Even with SKALD launching on Kickstarter June 3rd, the game is far from finished. However, it has always been important to me that I have a playable ALPHA build to serve as a demo by the time the Kickstarter finishes.
This is both to serve as a proof-of-concept and also to dip my toes into getting tester feedback.
Even though crunching to finish the demo is a lot of work it’s still a ton of fun. One of the main reasons is my amazing group of freelancers!
These guys have truly gone above and beyond for the SKALD project and it’s time to give them a shout-out!
MementoMoree has been creating art since his late teenage years. Proficient in most types of art, from pencil & paper to highly detailed 4k textures, he’s found solace and pleasure in the retro pixel art!
Marco Pedrana is a digital and traditional artist (illustration, storyboards, comic art, paintings, installations, pixel art), focusing on narrative art, regardless the media or the scope. He works in advertising and game design (Aeon of Sands: story, texts, graphics, audio, VCS testing). He loves D&D, his cat Agony, Spring, and the sounds coming from the meadow outside his window.
Edwin Montgomery is a composer and sound designer for games, films and performance. A long-time RPG obsessive, he wrote the soundtrack for inXile’s remastered release of “Wasteland” and is currently working on the 30th Anniversary version. He has created music and sounds for a variety of fantasy game worlds, including Warhammer 40,000, Game of Thrones and Neverwinter. Edwin did the sound design for the SKALD demo.
Please take the time to follow these guys on Twitter and be sure to check out their other projects and portfolios! Also be sure to support SKALD on Kickstarter so I can keep paying them to do awesome work!
The Kickstarter goes live on June 3rd and crunch is upon me! One of the coolest aspects of running a Kickstarter campaign is designing awesome rewards for passionate fans!
SKALD: Against the Black Priory will feature a range of rewards from the game itself, the sound-track, a printed hand-drawn map, manuals and perhaps even a collectible big-box edition!
The Anatomy of Rewards
My strategy for the Kickstarter is simple: Run a low risk – low rewards campaign with a low target number and an emphasis on digital rewards. There’s a couple of good reasons for this:
First of all, my primary motivation for running a Kickstarter is to put SKALD: Against the Black Priory in your hands as soon as possible whilst making it the best game it can be. For a one-man team, even whilst working with freelancers, this means prioritizing coding, writing and designing the game itself.
Second, I’m based in Norway. Most of my backers are not. Neither are most of the production facilities for physical rewards. Shipping costs and logistics add up.
One of the (many) advantages of Kickstarting a video-game is that the final product tends to be digital! This allows for easy distribution which in turn cuts down on logistics, cost and risk! I like this.
Shown above are three of the lower reward tiers (1 Dollar = 8.7 NOK). Up to 300 NOK (approx. $35) the rewards are all digital and include the game itself, a demo (due in July 2019), access to the BETA version, sound track and digital copies of the manual, campaign guide and map.
The manual and campaign guide will outline the SKALD system as well as describing Idra and it’s surroundings and the most prominent characters, items and monsters. All in a classic old-school RPG style!
Whilst serving as a hint book for SKALD: Against the Black Priory, the campaign guide will also contain enough information to allow you to drop the setting into a tabletop RPG and create your own adventures in the SKALD universe!
As for the map, it will be hand-drawn and colored and available either as a digital file, a paper print or an exclusive cloth map depending on the reward tier.
There’s no doubt about it: Backers LOVE feelies! The printed manuals, cloth maps and trinkets that came in gorgeous boxes are a big part of the experience for a lot of players!
At higher reward tiers (Approx. $55 and up) the Kickstarter will feature printed versions of the manual, campaign guide and map (paper and cloth prints). If all goes according to plan, I’ll even throw in an exclusive collectible “big-box” edition with extra feelies for hard-core backers.
That’s it for now (it’s back to work for me). Be sure to subscribe to this blog and follow on Twitter to stay posted!
With the Kickstarter in June fast approaching it’s time for another update! As always I wish I had more time to spend on this devlog. Time however, is currently my most precious asset on this project. What time I have is still being put into actual development and I think that’s a good idea.
So far everything is on track for Kickstarter in June. There is still a lot of work to be done to get the campaign ready but work is progressing at a steady pace.
During Easter-crunch I spent a lot of time repaying technical debt as I plugged memory leaks and optimized the draw pipeline. The payoff is that the game now consistently runs at 60 FPS+ and has a much smaller memory footprint with no leakage. Oh, and I also added animation for characters and the environment!
Another big reason I keep making steady progress is that I’ve had the opportunity to work with some more amazing freelance artists for music and some of the graphics. The result is some pretty cool assets I can’t wait to feature in the game:
It’s incredibly fun and rewarding to work with people that go the extra mile to help realize your vision.
Finally I really want to shout out the “Nox Archaist” project by 6502 Workshop. This little gem of an indie-game is currently on Kickstarter where it has had amazing success so far! As a modern 8-bit game for the Apple 2, this game is a love-letter to all the games that inspired SKALD!
The project looks really solid with a large chunk of the game being complete already. More importantly, Mark and the other members of 6502 Workshop seem like great people who deserves all the support the retro-gaming family has to offer.
I support and endorse “Nox Archaist” 100% and so should you!
Beware, beware the horrid sleep, That bring you dreams of ebb and flow, The churning seas and dreadful deep, And waves that lay the mountains low.
But fear the mother most of all! Awake before you hear her bell! A thousand young will hear her call, And that was how the giants fell.
(Children’s rhyme from Idra)
Easter is fast approaching. For me this means 10 days of crunching to make “SKALD: Against the Black Priory” ready for Kickstarter! First and foremost this time will be spent preparing a short, playable “proof-of-concept” demo.
In general, I would say spending time making a demo is not a good use of resources. However, at the time there appears to be a slight crisis of confidence towards Kickstarting projects and a demo might go some way towards showing backers that SKALD is legit.
SKALD is a passion project and I love working on it. For me, publishing a less that awesome product is out of the question. At the same time, NOT publishing is also not an option! This means that I need to be highly disciplined in avoiding feature- and scope creep. Both in the game itself and in the Kickstarter campaign.
My primary goal is to have the Kickstarter make me break even with expenses and allow me to commission a handful of freelancers for a couple of tasks (music comes to mind).
A big upside with developing an RPG is that it’s pretty easy to scale the project up if I get more funding than expected: More professional art, more music, larger dungeons, more dialog and so forth.
For rewards I’m tending towards caution. I would love to use feelies for rewards: Maps, booklets, dice – you name it! However this would scale the complexity, and thus the risk, exponentially. SKALD is pretty much a one-man project and any task that takes me away from actually writing code delays the release of the game.
Most likely, the rewards will include access to the demo, the finished game and beta access, as well as in-game rewards (a thank you note, your portrait in the game etc). I’m currently setting up a discord server for backers.
SKALD will release for windows on Steam first. Other platforms will follow in short order.
SKALD lives and dies by the love and support of it’s fans! If you want to help out the two most important things you can do are to subscribe to this blog and follow SKALD on twitter! Don’t be afraid to reach out for questions or comments – I love talking about my project 🙂
You awaken to the sound of seagulls. Their crying reminds you of your childhood. Have you gone to your ancestors?
The last thing you remember is chaos and the sea swallowing your vessel. Freezing water and then darkness. How could you possibly have survived?
Legs shaking, you stand up and survey the shores upon which you have landed. There is no mistaking it: Idra. By some miracle, the Emperor has delivered you to this cold, forsaken island. Now, you must find the strength to do his work!
A sickness has taken hold here: Carroleth. Carroleth the heretic! Master of the Black Priory. That foul order of enlightened men, which has strayed so far from orthodoxy. It is to them that you must deliver the Emperors justice – by steel and by fire!
You shudder in the cold breeze.
It feels as though the very land sets itself against you. You will find few allies on Idra and even less hope. Pray your sanity holds…
Hi everbody! It’s time for another update on the SKALD engine and the upcoming title: “Against the Black Priory” (AtBP)!
AtBP sees you in the role of an imperial agent dispatched to the island of Idra to uproot a mystical religious order, turned apocalyptic cult. The expedition is off to a disastrous start however, and surviving Idra will take all your wits and skill.
For AtBP I have chosen to go with a strong
retro look and feel. The game draws heavily on inspiration from classic “Golden
Age” RPGs like the early Ultima games, the Gold Box Series and the Magic Candle
series. In other words: Games we love!
The game will (hopefully) feature a good mix of each of the four basic RPG pillars:
Explore the enviroments and plot – overland, underground and on the high seas!
Interact via dialogue and “choose-your-own-adventure” style sequences
Fight using a menu-based, fast-paced, tactical combat system.
Develop your party of up to 6 characters.
Visually, I have chosen to work with 16 colors on AtBP. To get the proper retro-feel, I went with the classic C64 color palette:
The basic tile size is 16 x 16 and, for the desktop version, the game runs at 640 x 480 resolution. Note that the SKALD engine is built in Unity3D and is flexible enough to handle any number of graphical settings. However, working within some self-imposed constraints has really helped focus the design of AtBP.
Thematically, the SKALD universe is dark, grounded and unforgiving and I really want AtBP to dip its toes into the cold and dark waters of eldritch horror. I try to stay clear of binary good/bad characters and enjoy writing difficult choices that have real (often painful) consequences.
The Current State
At the time of writing, the SKALD game-engine (and thus AtBP) is 90% feature-complete. There are a couple of important systems that still need implementing as well as a bunch a smaller “nice-to-have” systems I would like to have down the line (but that can wait for now).
The big task ahead however, is adding content. This means designing, writing and drawing stuff. The flexibility of the SKALD engine and its tools makes adding new content a breeze. However, actually creating stuff will take time nonetheless. Fortunately, this is also a lot of fun and it will allow me to start engaging more and more with the community as the focus shifts more from the technical development to actually crafting a roleplaying experience.
The SKALD engine can publish to any platform that Unity supports. AtBP will release first on Steam. Mobile will follow.
The Road Ahead
It’s no secret that SKALD and AtBP is a one-man project that, whilst immensely enjoyable, is taking up a lot of my spare time. Now there are also expenses on the horizon in the form of software licenses, new hardware and, potentially, freelance content-creators (for some of the art and music). This means that I need to find funding somewhere.
After a lot of consideration, it’s starting to look like Kickstarter might be a good way to getting some funding whilst building a stronger community around the game. If everything goes according to plan, May 2019 might be a good time for a Kickstarter campaing (but more on that down the line).
For now, if you want to support SKALD: “Against the Black Priory” the two most important things you can do are to subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on twitter! Don’t be afraid to reach out for questions or comments!
It’s been some time since my last update, but have no fear: The SKALD project is doing great! I’ve just had to prioritized using what spare time I have writing code and doing game-design.
Old School Roots
I grew up knowing and loving games like the Ultima, Bard’s Tale, Gold-Box and Magic Candle series. The more I worked on the SKALD engine, the more I realized that I wanted to use it to make an old school retro RPG.
The SKALD engine now features:
Tactical menu-based combat
A full party of characters
Deep class-based character creation and progression
Tons of items to find, buy and sell
A solid branching dialog system
In other words, SKALD is now very well suited for making old school RPGs. This leads me to my announcement:
SKALD: Against the Black Priory
“Against the Black Priory” is the first game under development using the SKALD engine. It features 8-bit graphics and the glorious 16 color Commodore 64 palette.
Keep posted for more info on “Against the Black Priory”.
Support SKALD today!
If you love old school RPGs SKALD needs your support now!
“Your empire is now like a tyranny: It may have been wrong to take it; it is certainly dangerous to let it go“
The last couple of weeks I have been doing some world building for the fantasy setting I intend to use for a series of gamebooks (published with the SKALD game engine). Starting with the fundamentals, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about the feel and flavor of the setting. I recently wrote a post concerning magic and world building and I intend to use the outline laid down in that post as a jumping-off point.
To begin with, I want to work with a human-centric, low-magic setting of slightly dark fantasy. That’s not to say I don’t want fantasy elements – I would just prefer to have the fantastic remain fantastic and rare.
Personally, I find that starting by describing the big picture first, provides scaffolding for the rest of the campaign. For this world building project, I’ll start by establishing a center of political power in my world: A large, human empire ruled by wizards.
I’m a huge history buff and, in particular, I am fascinated by Roman history. As historical drama goes, there are few things more dramatic than the rise and fall of empires. I, for one, am partial to the falling. No wonder then, that I use the late Roman empire for inspiration. Furthermore I adore Frank Herbert’s “Dune” so I’ll probably add a dash of that as well.
As a starting point for my setting I envisione: “The Gallian Empire”.
A Waning Giant
Founded millennia ago by the mythical first emperor “Gallian the Great”, the empire subjugated and conquered all who stood before it and, at the peak of its power, it spanned continents. Ruling from the imperial capital of Vaul, Gallian founded the lineage of wizards that rule the empire to this day.
After ruling for just short of 100 years, emperor Gallian simply disappeared. After him, a short line of wizard-emperors followed. Some were good – others cruel, and all had unnaturally long reigns. The Gallian Empire is now under the reign of its seventh and most long-lived emperor to date: Arrion the Gray.
The Gallian magocracy has grown increasingly obsessed with discovering the secrets of immortality and as a result Arrion the Gray has now ruled for nearly 500 years. Longevity, as all magic, comes at a price however: the Emperor and his ruling council of elder wizards (resentfully called “the husk lords”) has become mere shadows of men – caring less and less for the lives of ordinary people.
As a result, for the last two decades the Gallian Empire has been waning. Along its vast borders, once servile neighbors now challenge Imperial dominance. Internally, alienation by the wizard-class and ruthless taxation by decadent nobles, has caused strife and civil unrest to grow among the imperial citizens.
An Empire of Magic
Magic had always existed in the world but it was primitive, volatile and difficult to control. Gallian’s genius was that he shaped magic into a tool of political and martial power and created social structures for the teaching, refinement and control of magic.
The source of Gallian the Great’s understanding of magic has long since become the stuff of legends. It is, however, believed that he gained his knowledge from the studies of arcane texts so ancient that their origin lies in pre-history.
Since its founding days, magic in the empire has been esoteric, mystical and wrapped in secrecy. The reality portrayed to the citizens of the empire has been that of wizards being god-like and omnipotent. The reality however, is far from it: The use of magic comes at a terrible cost to both mind and body and long-term use turn all but the most powerful wizards, into dried-out shells. As a result magic is a far more limited resource then anyone outside the magocracy realizes and much of the wizards political power come from maintaining an outwards appearance of being all-powerful, combined with the martial strength of their fiercely loyal knightly orders.
Furthermore, there has always been a sense that the wizards from the age of Gallian himself have yet to be matched in power. In fact, one of the most fiercely guarded secrets of the magocracy is that the wizard’s powers seem to be slowly, but certainly, fading. Those in the know have speculated as to the cause and suggestions range from astrological phenomenon to the effect of years of moral corruption and decadence.
As the wizard’s powers fade another, equally strange phenomenon is beginning to appear: All over the Empire, the number of children born with so-called “wild magic” has risen sharply. Wild magic typically manifests in the early teens as very limited and volatile, yet often powerful, magic abilities that the user may find hard to control. Fearing their power-monopoly is being shaken, the wizards zealously persecute wild magic user, thus adding to the feeling of fear, oppression and xenophobia that has begun to permeate the Empire.
By using the Gallian Empire as a starting point I, hopefully, have a lens with which to view the rest of the campaign setting. I’m quite pleased with having created an empire so shaped by magic while still not making magic seem mundane or common. I also like the dark undertones and moral ambiguity that comes with the overly authoritarian regime of the magocracy that, despite its failings, is still relied upon by millions of citizens.
We’ll see where it goes from here. Next up in world building is probably the role of demi-humans in the setting. But you’ll have to wait a couple of weeks for that. I’m currently working on a review for Tanya X. Short and Tarn Adams’ book: “Procedural Generation in Game Development” and hope to get that out first!
In the meantime, please follow Scape-IT and SKALD on Twitter for all things RPG and geeky!
Spanning the entire breadth of the fantasy genre, from literature to movies and games, magic is nearly ubiquitous. Magic adds mystery, convenient plot devices and the fantastic and, is such a staple of the genre that it can be hard to imagine fantasy without it. That being said, magic is also exactly that: Magic! Used carelessly, it becomes an endless “deus ex machina” and unravels any internal consistency in the setting at the speed of a “magic missile”.
So, how can you write magic into your fantasy world in an awesome way?
I have no idea, but I have been pondering this for some time and I would like to share the reflections I have made thus far for my own world building project.
First of all, when I say “magic” I’m not just thinking about magic in the narrow sense of “what a wizard does”. Instead, I’m considering it in a broader sense that contains most (or all) of the supernatural tropes found in fantasy.
So why even start with magic this early in the world building process? Magic (in the extended sense of “all supernatural phenomena”) is where so much of the “fantasy” in a fantasy setting comes from. In other words, magic should influence every part of the game world and is a great way to lay the foundation for your fantasy world building.
In general, I find that there are different challenges for different fantasy mediums. Specifically between literature and movies on one side and games on the other.
The first category is much more vulnerable to having its internal consistency broken by poorly written magic with no suspension of disbelief as a result. How many times have you heard “why didn’t just Gandalf use more magic” or “why couldn’t just the eagles take Frodo all the way”? Don’t get me wrong – I love Lord of the Rings, but they do kind of have a point.
For games, on the other hand, there seems to be a tendency for magic to be much more prevalent and nearly always accessible to the player(s). I assume this stems from the notion that it is very poor game design to have players see cool things without being able to DO cool things. In other words, the need for player agency very quickly outweighs the need to have the game world be internally consistent.
The result is often a world that is so saturated with magic, that the game world simply stops making sense. How does the Forgotten Realms still look like late medieval Europe despite magic being so prevalent?
So, what does it even mean to have the game world be internally consistent in regards to magic? Well for me, this means that the world-builder addresses the socio-economic-political implications of magic’s existence.
Consider something as simple as a “create water” spell. In an early agrarian civilization the consequences of this would be monumental. Consider how much effort has been spent (even to this day) to provide water for crops in the form of irrigation systems. The result would be dramatically more effective agriculture, which in turn, means that more citizens can perform specialized labor, become soldiers, scientists, artists etc. This would accelerate the development of the civilization by centuries. Just from a “create water” spell.
Currently I am doing world building for a fantasy setting in which I intend to set several gamebooks (using the SKALD game engine). I’m basing the setting partially on an old pen-and-paper RPG campaign I ran years ago and one important characteristic of this setting is that it’s a human-centric world where magic exists, but is rare, poorly understood and powerful but unprecdictable.
As a starting point I’m picking some of the following fundamental design tenets of magic:
Magic is rare but powerful and is recognized as such in in the world.
Magic is poorly understood, esoteric and shrouded in mystery.
Because of its perceived power, magic attracts either political power OR paranoid persecution.
Therefore, magic is a fundamental force in shaping history. Think the role of religion in medieval Europe. Now imagine in the Catholic Church had fireballs.
Magic comes at a personal cost to the user. It corrupts both the mind and the body.
The use of magic in the world is restricted and reserved only for the very rich and powerful.
So far, I can see myself building a setting around this somewhat restrictive view of magic. I especially feel the “magic corrupts” part adds some checks and balances. Also, I find the view of magic being restricted and unsanctioned magic being persecuted to be interesting. I feel I’m beginning to see the outline of a central political entity in my campaign setting: Perhaps somewhat like a magic-infused, late period Roman Empire.
This starting point might be somewhat on the path of magic being so esoteric that it’s effectively inaccessible to the player characters. Thus falling in the trap of letting the player see, but not do, cool things. However: Since I intend to use this setting primarily within the scope of gamebook-style RPGs, I suspect that the tolerance for inconsistent magic is lower than in most games (more akin to books and movies). This means that at this point I would prefer to err on the side of making magic a bit too scarce whilst maintaining an internally consistent game world.
I’ll start scribbling away and try to translate this into a workable setting of sorts. We’ll see how it goes, and I’ll be posting the result here shortly! Stay tuned and feel free to get in touch (with Scape-IT and SKALD on Twitter) if you have questions or comments!