It’s taken us a long time to get to this point, but we’ve finally released the first ever video blog for the game. In this episode, Heather and Garv talk about where the game is at currently as well as some of the recent challenges related to game development. Check it out at the link below!
Happy New Year! It’s now 2017 and we’re off to a great start. The game is coming along great and we hope to release this year…finally! It’s been a hard road for us and while things are going fairly well so far, it hasn’t been easy. My goal for last year was to try and update the site monthly with new information and try to stay more engaged. I was more engaged, but on Twitter. At the end of the day, it was just easier for me to deal with considering everything else that was going on. I’ve decided to try and move last year’s goal to this year. With trying to get the game out this year, I think it may be a good idea to keep up with screenshots, gameplay videos, and video blogs about the game to give some insight into what is going into and on with the game.
I also want to address a few questions that have been asked in recent weeks.
Will Skullforge be released on the Nintendo Switch?
As everyone knows, I’ve been a huge supporter of the Wii U and we are doing our best to get the game released there. It’s a lot of hard work and sweat, but I think it’ll be worth it in the end. Sure, the Wii U is all but dead, but I try to keep my promises if I can. Now, for the NS, I would like to bring the game over to that system. The main issue stems from costs. The cost of making games is high, at least if you want to do it right. Making games on consoles, even more so, since we have to pay for devkits. As much as I wish these things were cheaper, they’re not and I personally just don’t have the funds/budget to spend on devkits. Once we have the necessary cash and NS kits are available to us devs, then I’ll be more than happy to port the game over. It’s really as simple as that. If you want to make sure this happens, then feel free to donate via the link on the right side of this page. The more funds we have, the more we can do and the more systems we can port the game to!
When will the game be released?
I’ve mentioned this in my opening paragraph. The goal is for the game to be released this year. I wanted to release last year, but too many crazy things happened and we fell WAY behind in what we were doing. Moving from Japan to the States really took it toll on us both financially and mentally. It made working on the game more difficult, even though I did have a lot of time to work on the game specifically. This year we have pretty much worked out our demons and are now in the content creation phase of the game. This means we’re testing and working towards getting the whole story laid out and finished. When that is done, we can test…and test some more to make sure it works on all platforms. We can now see the light at the end of the tunnel and it feels pretty good.
When will we get some video of the game in action?
I’d love to show off some of what we have going on, but there are a couple of problems with the main character that show off poorly when the game is in motion. I’m using a character maker from a middleware group that is in serious need of updating. Hopefully that will happen sooner rather than later. I’m sure that no one wants to see the game being demoed with a main character who’s skin pokes through her clothes. It drives me crazy every time I see it, but here we are. I had hoped to have this fixed months ago, but that just didn’t happen. If you STILL want to see the game in action even with the problems with the characters, let me know. Filming the game isn’t a problem and it would be cool to show off some of the new stuff.
Well, I hope that provides at least a little insight into what’s going on these days. I’ll try my best to keep everyone up to date, but if you’re interested in what we’re doing, you can check us out on Twitter. I check it daily, which means I can respond quicker. We appreciate the support and feel free to donate!
Wow. It’s hard to believe that so much time has passed since the last time I’ve done a blog entry. My goal originally was to do at least an entry a month or more depending on what was going on. Somewhere down the line I got busy and those weeks turned into months. Now it’s almost July. Time really does fly.
I wanted to take a moment and kinda fill in some details about what’s going on recently. It may seem like the project is dead if all anyone ever did was to visit the website. However, we’re far more active on Twitter and I try real hard to respond to those who contact us directly. It’s hard to stay active in so many circles, especially with only one person to really do the work. I’ll try harder in the future, though.
What about the game? Well, it’s been going pretty well so far. There were a few areas that needed a bit of love and I had originally planned to make those adjustments towards the end of content creation. However, as I started adding more features, I realized that waiting until then would mean I’d have to rewrite not just the problem areas, but also the areas that used pieces of that code. It just made more sense to fix those areas before I started the new features. The end result is much better and more efficient. The biggest thing is that I now have the passives system working, but the UI isn’t implemented yet, and I was able to make moving from zone to zone less tedious on the back end. Seems simple, but it means a lot when it comes to how the game flows overall.
The other thing I’ve been working on extensively is the combat system. You’ve seen videos of the old system most likely. That system worked. The biggest issue for me was that it just didn’t lend itself to a smooth transition between states and always felt a little clunky. My initial design for the combat was that it was relatively slow and allowed for a more strategic style of play. The problem was that I couldn’t really play it. I know that sounds strange, but I was always expecting the whole experience to flow a bit better and move a little faster. Attacking, dodging, blocking, using skills should feel fluid. I would spend a lot of time just mashing buttons because my brain wanted things to happen faster. In the end, I felt it was better to just speed things up and make sure the combo system worked well. I’m in the process of refining that system now and it feels much better. I think players of action RPGs are going to appreciate the speed of it, but it’s not so fast that they get lost in the sea of combos. Attack strings can only be 6 inputs long, so there’s no need to worry about trying to mash together 5 or 6 combo strings like games such as Killer Instinct. Of course, this will get more refined with more play testing.
After attacking and combos are finished, I’m going to be looking seriously at the dodge/roll mechanics. I feel that this doesn’t feel so good to use and needs a bit of refinement. I’m still not sure about the specifics of it and it’s something I’m going to have to spend quite a bit of time to analyze what’s going on. Blocking works fine, though.
The one area where we’re struggling is with music. I won’t go into detail today, but at the moment, we just don’t have the funds to get it done. For this reason, anything that you can donate would be great as it would allow us to actually have custom music for the game. What kind of RPG has no music at all? It’s frustrating, but it’s the reality at the moment. Whatever you can donate via PayPal would be much appreciated.
That’s it for today. Thanks for reading!
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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: