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!
From the first line of code I wrote, I have always been fascinated by procedural content generation (PCG) and the near-limitless potential it seems to hold for game development. Like so many other new developers, my first project was (of course) a wildly ambitious rogue-like. Needless to say, it didn’t quite pan out.
However, despite its challenges and limitations, I did keep my fascination for PCG and consider it a wonderful tool when applied correctly. Recently, I have been trying to read up on PCG while working on SKALD and a major gripe for me has been the lack of good literature regarding the subject. No wonder then, that I was very pleased to pick up a copy of Procedural Generation in Game Design.
Procedural Generation in Game Design is a book consisting of 27 chapters (who read like essays) from different industry professionals. The book is edited by Tanya X. Short (creative director of Kitfox Games ) and Tarn Adams (co-creator of Dwarf Fortress) with a preface by Derek Yu (creator of Spelunky) .
On its back cover, the book lists the following four features:
Introduces the differences between static/traditional game design and procedural game design
Demonstrates how to solve or avoid common problems with procedural game design in a variety of concrete ways
Includes industry leaders’ experiences and lessons from award-winning games
World’s finest guide for how to begin thinking about procedural design
The book is divided into four sections: “Procedural Generation”, “Procedural Content”, “Procedural Narrative” and “The Procedural Future”. Each section contains a collection of chapters that, more or less, share a common thread.
The topics covered in the different chapters is quite varied and include (among others): “When and Why to Use Procedural Generation”, several procedural level design case studies, “Ethical Procedural Generation”, puzzle design, “Audio and Composition”, “Story and Plot Generation” and “Algorithms and Approaches”.
Though varying in both length and depth, all the individual chapters are quite good with some even being excellent.
My major criticism of this book, however, is that it struggles in creating a coherent presentation and progression of content.
In several cases there seems to be a mismatch between chapter- and section topics. For instance: “Algorithms and Approaches” is oddly placed in the section called “Procedural Futures” even though the subject of the chapter is to give an overview of classical techniques used in PCG. In fact, I find that only the section called “Procedural Narrative” manages to maintain a strong coherency between the topics of its chapters.
As I have mentioned, I also find that the chapters vary somewhat in how deeply they explore their chosen topics. While a few read like abbreviated academic papers, others (the majority) feel more like blog posts. This is not to say that the quality of the content is poor: The chapters are written by highly talented game developers and provide inspiring insights into several well-known PCG-heavy indie game titles.
However, each chapter appears to have been written in isolation with only minimal direction concerning content. I find that the progression of content and relative amount of space given to each subject is also such that the book seems a bit underwhelming despite its 300+ pages. This is perhaps somewhat compounded by each author spending a few paragraphs talking about themselves and their project. Not that this is wrong, but it does dilute the PCG-specific content of the book.
The result is that the book does not live up to its full potential and promise of providing the “World’s finest guide for how to begin thinking about procedural design”. Furthermore I find that this makes it hard to see who the books intended audience is: New developers may find the coverage of subjects incomplete while experienced developers may find it somewhat superficial.
Though the execution is far from perfect, the book (arguably) does mostly deliver on its promised features. And for all my criticisms, I did enjoy reading the individual chapters (or essays if you will). Therefore, I do recommend picking up this book if you’re looking for an interesting collection of individual essays concerning PCG by leading indie game developers. However, if you are looking for a comprehensive guide and introduction to PCG I doubt that this book alone will suffice.
You can pick up Procedural Generation in Game Design at Amazon for $49.77 (320 pages paperback, with grey-scale illustrations).
I was tipped off about this book by the very talented Filip Hráček.
Did you find this book review helpful? If you have any questions or comments, please get in touch. Also, follow Scape-IT and SKALD on Twitter for all things RPG and geeky!