This week for Secrets of Grindea I’ve focused on two things: the production book and a bunch of detail work. I’ve decided to try and use NaNoWriMo as an opportunity to challenge myself and finish most of the production book in one go. For those of you who don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, I wrote a post about it a while back. But basically, the goal for participants is to write 50,000 words within the month of November. Now, I don’t want the production book to be an actual 50,000 words (I think), so whether I do reach that specific goal or not is unclear – my own goal will be to finish the first draft of the booklet, whether that is at 50,000 words or 25,000 words!

As far as those details are concerned, to start off with we have some shattered glass in that final battle room. Since the stained glass windows broke I feel it was a detail that was missing:

Second, a version of Marino’s room with two missing rapiers. When we got to that part of the game during our great playthrough, we felt it would be better if there was already one missing from the beginning (Marino has a rapier on him, after all), and once you get a hand on one of them, two should be missing instead. Right now all the rapiers are there until you get one from Marino, at which point only one is missing:

Third detail, which is more than just a detail to be honest, the coffin of Zhamla, floating in the final dungeon:

As for the Secrets of Grindea Visual Novel, I have presented a couple ideas as well as a poll to determine which one sounds the most interesting over on my blog. If you’re interested, please head over there and vote so I know which direction you’d prefer it to take! :)

Now, time to get back to that production book!

This has been a busy week! Progress is coming along on the final cutscenes and battles (not much to show there due to spoilers, though), and I’ve finished up some more of those final bits and pieces, this time some season decoration for one of those last puzzle rooms (to make it more clear which season you’re in):

I’ve also started working a bit on that Secrets of Grindea Visual Novel we mentioned a long time ago. ‘Why in the world are they making a visual novel?’, you might ask. A Visual Novel is, after all, quite a leap from an action RPG!

So, what’s a visual novel?

If you’re unfamiliar with the genre, a Visual Novel is a game genre where most of the story is told through text or dialogue and where the player’s main interaction is choosing what to say or do in certain situations. In doing so, the player transforms the story and the fate of those involved in it depending on their choices.

A lot of Visual Novels involve romance, but not all.

Aviary Attorney, a visual novel and one of the best games in existence, if you ask me.

While it’s true that our main focus within Pixel Ferrets has been (and probably still will be) top-down Pixel Art games, this as of yet untitled Visual Novel won’t exactly be a Pixel Ferret game. In fact, that’s the reason why I’m making this – I’ve more or less finished all there is for me to do on Secrets of Grindea save bug testing and updating already existent graphic assets. Fred and Teddy, on the other hand, still have a number of things they need to finish and this leaves me with with quite a bit of time before we can start discussing our next project together.

And so, we’ve decided that instead of twiddling my thumbs I’ll start making this visual novel and we’ll see how far along I can come before they’re done. If I manage to finish it before we start the next project, it’ll be released as a companion piece to the Secrets of Grindea world, and if not, I’ll continue working on it on my free time until it is completed.

I picked the Visual Novel genre because it’s very heavily reliant on graphics and writing, which happen to be what I enjoy the most. It also doesn’t need as much programming knowledge as the more technically complex action RPG genre, and as such, I should be able to make most of this game on my own while Teddy and Fred finish up SoG.

I’m actually super excited to get started on this for real. That feeling when you start a new project is exhilarating to say the least; all those opportunities of where to go and what to do within each new story!

Well, what would you guys like to see from a Secrets of Grindea Visual Novel?

If you’d like to read more about the Visual Novel progress or read up on my other work (as well as get art/writing/gamedev tips & inspiration and pictures of the office cats and chickens (yes, we have 4 chickens now)), I’ve reopened my blog again – in fact, the above text is a copy-paste of a post from there.

We’re not sure whether any more Visual Novel progress will be shared here – after all, it’s quite a different game. What would you guys prefer?

Until next time :)

This week we’ll start off with another Boss Rush floor, this time the GUN-D4M floor, which will pretty much be the Phasemen floor – but destroyed by the sheer force of the GUN-D4M starting the battle! Let’s have a look:

One of the other things we’ve spent a lot of time on lately is what it’s gonna look like actually summoning these bosses! Each boss will be summoned by the Mirror artefact who ‘governs’ the Tower, and so our idea has been that we want some kind of mirror or glass effect as they appear. The videos below will give a pretty good idea of how our iteration process works – starting off with something small and building on it and editing it here along with more details, until we have something we’re happy with.

So, first up, here’s a couple of our very early iterations:



Then, we added a glass/mirror-like colouring for the next couple iterations:



Here we begin to play around with a glass shattering effect, which in these early prototypes is still very crude, as you can see:



Here Fred has gotten his hands on the prototype and started making some graphics! The shattering effect is still pretty basic, though:

With more proper graphics it’s starting to look more and more like something that would actually appear in the game! Here the “summoning-shards” have better graphics, and we’re playing around with various sizes for the mirror shards as they shatter:



We’ve also been working on the elevator itself, adding some darkness to give a better sense of dept to the dungeon:

Pretty cool huh? It’s really exciting to see this all coming together :) Now, next week is easter here, and with the restrictions finally being out of the way for the most part, it’s time to spend some time with family!

Therefore, there won’t be an update next week, but the blog will be back as usual on Monday the 25th! See you then :)

This week has been all about finishing up that last bit of Arcade Mode stuff, for me (Vilya) anyway!
That means a bunch of new items have been made that will be available as various rewards, some of which you can see here:

These are, in order of appearance:
* A phonograph that let’s you change the music in your house
* A hat in the shape of a cloud
* A trinket thet lets you have a Lood as a pet
* A trinket that lets you levitate
* A trinket that makes you look similar to Grindea
* A cursed figurine that makes things in your house levitate

I’ve also been working on ways of showing how many catalysts were active during any run on the high score list, which for now looks something like this:

Now it’s back to Story Mode stuff for me, while Fred and Teddy will remain doing a few more things to finish up Arcade (and a ton more bug testing)!

This week has been mainly about bug testing and the fixing of found bugs, as is pretty standard after a new frontline patch! But we’ve also been working on one of the remaining additions to Arcade Mode, and this is something that will be available in Story Mode as well – the statue shop!

You’ve already seen a bunch of the statues made for this shop, but now it’s time to add some more:

And here’s all of the currently available ones:

Of course, these statues will need smaller sprites as well, to fit in the menu and shop interface. Let me tell you it’s quite a challenge making smaller versions of these guys, trying to make them as clear as possible without going over the size restrictions!

Finally, the statue shop needs its own shop graphics, so here goes:

Next week I’m gonna finish up the remaining items and sprites needed for Arcade Mode! Stay tuned :)

With Fred finishing up the mirror sprite, I thought it fitting to throw together his portrait as well, while we wait to discuss exactly what will take place in the update coming after this recent Arcade rework:

We also decided to start having a bunch of smaller meetings again, as our work on the backlog of things to discuss has slowed down quite a bit. After the patch we’re currently working on (entailing the loop function for arcade mode as well as the pin mechanic), we’re going back to Story Mode with an update involving a bunch of side quests.

We’ve already mentioned that there will be two side quests relating to Marino’s mansion, but as you may know we’re also looking into sorting out the fertilizer mechanic, allowing you to grow those squiggly plants found around the world.

As part of that, one of the things we discussed and decided to add is another such plant in Seasonne, which will lead you to the giant tree stump which you couldn’t access as of yet! This will lead to a reward of its own, as well as a shop where you will be able to purchase trees for your house – but it will also serve as a help to end the last part of Remedi the Alchemist’s quest.

You will need to access the treestump, finish Fahrmamerahs quest in the desert and go into the mansion to find the ingredients to attempt another try at turning Remedi back into himself. It may or may not also include a fight against Remedi in his troll form, something we’ve all been excited for ever since Fred made the first couple animations for it way back, when it was supposed to be an enemy type in Mt: Bloom.

Next me and Fred will move on from what we’re currently working on and start focusing on those things, starting off with the tree stump and its inhabitants!

So to start off with, Fred has been making a bunch of design ideas for one of the tree stump’s inhabitant, the strange tree creature who sells decorative trees for your house:

In the end, we settled for this design, aiming to keep it a bit cute looking:

And then we have their child, a very small tree, who we first thought would be just a smaller version of the big one:

But then we thought about making it a sapling instead, so Fred made a couple variations for that as well:

Finally, a couple colour variations:

Currently our favourite is the one in the bottom left, which we thought had the cuter face. Next up, its portrait! It’s such a cute little thing that I can only hope the portrait will make it some semblance of justice :3

As mentioned before we’ve been looking into getting new desks for the office, specifically ones you can adjust the height of so you can change whether you sit or stand while working. A little while ago, they finally arrived, and now it’s been time to set them up!

First though, quick reminder of what it used to look like. All black desks that looked completely different:

We had to do a bunch of the assembly ourselves, including drilling our own holes into a table top, which was quite nerve wracking for a bunch of people who spend most of their time by their computers and barely know how to operate a drill!

It all went by more or less smoothly though, and in the end the tables work quite well:

But to be honest, the biggest upgrade IMO is the fact that the office now looks a lot more light and open, with all of us having the same desk as well:

Now it’s finally time to get back to work! See you 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! :)

This has been a week of card making :D Let’s get straight into it with the card for the crab enemy (which we call Crabby for now):

The second card is the skeleton mage card, summoning a bunch of those scary that block your path in the spirit world:

Third, the Hauntie card, where Dr. Spengler is keeping an eye out for those scary ghosts, only to completely miss the fact that they’re all behind her!

And finally, the skeleton warrior card, which has unfortunately lost his head:

Meanwhile, Fred and Teddy have been hard at work building the cutscenes for the battle with Luke! There’s a ton of unique animations that need to be made, implemented and properly timed for this to look its best, but I think we’re getting there!

Here’s a sneak peek of one of the cutscenes, where Luke creates the space where you’ll do battle:

In order to create this I also needed to do a bunch of new mast props which I’ll show you more closely next week!

Other than that, Teddy has also done a tone of multiplayer testing. To test multiplayer, he connects locally and record his whole screen and then watch the footage, which lets him see discrepancies between the windows, to identify desync issues and determine if certain attacks need more or less latency compensation:

Thanks to this, it’s now possible for us to play through the ship in multiplayer up to Luke’s boss battle! Still some things to iron out and a lot of animations we still need, but we’re getting there :)

Another week has gone past and more plans have been made for the final dungeon! As homework over the week we decided that each of us had to come up with two ideas for things that could happen in the various floors of the dungeons. When we met up again it became clear that each of us was quite divided between two various ways of dealing with the dungeon: either as a pure gameplay mechanical experience, or one where old friends from the rest of the game return in various ways, allowing for more story focused floors.

One such thing we’d like to include is the ghost of Tessen, whom you met in Tai Ming, as well as Naniva helping you out with the Temple of Seasons floor. A couple weeks ago I mentioned a beast of some kind that will resummon bosses for you to fight – in one such idea we’d like a resummoned winter that wreacks havoc on the Seasonne floor, adding icy winds or spikes for you to deal with aside from fighting the regular enemies.

For Pillar Mountains, we have ideas of adding your mother in some way, and in the Ghost Ship floor reintroduce some other old ghosts from Tai Ming, namely those of Sizou and Mana. However, all of these are just in the idea stage at the moment – so we’ll see how many of them (if any) end up in the final design of the dungeon.

Gameplay wise we’re trying to spice up each of the floors a bit by adding elements or enemies from other areas of the game. One example of such an idea is to have a Phase Shift puzzle in the Flying Fortress floor, where you have to change the layout of the course by using season orbs that will change the various blocks; causing roots to overgrow some, while others are revealed.

We’ve also finally played through the Ghost Ship up to the very last portion of it (the creepy Startington and the last boss battle of the dungeon). This portion of the game takes us about 1 and a half hour to complete, and even though it’s taken us a very long time, we’re really happy with how the dungeon looks and feels at this point. It also has some of our top favourite boss fights, so we hope you’ll enjoy those as well!

Next up for us will be to complete the creepy Startington portion and boss fight, which are both now well under way before we can finally upload it all to Frontline. Hang in there guys! :)

Meanwhile, let’s take a look at the creation of one of the final rooms in the Ghost Ship – the Phase Puzzle room! Here’s where Kailan, the Flying Fortress engineer from ancient times, has set up a Phase Puzzle course for you that you need to pass to get to the eye boss!

We’re starting with the basics, following a sketched designed made by Teddy after he prototyped the puzzle:

Next we’re adding all of the Flying Fortress details, to give the room a more high tech feel to fit the Phase Puzzle course:

And after that, it’s time to make some Ghost Ship special phase shift blocks:

These blocks will only be visible in the ghost world, so better keep your wits about you when you try to phase through this challenge!

And, finally… Making the ghost world version of the room!

This Monday we’ve started discussing the last boss of this dungeon, which is one of the final things we need to add. As many of you have already guessed, and which might be quite obvious at this point, the opponent you’ll be facing is none other than your dear old friend Luke, and today we sat down to discuss what sort of feeling we want this battle to have.

For starters, we want the battle to take place on the ship, outside, and in the rain! This far we haven’t had any rain in Grindea, and it’s about time the weather changes. We also believe this will help set the tone for the fight. As for the actual fighting bit, we want Luke to use heavy attacks which will cause smoke and wood chips to spray from the surroundings.

Some of his attacks will be inspired by the two hand skill tree that is open to the player character, and he’ll combo others by mixing and matching them in different ways; meaning he might start with one attack which may have two different endings to keep you on your toes. He’ll also be starting some of this attacks by running towards the player, and we want the overall fight to be high paced with little rest; he won’t be idling around as much as Marino, for instance. Finally, towards the end, he’ll start using berserk mode to make things even harder for the player!

We’ve also discussed the last room we’ve yet to make for the Ghost Ship; a phase shift puzzle with ghastly features! Once this is made and implemented it’s only the boss and the final creepy Startington stuff remaining before the dungeon is completed – finally we can see the light at the end of the tunnel :)

The phase shift puzzle room will not only feature a phase shift puzzle featuring the ghost skill, but also another old friend from the past: Kailan, whom you last met in Tai Ming where he was showcasing the phase shift technology to the town’s inhabitants. Do you remember who he is? If not, you’ll get a reminder when I get around to making the ghost version of his portrait :)

Now it’s time for something slightly different; namely, creating a ghostlike thing that will block players paths here and there in the ghost ship! First up, a few different suggestions:

In the end, we decided to go for the ghastly substance, but were unsure about which color to use, so I made a couple different options (ending up with the original one after all):

And finally, making versions of the substance for the other door directions as well:

In its final form, this substance will be animated as well, giving it a bit more character and creepfactor!

The Startington interiors have long been outdated (they were, after all, among the first things I made), and what better opportunity is there to upgrade them than now that we’re looking into making a creepy version of Startington?

We’ll still keep the old versions of the graphics, but only use them for the ghost versions of these houses – we believe that their slightly shrunken, gnarly appearance will only help make the difference between the regular houses and the creepy houses more prominent.

Second house, same principle: touching everything up to the standard of graphics we use today:

And finally, the third and final revamped Startington interior: