Last week was all about the Arcadia Rework for me, something which will continue to be the main focus for a long while to come. As you can tell, it’s coming along at a steady pace, one building at a time!

This week I will begin creating the underlying decorations, grass and paths between the various spaces. Since we’re also fairly sure about the Utility skills, I’ll also start creating their icons, while Teddy and Fred continue to deal with testing, testing, testing and skill graphics!

We’ve had two major discussions these last few days, both in regards to the new Utility skills. First, about the buffs: we are currently disagreeing whether it’s better to keep them as we originally planned (one buff for the offensive stats and one for the defensive stats), or to separate them further. Specifically, there’s an idea it’d be more interesting the have speed be it’s own buff, allowing the current Haste skill to remain (only balanced so it’s more useful). However, there are those of us who feel the “package” buff is a more interesting buff to use, even if it means the speed stat won’t be buffed as much as it could have been if it were its own buff.

Currently, we haven’t actually made up our minds about this! What do you think you guys would prefer? Two buffs: one for offense (damage, speed, crit) and one for defense (defense, shield reg, EP reg), or three: one for damage and crit, one for speed, and the defense buff left as is?

We’ve also talked about the amount of silver points spent on each Utility skill. We’re considering whether to have each skill have 5 levels (as was planned), or if it’s better to cap them at 3 each.

With 5 stages, the skills become more of an efficient silver point sink, but the skill improvement between each level will be rather small. With 3, each point spent on the skill will give a bigger upgrade, but you’ll also finish leveling the skills much sooner. Currently we’re leaning towards 3, as it seems more rewarding to the player that way, but we haven’t fully made up our minds yet.

If you have any ideas in regards to these discussion, feel free to share in the comments! We love to hear your input and what you think about decisions like these – after all, we want to do what’s best for the players :)

Now, last week we left Remedi with his wagon surroundings looking rather empty! Time to remedy (ha) that, and give him some fancy flowers for his collection:

The idea is that, before you’ve unlocked this plot of land, the wagon won’t be there at all, leaving only some dirt in a half circle. A sign describing what will appear there will be in the middle of it, and we’ll probably use some flavor text, such as describing how an alchemist might be lured there if you just get some interesting plants for the dirt (done automatically by paying the amount needed by the sign).

For now, this is what it looks like in its completed form:

As Arcadia continues to grow, it’s time to add that central piece of decoration, right below the mountain where you set your course for another arcade run:

It’s a well! And not just any well, but one of those visual plots that will help increase the number of people entering your town! Instead of being functional in the sense it adds a specific mechanic, it attracts NPCs that might give you a quest or two :)

And here’s the progress on the big map:

In the portrait department, it’s time for another kid roaming the streets of the desert/harbor town:

I have all kinds of ideas for this NPC, though I’m not entirely sure they will actually be realized, so I’ll keep quiet about them for now. All I can say is that Heero Yuy of Gundam Wing might have been an inspiration!

Finally, what Fred and Teddy has been up to: more skill work! The graphics for the Utility skills are coming together one by one, and here’s a few examples of the Barrier skill, tarting with it’s breaking due to a bee attack:

In the current iteration we’ve decided not to go with our original plan, which was that a barrier break like the one seen above would cause you to take the remaining damage (if any) after the last of your barrier hp is used up. Instead, it’ll now absorb the whole attack, keeping you safe from harm even as it’s close to breaking. Our reasoning for this is that it feels more satisfying being able to completely shield yourself from harm, especially against strong enemies which might be able to hit through the barrier with just one attack. We’ll balance this by lowering the amount of hits and hp the barrier can shield you from instead, but if it still ends up too OP we might bring back our original plan.

Of course, after a barrier break you won’t be able to recast the skill for a little while as well, as seen above.

Next, what it looks like as it expires due to the time limit:

After about 10 seconds it fades out, at which point you can recast it so long as it didn’t break due to taking too much damage. Finally, below, you can see the perfect guard effect as you bring it out in the right moment against a bee:

And here’s a closer look at the effects:

We’ve also begun implementing the Death Mark graphics seen in last week’s post! We are, however, considering changing it slightly, perhaps making the sword red and adding a skull, making it better fit its rather ominous name!

And to end this post, here’s a first iteration of the Challenge skill:

This, too, will be further improved. Below you can see an effect that will be added to the animation, to better indicate in which direction you aim your skill. Eventually there will be a speech bubble with curses thrown at the enemy as well:

Onwards we go! With some luck, these skills might be available as soon as this weekend for Frontline players, but it depends a lot of any more bugs that may surface as we continue to test these out. Fingers crossed!

It’s another Monday, and work on the Utility skills is in full progress!

As Teddy continues to prototype, I thought it would be fun to take a look at these very early stages of each of the skills! First up, we have the Defensive utility skills, three skills that are bound to change the game play slightly for at least some of you:

First among them, we have the blink (as seen above). As mentioned in the earlier rundown of the utility skills, it auto-targets some distance away as you tap the button, but you can also move the target around (if you have the time).

It’ll have a base cost of some energy, with a 20 more energy increase each time you spam it. If you stop using it for about 3 seconds currently, it will reset to the base cost. These costs will be lowered slightly for each silver point you spend on the skill, culminating in being able to use the first blink for free. The exact numbers are subject to change with further testing.

Next, the shield/barrier! It has an amount of HP, much like your physical shield, based on a percentage of your own HP, which increased per level spent on the skill. It can take damage up to his amount, but will always break after 4 hits regardless of how much damage they do to your shield. If your barrier gets crushed, you’ll take the remaining damage from the attack (the amount it failed to shield you from) as regular damage and you won’t be able to recast the shield for a little while.

Finally, the meditation/focus skill. It regenerates your EP faster the more you’ve leveled it, and if you channel it for two seconds the next skill you use will be cast free of EP cost. The circle underneath the character indicates when that happens!

As for the Offense skills, we first have Death Mark!

This skill has a new targeting system, which can be seen above. It basically aims at whatever enemy is the closest to your target, which you can move around the screen so long as you hold down the spell button.

Everything you see here is prototype graphics, so it will likely look a lot different in the end, but the general gist of it is that as you do damage to a target with Death Mark, a meter of some sort (in this case it will probably be a sword) will start to fill up. Once a set amount of time has passed, the mark will trigger and deal bonus damage based on how much you’ve already damaged the target. The more you’ve filled the meter, the more damage it will do when it triggers – so you better try to get as much damage as possible on your target before that happens, to maximize the bonus damage. If the damage Death Mark will do is enough to kill the target, it will automatically trigger and execute the enemy for you before the timer runs out.

Taunt/Challenge lacks all of the relevant graphics, but works much as described earlier: you challenge an enemy by shouting some insults at it, causing the both of you to deal more damage against each other. Upon leveling the skill, you’ll be able to target more enemies. Of course,┬áin multiplayer, taunted enemies will prefer the taunting player when looking for things to attack, so your friends will be safe.

Sleep, or rather, Stasis is the skill we’ve come the furthest with graphics wise. The mechanics are fairly straight forward and as described previously: the targeted enemy gets put in a stasis from which it’s released either when a new enemy gets put under the effect, when you hit it, or simply when the timer (individual for each type of enemy) runs out.

Here’s the first prototype version, simply freezing the enemy in place:

In the second iteration, a flashing light was added to indicate when an enemy is about to come out of stasis:

Finally, some visual effects were added, and as it is, we’re already pretty satisfied with the way it looks right now – we might just add some small effect for when an enemy gets hit by the spell and otherwise keep it the way it is:

And, since the Utility skills will be implemented much sooner than the desert enemies, Fred has paused the creation of those beast and began work on the spell effects needed!

We felt Death Mark is the skill that’s perhaps the most reliant on the right graphics, and nearly impossible to really get a feel for without them: we want to be able to feel the urgency of trying to fill up that meter, and the satisfaction as it triggers and executes the enemy.

As such, Fred began sketching on multiple versions and ideas for what it could look like, with the guideline that we wanted it to be a sword:

He also began making the actual animations, first showing how the meter fills up:

And then the indications for when time is about to run out (the flashing outline):

He’s also begun work on the shield/barrier skill from the defense section, which will be a bubble of sorts, surrounding the character. We’re still working on tweaking the transparency levels and overall feel, but we think we’re getting there:

The rest of this week we’ll be testing all the billion ways each spell can break the game (which they do, a lot), by playing through the entire thing using each spell on every enemy in every possible way. While we won’t be able to find all of the bugs or problems this way, hopefully it’ll make them more or less fully functional before we hand it over to you guys in the Frontline beta! Multiplayer will need a whole lot of testing of its own, both to make sure the effects are syncing up between users, and to bug test the friendly targeting (as some of the Utility skills will be used as buffs which can be cast on anyone in your party).

At some point I will be called upon to make the proper skill icons for each of these, though I’m not sure if that will happen this week or later when we’re 500% sure these are the skills we’ll actually end up using (that is, once we’re certain none of them feel too boring as we try them out properly on our bug testing runs). Until then my art focus will be mainly on continuing the Arcadia Rework, as it’s what’s next on our to-do once the skills have been finished (and the occasional desert town portrait). Slow but steady!

Fred, meanwhile will be focusing this week on creating more of the Utility skill animations and Teddy will be put on major polish and bug hunting duty. At the moment, we don’t have an ETA for when the skills will be available on Frontline: it’s all very dependent on how broken they end up being on these playthroughs.

We’ve already had lots of talks about small edits we’d like to see on each of the abilities, so they’re not even in their finished form as it is right now! No major changes in terms of mechanics, but lots of tiny timing-things and such. For example, whether Death Mark should trigger automatically once the meter is full, or if it should still wait for the timer to run out. In this case we decided to keep the timer fairly short, and have it wait for it to run out before it triggers, even if you’ve done enough damage to fill the whole thing. Our reasoning for this is to make sure you can’t spam it too often, in multiplayer, for instance – as you’d be able to fill the meter a lot faster with four people who might all also have the ability (though we’ll try to balance this as well). Our goal is to make it fairly hard filling up the meter before the timer runs out, so it’ll be a bit of a fun challenge to try and fill it as much as you can when battling.

Hope you guys are enjoying your summer!

And another week goes by! Last week we finalized Housing and finally managed to get a Stable patch up and running with the whole thing, meaning that (unless there are many more bugs that need fixing), it’s time to focus our attention on those Utility skills! If you are one of those waiting for Stable updates, please go ahead and try housing out, and let us know about how to make it better in the future or any bugs you might find! The full patch notes can be viewed here!

I know a lot of you are sad to hear about there still not being a healing skill, but hopefully the inclusion of the barrier skill will soothe that blow slightly, while still keeping true to our design. So far, we’re all happy about the skill ideas and hope you will be too!

Teddy is currently prototyping the Utility skills using whiteboxing methods (meaning he’s winging the art with what we already have or extremely simple paint art), just to get a feel of how they’ll work in the actual game. Sometimes it becomes very clear even at this stage that some things just don’t work the way we’d like it to, and if that happens it’s unnecessary to have Fred make complex animations for skills that will get cut!

So in the meanwhile, Fred’s continuing to work on the desert enemies until we’re satisfied with the first bunch of skill prototypes, and I’ll continue to focus on the Arcadia Rework, which is likely to be the next step after the Utility skills have been implemented and the skills and battle systems have received an overall rebalance. I’m also continuing to create portraits every now and then, for the inhabitants of the upcoming desert/harbor town, to avoid spending multiple weeks doing nothing but portraits once we get there! Stay tuned :)

For now though, let’s look at what’s been going on last week (aside from the stable patch)!

First up, a list of those Utility skills mentioned last week! Keep in mind, all of the names are working names for now and the effects might differ slightly from the descriptions below, depending on how things work out in the prototyping stage.

First up, the offensive ones:

Challenge – A taunt of sorts, where you make one enemy focus his whole attention on you. This means that if the enemy is currently attacking someone else (in multiplayer for instance), it will immediately target you instead. Under this effect, you’ll deal more damage against this enemy, but it will also deal more damage against you. So, a double edged sword, if you will.

The targeting works much like a projectile: your character will go into a shouting animation in the direction you’re currently facing, and the debuff will apply to the nearest enemy inside the effect.

Death Mark – A debuff that uses a earth spike/meteor style target which you can move between enemies as you hold the skill button. Once you decide which enemy to target they will get a marker on them that will look like a meter of sorts. As you deal damage to this enemy, the meter will fill up and once it’s full or a timer runs out, it’ll deal a percentage of the damage you’ve already done to the enemy as bonus damage. It will also trigger immediately once the damage it’d deal is enough to kill the enemy.

Sleep – A skill that puts an enemy to sleep and makes it unable to attack. However, if you hit the enemy it will wake up and return to battle. The duration each enemy sleeps may vary on their type and level. There will probably be a global limit for this skill, where only one enemy can be asleep at the same time. This means that if you or any of your friends cast the skill on another enemy, the one currently sleeping will wake up as the new one falls asleep.

For the defensive skills, we have:

Meditate – A skill that you hold to regenerate EP at a greater speed. As we rebalance the skills it’s likely we’ll edit how EP works slightly, making it regenerate more slowly (among other things) – which means this skill will be more useful for more people than it might currently be. We also have an idea that if you charge x% of your EP and reach max using Meditate, the next spell will cast will be cast for free.

Shield – A shield you can cast around yourself or a friend that absorbs some damage. If the shield HP runs low and you get hit by an attack that finishes off the shield, you will take the remaining damage of the shield-breaking attack, so beware!

In single player, this shield is cast like a regular skill, while in multiplayer holding the button will bring you into a wheel (like when you control the Frosty Friend), which shows the faces of you and each of your friends characters. Press up to cast the shield on yourself, or right to cast it on player number two, etc.

The shield will also have some kind of perfect guard effect, if you manage to cast it right before you or your friend would get hit by an incoming attack, but we haven’t decided exactly what this will be yet.

Blink – A short-range teleport ability that auto targets some distance away. This means that if you tap the skill you will blink across the screen, but if you hold the button down you can move the target around to change where you land.

Finally, there’s the two buff spells:

Offense – Boosts damage, speed and crit.

Defense – Boosts defense, shield regeneration and EP regeneration.

One important disclaimer in relation to these skills is that they’re all subject to change depending on your feedback or our experience while testing them out! For now though, this is the lineup we’re looking at and right now we all agree it’s gonna make things much more interesting :)

Now, time for another portrait: the summer fae luring her winter fae friend to the desert town!

As with the other harbor/desert town characters, nothing has been properly decided about these characters, but my general idea is that she took her friend with her, and while she enjoys herself he has a hard time dealing with the climate! I guess we’ll see if that story makes it in the end, once we finally start implementing the town.

In the Arcadia rework business, it’s time to introduce Remedi’s Alchemy, an important part of your future arcade runs…

In this first part we focus on the wagon itself, and in the next we’ll add a bunch of interesting surroundings: strange and mystical flowers that have luring the alchemist to this remote town!

Finally, let’s end this week by taking a look at what Fred has kept himself busy with: the Solem animations! In order of appearance: Appear (spawn), attack, dig (for when he charges at you), grab (as he appears from beneath your feet to hit you), and a regular movement animation!

Important to notes is that these are still in the ‘sketch’ stage, so they need some cleaning up (as you can see on a few, there are holes in the middle of the poor Solem). This is the way Fred prefers to work when he creates animations: first making a rough sketch, then filling in more and more details until they’re properly polished (and all holes removed).

With Fred back in town we had a meeting, as mentioned last week, where we discussed two important things: the new housing patch feedback and something I know many have long awaited… the support skills!

When it comes to the housing build tools, there actually haven’t been much feedback to speak about, which we take as a good thing: hopefully that means they weren’t too confusing! There are still some things we’d like to polish, though – for instance, some kind of visual effect for the clear and delete functions (as the items/rooms disappear).

We also want you to be able to add more than one door to a room, and by doing so connecting it to others. To do this, we’ll add a ‘connect’ button in the menu, which allows you to add another doorway between two rooms that are next to each other but not yet connected.

What about the support skills, then? Well, we’ve come up with eight different skills, which will be introduced in more detail at a later date. For now, let’s talk about the changes compared to what the support trees look like now:

For one, the skill category will change name from “Support” to the more versatile “Utility”. Our reasoning is that with a name like support, many players who expect to play the classical support role will automatically hone in on the support tree without checking the other trees first. However, while these new utility skills will likely make playing a support-like character more fun (compared to the current skills), we want to make a point of the fact that you can pick and choose from any of the skill categories, and use the Utility ones as bonus abilities, rather than either ignoring the tree or focusing too much on it due to the support name.

Inside Utility category there will be three trees: Offensive (3 skills), Defensive (3 skills) and Buffs (2 skills). The old support skills will be completely removed.

Finally, the utility skills won’t use the charge system, and won’t use up gold points. The way we’ve designed them now, they will cap at 5 skill points and only use silver – but this might change as we begin to prototype them and play around with them within the game.

Since the support skills are mainly Teddy and Fred’s area, I’ve focused on other things this week!

First up, I’m continuing work on Tai Ming’s arcade mode stuff, and it begins with changing the initial size of the rooms:

As you can see in the above image, our first version was pretty huge, larger than the biggest room in Flying Fortress (which I believe is the biggest room in all of Arcade Mode to this point). It still is very big, even after we changed the size a little, but less extreme.

So anyway, first thing I had to do was change the size of each of the walls I made currently, and then I went on to add openings/exits for each of them, as seen below:

The mountain walls only need an exit (or rather, entrance), to the bottom, since you’ll only use it once as you come through a Mount Bloom exit!

Then, I started working on another type of wall, featuring houses! Tai Ming is a town, after all… Here are a few of the ones I made in combination with some of the other walls:

When making these “house walls”, or more town like walls for the Tai Ming rooms, I wanted to make sure they could work both alone and next to water or other walls. In order to make this work, I made small versions of each, that are small ends just before the water edges, in case they are placed in a room with some kind of water. I then made four corners (seen above) than can be added to each of the walls to make them longer, for when there’s just greenery in the room, and no water.

An example of this can be seen below. The vertical edges of the battle area used here are the smaller versions, with the corners added on top but not bottom sides, in order to make room for the water that flows there:

Here’s another example, with a single corner connecting the short vertical and short horizontal edges of the battle room. It also showcases how you can use both a water edge and the stone wall together:

Third version, with corners on the left side! Also as you can see, there are a bunch of variations of the layouts, which means hopefully there shouldn’t be too many repeating walls:

And here we have one with only the short versions and no corners:

The actual battle area needs some grass decorations (that is likely to be random generated), but other than that I think we’re nearing something that feels a little more complete. Now we just need to feed these walls into the game engine and figure out in which ways to connect them to make the rooms look interesting and cool!

Now, it’s been a while since we made the first step in the progress of revamping Arcadia, but it’s finally time for another: Candy’s brother Muffin makes an appearance, ready to give you treats that will make your arcade runs easier!

The final form can be viewed below:

And below’s the map as of now! Quite a way to go yet, but we’re slowly getting there:

In Fred’s department, the desert enemies continue to take shape! This time around he has finished up the Mrs. Bird animations and moved on to the Solem~

See how another Mrs. Bird spawns out of the egg of another? We have a feeling this enemy will be quite annoying, hopefully in a good way! The Solem, meanwhile, will be a lone beast, few and far between due to their strength.

Since all paths will be open to the player (once the maps are actually in the game) we plan on sticking one of these guys near the entrance of the desert, deterring any stray new players on their way to Pumpkin Woods from going the wrong direction. One bout with this guy and hopefully they realize they took a wrong turn and continue down the right path! …or perhaps it’ll become a challenge to some, to see how soon they can best these high level beasts? Looking forward to seeing all the cheese strats! :)

As a bonus, Fred has created a step-by-step for the initial creating of the Solem, from sketch to finished sprite:

Excited to battle yet? I know I am.. But first we have some support skills and Arcade Mode reworks to finish :D

Last week me and Teddy had full focus on getting the house building tools up and running, and I’m happy to say the patch is ready and has been uploaded!! Finally you’ll be able to be more creative with your house, adding new rooms and editing their shape or size in more detail.

The full patch notes can be seen here, and as always, we’d LOVE to hear your feedback on these new tools, anything that may be confusing with them, improvements to be made etc. Let us know! You can comment either here or in the thread above (or make a new suggestions post on the forums).

Last week, Fred was also gone on vacation, and since he returns tonight and the build tools are done (aside from some polishing and anything we learn from your feedback), our next move will be to get together and discuss the support skills! Yes, finally! We’ve put them off for so long, but with the game drawing ever closer to a finished state I guess it’s best we finally get to adding them before there’s no reason to use them anymore, right?!

We’d like to thank all of you for your input and suggestions in regards to them up to this point, and we’ll consider each of them as we move on to iron out in which direction we want to take these spells. Again, though, it’s unlikely there will be any kind of healing skills, but most of you are used to the thought of that by now! It’s a cool skill to have, but we’ve made the decision it won’t be available in Grindea (unless you’re a certain NPC) for a variety of reasons I don’t think we need to rehash once more.

What we DO end up implementing we’ll only know after tomorrow’s meeting, and will be disclosed in a future post!

Since I don’t get to do much for the support spells (it’s mainly Teddy implementing mechanics and Fred doing animations for them), I’ll return to focusing on the Arcadia rework and its new floors until the skills are properly decided and I can make icons for them (likely after some prototyping as been made). We’ll keep you updated!

FOR NOW THOUGH, let’s take a look at last week and the path to creating the tools you now have in your game:

In the first screenshot (above), we added a very simple way of being able to drag each wall tile down however far you need. At the point of this screen, it’s a very basic way of handling things: the darkness above each wall tile looks very square and unpolished, and the black outlines have actually been added manually in Photoshop as a visual test.

Since we don’t want the outlines to be completely black in the final game – it will look jarring next to some of the wallpapers – what we’ll do is have me make a 1 pixel wide line for each wallpaper, using a much darker version of its own color. This way we can also manually account for the lower part of the wallpaper being a different color. For the particular wallpaper above, this would mean the outline will be dark gray and dark red.

As a next step, we polished the darkness, and added a way to pull wall tiles upwards as well, as seen below:

If you’ve an eye for details, you’ll notice the corners aren’t as rounded as in the previous screen. The reason for this is that rooms with multiple extra corners (such as the one above) looked super weird with the smooth corners attached everywhere – it looked less like a house, and more like an organic shape. Even now, the edges might look a little bit too rounded, but I think this is a lot better, and I feel completely square corners would end up looking too flat.

Next step: attaching doors that connect your rooms. Each wallpaper will have its own door, and unfortunately as of now you won’t be able to mix and match between them.

When making the doors, we had two options regarding sizing: either making them 40 pixels wide, equaling 2 floor tiles – which honestly is rather small compared to most doors in the game – or going for 60 pixels / 3 floor tiles, which is rather huge compared to most doors in the game.

SO, I made a bunch of suggestions, the left ones being 40 pixels / 2 floor tiles and the bigger ones on the right equaling 3 floor tiles of width:

In the end, we decided to go for the smaller doors, as they don’t look quite as gigantic and it seems easier to fit in doors that are 2 tiles wide inside your house. It’s going to be a challenge keeping each door this tiny, but that’s what makes it fun too, right? Continuing on, I made one door for each wallpaper, both facing upwards and to the sides:

And now that those are out of the way, it’s time to return to something we haven’t touched in a rather long while… User interfaces! First, we need to get some stuff together so you can purchase the lumber that allows you to extend the size of your house and rooms!

And it all begins with a basic item sprite (you will be carrying the lumber in your inventory, after all), and a modified version for the shop menu:

Next, we begin sketching what the lumber purchasing interface could look like. Since lumber is a very different item compared to furniture, we wanted to keep them separate. Therefore, rather than being part of the regular sales, lumber purchasing will have a special interface, loosely based on the Nurse in Arcade Mode:

The main things of importance in this interface is how much lumber you wish to purchase (and how much it costs), how much gold you have, and how much each lumber costs at this level. We decided that after you’ve purchased a number of lumber, the overall price per lumber will go up. This way it’ll take some extra work (or rather gold), to get those huge mansion type buildings!

Once we were satisfied with the sketch I went ahead and made the rendered version, also featuring how much lumber you currently own, which we realized might be interesting to see as well:

Next up, the build tools menu! Gotta access those tool some way, right?

Every menu we design starts with a basic sketch, and in this case a messier one than usual! In the above screen, we were discussing various ways of making the tools available to the player, sketching as we went on. Our first idea was to merge the build tools with the hand tool, but we quickly changed it to be its own focused menu in the settings tab, where we could fit all of them – including the light settings, which would be slightly out of place otherwise.

Similarly to the shop menus, this menu will use buttons that allow you to enter each tool. In the above screen, I added some of the already made shop menu buttons to see what it’d look like if we used them as a base for the new bunch. Since the size in length fits well with the background and it’s edited to fit all font types in height, we decided to stick with these and just swap out the icons to represent each tool.

Next I began editing the background to make the buttons stand out more, as well as making room for the menu title (which as of now will be”Room”). The icons on each side of the band (on which the title text will be) will move with the text, so no matter the length of the title they will be a pixel or two away. We made it this way to make sure it’ll look as good as possible in the translations:

Then it’s all about making those icons, and doing our best to come up with images that fit with the tool and make them easier to understand. Can you guess what each tool means below?

The correct answer is, from top to bottom: Add New (room), Resize, Reshape, Light Settings, Clear and Delete!

Add room will create a ready room with a door that you’ll be able to place on the wall in the room you’re currently in. Resize will replace the current resize system and allows you to pull at any of the walls, making the room longer in that direction. In Reshape you can pull down (or up) walls to change the shape of the room, and Light Settings will replace the current light setting – after you press the button, it’ll allow you to change the percentage. Clear will clear all furniture from the room, and Delete will, naturally, delete it.

Since this will be the new settings menu, you might wonder what will happen to the Save and Load options. They will remain in their own box, beneath the above Room settings (you might have to scroll down to access them). These are designed much in the same way, and will work just like the Light Settings button: after you press their buttons you’ll be able to edit which slot you want to save/load into, just like before:

And now, some work in progress gifs showing the early stages of the build tools:

First up, the add new (room) tool, seen above! The cost of the room will be shown in the middle, and you use the arrow keys to decide where to place the entrance.

Below, you can see the prototype for the resize tool, where you use arrows to first select which wall you want to make bigger, and then keep pressing the arrow key in the direction you want it to increase. As you do this, the amount of lumber needed to complete the action is shown. Right now it displays with a minus sign, while the add new room does not, but in the end they’ll both use the same format.

You’ll be able to pull at the walls however long you wish even if you cannot afford it, but you won’t be able to confirm your edit unless you have enough lumber. The reason for this is so that you can try making the room the size you want it and see how much lumber you’d need to make it that big before you go purchase more at the Carpenter.

Finally, there’s the reshape tool, where you can edit the inside of the room. Pulling down (or up) these walls don’t cost anything, so you can redesign the shape of your room freely!

In case you missed it, the housing patch is now up and running, so if you haven’t tried that yet, go ahead and test it!

The initial feedback seems very positive, and I’m actually surprised to see how many of you seem to really enjoy building your houses! The interiors that have been posted all look great and so creative, I didn’t even know you could make such cool layouts with the things we made so far. Thank you for that all of you! We’re still going to introduce a ton of new pieces of furniture, of course, and we’ve already gotten a ton of cool ideas based on your suggestions! If you have any more ideas for housing and what to do with it, please go ahead and let us know by commenting or posting on our forums!

Now, we’ve decided that we do want to further improve the housing system – specifically the layout – and we’d rather do it now while it’s fresh in our minds rather than sometime in the future. Since we estimate the development time will be more or less the same between creating pre-designed layouts or having you guys make those layouts yourselves, we’ve also decided to go for the the later, allowing you more freedom in your house building endeavors.

This of course means a whole new set of design decision that needs to be ironed out before things can be implemented properly. For one, we need some kind of build tool where you can edit the walls, pull them down or up and change the size of each individual room. This will be a challenge in itself, but will have to wait until the system runs properly (Teddy has already started working on this).

Second, we had to discuss whether increasing your house size would be completely free or something you pay gold to do. The idea we came up with is that each tile/square in the house represents a number of “Lumber” (might change the name later). This means that as you expand your house you’ll use up lumber, but should you make it smaller again, you’ll regain them. You will be able to purchase the lumber at the carpenter store for gold, though we haven’t decided how expensive it will be yet.

As now, there will be a minimum number of tiles each room can be, but you’ll have a lot of options in terms of the shape, since you’ll be able to move each wall tile up or down. While this system will need a lot of fine tuning, I think it’ll be great in the end!

As for the general feedback we’ve received since the housing launch, two requests stood out above the rest: bookcases facing sideways and chairs facing upwards!

The reason we didn’t include sideways-facing bookcases was, honestly, because we thought it looked boring and we thought nobody would be interested in that anyway. After listening to your feedback, we know we were wrong, and agree that there’s definitely uses for them – and so they will be added in an upcoming patch!

Along with the bookcase update, there will also be chairs facing upwards, so you can put chairs in all directions. We always intended to include these, but for some reason, we kept forgetting to actually make them. Oops!

As per request, there will also be a style for the female statue without the moss, as pictured below:

As you can see, there’s also a bunch of beds in that picture, and you might wonder why. Well, we’ve had a discussion about the perspective in the game and whether some items look better in their correct form or not.

You see, the vertical beds that are currently in the game are wrong according to the perspective – they are much smaller than they should be, compared to the horizontal version – and Teddy suggested we should correct it since it was something that bothered him as he was flipping between the two.

When I took the above screen, I had started fixing the vertical beds, but something felt kind of off. I asked Teddy to upload the Pumpkin Woods bed so we could test it and compare it to the old, smaller version.

Turns out we ended up preferring the smaller one, even though it’s technically wrong. For some reason, the beds end up feeling huge when they’re in their correct size, and it actually felt a lot worse than flipping between the original ones. I will still fix two that felt a little too small, but the rest will be kept the same, and the “fixed” versions will go to the trashcan!

Another thing that will be added is the !-mark seen above. It will appear above important notices, and serves as a warning of sorts. Or just to make the boxes a little more interesting-looking, if you will!

We also decided to do a bunch of fixes to items that didn’t properly fit within their tiles/squares, making placing them in a house rather awkward. First up, the beer keg, which has been changed to a bigger version. In the original, left version, it was simply too small and left a lot of space on each side. Making it even smaller (to fit a single square) wasn’t an option, so instead we decided to make it a lot bigger. It now takes up 4 squares, and while there’s still some space remaining, there’s not nearly as much of it:

Next up, some of the Temple of Seasons bushes, which used to take up about 1.5 squares, also making them very annoying to place within your house. For these, we decided to make them smaller instead:

This flower crate also got a smaller version, which now fits a single square as well:

The Pumpkin Woods bench and chair, which weren’t pictured above:

We’ve also started working on a new object, which is a weapon stand where you can place your 1- or 2-handed weapons to show off within your house. In the top left corners of the below picture, you can see two of our iterations for the 1h version. In the end, it’ll be something closer to the right one, as it shows off the weapon better and feels more balanced:

In semi-related news, another thing that will be included in the next patch is the long-awaited feature of being able to skip quests you previously finished in a multiplayer session! Before this patch airs, you’ve had to redo every single quest in single player, regardless of how far you got with your friends (unless you were the one hosting). Now, you’ll get a notification about having completed any given quest in a previous multiplayer run, and the option to skip to the end of it:

As for Fred, his focus has been more enemy animations, as well as laying the groundwork graphically for those weapon stands that will feature any weapon of your choosing as a housing item!

In order to make the weapon stands work, Fred selected a frame from one of the attack animations featuring each sword and edited it to fit the weapon stand sprite. He also had to add a hilt to each of the ones that needed one, since he never made on for the animations: the main character’s hand typically covers where it would have been.

And as for the enemy animations, things are moving forward with the desert enemies and in particular with the Mrs Bird enemy:

Finally, there’s another portrait for the upcoming desert town! A winter fae, to boot – Talk about getting out of ones element!

This poor guy has been dragged along to the desert by a summer fae friend. How cruel! He doesn’t particularly seem to enjoy the heat, does he?

This week was a very special week, since the annual GGC was hosted (and also the week where we launched housing on frontline – go check it out)!

GGC is short for Gotland Game Conference, which is basically a game expo where the students at the game design education showcase their game and a bunch of people from the industry is invited as judges to give feedback and select which ones did the best. It all culminates in an award ceremony with an after-party where we all get a chance to hang out together and share experiences with other game developers. So basically, it’s great!

For those of you wanting a glimpse of all the game presented at the conference, check out this video:

One of the showfloor favorites, and clear winner of many of the awards at the award ceremony was this little gem called Pump the Frog, made by a bunch of first year students:

Totally charming and so well polished. It was hard to imagine they only had 8 weeks from start to finish, incredibly impressive work! It’s also nominated for several SGA (Swedish Game Awards) categories, so its success might continue on to other venues as well!

If you want to know more about the conference or would like to see some cool pictures from the showfloor and presentations, head over to the conference website!

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Now as I mentioned, this week we also launched the housing system, which is now playable on frontline! So, when we weren’t at GGC judging games and hanging out with fellow game developers, this week was all about some last minute housing polish, finishing up the remaining details and the graphics needed for them!

First up, we realized there were some more forgotten things we needed to take care of!

Some miniatures for the carpets from before, for example:

And then, a couple of items some of you have likely had in your inventory for quite some time! The red slime carpet and the green slime bad:

Hopefully that’s the last of our forgotten objects, and we can now focus on just adding new ones in the future :)

As for the housing system itself, the way you get the house, for now, is that once you’ve completed Flying Fortress, the scientist Kim will appear in Evergrind City next to your currently not-yet-built house, explaining one or two things about the science behind the houses in the game (and your own)!

She also wonders if you’d like to help test out some new systems, and upon agreeing to do so you’ll be able to purchase the house from the carpenter, who will build it for you. After this is done we plan to move Kim back to the lab in the HQ where she’ll continue doing other experiments (gotta keep busy, you know)!

As for the house, once it’s been finished (this happens once you change screens once), you’ll get a very short and basic explanation of how to use it upon entering the building.

We’ve continued working on the icons that illustrate what tool you’re currently using, and here they are in action:

First up, the style icon (seen above). After some thinking we’ve decided the arrows for each of the icons need to be remade, and it’s also missing a proper outline and an animation at this point.

Next, the carpet tool’s “carpet version”:

For this one we’re actually considering using the old version (seen below) after all, to make it stand out a bit more from the carpets you’re editing.

Finally, a GIF showcasing both the stack and the move tool:

The stack tool (as well as the carpet tool) don’t use the correct freeze frames in these GIFs which means the animation isn’t paced exactly right (it’s supposed to pause for longer on each stack), but it gives you an idea of what it’ll look like. The move tool is missing an animation in these GIFs as well, but it has since been added to the game. Finally, we added outlines to all the icons, which made them stand out a bit more against the background. This can also be viewed in the game.

We did have a discussion regarding whether or not to use a more simplistic style for each of these (like the old version of the carpet tool), but decided against it in the end. This way there will be a little more color, and hopefully each icon will stand out enough on their own once the outlines and proper animations have been added!

As for Fred, his main focus has been getting all those housing icon moving. Here are the finished icons he worked on:

We didn’t talk about the hand tool much in the previous post on housing, but the hand tool is a very basic tool accessible from the housing menu that allows you to move around your house and select any furniture piece you want (which in turn brings you into the other tools). The hand tool is also connected to your skin color in-game, and matches that of your character.

Here’s the new and improved move tool! We changed the arrows quite a bit, both in shape and color, plus it now moves and has an outline. It works a lot better than the old version, to say the least!

There’s also this new and improved version of the carpet tool icon (above), and the stack tool which you’ve already seen, below:

And here’s the style tool, a little bit interesting now that the brush is moving about:

Finally, Kim got a slight redesign to better resemble her portrait as well as an additional animation. In her regular one, she’s doing some chemistry stuff, mixing a liquid of some sort. While she’s outdoors telling you about the housing science, we thought we’d give her a different animation to better suit the theme (as well as one that doesn’t make sounds every few seconds):

We currently haven’t decided whether she’ll pick her chemistry set back up once she returns inside, or if she’ll continue using her newfound tablet instead!

Now, if you haven’t tried out the housing system yet, go ahead and let us know what you think! We’re eagerly awaiting your feedback :)

Hello guys and sorry for the late recap! Apparently, someone (me) forgot to hit ‘publish’ after finishing the post and nobody noticed until now… Ooops!

Oh well, ready for some new Housing info?

Our basic prototype is more or less done: the items that have been made so far have all been implemented, and most of the ones that will move in some way have their proper animations. Teddy is currently working on two things, the light settings (which are coming along rather nicely so far), and the rather complicated systems behind being able to add more rooms and change the layout of your house.

You see, previously we decided that you’d be able to select between a bunch of pre-designed layouts for your house, which could be unlocked at the proper salesman or through your housing menu (not fully decided). As our conversation went on, though, we started thinking it’d be really cool if you could design your house however you wanted, adding new rooms and change their sizes freely.

Before we fully commit to that can of worms, our current goal is to upload what we have to Frontline (any day now, possibly even tonight!) and let you guys try it out. We’re still a little torn between having pre-designed layouts or having you design the house more freely, as the latter definitely would add a ton more work and I’m sure most of you would like to see the game finished sooner rather than later.

So for now, we’ll upload what we have: a single layout, and the current housing items. The shop and house will be placeholder, with more finalized look for each of them coming later on, as we’ll use the Arcadia redesign versions as a base for the story mode versions after they’re finished.

With your feedback we hope to be able to gauge how much more work (and polish!) will be needed before the housing system can truly be complete, and as such will give us a better idea of which of our options to pick.

There’s also a third option here, where if people are satisfied with the basic version of the house, we might just stay off multiple layouts altogether as that would save a lot of time and would mean we could add the proper housing system much sooner. Anyway, your feedback will decide! Stay tuned for that :)

And now, time to make some walls for Tai Ming’s arcade mode!

“Walls?” you might ask. “Isn’t that quite straight forward?” Oh yes, my friend! Typically walls are the least of my worries when I make Arcade floors, as they’re just a very basic edge signifying the end of the battle area. In other floors, they’re a bunch of random generated trees, or a basic stone wall.

As mentioned in last week’s post, however, Tai Ming will be different. We’ll mix and match various ways to block off the battle area, ranging from streams of water, fences and even cave walls. And while creating each of those is a rather simple task in itself, they also need to be able to connect with each other and different types of walls – and they all need to work together!

Above you can see the size of the battle area we decided to work with for these rooms. It’ll be slightly bigger or smaller depending on which walls are used in the room, but most will be of approximately the same size.

So, first of all, let’s take a look at what we have to work with. In order of appearance: wall, mountain, stream and fence:

In a coming post, we’ll also take a look at houses that will serve as walls, and maybe one or two variations of these that account for other town-like features. After all, we want to convey the feeling that this is town, in whatever ways we can while keeping the Arcade feel!

For now though, let’s look at how we can use these pieces together to create a variety of different room types:

…and so on! Of course, not all of the rooms will have streams or mountain walls, though I suspect many will and they do make for more interesting looking rooms so far (at least until we’ve added some houses)!

There’s still a way to go, but the basics are down and I think this will end up quite interesting once it’s all done.

And now, some housing icons to indicate which tool you’re currently using! …Cause there are quite a few tools, actually. First up, the carpet tool:

This tool is used to edit the size of the carpets. You’ll be able to change the size of many of our carpets freely, and this icon will help indicate what you’re currently doing. The upper version is Fred’s basic version, but we’ll also make one featuring the carpet design beneath to see which one we like the best.

Next up, the move tool, which is rather straight forward:

Select a piece of furniture with the hand tool, and move it around to wherever you wanna put it. We’ll probably add some kind of animation to the arrows, as most of the tool indicators will be animated in some basic way (much like the carpet tool)

Next, the stack tool:

This “tool” appears when you try to select a square that has multiple objects stacked on it, and helps you select which parts of it you want to edit or move. Do you only want to select the top object, the topmost two or the whole stack?

Below’s a test animation I did to make the indicator easier to understand, and beneath it is Fred’s finished version:

Finally, the style tool, which allows you to change the basic appearance of an object. This is indicated by a painter’s brush and palette. The first version had a rather crude version of the brush, so it was quickly changed:

And now, another portrait!

Not much is known about this guy yet, I’m afraid! Other than the fact he’ll be staying in the desert, of course. I’ve been watching a couple of documentaries on Versailles in general and the era of Louis XIV in particular, which I guess shows through the design?

These portraits are a lot of fun to make, and I’m itching to remake the earlier ones to bring ’em all together style wise. That should probably wait, though :D

Finally, some animations! This week, Fred has been busy with the enemies, bringing the Cacute and Mrs. Bird to life~

First up, we have Mrs. Bird’s idle animations, and her laying one of those annoying eggs that will either spawn a new bird or slow you down if you decide to break it:

The annoying and OMG-SO-CUTE egg in question:

And next up, the Cacute! If you decide to be really evil, this is what it looks like when you kill it:

Though why you’d wanna do that when this is how cute it looks in its idle and movement animations, is beyond me:

Now that most of the Housing stuff has been animated, Fred will continue to work with the enemies to ensure that Teddy can just dive in and prototype them once he is done with his part of the housing. The less he has to wait on new animations, the more focused he can be when the prototyping phase starts!

For now though, both he and I will continue to be stuck for a while with housing and Arcadia stuff, as that’s our main missions before we can move on to the desert and rejoin Fred on that venture!

Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that being a gamedev involves more than simply making games and managing the community surrounding it. Today (when this gets posted, a while ago) we had our “annual meeting”, which is a formal thing we need to do to review the year and how the company has fared through it.

This year we also formalized and signed contracts surrounding Secrets of Grindea and its IP, protecting it and us in the unlikely case we no longer get along. While we trust each other 100% it’s so much easier making these contracts while there are no issues, rather than try to solve any such issues as they arise in a not-so-likely future. In fact, we should have done this years ago, before we even started selling the game.

If you’re an aspiring gamedev, I very strongly advise you look into getting a contract outlining exactly what each of you will be doing for the company and what happens in the case where one or several of you want out. You might think there will never be any problems ahead, but you never know, and it’s better to be protected than to wish you had been. Also, money can easily change people, and I’ve seen countless horror stories out there where devs no longer get along once they start selling their game as opposed to it being a dream.

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Now, some time has passed since we started the poll regarding which of the Tai Ming Arcade floor designs you’d prefer – backtrack through time or random time jumps. At the moment of writing this, it seems you guys are as divided as we are, so for the time being we’re leaning slightly towards the backtracking idea.

This means each of the rooms have to be made available in both a past and a present version. And speaking of the floor visuals, how would we even go about designing an Arcade floor of an area that’s more of a town than any of the previous areas you’ve progressed through?

To sort this out, I had a long meeting with Teddy where we sketched and discussed the various ways we could handle this.

In conclusion, we’ve decided to make the floors in a very different way compared to the others. For the other floors, each room background is either very designed by me, with variations to give the user an impression of there being more rooms than there actually is (Flying Fortress, Mount Bloom etc), or they are fully generated by the engine that puts a bunch of trees in a circle on top of a basic background (Evergrind Fields, Seasonne, etc). For Tai Ming, we’re going to do a mix of the two.

We decided that each outdoor room of Tai Ming will consist of a plain grass background, upon which we’ll put various things that will serve to block the screen so that you can’t move further than the square where you’ll be fighting. These things will include various fences, mountain walls, streams of water and houses, either ones you will enter or closed ones that will only serve to block your way forward.

Each of these items will be generated into the game by the engine, but they will have to be handmade by me to fit into each situation. For instance, there needs to be a way for a horizontal and vertical fence/stream/mountain wall to connect, and they need to be able to work with each other – a fence must be able to connect to the mountain wall, for instance.

To make these floors coherent we’ll frame them with the mountain, meaning the the bottom, far right/left and topmost floors will have a corresponding mountain wall – it will be in the upper parts of the topmost floors, signifying that you cannot go further north than this. We believe this will give the floors a sense of you progressing through Tai Ming much like it works in Story Mode, you’re passing through a town that’s inside the mountain. Because there’s a lot of water in Tai Ming’s second zone and we thought it would make the rooms a more interesting look, there will be streams here and there that you can pass over (in some rooms) by bridges, that will also be made by me but generated into the game by the engine as it creates each floor.

So basically, instead of painting whole rooms, I will spend a lot of time making and piecing together many, many small parts, that need to work both on their own and be able to connect with others as they get generated by the game!

As for the indoor rooms, they will (for now) be single room living areas in a bunch of variations, but with entrances and exits in the same place: if you enter a house from the south you’ll exit it in the north, and if you enter a house from the right you’ll exit it to the left. Since we’ve already dealing with quite complex backgrounds we thought we’d keep the indoor houses simple. This way we don’t have to make a ton of variations of the house sprites (the outodoor ones) that would have to look different if the house is L-shaped or longer than one room. Now we can focus on giving each of the exits variations through color and design rather than the shape, which would also end up affecting the other pieces made for the outdoor areas.

Creating these floors properly will definitely be a challenge, and more on the technical side than what we normally do, but we believe this will make these floors look the best they can. Our other options would be to make a ton of pre-rendered rooms (a bunch with the mountain wall to the bottom, a bunch with the wall to the left, etc) or lose the coherency of where the mountain floors and walls connect, and we all agree that just wouldn’t be as nice.

In other words, expect a post or two full with tiny parts and ways of connecting them! ;)

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And now, for something else! Among these other things I’ve also started working on the proper Arcadia graphics now that the design is settled! Here’s a video featuring the first part, Candy’s Curses:

And here’s the whole map! I thought I’d post this after every new step, to show you the town slowly taking shape:

One I’ve made all the finished buildings, I’ll make the flat version with signposts where the buildings will be. The reason I’m starting with the finished buildings is so that each plot will be big enough: it’s a little hard to tell exactly how big a building will end up being before I’ve painted it and it’s surroundings, and I want to be able to adjust the paths and greenery to fit the built versions :)

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Back to housing! We’ve had multiple discussions regarding table cloths and how to apply them to various tables. Finally, we’ve come to a decision!

Basically, we had two options. Either we’d make a ton of basic table cloths that had to fit each of the tables, or we’d make unique styles for each table, with table cloths (and other decorations) specifically made for that object.

In the end, we decided to go with the second option, for multiple reasons. For one, the tables aren’t all exactly as big, which means it’ll be quite a challenge to make sure every table cloth fits each and every table. Second, it’s more fun for us to design table cloths to go with each table, rather than have to design around all tables with the limitation of size as mentioned. It also makes each table you buy a little more interesting, as it comes with its own unique styles.

And without further ado, here’s a bunch of the table cloths we’ve made so far:

…With more to come!

And while we’re on the subject of housing, have another bunch of Fred’s animated housing items:

This week was a little different, as it was very special week indeed! In fact, last week (Tuesday to be precise) Teddy turned 30! To celebrate this, we left our isolated island for the Swedish mainland to celebrate him with his family. We were gone from Thursday last week and only got back a short while ago, so this weekly recap will be a bit shorter than usual!

To make up for that, we’ll be taking a look at what Fred has been busy with recently! We haven’t posted a lot of his animations on the main blog for a while, so there’s a bunch of stuff that’s been going on behind the scenes.

First of all, the desert enemy designs! We already talked about their gameplay design earlier, but since then Fred has been busy iterating their visual appearances:

This is typically what it looks like when we try to figure out what something should look like in the game. Make a bunch of variations and then pick whichever one is the best. In this case, we stuck with the ones in the red circle, bottom right. We’re all very excited to finally start working on the next area, although me and Teddy have a ton of housing and arcade mode stuff to finish first!

Speaking of housing, that’s another thing we’ve continued working on. Below you can see a basic test of a different light setting and a bunch of iterations for the visual appearance of the hand icon which allows you to select and edit furniture:

Our current favorite is the version that points straight down, with the selected square beneath it. We’ve also started working on our options regarding multiple room layouts and it’s coming along, though it’s gonna need a lot of testing since there’s a bunch of design problems occurring from having several rooms that need to be solved and reiterated.

Meanwhile, Fred has been making animations for a ton of the housing items that will move in various ways:

With many more to come! :)

And now, another of those desert town portraits! As I mentioned before, gotta start early and all, right?

Though the stories of the characters I design now aren’t fully established, the basic idea of this one is that she’s a merchant from Merchant Isles, come to trade in the harbor town.

In the future, I imagine I’ll make more merchants and sailors from there, as well as people from many other places. Our idea is that the desert town is a point of trade that attracts lots of people from all across the world, so there might even be one of two fae visiting, or perhaps a caveling? I guess we’ll see what the future holds for this town!

NOW; those of you not wanting to know what things will unlock where in the new version of Arcadia should probably steer clear of the rest of the post!

After confirming a bunch of things on another meeting, discussing which Arcadia houses should be approximately how far from the entrance/exit to your arcade runs, I went ahead and started designing the layout and basic looks of each of the houses you’ll be able to unlock in Arcadia!

For those of you who don’t want to know exactly what will get unlocked and where, I wouldn’t look too closely at this picture:

The color overlays show three different areas, each of which you will have to pay gold to unlock, while the white area will be available from start (though the Candy & Muffin stands will be the only ones built when you first start – the rest you’ll have to build with gold and time).

We ran around this background in-game with our characters and feel satisfied with the overall feel, though some sizes and distances will end up slightly different once the actual buildings and items have been made. For this area we’ll also be making new special trees and vegetation to further cement Arcadia as a place of its own, disconnected from the rest of Grindea (though connected in a mysterious way~).

I gotta say I’m really excited to start working on this and get the new improved Arcadia up and running, especially creating some of the more creative looking houses and make everything fit together :)