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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.

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

Comments

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    1. J.R. Raith on

      When I initially heard about the game, the triangle grid sounded exciting. When it went away, I understood. I am glad it's back, though, as I think it'll offer up a few good opportunities for fun gameplay.

      I hope that you can contact Matsuno to let him know you're working on it. It sounds like it was a good meeting, and I hope that he's willing to talk to you guys again if you should want to.

    2. Missing avatar

      david canela on

      Good luck with the road you're taking, I hope it works out and results in something interesting and fun to play.

      However, I do hope you end up finding better reasons to do the triangle thing than an idolized person's opinion and the buzzword of "innovation". Innovation can of course be great, but the end goal should be to make a good game, not to be innovative for innovation's sake.

    3. Lungkisser on

      Consider that your heroes can be wrong. Also I agree that the grid style change means nothing either, it's also just visual. You'd be better off either making an homage to past greats or playing off tropes or subverting expectations in the story and just presenting that well.

    4. Lungkisser on

      Hold on a minute... Matsuno, who made Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together about a guy and his bro and sister and the choices they make during war and then made Final Fantasy Tactics which is a game and a guy his bro and sister and the choices they make during war and excuse me but no you can't say that Matsuno, you made the same game in two different flavors: Ogre Battle and Final Fantasy. I love both of those games but that statement is wildly untrue. WILDLY.

    5. chris dickson on

      Interesting move, hope to see it pan out... I'm just happy for the consistent updates. #GoRedTeam

    6. Missing avatar

      McKay Salisbury on

      I can't have been the first person to say this, but the triangle grid, as presented, is not innovative. It is mathematically identical in functionality to the hexagonal grid. It might look a little different, but it's a hexagonal grid.

      The pressure here that triangles are innovative is apparently unobvious, so I'll explain why.
      Imagine a typical hexagonal grid.
      Then diagram the graph of their connections topologically.
      Voila: Triangle grid.

    7. Stephen P. Suelzle on

      As always, thank you for the interesting, thoughtful and honest review. The fact that you are willing to revisit an idea, that you had rejected, shows that you have interests of the game at heart.
      I'm really
      looking forward to playing on a triangle grid. I have never done that before.

    8. Missing avatar

      Tye Yamagata on

      For a project I've long dismissed and forgotten I'm happy to see someonewith great passion is pursuing this challenge. Hope you go far inn your career!

    9. Andrew on

      I'm so happy!
      @Jeremy but you can stand on hexes in-between hexes because of the triangles.

    10. Casm on

      Amazing work Matthew! These updates are very appreciated. Please tell those working on this this that they're doing a great job!

    11. Missing avatar

      Jeremy Sweetman on

      Ummm... If you’re standing on the intersections of the triangles then it’s really just a hex grid with the lines drawn funny, no? Well, I look forward to see the video.

    12. Missing avatar

      Brian Zabell on

      When you had posted earlier that you guys would be sticking with squares, I mentioned that it was probably best for budget reasons. I still think the reality is that some of the game's content will be unnecessarily lost due to taking extra resources to develop this experimental design.

      That said, I am happy that you are doing this. Subverting the formula is always exciting and will make this game stand out, regardless of how the game launches in the end (hopefully well!). I think that was something on Matsuno's mind when he urged you to stick with the Triangle Grid. After all, FFT is just essentially Tactics Ogre, but what made FFT so successful I feel (aside from a great art style and soundtrack) was its focus on character customization/abilities. which was done so well that it's still the norm in tactical RPG games now.

      So if you're going to do this, I hope that you own the Triangle Grid 100%. Include abilities in the game that are built specifically with the Triangle Grid in mind (and couldn't be done with another movement system). One thing that hex games have done is to make a flanking system feel much more natural. I'm curious what you will add to tactical RPG games with triangles aside from just the potential for flanking.

      One thing that I see immediately in the screenshots is that the Triangle Grid would make the implementation of large creatures look more natural. Do you remember how weird it looked that the final boss of FFT was so huge that it didn't look good for it to be taking up one measly square (or creatures like the dragons looking huge but only taking up one tile which looked ugly). Heroes of Might and Magic 5 and forward (along with Banner Saga) took on that problem by making large creatures take up four squares. Heroes of Might and Magic 3 cheated its large creatures by giving them 2 hexes instead of 1. Looking at your triangle grid screenshots, I can easily see how Unsung Story can finally make proper use of large creatures (like horse riders) and making it look natural to fit in the Triangle Grid.

      One thing I strongly urge you to take a little time to look at, as someone who strongly advocates accessibility in games, is the potential eyestrain that the Triangle Grid may add to a player's eyes. While those screenshots are of course just concepts, I worry that, if not taken seriously or carefully, a player might find the Triangle Grid too busy, straining, and confusing, especially one with elderly eyes.

      Best wishes moving forward on the project.

    13. Petterkopp on

      Exciting, this was the first kickstarter I ever backed,I have no regrets! I have high hopes and am waiting patiently. It will be awesome I feel it in my bones.

    14. Walshee on

      Still petitioning for those #robotarmy skins.

    15. Mike Cavanaugh on

      The triangle grid really brings something to the table. It's really mentally satisfying.

      Some people are comparing it to the hex grid system and I can see why, but basically you get all the benefits of the hex grid on a large scale, and the closeness of the square grid system.

      You can have narrow blocks and large scale encounters, but it never feels like there's dead-space as is with the Hex system, and it isn't as boringly unintuitive as the square system.

      One piece of design advice that I think might be interesting - you've basically got the hex system hiding in here, which is great - adding some units or specialized siege structures for set-piece battles that are full-hex size would be very interesting and super easy to balance. Even if they are stock things like story-element battering rams or one-use devices, they'll move really satisfyingly having their own rules.

      The benefit of this system comes in its unique sizing - you essentially can "zoom" a lot both in and out.

      Loving it. I'm glad Matsuno pushed you to do it.

      If nothing else, it just looks REALLY aesthetically satisfying.

    16. Missing avatar

      Q on

      For a spiritual successor attempt, this would be risky, but innovative to set you apart from other similar games. As you're not trying to use the same square-grid structure that has been in use for so many games, especially during the early 2000, and as much as this looks like the hex-grid format that has been in play in some games since 2010, this is a slightly different take and usage of that system. Depending on how it's leveraged, this could offer much more granular movement and map building options and more organic map design instead of looking like a dioramas on block stacks or a stack of basalt rocks.

      I am also appreciative of the detail and thought process that is being disclosed. The PlayDek team definitely talked, albeit rarely, but it was mostly smoke screening the process and nothing on the actual work and not to mention having any real content to showcase.

      At this point, there's a good chance at least something will be completed, and possibly within a reasonable time frame. If this means there might be an alpha the years end, this will be much farther along than what the previous people did by far, and already has me feeling confident we might actually have a finished product.

    17. Justin
      Superbacker
      on

      Trying something new is always a risk, but I'm all for this direction. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn't, but either way in my book it's completely a chance worth taking.

      Thanks for the update :)

    18. Cerulean Shaman on

      Isn't this just a fancy hex grid that's been done a billion times already? Well, whatever makes your jelly quiver, I guess. Go ahead, be innovative, do whatever you want. Expectations are likely at an all time low at this point; most of already wrote the game off as another Kickstarter flop and consider your company's history of games and that you are effectively just creating a new game from scratch (since you got zero funding) but are, for some reason, happily restricting yourself with someone else's ideas and negative press, it's not going to be all that difficult to surprise us.

      I don't know though, there was a tiny glimmer of hope once, because hey, anything can happen, but as each update comes along I start to realize that no, nothing magical's going to happen.

    19. rotcehMD on

      Be bold and innovative! Great call on the rollback. We already have FFT and we are 20 years ahead of its release. Good to see you guys are willing to go the extra mile to try something new.

    20. Shane (CoffeeGnerd)
      Superbacker
      on

      This is the best update that has EVER been posted on this project.
      I’m heading to the PM to upgrade to a Switch key now.

    21. Missing avatar

      Simon Clifford on

      Thanks for the update! Keep taking those risks :)

    22. Sam on

      This is definitely the more innovative path to go down. I agree it is a little scary, but it will make this game super unique. I loved FFT, but i don't want this game to be FFT 2.0 I think the triangle grid will take you there.

      Be Bold. Innovate, and make a unique game. I want you to wow us.

    23. Matt Lohkamp on

      aw, I'm happy that you guys have taken this project on all over again. I love this story!

      I think Matsuno is right, and I think part of why his comment had an impact on you is that you already knew it - the triangle grid is novel, it's a way to offer something new and interesting, rather than just 'good.' You fell back on squares because it was safe, and safe makes sense for salvaging a failing project - but, as always, if you care about the genre, if you're passionate about not only making something good, but really contributing something *new.* He was just in the right place at the right time to remind you about that.

    24. Missing avatar

      Wil on

      Huge fan Matt. I'm so happy with the direction the game is taking and especially for the focus on exciting, yet practical, innovation. Keep up the great work.

    25. Zenon Berg
      Superbacker
      on

      Thank you for your bravery and humility!

    26. John Getty on

      Sigh... I have a feeling this game is going to have zero character to it, just as the previous iteration did. One of FFTs greatest attributes was its unique 2D art style. This test makes me think you're heading down a realistic path, which is going to be so ugly.

      You guys make me question if you really even understood what made Final Fantasy Tactics great in the first place.

    27. Cory E. on

      I love these updates! Keep em coming!

      I'm glad you're sharing your thought process and reasoning behind how you're going through the project. We've already gotten so much more than Playdek gave us. It's a shame they screwed all the backers over when someone like you should've headed it to begin with.

    28. joedpa82 on

      Thanks for the update. Keep it coming. Please.......

    29. Rob on

      Thanks for the update! Looking good.

    30. Missing avatar

      Gabriel Rogasner on

      I have greatly enjoyed reading every update you guys have put out, this one most of all! I have faith you will try to put out a good product. Even if I don't end up loving it at the end (and I think I will!), I will still appreciate all the work you put into it, which is a lot more than I can say for Playdek.

    31. Missing avatar

      Guillaume Lhoyer on

      Thank you, one of the reasons I backed this project was the triangle grid. I am a designer myself and was really curious about the potential of this triangle grid.

    32. Missing avatar

      Daniel Ortiz Nieto on

      YES YES!!

      I love you guys, great advice and insight from the great Matsuno, and really good reaction from you recognicing the value of that.

      And congratulations on having the courage to admit the mistake, reconsider and walk a riskier road, but the rewards will for sure be worth it.

      I was supporting this project since the very start and I'm still supporting you, really this post made me really happy and boosted further my trust in you, way to go Matt!

      Keep up the good work!

    33. Little Orbit Creator on

      Lots of great comments and discussion.

      I can't say that we've thought of everything, but we did spend quite a bit of time evaluating at all the challenges. It still came down to a judgment call on my end, and I chose to back Matsuno's design, but more importantly I felt this is what backers originally paid for. I didn't want a segment of our community feeling cheated.

      Couple more points of clarification:

      - The underlying movement in the Triangle Grid is based on hexagons, so most of those issues have been solved before. I feel its much easier to fit level geometry around the triangle rendering than it is with hexagons. Typically with hexagons, you can't get away from that shape infiltrating everything.

      - Most Square Grid implementations have an isometric camera that forces the primary 4 directions to render along the diagonals. So despite having 4 clear options for movement, I always felt d-pad control for Square Grids was very awkward. With our system you will actually have one clear axis of movement on a d-pad. Either up and down or left and right depending with way we orient the grid. Our current plan is to change the orientation depending on the flow of the level to keep controls feeling good.

    34. Shannon Potter on

      Great update! I can tell the passion to do this game right is there. Infinitely more drive and competency than PlayDek ever had.

    35. Leewelo Lorekeeper
      Superbacker
      on

      A good thing. But don't stop there.
      Make sure you don't use it only as a hex grid with half hex offset. You have 6+2 directions, and forking nodes all around.
      The use of colors and thickness to show terrain relief is clever. Perhaps the node to node link thickness could be used for something else (movement speed, ease of action/susceptibility,... context sensitive)

    36. Missing avatar

      Romel I. Benavides on

      This is coming out great. Lost hope for this game a while back and seeing the company's focus was on mobile games; however, this is aesthetically beautiful (even with polygons and whatnot.) I will look forward to more innovations and appreciate the constant updates!

    37. Arthur Santos Hogemann on

      Although I liked the design of the grid, I'm a bit worried about the flow of combat. Adding complexity to the move and attack options can directly affect the "fun" item if we have excessive parameters to take into consideration when performing an action on your turn.
      Another issue would be the optimization of paths in the movement of characters, personally I have never seen a grid like that in games.

    38. Shiru XIII on

      Wise choice !
      It looks great so far. Is it possible to have some sort of videos ? It would be easier to see how it works.

    39. Missing avatar

      Nihei
      Superbacker
      on

      Yes, yes, yes 1000 times yes!

    40. Xifanie on

      @Robert Stewart: Is it a good argument, but at the same time, a triangle approach has the same flaws. The more "sides" you add, i.e. the more accurate the distance traveled depending on the allowed angles, the more controls suffer from it, to the point where floating point number coordinates allow for the most freedom, but is also the hardest to control (essentially unplayable on a controller compared to a mouse), but in this case, it also allows complete freedom for map development.

      Each system has its advantages and disadvantages. I'd rather have something that works rather than something innovative that doesn't, that's all.

    41. Chris Conley on

      @Robert Stewart:
      I don't think structures are such a big deal. Black Isle's Fallout games mixed orthogonal structures with hex grid movement, and it worked fine.

      http://archivewiki.fifengine.net/images/thumb/8/81/2007.0.001.jpg/800px-2007.0.001.jpg

    42. Missing avatar

      William Turner on

      This, this is exactly what anyone would hope for from Kickstarter development. Some honest feedback from development experience, openness regarding our natural limitations, and wisdom that takes this project from the meager to the mighty. Like most others, I thought this was impossible given our experiences from playdek, a company that I can would kick in the shins if I could. Thank you for truly renewing our hope, and renewing the project itself.

    43. Robert Stewart on

      @Xifanie:
      A vertex-based triangle grid has advantages in giving truer straight-line distances than a square grid, though, yeah, 6-direction movement on a 4-direction controller is non-trivial. Also, while 60/120 degree angles are fine for natural objects (and give more natural looking behaviour for things like rivers), humans (or at least western-industrial humans) tend to make things with right angles.

      It sounds like the development team has been looking carefully at the issues here - the artwork shows some solutions for fitting squared-off pegs into triangular holes - and, based on the account given of the process, I'm reasonably happy that they wouldn't have changed their mind so publicly if they weren't satisfied that they could make it work.

      And, of course, having made the tough call once, if it does turn out that they can't make it work, it will be easier for them to switch back (assuming they get there soon enough - decisions compound upon decisions, and squares v triangles is going to impact a lot of what follows)

    44. Shawn Chiao on

      Dig all the progress that's going on, but -

      isn't triangle grid the same as hex grid functionally, but just visually represented differently?

    45. ekster on

      I'm also very happy to see you guys return to the triangle system and finding a way to make it work.

      Keep up the great updates!

    46. PhDashing on

      I'm very happy you guys are going back to the triangular grid. Back when you announced the square grid, I was disappointed, but understood and kept quiet. Now the game is much more visually interesting! While the movement may essentially be on a glorifies hex grid, there is now more flexibility in spell effects, etc. Also, very interesting read about your meeting in Japan.

    47. Allen on

      The triangle grid was one of the reason why i decided to back the game. Glad to see it's back. I hope development goes well with your team. I look forward to April update. And please don't say project cancelled as April Fool's Joke.

    48. Missing avatar

      Brian Kam on

      Love the consistent updates so far and this triangle grid looks exciting!