Hello everyone and welcome to another episode in the acclaimed “Hey, Look at What We’ve Been Up to Lately” -series! It’s been a while since we’ve had one of these posts so there’s been a lot of stuff that we haven’t covered. So sit on tight because there’s gonna be a lot of text!

Alright, let’s jump right into the deep end and start with the skill system! I’m not going to go into too much detail here since it’s still a little work-in-progress and the details can change once we clock in some more testing hours with it, but finally we seem to be reaching an equilibrium where we feel comfortable with how the skills and character traits work. Now we have a system that’s easy to approach but which still offers plenty of depth, tactics and replayability for all players and which should be more extendable and flexible for modders (and us too). It’s so nice when everybody wins! :)

Character creation screen also got a much needed makeover, partly due to the ripple effects from the improved skill system, and it’s looking very slick now. Even though a lot of players will only see the screen just once (or not at all if they opt in to go with the default party), it’s still super important since it’s a major part of the first impressions that the game will give.

We’ve also redone the automap. The automap in Grimrock 1 was pretty good but since the sequel features outside areas and a less linear level structure (levels are side-by-side as well as on top of each others), the old way didn’t really work anymore. Now we have a smoothly scrolling and zoomable map which handles the environments of the new game much more elegantly. It’s not 100% complete though since it’s missing the ability to write down notes, some of the icons are still placeholders and a few interface elements are missing but hey, we’re almost there!

One major milestone that we’re also rapidly approaching right this moment is getting the end combat done. We have a very interesting prototype brewing and if it proves to be working the end fight is gonna be one hell of a ride! As a matter of fact, the end fight is really the only major missing bit I can think of that we still need to make the game whole (which, mind you, is not the same thing as finished).

Speaking of prototypes, I threw together a quick test about a herb growing or farming mechanism but we’re still on the fence if it’s a good fit for the game. We’re going to meditate on it for a while and see if the idea feels worth implementing properly.

Things have been galloping along in the realm of graphics and audio content creation too. We now have a few glorious landmarks for the bigger structures of the game world and an assortment of decorations to spice up the underground portions of the game. I’ve done a couple of new spooky ambient tracks too and polished some older ones as well so that they suit the mood of the game better. And like always with the posts in these series, we’ve got new monsters and plenty of new items! ;) Oh yeah, Juho also has done some key art (or box art or whatever you want to call it) for Grimrock 2 and it’s looking glorious although I think I’m not allowed to show it to you yet since I think Juho would want to do the honors… Sorry, I hate to be a tease but I’m sure you’ll see it sooner or later. :)

That’s it for now from us but if you’re hungry for some more Grimrock right now, you should try out One Room Round Robin 2 mod. It’s a massive mod built in collaboration by 22 master modders and they’ve really pushed the Grimrock 1 engine to its limits! Check it out!

 

It’s time to shed some light behind the dusty curtains that cover the massive art department of Almost Human and take a look at some behind the scenes action. A lot of new shady creatures have been creeping around the studio walls and this time we’ll try to catch one of them. Be very, very quiet, we’re hunting Zarchtons. Zarchtons are one of the first monsters you’ll come across in the beaches of the Island. At first you’ll hear their croaking calls and before you know what hit, you realize you’ve been ambushed.

Zarchtons are amphibious creatures that are as home on dry land as in water, but they never leave too far from water, because they are dependent of water and need to dampen their skin from time to time. That’s why Zarchtons are usually seen around water, but that doesn’t limit to natural water sources. Overflown dungeons are also perfect environment for them too…

The origin of Zarchtons is highly debated topic in the Natural Science Department of the Nothampton’s University. Some say Zarchtons have evolved from fishes and some say they we’re originally land creatures that have moved to live partially in water. Sometimes Zarchtons are seen far in the open sea and they are often mistaken for mermaids. Being amphibious creatures, Zarchtons have both lungs and gills, so they can breath air and in water. Zarchtons have primitive culture system and they make use of resources from the sea to create clothing and accessories from shellfishes and other small creatures they hunt. Swimming in water and walking on land have developed Zarchtons’ leg muscles to enable them to take long leaps to help them hunt their prey and attack anyone coming to their territory…

What goes to actual development of the Zarchtons, the process was pretty standard stuff. We thought of some features and characteristics we needed in a monster and based on that data I started roughing it out. And this is what I ended up:

 
Then it was off to Zbrush to create the high resolution model using Zspheres as a base and just dynameshing the living crap out of it.

 
After the high resolution model was done, it was decimated a bit and exported to 3dCoat, we’re I retopoed and unwrapped it ending to around 6200 polygons. High resolution data was baked into normal map and rest of the textures were painted in Photoshop.

 
And finally, here’s a final posed model for Zarchton. I bet you’ll end up peeking under his skirt.

 

Normally the last few weeks of development before launch are really stressful because everything has to come together in a nice clean package. Usually this means frantically trying to fix the remaining bugs, making sure the game runs great on all supported hardware while at the same time polishing the game. The last weeks are very critical to achieving that certain high quality feel. That’s why this time I’ve decided to ease the pain of the last few weeks with a head start. In this blog post I’ll talk about the most important performance optimizations that I’ve been working on for the last two weeks.

Performance Profiler

Some might think that optimizing is boring and tedious because the work is very time consuming and nothing seems to happen to the game on the surface. To help with this I’ve turned opimizing into a sort of game for myself. Whatever I’m optimizing I first come up with some metric, usually a number whose value I can track and try to make it as small as possible. I set up a challenge for myself to see how low I can push that number. Some things are easy to measure like memory consumption of the process with Windows Task Manager or the time needed to process a single frame. But to really dig deep into performance issues it’s necessary to breakdown the measurements into smaller bits to get a better idea what to optimize. Therefore I built a performance profiler directly into the game that I can summon with a press of a button.

The profiler shows milliseconds and percentage of frame time spent in each subsystem of the game and various other statistics. To run at 60 frames per second the computer can spent up to about 16 milliseconds to process each frame, including updating the game world and rendering the view. The profiler also shows amount of temporary memory allocations (Malloc column) during the frame — more about that later.

Memory optimizations

Legend of Grimrock 2 is a 32-bit application on Windows so that means that the application can use up to 2GB of memory without hacks. To make matters worse in my experience the real limit is closer to 1.5GB presumably because DirectX resources eat up virtual address space. Textures and other assets eat a lot of memory so 1.5GB is not that much today. Optimizing memory usage will also help with load times, and can potentially increase overall performance too. It’s important to get the memory usage as low as possible without sacrificing quality of assets.

After cleaning up unused assets we determined that we still needed to shave off some more memory so I begin looking into what could be done on the code size. One easy optimization which was already planned for Grimrock 1 but I never had time to work on was a simple animation compression technique. In Grimrock 1 animations are stored as “array of structs”, where the struct contains position, rotation and scale. This was not optimal because, for example, scaling is very rarely used. In fact most skeletal animation nodes have only rotation movement. A simple optimization is to store keyframes as “struct of arrays”, meaning that position, rotation and scale keys are optional. For many animation nodes we just need to store constant position and scale values and varying rotation keyframes. This optimization cut the memory usage of animations by 20 MB.

Another big optimization was compression of vertex format used by models. Previously all model vertices had normal, tangent, bitangent and texcoord vectors stored as 32-bit floating point values. Floats have a very big range and high precision, more than we need so I compressed those into 16-bit integers. Also a common trick is to leave out the bitangent needed for normal mapping because it can be reconstructed in the shader by computing the crossproduct of the normal and tangent vectors (TBN handedness still need to be stored but it fits nicely into tangent vector’s fourth component). Vertex format optimization yielded about 75 MB saving.

Rendering optimizations

Grimrock 1 didn’t need a geometry level of detail system but Grimrock 2 has much longer view distances and has many more models on the screen so the number of triangles drawn can get quite large. I had implemented a very simple level of detail (LOD) rendering system some months ago where we simply swap between high detail and low detail meshes based on their distance from the player. While this increased the frame rate this resulted in ugly snap when the lod level was changed which limited the usability of the system. When doing the performance optimizations I revisited the old lod system. After doing some initial tests with the artists we figured that a crossfade between the LODs would be the ideal solution. Unfortunately alpha-blending the models is out of the question with a light prepass deferred renderer. A pretty common technique is to use alphatest dissolving instead. I used the technique successfully in Alan Wake’s rendering engine and it still works great today. The end result is quite good and it’s hard to see the LOD transition even if you know what’s going on. We also use the same dissolving technique to fade out small objects like grass.

We are using distorted planar reflections for our water rendering and this requires rendering the scene twice, once for the main view and once mirrored upside down. This can get really heavy on frame rate. Fortunately it’s not necessary to draw the reflected scene with full detail. In fact many object don’t need reflections at all, usually those that are far away from the reflective surface (except if they are really tall like towers). Making an automatic solution that handles all cases nicely is pretty hard, so we gave a few hints to the renderer to help pick the objects to reflect. Objects in Grimrock 2 have three reflection modes: “never” means that the object is never reflected. It’s used for small objects like most items. “always” means the object is always reflected, like the sky and very large structures. “cell” is the default option and used by almost everything. With this option we take advantage of our grid structure. The level designer can paint in Dungeon Editor which cells in the level have reflections enabled. Static objects with “cell” reflection mode will then skip reflection rendering if their cell is not reflective. For dynamic objects we currently use either “never” or “always” mode so that we don’t have to check constantly where they are and update their reflection enable flag.

Game world update

Years of object oriented programming tends to produce bad habits. One good example is the game object update logic that was in place two weeks ago. In Grimrock 2 game objects such as monsters, doors and teleporters are made from components such as lights, models, clickable zones and particle effects. In the object-oriented way each game object had a update() method which calls update() for all its components. Can you see what’s wrong with this? There are at least two big problems (and a few other missed optimization opportunities). First the code has to iterate through all components regardless if they actually need to be updated. For example models do not need to be updated at all because there is nothing dynamically changing about them. Secondly the code has to “megamorphically dispatch” to the component update routine, meaning the code is jumping between different component types all the time. This code branching is very slow. A much better approach is to update all components of given type in one go, i.e. update all particle systems in one pass, update all animations in one pass and so on, something like this:

...
updateComponents(LightComponent)
updateComponents(AnimationComponent)
updateComponents(FloorTriggerComponent)
...

This restructuring of update alone saves several milliseconds per frame. It also has other very nice properties. The code is easier to profile and it’s easy to toggle updating of component by type. It’s also trivial to change the update order of component types. For example, animation components should be updated after monsters so that animations start playing immediately, not one frame after the monster’s brain has decided what to do.

With all of these optimizations in place the average frame rate seemed decent (we haven’t tested on low end setups yet though so we may have go back to optimizations later). I have a frame rate number displayed on the screen all the time and I’ve set it up so that it turns bright red if the frame rate dips below 60 fps. While testing I noticed that every now and then, apparently for now reason, the frame time spiked above 16ms. I immediately began suspecting Lua’s garbage collector and added Lua memory statistics to the profiler. It turned out we were allocating about 40 KB per frame, at 60 fps that’s about 2.5 MB per second! After a few seconds of this Lua decided that enough is enough and collected garbage which dipped the frame rate. We were very lucky that this problem had not surfaced with Grimrock 1. Lucky because garbage collection issues are really hard to fix. I suspect that the working set and garbage generated was much smaller in Grimrock 1 so the problem did not exist.

I began hunting down the source of garbage. Thanks to the update restructuring it was easy to add per component type mem alloc statistics and a few culprits were quickly found. Some cases were easy to optimize away, like the creation of temporary tables here and there. Much more problematic was vector math code that created a lot of temporaries. Lua garbage collector is not particularly good at short lived temporaries like these. I decided to try an experimental technique, to make a separate vector and matrix classes that would be allocated from a pool. At the end of the frame the temp vectors and matrices would be returned back to the pool. The only problem was how to handle “boxing”. Temporaries could not be stored permanently in objects’ fields because their values would become corrupt at the end of current frame. A simple solution is to use boxed vectors as member variables and copy the values explicitly from temporary to the boxed version. It’s a bit of a chore to do it but it seems to work okay.

I still haven’t gone through all the places but the most bad behaving temporary allocating routines have now been optimized. As a result temporary memory allocations per frame has gone down from over 40KB to about 4KB per frame. My goal is to keep optimizing it below 1 KB. Garbage collection is already pretty harmless but I want to beat it so there’s no doubt about it.

That pretty much sums up the work of the past two weeks. Together with content optimizations the game now uses about 25% less memory and runs 25% faster. Not bad for two weeks of work! Hopefully this was an interesting read. If not, then prepare yourself for some more artsy blog update coming next! :)

 

Information about Grimrock 2 has been a little scarce lately so it’s about time we unravel some of the mysteries. Let’s get going!

The events of Legend of Grimrock 2 will happen on the Isle of Nex, a secluded island faraway from civilization. An island is a perfect place to setup an unforgettable dungeon crawling experience because we can mix indoor and outdoor locations seamlessly while still maintaining that atmosphere of mystery and danger, and the density of interesting things that is at the heart of Grimrock. If you think about it, the island is the perfect microcosm, where the party may explore dark woods, misty swamps, underground tunnels and ancient ruins without need to travel great distances. For us, an island is the perfect “dungeon” with a welcome variety of different types of environments.

At the start of the game, a party of four prisoners has ended up on the island against their will and start to explore the island. Pretty soon they will realize that they are not alone on the island and that the island is not an ordinary island at all… What are the mysterious towers on the island and who built them? Why is the island full of puzzles and traps? The story of Grimrock 2 will not be a direct continuum to Grimrock 1, but will be a completely new story with new characters that will expand the Grimrock universe.

A big part of Grimrock is, of course, the brain-teasing puzzles and for Grimrock 2 we have been busy developing new types of puzzle mechanics. Talking about puzzles is a tricky subject to discuss. We believe that the less you know about them in advance the better. So without ruining the surprises ahead, let’s just say that you’re not the only one stuck in the puzzles…

One of the few things some reviewers criticized about Grimrock 1 was monster behavior in combat. We have attacked this problem directly and rewritten the monster AI entirely. As a result monsters are now smarter and they know how to use their larger numbers to their advantage. The repertoire of tricks they know has been expanded greatly. For example, some monsters can call other monsters for help and can use group tactics against you. Of course the behavior of monsters depends on their intelligence so the most stupid and most fierce monsters are still, well, fierce and stupid as they should be. And talking of monsters, there will be lots of new monsters with some of the old, familiar faces making an occasional appearance for old times sake.

As explained in an earlier blog post , the character skill system has been completely redesigned and replaced with a perk-buy system that allows for more flexible character skill development. The design goal is make each level up meaningful and at the same time contain a tough choice. At level up, each character gains only one perk that changes the character in some way. Every perk gained is important. There are no in-between levels.

Tied to the skill system is the item system, which has also been expanded. Many items now have secondary powers that can be triggered by holding down the right mouse button on the action icon. The powers consume energy and range from special attacks to non-combat actions. In contrast to Grimrock 1, primary actions of items can be most often used by any character but the true powers can be used by a character with the right skills.

Potions can now be mixed directly in hand without going to inventory.
Spells can be cast using mouse gestures with less mouse clicks.

We have also improved the spellcasting and potion crafting systems to reduce the required number of mouse clicks. Potions can now be mixed without going to the inventory. Using an empty flask in hand will open up a miniature potion crafting panel (see screenshot) which you can even use in the middle of combat much like the spellcasting interface.

The new spellcasting panel allows mouse gestures to be used to cast spells. Spells are cast by holding the mouse button down while doing a swipe with the mouse on the correct sequence of runes. Talking of magic, the Mage character class has also been redesigned. The requirements to cast spells of different schools have been relaxed so that mages can cast larger variety of spells. In Grimrock 2, mages need not be one trick ponies.

Of course, Grimrock 2 also has new spells, a new playable race (with portraits to go) and a new character class. These combined with over a hundred new items, 22 new monsters, new environments, day to night cycle, plus as much more as we have time to crank in, means a lot of new stuff to have fun with!

In other news, we also have a big reason to celebrate today. Legend of Grimrock: The Series from Wayside Creations, the makers of Fallout: Nuka Break, has just been successfully funded on Kickstarter! WOOHOO! Wayside did a fantastic job with Fallout so we are super excited to see how Grimrock will translate to the new medium. Naturally we will assist Wayside and make sure the series will be true to the lore of Grimrock. There are still 4 days remaining on the Kickstarter, so if you want to take part in the development of the live series, there’s still time!

This post is getting rather long already, so let’s stop now to oogle at these shiny new screenshots!

 

Hello everyone! The year is nearing its end but we still have some very exciting news to share! The Legend of Grimrock live action series is now on Kickstarter! This has been an amazing opportunity for us here at Almost Human and we couldn’t be more excited. The project is super ambitious but since it is helmed by the super talented guys at Wayside Creations and Chris Avellone (Obsidian Entertainment) is attached to the series as a writer, we’re certain that the results will be awesome. You can get all sorts of great extras and swag, or even Legend of Grimrock 2 keys, by pledging on the Kickstarter. Needless to say we’re really hoping that the campaign finishes successfully and if you want to give us a hand in it, please pass around the link in twitter, forums and anywhere else where there might be people interested in seeing a high quality live action fantasy web series! And a million thanks to you all who have already given your support!

But hey, since the holidays are soon here, all of us here at Almost Human wanted to bring you some seasonal cheer! We decided to devote half of today for creating Grimrock-themed Christmas cards (with the word “card” interpreted very loosely here)! Take a look and feel free to pass these around as well (for sake of fairness, I sorted these according to our seating order).

Olli:

Jykä:

Juho:

Jyri:

Pete:

Antti:

Taneli: (This is a Windows game, click here to download!)

Alright, that’s it. I hope you liked these! Next we’ll be taking a short Christmas vacation so we’ll see you next year and we wish all of you happy holidays and an awesome new year! :)

 

Hello everyone, it’s time for another status update! Features and content keeps on pouring on in the game at a steady pace and the point where the entire game would be playable from the beginning to the end is sooo close: there’s just two or three levels (that I actually started working on today) that need to be done to make the game “whole”. Of course, the game is not by any means finished at that point but reaching alpha is a mighty fine milestone nonetheless! Other gameplay things we have also tackled recently were prototyping some new spells and adding a completely new character class. We’ll keep the new class under covers for a while but once we get it to a more complete state, we’ll tell you more about it!

The intro cinematic to the game is now pretty much complete, barring a few finishing touches on the soundtrack, and Juho has already gotten a good headstart on the outro cinematic as well! The full motion cinematics are a huuuge step up from the still images we had in Grimrock 1 and I hope the players appreciate the sweat, tears and love (well okay, mostly the sweat & tears) Juho has poured into making them.

Talking of eyecandy, we finally tackled the issue of how we make the skies in Grimrock. The traditional approach of using a static skydome texture doesn’t really cut it in a game like Grimrock 2 so we had to figure out something that wouldn’t take forever to create and that would still look good, both in a still image and in motion with a dynamically changing time of day. Petri came up with a hybrid approach (as seen on the pair of screenshots above) of using a code generated sky and sun together with a few layers of relit clouds. The relit clouds mean that the cloud textures are not just plain cutaways from photos, although that was our starting point, since we have separate hand painted data for highlights so that the clouds react convincingly to different lighting scenarios when they drift across the sky and the position of the sun changes. While this approach we used doesn’t provide hardcore super photorealistic results, the looks of the sky are actually somewhere between painterly and realistic: a perfect match for the looks of our game.

Oh, and our buddies (and almost next door neighbors from our Matinkylä-days) from Theory Interactive popped in to say hello the other day and to give us a hand with the leftover beers from our christmas party ;) . They just passed the 20,000 Eur milestone of their indiegogo campaign for Reset and we snapped a celebratory photo with members from both of our teams. Their time traveling robot FPS puzzle game looks glorious and the crowdfunding campaign definitely deserves to gather so much more money than it currently has! They should also have a new video coming up by the end of the week too and I can’t wait to see what they have in store!

Alright, I suppose this is it for this time around! If there’s any particular “making of” -style article you would like to see, let us know (via blog comments/forum/facebook/twitter) what interests you and we’ll see if we can do something about it! Thanks. :)

 

Oh boy, here comes some huge news! We have a hard time even believing it ourselves but Wayside Creations, the creators of the most excellent Fallout – Nuka Break web series and films, are looking into creating a live action Legend of Grimrock series! Stay tuned for more info!

PS. This is my first blog post where every sentence ended in an exclamation point but this totally deserves it!

 

I’ll have to apologize that this post will lack the focus that the previous ones have had but there’s a very good reason for it: I also lack focus today! I lost the focus yesterday when I was out for a couple of beers with other Finnish indie game developers (and had a great time as usual) but despite that, my current state of being is actually good for writing. Usually when I’m a little hung over I have pretty good flow, in more ways than one, so we thought why not exploit my misery to type one of these “what we’ve been up to recently” -posts.

So now that we have that disclaimer out of the way, let’s start from the big picture: Legend of Grimrock 2 is starting to really shape up. I mean now it actually has a shape instead of being scattered all around in little bits and pieces that don’t connect with each others in any meaningful way. Our first levels are in alpha and we are closing in fast towards the state where we have more or less the whole package and can switch to “iterate and polish” -mode. But we’re not quite there yet: we still have time to experiment with new features!

One of those new features we tried out is rivers. Of course they are not only for looks so that you can go for a refreshing dip in them if you want to. A nice byproduct that we got from it is that now it’s possible to create terrain where there are bigger differences in elevation so now we can add small canyons or ditches into the wilderness or add “verticality” to some dungeon rooms as well.

Now that we aren’t facing the immediate threat of starvation if we don’t get the game done ASAP (like the situation was with Grimrock 1), we’ve actually had the luxury of being able to go back and iterate and polish some of the 3D models we’ve done. Especially the outdoors now look much more lush and we have a bigger palette of building blocks so we can put much more variety in them. Juho has been working on the intro cinematic and it’s just one or two days away from completion and this time it’ll be fully animated and it looks awesome. The steady trickle of new animated monsters has also continued and every now and again there’s also a burst of new items. Making items is fun but it’s best enjoyed in small doses so that you can avoid the creative hangover that you can very easily get from churning out those tiny icons and 3D models…

And, uhh, it feels like I’m maybe talking a little too much about hangovers here so I think I need to defend myself here so that you’re not left with the impression that I’m leading a completely destructive lifestyle (although admittedly it’s pretty close) :) . To prove my point, here’s a few photos from the 5 day hike I did with Juho a month ago in Urho Kekkonen National Park in Lapland:

If you want to see more, here’s a gallery by Juho and a gallery by me.

Oh and by the way, if you want more tidbits about developing Grimrock 2, Petri can now be found on Twitter too. Check it out!

 

As promised some time ago, in this post we’ll talk about the new skill system designed for Legend of Grimrock 2 and how it will improve the game.

Goals of the new skill system

When we started throwing around ideas about the new skill system, a few things came up often in the discussions. Firstly, every character level gained should feel special. Essentially this means that every skillpoint spent should improve the character in some way. In contrast the skill system of Grimrock 1 was designed so that you get a benefit every time you crossed a threshold in a skill. If you spent points in multiple skills, or otherwise didn’t reach the threshold, the character did not really advance at that character level. Combined with the fact that skills were very deep (maxed out at level 50), this resulted in a situation where optimal strategy is to pump all skill points into very few skills. Especially with magic skills, this resulted in mages specializing in one or two schools of spells, which resulted in fewer spells to be available to mage. Fewer spells = less fun to the player. Also at higher levels, spending skillpoints became almost automatic and there was less decision making involved.

With LoG2 skill system we want to have more diversity and every level up should present an important choice to the player. After talking about this for a while, we realized that a minor tweak to the system is not enough. A major redesign was required.

Shorter skill trees

In LoG2 when you gain a level, you are rewarded with only one skillpoint. To counterbalance this the skill trees are much shorter. This way, every skillpoint spent matters now and there aren’t any intermediate skill levels. In fact, most skills are only 1-3 levels deep and there are many on/off kind of perks that you can buy. Some skills have other skills as prerequisites. For example, the Shield Expert skill requires that you have spent at least one point in Armors.

Technically speaking, the skills available to your character form “a forest of short skill trees”. Shorter skill trees mean that you can max out a skill with a few level ups (assuming that you meet the prerequisites), so this should encourage spreading points in multiple skills.

The skill system is also connected to the secondary actions of items described in an earlier post: some secondary actions are only available if you have enough points in a skill. For example, all characters can wield any axe found in the game, but only Fighters that have at least 1 point in Axes, can use the Devastating Cleave secondary attack of the Great Axe.

The skills available to your character are based on your character’s class. Every class has its own skill tree, but some skills are also shared by multiple classes. But there’s more to this! We have folded races into this same system, so that every race has a mini skill tree with unique race specific skills and perks! Some racial skills are automatic (e.g. all Ratling’s automatically get the Plagued skill), other skills you can choose how and when to advance. Insectoids can develop a thicker shell by spending points in the Chitin Armor skill and so on.

A nice feature of this is that it unifies traditional skills, perks and racial traits under the same system. So adding a new skill or trait is exactly the same and we have to maintain only one system.

That’s all! Please tell us what do you think. You can either post comments to this blog or write in the forums as usual. We’ll be reading through all the feedback.


Fighter Skills: Grayed out skills are locked because the character does not meet the prerequisites for those skills yet. Human Skills: Every race has some unique skills specific to that race.


Ogre’s Grip: A skill that only Fighter’s can buy, but they have to have at least one point spent in Two-Handed skill. Armors: You can spend up to three points in the Armors skills. Athletics: Even if you fill the entire fighter skill tree (unlikely) you can still keep spending points in the Athletics skill. Leadership: This is a special kind of skill which designates the leader role to one of the party members. Naturally, only a single party member can be the leader and this role is a keeper!

 

Jykä the coffee maker has been animating some hot and delicious coffee into the pan and is now ready for some blogging time!

Please introduce yourself!

Name is Jyri (Jykä) Leppänen and I’m the latest addition to this awesome humans crew and hoping to be equally awesome someday. My primary objectives are to make coff…to make these cool monsters animatable and then animate them to life, hopefully in a cool manner too. Ok, flattery behind, coffee is getting colder and thoughts are getting older.

How did you end up at Almost Human?

I was working very hard on updating my animation reel since the old one was heavily outdated. At the same time I searched for some open positions and work possibilities from anywhere and everywhere. Well, fortunately I sent my animation reel to Almost Human even there wasn’t any open positions mentioned at the site. Grimrock naturally appealed to my nerdiness and I decided to give it a try. For my great joy they called me to an interview and hired me. I can say that was quite a happy day.

What is your role at Almost Human?

My main tasks consider character rigging and animation with and under the guidance of Olli. He has the experience and knowledge what kind of animation style and rigging tricks work best in this kind of grid based game. Also the large variety of monster types makes things interesting because there actually isn’t any types. Every monster is it’s own case. This is all new ground for me. When the character starts to be playable, we usually think about some new ideas for it with Petri & Olli. Our coder Petri has better picture of how the character should work mechanically to be balanced difficultywise and so on. Usually this means new approach and new/additional animations for the character.

There was also a brief moment I did some modeling and texturing when I helped the art department with the games item list. Basic stuff but believe me, it was challenging enough for a newbie like me. Thanks to Jyri, Juho and Olli for guiding and encouragement. I would gladly do some more modeling in the future.

Greatest part of working in this kind of a small but experienced team is that you have the best chances to learn new things and you get opportunities to challenge yourself in tasks that could be totally new for you. In a big company it’s a bit different story.

I almost forgot!! First big thing I learned here was the basics of Softimage. I have worked with many 3d softwares but Softimage was maybe the most unknown one for me. Idea of going back to, let’s say 3DSMax, would be a repulsive idea. But in the end, I’m always the coffee maker.

What does your average day at work look like?

Well, as I arrive to the office, my first task is to make some…How would Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks put it:
“I’m going to let you in on a little secret: every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it; don’t wait for it; just let it happen. It could be a new shirt in a men’s store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot, black, coffee.”

Except I have a bad habit to put some milk in mine. Then I’ll maybe read some news and enjoy my delicious cup of coffee for awhile. Then I start to work with the work at hand. Before starting with a new monster for example we usually have little creative discussion about the nature and characteristics of the individual. Then we make a bit deeper analysis with Olli who is THE rigging expert. Like how to rig the character using as few deformers as possible and so on. When the character is rigged I’ll make sure it exports correctly in the game. If everything works ok, I’ll start animating idle animation. When you pose your character into idle pose first its easier to plan how the other, more complex animations could work. This way it’s also easier to maintain the important start and end poses while you move ahead in the animation list. So mainly rigging, animating & coffee making in my workday. Oh! I forgot to mention that Olli got me fooled into the sweaty business, I mean the gym downstairs. We go there to punish ourselves three times a week and of course in the mornings. What could wake you up better than heavyweights (if empty bar counts as heavy?) and two cups of hot coffee.

What are you currently working on?

Well now I’m actually rigging one of the most challenging characters I have come up to here. Lots of holes and obscurity surrounds this little “fellow”. Animating this will be interesting.

What else do you do beside working at AH?

Well as I mentioned earlier I have been doing some weightlifting at the gym. I also bike a little but have been quite lazy with that recently. I blew up my back tire and it’s just overwhelming idea to buy a new one and change it. I’m also part of our Descent Journeys in the Dark party and we try to play it whenever possible. I also like hiking but sadly opportunities to do that are quite rare these days, but we are actually going to make a small hiking trip next month. I really hope it will work out. I’m a bit of a hayseed and I actually hope our office would relocate in the middle of the forest by some beautiful lakeside. Hehe! Maybe too much. Things are so well that the future dreams have no room but to go wild.

Favorite games/books/movies?

This is THE most difficult question in life so I won’t take the responsibility if this gets ugly. I have heard that if you can answer to this question perfectly, you know the meaning of life. Fortunately favorite band question is missing. I’ll try… Games: Lucas Arts adventures, Baldur’s Gate 1 & 2, Fallout 2, Diablo 1-3, AvP 2, Tomb Raider 1-3, Resident Evil 1,2 & 4. Books: Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, Jeff Long’s The Descent (haven’t read the sequel “Deeper” yet). Movies: Sh{t…I’ll quit. This is impossible question for me. Not a chance. Sorry.

I guess no meaning of life for me. Well I think life would get boring with a meaning so good for me =D.

Why is AH the best place to work at?

Awesome dudes to work with, animating coolest monsters, never ending challenges, instructive environment, getting childish ideas into actual use, you are not lone with your nerdiness, gym & sauna, lunch, short work trip.

Hope you didn’t lose all hope for written language while reading this. If you didn’t, feel free to throw me a question or two.

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