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

Kickstarter is a Success: We did it!

Finishing the Kickstarter with 450 backers and at 262% it’s safe to say that “Skald: Against the Black Priory” is a hit. The campaign has been a lot of fun, but also a lot of work, and I’m looking forward to spending more time working on the game again.

“…And there was much rejoicing!”

The scheduled release for SKALD is June 2020 with physical rewards coming in August 2020. Up to that point there is a lot of work to be done in developing the game and feelies and honestly, I can’t wait!

The Demo

For backers who payed to get access to the alpha-build, that will be made available in July. I’ll still take a few weeks to polish it a bit so be patient! The alpha-build is in no way representative of the finished product. It serves as a short proof-of-concept and a way to start developing some shared language for discussing the project.

In particular, complex features like character development and advancement will be placeholder systems in this demo. 

Discord

We already have a pretty good community on Discord and I would like for it to become much larger!  Join us on Discord today!

We’re having some pretty great discussions regarding SKALD and game development in general. So if you want a say in how this game turns out, Discord is the place!

Late to the Party?

Didn’t get to back the game? Well, first of all, the actual game and digital assets (manual etc), will be available for sale on Steam and a select few other stores.

As for the feelies, we will do a limited run of big-boxes and zip-lock bags. More information on that will follow.

That’s it for now! Thanks again for all your support and be sure to subscribe to this devlog to stay up to date!

AL

SKALD: Against the Black Priory

SKALD: Against the Black Priory is an upcoming classic turn-based RPG. It’s set in a dark and gritty fantasy universe, full of tragic heroes, violent deaths and eldritch horror. 

After a great run on Kickstarter, I’m now super happy to announce:

SKALD is now on Indiegogo “InDemand”!

For press kit, click here!

We’re on Indiegogo!

The game is currently in beta-development and it’s coming to Early Access fall 2020. It will release for Windows and Mac first and then handheld devices down the line.

To support the game, subscribe to this devlog, check out our Youtube channel and follow the project on Twitter!

You can also join our Discord server. This is really where the SKALD community lives and we’re always happy to get more members. Also: Discord members occasionally get to test development builds.

Check out that lovely CRT filter!

Finally, wishlisting SKALD on GOG.com might earn us a spot in their web-store and that would rock! In other words: Wishlist SKALD on GOG.com now!

Do you want to follow the SKALD project? Subscribe to our newsletter today!

Kickstarter: The Rewards

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.

Digital Rewards

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.

Samples from the lower “digital rewards” tiers. 1 Dollar = 8.7 NOK.

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!

Concept for the manual cover-art!

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!

Image result for ad&d 2 edition manuals
A page from the Monster Manual 2 for 1. edition AD&D . I want this!

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.

Physical Rewards

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!

Image result for Ultima feelies
The feelies from Ultima IV.

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!

See you on Kickstarter June 3rd!


The Shores of Idra

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.

The animation-system really makes the world pop!

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:

The theme for the demo by @surt_r

It’s incredibly fun and rewarding to work with people that go the extra mile to help realize your vision.

“Your debt is due” A trio of bandits by @MementoMoree

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!

I can’t wait to sink my teeth into this!

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!


That’s it for now! Be sure to follow this blog and look me up at twitter if you want to keep posted!

See you on Kickstarter in June!

Let slip the dogs of war

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)


A splash screen by Marco Pedrana (Aeon of Sands)

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.

The latest iteration of the GUI. With a slight “retro” filter applied.

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 🙂

Have a great day!