[Blog] Dungeons Revisited

The early days of Skullforge: The Hunt we had this idea that exploring dungeons would be one of the more important activities a player would attempt in the game. Of course, this being an RPG, this kind of goes without saying. I always felt like dungeons needed to have a real purpose and not just be simply set-pieces that simply looked pretty. I originally wanted to include over 10 dungeons in the game each with a little something unique to set it apart from the others. However, as time went on I realized that we wouldn’t be able to include all of those dungeons. It would be necessary to pair down the number of planned dungeons to something we would be able to manage. It was a difficult decision, but we were able to drop the number down to 6. With the huge overworld to run around in, changing it up with a few dungeons will feel pretty good.

The other thing is that we started a couple of the dungeons early since they were fairly easy to work on at the time. There were lots of different aspects of the dungeons we had no idea about and after two years, I’ve decided to go back and redo them. It was funny to look at them now as I’ve learned so many new techniques to make them look and run so much better. Rather than try and adjust them, I figured it would be better to start them all from scratch. The basic design has already been laid out, so now it’s just a matter of modeling them again. Luckily, I have the tools already so it’s just a matter of putting them together again. I’m sure I can do a much better job than when I started originally.

I wish I could give more details on the dungeons, but I want them to be a surprise. Should be something to look forward to when you’re actually exploring the world. One of the dungeons I’m really looking forward to adjusting is the Hamlin sewer system. This is going to be a great area to play in with multiple access points and a few hidden places as well as few boss fights. I was always a fan of the graphics for that area, so it’ll be nice to revisit it with a more intelligent and cleaner design that fits better with the world.


Here’s a final look of that dungeon before it’s gone forever. Here’s to the future and I hope everyone has a great year.


[Blog] Where are we now?

It’s hard to believe that the last blog post I did was back in August. Man, time goes by so fast. Some people probably think we’re done and aren’t working on the game at all…well, that’s not the case at all. My goal was to have a new blog post every month at least, twice if I could do it. However, we’ve relocated to another part of the country and getting situated had changed up my priorities quite a bit. Work on the game has continued, though.

One of the biggest changes comes with how animations were done. I don’t want to get into the technical aspects of it, but I’ll say that the way I had laid out the animation before was clunky…for lack of a better word. I created the animation state machine when I first started working on Skullforge a couple years ago, then changed how some things worked once I could use Unity’s mecanim system. This was built on top of what I had already and it wasn’t integrated properly. Which caused some strange animation behavior. I knew this had to change as there was no way the game could release in that state. Unfortunately, this would be a huge undertaking since I would have to rewrite large sections of code.


As fate would have it, I started talking to another game development friend about this and he provided some excellent insight into the whole system and this meant that I wouldn’t need to do as much of a rewrite as I thought since I had originally planned out how animation states would work and the core of that philosophy was solid. The key was how to integrate it with Unity in a flexible way. It didn’t take long, but the animation state system in the game works like a charm. I’m pretty proud of how it all turned out. Solving this riddle and cleaning it up a bit helped improve how the game handles spells and abilities. I’ll have more to show on that in the coming weeks.

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[Blog] Music in Skullforge: The Hunt

People contact me regularly about working on music for the game. It’s probably the most common request I get e-mails about. With this in mind, I wanted to take a couple of moments to talk a little bit about the music style I am going with in the game. The first thing is that, from the beginning, I had decided to avoid a lot of things that were typical of fantasy games. We wanted to do a UI that was a mix of modern and fantasy elements. We also wanted the music to be more modern than your typical fantasy tracks. I wanted the game to “feel” modern with a fantasy skin thrown over it.

What this means is that getting the right style to fit with the game has been pretty difficult. Most gamers and musicians are used to the fantasy style and that kind of makes it difficult for them to get the sound right. It’s an understandable thing. If you’ve played RPGs for a long time, then there’s a certain feel we’ve come to expect for this kind of game and big name RPGs such as Final Fantasy, Skyrim, and Dragon Quest help to define the genre musically.

My feeling about the Skullforge series is that it’s about a woman who is “out of time”. By that, I mean she feels like she doesn’t fit within her own timeline. Had she been born in our current society, she would probably fit in much better. Because of this, I wanted the music and overall themes to fit that aspect of the character. The original sound I wanted was something along the lines of Alice In Chains or Metallica. Something hard and oppressive. However, when I was placing those tracks into the game, it felt a little too hard. I had to re-evaluate what I wanted and remembered a track done by Alexander Brandon which I felt was an awesome track that fit what I was trying to do. Unfortunately, my meager budget couldn’t afford Alexander Brandon, but that was the direction I wanted to go in.

I used this same example on our Kickstarter page last year. It’s an interesting style that has a little new age feel to it, but it’s a lot softer than my original vision. Of course, not every track needs to be as soft, but I do want the general tone and theme to be there.

I have noticed that this sound is/was pretty common with those who worked on the old MODs back in the 90s. At one point in my life I spent a lot of time listening to MODs on a regular basis. If you get a chance, you should hit up the MOD Archive and listen to some of the old Scream Tracker MODs from back in the day. There’s a lot of amazing stuff there. Perhaps this sound doesn’t mesh well with our more modern sensibilities, but this is the direction I want to go with Skullforge.

The trick for musicians is trying to get that sound right. Since we started working on Skullforge last year, we haven’t had much success in finding the right person to pull it off. Not that it really matters as our meager budget can’t afford most people anyway.

Music is such an important aspect of any game as it sets the mood and tone of a scene and this will be the case in Skullforge: The Hunt as well. I admit that budget constraints will keep the soundtrack from being as unique as I’d like, however, we hope that it will be interesting in any case.

As always, if you have any questions feel free to contact us or chat with us via Twitter. Have a great day.


[Blog] Total Zones in Skullforge: The Hunt

I mentioned in an earlier blog that we were originally going to make an open world game. This, of course, was scrapped as we did not have the manpower or the budget to do something on that scale. What we decided was to divide the island of Sorova into 12 zones. Each zone takes a section of the island and allows the player to run around in it. The overall size of each zone is pretty large. It takes three real minutes to walk from on end to the other end (assuming there aren’t any obstacles to be navigated around).

My original goal was to make each zone match each other directly, so if you took a snapshot of each zone and pasted them together, they’d make the whole island. It didn’t take long to realize why that was a bad idea as it would have essentially been an open world game without the seamless transition from one zone to the next. So I decided to make each zone a small section of each zone in the grid. This made things much more manageable. That doesn’t mean it’s any easier to craft a zone, because it isn’t. Each zone takes a lot of care and, to be honest, we’ve redone the first outdoor area (Hamlin (Outside)) three or four times already.

As for other zones, we’ll have:

12 outside zones
2 main cities
2 towns
6 dungeons

This doesn’t even include the various shops, taverns, homes, inns, etc. At the end of the day, there will be lots of places to visit. We’ve posted screenshots from one of the main cities (Hamlin), one of the dungeons (Amdaven), and various spots from one of the outside zones (Hamlin (Outside)). Make no mistake there is an incredible amount of work that needs to be done, but we’ve been moving at a relatively brisk pace. I’ll admit that crafting Hamlin has been a serious task. I seriously hope that Isliss will be a lot faster.

Over the next couple of weeks we’ll be rolling out some new screenshots of Hamlin (Outside) and maybe even a video montage of some of the new areas if we can manage it. We hope you guys like the progress we’re making. Until next time!


[Blog] Building the World

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I wanted to take a moment to talk about crafting a world. One of the most difficult things we as game designers face is putting our world together. Deciding where things are, how far a player can go, and how interactive the world is. With Skullforge: The Hunt, we started with this notion that we would do an open world game. However, the difficulties in building such a world became apparent almost immediately. We then decided to scale things back and make zones as it was a bit more focused and easier for us to handle. My “team” is only two people and crafting a seamless world with the two of us would have been a nightmare.

That doesn’t mean our job has gotten any easier. Building a world for players to run around in is a large undertaking. It takes a lot of work to make zones meaningful and varied. Players shouldn’t be bored running around in the world so we spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to get people motivated. We looked at varied landscapes and large cities. With the biggest problem being that the game takes place on a tropical island. I did a bit of research into tropical islands with Puerto Rico being the model for the climate of Sorova. There’s a lot of things going on there, but I didn’t feel like things were varied enough so we had to use some creative license to vary things a bit. Being in the forest or plains for the whole game wouldn’t have been all that interesting.

The first city that the players start in, Hamlin, is large. It’s really amazing how big that place is. We had decided to craft a smaller city with only the relevant buildings, but over time, it just got bigger. This is one of the dangers of game developing. Letting feature creep get the best of you. At some point, we cut things off and scaled back what we had planned. We did keep the size, but the number of buildings the player can actually enter was cut down substantially. It would have been nice to actually have almost every building you see accessible, but the amount of work to do that would have been insane. Not to mention, that we’d have to do a lot of repeat zones and there’s nothing interesting about that, either.

It takes a long time to craft a zone, and depending on the complexity of the terrain or area, it can take even longer. The goal in recent months has been to manage the time between writing code and working on features and crafting zones and buildings. I mix this up because working on one thing specifically can lead to boredom and eventually burnout. Switching up from time to time can keep the creative juices flowing. After the zones for the demo have been crafted it was time to take the fight to Hamlin. Since the game starts at the docks, I figured this would be a great place to start. Watching the zone slowly take shape is one of the best parts of game design. Unfortunately, I have been working almost nonstop for a little over a week trying to get everything built. Perhaps that doesn’t seem like a long time, but it’s the sheer number of man hours put into the zone that’s pretty staggering. We just hope that in the end, all the effort is worth it. Below, I included some screenshots from the dock area. It’s all still a work in progress and we’ll eventually have some comparison shots of the more final area once we get there. Thanks for reading.






[Blog] Exploring the World

When I first set out to create Skullforge the series, I thought about how we could make the world interesting. The first design of the game called for an open world approach with a seamless connected world and not much loading. We eventually scrapped that idea since we were using Unity Free at the time and it didn’t allow for doing that in a way we were happy with. We then decided to make the world a collection of zones and just make each zone fairly large so that we had a big enough canvas to do what we wanted in that zone.

What this meant was that we had to get creative about how we utilized all that space. I always felt that one of the best parts about playing an action RPG was exploring the world and looking for some trouble to get into. With this idea, I set out to populate the world with lots of interesting little things. Some of those things don’t have any gameplay value other than to add more lore to the world. Other things start tasks or add to a player’s treasure list. Some things are requests by NPCs to find landmarks, animals, trade goods, etc.

One thing I decided to do early on was to avoid holding the player’s hand and allow them to chat on forums and Miiverse to get information. I think healthy player interaction keeps the game fresh and gives a sense of accomplishment when you do find something out there and you can tell your friends about it. We hid many tasks (quests) and things out there for players to find. Some of them are easier to find than others, but that’s what makes it all interesting.

If players come together and pool information to find all things out in the game world, then I’ll consider my job done. More than that, I hope that players actually find it fun to wander around and look at all the stuff going on. I guess that’s the most rewarding thing about being a game designer.


[Blog] New Screenshot (May 27, 2015)

It’s amazing to think that so much time has passed and how much the game has progressed. Oh, there’s still plenty of work to be done, but every now and again I like to step back and reflect on how things have changed. The other day, Heather and I sat down and looked at the original screenshots we used for the Kickstarter and how it’s hard to believe it’s really the same game. Regardless of how the game turns out, I’m still proud of the work we’ve done. Ultimately, that’s all that matters anyway. Though, being successful and making enough money to bring to life our next project is good, too.

Next week, we should be able to do a video blog showing off one of the tasks in the game and perhaps some combat. We still haven’t finalized the A.I., so it’s a little screwed up at the moment. I mainly want to show how the game looks in action and how the player will interact with the world and the things in it. I’m a little nervous and excited at the same time. I hope you guys like what we’ve come up with.

Here are some screens of the game:





[Blog] New Screenshot (May 8, 2015)

We’re making a lot of progress these days and it’s really cool to see the game change as time goes on. Right now, we’re working hard on the demo that we plan to release next month and the foundation for the 4 different zones has been crafted. The dungeon is still in the early development state, but it’s coming along nicely. I figured I’d post a couple of screens of the new area. It’s not really populated yet and there are whole sections that haven’t even been made yet. I figure we’ll be done with the frame of it this weekend. We’ll post some more screens once we get it populated with props and the like. I’m sure Heather is looking forward to that.





[Blog] New Screenshot (April 29, 2015)

I haven’t posted new screenshots in a little while, so I decided to post a couple today. We have been working hard trying to get everything working and we are almost done with the key systems. I finished the quest UI and system yesterday and now I’m working on little things like exiting to the title screen and just simply exiting the game. The UI is far from finished, though. I believe I’ve spent the most time trying to get it functioning properly and in a user friendly way. There will be a lot of iteration as we get closer to release, but the basic system should be working in any case.

One thing I do have planned in the nearish future is posting a little video showing how a quest will work in the game. Not sure exactly when that will happen, but hopefully soon. We’re getting close to where we’ll be simply working on content and that has be excited. Enjoy the screens.





[Blog] Future Plans

We started Skullforge: The Hunt late 2013 and at that time our main goal was just to see if we could even get the game rolling. I was new to Unity and had gotten back into programming after many years. We’ve been working on Skullforge for a little over a year and though we still have a lot of work to do, we’ve made some great progress.

Moving into the future, our goal is to ramp things up to prepare for upcoming trade shows. We hope to have the game at the show in some capacity and so our current focus is to make that happen. On a more technical note, we are working on getting more of the main systems in place now that we’ve finalized a lot of the basic design. The testing and prototyping took a little more time that I expected, but it should turn out for the better at the end of the day.

Finally, we will be working on getting the model for Desi finished. She’s gone through some iteration and probably will go through another one before all is said and done. Below is a new design for her that I think looks great. Once we have her basic look done we’ll start to work on the model. Hopefully we’ll be able to unveil the new model at E3.


There are more things going on and I hope to share more details in the nearish future. With that said, let me leave you with a GIF of the new water we’ve added to the game. It’s an unfinished zone, but I really liked how it turned out, so I’m sharing it with you now. Take care.