Skald: Against the Black Priory

Skald: Against the Black Priory’ is an old-school roleplaying game that combines modern design and a fully realised narrative with authentic 8-bit looks and charms. 

Delve into a dark fantasy world, full of tragic heroes, violent deaths and Lovecraftian, cosmic horror. Explore an engaging, branching story mixed with rich exploration and crunchy, tactical, turn-based combat that will seem familiar yet innovative to RPG fans, old and new.

Coming Soon!

The game is currently in development and is set to release into “Early Access” in the summer of 2021.

Check out the GOG store-page today and feel free to wishlist it:

Features

Lovingly crafted retro-style art

  • Experience a richly illustrated world of authentic pixel art using thousands of hand-drawn tiles and images
  • A palette inspired by the legendary Commodore 64 computer.
  • Optional CRT filter for that authentic old-school experience.

Deep character creation

  • Build your main character and recruit a party from among a dozen diverse characters, each with their own skill-set, agenda and personality.
  • Choose from a dozen classes and backgrounds as well as heaps of feats, spells and equipment as you take your party from level 1 to 20. 

Crunchy tactical combat

  • Engage in challenging, fast-paced, turn- and grid-based combat.
  • Play it your way, with fully customizable difficulty and feedback settings. Or hit ‘auto-resolve’,  lean back, and (hopefully) watch your party cleave a bloody path through their foes.

A richly detailed, living world

  • Explore the vast expanse of Freymark and the Outer Isles and watch your actions spell doom or salvation for the region.
  • Focus on the rich, branching narrative… Or live the life of a mercenary and explore varied sidequests and encounters – the plot will wait for you.
  • Manage your party as you make camp, recruit hirelings, travel by land and  sea, and interact with powerful factions and their visions for the world.

Bigger than the box it came in

  • Skald was made possible by crowdfunding and already has a large, passionate and welcoming community that can’t wait to meet you.
  • By joining Skald’s Early Access you’ll have a direct line to the developer, get sneak peaks and give feedback on forthcoming plans and help shape the game into a modern classic.
  • We will publish the powerful tools used to create the game in an effort to support and encourage modding and content creation once the game has fully launched. 

Stay Posted

Subscribe to this devlog, follow us on Twitter and join our Discord!

Cheers,

AL

Project Update: Beta 1.3.1 is up!

Phew.

With a few intense days of receiving, processing and addressing feedback behind me, a new version of the Beta is up (already)!

What’s in the new Beta?

This one does two major things:

  • The game is now in a 16:9 ratio. This is is pretty distinct departure from the boxier look of before and the UI might need some tweaking. However, 16:9 is now such a prevalent AR for both monitors and media (such as Youtube videos) and I feel it is the right move in terms of making the game look as good as possible for the majority of costumers.
  • There is now a bunch of updates to speed up combat. You can now use SPACE to “repeat last command”, the orders execute faster, and there is a “combat log” you can view to see things like rolls and calculations (though that is till a bit primitive).

Of course, there are also a LOT of minor bug-fixes and other updates.

Where to get it?

The demo is still available to backers only (Not a backer? Go here!). This means that you have to use your download link to access it.

“Where is that link” you say?

Well, for Kickstarter backers, you received in a message from me. For Indiegogo backers you received it in an email with “SKALD RPG” as the subject line.

But easiest of all: You can just log onto your Itch.io account and you should be able to find it there if you’ve already played it before.

How to offer feedback?

Use the Discord, PM me on Twitter or send me an email at contact@skaldRPG.com!


Cheers,


AL

Project Update: Beta 1.3.0 is out!

Finally! The time is here to release the next version of the “Skald: Against the Black Priory” beta for backers! I’m not going to lie: It feels pretty fantastic to get it out there.

Get a piece of that pie if you haven’t already!

Wait what? Not a backer? You can be! Support SKALD via our Indiegogo Indemand page and help make my dream game whilst getting some awesome rewards!

What’s in the Demo?

The demo is still fairly short (but longer than before at 2 hours+) and still focuses on the starting area of the game. It does however, rework the different locals to take advantage of the new level-design paradigm of larger, more complex local areas.

It also adds a new hub area, a vendor, a recruitable NPC, a bunch of NPCs and minor quests, some new monsters and items, random encounters and so forth.

In other words, in addition to offering a basis for testing a lot of new systems, it also contains a complete RPG gameplay loop.

However, it’s important to keep in mind: The purpose of the demo at this point is still to provide me with play testing – not to offer a fully complete, play experience.

This means that it’s super important that you

  1. Realize that there are A LOT of rough edges
  2. Take the time to offer constructive feedback if you play it!

What to look for when testing

Please use the Discord to report feedback on the following:

  • Most of the dialogue in the game is still pending editing for grammars and proofreading so feel free to give input on spelling etc. But more importantly: Keep an eye out for, and report and broken logic in the dialogue!
  • Try to keep an eye out for bugs related to how objects appear and spawn in-game. Especially after saving/loading and when entering or leaving areas. Do objects spawn where they shouldn’t?
  • If you exhaust the demo content, I’d be very interested in hearing how long it took you.
  • PLEASE report any crashes or freezes!

I’m not looking for:

  • Notes on balancing, character development (feats, spells etc) or combat encounters. These are all placeholder at the moment and there will be a more comprehensive overhaul of them in due time.
  • Notes on character models. These are mostly placeholder as I’m yet to add a larger variety of models and outfits.

The Next Steps

I’ll be doing a burst of fire-patches the next week or two in response to incoming feedback and then I’m planning to step back and do some work on a few larger technical issues I identified whilst making the demo.

I’ll also be adding a few new batches of content as I flesh out the refugee-camp and even open the way into the ruins of Horryn so stay posted for that!

The end goal for this round of demos is to have a well-rounded and semi-polished public demo for use in promotion; especially towards press and content creators.

Let Word Spread Forth!

Skald has the best community in RPGs. Ever. It’s a huge joy, support and resource to me and we’re truly making this game together!

Honestly, the size, interest and support of the community is the bread and butter of the project at this point, and the best way to keep making SKALD great, is to keep the community growing!

And so your Wizard-Emperor decrees:

If you played the demo and enjoyed it, please tell your friends on forums, Twitter, Discords, Reddits and wherever else you hang! Invite them to our Discord server and bid them check out the blog!

That’s it for now. Enjoy the demo and please get in touch via the Discord or Twitter for all things Skald-related.

Cheers,

AL

A Seasons Greetings Update

Hello and merry yule-tide to all friends, fans and followers of the Skald roleplaying game! With 2020 coming to an end, it feels about time for another project update. After all, there’s quite a few new features to show off and even a few delays (believe it or not).

So, what’s been going in the SKALDiverse?

The final game will contain quite a few minor towns and at least one major city. Figuring out how to create large, interesting and good-looking urban environments has been a huge point on my to-do list and something I’ve spent most of the last 6 weeks figuring out.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what kind of architectural style should underlie the look of the Gallina Empire. Having gone back and forth a few time I’m tending towards “Romanesque“: The rounded arches and pillars lend themselves very well to the resolution of the game and the palette feels sufficient to portray a large variation in materials.

The images above are some early examples of the tile-set. Pretty happy so far and now it comes down to adding a bit more flourish. I just love the look of Roman buildings in the Middle-ages where the secrets that went into building them are long gone and they end up being patchworks of increasingly poor repairs. Seems a pretty good fit for this period in the Gallian Empire so why not embrace it!

A second pretty big change was making maps a bit more integrated by having building interiors and exteriors be on the same map. A large reason for this change is that it allows me to have the players be able to enter any structure with minimal extra work. Previously this would have required that I created submaps for every single interior and this quickly becomes messy. I still can if I want to, but for most buildings it’s much more interesting to have it all on one map.

Now you can try and steal from a vendor, have him catch you, flee into the street, dive into a tavern and dash through the kitchen to the back exit and alleys. I love stuff like that.

I also spent quite a bit improving the look of the fog of war. The way it just snapped into place tile by tile, was a bit jarring. Notice how it now “grows” and retracts in a more organic way. Believe me when I say, it makes a huge difference when you play the game on full-screen!

I’ve also spent quite a few hours polishing the combat system. As you’ll recall, I massively overhauled in October and that was a pretty big update that still has me discovering occasional bugs and idiosyncrasies.

None the less, it plays super-nice now and in combination with the new, more complex city maps, it’s truly taking the game to the next level.

What’s next?

Well, it’s no secret that I had hoped to make Early Access by the end of 2020. That’s obviously not going to happen (lol).

No one likes to have delays in their project and I’m no different. However, playing the game today and looking at the build from 6 months ago, all I can say is that it’s been worth every second of work so far.

I always knew the combat system and city maps were “on the chopping block”, and looking back now I’m super happy I took the time to change them. For what it’s worth there are no more major systems that are scheduled for revision (tough there will of course be tons of refinement going on).

Based on that I think a careful estimate is early access in the summer of 2021.

I hope that’s not a huge disappointment to you guys and that you share my enthusiasm for how the game looks at the moment!

The next big milestone for me is finishing the “press demo” which will include most of the first chapter of the game. It is intended for playtesting and as a demo for the press, and content-creators that follow SKALD. This will be around early Q1 2021.

From me to all of you…

Thank you so much for all of your support, friendship, advice, encouragement and enthusiasm throughout 2020. It’s been a hell of a year for a lot of you guys but the SKALD community has remained a warm, inviting tavern in a storm for so many of us. This is a strong reminder of the power of games to comfort, entertain and bind us together.

So from me to all of you: Seasons greetings and a happy new year!

Anders

Post Script: Show some love for Nox Archaist

Nox Arhaist has been released! Journey back in time to the 1980s and experience an 8-bit adventure inspired by classics like Ultima and Bard’s Tale! Order your boxed set while supplies last!

Project Update: Beta 1.2.0 (Combat Revision)

The beta build (1.2.0) is up on itch.io for testers right now! SKALD has gotten a huge update to its combat system (as well as some new features) and I can’t wait for you to have a look at it!

The New Combat System

Combat is now resolved directly on the map itself. In other words, it no longer swaps to a separate combat map.

As I’ve been developing the game, one of the biggest shifts in my approach to designing SKALD, has been in level design: I originally saw exploration of the physical spaces of the game to be a distinct pillar of game-play alongside combat, character development and interaction.

However, as I’ve begun designing levels, it has occurred to me that interacting with the physicality of the world, could not be seen as a separate aspect of game-play: The physical layout of the game world is the canvas that encompasses all other aspects of the game and combat, dialogue and exploration is made more interesting by the fact that it takes place in a “physical” world with components that interact with, and affect each other.

Placing combat on the map itself was a natural consequence of this. This will make it possible to interact with terrain during combat, NPCs will join fights and destruction will linger after combat ends. You can approach enemies from different directions, become surrounded or attempt to use the terrain to your advantage.

Combat isn’t the only subsystem that is being adapted to this shift in design mentality. More on that down the line.

The combat system as it is in the coming update is still pretty bare-bones. It doesn’t really take advantage of it’s new form yet, but I need to get some play-testing done none the less: Both to weed out bugs and to get a basis for improving the system.

The main design principles for combat moving forward are:

  1. Combat should feel fast and smooth
  2. Combat should stay tactically interesting from early to late game
  3. Combat should be narratively expressive (e.i. it should serve as a tool for storytelling)

There’s also a number of issues I need to explore:

  1. How much information does the player need and how do I present it in the best way?
  2. What are the best controls for combat and what is the optimal relationship between keyboard and mouse input?
  3. How do I visualize all the different options players might have during combat in a good way?
  4. What types of terrain layout make for the most fun combat whilst avoiding overly dominant strategies (such as defending doorways)?
  5. What are some interesting combat-role archetypes for both enemies and PCs?
  6. How can feats and spells take optimal advantage of the combat system?

Other New Features and Updates

There is months of work in this update so changes are too numerous to mention in a lot of cases.

One of the more notable updates, however, is the ability to customize the character model (hair, colors, clothing etc). This adds a bit of flair for players but more importantly, it reduces the need for me to create custom models for NPCs! This is going to be a huge time-saver down the line as I can now swap around outfits to make an infinite amount of variations. Needless to say, there will be A LOT more customization options down the line. It also opens the door for stuff like faction-based outfits.

I’ve polished the input system a bit and vastly improved the path-finding AI so movement and controls should also feel quite a bit more snappy. Try to keep an eye on this and be sure to report any bugs related to movement, path-finding and input.

The Next Steps

For the next weeks I’m going to keep polishing the combat system whilst working towards the press-, and content-creator demo (which will of course be available for backers as well). It will contain new, unseen narrative content as well so it’ll be fun to see you guys dig into it.

There will probably be a couple more beta updates before the press demo is ready to drop so stay posted for that as well. I REALLY appreciate it if you take even 5 minutes to test the game and reporting any bugs or impressions afterwards: It really helps to make this the game we all want it to be!

In regards to the game being ready for early access in late 2020 – we’ll see. I’m truly working as fast as I can but it’s hard to predict the flow of the project. Rest assured however, that all the time is being spent make SKALD awesome and I can guarantee you it’s paying off!

Farewell!

I’ll keep you posted on updates as I go so be sure to check in wherever you follow me from time to time (Twitter or the SKALD Discord). You guys have been beyond supportive so far and I love being on this journey with you. All I can do is offer up a big heart-felt “thank you”.

Cheers,

AL

Project Update: Beta 1.1.0

Hello everyone! Hope you all are enjoying your summer. July has been pretty sweet up here in Northern Norway for once, making it the perfect “stay at home” summer. But fear not: I’ve still gotten a ton done with SKALD, and it’s now time for a new (minor) demo update!

Beta 1.1.0 is up for Backers!

The demo is still pretty short and adds about 20 minutes of game-play to the first iteration. It’s still an important demo for me, since I’ve done a lot of work under the hood (as always) and now those features need play-testing.

I’ve also added some in-game features: Most notable is grid-based combat. That system is still pretty bare bones as I’m yet to add enemies, feats and spells that really take advantage of it, but you should non the less be able to get an idea and provide some feedback.

What do I need from play-testers?

Bugs first and foremost. This is by far the most important feedback you can provide for me at this point!

Typos are always welcome too. As are logical inconsistencies in dialogue and scene flows.

I also want to hear about game-play feature requests or feedback on existing features.

I’m not really super interested in stuff like “this was too easy” or “There needs to be more loot in the second area”. It goes without saying that a lot of this is unpolished at the time and pacing etc will get a second pass as the whole first chapter begins to come together 🙂

As always, my preferred way of receiving feedback is via the SKALD Discord chat. Once there, look for the feedback sub-channels.

A Word of Caution

The demos, at this point, will usually break saves and force a restart with each demo iteration. This might seem like a chore BUT for play-testing this is essential. The scripting of the game can only be truly tested if the game is played from the start each time and this is super important to the final quality of the game.

So please be patient with me (I know you will)! Also, is play-testing feels like a hassle, it’s 100% fine for you to just hang back and wait for the finished product!

What Else is Going on?

Currently we (me and the writers) are doing a lot of work writing and implementing narrative content. This is the main priority besides polishing the engine at the moment. As we finish writing for chapter 1, the artists will then get to illustrate the content and we’ll start work on chapter 2.

I’ve been working on fog-effects a bit. They are great for setting a somber tone and I can’t wait to use them. They were however not ready at the time of 1.1.0 so they’ll hopefully feature in the next update.

At some point in the near future I’ll probably start working of feats and spells as well so stay tuned for that.

Have a great Summer!

That’s it for now! Have a great weekend and keep enjoying the summer (try to get out in sun a bit)!

As always, feel free to follow me on Twitter or join the SKALD discord!

Cheers,

AL

Project Update: Early Access

Hello there SKALD fans and friends!

After careful consideration, I’ve made the decision to pivot from a September full launch to an “Early Access” launch late fall of 2020.

What does that mean?

“Early Access” (EA) is a type of distribution where customers buy access to a pre-release version of a game. For SKALD, this means that Steam-users (for starters) will be able to buy access to the SKALD Beta sometime in the fall of 2020.

Backers will of course receive these keys as part of their rewards as soon as we go live. Until then, closed Beta will continue for backers.

The plan is to finish the game’s narrative critical path before the EA release. This means that the game should be about 75% content complete in terms of content but still quite rough around the edges.

The plan is for the complete game to launch fully in the first half of 2021.

For those of you who backed the game on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, this means that reward fulfillment will be postponed until we get closer to the full release.

But why?

The plan initially was to accept a product that was a little rough around the edges upon release and then do post-release patches and content additions.

After talking to marketing-professionals and fellow game-designers I’ve realized that it is much healthier for the project to instead brand the “release” as Early Access. This clearly communicates my intentions and the state of the project.

The decision has also been expedited by the fact that the project is behind the initial schedule in terms of play-testing. The delay is partially due to current world events (enough said), partially because the demo->feedback->update cycle has been slower than expected and partially because an influx of money has allowed us to aim for a higher narrative ambition and great writing takes time.

No cause for alarm

Though the schedule now looks slightly different, the project is very healthy:

  • It is very well funded and I don’t have any reason to rush a launch for financial gain
  • Early Access will bring more play-testers which, in turn, will lead to a much more polished end-product
  • A less rushed launch will give us more time to create side-content and result in more fleshed-out world

All in all, this is the best for the project and I’m counting on the continued support and understanding of the community to help make SKALD an AWESOME game.

Believe me: Development is proceeding as fast as it is humanly possible and I’m super excited for the finished product!

Next Steps

I’m releasing an updated Beta-demo for backers in the next month or so. The demo is a bit delayed, but there is a good reason for this: Each Beta-demo at this stage will potentially corrupt save data. This means that currently, each demo-launch may force a restart and this will cause tester fatigue pretty fast. Since I rely on your feedback, I’d rather you have a bit more content to explore once you sit down with the demo.

Speaking of demo, I’ve made a pretty big change to the basic design of the game:

Combat is now grid-based.

Combat is as snappy as ever and even auto-resolves works great!

I’ve been going back and forth on this for a long time now and I don’t make changes like this lightly. However, the old system lacked a bit of the expressiveness and transparency I wanted for SKALD and working with it was too limiting. Being someone who plays the game EVERY day I can say the new combat system is a lot of fun. I can’t wait to really start fleshing out more feats and spells that interact with the physicality of the battlefield.

In Closing…

It’s back to work for me! I really hope you’ll stay pumped for SKALD and I can’t wait to bring you more sweet content throughout the summer and fall.

If you haven’t already, I wrote two game-design articles a while back and you might want to check them out if you’re interested in the subject:

Beyond that I’d like to wish you all a great summer! As always, feel free to follow me on Twitter or join the SKALD Discord “game development” sub-channel !

Cheers,

AL