In this week’s meeting, we’ve continued to discuss what manner of things need doing before a stable release. Among such things have been deciding on reward items for a variety of quests, as well as the last remaining chest items.

One such reward we’ve decided upon is another fancy trinket, which will summon spiders to appear around you, and a skull accessory that gives you a lot of bonus damage but will also cause you to take a lot more damage as well!

We also decided upon the proper places for each of the items (which item is rewarded for each quest, and which item can be found where), and that the ghastly salesman will be selling demonic-looking furniture for you house.

Perhaps most importantly, we went through the final cutscene, deciding exactly how it’s gonna play out so that Fred can start making animations for it – however, due to spoiler reasons, I’ll try to not say too much about that part for now.

What I can say though, is something completely unrelated, which is that in order to make more use of the give-an-item-to-an-NPC mechanic we’ve decided to add a new ‘system’, if you will, where some NPCs will be looking for something and you’ll be prompted to provide them with a suitable item. These won’t be actual quests as you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for (the NPCs may not even know themselves what it is they need), and the indicator for an NPC being in need of something will be that they’re talking to themselves or the player using speech bubbles – like Haddock as he gives you your fishing rod! The alternative would have been to use the blue exclamation mark, but we feel it doesn’t quite fit what we want, and the speech bubbles might also serve to make the towns and NPCs seem a bit more alive.

In relation to that, we’ll also be changing the ‘secret’ early on in the game with the tree stump where you can place carrots, giving it an examine button instead of the blue exclamation mark, and instead of having to collect 20 carrots you’ll need to figure out what item to put on it. To help the player figure out which item is needed we’ll probably make a carving of a carrot on the stump or some equal quite easy hint – it will be one of the first times the player comes across the system after all, and it will serve as a nice tutorial for it, we think!

We’re not completely sure whether these new additions will make it into the stable patch yet, but they’ll definitely be added before the release of the proper game.

While I now have a bunch of additional things to make for the stable patch, I have some spare time while Teddy and Fred is creating animations and ironing out bugs. I’ll make use of that time by making sketches and ideas for the next part of the improvement spree, now taking us all the way down to Pumpkin Woods:

Now though, it’s time to focus on getting those ghostly portraits out! There will be a bunch of ghosts for you to interact with in Tai Ming, and the girl with the ball is one of them:

The gardener tending to the zen garden of the first Tai Ming map is another:

And here we have Hikaru, the sword salesman of Tai Ming, stuck in her stand for all eternity… :/

More next week!

For the last post of this year, we’re able to bring you some positive news: there’s a Frontline Update featuring the Ghost Ship!! That’s right, the Ghost Ship is finally live on the frontline version of the game, so please go check it out if you haven’t already! As always, we’d love to hear any and all of your feedback, please let us know what you think :)

With this out of the way, we’ve been taking a lot of time to look back at the year that has gone past and talked about what we’ve done, what should have been done, and what could have been done better. While we’ve never been truly satisfied with the amount of output for the game, 2019 has been especially poor. To be completely honest, none of us can believe we haven’t managed to properly release the ghost ship yet, and we’re far from happy with the time it’s taken.

A lot of things have happened during this year, both around work and for us personally, but it’s hard to make any excuses. At some points it kind of felt like we had started all over again, losing the ability to plan and design properly the way we did before, making the Ghost Ship a trial and error mess where we had to remake and redesign a lot of stuff before it got to the point where it is now.

While we’re incredibly happy with the dungeon now (I think we all agree it features two of our favourite bosses), we’re absolutely nowhere close to happy with the amount of time it’s taken us to get to this point. Our mistake with the way we initially designed the dungeon (randomly making rooms instead of making a complete whitebox version to run through featuring all of the elements), is partly to blame, partly indecision and poor boss ideas that didn’t turn out as well as we’d thought. In the end, we should have had a clearer vision of the dungeon from start to finish before we started making all of the assets for it.

I know a lot of you are getting impatient with us, and trust us, we understand and we see your comments; we know. We feel you. But, as much as I’m disappointed with the time it has taken for the dungeon to reach this point, I’m also happy we’ve taken the time to do it the right way instead of releasing something that isn’t up to our standards. Yes, the game could have been completed by now; it could probably have been completed years ago. But it wouldn’t have been the same game, and it wouldn’t have been something I could have stood behind a 100%. To quote Shigeru Miyamoto, one of the people who inspired me to become a dev in the first place: “A delayed game is eventually good, a rushed game is forever bad.” While this isn’t completely true in these days where a lot of games are digital releases that do a lot of post release patches (in no doubt we will do those too; if nothing else to add bonus content), it wouldn’t feel right to release something bad when we all feel it’s so far from the vision we had.

However, thanks to all of you who have supported us (thank you so much), we still have the funds to keep on working, and to keep making it better. We’re determined to make Grindea the best game it can be: we love this game and we don’t want to release it before it’s something we can honestly say we’re proud of. Obviously there will always be things that could be done better, and by saying this I don’t mean we’ll continue working indefinitely on improving things in a never ending cycle; I’m just saying that we want each part of the game to reach a certain treshold before we’ll call it done. The Ghost Ship has taken an unfortunate amount of time to reach that point, and for next year, we’re gonna do our very best to make sure not to fall into the same traps we did with this. Every mistake is a learning experience, and while the process of making this dungeon hasn’t been the best, we’ve thankfully learned a lot from it.

So, as the year is starting to draw to an end, I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who still support us, whether it’s financially through buying the game or mentally by your encouraging and lovely comments. Thank you for being with us on this journey, and know that no matter what, even if it may take a while, we’re not gonna let you down. I’m sorry it’s been taking this long.

One more dungeon to go after this. Let’s do it!

Now, with all that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the things we’ve been working on this week:

Last week you saw a sneak peek of the cutscene where Luke destroys one of the ship’s masts to use it as a barrier to keep the fighting area a decent size. Here are the assets and the work in progress of getting them to the state they’re in in the cutscene:

To make the ship feel a bit more old I got to make the railing a bit more worn down:

As one of the rooms got redesigned into a bigger version, I added some decorations to make it less empty:

There are now backgrounds for the character display and the enemy codex, featuring both the regular and spirit world versions of the ghost ship (not yet sure which version will be used or if they’ll both be used depending on whether you’re in the spirit world or not):

And finally… The addition of the ghost ship in the left corner of the world map:

A milestone if any… Can’t believe we’ve come this far! Each of the dungeons are now added to the map, except the last one. Which is, in a way, already there… Sort of :)

Of course, with Luke having a strange artefact in his possession (ha!), it’s only decent to give his portrait a bit of an upgrade and a ton more expressions! Not sure how many of these will be used but I wanted to give us plenty of options:

For comparison, here’s his default portrait:

Oof! Be kind to him, will you?

And finally, some animations from Fred and pieces of the cutscene where they row you to the ship:

And with that, merry christmas and a happy new year! The blog will be back again on the 13th of January, after we’ve been back at work for a week! :)

Next up, the plushie collector’s house! I’m adding a couple more plushies, but the rest I think we’ll add as they get added into the game: so whatever plushies you give her will appear in the house after you’ve handed them over. In other words, I’ll return to this house later on, once all of the plushies have been made :)

And now, the area surrounding the smithy! This time I’ll be focusing on the space around the smithy building, saving the laundry and adding some decorations to the café upper floor later on:

Time for the alchemist’s shop to get a bit of an upgrade as well! I decided to keep the worn out look of some of the props here, to make the house feel a bit old and worn out. Also added a bunch of more things to make the place seem a bit more cluttered, and some bonus carpets and vines for a touch of color:

The café looks rather drab and boring as well, so it’s time to spice it up a bit! More colors, better rendered props, a touch of mint (the color), and some new things on the walls:

Didn’t take too long, it’s already time to look back on the ghost ship a little bit! Some minor changes and addition have been added here and there, starting with making the globe resemble the world map a slight bit more:

As well as settling for a zone name, which we decided would be The Lost Ship:

Also been working on a few upgrades to the Luke portrait, featuring a shirt that now more closely resemble his sprite, some anatomy fixes and a bit thicker outline here and there!

So, new week and new Monday, which brings with it another meeting! This time around we’ve talked a lot about the near future, basically where we’re heading from here and what’s the most important on our to-do lists.

For Teddy and Fred, this mainly means the Luke battle and the cutscenes directly after and a final one leading up to where Frontline will end this time.

For me, there’s a lot more improvements to the earlier stages of the game, particularly around Evergrind City and the like.

And for all of us, it’s still the quest for the perfect final dungeon. We’ve already had a bunch of meetings discussion a variety of ideas, but seeing as we want a lot of floors, there’s still some work to be done and more floor ideas to shape – and eventually, actual floors to design. This week our homework is the sit down for 20 minutes to an hour here and there and create those ideas, so that next week we have even more of them to discuss. This will continue on while we finish up the rest of the ship until we have enough ideas, and eventually, proper designs, that we can make a whitebox sketch version of the final dungeon which we can run through and try out without the mechanics being implemented yet.

The main thing we want to avoid is one of the pitfalls that made work on the Ghost Ship such a struggle; in every other previous case where we designed an area or a dungeon, we had a clear design in mind before we actually started making the proper graphics. With the Ghost Ship, we did a whole ton of just winging it and designing as we went on, and it’s fair to say that designing a dungeon like that didn’t work out as well for us as the other way at all. So – no more of that, and more pre-design like we did before! With some luck, we won’t struggle as much this time, and it won’t be as long before an update hits ever again (touch wood) :)

Now, while I’m quite done with Ghost Ship stuff for now, there’s one ghost I have a feeling we’ll get to see at some point so I thought I might as well ghostify her portrait now while I’m kind of in the zone with the ghost stuff!

Who? Tannie of course!

Of course, I have no proof we’ll actually ever use this portrait, I suppose it depends on where we decide to take certain quests or side quests, but we’ve been talking so much about it that the chance seems pretty darn high she will appear in some shape, at some time…

Now, with all of the other Startington houses having new and fresh graphics, it’s beyond time that the player’s own house get a bit of an upgrade as well! Without further ado:

Next up, another part of the player’s house in Startington we can’t forget about; your own room! Like the rest of Startington, it’s about time it gets the appropriate visual upgrade:

In Luke’s boss fight, we’re working on the level of destruction that will take place as he slams into the ship with his unparalleled strength! We’re currently choosing between three options – one where the cracks disappear quickly:

One where they remain a little while:

And one where they could potentially remain forever:

Right now we’re leaning towards the middle option. What do you guys think? :)

So, time for some Spookington fixes! First up, a couple new expressions for some of the characters you’ll meet there, namely Jonathan (cured of his cough!) and Luke’s mom (who is a little concerned):

The pathway up to Spookington felt a little claustrophobic so we’re turning it into utter darkness, as far as the eye can see:

And as part of the mechanics on this town, we’ll be using a couple globes, which in this version were what we’d like to call programmer art, now replaced with the real deal:

Finally, adding some more stuff to your childhood home in this Spookington version, making it a bit more messy:

Next up on my list of things is putting someone in that ghostlike shop to manage business there! It took a while for us to decide on a design for this guy; should he be human, a ghost, or something else entirely? In the end though we decided to go for something of a shadowlike demonic creature, just to mix things up a bit lore wise (plus it would be cool to design an actual creature based off of the darkness we’ve introduced this far in the ghost ship).

Without further ado:

Some minor adjustments to the Startington Spooky version, featuring more clutter, stacks of books, and a mysterious night sky:

Next up, what I now honestly believe will be my final contribution to the Ghost Ship for now (or at at least until we finalize the boss battle and I’ll have to make any changes to the boss area and such): Luke’s boss portrait!

And now it’s time to take a look at what’s cooking with the Luke battle! The prototyping stage is in full swing, and we’re currently experimenting with a set of attacks and combos for him to throw at you:

No Grindea battle is complete without a bit of dodging as well, so naturally what other skill would Luke master than Smash:

So far so good, we’re feeling quite excited about this battle and hope you guys will too… :)

This week, we’ll start with making a new statue, featuring your mom Charlotte! This statue will be part of one of the spooky Startington challenges and will contain one of the objects needed to progress:

Some more fixes in preparation for the spooky Startington bit, starting with a mysterious hole in the floor of this room:

This hole is there for the perfect guard challenge, making it clear for the player that they are not able to wander off during the challenge.

Next, some minor adjustments to the statue from before, editing her outfit to match what we’ve previously shown Charlotte wearing:

There are also a couple more Ghost portraits to be made, with the first one being a spooky Tai Ming seamstress :

Next, an old man looking for his wife, lost somewhere on the ship:

Finally, as part of the new creepy Startington, Fred has been working on some old NPCs that will be returning:

Exciting times! Slowly but surely, this part of the dungeon comes together as well :)

For those of you who have opted into Steam’s client beta, you’ll have noticed that there’s a new library style in the works, which calls for new and improved graphics to showcase each game. For starters, here’s what the header of each game looks like now, and more specifically what the default was and how we changed it around adding our own graphics:

Unfortunately for us, being a pixel game and all, the automatic resizing won’t do us many favours, but it could be worse!

You library has a more clean view featuring cover art as well, like so:

How do you guys find this new library update? Do you like it or not? I think the best bit is how more visually satisfying it is to browse your library, seeing all of the juicy cover art all lined up! And of course, it’ll only get better as more and more games add these new graphics :)

Next it’s time for a bunch of smaller graphic assets needed here and there throughout the game! Starting off with a super cute very scary chest:

And a skeleton key, because which ghost ship would be complete without them:

For this room, we added some spooky decorations on a wooden board to give the players a hint there might be something there if you swap over to the ghost world:

We also weren’t quite happy with how fresh and clean these shelves looked, so we wore them down a bit:

Finally, a couple expressions for the captain, to give the cutscenes a bit more oomph:

Speaking of expressions, here are some more, featuring the rest of the main story cast in the Ghost Ship:

And since we decided to put Pine in one of the cabins, we thought we’d put in a bunch of Flying Fortress decorations in there as well:

Finally, let’s take a look at some animations for the final boss of the dungeon… Our dear friend Luke!
First up a bunch of sketches for what he could look like in this boss version:

And the first batch of animations made for him combo’d together:

Another new week, which we’ll begin with some mixed fixes and additions! First up, a new version of the headless chef portrait, where his head has been replaced with… oh my… a tomato?

First of all we needed to decide which size this new tomato head would have, and to start off with we were unsure of whether we wanted a regular size or giant size tomato for the job – in the end we decided to go with the smaller one, and after playing around a bit with the sizing of the thing we got to this conclusion:

Now, how you get to put that tomato head on to a ghost’s body is something you’ll have to figure out for yourself!

Next up, a special type of door that will lead you in to the new Flying Fortress room I made last week:

We’re not yet sure exactly where this door will appear in the fortress, so for now I made the door in a random room – it will move to another location once we know where we want to put the room!

And so finally, some smaller additions to the Pillar Mountains improvements I did so far; more to come:

Now I thought we’d take a little look at how it’s going on with the Ghost Ship progress!

Teddy has been working hard to implement all of the stuff me and Fred made for him, which includes a bunch of cutscenes with the captain and some ghosts:

There’s the ghost ‘recruitment’ system, which allows you to present items to ghosts in order to bring back the memories of their past selves:

As well as that fancy eye boss, which has another attack featuring epic laser redirection:

There’s still a bunch of cutscenes and a bunch of puzzles to add, but the final floor is coming together slowly but surely. Soon we only have the final boss of the ship to deal with, which in itself will be an interesting but very exciting task…

Meanwhile in the portrait department it’s time for one more ghostlike portrait! While the Chef now has a portrait without his head and one with a tomato instead of his head, his actual head needs a portrait of its own, now doesn’t it? So, here we go:

Recognize this guy? Last time we saw him was in the past, in Tai Ming! But now he’s back in a slightly less… living state. Whatever happened to him? Soon it’ll be time for you to find out!

Finally this week, the boss progress continues and Fred has been busy making more and more attacks for giant eye you will be facing off against!

Now, for something we haven’t touched in a very very long time… The Flying Fortress! As part of the Ghost Ship update we want a certain people to.. come back from the dead, as it were, and in order to make them remember who they are it’s time to add a room in the Flying Fortress where they used to work, where you’ll be able to find something to remind them of their long forgotten past!

The character in question may or may not be one you have encountered before… Can you figure out whom?

Next up in the batch of portraits is the Bartender’s assistant, which is one of the ghosts that will play a part in the main story! Can you find them on the ship and bring them back to their work in the bar?

No bar or fancy dining place is complete without someone to keep everything and everyone in check, and so this ship’s bar has it’s very own bouncer whom you’ll need to bring back on duty as well! Looks like he’s kept on working out even after death…

We’ll do one more portrait this week, just to finish up the portraits needed for the time being! This time it’s the ghostly fae’s turn to get their portrait done, like so:

And now, time for something we haven’t done in a long time – a video! This one featuring a bunch of the drops you’ll find around the Ghost Ship:


New week and a new cabin redesign! This cabin belongs to a fashion designer from Tai Ming, who fled their home to start a new life in the Merchant Isles after the great cataclysm started by Zhamla:

After that, it’s time for a quick break from the Ghost Ship to make another one of the Pillar Mountains improvements! Because this cave will have some significance later on, we wanted its entrance to look a bit more fancy:

What you’ll find inside? Well… You’ll see!

For now it’s time for some more ghost like portraits, starting with the headless chef:

Quite an.. eh.. Interesting portrait, no? First time drawing a portrait without an actual head!

And next up, the bartender, who will have an important part to play in the players quest to get through this dungeon:

With the ghost ship ghost quest inclusion, it’s time to do something we haven’t done in a long time – add another interface!

In your quest to help the ghosts, you will need to bring items to them that will remind them of who they are. To do this, you’ll have to first speak with a confused ghost, bringing up an interface featuring all items you’re able to present to the ghosts (mainly misc and key items). Upon selecting an item, the ghost will then let you know if it’s what they’re looking for (which will clear up their confusion), or if it’s not.

We wanted this interface to be quite straight forward with lots of space for items so you don’t have to scroll too far looking for the item you want to give each ghost. We also wanted a box where you can view the item’s name before giving it.

Here’s my early sketch:

And the progress: