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A rich, diverse Tactical RPG, envisioned by the master of the genre Yasumi Matsuno, Playdek, and you, the fans!
A rich, diverse Tactical RPG, envisioned by the master of the genre Yasumi Matsuno and you, the fans!
A rich, diverse Tactical RPG, envisioned by the master of the genre Yasumi Matsuno and you, the fans!
15,824 backers pledged $660,126 to help bring this project to life.

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April Update - No Foolin Around

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Dear backers,

I want to start by apologizing for last month. I had a couple updates planned after the 1st of March, but our Shards the Deckbuilder announcement went over so poorly that I felt it was best not to spam anyone for a bit.

For Kickstarter updates going forward, we'll stick to just things related to Unsung Story. Also these updates are going to be getting a little dense. I'm exploring ways to balance the information so that backers who want this information can get it, and backers who only want to play the game wont get flooded with too many messages.

April marks an important milestone for us - the end of Pre-Production (mostly).

I'm proud of the team and the hard work they've been putting in. With the exception of Art, we have everything else fairly well mapped out. Art is going a bit more slowly due to some minor changes in direction. We've tried a couple things that didn't work. My goal is to keep working on concepts till I'm happy.

We are going to be planning a Twitch stream of the current build later this month. We will be sending out more details over Facebook, Twitter, and email to the folks who registered on LittleOrbit.com.

We also have our first developer blog going up in mid April. So look for that in the Unsung Story forums on LittleOrbit.com.

This month I've included shots from our latest prototype all through out the update.

The usual caveats apply. This is all work in progress so you're seeing very very rough temp art with an unpolished grid system and temp UIs. To help clarify some of the screenshots, I'm also sharing lots of design elements. Some of this will shift and change as we get further down the road, but here is a quick rundown of where we are at.

PROTOTYPE PROGRESS:

Lots and lots of work here. We've been able to further refine the triangle grid mechanics, assess the best size of levels, work with verticality, and try different combinations of players vs. enemies. 

This first shot is from our test level based on a map in Mission 7 near a small fortress where the player's objective is to capture an enemy unit. It illustrates that we have reduced the overall size of the level from previous screenshots. The red areas are placeholder "ladders" which allow you to travel up to higher areas. Elevation in the map gives specific advantages and disadvantages.

Test Map Mission 7
Test Map Mission 7

GAME DESIGN:

We're on the 2nd complete draft of the design. It's currently well over 100 pages. All 20 classes have been created, named, and assigned skills to give them a unique role in any party. We've tried to simplify what worked in Final Fantasy Tactics without sacrificing any depth. We also have in initial class tree and progression mapped. Remember these classes are split up across the 4 schools that we've announced: Technology, Mana, Divine, and Nature.

This feels a bit unceremonious, but you'll see plenty of references in the screenshots this month, so I figured it was fine to spoil them all now anyway. I'll let you guys try to figure out which ones go to each school.

Here is the complete list of classes:

  • Sellsword: Mercenaries unbound by specialty, Sellswords are useful in several areas, but are masters of none. This is one of two beginning classes, along with the Physician. The Sellsword is used to teach players a few basic mechanics for melee combat, but also touches on some more metagame functionality such as boosts. They use Short Swords & Shields.
  • Physician: The player begins the game with the Physician unlocked, but it serves to teach them more advanced mechanics, such as ranged attacks, the use of items and cross-class abilities. Even though they start off weak, Physicians are capable of combining their items to create new effects. This becomes especially important in the late-game, where advanced items can only be created by combining two lesser items. They use Slings.
  • Guardian: Guardians stay at the front of combat, defending key choke points and fortifying their allies from harm. Stalwart warriors that protect those they deem worth protecting (which, incidentally, can include themselves). They use Long Swords and Shields . 
  • Archer: Archers are a simple but effective long-range attacker, capable of striking distant foes with ease. The backbone of any successful army. Archers are able to fire further from high ground, which allows them to out-range opposing Archers. This means the ideal situation for a Archer is to be on high ground, with friendly units fortifying them from melee enemies. They use Longbows.
  • Plague Weaver: These guys represent a power that humans would sooner choose to forget—rot, disease and decay. They are all about debuffing the opponent’s entire team from anywhere on the map. These debuffs are typically less likely to hit than one that’s focus-cast on a single target, but the added benefit of affecting multiple enemies at once can alleviate the risk.  
  • Elementalist: Elementalists focus on magical power in its most pure and destructive form. They deal lots of damage to single-targets. They use Staves.
  • Sharpshooter: The Sharpshooter sports a unique tool—known as the Infusion Rifle. They use nearby tiles to infuse their rifle and fire bullets with specific effects.
  • Necromancer: Necromancers are masters of death, of others and of themselves. They utilize corpses and debuffs. Necromancers can regain Health and Focus from enemy corpses, make them explode and even raise them as minions. They use Scythes.
  • Spellbreaker: Spellbreakers are powerful anti-magic tanks, capable of absorbing magical damage. They should be paired up to protect allies that are vulnerable to magic attacks, or used to hunt down enemy magic users to end them quickly. They use Two-Handed Maces.
  • Cavalier: The Cavalier is a "civilized" tank class who focuses on avoiding damage. The rapiers they wield have naturally high weapon evasion stats, allowing them to easily parry incoming blows. They also have some options for moving other units around the battlefield. They use Rapiers.
  • Scout: The Scout infiltrates enemy lines, sneaking up on a vulnerable backline enemy and finishing them off before the enemy team can react. They’re also capable of stealing equipment, which makes them essential versus powerful units, such as some bosses. Stealing isn’t easy, but results in not only disarming the opponent, but giving the stolen equipment to the player’s party. They use Daggers.
  • Priest: Priests are zealous wielders of healing magic, able to appreciate the value of life and taking measures to ensure it is preserved. They are backline support casters, keeping their allies healed through combat. They use Rods.
  • Berserker: Powerful—and possibly insane—the Berserker is a powerhouse in melee combat. They lose their wits as readily as they take lives, so must be guided with a cautious hand. They like to get up close and personal, taking heavy hits and dealing them in return. The Berserker focuses on buffing himself, then using special abilities that benefit from those buffs to deal damage, debilitate foes and keep himself alive. They use One-Handed Axes.
  • Wildlord: Wildlords are capable of learning the abilities of monsters they encounter and wielding these strange powers to great effect. They focuse on using Monster Skills, which means they have a great variety of skills to use in combat. However, they lack a specific tactical focus, instead serving to fill in holes in the team. They use Glaives.
  • Saboteur: These guys should rush ahead of their team, place as many traps as possible and then retreating to safety. Once behind allied lines, they can pelt the enemy team with bombs, dealing decent ranged damage in an area. They use Hand Bombs.
  • Shadow: Shadows are the unspoken and unseen hand of fate. They operate by inflicting themselves with status effects, then passing them on to foes and finishing them off with Killing Blow. They use a Sickle and Chain. 
  • Disciple: A Disciple is able to fight at close range, keeping his allies alive while dealing respectable damage. They have unusual ranges for all of their abilities, and are able to attack two squares away. They use Bo Staves.
  • Echo Knight: Echo Knights wield an unusual and incongruous power, warping the very fabric of space around themselves and their foes. They are able to move around the battlefield quickly and easily, ensuring they reach the best possible position to hold the enemy back. They use Two-Handed Swords.
  • Sword Speaker: These guys unite the arts of swordplay and spellcraft. Sword Speakers practice with all swords and have the ability to summon a magic version of any blade they have previously mastered.
  • Librarian: The Librarian focuses on speeding up the player team and slowing down the enemy team, allowing players to perform devastating attacks with much less risk of missing. If you've been following our forum updates, then you'll know Librarians are part of the lore and are part of the core storyline. They use Tomes.

Here are some shots of several skills we're playing with:

Necromancer Skills
Necromancer Skills
Priest Skills
Priest Skills

STATS & CALCULATIONS:

We've done more work on how stats are calculated behind the scenes and how raising a unit’s level increases these stats. While the numbers are prone to change throughout development, the equations should remain the same from here on. We are also starting to work through how to share this information with the player including the Stats/profile inspector, Turn queue, Character selection and other things like how items display info on the shop depending on what characters you currently have.

Here are the key character stats that we have decided on:

  • Strength: determines physical damage with most weapons.
  • Intelligence: determines the power of most abilities and some weapons.
  • Speed: determines how frequently a unit acts.
  • Agility: partially determines evasion rates and partially determines the damage of Agility Weapons.
  • Health: determines how much damage a character can take before they’re killed.
  • Focus: determines how many spells a character can cast before needing to restore their Focus (our version of magic power).
  • Natural Strength: a character’s starting strength based on several factors.
  • Natural Intelligence: a character’s starting intelligence based on several factors.
Sellsword Attack
Sellsword Attack

ITEMIZATION & EQUIPMENT:

We've got a solid Weapons List. It isn’t finalized, but its a good first-pass. There are a few major things we are still working out. The biggest are the special effects of some weapons and how to limit their power. There's a scythe on the list that I'm rather partial towards. It helps you regenerate Focus every time a unit on the battlefield dies. We've also spent some time working through the consumable items. This is useful for the engineering team to start on implementation of the Physician, who can make consumables.

Necromancer putting out a weak cadaver
Necromancer putting out a weak cadaver

SCREEN FLOW & WORLD MAP:

Lots of work nailing down each screen in the game and the flow between them. This flow helps us visualize where the player will be spending the majority of their time in game.

We'll be revealing a couple special things about the World Map in updates to come.

SHOPS & RECRUITING: 

Again not quite final, but it’s getting close. We are working out where and when its okay to access the shops, some more information on armor/accessories and the cost of items. We've spent quite a bit of time working through recruiting new units. We are currently designing for permadeath with any non-Story character units. This means that when they die, you'll need to replace them.

Additionally each potential unit that you can recruit will look different. Their appearance is randomly generated to provide a lot of fun visual diversity - something that Final Fantasy Tactics couldn't do with their units due to the 2D sprite implementation.

STORY & LEVELS:

We have completed bubble maps for nearly all of the levels in all of the chapters. The designers have gone through each one and identified the location, story character requirements, and primary objectives. I'm starting to see "gray box" layouts for various maps which gives us an opportunity to get them up and running in the prototype as quickly as possible.

Gray box layouts are a bit more detailed than what you're seeing in our prototype shots. These are much less blocky and have actual level geometry.

Elementalist taking advantage of height
Elementalist taking advantage of height

Archer moving his way up
Archer moving his way up

That's it for now! Hope everyone enjoys their time off.

Thank you for your continued patience and support.

Sincerely, Matthew Scott

Something special for backers - Shards the Deckbuilder

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March Update - First Prototype Screenshots

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Dear backers,

This month is going to be a little different. I've got a number of different things to talk about, so I'm going to break those posts up over a series of days:

  • Today I'm going to tackle the biggest topic.
  • Tomorrow I'll be posting a special opportunity. It's not a sales pitch - it's complete free - just a little something we want to do for Unsung Story backers.
  • Over the weekend I'll be back with more updates.

I'll start this topic with a broad philosophical statement meant to make me sound intelligent and deep thinking, but that’s really just to soften the blow before I make a more personal admission.

None of us are perfect, and game development is no exception. Sometimes we make choices that are perfectly reasoned, well thought out. Safe. For a project like Unsung Story that has been delayed so long, many times those will be the right choices. But sometimes our protective instincts get in the way of pushing frontiers. Sometimes knowing exactly where the road leads, keeps us from wandering into a hidden alcove full of wonder and imagination.

To put it more bluntly, I was wrong about changing to the Square Grid.

As I said in a previous post on Kickstarter, the Triangle Grid was definitely one of the core elements that drew me into Unsung Story. I had never seen anything like it, but when it came time to crack that system open, we spent weeks staring at the PlayDek mockups and trying to make heads or tails of them.

Eventually I made the call. It’s what a publisher does. You can hear the clock ticking, and you have to keep things on track. At the time it felt like the system added needless complexity for no real gain and a lot of very awkward gameplay limitations.

It all made perfect sense...

..Until I went to Tokyo and met with Mr. Matsuno.

I shared a little bit about the meeting on the 1st of February. Overall it was fantastic. I got to show off all the latest work, and meet a designer that I've idolized for much of my career. But I also hinted that he had one piece of negative feedback, and that's what this post is about.

Midway through our meeting, he stopped, waved at the stacks of paper, and asked a very direct question: This is all very cool, but where is the innovation?

My translator had barely uttered the words before I was jumping in. My excitement got the best of me. I talked about the out-of-order narrative which he himself had created. I talked about the sound-based magic system and some of the impact to our combat design. And I talked about handling verticality in the levels. He nodded a little, but then shook his head and said "window dressing". Pretty. But just thematic. Not true innovation.

At that point he stressed that he tries never to repeat the same game twice, and that we shouldn't settle for copying a game that is more than 20 years old. At this point, I was sure I had missed something in the conversation. It had all been going so well. I must have been quiet, because eventually he leaned in and finally asked: “Why did you remove the Triangle Grid?”

It took me a little off guard, but then I spent a couple minutes trying to explain why the grid didn't work. I talked about flat-top hex movement vs pointy top hex movement. The limitations in vertical vs. horizontal movement. I went on to doodle sketches of PlayDek's renderings to explain how they had drawn all the best-case scenarios but none of the worst-case. He mostly sat there and didn't say much. Eventually he held his hands up in surrender, and we moved on to other topics. Towards the end of the conversation, I felt we had gotten back on better footing.

But as we were wrapping up, he stopped me thoughtfully and said. "If you don't do the Triangle Grid, then I will." It wasn't a threat. He was making sure that I understood that not only was the Triangle Grid feasible – it was important.

And with that he left.

Matsuno was my final meeting in Tokyo, and I flew back that same day. But I was left with more questions than I arrived with. I spent a week diving back in. Discussions with designers. I was more than a fortnight before the breakthru. I had spent hours on the whiteboard already that day, and needed to take a break for dinner. Eating alone that night provided me with an opportunity to go back and start from the beginning. Flipping through my notes I saw the problem in the perspective of PlayDek's mockups. I came back and spent hours building several schematics to help illustrate my findings, which I sent to the team the following day.

From there, we all agreed to give the Triangle Grid one more chance. A two week development cycle to explore a new approach. I woke up the following morning to an amazing email from the engineering team with all sorts of researched math and algorithms. In mid Februay, we finished our milestone, and I got to play through the results.

Things are still very very early. Everything is placeholder art, but I could immediately sense the difference from playing our Square Grid prototypes. I started thinking about movement and attacking differently. Distance and angles. And I was having fun. So I’ve reversed my previous decision and everyone has agreed to move forward with the Triangle Grid.

I am very pleased to show off a little bit of our development progress, but I’m also a little terrified.

While there are other games that we can look at, there is no direct roadmap for this aspect of the game. I'm taking a risk in one of the biggest gameplay systems in Unsung Story - a risk that introduces a million new ways to fail. Hopefully it will be worth it. Hopefully the results will be much more... innovative.

Triangle Grid 01
Triangle Grid 01

 

Triangle Grid 02
Triangle Grid 02

 

Triangle Grid 03
Triangle Grid 03

NOTE: These shots are now more than 2 weeks old, and we've already started making adjustments and improvements to the mechanics. I'm hoping to show some video soon of how this plays in-game.

Thank you for your continued patience and support.

Sincerely, Matthew Scott

Early Update Preview for our Consultants and above

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Massive February Update

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Dear backers,

It's the first of the month, which means it's Unsung Story update time! 

If you've been following us on Twitter or Facebook, you may have seen a little teaser pic that I put up. You can see it here: 

https://twitter.com/UnsungStory/status/953043465176150016

Since I didn't give a lot of detail, I made sure to include one very identifiable hint in the background - the Tokyo Tower. So this month's update is going to be framed around my trip to Tokyo where I got to work with some of the main talent behind Unsung Story.

Before I start, I wanted to share something that has come up on a couple occasions. For a variety of reasons, sometimes we have to remain quiet about a specific aspect of the game. Taking on Unsung Story involved untangling a legal mess of broken contracts and unpaid partners which has required quite a bit of effort to resolve, and in many of these cases leaves us with no choice but to remain silent.

Please know that we will always try to let the backers know as much as we can, but sometimes it's not possible to do that without violating NDAs or jeopardizing the project.

With that said, here are the highlights of my trip to Tokyo.

Day #1 - Soundtrack & Dinner with Mr Sakimoto

On my first day, I spent a lovely evening with Hitoshi Sakimoto and another up and coming composer from his company Basiscape. We ate at a fantastic underground Izakaya restaurant in the Shinjuku part of Tokyo. When I arrived, I was escorted back to a small private room to eat and discuss Unsung Story.

I am very excited to announce that Mr Sakimoto and his company Basiscape will be composing and producing 1 hour of original music for the project.  

Dinner with Mr Sakimoto
Dinner with Mr Sakimoto

 

We spent much of the evening discussing the story, the world, each school, the characters, and the emotional themes for the game. Afterward I sent over a metric ton of design and story for him to use as inspiration. He's going to be starting with the main theme and then working through the other tracks from there.

Day #2 - Art & Dinner with Cygames

The following evening I got to see Shibuya, another iconic district in Tokyo. Mr Yoshida couldn't attend the meeting, but I was hosted by several members of Cygames at a local Shabu-shabu restaurant. Dinner was fun, and we hope to work with Yoshida and Cygames in the future.

Shibuya
Shibuya

 

However at this time, due to a number of reasons beyond anyone's control, Mr Yoshida cannot be involved on Unsung Story. We had already started moving forward in the art design, but I wanted to give the backers a definitive answer. We still plan to produce the Unsung Story art book, and we have a couple other ideas to help make up for this change.

Day #3 - Design & Lunch with Mr Matsuno

There was a lot to cover in this meeting, so we decided it would be best to meet at the Westin Tokyo, the hotel where I stayed during my trip. Just prior to flying out I sent over 28 pages of story and design notes along with a Powerpoint presentation walking through our progress in various parts of the project - all fully translated into Japanese. We spent quite a bit of time going through everything using a translator, and he gave excellent feedback. The goal of this meeting was to review our completed story to make sure our American writer had successfully captured all his notes and ideas alongside our other narrative requirements. We also covered aspects of the game design and other elements of the game. The story feedback was great, and much of the meeting was very positive, but he did give one major gameplay note that he wants to see explored. I have already met with the development team, and we're hard at work determining the best way to address it.

Lunch at the Westin Tokyo
Lunch at the Westin Tokyo

 

I have to admit, I had a bit of a fanboy moment at the end of the meeting. Final Fantasy Tactics was instrumental in shaping my future in video games, so meeting Mr Matsuno was an honor. And when it came time to leave, I totally forgot to take a picture with him.

End of January Milestones

Pre-production is scheduled to end in March, so that means we only have 2 more months of milestones before actual production on the game begins. Accordingly January was very busy.

Here is a brief look at some of what the team worked on.

  • Class Design v0.20 - We have a second pass on the name and major gameplay mechanics for each class. Version v0.10 was submitted back in December after my trip to Melbourne, and it was solid, but I am even more pleased with this version. The roles between units feel much more defined, while the thematics for each class feel much more unique to our world. You have no idea how much restraint it takes to hold back from sharing some of the class names. 
  • Character Art Style Guide v0.10 - This was a fantastic deliverable that took the last couple months of character art concept and modeling and broke the style down so we could apply it to a broader set of characters while keeping consistency in the look. Moving forward without Mr Yoshida means we needed to create our own look and feel that honored the original tactics style without copying it. We've shown a couple concepts, but I like how the style is continuing to evolve.
  • Game Design Document v0.20 - Last month I mentioned the Design Direction document, and this month I got my first look at the GDD. The documents haven't been combined yet, so it's still very incomplete, but it already has all kinds of juicy details on the game flow and combat systems - specifically how damage is calculated and a first pass on all the game stats.
  • World Design v0.10 - This was a new document that we are using to flesh out the world and environments of Unsung Story. Each chapter takes place in a new location, and each location contains a unique school of magic that has influenced that part of the map. Lots of good raw ideas here for clothing, architecture, and other visual aesthetics. We'll be workshopping this document in February, and then making another pass through the story to keep things consistent.
  • Story Design v1.0 - I alluded to this document earlier in this update during my recap of the lunch with Matsuno. I'm excited to say that we're done with the complete first pass! All 5 chapters of the game have a solid narrative that combines Matsuno's original story and characters with some of our new collaborative ideas and filtered through the game's mechanics. It also identifies key mission objectives and encounters.
  • Prototype Build v0.10 - This was an unexpected treat, and all of the work on the GDD made sense when I got this month's playable build with some very rough RPG mechanics. When I say rough, I mean rough. The level is randomly generated with various square bits of geometry - rock, dirt, grass. The scenario contained 5 enemy units and 5 party units with varying levels of health and energy. We're using placeholder robot models for all the units, but they do animate and move. Grid selection, round timing and attack order all worked, and I was able to use a couple basic items to heal units. Right off the bat several enemies grouped up on one of my units who had spawned away from the rest, and they killed him in a quick series of rounds. My other units fared better, as I regrouped and eventually won the battle with 3 units left alive!
  • 3d Mana Attacker test - Lastly, this is one of the super rough 3D tests we did to explore characters in the game. At this point I don't think this actual model will be used, but I feel like we're getting closer. 
Mana Attacker 3d Test
Mana Attacker 3d Test

 

Stay tuned! Lots more in the works. In mid February, we're hoping to starting our Developer Diaries spearheaded by Ash, our lead producer. If we can hold that schedule, then you'll be getting two major updates a month.

Thank you for your continued patience and support.

Sincerely, Matthew Scott