Greetings once more, Cryatists...!
We've been extremely busy (and tired) the past few months, and consequently, we didn't get a chance to throw out an update since February. Apologies again! But we've got plenty lined up for this month, so strap your condensers on and let's get to it! (Needless to say, everything we're showing here is still a work-in-progress!)
New song, by the way. Listen to the daytime version of the Overworld Theme while you read! We uploaded a small preview of this song a long time ago, but here it is, in all its adventuring glory! Get used to it; you'll be in the Overworld a lot!
We reworked Abilities a ton more as it's been determined from multiple internal playtests at Atlus that the fun factor could be amped up with them. There are now a total of 24 base Abilities, and each and every one of them has 3 varying levels, resulting in a total of 72 different functionalities. We wanted a way to streamline this gameplay feature while keeping close to our original count we set out on having. These include making each level a clear and powerful upgrade to the previous level without losing the purpose of the initial level. An example of this would be where Ignite goes from a regular flame geyser burst, to a larger one with knockback, and then a much larger one that covers a wider radius and can hit more enemies; while utilizing its puzzle-based mechanic of lighting things on fire.
With this change, we've done away with most of the clunky-feeling charge mechanics to access level 2 or 3 abilities and make it clear that you're always letting out the full power of your Abilities.
With the change to Abilities, we also had to rework how Esmy's Energy Points are managed. Initially, EP were just going to be replenished by using consumables, and as a result, it gave the gameplay more of a survival aspect. Overall, it was agreed upon that the game felt less like an Action RPG because of being unable to have fun experimenting with your Abilities because of the finite cost.
So we implemented a regeneration format with the EP system; it will now regenerate at a fixed rate. To make things clearer with EP consumption too, we've got rid of the Weapon Meter (we'll explain why below), and converted it to the EP Meter, which displays your EP Count. Each Ability will have a certain cost behavior. As shown above, Boulder Dash will deplete the meter as long as you hold it down and stop when exhausted; on the other hand, Ignite takes 1 EP per smash. Also, Esmy starts off with 4 EP, but the count and rate at which the EP can regenerate can be both leveled up. We won't say exactly how at this moment!
We've had major feedback regarding how Abilities are learned and how it affects the gameplay. Let's explain:
Originally, our levels were structured in a way that kinda forces the player to go all the way to Ghilcrest and talk to a Cryatist to gain a new ability. This would result in not having much of an instant reward factor as we'd like, and it made the game tedious and boring with the unnecessary backtracking and running around associated with that initial direction. The way we managed acquiring new Ability slots and swapping them was also very "ugh": we would have to go back to a Save Point or Ghilcrest each time just to change your Ability loadout.
So we've decided to let loose and let you, the player, be able to learn Abilities anytime you want and have ALL learned Abilities on the bench at all times. Esmy is a resourceful gal, so it makes sense, right?
When you find some new Catalysts, pop open the menu and see if you can make a new Ability, right there in the field, on the spot. Wanna switch from your "ninja" build of, Vanish, Dark Mark, Time Paradox and Chronologic (with Daggers) into a more "range/trap" build of Rock Fist, Ignite, Magma Mine and Shadow Mite (with Crossbow)? You won't have to worry about making that trek to the nearest Save Point (which might have been a number of map spots away) or finding a Nova Shrine to teleport you to Ghilcrest so you can switch your abilities around. Each time you unlock a new Ability, it'll always be with you, easily switched around by bringing up and cycling through the Quick Select Wheels.
But the Cryatists at Ghilcrest won't be useless with this adjustment! Esmy needs them to level up her Abilities, exchange Cryam for Ghil (the game's currency), and give Esmy professional advice when it comes to everything Cryamore. And Braxton will still be around to give Esmy some... "aftermarket" upgrades.
To further add to the depth of combat, Weapons got a bit of an upgrade... It used to be that weapons just had a single form of attack, i.e., the Sword will always do the same wide slash, the Axe will always do the same wind-up 180º swing. Unanimously, everyone found this to be very boring and one-note. So, we're now implementing a secondary AND tertiary function with each weapon. Previously, our worry with balancing was that we didn't want the weapons to overshadow the abilities as Cryamore's combat should have them at the forefront but then we asked ourselves, "why not both?"
The new weapon functions go hand in hand with Abilities but never go as far as to replace them. You won't be running into any instances where you see a dried up log blocking your path and be able to cut it down with the axe, (we gotta apply some game logic here). So you're still gonna want to have those abilities ready, which at least will be easier now that they'll always be ready for equipping.
So, how do these weapon functions work? A basic attack can be performed by pressing the main attack button, so if you're using that Axe? It's the same ol' wide swing attack. Pressing a secondary Attack button, you'll do an overhead smash that can break enemy defenses and deal more damage, AND if you hold the B button after that, you'll rev up the axe blade and perform a few more hits to the enemy like a buzzsaw. However, the secondary attack will have a lot more windup and cooldown, and can leave Esmy vulnerable with it, so it's not suggested to mash or spam it.
But wait, there's more! If you press and hold the A button, you'll be able to charge up and perform another special function. With the Axe, it'll be a 360º swing that'll clear out any enemies around you. (And anyone concerned about the reloading for the pistols, this charge function will now act as the manual reload and gone is the auto-reloading.)
With that said, like we mentioned in the outset, the Weapon Meter we wanted to have so badly is gone and replaced with the EP Meter. It just didn't feel right waiting for 100% strength to attack again, and felt a similar mechanic was better served for the Abilities. Our primary, initial concern was that we wanted to discourage mashing, so in place of that, each weapon attack does have considerable weight to it, as you can't cancel out majority of the attacks, and some have varying windup/cooldown factors. And note that weapon attacks won't always work against certain kinds of enemies.
There's one final bit of icing on this cake. You'll be able to bring ALL unlocked Weapons with you and switch them out as you do with Abilities. New weapons will be available for purchase at the Blacksmith as you progress through the game.
Enemies now have a variety of AI behaviors we can give them. In the past several months, we made use of the NodeCanvas and FlowCanvas asset tools to give us extremely robust control over the AI functions we've created, and it has played an integral role in the game's development; we highly suggest it! We use a combination of Behavior Trees, Finite State Machines, and Visual Scripting to make behaviors and changes very fast to any enemy (or anything else in the game, for that matter). For example, this is the entire FSM graph for the behavior of the Mobster, a large, annoying crab enemy you'll come across in the game:
There hasn't been much incentive to defeat monsters you run across which is another important thing in combat. We implemented the classic "locking rooms until the monsters are cleared" mechanic (and don't worry, it makes sense within the lore of the game), and added more intimidating monsters into our bestiary as our mobs were, for the most part, pint-sized and small:
Now that we have our AI in place, we're back to putting final animations for enemies and implementing them in the game. This is still a very painstaking process, as we hand-draw each animation and then pixel over them frame-by-frame.
We'll also be adding some "random encounters" into the mix where there are spots in certain maps that groups of enemies may ambush you from. Some of these enemies can be quite troublesome as they may have spells that can trap you in a confined zone while ranged enemies pick at you, or create rock walls that block your path until you break them. Over time, monsters will get smarter, deadlier, and their attacks will work in tandem with others.
WORLD, SYSTEM, AND ENVIRONMENTS
We don't wanna show everything we've been cooking up for obvious reasons, but believe us when we say that these areas are turning out fantastic. We're currently adding more detailed assets, to really make each area shine.
We've gotten the groundwork for the Overworld and the "dungeons" set up! A lot of maps still need tweaking for better flow and a few more unique assets will be needed for polish, but there's now a pretty clear view and feel of how big the world of Cryamore will be along with its dungeons. And it's... big.
There are a bunch of environmental obstacles in the game now, which makes certain combat scenarios a bit tougher to manage, like frozen ponds in Rime Rapids, for example.
There's a lot of tweaking needed as we make sure the maps feel right; this includes making sure there's something worthwhile in each area, monster placement is right and adjusting environments to have good screen real estate with the camera.
About that camera, it functions differently now, where it lags slightly behind Esmy to give a more dynamic feel to the camerawork. Along with that, we've set up custom zoom triggers in areas to have the camera come in close or zoom out far for certain key spots in a map.
We also have NPC Following set up now for certain events. Don't worry, there won't be any annoying escort and protect missions in Cryamore. This is more for story-related purposes and the logic is also used for certain abilities and enemies.
The Menu has received a major, final overhaul. It now displays a cleaner, more legible font. The Status panel has been updated with Esmy's current status, equipped Abilities, Esmy's Level Stats, the current Weapon, and how Enervated she is. You've seen a glimpse of the Ability Menu in the outset of this update, as that's where Esmy will be able to Mix and Equip abilities.
Many other parts of the GUI will be getting a final facelift too as some information displayed is now defunct and could be depicted better.
The Ability Quick Select Wheel has a new look and feel to it. You use the analog stick/mouse to select the ability, and left/right to shift across Ability categories. Pressing up and down will take you to the new Weapon and Item Quick Select menus, allowing you to use Items and switch Weapons on the fly, as aforementioned.
Dialog conversations appear differently now, showing two characters at the same time. This makes the conversations appear more interactive and less disconcerting following the expressions, in contrast with how we originally had them.
The outfits from last year's Bliss Contest (and a couple of extra designs) are all pixel'd and in the game! Now Bliss won't have to worry about wearing the same outfit every day!
This is a taste of the Day/Night visuals that players will experience. We've also implemented ambient environmental sound effects and cues on when certain times of day are about to change.
The Cryamore OST is nearly complete! There are just a small handful of songs left to write. There are over 40 tracks, and we've only shared roughly a quarter of that. Aivi (and Surasshu) has been hard at work, and she's currently producing final mixes for it. We're really excited for when it's complete and for all of you to hear the entire soundtrack in-game, as everyone in the dev team can't stop headbangin' to the tunes in there. To get a taste, here are a few songs that we've previously previewed, in their final form. They sound quite different than before:
Additional final credits in the preview soundtrack selection:
- Chris Woo (violin, viola)
- Kristin Naigus (oboe, flute)
- Michael Evans - (cello)
- Marc Papeghin - (french horn, trumpet)
There's so much more we want to share but the update is large enough as is, and we also don't want to spoil too much publicly. We would really like to share more inside development stuff on our devblog, but we can't promise it as we're on a very tight schedule. However, trust that we're working and putting 150% in this game!
See ya' next time!