Another week nearing completion and, as usual, we’ve been working our assess off! The focus of the work is already shifting towards improving what we already have made instead of concentrating on adding new stuff in the game so it’s quite possible that filling out a nice long list of new things in the game for these weekly updates gets a little more tricky from this point on since our attention is shifting towards an innumerable count of smaller tasks rather than clearly defined big features. But anyways, let’s recap what we’ve been up to this week:
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Another week and another update (despite the fact that we forgot to do one last week, oops)! The game is really starting to feel like a complete game, we are this close on having a game that you could install and then play all the way through! And the whole thing would feel pretty much like a real, complete game as well, instead of some strange unfinished prototype. I think next week is the week we can proudly call it alpha. But the real work is about to start: after alpha we can start concentrating on improving all the aspects of the game and put in some extra polish and implement all sorts of new fun little things! More spells, skills, monster special attacks, some new monster variants, level and puzzle improvements but, most important of all, a lot of testing and balancing!
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Spell casting is an integral part of the diet of any healthy fantasy setting and there have been numerous different approaches to it in computer role playing games. To us, the systems where you pick a spell from a list have always felt very mundane: invoking magic should feel like you’re messing around with mystical forces instead of a spreadsheet! Runes are true and tested vessels for arcane power and they certainly make your imagination run wilder than text printed with Arial, size 12, so using them was a pretty obvious choice for us from the get go. And despite them being more abstract than writing, they still have the opportunity of having a logical underlying structure that prevents the spell casting system from turning into a bewildering mess where the player doesn’t have a chance to figure out what he’s actually doing. I’m here to explain a little bit of how we handle that logic and what our runes are.

Here’s our spell casting panel that you might have seen earlier:

How the runes are laid out in a 3 by 3 grid is already a major part of the logic since the placement of the runes bear a meaning. The pattern has a center rune and that center is surrounded by other runes along the outer edges of the pattern. The outer runes always have an opposite: the opposite of the rune in the lower left hand corner is the rune in the top right corner and so on. But maybe I’m getting a little ahead of myself now, it’s probably just better to go through the individual runes first and then we’ll get back to this.
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We have been working on the end game this week and the whole thing has grown a lot bigger and cooler than we initially thought. First we had the idea that there should be a chamber with a boss fight at the end but we quickly scrapped this as it didn’t feel epic enough. We want to make the ending really memorable to you as a player and we want it to explain some aspects of the mountain and tell you some of the background lore we have. So, instead of just a big fight, the game will climax in an intense multi-level combat and puzzle solving episode with a surprise at the end. We don’t want to spoil the experience by giving too much details, but just want to say that it’s going to be awesome!
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We have been extremely busy again working towards alpha. Here are some tidbits from this week:

+ Created 2 new dungeon levels with emphasis on puzzles
+ Olli has been polishing animations for three monsters (or do the “in-betweens” as they say in animator jargon)
+ Antti has been adding new melee weapons and armor.
+ Added a new special melee attack mode for a “secret super-aggressive enemy type” (sorry, we want to keep details about enemies pretty vague so the monsters will be more scary and mysterious when you encounter them)
+ We got the first draft of the Grimrock theme music from our composer. It rocks!
+ We had a long brainstorm session about the end game which we are starting to work on next week. That should be fun!

With the work starting on the end game, I expect us to reach the alpha milestone (i.e. game playable from start to end) in a few weeks. After that, maybe a month more to beta… The end of the year is shaping up to be really hectic but exciting!

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