$104,964
pledged of $65,000pledged of $65,000 goal
2,775
backers
12days to go

All or nothing. This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Thu, November 29 2018 4:59 PM UTC +00:00.

Aloft StudioBy Aloft Studio
First created
Aloft StudioBy Aloft Studio
First created
$104,964
pledged of $65,000pledged of $65,000 goal
2,775
backers
12days to go

All or nothing. This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Thu, November 29 2018 4:59 PM UTC +00:00.

About

Hazelnut Bastille is a topdown, Zelda-like ARPG, crafted in a 16bit character; it features action-adventure style gameplay.

Hazelnut Bastille is coming to Windows, Mac, Linux, and Nintendo Switch platforms, with PS4 to follow soon after, ideally! If we meet the funding goal for the Nintendo Switch platform, we will also offer Switch copies at the earliest possible moment, hopefully at launch! Even if the Switch goal is not met though, you will still be able to wait for this platform with your backing, if you choose! Similar goes for the PS4 platform. 

We may potentially bring the work to other consoles as well, given enough support and interest!

Be sure to check out our preview demo! The Demo includes around 2-3 hours of content, some overworld preview content, and an entire dungeon level to play through, complete with quest items, puzzles, and bosses! Best of all, this content is completely outside of the game itself, so features a stand-alone level you will not find in the full game!

https://www.aloftstudio.com/hbdemobuilds

Every Console Unlocked via Stretchgoals will be available to choose as both Digital and Physical Copies!
Every Console Unlocked via Stretchgoals will be available to choose as both Digital and Physical Copies!
  • (5 USD) Thanks, name in credits: Your name appears in our list of backers! You are credited in a video game!   
  • (15 USD) Copy of game: You get a digital copy of the game, for the platform of your choice that has been Unlocked! You can also choose to wait for a platform we don't unlock in the campaign (For Switch or PS4, should these not be met, since they will still arrive, but a bit later than if we had met the goals)
  • (15 USD) Digital game manual: All recipients of game copies also get a sweet digital manual! The manual isn't strictly needed to learn to play the game, but... they sure are nifty! 
  • (20 USD) OST: You get a digital copy of the original soundtrack, with all of the tracks from the game, and possibly some exclusive ones not included!  
  • (40 USD) Beta Tester: You get to test out the game when it is complete, but not yet shipped... this is sort of like early-bird mode, for folks who want to help us find the last of the bugs!  
  • (40 USD) Digital art book: You get a collection of art pieces from the entire development of hazelnut, in several media! These tell the story of the establishment of our art-direction, and all of our game content!
  • (40 USD) Extra game copies: You get additional digital copies, in whichever combination of platforms you want!
  • (50 USD) Physical game copy ONLY: Backers at this tier get a physical copy only; you get to specify the platform of your choice that is unlocked, or wait for one that hasn't been unlocked (Switch or PS4); (comes with none of the other tiers, and none of the other tiers receive this until 100 USD)
  • (60 USD) Sheet music: You get a digital copy of some of the selected tracks in sheet music form! This is something we wished came with games back in the day!  
  • (60 USD) Alpha tester: You get to test out the game content as it gets made, one level at a time! This is a great experience for hardcore development followers and design-afficianados, who want to have the greatest impact possible in helping to shape the final experience in a big way, and smooth away the first crop of bugs! Members at this tier are like our extended team! 
  • (100 USD) Physical copy: Now this is starting to get pretty serious! You get a limited-edition physical copy of the game in a jewel case with printed manual, shipped right to your door!  
  • (100 USD) Name in very special thanks section: Your name occupies one of only a few slots in the Very Special Thanks section of the credits, in BIG, florid letters! You are a real patron of our development!
  • (250 USD) Signed Sheet Music, Fund more Hiroki Kikuta Music: You receive a fancy sheet music booklet signed by our Guest Composer, Hiroki Kikuta, Best known for his work on the Secret of Mana OST! for every 20 of these backers at this specific tier we get, we will add another Hiroki Kikuta Track to the soundtrack!
  • (350 USD) Design a Collectible: Put your own stamp on the game! Our heroine's quest is full to the brim with all manner of items which have both intrinsic and trading value... some of them incredibly common, and others appearing only once! A few of you will get the chance to help design some of the last of them!  
  • (1000 USD) Design an Enemy: This is something we wanted to do from about the age of 6, but didn't have the opportunity to do until decades later; but you can do it now! The satisfaction of conceptualizing an enemy character, and then getting to see others struggle against that enemy not long after is very sublime, and we'd love to share the experience with some of you out there too!  
  • (2500 USD) Design / Be an NPC: The ultimate in perks! You get to become immortalized in living, pixel-breathing form! You join the cast as a story character, complete with your own lines of dialogue and personality! This is really quite something!
*The Bottom 50 USD Physical only tier will unlock pending the above petition
*The Bottom 50 USD Physical only tier will unlock pending the above petition

Note, that the projected future price of Physical Copies at retail is expected to be 30 USD for PS4, and 40 USD for Nintendo Switch. The copies we are offering here are Limited Edition, special cover versions. 

The expected retail of the Digital copies is 20-25 USD, so these are available at a bargain in the campaign. 

Hazelnut Bastille is a game title being developed for PC, Mac, and Linux. We are also hoping to bring it to the Nintendo Switch and other consoles on the same timescale, with your help! Hazelnut Bastille is a lush, topdown Zelda-like ARPG. It features a complex, characters-driven narrative that deals with timeless life and social issues. It features a real-time, highly tactical combat system where the player needs to carefully read the screen and look at each room as a novel challenge. There is also a central focus on sequential and lateral thinking puzzles, which ramp up in difficulty quickly as the player is introduced to new ideas.

Best of all, all of this is presented in a glorious 16-bit character, where everything from the art style and content, sound, music.... even the camera and transitions are authentic to the game experiences of 1994. In our quest for period greatness, we have even enlisted the help of one of the great composers straight out of this time, the famed Hiroki Kikuta, best known for his Secret of Mana OST at Square in '93. And the similarity isn't merely skin-deep. We have striven to deconstruct the classics of the SNES to extract all of the superior design principles behind their mechanics and level design, to understand exactly what made them so peerlessly great, even by today's terms. We hope you will come with us in our quest to bring the rigor and polish of the past back to today's gaming scene!

Hazelnut Bastille is the story of a young woman who has just arrived on the shores of a savage, foreign land for the first time. She casts a haunted figure, and has come to seek the fabled knowledge of a race of long-dead ancients on the edge of the world, in hopes of finding a way to reclaim something which was lost to her. Along the way, she meets the other inhabitants of this undiscovered country: a band of castouts and pariahs from the old world, all seeking to make a new life in a place far away from their old troubles. Her story will become entangled with theirs, as they each lean on one another for their own needs, and slowly she will get to know exactly who each of these strange bedfellows are, and what they have themselves run from in their old lives.

As she gets closer to her goals, new troubles and woes reveal themselves like nested matryoshka dolls. When things seem their darkest, that is when she meets a cryptic stranger- someone who can recite her life story as soon as set eyes on her- and the real journey begins! She will set foot in halls lost to time, and gain dominion over the very forces behind the natural order, but will it be enough to find what she is looking for?

The Art of Hazelnut Bastille is a result of combining the charming 16x16-grid style of the early 90's with modern color-selection sensibilities. Part of the clarity of games from this era was the extra emphasis on clearly-defined edges and regular collision bounds, which while perhaps being necessitated by degradation of the picture on CRT displays, also creates a super-readable experience of gameplay which we still heavily appreciate to this day, even with the constraints of that period now lifted. In the great standout examples, a scene reads as a collection of symbols by which the player can immediately appraise their situation, and the most important information is at the visual foreground.

The high degree of modularity this system allows creates a sort of functional skeleton, where a discrete number of niches are created for the art to fill. For instance, in the dungeon setting, when the wall width is held constant, there are wall segments, doors, interior corners, exterior corners, column pieces, negative collision space, and positive collision space assets. Despite their variations, their utility defines what is needed.

Another trait of the 16-bit era that we really admire is the economy of color selection. Most surfaces have between 3-8 color values. This was partially a result of needing to meet the requirement of no more than 4 palettes of 16 colors each per scene, but the crisp contrasts this limited and unified palette helps to create is incredibly striking, and something we are emulating in all of our game art.

Hazelnut Bastille's gameplay experience rests on four pillars: exploration, puzzle solving, combat, and the complex inventory system which brings the player into regular contact with the game's background storytelling. These systems are used in concert to keep the player engaged with the expansive world, in which they need to solve problems of several types in an overlapping continuity.

The world itself is like a character in the story in its own sense, and the first one you will meet. At times seemingly inviting, it is also offers ample resistance to exploration into new domains. The player will have to find ways to expand their range to new regions in an ever-widening expanse. Sometimes they may be inhibited by hard barriers, and other times only by the barrier of their own resolve. They will gradually find new ways to traverse this world, however, so while the world gets ever bigger, they will acquire abilities and shortcuts which get them to where they want to go at a rate which offsets the expanding map. The world is subdivided into a number of regions which have their own local traits and stories as well. The accretion of history over the ages is written all over the land like a book to be read.

The puzzles of Hazelnut Bastille grow to be quite demanding. They are designed around the old standard system of introducing concepts one at a time, and then testing the player later on whether they have fully understood the real lessons behind their logic. The more concepts that enter the player's working memory, the more rigorous these puzzles will grow to be, until they are using 5 or more ideas, and several game mechanics in concert to solve problems in 8 steps! Fear not though, for while the puzzles toward the end of the game will make you feel quite accomplished for having worked them out, the mental tools for solving them will be gradually supplied and reinforced over the course of our Heroine's journeys!

The combat system takes a lot of nods from the great topdown adventures of the 80's and 90's. While the movement of the player is freed from the tile grid, enemy motion uses the grid tiles as the basic unit. Everything revolves around movement patterns and probabilities, as well as the distinctive attack patterns and directional traits each enemy has. The result is a system that creates complexity by combining simple, known elements in novel situations. Enemies are also heavily predictable if the player makes note of the patterns and traits of each, meaning they can be assembled into rooms that are quite crowded for safe space, but which the player can safely negotiate if they plot out the likely vectors each actor will take in their head. As the player you aren't so much concerned with individual enemies, as you are the state of the entire room, and where safety will be from moment to moment. This is something we recognized in studying our precedents: that while later games focused on the tactics of how to manage encounters with single enemies, the earlier ones focused on the meta-system of entire rooms, and it is a novel experience that isn't explored much today. Enemies also tend to fall into roles in rooms; some of them are softer targets, but have devastating ranged attacks; some of them are aggressive and tend to make up the hard vanguard; others play a support role, casting debuffs on the player. These roles are in some ways similar to turn-based combat in JRPGs, but executed in a real-time top-down setting.

It probably sounds strange to think of an inventory system as a central mechanic as opposed to just merely a question of interface, but games like Skyrim have proven that exactly what you have in your pocket, and what you plan to do with it can be governing concerns! Part of why that is in our case, is that the denizens peopling Hazelnut Bastille do not have a currency! As dwellers on forgotten frontier with no reliable contact with the rest of the world, items are valued in terms of what they can be traded for. Everyone has something they can contribute, and something they need themselves. Some of these things are simple, some of them are very rare and character-specific, and probably relate to what drives them in their own personal stories. As our heroine acquires items on her quest, she should keep in mind people she has met, and what their recent needs were. How much of what she acquires can she afford to use herself? How much should be put toward crafting useful intermediate products? How much should she reserve for the local barter commerce? The more she gets involved with the people around her, the deeper down the rabbit hole of their troubles she will go, and may acquire both shiny rare loot, and insight into what their own experiences are.

All along her quest, the heroine acquires a number of singular items which have mysterious power over the world. These items generally have applications across several domains at once: they can be used to traverse the world, create shortcuts, to as tools for puzzle solving, and usually in combat. Her relationship to the world and its dangers changes every time she finds one of these. The Dawnthorn also has its own power reserves which get magnified over time by other items she can acquire. This reserve can either be used for the special sword techniques of the Dawnthorn itself, or be focused through these other objects of power. These reserves regenerate over time, but the player should be careful not to deplete them too fast, as they will find themselves at much diminished capacity if they run dry at a tense moment. The player will also acquire a number of miscellaneous items which modify the traits of other items, or grant special abilities. They will also start to acquire a number of magic bands which can be worn to grant various small but critical benefits, but only in limited number.

The next class of items are generally much more common, and can be thought of more as commodities. These are the items which the player can consume on their own for various small benefits, or combine with other items in a basic crafting system to obtain slightly more special products from items of disparate locations. These are also the sorts of items which the NPC's are usually after, so the player should be careful to leave some for trading.    

The inventory screens also contain a map system, which keeps a record of everywhere the player has been, and the macro features of some spaces, such as where doors are located. They can also place colored markers on the map to remind themselves where points of interest are, for later.

One of the most striking things everyone remembers about the 16-bit era was the extremely memorable soundfont-based music. The preceding 8-bit era was known for its powerfully melody-driven 4-track audio featuring natively-synthesized wave instruments; Sony's soundcard for the SNES, however, upped the number of sound-channels to 8, and introduced music built out of small instrument sample libraries. The result was that the tracks of this time have this wonderful trait of occupying a strangely satisfying middle ground between synthetic and acoustic music, that seems to compliment the games of this era better than any other form of music. With the advent of all these extra sound-channels, they feature lush harmonies and driving percussive backings which pushed game music into a much more orchestral level of development.   

In keeping with our central drive toward authenticity and honoring this time period, we've enlisted the talents of Shannon Mason, a woman who has devoted a large part of her composition career to methodically studying both technical mechanics and the Romanticist writing style of 16-bit music on the SNES. From her appreciation of the nuances of the characteristic reverb system and mixing style of SNES tracks, to her intuitive understanding of their use of harmony and counterpoint, Shannon understands this form of music at its core level.  

We also have the great privilege of working with a legendary, founding composer in this field, Hiroki Kikuta. While most of us were there to experience the 16-bit era as young people just enjoying the fantastic games, Kikuta-San was the lead composer at Square for The Secret of Mana, a game whose soundtrack is recognized as one of the few highwater-marks of an era packed with fantastic compositions, and whose influence was felt through the rest of this period and beyond.

We are honored to announce that Hiroki Kikuta is joining us as a celebrity guest composer, and will contribute several of the core tracks and melodies which will form the backbone of Hazelnut's OST!

Probably the best-known sample of his acclaimed early work is his opening theme for Secret of Mana:

In the course of developing Hazelnut in the Unity environment, we have created a handful of tools for building and scripting every aspect of our gameplay experience right in specially-made Unity editors. The most powerful and involved of these is our level editor, which is literally a one-stop tool for putting the majority of a level's features together. It handles the placement of tiles in a many-layered system, consolidation of these many layers into a few discrete depth layers for run-time, the placement of special depth-sprites, and animated tiles. It also has a system for designating spawn boxes and sites for the enemies of the scene, events for situations like door controls and stair-depth changes, and even a fully-featured triggers and switches board for scripting puzzle logic and event sounds with. Integrated in this tool is also a global-room placement system which allows us to quickly lay out the totality of a level or area, and move rooms around, or quickly swap in new ones seamlessly.  

A small sample of some of the interesting spaces we are able to assemble with our tile system and custom editor!
A small sample of some of the interesting spaces we are able to assemble with our tile system and custom editor!

Another of these tools is a node-based system for creating story events and dialogue in the world. It handles the behavior of NPC's and their speech, and uses player interaction and global variables as its inputs. These systems have been invaluable for constructing the game experience with speed and precision, and make successive iterations of levels fast and painless. We may potentially publish the tools at some point in the future.

Our new editor system handles tile placement, animated tiles, depth layering, collision, enemy placement, event systems, pathing, scripting and triggers system for puzzles, and a node editor for Cinematic sequences and NPC encounters.
Our new editor system handles tile placement, animated tiles, depth layering, collision, enemy placement, event systems, pathing, scripting and triggers system for puzzles, and a node editor for Cinematic sequences and NPC encounters.

Sample Budget for $65,000 reserve:  

  • Amazon-pay and Kickstarter's fees: 8-10% ($5,200- $6,500 USD); fees associated with the kickstarter service and collecting pledges 
  • Tax estimate: 10% ($6,500 USD); conservative estimate for high taxable income from funding, but probably reducible 
  • Music: 15-20% (10,000-13,000 USD); funds for music and audio work, between Hiroki Kikuta and Shannon Mason
  • Quality Assurance testing, Program Licensing: 5% ($3,000 USD); routine services for checking hardware incompatibility issues, identifying severe software issues before release; licenses for a number of programs and assets used throughout development, including Unity Plus seats
  • Hosting, storage, web-services: 1.5% ($1,200 USD); funds for hosting websites, Amazon storage backups for development materials over development lifetime
  • Business, Legal, Accounting: 3% ($2,000 USD); corporate fees, legal counsel for contract law and other applications, accounting consultancy; there are a lot of licenses and fees which apply to running the sort of LLC business we need for this work; these relate to general business licenses, federal and state zoning compliance, corporate tax forms, sales tax forms, annual corporate running fees, paperwork for Medicare and Social Security withholding, and Errors and Omissions Insurance 
  • Physical rewards: 3% ($2,200 USD); funds for printing and shipping physical copies of Hazelnut for backer rewards
  • Development: 47% ($30,600 USD); funds which help offset the day-to-day expenses of the developers for up to 18 months; at higher levels of funding, development will be a bit faster since we will be able to devote closer to 100% of our work week on hazelnut

Sample Budget for $110,000 tier: 

  • Amazon-pay and Kickstarter's fees: 8-10% ($8,800- $11,000 USD); fees associated with the kickstarter service and collecting pledges
  • Tax estimate: 10% ($11,000 USD); conservative estimate for high taxable income from funding, but probably reducible
  • Music: 10-13% (10,000-13,000 USD); funds for music and audio work, between Hiroki Kikuta and Shannon Mason
  • Quality Assurance testing, Program Licensing: 5% ($6,000 USD); routine services for checking hardware incompatibility issues, identifying severe software issues before release; licenses for a number of programs and assets used throughout development, including Unity Plus seats 
  • Hosting, storage, web-services: 1% ($1,200 USD); funds for hosting websites, Amazon storage backups for development materials over development lifetime
  • Business, Legal, Accounting: 2% ($2,000 USD); corporate fees, legal counsel for contract law and other applications, accounting consultancy; there are a lot of licenses and fees which apply to running the sort of LLC business we need for this work; these relate to general business licenses, federal and state zoning compliance, corporate tax forms, sales tax forms, annual corporate running fees, paperwork for Medicare and Social Security withholding, and Errors and Omissions Insurance
  • Physical rewards: 32% ($35,000 USD); funds for printing and shipping physical copies of Hazelnut for backer rewards 
  • Development: 35% ($33,000 USD); funds which help offset the day-to-day expenses of the developers for up to 18 months; at higher levels of funding, development will be a bit faster since we will be able to devote closer to 100% of our work week on hazelnut
The important take away here, in comparing these two budgets: Some things cost the same no matter what. Some things, such as supporting the Switch platform and offering physicals for it dramatically raise costs. A big part of the Kickstarter's goals for us is having enough of a stipend so the developers can afford to work full time on the project, however due to the costs accrued at the Switch tier, this stipend doesn't really start to grow until past 110k. The amount pledged past 110k will have a major impact in how much time per week we are able to dedicate to finishing the project.

Risks and challenges

As a small studio still establishing its history, we have striven to provide our users with a complete picture of what the final product will be. As part of this approach, we have made a number of demos available throughout our past development, which offer a vertical slice of all of our major game systems and core gameplay. As well being invaluable for improving our work through public feedback, we believe these demos are an important part of demonstrating our competence to complete the project as a whole. We also view the demos as a tool to help mitigate the general risks to backers associated with indie game kickstarters, since you can try before you buy!

With this project, we are very much emphasizing quality over other concerns. As a rule, when some element of development is not up to our high standards, we continue put effort into that element until it is a joy to interact with in the game context. This relentless drive toward a quality user experience causes the time-frames to stretch from time to time, so we must stress that moderate delays are part of the process.

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    HAZELNUT SUPPORTER

    Help us fund development, and appear in the Special Thanks Supporter section of our game credits!

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    DIGITAL GAME COPY

    Get right into the action! Receive a digital copy for the platform of your choice unlocked in the campaign (default Windows/Mac/Linux), for cheaper than the release cost! Also receive a crisp digital instruction manual!
    +Appear in Special Thanks Supporter section of our game credits!
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    SOUNDTRACK

    Receive a copy of the game's authentic 16-bit soundtrack, straight out of 1993!
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    DIGITAL ARTBOOK+BETA ACCESS+SECOND COPY

    Receive a digital copy of our artbook, and access to test the complete game early!
    Also receive a second copy of the game, for the platform of your choice!
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    PHYSICAL COPY ONLY

    Physical only: Limited Edition, Special Cover Physical Copy for unlocked platform of your choice! This is the same item granted at the 100 USD tier, but without any of the lower rewards. (This tier only gets the Physical Game, and no other tiers get this tier: it is meant for users only interested in this item)

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    ALPHA ACCESS + SHEET MUSIC

    This tier is for folks who really want to get involved deeply in the inner-circle of our development! Play the first versions of sections of the game, and give us feedback on your experiences! This group will have the greatest impact on the final product!
    This Tier also receives a copy of sheet music of selections from the game's soundtrack!
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    PHYSICAL COPY

    This is a great tier for collectors to snatch up a limited edition first-mint of the game in physical case, complete with manual!
    Features a Special Cover, to signify our thanks to physical backers!
    Also, appear in the Extra-Special-Elite-Thanks Section of the game credits!
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    SIGNED SHEET MUSIC+FUND MORE HK MUSIC

    Receive a Physical Sheet Music Booklet, Signed by Hiroki Kikuta himself, the Composer from "Secret of Mana"! For every 20 of these backed, we will add another track from Hiroki Kikuta to the soundtrack! This is an amazing tier to show your appreciation for his incredible music, and help finance the creation of more of it! + All Previous Rewards

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    DESIGN A COLLECTIBLE

    Work with us to create one of the many collectible items, or a rare story item!
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    DESIGN AN ENEMY!

    Work with us to design an enemy of your choice, that works within the scheme of the game! A dream-come-true for 80's and 90's kids like us!
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    DESIGN A STRUCTURE OR SECRET CAVE

    Another pretty out-there one! You get the opportunity to either help design a structure like a house for the overworld, inside and out, alongside a real-world architect... OR help design a secret cave! What does it have in it? A trap sequence? A puzzle? A riddle? A captivating side-story moment? (Mutually exclusive with the other 2500 USD Tier)
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    THE MIGHTY-MINI TIER

    Help us design a Miniboss... OR, Help us Design a Minigame... OR, Help us come up with the backstory and features of a Mini-Dungeon!
    +All Previous Rewards at 1000 tier and below

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    BECOME AN NPC!

    This one is pretty crazy! Join our cast of sundry cast-outs in immortal pixel-flesh! You can either appear as yourself, or help us to design a character of your choice!
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