Alright! Time for what I *believe* will be the final batch of fixes (on my end, anyway) for the desert before the patch lands! There’s still a portrait or two left, but here’s a bunch of the minor additons I’ve been working on:

First up, a Merchant Isles’ sailor hat, that might become yours if you complete a certain quest! Another item that is involved in a quest is the below part of a statue:

This farmer is a character who you’ll meet in these new quests as well, so I’ve been making a couple of expressions for him:

Meanwhile, I wasn’t completely happy with the anatomy of the mayor’s portrait, so I’ve made a slight fix for it and also aged her slightly (old version first, then the new one):

There’s a couple new items as well, which means there’s need for more drop appearances! Among these are a bottle based on an animation made by Fred (you can see his sprite on the right in parts of this WIP-gif), as well as a tomato and an onion!

We also changed the layout of the mayor’s house a bit, adding more items and characters, making the place feel more like the art/history exhibition it has become (old version first):

Finally, I wanted to increase the amount of greenery in one of the caves, so I went back and added a bunch of plants and leaves here and there:

Previously, I remade the portrait of the Mayor, but another portrait we weren’t quite happy with was that of Wishi (who also happened to look oddly similar to the Mayor’s first portrait):

Only one way of fixing this, and it’s to throw together another portrait, this one giving a bit more of an attitude:

And the finished remake below:

As usual, you can’t have a boss battle (even if it’s a side battle not related to the main story) without a boss portrait. This portrait will be slightly different as it’s the first one that has a sprite in front of the textbox! We thought the tomato would look cute in front of it, rather than have all his vegetables hidden behind the box.

WIP and finished version below:

I’m working on the cards as well, and while they may not be included in the patch, they should be added shortly after! Here’s a video featuring the creation of the Sand Raven card, where one such annoying bird is preparing a meal:

 

Now, a couple weeks ago I estimated that by now the patch would arrive! However, as you’ve certainly noticed, no patch has been uploaded yet – so what has happened? Well the short version is that we wanted to make things more interesting (don’t we always), so the added work has pushed the patch forward by a couple of days.

In other words, we hope to release the patch in the beginning of this week instead (hopefully tomorrow)! Serves me right for making estimates, they just never end up being correct…

Anyway, in the meanwhile, have some sneak peeks of what you’ll see in the upcoming patch, starting with a couple of animations for the desert carpenter:

Two more items:

Due to something you may or may not do, there will be changes in the desert map:

A new type of halloweed?!

Aaand a ton of new expressions for people you’ll interact with:

Stay tuned, and let’s hope this estimate of the patch release will actually be right this time!!

Moving on to lesser priority NPCs that may or may not make it into the patch, we have a priest that will be available in the church in Port Monnaie! In the beginning we wanted the church to belong to Bishop, but in the end we decided to leave him in the desert instead, letting this church be a remnant of the ancient religion you saw once in the past of Tai Ming instead.

As such, she’ll wear the same style of hat as the priests back in the day wore, though her overall garb is inspired by modern day priest outfits rather than the ancient robes worn by the priests of Tai Ming’s past:

As for the Ghost Ship, since I made the only two rooms for the first floor that I can make before prototypes of the rest have been made, I’ve decided to move on to do things for the second and third floor instead.

While the design of these floors haven’t been properly established, there are a bunch of rooms we know we want to include. One such room is a kitchen, so in preparations for making the room, I’ve spent some time making a ton of props for the room. Perhaps not all of these will be used, and perhaps I’ll need to make some more once we actually design the room, but this is a good base to have – and in worst case, I’m sure we’ll be able to use some of these props in other parts of the ship (or, in other parts of the world)!

Here’s a video of the progress:

Aaand the props in their finished state:

One portrait we weren’t quite happy with was that of the mayor, which can be seen below:

Not only is the style a bit off compared to the other portraits in the game, we didn’t feel the overall quality of it was quite up to par, so we decided I should remake it. Using Fred’s newly made NPC sprite as the inspiration, I began the remake:

And here’s the new version! I know the anatomy of her head is a bit off – don’t worry, it’ll be fixed in an upcoming edit :)

Now, this week is rather portrait heavy, as more last minute characters are added! This boy is a receptionist in a building where the mayor’s husband exhibits his expensive collection of ancient findings – some which originate from the ancient Tai Ming!

As for Fred’s progress: remember those vegetable enemies Fred made a while ago? Wouldn’t be much of an enemy if there’s no way for them to appear, or to defeat them, so of course each of them need a spawn and death animation.

Are you ready to eat your vegetables?

A few weeks ago we had a discussion about whether we’d include these in the frontline patch or not, since you’ve been waiting so long and this is “merely” part of a side quest relating to the desert. However, because of the desert taking so long, we decided it’s more fun to include a couple of these side quests as well, since they won’t take that much extra time to add (we already prepared the graphics anyway).

Our estimate is to have the patch up and running either late this week or in the beginning of the next, so unless something unforeseen happens, get ready to battle these cuties very soon!

Alright, let’s get back to that ghost ship. It’s about time I started making a few backgrounds for the place, so to start things off I’m going to make the very first room of the dungeon!

We have a pretty detailed sketch of what the first floor will look like, but as there are a couple of question marks in regards to sizing (there’s a boss battle and a puzzle that’s yet to be designed), this and one more room will be the only ones I’ll be able to make for this floor before heading on to the upper levels of the ship!

As the entrance room, this will give you your very first view of this dungeon and what’s to come. It has two levels, and you can only access the upper once you’ve made your way there through the floor:

The second room will be a fight room! In other words, this is a room where you’ll battle a few of the ship’s enemies, and since it’s made just for that, the sizing isn’t hugely important – there will always be enemy setups that fit any sized room.

So, I went ahead with the mission to create a rather simple room where there won’t be a lot of things in the way for the players as they fight their way through:

And here we have the finished piece:

Once Fred finished his part of the desert, he’ll decorate the water and such as usual, so it’ll feel lively enough!

The portrait work continues as well, as there’s still a few needed. Now it’s time for the guards, which look similar to the previous guards in the game, but slightly edited to fit the desert. Sprite below:

In Evergrind city, the guards had large hats that covered most of their heads, while in Tai Ming they had very small hats. In the desert, they will have medium sized hats, and will go without their uniforms, sporting a bare upper body in order to deal with the heat:

The second portrait this week is that of a kid, living with her family in a hut in the desert.

The family has a bit of an issue with growing vegetables (it’s extremely difficult in the heat of the Dragonbone Dunes!), but luckily for her, her mother is an expert when it comes to growing carrots, which happens to be her favorite food.

Since I moved on to doing more and more Ghost Ship stuff, I’m sure a lot of you are wondering where the patch is. The answer to that is that Teddy and Fred are busy finishing up the possibly most time consuming part of each new update: the polish and cutscenes!

Because of this, the rest of the post is quite spoiler heavy, so beware! (also beware of the crappy GIF quality of some of these, haha)

Here’s a small collection of things they’ve been working on most recently, starting with a new cool effect for when you complete a math/enemy puzzle and the enemies spawn:

There’s an animation for when you complete another puzzle, causing the dragon to grab hold onto the globe and a door to open:

There’s this effect when the rock comes tumbling into the ancient decorations in the ruins:

And the spawning animation for one of the bosses, the Sol-Gem:

Each of these things have to be properly timed, have the right amount of effects (both in terms of animations and particle effects generated by the engine), and about a hundred other tweaks to make. For the Sol-Gem spawning alone, we’ve gone through about four different versions before settling for the version you see above!

Some might ask whether it’s worth all the time we spend on these details, but we’re all very convinced it is! I’d say these last percentages of the progress are the ones that matter the most, as the timing of a couple of animations alone can be what changes something from feeling lackluster to feeling polished and thought through!

Speaking of the patch timing, we finally have a rough estimate, where we hope it will be ready to be uploaded in 1-2 weeks! Let’s cross our fingers there are no more unforeseen delays happening until then :D

Sorry for the late post! If you can believe it, I’ve been sick for nearly two weeks with quite the fever – but now we’re all back on track! This weeks recap will be short as well, since both I and Teddy continued to be ill, BUT I have two new portraits and a bunch of Fred’s animations for you :)

First up, an autumn fae who will be hanging out in the desert with her friends at the Saloon:

The other portrait is that of an archaeologist. I think this is the final archaeologist for now – at least I hope we have enough by now (there’s quite a few of them already, to be honest)!

This guy is inspired by none other than Howard Carter, who was the archaeologist who discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb!

And finally, Fred’s animations!! Thankfully he never caught the cold, so he’s been busy making a ton of animations for all the desert NPCs and other various odds and ends happening over there! Check these things out:

Vilya scaring Freddy and Teddy out of a slump?!

A sleeping carpenter lady…

…An archaeologist brushing through the sands…

…a dragon grabbing onto a planet (what in the world could this mean?!)…

…another archaeologist, studying a tablet of some sort…

…Ledge from the Collector’s HQ, enjoying some music…

…with none other than Sally, also from the Collector’s HQ!

Then we have a bunch of flavor animations, bringing the desert to life:

..and lastly, Vilya again, waiting impatiently for something (probably the release of the new patch):

Quite exciting, no?! The desert has more NPCs than the other most NPC-heavy area in the game (Tai Ming), and I’m pretty sure it’s the most animation-heavy area as well. We’re quite happy with the way things look this far, so hopefully you guys will like it too!

Can’t have a desert with lots of enemies to beat without any rewards for actually beating them, right?! Time to get to those desert drops!

 

The first portrait this week features a carpet salesman, selling his wares in the Port Monnaie market area:

Not much to say about this guy, really. Here’s the finished sprite:

As we’re drawing closer to the patch and there’s still a lot of character portraits to be made, so there’s actually two more this week! This girl is an archaeologist who works in the desert – perhaps she has a tool or some book that might help you on your way?

So many characters in the desert!! Whew! This one is a carpenter, possibly the daughter of the carpenter in Evergrind City.

Unfortunately, she’s fallen asleep on the job, forgetting to mend a broken bridge– oh my.. Let’s hope you can wake her up so you don’t have to walk around the entire area to get where you wanna go!

And the closer we draw to the patch, the more tiny fixes we make! Here’s a bunch of them again, starting with adding more the rocks by this crossing, to make sure you as a player don’t get frustrated when you can’t walk over them (before it felt kind of ambiguous whether they were there to block your path or simply decorative):

Next, we decided to add a fancier door to the math caves rather than temporary spear blockades, giving the solving of a puzzle a slight more oomph as these will open:

We’ve added more decorations to the ruins as well. We wanted to give it the feel of having had a bunch of traps, many of which have already been sprung, and so we added the remnants of them:

Another portrait appears as well, this one of a caveling hanging out in the saloon:

…as well as some bonus expressions for one of the characters you’ll be talking to:

Finally, I decided to adjust the puzzle block colors slightly! Below you see the old version, which we felt were a bit too dark to properly fit with the desert background:

And here’s the new, which are much lighter and slightly more yellow, to make them blend in more:

Next up, we have another boss portrait! This one of course featuring the Solem boss you’ll face off against inside the ruins:

Since he has a gem for a face, we thought what better name for this swell guy, than Sol-Gem? Said and done:

As always, there’s a ton of minor things to add and adjust right before an update, so here’s a very mixed set of things, starting with two new expressions for one of the characters in town:

A slight edit of the first desert ruin room, where we’ve removed one of the scriptures for a small note on the wall, carved by some ancient apprentice:

In the second room of the ruins, we’ve moved down the altar for the gem so there’s enough room for the giant rock to appear behind it, as well as a more broken version of the arc that will replace the previous one once the rock has rolled into it:

The scriptures around the desert have gotten some upgrades too (or should I say downgrades), since we didn’t want the text to be readable we’ve decided to make them look torn and broken enough to justify the text not being legible:

In the math puzzle cave, I also went ahead and added those number wizard statues I mentioned before, and have since decided to upgrade the look and feel of the first cave slightly as well (more on that later):

Now we have this week’s portrait, which features a giant of a man who works in the desert mine. His name is Big Brutus, and I have a feeling he’s not someone you want to mess around with:

Now, for those math puzzles… First up, I’ve made the other two caves in this system, which was pretty straight forward after everything was completed in the first cave:

But then I thought the first one looks just too simple, especially when there’s so much sand in it, so I decided to mix things up and make a slightly more interesting background for this one. So here we have the process:

And the final version of the first room, yay:

Alright, so there was one thing remaining to do in the desert ruins, and as most of the things have been implemented by now, it’s time to get going with these puzzle blocks!

These blocks are special in the sense that you need to place them correctly according to a creation myth found within the temple, so instead of just regular blocks, they have a slightly more interesting look:

 

 

And here’s the final blocks by the end of the video:

Progress on the desert continues! We’ve now started implementing things in those desert ruins, where you’ll face another boss battle. When I mentioned there was gonna be an Indiana Jones-y scene in here, some of you wondered of what kind… I think this GIF should answer that question for you:

WIP of course, this is but the first step of the iteration!

Speaking of iterations, we’re also working on the boss! This Solem is a very dangerous guy who likes to use his laser in creative ways. Good thing he also slams his fists in the ground, causing giant rocks to fall from the ceiling that can block such beams for you:

(One everything is implemented, the rock will look to be part of the ruin, rather than a random Mt:Bloom-esque boulder!)

He has another fierce laser attack as well, featuring multiple beams that follow you for a little while:

Aside from these, he’ll act like a regular, but amped-up Solem, chasing you around trying to hit you. He’ll also have one attack where he slams his fists in the ground causing shockwaves to appear all around him, which you’ll have to dodge.

Fred’s continuing to work on his animations, too, of course so here’s a more finalized version of what he’ll look like as he blasts those laser beams at you:

There are more caves in the making, as well! Those math puzzle caves had to be designed, and to mix things up I decided to go for a slightly different color scheme compared to the rest of the caves in the desert:

It looks a little bare right now, so we’ll probably add some more details, maybe in the form of statues of numbers, or perhaps even of the number wizard who made these challenges in the first time! For now though, here’s the first iteration of the first math puzzle cave:

Can’t have new bosses without new boss portraits, so here’s an upgraded version of Marino’s boss portrait, featuring his lovely shadow clones!

As you might remember, his last subtitle was The Ultimate Rival, however, as the story progresses some things change… Why an “ultimate friend” would fight you? I guess you’ll just have to play through the story and see!

I’ve mentioned this before, but the relationships between the characters haven’t been super fleshed out, a fact we are well aware of and will likely remedy slightly by adding more scenes to the story (once the rest of the game is done). This way we also hope to give an incentive to those of you who have played along chapter-by-chapter with every new update to play through the whole thing once more time, the way it’s supposed to be experienced in the end. In the end, we plan for the finished product to feature slightly more story as well as new side quests for most (if not all) parts of the game.

As for this week’s portrait, it features a pirate hanging out in the saloon! In fact, he’ll be one of the card players (whom I actually made a portrait of before – but his sprite got changed afterwards, so that old portrait will probably become a different NPC at some point instead):

Finally, Marino’s second boss battle has been finished and fully implemented, so now it’s time to spice up the little are where you face him! Previously, we’d left it pretty open, as we weren’t sure exactly how big his battle arena would be (we like to prototype the fight first and base the area on how much space we feel is needed).

Below you can see the old area, with the battle taking place inside the darkened frame:

In order to spice this up, I made a quick sketch of what it could look like instead, adding a level difference to act as the limitation downwards. Adding this, we had to increase the size of the map slightly downward as well, to make room for everything:

And then, it’s time to make the actual graphic adjustments for these changes:

And here’s the final version, featuring a much smaller battle area, and a slightly more interesting looking map overall:

Okay! Who’s ready for more desert fixes?! Seeing as we’ve named the desert Dragonbone Dunes, we wanted to add more dragon stuff to the area. First step is to make some dragon head statue pillars:

We also wanted to decorate those walls with some dragon wing plates:

But not all fixes on this map are of the dragon-decorative kind! There’s also a puzzle, which, as it’s now been properly designed, needs a more permanent background:

As part of the puzzle, we decided to add a bonus chest as well, so made a slight extension of one of the rocks to make room for that:

Behold the progress so far, almost done:

…actually, scratch that! Since the cave in the middle is a mushroom cacti cave, I thought it’d be fitting to put a bunch of them outside as well:

In the animation department, Fred has been hard at work with some cool environmental things that will appear in the desert! First up, we have the frozen cacti that will unlock a shortcut further into the desert, once you reach a certain season orb:

Second, a rope ladder! Since there’s a place where we really want the player to be able to move up and down quickly (though only after getting there the first time), we decided to introduce a rope ladder that you’ll be able to ‘activate’ after making your way to it.

No desert is complete without tumbleweed, so Fred has been experimenting with getting those up and running as well! Here’s a bunch of his WIP ideas:

He’s also making more NPCs, and here we have the progress sheet of the old scientist looking for ghosts! We’ve decided to name her Dr. Spengler as tribute to a special character in this sort of field. Who do you think that is?

As for something completely different: as I believe we have mentioned, once you complete Tai Ming, flashback orbs will activate throughout all of Grindea. While we haven’t added any just yet, these flashback orbs are set to give you insights into events that happened before you were around; stories of your parents, Zhamla, and other important events that have occurred throughout the world.

As part of the desert update, at least before it gets released on stable, we’ll include a set of these with more to be added in later updates.

The ones we’ll include in this update features memories that give some insight into your mother’s friendship with the fae, how your parents met, and how Zhamla found his first card! While they might not be vital to the story as a whole, we feel that each of these orbs will give some depth to the world and the people within it.

The dialogue for these have already been written, but we’ll return to actually implement them once the rest of the desert is done; likely while you guys are all busy beta testing those new enemies and boss fights!

In the end, once the game is done, we want to add plenty of these orbs, to give you a glimpse of many different things of the past. Are there any events or characters in particular you’d like to see? Let us know and we’ll see what we can do!

As or the portraits this week, the first one features the hat salesman of Port Monnaie, which we actually have decided to give quite a story. Because Helmut is a real life name that’s simply too good to pass up on, we decided to name this guy just that. However, seeing as we have a helmet called Helmit, we didn’t want to confuse people too much by having two characters with very similar names…. So we decided that Helmut and Helmit will be friends!

As such, you old acquaintance from Tai Ming will make a comeback in the desert town, where he’ll be hanging out with this swell fellow:

Finished sprite:

And you can’t have a beach town without tourists, so the second portrait this week will feature a guy shopping for souvenirs at the market place in Port Monnaie: currently, he’s very interested in a t-shirt!

Alright, so as you might know, one of the boss battles you’ll be dealing with in the desert is the return of Marino, who wants a second shot at beating you up! This time around, he’s leveled up and uses some crazy clone action to make this battle even harder.

As part of the prototyping process we’ve played around with a number of different patterns and types of attack. Here’s an early version of one such attack:

We want to play around with Marino and his clones moving across the playfield quickly, meaning you have to mind where you stand, or even move around in order to avoid damage:

We have multiple patterns like this, which will become more and more difficult as the fight progresses. Of course, there’s a lot of placeholder graphics here, but the overall idea is the same: there will be some sort of visual indicator for where Marino and his clones will move next, which fades away once they make that move.

Marino being Marino, he’s also learned the noble art of taunting his opponent, but be careful to attack him blindly, or you might come to regret it:

Now, time to continue working on the second room in those desert ruins! As mentioned before, it’s time to start working on the top part of this map, where some forgotten, ancient treasures will be….

 

In this final part we add more detail, but also that fancy mirror and the pedestal holding a very special crystal which might be directly linked to the boss battle in this ruin:

 

Our first portrait this week is a miner working in the desert! Like the other miners in our game, she wears the typical mining uniform, including the miner hat. The miner hat I use has already been made previously, so I only added it after the rest of the portrait was done:

The second portrait features one of the characters I forgot making a portrait for, which in this case is rather silly seeing as I made his shop stand and everything! This is the jewelry (accessory) salesman, selling items in the desert town’s market area:

Warning! This blog contains spoilers for the upcoming parts of the game, if you wish to be surprised, stop reading here!

The ghost ship plans continue to unfold, and the next big things we’ve decided on is to take the player on a strange dream, caused by the ghostly presences on the ship. In this dream, you’ll find yourself back in Startington (?!), but it’s a quiet, somewhat “wrong” version of itself. Here you need to solve four different challenges in order to find your way back to the ghost ship and continue on your journey.

There will be things in this dream referencing events that have happened in the game this far, with each building in Startington holding its own challenge. In one, you’ll need to battle a ton of slimes searching for that one card, in another you’ll be pressured to show your skill with the shield. A third urges you to remember you friends, and a forth the dreams you had for the future.

Needless to say, this will be a slightly very surreal world, and we’ll be hard pressed to make sure things have just the right amount of eeriness. We’ve had a ton of crazy, creepy ideas for this part, but our intention isn’t to turn into a psychological horror game – we just want approximately 5% of that feeling!

Right now we’re still undecided exactly how this place will look graphically – we’ve got ideas ranging from having it be just regular Startington (without the people – and probably without the song, making it a too quiet, too still version of itself) all the way to going full sepia-toned, dark, with shadows and mists lurking around the edges of the screen. We’ll see where it all ends up, and here I think we’ll need a lot of help from you guys as you test it out in Frontline.

After the Tai Ming storyline, things have taken a turn for the darker already, but as I said, we don’t want it to go full horror. It’ll be very interesting to get this right, but I think and hope we will!

Now, more places implemented means more places that need fixes! Here’s a bunch of changes we’ve decided to make since the desert started getting into place.

First up, closing off one of the caves. Previously we wanted it to look open, but since there will be a map change between them, we felt it’s more consistent to use the regular cave doors:

Second, we realized if you manage to get out of the cave exit to the right on this map, you’d be stuck on this plateau forever (there’s a jump-down inside the cave, so you’re unable to go back that way… oops):

Some detail changes to the wall here, making it more consistent with how it looks inside the city. Keep in mind most of the wall will be offscreen:

Same thing here, I’ve changed the texture of the wall and made it more consistent with the size inside town. Also edited the path to align better after you change screen:

We’ve also added a slight bit of decoration outside the number cave, which will have magical flames as well once Fred has used some of his animation magic:

Finally, as we were looking around the NPC folders while implementing the desert NPCs, we realized we made a collector’s outfit for Sally a long, long time ago, but forgot to add it. We’ll remedy this in time, and in preparation for that I made a recolored version of her sprite, featuring her Collector uniform:

And now it’s time to start the second room of those Desert Ruins! There’s been a lot of talk about the Ghost Ship so it’s easy to forget we’re still not done with the desert, haha. This place is where you’ll battle the Solem Boss, and have an Indiana Jones-y cutscene! Let’s take a look:

 

 

It’s all pretty bare so far, but the video got long enough already. In the next part, we’ll continue working on the upper part of this map, where a treasure lies waiting!

As Teddy has started implementing NPCs, both me and Fred were in for a surprise. Not only were there NPC sprites made by Fred that I forgot to make portraits for, there were portraits of NPCs that Fred forgot to make sprites for as well… Silly things happen when you work on multiple parts of the game at once!

In other words, it’s time to start mashing out a couple more portraits, so for a while there will be two presented every week once more.

This guy here is someone selling souvenirs in the Desert Town, though by the looks of his outfit, I wouldn’t be surprised if his real job was to be a Collector:

And finally, we have the ghost scientist I think I mentioned before – this person will appear in the lab in Evergrind City in the beginning of the game, where she’s investigating the spirit world. Later on, she’ll play a part in your ghost ship journey: