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Whaddaya get when you blend obsolete Steampunk with The Legend of Zelda, Secret of Mana, & Megaman?
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NostalgiCO

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Cryamonday #10: More Development Tools

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Happy Cryamonday folks! We have another look under the hood today and it'll feature something that Brandon's been working on which we've mentioned a few updates back. We'll hand it over to him to explain his work.

Hey there Cryafolks! Brandon here with another riveting insight into the code department's crazy antics.

So one of the elephants in the room that we've been working with for a while now is the AI of our various critters on Noka Island.

Initially, we went with a component-based design (which is kind of standard for Unity projects) where we designed all the different AI types as separate components, and then decorated our mobs with the appropriate combinations of AI behaviours that fit the particular mob types. The downside, as we discovered, was that we didn't build any kind of priority system into the different modules, so we weren't in direct control of which components tried to control the critters first. For example: on one critter, if we gave it the "Aggro" component (which tells our mobs to attack Esmy if she gets into a tune-able range), and then the "Homesick" component (which says "if you get too far away from where we first spawned you, give up and go home") you wouldn't be sure which would win if the conditions for chasing Esmy and the conditions for "giving up" on the chase were both true at the same time.

This has resulted in some very twitchy and misbehaving enemies.

Now, as an aside, we've also been working heavily on a better scripting system for our collections of cutscenes, dialogues with NPCs, and other "we took control away from the player to do some storytelling" situations. These all live under the Cutscene object we've written. The initial editing tools we built for Cutscenes were very basic and tedious to work with on any kind of lengthy cutscene.

With the AI rework needed, and the cutscene scripting tools found lacking through extended use, we've been working on a new visual scripting system that could be used for cutscene editing AND AI definition design. Hence, the new Visual Scripter tool:

This is a shot of the scripter being used to create a dialogue between Esmy and Bliss, but the same underlying tools are also being leveraged to define new Finite-State-Machine AI controllers for our creatures. AND our NPCs. AND our boss fights. And probably a plant, a few streetlights, a door or two...

This is designed to let all the folks on staff who might be involved with building out cutscenes and creatures (and streetlights) do their design work without requiring any (err, much) new code to be written or tweaked. As it should also have a "while game is playing" mode that highlights current states/scenes, it'll be indispensable for debugging as we move forward, too. The win behind switching to deterministic FSM's is that we'll have total control over how the AI switches between states and what criteria it uses to determine which state to switch towards.

(Also, for those savvy enough to be aware, yes there are a few current visual scripter Unity Asset Store packages, but we weighed the cost of learning an existing system and wrapping it around our current Cutscene objects vs writing a specific tool to just script the things we needed the way we needed it, and went with the latter. Great learning experience overall, and it only required writing systems specifically targeted to Cryamore, so no bloat).

SO, that's what's been cooking in the code ovens down here. If you're still awake, I'll hand things back to Alan. Thanks for staying tuned, all, and we guarantee more exciting stuff to come!

Thanks for the look at the new cutscene manager/AI tool, Brandon! Over on my end, I'm revealing two more new sprite bases that've been completed.

You may have already seen the concept art of Melita Swanson a few updates ago along with the Council Chief of Ghilcrest, Geophilius Silvershark.

Melita is a pretty short woman which is why Esmy is shown to give a better idea of her height. Chief Silvershark may look small too but he's but a bit taller than Esmy. I guess it's Esmy's hair that really makes her seem quite taller.

Melita had to go through quite a number of tweaks to come close to her concept art but thanks to Juby, JC and Rob's suggestions, we've managed to finalize her sprite base.

You'll find both Melita and Chief Silvershark within the Council Building, north of Ghilcrest. We've still got a number of other NPC's to show (both concept art and sprites) so you'll be sure to find the town very lively.

That wraps up tonight's Cryamonday update. We'll see you again next week with more news!

- NostalgiCO crew

Cryamonday #9: The Population Grows Even More!

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Happy Cryamonday again, folks!

As stated last week, we're introducing a few more NPCs you'll encounter in the game and this time, they won't be friendlies!

Some of you may be familiar with Fité zo Rala, the exiled Piraxan. Today we'll be introducing the rest of his crew along with a look into their designs by one of our other concept artists, John Crayton aka JC.

Fité, having disagreed with his tribe's stance towards cryamore was exiled and thus reached out to humans instead as they have slowly been adopting them into their daily lives but he was shunned away from their growing settlement as well. Having nowhere to turn to, Fité instead chose to start a tribe of his own, one that isn't afraid to use cryamore for the powers they bestow. Along with Fité and his slowly growing number of rogue Piraxans, he has his right hand man and lightning wielder, Riot and his two lieutenants, the wind user, Melé (which you may have seen a few updates back) and the brute, Sabo who utilizes water cryamore.

While Rob designed Fité, it was up to JC to design the other three main members of his crew. So without further ado, here's JC with a look into his design process and some concept and promotional art done by him!

Yo! What's up Cryatists! I'm JC, One of the lead concept artists for the game, and I'm here to drop a few bits of info about some of the characters I designed for you to meet up with during the course of the game!

I'm an artist that enjoys creating dynamic looks and I'm never afraid to play with color.

I was excited for this particular task because I was asked to design the rest of Fite's crew. Right away I already had ideas for how each member of the team would look. My goal was to keep a few unified themes running with each design, while also giving them their own quirk and unique flair. Design goes toward helping define character traits and personality details so I wanted to give us a lot to work with. Let's start off with Riot!

Riot, introduced in a previous update, was the first member of the crew I designed. My initial concept went off the name "Riot". That combined with his elemental affinities, I gave him some colors and design elements that remind me of things that are "wild". Because I also see him as one of the speedier members of the team, I thought of something like a sporty look. I also wanted him to be one of the characters to have more a narrow eye shape. To finish him off, I gave him some gnarly hair and a tiger like body pattern. I'm quite pleased with the way he came out. He looks as though he fits his name and the rest of the cryamore team was excited to see him done!

 Next we have the mantis-like Ninja of the group, Mele.

(This one is one of my favorites :'D ) With her design, I really took hints from her elemental affinity and I went in. I had a clear vision with Melé, and I got her main design done in one pass. My ideas for her were elements of a ninja, mixed in with a praying mantis, and to finish her off, I included ideas about nature. More specifically, leaves and grass came to mind when I made her. Her hair reminds me of the leaves with seeds that fall off and spin like propellers (I also thought of blades of grass) With her high waist belt pieces, I had thoughts of "tall grass". LOL it's a little bit of a stretch but generally you see the praying mantis chillin' on a tall blade of grass or plant stems. I knew I wanted her to have a green color scheme so her design would "pop" just like the rest. Working with green was difficult but I think in the end, I came up with something solid. With her weapons, I thought about the cutting arms of the Mantis, and something that would reap grain/grass. Twin scythes are the perfect thing for a warrior that quickly cuts through the wind.

Also as a bonus bit, even though her mask may not come into play, I designed her as a character that would be adept with poisons, and as such she has quite a few poison immunities, and for the ones she's not immune against her mask would completely block and neutralize them.

Lastly we have "Brute", the quiet-calm giant of the crew! (cause c'mon, ever crew has to have a giant)

Brute's design came about by thinking of a tall frozen warrior mixed in with a martial artist LOL. We tend to have group brainstorming sessions, and when the idea of weapons came up, we could not miss this chance to add in the martial artist theme. One part I particularly like is his shoulder pads. With added cryamore tech his shoulders are able to produce solid Ice to both shield him and provide additional offensive options. He has a very focused stare and immense strength.

When it came to "Brute", I actually had multiple designs, but we decided that the taller "wall-o-muscle" was the right way to go. From there we came together as a group to decide on colors. I'm pleased with them as they feel "cold", but they still have a unique flair of their own.

All in all, I really enjoyed designing Fite's homies, and I had a great time working on them. Be on the look out for more of my design work within the game! Thanks for listening to my rambling.

I hope my work really adds something to the game, and creates characters that are visually interesting to look at and interact with!

I'll now turn it back over to the narrator you know and love. Till next time Cryatists.

Thanks for the look into your design process, JC! Now here's Alan's pixel art sprite bases for Fité and his crew. There's also alternate versions of some of them (Fité without his coat, and also with his sword and Melé with her cloak and also with her twin-sickles) but for now we're only revealing these.

We hope you enjoyed another visually-packed Cryamonday update and another special feature involving one of our crew members. We'll see you again next Monday with another update! Also as a bonus, have a promo image of Melé by JC.

 - NostalgiCO crew

Cryamonday #8: The Population Grows

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Happy Cryamonday, Cryatists! We're going to be introducing some more of the NPCs you'll encounter through the game today with introductions and design details provided by one of our concept artists, Judy!

Quite some time back, one of our concept artists, Judy (a.k.a. Joodlez, Juby or Jubz) went and made a number of NPC designs for the town of Ghilcrest and these included a handful of children for one of the families in town. You may have seen a preview of them a few updates ago.

Here's Judy's with the character introductions and design process details...

Hello!! I'm Juby, one of the concept artists for Cryamore. I help my team visually flesh out existing characters and create some of the other characters from scratch. I get to introduce some of my children to you all (does that sound too literal?)!

I don't know if people noticed, but our creative director, Rob has a penchant for naming everyone after food, even when he doesn't mean to. So I ran with that and decided I wanted some sushi. So the first thing I did was pick different types of sushi, which became my visual prompt to design these characters. For example, Maki is supposed to look like those dainty little maki rolls. Simple, streamlined, and clean.

Tobiko is based on fish eggs, which come in a variety of colours, even green. I focused on the red and yellow kind, and used a lot of circular motifs as a part of his design.

and can you guess which visual cues I used on the rest of the little tykes? 

I think the only direction I was given was the number of kids in this family, which gave me a lot of freedom to play with their personalities as well. I thought about how they would play off each other as a group of troublemakers as I designed them.

We want to make the characters of Cryamore just as diverse, unique, and colourful as the main cast, and I'm really happy to be a part of that. I also take up the VERY IMPORTANT TASK of tweaking some completed character assets, such as the VERY NOTICEABLE DETAIL of Esmy's freckles.

I know, where would our team be without me.

Thanks for the character introductions and design talk, Judy! Also the freckles thing is actually a true story. None of us realized that the portrait above (which is used for her in-game status HUD portrait) initially had Esmy's freckles be the same color as her lineart until Judy pointed it out a few weeks ago, it's a minor detail but it HAD to be fixed so now Esmy actually has proper freckles and not a bunch of blackheads scattered all over her nose and cheeks.

With that said, here's our pixel artist Alan with the sprites of Judy's designs.

Hey again, fellow Cryatists! It was fun working on translating Jubz's character designs into pixel form as a lot of the sprites I've done so far are either Esmy's height like Bliss and her Blisettes, Bagel and Kaiser or the monsters you've seen so far. The only other kids we've had so far are either Braxton, Nara or another Piraxan child that may have been shown before.

Juby's designs are always so adorbs and colorful and these kids also offer a nicer variety of height to all the other NPCs so far (I even had to create a height chart just to see how tall or short everyone was compared to each other).

The kids had to go through a few tweaks though. I initially had their heads a few pixels too small, so after suggestions by Jubz to increase their head size (by about 2-3 pixels) as kids tend to have bigger heads in proportion to their bodies. some suggestions at tweaking facial features here and there (thanks to Rob, JC and Jubz) to look cuter and more closer to their concept art and adjusting their heights, especially Uni's to be more in line with their age and height against Braxton and Esmy, we now have the five Nauticus kids you see above.

You'll all see them around Ghilcrest, provided it isn't class hours as they'll also be attending the classes during the weekdays, held by Melita Swanson within the Capital Building. Kids gotta have their education!

Just so you all know, Uni (the one with the yellow cap) is about as tall as Braxton without his hat.

We hope you liked today's more visually packed update and the characters introduced. Stay tuned for next week as there'll be even more NPCs and sprites to be revealed.

Cryamonday #7: A Quick Update

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Perhaps this update should be called Cryatuesday but either way, Happy Cryamonday, Cryatists! Most of development from the past week has involved under the hood progress.

UNDER THE HOOD: CODING

One half of our coding duo, Mike, shifting our UI system from NGUI to the native Unity GUI. We're also looking into implementing a function so you can hide the UI with a hotkey or button press which would be helpful for certain recordings or screenshots we'll make and for you, the player, as well.

The other half of our coding duo, Brandon, has been working on piecing together a visual scripter to streamline our creation of cutscenes and events and also to work it in with the enemy AI system. This way other members of the team not familiar with Unityscript/C# can still work on things within the Unity which will come in handy when we're at the point that we don't really have to make that many assets anymore down the road.

UNDER THE HOOD: DESIGN & PLANNING

Rob and Alan have been continuously refining the progression of the game so puzzles remain challenging but not confusing to the point of frustration and making sure there isn't too much backtracking involved throughout.

The way we've been handling this is by writing our very own walkthrough for the game. Our previous progression walkthrough was too confusing even for us since we included a number of catalsyts that were out of the way of what a "speedrun" would involve and a lot of catalyst locations and acquisition methods were very messy.

With our recent reduction of the amount of catalysts in the game, reworking abilities and the catalysts required to get said abilities, a number of puzzles we previously had wouldn't work especially with the abilities we've designated as mandatory for completion of the game (context abilities).

If you're wondering what catalysts are, you may have missed reading about it in previous updates. Catalysts are finer forms of cryamore that form within cryamore deposits. While regular cryamore can be used as an elemental energy resource via the crystals themselves or broken down into essence to achieve more efficient energy consumption, the catalysts are like a condensed form of the crystals and hold more elemental energy. What this means is that you can use a combination of these catalysts to discover the 72 abilities within the game by collecting said catalysts, bringing them to the Cryatisium in Ghilcrest and finding the right combination (which range from one to three different catalysts) for an ability.

These abilities you get allow you to either become more proficient in battle or open up more paths for you to explore.

Along with the catalysts, we've also been finalizing the locations of other collectibles including things required for certain quests given out by NPCs, things required to upgrade certain variables for Esmy and we've also been looking into finding the right amount of bosses to have within the game.

WRAP UP

We're also wrapping up the surveys to be sent out for people that backed the CREEPER'S PLEDGE so get your monster designs ready, folks! Along with that, we're also working up the details for the contest we mentioned last week, stay tuned for that!

Some new visuals should be available for all your eyes to consume next Cryamonday as we're nearing completion with the revision of planning and design and can resume asset creation with the rest of the art team once more.

Till next time, everybody!

- NostalgiCO crew.

Cryamonday #6: Gameplay Refinements! And Stuff!

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Happy Cryamonday, Cryatists! Let's talk about a lil' gameplay iteration tonight. It's a bit text'y:

Deseret, Sorbet, and Kaiser have been recently imported into the current sprite style!
Deseret, Sorbet, and Kaiser have been recently imported into the current sprite style!

We're still gunning it! But last week, we decided to take a breather from game building to refine a bit of the game mechanics. Things were set in stone for about a year now, and wanted to go back and take some fresh eyes on the game design. We don't want to be too long-winded on this update, so we'll just summarize a few key factors:

  • QUESTS AND PROGRESSION We initially had a lot of excess features in the game that contributed to, essentially, filler content in the end. We didn't want to pad the game with mundane quests and side-quests, so we cleaned it up and came up with more diverse and creative scenarios. We aim for the game to be moderately lengthy, but not at the cost of boring content! 
  • ABILITIES As stated last week, we finished up wrapping up the ability changes. We ended up dropping our 81 abilities to 72, as the last set of abilities were redundant copies of another set that we could've primarily combined into one. This may seem like a drawback, but it's a plus as the ability selection is now even more solid than before, and there will definitely be a consistent use for each and every one of them for the duration of the game. We closed the threshold of allowing an ability to collect dust as much as possible. We now also have a general pattern for learning abilities with our ability tech creation system (something we're going to talk about further in detail in the coming weeks), and that also reduced the count of Cryamore Catalysts that you need to acquire in order to learn abilities from 180 to approximately 120 of them. Again, sounds like a drawback in text, but less is definitely more here.
  • STORY We are about to delve into writing core dialogue and events! We are taking time out each week to build the game's story and dialogue. Our aim is to craft the narrative into a somewhat procedural one, where beyond the main plot progression, you learn more about the game's deeper narrative through the events and non-playable characters. We want you to know the primary story once you play through it, but we also want to reward those who have attention to detail interesting tidbits regarding character backgrounds, the lore, and other fun segments.

We want to expound on these bits some more in the coming weeks to come, so be on the lookout on that.

RELEASE DATE So we are closing in on a new estimated release date, and once that is confirmed, we will announce it! 

UPCOMING CONTESTS We are coming up with a cool couple of contests that we think will be pretty fun! More on that later, too!

NEW GAMEPLAY We're dishing out some of these new locales and dungeons in the build, so we will be showcasing more gameplay bits of them as we go along.

That's about it for today! Until next week!

~NostalgiCO Crew