We’re not only focusing on the bosses, even if it might seem like that from the last couple week’s updates! Today, let’s have a look at some of the other things we’ve been working on :)

First up, we’ve been thinking about and sketching the final rooms, where you’ll face your final battle(s) of this game. Originally, we wanted the elevator to end up in the actual boss room, so I made a couple of sketches suggesting that (very basic, as these early designs often are):

Then we changed our mind, as an outdoor area would not only be infinitely cooler, but would also allow us to streamline some things in an upcoming cutscene. Hence, I changed the designs around and made on for the top floor and one for the outdoors where the actual battles will take place:

…and then we changed our minds again, thinking staying in the tower might not be so bad after all, but adding big windows to give a glimpse of the outdoors:

When this sketch was made, we still thought about having another room proir to the battle room, but then after making some changes to the cutscene idea, we thought the elevator going all the way up and the leaving might be a cooler idea, giving us a sketch looking like this:

Finally, merging this new idea with the orignal sketch gave us something like this:

We’re still having a ton of discussions surrounding this, so these ideas may still change ten times over. Good thing we have a lot of other things to focus on in the meanwhile! Another thing we recently added are backgrounds for the journal and character background when you’re in the tower:

We’ve also been working on the Mirror, giving him another portrait and some flavour animations:

A lot of details has been made into making things look pretty in glass, for the mirror theme of the dungeon:

And Marino has been getting another animation too!

How peculiar… Whatever could he have to do with the final dungeon? ;)

A lot of work as been put into new cutscenes as well, a job which often demands a lot of time. Here’s a little sneak peek:

Another week, and this one’s main focus will be all about GUN-D4M, or rather the upgraded more epic version you’ll face in the dungeon! First up, a slight redesign was in order, to properly differentiate him from the previous version! For this, we made a couple sketches to determine which one we liked the best:

We felt like the one with the lights were the cooler version, so we ended up going with that:

Some colour variations to get it all just right:

And after that, time to start animating that badass! Let’s have a look at one of his animations:

His fingers will feature a new weapon as well… Ooof!

And here’s a bunch of videos from our prototyping of this part of the battle, starting with the two Phasemen, going into the GUN-D4M portion of the game, and then finally a bit of how the boss fight itself will play out:





What do you think so far? We’re all very excited for where this is heading anyway, hope you are too :D

This week has been patch week, meaning we’ve spent a ton of time doing bug testing/fixing, AND that the Frontline version of the beta finally has an update! This patch adds the final two floors, new event rooms and some adjustments to Arcade Mode. We still got some things to add, such as sound effects and some minor additions (some updates to the high score interface, among other things), but once that’s done it’s finally back to Story Mode and the final updates of that mode.

The Desert and Lost Ship floors are now added, as well as a load of new Event Rooms, revamped challenge-rooms, more perks, and more stuff that can happen during runs! Arcade Mode now also has its very own map, instead of using Story Mode’s, which.. really didn’t do anything.

Finishing a run awards players with Golden Essence which can be used to purchase rewards, both power-ups and cosmetic. After the run has “finished”, the player can also fight a final battle against two different bosses – the one waiting after a finished Three Catalyst run is an entirely new boss that’s unique to the mode.

Full patch notes as follows:

Additions

  • The two final floors have been added to Arcade Mode
  • Beating all Arcade Mode floors now provides many extra rewards, as well as a final battle for the Catalyst
  • A unique final-final Arcade Mode boss can be encountered if beating the mode with three Catalysts activated
  • Nine new types of ?-rooms has been added to Arcade Mode
  • The Arcade Mode challenge-room pool has been revamped
  • Arcade Mode now has its own map
  • Experimental change to new network API for Steam

Changes

  • The Arcade Mode shop and most event rooms now has unique looks
  • Vastly improved load times when travelling between zones, especially ones already visited during session
  • In regular challenge rooms, damage taken no longer reduce health or score
  • The player can no longer attempt to brute-force themselves into Pine’s office
  • Taking a photo in a Arena Boss Rematch now shows a bag tip explaining the failure
  • Salmon can now be caught in the Pillar Mountain ponds in Arcade Mode!
  • Arcade Mode Shrine Buffs now last the entire floor, and have more powerful effects
  • Enemies in the Temple of Season Gauntlets in Arcade Mode no longer counts as true elites, reducing their item drop rates
  • The Crabby’s ‘charge up’-sound is now louder

Bug Fixes

  • The game no longer crashes when trying to read the dragon puzzle inscription after solving it without the translation tome
  • When a client drops an item, that item no longer uses the host as its spawn-position
  • A poorly timed skip of the Desert Rose cutscene no longer puts the main character in a locked animation
  • The Butterflown quest can now be skipped if the character has completed it in multiplayer
  • Fixed a bug where spinning autumn knights would occasionally leave behind hurtboxes after being killed mid-spin
  • The Throw-skill’s damage should now be properly modified by Pins
  • It should no longer be possible to get two pins of the same type, even on the run pins are unlocked
  • Plant Summons now follow their owner in and out of Twilight, attacking ghosts correctly
  • In the rare event that two pins are collected simultaneously, they are now equipped separately
  • The ‘Blink casts Ice Nova’-pin now works properly on clients
  • When entering a cutscene, the Frosty Friend UI will disappear if up
  • Clients should now see the game over screen after dying on floor 1 with a timeshift crystal active

This means we’ve also been spending some time working on the proper achievements for reaching the final two floors, meaning some graphics for that and a nice Solem Hat as a reward:

The Trophies that will serve as awards for finishing each challenge in a floor needed their own drop appearances, so that’s something we’ve been working on as well:

And of course, the wings are now available as rewards! Here’s what they look like, including Fred’s neat animations:

 

So, what are you waiting for – go ahead and try things out, and let us know what you think! As always, we value all of your feedback and would love to hear back from you guys! :)

Today we’ve been playing around with a bunch of different options for what the gate will look like when you reach the final Arcade Mode floor and it’s time to either go back to Arcadia or proceed on to the Bishop or Grindea battles. Starting off with the portal back to Arcadia:

The portal to Bishop meanwhile has a more sinister tint of purple and shows a dark sky:

The portal leading up to the Grindea battle will look a little different and more abstract, illustrating the fact that something rather strange is about to happen. Playing around with a couple of colour options here:

Now, as I mentioned before we’re gonna add a little statue shop with housing items, so I better start making a bunch of statues right? Let’s have a look at some of the ones that will be available:

In Fred’s department, there’s more final dungeon stuff, including a spring version of the hydra and the summoning animation for that platinum level Frosty Friend:

Finally, Teddy put together some words on our design decisions behind the final dungeon! Here goes:

So a while back we shared an intention of overhauling the final tower quite substantially, shifting from a large surrealistic “travel through the game again but weird”-type dungeon, to having it be a boss rush of sorts.

Nearly all feedback we received on this has been negative! We actually were expecting some feedback like that, but not of this magnitude. The main worries were:

* Shorter dungeon = less content

* Without a proper dungeon there won’t be storytelling

* It violates the game-design philosophy of a final dungeon being an exam on the rest of the game (think Wily’s Castle in Mega Man)

All these things are very reasonable, and because of this feedback we sat down and talked it all over again. But to even our own surprise, we’ve decided to stick to our guns! We’d like to share our reasoning, since it would be pretty weird to invite feedback, get it, and then ignore it silently.

First off we completely get that it “feels off” that there isn’t going to be a huge old-school dungeon at the end of the game. On paper, it is pretty much objectively weird, considering our primary sources of inspiration!

That said, after designing the dungeon two times now, we fear there is an uncomfortably high risk that it wouldn’t become a very good one, and we really don’t want to end on that note.

So why would we say that? Well, we feel the best “dungeons” of our game were those with the most engrossing context, and we weren’t satisfied with what we came up with for this dungeon.

A “go-to” strategy for us has been to load the dungeons up with story. But we neither want nor need to give any more exposition on the main plot until you reach the top of the tower, and having a side-plot at this stage felt off-beat.

So the first iteration was a plotless chimera-design where we just made random rooms based on old areas in the game, sometimes with combined themes (like season change + time travel in the same room). This was in spirit of the “exam”-philosophy, combined with a tribute to old mechanics. But when going through potential room designs, it felt hollow and without the charm that made our best dungeons good.

So as a “plot substitute” we decided to design a version that’s a surrealistic recap of the entire game. It ended up very similar to the “Curse of the Moon”, but much much longer. We felt this version had more character, but it had some glaring holes design-wise, and when we imagined playing through it we got very worried that it would feel a lot like treading water.

For us (including you guys) a recap might seem like a cool nostalgia trip, but looking at it from a new player’s perspective, it might just feel like weird filler. And while we’ve seldom cared about workload, we also saw that to make this version enjoyable would take a huge amount of work. If we had been in love with our design that wouldn’t have deterred us, but while we felt optimistic about some of it, a lot felt shaky.

So having recently played some very well-received games that actually had done away with giant dungeons before the end (a couple skipping them entirely), the blasphemous idea struck us: how would that feel in our game? Thinking back on playing those titles, our hope and belief is that in the context of an actual playthrough, the player will likely go along with what’s presented, too focused on playing to analyze and compare (though we don’t doubt some players will react).

Another thing that weighed in favor of the light-weight path is thinking about the Catalysts in the context of an average playthrough. Many of our Early Access players have undoubtedly gotten these already as part of full completion, but seen holistically, it’s probably quite a small percentage that will get all three catalysts before going into the tower.

For such a playthrough, getting the (remaining) Catalysts will in fact serve quite well as the Wily Stage of our game: one catalyst for combat, one for quest/puzzles, and one for grinding.

Now, about the boss rush: we’re planning remixes of some iconic battles, and we’ll make sure they all bring something new. One commenter came up with a pretty interesting idea that we’ll likely try out, namely having the elevator stop at some point, during which a short puzzle-section could play out as a change of pace.

We’re quite optimistic that we’ll be able to make this feel like a cool transition to the finale, that will keep the tension of the latest story-beat fresh.

That said, we totally understand some of you still would’ve preferred a classic big dungeon. We hope we’ll be able to win you over when it’s all said and done!

So you saw the mysterious elevator from last week, and you probably wonder: what on earth is going on with that? Well, after a lot of thought and discussions regarding final dungeons, we pretty much all felt like maybe we’re just dragging things out a bit too much, and perhaps all you want to do is get into some action and get to that/those final boss(es).

So what gives? Well, we’ve decided that – for now at least – scrap our previous designs for the final dungeon and go with a boss rush mode, featuring slightly reworked versions of some of the previous bosses, one after another, on said elevator as you move your way up in the tower to reach Dad and figure out what the heck is going on!

Of course, if we feel like this version isn’t any good, we’ll revert back to the old idea, which we do have a bunch of backgrounds for already anyway. But for now, we’re gonna try out the boss rush elevator idea, and see how we feel about it. We’ve even more or less finalized a list of potential bosses for it:

Shadow Slime (a dark Giga Slime)
Halloweed
2x Phasemen and GUN-D4M (not at the same time, but part of the same battle)
4x Hydras (introducing the spring hydra – which we have a bunch of ideas for, ranging from it spawning green thorn bushes to spawning the poisonflowers from Tai Ming)
Powerflower, aided by bees (I’m sorry)
and Mimic, phase 2!

In other words, a pretty epic boss rush – though the exact bosses and what new attacks they might have is still in the works.

How do you guys feel about this potential change? Yay or nay?

Before I start working on those potential new final dungeon things though, let’s finish up some moew Arcade Mode stuff! Starting with the world map, which has been a work in progress for quite a while now but now we’re finally able to finish it up:

Now, before you’ve ever been to any of the arcade mode floors, they’ll be blacked out so you don’t know exactly where you’re going next, so time to make a bunch of silhouettes:

And if you have been to an area before, but not during this run, it’ll be grayed out:

Which means the map during a run where you’re currently at Evergrind Forest, but never have been past Seasonne (in any run) would look like this:

Except with a bunch of cool waves, like here, which is what the map would look like if you just defeated Grindea and got an S rank for it:

Another thing we’ve been playing around with is a “pin shelf” where you can store one additional pin without enabling its effects. Of course, in the game this has a rather crude interface at the moment:

As such, I’ve been playing around with making a couple versions of a proper interface for it, one featuring the trashcan which will be used when you first equip the pin, and one without it for the menu, where you’ll also be able to move your pins around and exchange which one is currently on the shelf:

Meanwhile, in Fred’s department we’re starting to prepare for the next big boss fight, this time in Story Mode. I’m sure you can guess who you’re gonna face off against… :)

This week we’ll be adding a bunch of improvements, starting with making the jump down from the Phaseman and Crystal boss maps a bit clearer! First up, the original:

And next, a bunch of different suggestions for clearer versions:

For now, we’ll start by adding the last one, and if it still isn’t clear enough, we’ll blend it into one of the other two after you’ve defeated the boss, to make sure nobody’s confused about where to go after they’ve finished the boss :)

Another addition is that of a temporary space in the shop, for before anything but the shop is available! Looks a bit better than the space beside the shop being completely empty:

The travelling alchemist’s shop also needs slightly more proper graphics, to show off the fact that it’s not just ordinary potions but super potions that are for sale there:

One of the things you’ve told us in regards to the current update-in-progress is that you’d like to see a slightly darker version of the Grindea boss battle area, as she tends to blend in a bit much during the fight!

As such, here’s one such darker version, which we’ll try out and see how it works:

For Fred’s Friday, we have a little sneak peek of something curious… A couple sketches for an elevator! Whatever is this all about? Stay tuned to learn more next Monday! :)

This week, we’re starting off by adding a new currency!

This is golden essence, which like normal essence can be traded for rewards at Bishop’s in Arcadia. We’re also thinking you’ll be able to trade a (big) amount of regular essence for one of these. The reason we came up with this currency is because we thought it’d be a better reward to get in that final floor chest, rather than getting the rewards themselves. This way you can pick and choose whatever rewards you want in any order (except for some that you will need to unlock by completing Arcade Mode in all difficulties), and it seems a bit clearer that you always get a reward of golden essence rather than an arbitrary number of rewards only to suddenly not get any more.

This way adding new rewards is more streamlined as well – if we decide to add more rewards, Bishop will simply update his shop rather than you having to complete arcade mode once again to see what sort of item(s) we’ve added!

Next, we wanted to add something fancy for when you manage to finish off one of those new and spicy floor-wide bets, so I threw together a little background for a room in Bishop’s realm where you get sent once you’ve cleared the floor:

Next up, we wanted a wagon for the potion salesman that sells you Super Potions, so I made some tweaks to Remedi’s old thing in Arcadia to better fit the salesman we have in mind:

And here we go, the second attempt at that bad-ass fae, Badasu! This one looks a little more badass, no?

Meanwhile in Fred’s department, it’s all about hands! Grindea’s hands, to be precise! Have a look:

In this Monday’s Meeting, it’s been all about perks! We haven’t had a lot of those before, so we’ve spent some time thinking about what more interesting ones we could add. Here’s a list of our current ideas:

* A perk that gives a low chance of pins dropping from defeated enemies

* Arrows deal more damage

* Bigger chance of getting a specific type of event room (we want at least one of these for the fishing rooms, since it can be quite a challenge to catch all of the fishes, however, we haven’t decided 100% yet if this will be a perk or a quest or an item of some sort)

* Bigger chance of Loods appearing

* A perk that guaratees that you’ll get a pin as a reward after a challenge win

* A perk that gives you x gold at the start of every new floor

* Bigger chance of getting card drops from enemies

* A slightly wider selection of items in the shop

* A perk that lets you start with an HP potion

* A perk that gives you a good 1h weapon at floor 5

* Same as above but for 2H weapons and magical weapons respectively

Do you have any ideas for more perks? Let us know what you’d like to see! :)

Next up, I’ve made a test for a portrait of that fae that comes along to help you fight against bosses (for a fee). However, this is only the first try, and after some discussions we’ve decided we’re probably gonna give him a slightly different look, making him look a bit more badass. For now though, here’s the old version:

Next up, in preparation for another one of the rooms, I’ve made a bunch of Super Potions. These potions can be bought from a potion salesman that appears in questionmark rooms, and the potions themselves are stronger and last longer. To start of with, the potion salesman will present you with one random potion of the selection below, but if you pay up some essence you’ll be able to unlock a second slot in his shop which will also feature a random potion:

Now, time for a newbackground! This one features the Spa, where your character can regain some HP by standing in the enchanted pool:

In Teddy’s department, let’s take a look at a new interface of sorts, featuring Bishop as he provides you with a bet! Now he’ll appear in the lower right corner to remind you of the bet you’ve taken:

Once you finish the bet, he’ll disappear, as shown above, and appear in the middle of the map instead!

New week, new tasks! This time it’s all about making that first floor of the final dungeon. Let’s start with the left pillar, where you’ll do a fishing and puzzle challenge:

Next, the bridge connecting the two pillars. You’ll fight a bazillion Teddys and Freds on this bridge, and since we don’t know exactly how long it needs to be, I had to make it able to repeat itself indefinitely. In order for the player to be further reminded of their first encounter with Teddy and Fred, we decided to use the very bridge you pass over in Pillar Mountains / Evergrind Fields as a base:

Next, the right pillar, where you’ll do battle against Vilya (and possibly Giga Slime)! Here I used the Arena as a base, since this whole dungeon is all about reminding you of the old places you’ve visited throughout the game:

And finally, adding a bunch of details and props to make the area feel a bit more alive. Plus shredding the collector banners for “dramatic” effect, cause why not? :)

So, with the final dungeon drawing ever closer and closer, we’ve been sitting down and going through a whole bunch of the floor designs we made a couple months back. As you know from before, this has lead to a couple of very basic sketches for the first couple floors, which I’m about to define even more in the coming weeks.

But we’ve also been going through the dungeon as a whole, or at least the first half of it or so, and we’ve come to a design decision I think will make this dungeon better than our original idea. In our old plans, we had a lot of “filler” rooms with various smaller challenges that were only partly designed. Now, our focus will be on slimming down the floors and mainly keeping the main challenges, such as the boss fights. The reason for this is that we feel it’s likely that the final dungeon will feel strong enough without a lot of filler content, and that the ones that weren’t there for story or pacing reasons, or are simple not designed enough, could be added afterwards if we feel we need more rooms. This way we can focus on the strong parts, and easily add more stuff later on, instead of starting out with a lot of rooms that fill no real purpose and may end up getting cut anyway.

As such, the flying fortress floor for instance will go from having one dodging challenge, a phase shift challenge and a boss fight with two phase men and gun-d4m, to now only having the fight with two phasemen and gun-d4m. This might seem like a downgrade to some, but given the fact that each area is represented with its own floor, we do think that this dungeon will feel long enough anyway! And keep in mind that if we feel more rooms are needed, we can always add them back in when the rest is done.

After making these changes we already feel like the dungeon feels stronger as a whole design wise. Of course, we’re also making an effort to keep in the things that give the game personality, such as the cameos from characters you’ve met throughout the game.

With this in mind, we’re now more excited than ever to continue designing this final part of Story Mode, which will tie it all together :)

This week we continue doing some archery challenge backgrounds as well! Let’s have a look at three more floors:

And here we have the last bunch:

Next up we have backgrounds for the archery challenges as well! These backgrounds are a lot of fun and a bit weird to make since I need to mimic a child’s style of painting to the best of my ability..:

In Fred’s department, he’s been busy making a ton of archery targets! Have a look at these:

Whew! That’s a lot of archery related stuff!

Now, thanks to finally being vaccinated and not having had much proper time off this 1½ year or so that we’ve been dealing with the pandemic, I’m gonna go ahead and treat myself to two weeks off to enjoy life for a little bit! The blog will be back up and running on the 16th of August after I’ve been back at the office for a full week, so stay tuned for more stuff then :)

Until then, have a nice couple weeks, I will for sure!