butterflies. The person who will give you this quest is Luigi, and one of the rewards will be one of those fertilizers that will help the squiggly plants you’ve seen across the world grow. Today we ironed out some more of those details.

To start off with, the point of the quest is that you’ll get a bug net from Luigi, and use it to capture some rare butterflies found across the world. Turn in three (or four – we haven’t decided the exact number yet) and you’ll get a fertilizer, turn in all of them and you’ll get a special trinket.

At first we weren’t sure whether this quest should be given immediately or if it’ll be unlocked later on in the game. Each of these options come with their own pro’s and cons. The positives of having it unlocked immediately (well, after you finish the trial) is that you’ll be able to capture butterflies as you go on your adventures, giving you something extra to do. On the other hand, unlocking it later on will give you a chance to go back to some places you’ve seen before, especially if you’ve taken notice of the butterflies before and wondered what you could do with them.

In the end we settled for having it unlocked immediately, since the first reward you’ll get for the quest is a fertilizer, and that in its own is a sort of backtracking deal, making both the quest and reward a bit too similar if we went for the second option.

As for the final reward, we decided to go for a trinket that will get you a butterfly follower, sort of like the trinket that gives you a fae follower, but with a butterfly instead. We’re also considering allowing you to pick between a set of different appearances for the butterfly, so that you’ll always be able to pick one that you like best and/or matches your look!

We still don’t know exactly how many butterflies you’ll be able to capture across the world, but we’ll try to spread them out evenly throughout the game. The main thing is that they will all be outdoors (and Luigi will tell you as much), to avoid having you look around in every nook and cranny of every cave and building when you’re about to go looking for that final one!

Next, work on the mansion continues, this time with a dining room, where we can only assume Marino and his family have their supper with esteemed guests to entertain:

Next, another face you’ll find in the Mansion: another maid, polishing some statues in the main hallway!

Next in line in the mansion room creation is the second hallway, which connects the kitchen, dining room and first hallway:

And with that, the mansion is more than halfway done! What remains now is the grand corridor where Marino’s dad hangs out, Marino’s room, the master bedroom and Marino’s mother exotic plant room!

Meanwhile, Fred has been working on a bunch of smaller things, including a couple of the new NPCs, and some secret easter egg stuff I won’t show here, but will leave for you to find out during your adventures in the game!

Now, as is customary after a bigger patch, it’s time for us to take a couple days off to recharge the batteries. We’ll be back at the office on August 3rd, meaning the next blog post will be available here on August 10th, a week after we’ve returned to the office and produced new stuff to show!

Hope you guys are enjoying the summer, I’ll see you then :3

Our polishing continues with some new gameplay changes, this time featuring the enemies in the Temple of Seasons! To start off with, the tornadoes now spawn around the mage and player, and their movement speed is a lot slower:

The season knight’s spin can now be perfect guarded to push him away and make him stop:

And if you aim it well enough, he’ll deal damage to his friends as he’s pushed away:

It’s also time for another Collector! We’ll add a bunch of these to appear randomly during your adventures so it’s high time we make a couple more:

Another thing we’ve decided to add is discounted items at Shadier Merchant, the guy who sells you items in exchange for part of your max HP. There will now be a chance that one of the items is a particularly good deal; a stronger item for the level you’re on, or it’s priced lower. As such, I was tasked with making an indicator for discounted items:

Time for some more minor additions and changes! First up, a button for when you talk to Bishop and decide to change the difficulty settings by adding or removing those loop orbs; which we’ve decided to call ‘Catalysts’. The icon is supposed to indicate how you through this option can increase difficulty by adding another catalyst or decreasing the difficulty by removing one:

One of the oldest graphics in the game is that of the achievement trophy, so I decided to give it a quick makeover:

And finally, we decided to keep the Grindea-decorated fountains in Marino’s mansion for another part of the game, so instead I’ve been making some bee decorations for them:

So what Fred has started moving on to working with now is an entity you’ll find in the final dungeon. While I said we’ll focus on things not relating to the final dungeon for now, Fred has a lot of big animations to make for the last part of the game, so in order to avoid having a massive bottle neck where we’ll have to wait for his animations, we’ve decided that he should start working on some end game stuff after all.

And first up in that regard is this strange mirror artefact, which will appear throughout the tower and throw challenges your way. Here’s his progress on testing out various designs, as well as the one we picked in the end:

We continue to work on the various pin menus, and as a logical next step we need to make all sorts of graphics for the various places you’ll be able to look at your pins or see how many you’ve seen so far. First up, the title for where you can look at what pins you currently have equipped in the menu:

And next, the “shop title” of the Pin Collector where you can see all of the pins you’ve found so far; we decided against giving it a proper name, and went with the route of only showing a variety of pins:

And of course, the button which allows you to get to said list:

A little bit of news regarding the upcoming patch: unfortunately the cinema functions are quite broken and since we don’t feel like it’s vital for it to work before the patch (it will take quite a while to sort it out), we’ve decided to close the cinema for a little bit. People who haven’t bought it yet will receive a warning that it currently doesn’t work, while people who unlocked it already will get a slightly different interior:

Of course it’s our goal that it won’t remain like this for too long, and we hope it won’t be too much of an inconvenience, but right now we’d really like to get the patch up and running sooner rather than later, so fixing the cinema will have to come second to that! :)

Next up, some more gear for that set that will be used as part of a quest in the arena! These items aren’t too good stat wise but they look sort of cool?! Will you be able to survive an arena challenge wearing only these things?

As part of the new patch, we’re adding and improving on a bunch of things both for Arcade and Story Mode. A few of those things involve new projectiles and ‘tails’ for projectiles to make them easier to read:

 

 

And as for a thing that won’t make it’s way into this patch but will be available soon is this nice butterfly net, which will be used as part of a quest given by Luigi in Evergrind City, granting you one of those fertilizer you’ll use on the small plants you can find here and there across the game to make them grow:

 

In Freds department, he continues to make effects, both in general and for the loop orbs specifically. Here’s a collection of his work this far:

This week we’ve been busy turning the guest house into an office; which turns out involved two full days of carrying stuff back and forth as well as disassembling and reassembling a whole bunch of furniture… Phew!

Even after these two days we’re not completely done; we’ve been looking into getting new desks (of the kind you can also use to stand up and work), and new, better chairs, seeing as we’ve had these for an incredibly long time and they’re pretty much just the most basic type of IKEA chairs. I spent most of the evening Monday doing some research on that topic, so hopefully we’ll have a better and prettier looking office soon :)

For now though, it’s good to be able to work together again! And being this close to home, it’s a lot easier with lunch breaks and the like as well. Feels great so far!

Now, time for the last of James fans! We felt like two were a bit too few to give a sense of him having a following, so we decided to make one more:

One thing we’ve been talking about a lot recently is the difficulty setting for Arcade Mode and how to adjust it to make it the best possible experience for the most people. Our recent idea is to introduce something we call loops, that I think is a quite popular theme in roguelike style games: the game starts out fairly easy (well, not easy – but easier compared to the current default difficulty setting!), and once you’ve finished all floors once, you’ll unlock a more difficult version.

This will be done through accessing an item you can activate through Bishop, and there will be more than one difficult increase; for instance, our current idea is that Arcade will begin on what could be equivalent to Story Mode’s normal difficulty setting, then once you complete it once you’ll access Arcade Mode’s current difficulty setting through activating the item at Bishop. Complete that difficulty and you’ll unlock another item that will trigger your next runs to be as difficult as the current difficulty setting plus Candy’s Hard Mode curse.

The true ending for Arcade and the final battle would only be accessible if you manage to complete the whole game with all difficulty increasing items activated. You’ll also be able to deactivate them if you find the difficulty has become too much for you to handle.

How do you feel about this “loop” idea? Is it something you think you’d enjoy or do you prefer it the way things are now?

Meanwhile, Fred works on making all sorts of effects for the Pins and their various functions! Our goal is that every pin will have some sort of visual indicator for what they’re doing, so there’s a lot of random small effects to be made:

And then we have this one, an effect showing up as the Pin collector himself literally stumbles into the world of Arcadia! Soon it’ll all be in place.. :)

We’re back from our little Easter holiday (spent at home)! Did you guys have a nice holiday? We hope you did try to find some peace even in the midst of this crisis the world is facing!

We’ve recharged our batteries and were very excited to get back to working properly. We started off the week with a long meeting discussing the mails we’ve received from a lot of the people who are to design items for the game! As I mentioned before we went on holiday, we would start sending out requests for the designs, and have since received quite a few replies which we’ve discussed and answered accordingly.

If you bought one of the tiers which allow you to design an item, please check your mail and get back to us whenever you can! :)

In order to make it easier for us to read and remember what needs to be made for each item and where to put it in the game, I was then tasked with sorting out a document that includes all of the most recent and relevant information given for each design. As this involves around 30 unique designs made by 30 different people, it’ll be a lot of info to make easily accessible!

We also managed to discuss some more end game things that have been on our mind for a bit; mainly regarding the Bishop’s role in the later parts of the game. I believe we will end up having several more conversations around this topic, and I think the specifics will be better saved for later on… But stay tuned!

Finally, we talked about the fact that a lot of people seem to misunderstand how best to farm in the game, with people often thinking you need to reset an area to farm most efficiently. The way it actually works is that the more you clear out an area, the quicker the respawn gets, so after clearing an area completely and killing the newly spawned enemies for a bit, the respawn rate will accelerate and get quicker and quicker (up to a point). To make this easier to know we’ll add a loading screen tip hinting at it, as well as some info about it in the school (that once it’s properly up and running will feature a lot of random mechanical information about the game).

And now, onwards to continue work on that mansion! :)

Taking the mansion on its first step to completion, starting with the hallway:

We’ll still improve on some things. To start off with, I’ll be making new decorations for the fountains, making them look a bit more luxurious and unique to the mansion. We’re also gonna replace the bottom pools and put some sort of statues and plants around them, and maybe add some paintings on the wall. But that’s for next time!

First, a portrait of one of the inhabitants of the mansion, namely one of the maids! There will be more of these later on, but here’s a start:

And here’s Fred’s work on the maids so far!

In order to get a finalized and proper view of everything left to do for the game and to check in with each other a bit more frequently, we’ve recently decided we’re gonna have (more or less) daily meetings over voice!

During these meetings we’re going to discuss at least one of the things we’ve yet to properly establish until we know exactly all that is left to do and what we need to do to finish it up. This time, our main subject was that of books, how to present them, what books we’d like to add to the game, and so on.

In a previous post I made a new interface for books which is in the shape of an actual book, complete with the ability to turn pages. However, due to space limitations, Teddy is worried that there might not be a way to make such a book while still allowing a good amount of space for the text that needs to be in it. After today’s meeting we’ve decided we’ll at least give it a go, since we feel like an interface like that would look so much better than just a box (even if our fallback plan would be to at least make it look like a piece of paper, rather than the regular brown box). I’ll keep you updated with how our testing around works out.

In terms of books to include, we want to keep a decent balance between informative things that might make the player understand the world and how it works better with more flavourful things like tales of collectors from days gone past.

We want there to be a “quest” (not yet sure if it’ll be an official quest with it’s own quest tracker and everything) where you can find books around the world and hand it in it to the library to read it. And of course, once you’ve found all of the hidden books, you’d get an additional reward as well.

We’d also like there to be a series of book by Grindea’s top author Penn Wryte, so that you can find Part 1 early on in the game, and then continue to find parts throughout your journey, until you have the complete story.

Outside of all this book talk, we’ve also started to send out mails to all of you that supported us in the early days and bought one of the tiers where you get to design items or quests for the game! We expect it will take some time to settle some of the designs, and it’ll be easier to find spots for these additional items to be found before everything else has been finished up; hence it’s about time to get going :)

Now, a look at some of those new faces from the cutscenes, including a few that were only included once the Stable patch went life (if you haven’t played table in a while, now might be a good time to check it out!):

Now, for a much longed for update from Fred’s department! Because of the spoilery nature of nearly every animation he’s made for a long time there hasn’t been many updates from him, but you can view all of his progress in the update which should also be on stable in one of the coming days if it isn’t up already!

Now, however, as we move on to less spoiler-y things, such as the mansion in Evergrind South, we can start showing more stuff again! Here we have a few of the inhabitants of the mansion, starting with the butler (as well as a few options for how he’s gonna look in the end):

Our current favorite is the second one from the left! Which one do you prefer?

There’s also the long awaited(?) appearance of Marino’s father, sitting in his solitude on the throne upstairs:

On to the portraits! Marino’s dad is a character we’ve definitely all longed to meet (no? just me?), and for reasons unknown we’ve decided to be inspired by a famous video game character when designing him, with hints being both in the portrait and the sprite itself. Can you guess who?

And a look at the second portrait, that of the Butler:

With Easter now being upon us next week, and the Stable update released and ready, it’s time for us to take a week off to rest and gather energy for the next stretch of work: finishing up all the loose threads in Story Mode and adding some more quests! Final stretch soon, can’t believe it :)

As usual, the blog will be on pause during our holiday, but it’ll be back up and running on Monday the 20th! Happy Easter everyone, and stay safe out there!

So as a lot of you may have noticed, our world is currently facing a new kind of illness that is spreading rapidly as we speak. This illness, Covid-19, is now found in every part of Sweden, including the island where we live. The government is keeping us updated daily with the changes they’re making and how they rally the fight against it, with big changes is happening fast.

In order to help slow down and limit the spread, a lot of companies are suggesting their employees work from home if they’re able. This isn’t a recommendation from our government as of yet, though it’s been implemented in other countries and a lot of companies make their own recommendations. Now we’re making that same move ourselves.

We’re only a small studio with three people, but because our office is part of an office hotel where a lot of other companies work as well, we’ve decided to move our work stations home for the time being. While we love our office and the opportunities it gives us to see other people (or just the exercise of walking or cycling to it), we’ve decided that if through working from home for a bit we can help slow down the spread, it’s what we’ll do. For the company, this means little change except out discussions will be held over voice or video chats instead of in person. Technically, it’s possible for us to work from anywhere with little hassle.

In other words, hopefully we’ll be able to continue on as normal. We hope that all of you are staying safe and remember to wash your hands! Let’s not panic but do what we can to protect those around us who are in risk of being seriously affected by this virus :)

Now, we’re starting off this week with a random surprise addition to the stable update, the ability to view Trick & Treat (the strange twins in Pumpkin Woods) true form if you talk to them in the spirit world! We do still have plans for these twins, but now it’s likely they will have to wait until post release. However, this little secret will do no harm in the game in the meanwhile :)

As part of the final cutscene before stable ends, Ivy will be briefly unveiled, so a new portrait had to be made! There will be a bunch of expressions going on here as well, but we’ll get to that once the cutscene is closer to completion.

Without further ado:

Next, when I was looking to add more maps to the desert, I quickly realized there’s a big lack of treasure maps featured in Mount Bloom and Tai Ming as well! In order to solve this, I went straight ahead and made a bunch, starting with Mount Bloom:

“[…] that cave long forgotten, beneath the dragon’s jaw.”

I buried my treasure
So none be aware
And took great measure
That none could compare
To guard these great riches
I asked Mother fair
And that little one
Whose teeth you beware
Between them my precious
Now has its lair

And another batch, for Tai Ming this time:

“Buried with these pink daisies
I leave with you my [item]”

—-

“By the entrance to our holy shrine
Beneath the bell forever silenced
Cracked with time and dust
I lie my hope and dreams to rest”

Can you guess where they all are?