First off, we’d like to remind everyone that the talent system is now live in the Frontline beta! So jump in there and test them out. Some systems have been slightly reworked or extended to facilitate some of the Talent effects, so the potential for amazing bugs is vast! Upon loading an old character, all skill points will auto-refund and adapt to the new system.

Another new addition in this update is the ability to refund skill points! This is something that has been suggested and discussed for a long time now, and it has never been an extremely prioritized topic (partly because of the /respec cheat already in game). With the advent of Talents, however, we decided to test this feature out.

refund

For a fair bit of gold, you can refund a skill point you might have misplaced or began to regret! The cost scales with level (currently 100 gold per level gained), so it should always be a cost that stings at least a bit.

Oh, and something you might’ve noticed just from looking at the screenshot above: we’re removing a charge level from all active spells. There are three reasons behind this.

For one, finding openings for charging up is hard as it is, and will only get harder as you gain more charge levels. Having three charge upgrades instead of four helps a bit in this regard. This is probably the smallest issue, even.

Another reason is that having five different charges makes for a pretty awkward power curve. Preferably, the Silver, Gold and Ultimate charges would all need to be significant upgrades compared to their previous charge level. This meant the Gold charge would have to be “really cool but not too cool since we must add a fifth power level after it”.

What we’ll do now is that you just skip that step, and will get the best version of the skill at level 10 (which will be acquired at character level 19 with the current system).

Finally, we acknowledge that it would probably technically be possible to get the five step power curve to feel alright, but we always have to keep in mind the development time (including testing and balance revisions).

We doubt very much that the previous Gold charge would have added a ton compared to “just” having four charge levels, but it would mean many hours of brain storming, animating, implementation and tuning.

(Please note that we’ve still not implemented the final charge! This will probably come after the next temple is in the game)

In case you missed it, we’ve now updated the Frontline beta to include the Toy Factory! If you decide to play it through, we’d love to hear your thoughts over at the forums, regardless if you liked it all or hated it all!

When you try it out remember to not use overpowered characters (unless you want it to be easy)! Being level 15 or something is fine, but if you’re sporting the best gear in the game and a high level pet, you should probably equip something less powerful, or at least switch to Hard.

With those news out of the way, let’s get our hands dirty with the upcoming Skills & Talents Overhaul!

Talents - General

Talents will be a new kind of passive skills, which the player can level besides the regular active skills that are in the game today. You’ll level these using talent orbs, which you gain one of every time you level.

The intended function of the Talents are to improve the possibility to specialize and help create build- and gameplay diversity, as well as give players opportunities to mitigate weaknesses. For example, there’s a Talent which extends the Perfect Guard window to help players struggling with that, and we’re also implementing Talents that promote using a combination of weapon skills and magic spells by adding bonus effects.

Gameplay wise, the system should help players find a more personal play style, but it will also help improve other aspects of the game. Since most people prefer to switch between no more than 2-3 active skills, there will eventually be a point where additional skill points won’t feel as rewarding as they did early on in the game. With Talents, there will always be something useful to spend your points on, ensuring that each level up gives the player a meaningful choice.

It also opens up for a new kind of quest reward. While we already have a quest which grant a Bronze skill point, due to the problems mentioned above, it isn’t necessarily a cause for celebration for those players who already got their main skills leveled to Silver. A Talent point will nearly always be valuable, making it an “objectively good” reward. It’s also much more interesting than giving just EXP.

To help Talents stay relevant, all Talents will have percentage based effects. That way, regardless if you’re level 10 or level 100, that 10 % MaxHP bonus will be just as relevant.

If you want to check out more details about the Talents we currently have planned, and come with suggestions for new ones, please check out the official forum thread!

Fred is back in town, which means the animation machine is back up and running! We’re totally going to regret saying this, but we’ve got our aims set on updating the Frontline build before the end of the week.

The update will include a prototype of the Toy Factory mini-dungeon, as well as the Winterland enemies. Since we’ve focused on implemented the story parts, the area is pretty barren when it comes to quests and other stuff to do — that will come later, possibly even as late as with/around the Season Temple!

But this is all future talk. The Toy Factory isn’t quite completed yet, although Fred had dived straight back into making the animations Teddy needs to wrap it all up once they’re done:

 

FrostlingMachineFightcloud

 

Oh, and the Winterland-stuff isn’t the only thing in the update. Apart from some small changes and bug fixes, it’s going to contain a ton of updated portraits! Here are some more of them:

portraits

Lastly, Vilya is starting a work blog where she’ll post more stuff she’s making for the game and write about the production from her point of view. If you want to know more about how we work or simply enjoy following dev/artblogs, you should definitely head over there!

This week we’ll keep the post short! Fred is still away (he’ll be back later this week), so no animations yet. We do have a bunch of portraits though:

portraits_fae
portraits_evergrind

There’s still 30 portraits awaiting a remake, but that’s actually less than half! Phew!

Teddy is still fine-tuning the Toy Factory cutscenes, but once Fred is back it’s time for the final testing and polishing stage! If everything runs smoothly we just need a couple of additional animations from Fred before we can (finally) patch the factory into the beta for you to test.

Our next step will be to start sketching the layout and puzzles of the second temple. Stay tuned~

This post is a day late, because somehow we managed to forget that it was Monday yesterday and just kept working like it was any other day of the week… Gotta blame the crazy heat wave that’s been going on here, we Swedes can’t handle degrees over 25°C without going insane! ;)

Anyway! More Toy Factory this week. Most of it has been fleshed out by now – all that remains is polish and the boss fight, which Teddy is currently working on. Here’s a glimpse of another of the rooms, this one having a larger conveyor belt that provides a different type of obstacle for the player:

03 - Rullbandsrum

Vilya has been busy making additional expressions for some of the characters that will appear in the cutscenes, but she’s also had time to remake a bunch of old portraits to better suit the new style:

fae

people

Fred is currently having well-earned summer vacation with his family and friends, so there will probably be an absence of animations to show off these coming weeks. We hope he has a great time and enjoys his time off instead (the weather sure couldn’t be better)!

Even though this last week seemed to be the hottest in the history of Sweden, we have kept our sweat drenched focus on the Winterland. A while back we posted this out-of-control Christmas Gift Machine which was supposed to act as the boss of the Toy Factory.
IdleMachine

This design was from the time when the Toy Factory was supposed to be a smaller side quest with only a simple boss encounter within it. Back then the idea was that it would work very similar to the Sentry encounter in the Flying Fortress. A very simple “kill the boss while it spawns a ton of enemies attacking you”-encounter.

Since the area itself have gone through such massive changes since we came up with the initial gameplay design for the boss, we had to rethink it a bit to make it up to standard with the rest of the area.

We all still liked the concept of having an Enraged Gift Machine as the boss of the area so we stuck to it. We only made more of it!

Machine

As the animation hints about, the trains from last week will play a part in the boss battle. It will play out more as a combat/puzzle-hybrid compared to other bosses so far and it will hopefully keep things fresh and interesting for you players!

We’ve also worked on a bunch of pretty extravagant cutscenes in the Toy Factory featuring everyone’s favorite best friend in the whole wide world, Luke. Don’t let the blonde locks fool you, homeboy can fight!

LukeCombo

This week we’ve focused on completing the prototyping of the entire Toy Factory, as well as applying some polish to its first half. For posterity, we’ve saved all the different development stages of a challenge room, to show you what prototype iteration can look like!

rum04_old02

This was our first iteration. It’s pretty hard to see what’s going on since it’s all place holder graphics, but the idea was to have conveyor belts going in circles through the room (the fields with arrows), and the red dots were things you had to strike with your weapon when they appeared.

The challenge was designed so that you needed to use the speed boost from the conveyor belts to quickly move around the room in order to hit the different targets before they disappeared.

We implemented a prototype of the challenge, but quickly realized that it wasn’t up to par. The challenge was there, but it didn’t feel good. Sometimes, that last part is just lack of polish, but this time we felt it went beyond that. We decided to scrap it entirely.

rum04_old2

Back at the drawing board, we decided to experiment with a mechanic that was intended for the Toy Factory boss, namely toy trains. This idea was, in short, to have trains go around a track to provide dynamic area denial while having the players face a second challenge, which originally was going to be fighting enemies.

After brainstorming a bit, we decided against the enemies since it would be too similar to other encounters in the mini-dungeon, and instead came up with the idea of piling on a second type of area denial: falling bombs. For this, we moved things around a bit and came up with this layout:

rum04_old3

The playfield was divided into nine squares (term used loosely here). Bombs would fall inside randomly chosen squares, between which trains would zoom by on the rails. The challenge was to move between the squares, while simultaneously dodging trains. Each train crossing had a track switch, which changed at regular intervals, causing the train patterns to constantly differ.

Using the map above, we implemented a prototype of the trains themselves, as well as their switching. This time, it felt interesting right off the bat, and we decided to go forward with this idea and continue iterating.

rum04_old4

This is how the background looked after cleaning things up and measuring distances. At this point, we added the falling bombs to the prototype.

It felt pretty good, but oftentimes the trains would be too chaotic for player effort to actually be rewarded. You’d feel you had a good read on the situation, but then a switch changed and suddenly a train could still blindside you as you moved between the squares.

We decided that by making the pattern consistent, we could improve clarity and decrease frustration while still maintaining what made the challenge interesting.

ToyTrainChallengeTime to click!

In the end, this was the prototype we went for. The image above links to an animated GIF, so be sure to click on it! Note that this is still the prototype; there’s a whole bunch of polish left, as you can see, but the core gameplay is there.

This little story is a good example of how gameplay can (and will) change as you go along, and that you should never expect your initial idea to be perfect as-is.

It also conveys the issue of hidden/surprise development time – one of the biggest reasons it’s so damn hard to estimate how long things will take on a macro level. This is why young companies (ourselves included) so often are very optimistic in the beginning regarding how long time a game will take to make.

You can look at some other game that took years to make and go “hey, I could make a game like that in six months” and you might be right, but then you never take into account all systems, sub-systems, prototypes, sprites, models, textures and lines of code that had to be made and thrown away in order for that final game to grow into existence.

Some closing food-for-thought: almost every game you’ve ever played has gone through this at almost every stage of development. Even amazing triple A games has looked terrible and been a clunky mess to play at some point!

The outside of the Toy Factory Vilya put together last week went through the animation station! You’ll have to imagine the smoke puffs coming out of the chimneys, we’ll add those in game later on.

FactoryAnimation

 

It’s not only the outside that have been getting some animations up and running. The insides of the factory will be filled with moving parts and machinery. We’ve tried to keep the technology a bit more crude compared to the Flying Fortress-tech, to keep the two separate in terms of setting.


MaskinBlog

Steam

 

The Toy Factory will work as a middle stop before players can head into the second temple, much like the Ghost Hunt quest in the Pumpkin Woods.

Compared to other areas in the game so far, the Toy Factory will focus a lot on different environmental hazards, traps and other challenges instead of just pure combat encounters. It will not be the size of a full blown temple, but should keep players on their feet before they can venture into the next temple!

To sate the curiosity of all Rodney Hahoos out there, here are some updated sales stats:

Copies Sold: 8038
Hats Sold: 1903
Current Pace: 0.75 copies/h

An interesting thing to note here is that, even now, almost 20 % of those buying the game also get the pre-order hat! Our players know what’s important!

This figure was around 25 % at the start, and we thought it would go down significantly when our long time followers had shown their support, but the hats are still quite popular!

This week we’ve continued to push ahead! Right now we’re working on an odd factory in the midst of the snowy fields we’ve been talking about recently. Here’s what the exterior looks like right now:

toyfactory

The Christmas Present, an enemy we’ve shown a while back, will be one of the many challenges lurking around within the Factory. Instead of normal projectiles, we’ve gone with a more explosive approach!

Bomb

 

Aside from building the factory exterior, Vilya has also kept on remaking portraits. Here’s the latest batch of those, all inhabitants of the winter area:
portraits

 

With the latest Frontline update, the story is slowly but steadily starting to take a more central role. With that, some of the more important characters have been in need of some touch ups. Just like Marino, your friendly neighbor Luke has received a graphical update:

Luke

(Now, we know there are many more sprites that could use some touch-ups as well, but for now we’re only going to focus on characters that play some part in the main story. We want to keep pushing ahead, after all, and remaking too much would quickly turn into a time sink of black hole-ish proportions where we get better at drawing and remake graphics in a never-ending circle. Therefore we’ll try to save most touch-ups for the post-production, so bear with us until then!)

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

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

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

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

FallIdle SummerIdle WinterIdle