Hello guys, Vilya here! The first week since the second part of Tai Ming was uploaded to Frontline has now gone past, and we’ve spent eagerly listening to your feedback (and fixing bugs)! Thank you to everyone who left comments and suggestions, we’ll add and improve a bunch of things before we consider this part properly done.

Some of you have already noticed that after finishing the first zone, it’s possible to get stuck, with the time warp portals disappearing. While this isn’t quite working as intended, the truth is that once you’ve finished an area, you’ll only be able to return to it in the present time.

We have a couple of reasons for this, and it wasn’t an easy choice to make. I mean, of course it would have been great if you could always go back to finish any puzzles or secrets you might have missed. On the other hand, we felt like the area would have a bigger impact once you realize that when you’ve seen all there is to the story here, you can’t go back to talk to the people again. They have passed on already and belong only in a distant past which you shouldn’t have had access to in the first place.

We also didn’t want the player to feel frustrated because they can’t go back to, say, the first zone, and simply try to convince Zhamla or Sizou to change their ways once you realize how events in that zone turned Zhamla from a young, optimistic boy into a serious and rather obsessed young man.

We could have just simply not mentioned the fact, or thrown in a line about not changing past events, but again, this way felt like it’d have more of an impact.

Now, obviously you’re not supposed to get stuck anywhere in the present. So how are we gonna solve the fact that there are a ton of blockades that you need time travel to get past?

Cue this guy:

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This fellow is a traveling adventurer (with dreams of becoming a Collector, perhaps?) who you’ll meet many times on your journey. Once you’ve finished the first part of Tai Ming, he’ll arrive to move things out of the way and create a passage that you can use as well. Once you’re done with the second zone, he’ll move on and do the same there.

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So what about all the treasures you might have missed on your first play through? Worry not, you’ll be able to get them later in the game, one way or another (we have a bunch of ideas), so missing an item in Tai Ming won’t affect your 100% completion if you manage to find it somewhere else later.

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After all, hundreds of years have passed since the time when Tai Ming was a bustling town, and it’s not unlikely that once you stop messing around with the time jumps, someone simply moved the items somewhere else.

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With this new information, it might be worth going through Tai Ming one more time to see if you missed any secrets, would you say? Head out and collect! The 100% completion awaits you!

Next up, in celebration of having completed my part of Tai Ming’s second zone, I decided to take a quick break from the asian theme and move back to Evergrind City and its surrounding fields!

This map here is in fact the one that can be found north of the farm, in the western Evergrind Fields! It’ll be the key to opening the final dungeon, but until you figure out how to do that it’s just a bunch of resting ruins in the middle of the woods.

For this area, I began with a very simple sketch just to get a feel of the layout. Then I added a bunch of the surrounding props (trees, and the like) with our editor, before creating the new stuff:

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Then, it’s on to making the actual ruins:

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And finally, adding all the details to bring the place together:

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While this map likely won’t be implemented until all three zones of Tai Ming are completed, it’s been on my mind for a long time, and I’m sure the “this way is blocked until we implement temple x” notice has bothered a lot of you guys as well! This way, at least you’ll be able to move around almost everywhere (with the exception of the desert and onwards, which hasn’t been added yet of course) without annoying notices!

And now, time to start working on Zone03. We’ve already begun prototyping most of the area, with the exception of the final two rooms (one which will house the Mimic boss, and one which will feature… something else).

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Our very first prototype consists of extremely simple black & white sketches, where I just draw whatever I think would look cool. I mainly freestyle the size of each map, but try to keep in mind certain things like whether there will be battles taking place, or where the camera will pause in cutscenes and such.

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Once I’ve sketched whatever I feel is important to size-check or run by the others, I give the sketches to Teddy who adds them to the game engine. He won’t add any colliders or anything at this point, but often he’ll make sure the doors work in cases like this where we need to run through more than one map connected to one another.

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Then, me, Teddy and Fred run through the maps in multiplayer, talking about what we think as we go along. Are the rooms big enough? Will there be enough room to fight? Does the camera position well?

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Often I’ve come up with ideas for what should happen in the rooms, either before or while I make the sketches, and in this multiplayer test we tend to brainstorm a lot as well. We’ll ask ourselves things like “wouldn’t it be cool if this happened here”, or “wouldn’t it be nice to have a painting of x there”, among other things.

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In the case above, I made a design with 2 tables, but as we talked about what the flashback orb will show in this room, we decided it’d be better to have it take place at one long table instead. We talked about how long the table should be, and two of us had to act as indicators so I could take a screenshot and add a table approx. the size the characters show (plus some more decorations):

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After going through each of the rooms in a similar way, with us talking about the sketches and me editing them as per what we decide, we’ve got a decent “whitebox” version of the place. There are no final graphics, but since we’re satisfied with the size, it’s possible to start adding colliders as well as prototyping enemy encounters.

Since this zone is only four rooms, two outdoor areas and a boss fight, we certainly hope finishing this place will be faster than zone02. There will be a lot of epic things happening here though, so I guess we’ll have to wait and see how many super difficult animations Fred will have to make before we’re satisfied…. Stay tuned ;)

Hey guys!! It’s been another week, and it’s me, Vilya, back to bring you another recap of what’s been going on in the Pixel Ferrets office!

Last week I made the past version of the final Puzzle World room – this week it’s time to transform it into its present version! Since this is the last room before you manage to get outside again, I got to add some vines again! Long time no see:

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I also got to paint a lot of cracks on the huge glass thing, which also is something I love doing. Nothing is more soothing than listening to music (or an audiobook) and just painting crack after crack… Well, since we wanted what’s inside to be somewhat visible I decided not to go too crazy with it. Not sure how it’ll turn out in the end though, maybe I can add a few more before calling it a day… :)

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Next up, I should start making the statues you’ll use for this room’s puzzle! First, a video showing the progress of making the past versions:

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Since the progression from standing to fallen statues happen as you time travel, there’s no need for animations. As such, I was also able to make the present, crumbled ones:

To make it easier seeing where any given statue needs to go, we decided to keep their boxes on the floor (who also got slightly different dimensions since the last post) in the present, in various states of decay. The alternative would have been to have the statues fall with base and all, but we believe this makes it easier to read which statue is where on the puzzle floor.

There’s still two things I need to make for this room. First we need standing, decayed version of the statues for present times, as the statues won’t fall if they’re standing next to a statue that would block the direction it would have fallen in. This is mostly to make it easier for us – instead of having to figure out how to stack the statues on top of one another, they just won’t break as severely if it means they would have fallen on top of another statue.

I also need to make a broken version of the glass box in the lower left corner, so it’s possible to let out the statu– whatever’s in there. But, that’s for another day!

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Next up, as Teddy has been working on the cutscenes in Tai Ming’s second zone I decided to go over the dialogue and start making a bunch of expressions so that can be properly finished!

First up is Tessen, the little girl from the first zone who has grown up to become a young priestess of Grindea:

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She’s both happy to see you, and has some serious worries on her mind. Wonder what those are about..

Next up, Zhamla:

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Since his adoptive father’s speech about being strong, Zhamlas life has taken quite a serious turn, and unfortunately there’s not a lot of room for positive emotions in his life nowadays.

Speaking of adoptive fathers, Zisou’s life has actually become a bit more lax these days, so he can afford a smile or two – but there’s still room for some quite serious expressions in there as well:

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The second batch of expressions features four different characters:

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First, the dam manager, who has quite a bunch of expressions, as you can see! He has both a serious(ly annoyed) and goofy side, and quite a peculiar quest to bring these expressions out!

The ancient Quest Master, Quinton’s ancestor(?), has a few more expressions than his present day counterpart. He has added both surprise and happiness to his range of emotions!

Mana, the lady with the dog in the first zone, has become older and grayer, but is still quite the happy person, while young mister Go, still is quite miserable in his adult form. He was the kid who lost the key in the first zone, remember? Poor Verment, he has had quite the tough life!

Finally, some Caveling animations from Fred! What are they up to in Tai Ming?!

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Hello guys! It’s been another week, and now I (Vilya) am back with another recap of the big things we’ve been working on :D

This week, the work on Puzzle World continues! Next step is to transform the Statue Room into it’s sorry present state. Since this will be the first room to be turned into a present version, it’s extra important to get everything right since a bunch of the props, such as the planks, will be reused in upcoming rooms.

Here’s a GIF showing the process:

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As usual with transforming rooms or environments from past (fresh & new) to present (old and worn), most of it is changing colors. But just turning a bright yellow into a dull brown won’t cut it in many cases, such as the door: as wood grows old, it will get worn down and cracks may appear. Therefore I added more lines in the wood, as well as holes here and there, where I imagine the wood has been broken over time:

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Next room is a little different! It’s been sponsored by the Flying Fortress crew, and so it has been decorated to look like a room in Flying Fortress – only with wallpapers and a fake floor… :)

When creating this room, I had two options. Either I use the already-made texture of the Flying Fortress walls & floor, or I make a new one. It’s likely people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference, since it was so long since you went through the Flying Fortress in the main story – but I still opted to make new graphics.

I did this for two reasons: one, it gave me the opportunity to make the texture look even more like a wallpaper texture – instead of looking exactly like it does in Flying Fortress (which is built of what’s at least supposed to be real rocks), I could make a softer texture which would be easier to pass off as wallpaper. Second, the Flying Fortress graphics are very old at this point, and I worried that adding such an old texture among all the new stuff would look jarring – I’ve developed a lot as an artist since that time, so the difference in quality and style is quite big.

The smaller screen to the right will hold a message about the room being sponsored by the Flying Fortress – the big one to the right will either have something cool animated by Fred, or a graphic representation of the flying Fortress made by me. Or maybe a graphic representation of the Flying Fortress made by Fred or something cool (non-animated) made by me – who knows! :)

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Since this room is already quite gloomy to begin with, it was a bit of a challenge to darken and dull the colors down without everything becoming too dark for the present version. Instead of going too crazy with the darkening effects, I decided to ruin more of the wallpaper around the areas where you’ll run around, having the real wall show through:

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After finishing the past version, I added a pair of boxes that block the exit to the right. In this version however, the boxes are moved (since you enter the room in this timeline) and instead block your path to the top part of the room. To get there, you’ll need to complete the phase shift puzzle!

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And yes, for those who noticed the difference between the Past and Present version: we decided to change the design of the left platform a little, as the previous version was a little hard to read for some people. The previous version is to the left, the new version to the right:

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Next, after Fred finished adding some NPCs to the inn (left), I took over and added some props that I thought would suit them:

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The girl on the right is a bit underage, so instead of drinking she’s having a meal while studying hard to become a Collector like her sister (which will also be added to the table later on). Faita, the sword teacher from the first zone, is kind of drowning her disbelief at being second best at everything with a glass of unnamed alcohol (or is it soda?) ;)

Meanwhile, instead of cleaning up the bar, Montbel the owner (who isn’t present in the picture) has left all kinds of bottles and bowls on it for visual effect. ‘Aint he nice?

Speaking of NPCs, Fred has kept working on adding more of them to Tai Ming’s second zone, so here’s another bunch:

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Finally, let’s end the week with a portrait! I actually forgot I still had two more to make for the second Tai Ming zone. Guess I got a little bit too excited about starting to make backgrounds for Puzzle World!

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This guy is a hat salesman, having his shop set up outside the ancient Collector’s HQ. Like the hat salesman in Evergrind City, he has a kind of elegance to him! I guess it comes with the job, huh?

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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!

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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!

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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:

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

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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:

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Here’s the finished first room after these changes:

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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.. :)

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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:

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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:

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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…

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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!

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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..!


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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

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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?

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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:

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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! :)

Hey guys!

This week has been all over the place. Vilya and Teddy have been out of commission the entire week due to one of their cats becoming sick. They had to leave Gotland and travel to an animal hospital in Stockholm. Vilya’s written a lengthy post about it over at her personal blog, be sure to send her some love.

Because of this we don’t have that much to showcase this week. Fred has been staying behind, acting cat sitter to Vilya and Teddys other cat, while continuing to work on NPCs for Tai Ming.

Besides interacting with the NPCs through out the dungeon, Tai Ming features a pretty hefty amount of cutscenes as well. Below are some animations from one of the scenes we are working on at the moment!

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This week, we’ve managed to push out a new content update for the Frontline beta. The main focus of the update is the new Marino Encounter, as well as some new cut scenes setting up where the story is heading next.

The update is not massive in size but we are still very much interested in hearing feedback from you guys who are in the beta, especially about the Marino fight. Was it too hard, too easy, any suggestions how to make it more interesting?

The in house testing has been a bit all over the place ranging from it being “impossible” to “I’ve played this game so much I don’t even know if it’s hard”. We’ve set up a thread over at the forums where you can post any suggestions and thoughts you have about the fight, it would really help us a ton!

With this update out of the way, we are already hard at work with the next one. Below are the sprites for the rest of the Season Fae Elders, which all will play a crucial role during your visit in the Winterland!

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This week we’ve kept on working on getting things in order – fixing bugs, adjusting levels and implementing the new animations and interfaces.

We’ve also been discussing the portraits (yes, again!). This time around we’re toying with the idea of keeping the high-res versions of the portraits in the game rather than making them more pixelated, which proved quite a challenge when it comes to keeping all of the details.

Nothing has been decided yet as all our options each have their own issues and advantages, but here’s a mockup of what it might look like with the high-res portraits in the game:

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What do you guys think? Is it too distracting to have a high-res portrait among the rest of the pixel art, or do you prefer to see the characters in this form, which is more detailed compared to the old portraits?

In the animation department we’ve noticed that the Collectors’ Headquarters have been in grave need of some extra flare for a while and we figured it’s finally time to start correcting that! We really want to give the HQ a busy feel, so Fred have been bashing away at some minor flavor animations to liven up the place:

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We’ve also got some news regarding the game outside of our workroom! It seems like we’ll be going to Gamex again this year, so if you’re near Stockholm/Kista at the end of October, be sure to visit us there!

This week, we’ll take a first glance at a less dangerous part of the Winterland, a yet to be namned village area!

This place is inhabited by the race of Faes. Despite being about as tall as an apple, they play a pretty major role in the world of Grindea.

Below is a screenshot of the village, as well as a portrait and some sprites of its tiny population.

Staying with the winter stuff, Teddy has been adding a bit more flair to the area by putting together some weather effects. No winter area is complete with a proper snow effect after all!


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This week has been quite busy! It’s only been a few days since the SGA deadline now, for which we finished up and tested the co-op feature like there was no tomorrow. While that was our big focus of the week, we also managed to improve some of the old portraits:

These portraits have actually made quite the journey to get to this point. Here’s a pic showing how they improved since the first version:

Kind of make you wonder how different they will be once the game is done. I have a feeling we haven’t seen the last iteration just yet!

Other than that, we also added a couple of animations for the people in Evergrind City, to make the area feel a little more alive:

Now, wish us luck with SGA! Nominees should be announced in the next couple of days :)