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.

Sep 122013
 

This week I’ll talk about the creation of the gui for Legend of Grimrock 2. Let’s get rolling!

From the past experience with graphical user interfaces (GUI) we know that creating a gui that not only looks great but is also effortless and intuitive to use is hard work. For LoG1 we did many, many iterations before settling down with the final design (by scanning older blog posts you can see various incarnations that evolve to the final version). We are pretty happy with the original gui but as always there is still room for improvement. So, we spent a week with Juho furiously working on the gui and this is what we got:

The changes are not just eye-candy, some of them make the gui more usable. For example, you can now cycle through the characters by clicking on the arrows on the left and right side of the portrait. Also, the main statistics, experience, food, health, energy, protection and evasion are always visible on the upper half of the character sheet. With a quick glance you can now see whose character sheet is open regardless which tab is active.

On the visual side, the little drips of brown and green here and there remind of the new outdoor environments. A little feature that we wanted to do for Grimrock 1, but didn’t have enough time, is race and gender specific inventory panel backgrounds. Naturally now that we have moddable races (did I mention this feature already?), mods can define new background images for new races.

Like before the stats tab shows the remaining statistics, such as ability scores and resistances. We improved the layout a bit and grouped left and right hand statistics in their own boxes. As a new feature the percentile chance of scoring critical hits is now displayed in the stats tab.

(For the technically inclined, the gui elements in Grimrock 1 were manually packed in a texture atlas and the coordinates and sizes of every element were painstakingly entered in the code. For the new gui, I coded a simple texture packer that spews out a big texture atlas containing all the bits and pieces and a Lua file with the coordinates. The texture atlas has currently 192 pieces, so needless to say, making new iterations is now a lot less painful than with the old gui system!)

LoG2 will have many new harmful and beneficial conditions that your characters can have. The conditions used to be seen only in the stats tab, but the tab was getting a bit crowded, so the conditions are now indicated on the portrait. This is a very natural place for them, so I don’t know why we didn’t realize this earlier. Anyway, if you have any harmful condition the portrait rectangle turns red and by hovering on the portrait with the mouse you get a detailed list of all active conditions and their effects on the character.

Perhaps even more important than the character sheet is the attacking interface on the lower right corner of the screen (see below). We have also redesigned the attack frames so that the rune panel fits on the screen without hiding the little portrait and health and energy bars. It’s a lot cleaner now, especially with multiple mages. As a side effect the attack buttons are now a little bigger making it easier to hit them in the heat of battle.

Observant readers may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned the Skills tab of the character sheet yet. I actually skipped that on purpose, because the skill system has went through a major redesign and I reserve the subject for another blog post! Ha!

There you have it, until next time! …And back to coding! :)

 

One of the central game mechanics in the Legend of Grimrock -series (can we already call it a series?) are puzzles. They’re a very natural pairing for an oldschool dungeon crawler like ours and it provides a nice counterweight for the exploration and combat you’ll be doing.

After we finished Grimrock 1 I thought that we might have squeezed out all the possible grid based puzzles with levers, pits, doors and traps that we could possibly muster. And I felt that way for a long time too but strangely, after wrapping up the release of Dungeon Editor for Grimrock 1 with Petri, I realized there might still be a few puzzle ideas hiding deep somewhere in the back of my head, just waiting to be digged out. Figuratively speaking of course, not literally… :)

Of course, a lot has happened that has fed the puzzle creation process somewhat. The Dungeon Editor makes it a lot easier to prototype and build puzzle ideas and we’ve also come up with some new mechanisms that can be used for entirely new styles of puzzle or combined with the old elements for a fresh take on the older puzzles.

All in all, it’s impossible to predict exactly where the next idea comes from but no matter what their origins are, they’ll end up in the puzzle_ideas.txt in my dropbox. At this moment there’s about 40 unused ideas, many of which are very abstract and probably won’t end up as actual working puzzles, but others are much closer to reality and more ripe for use. Let’s take a look how one of the ideas ended up in the text file and how I took the idea to completion (as seen on the screenshot above) and how it changed along the way.

Here’s the original notes I wrote down about the puzzle: Continue reading »

 

Alright, this has been a long time coming… I’ve worked at AH for about a year now and haven’t written anything to the blog! Naturally I should introduce myself before I start blabbing about other things so the guys threw me some interview type questions and I went on to answer them.

Please introduce yourself!

Hello everyone! My name is Jyri Ullakko and I’m an artist here at Almost Human. I’ve previously worked on games like Trine 2, Shattered Horizon, and on some mobile games back in the day when I was at Fathammer. I’ve also spent a number of years working at Fake graphics creating graphics for advertisements.
Continue reading »

 

Couple of months ago we posted to our blog that we were looking for an artist that could help us create brand new portraits for the LoG2. We received tons of applications, 234 to be precise, and I went through all of them. One artist stood out pretty early on. He had just the right style we were looking for and his communication was great and with reasonable rates, it wasn’t that difficult to select him to do the work. So, without further ado, let me introduce Emile Denis to everybody. -Juho

Several months ago, I heard about The Legend of Grimrock via some websites and several reports on tv. I was immediately intrigued by this game with an old-school and Modern side. After testing it with a friend, I really enjoyed it!

Then, last April, a friend who works in the the video game industry sent me a link saying “hey look!, I saw this and thought you would be interested in it!”: It was an advertisement from Almost Human who was Looking for a freelance portrait artist for the Legend of Grimrock 2!

I didn’t think twice and immediately sent an email with my portfolio, then, after a few days, Juho Salila give me the definitive answer: I am selected! It’s such a pleasure since I love everything related to portraits and characters! I was even happier when Juho gave me as a reference the Baldur’s Gate’s portraits (one of my favorites games)!

So after receiving the brief, I started to work:
At first, I started with the “Human” race, keeping in mind the realistic style and the fantastic atmosphere of the game. By default, when I start an illustration or a concept, I gather a lot of documentation. In this case, since they are characters, I always start to think about the character in question: “What is his class?, is it old or young?, male or female?“, from there I like to imagine an actor or a famous person who could “impersonate” the character, just to get a clearer idea of the portrait. I always try to have at least two references (like two actors, for example) for each character to ensure that the resemblance will not be too flagrant in the end, and sometimes I use some photographic references in black and white or with a special light to give more life and volume to the portrait. From there, I started the first sketches always in black and white, then I set aside my references, I refine the drawing, and once it’s completed, I color them.

When I started working on the “Insectoids” race, the approach was a little more complex: As usual, I gather a lot of references, and then I tried to build portraits with great variety of different insects. Then, I finalized the illustrations by adding some textures and playing with the blending modes of Photoshop to find the scaly and rough effect of certain insects.
I still have a lot of work, and I know this will be truly rewarding and fun!

I would like to thank the whole team for choosing me and I look forward to seeing the final result ;)

-Emile DENIS

Check out more of Emile’s work in his blog Here.





 

Back from the holidays and already busy at work, it is time for another development update! In this update I’ll talk about changes to the item system that ended up having a pretty big effect on the combat mechanics as well. Did I get your attention? Read on! :)

Let’s take a look at a familiar weapon the dagger (see below). As you can see we have changed some of the item statistics to reflect the underlying game mechanics better. In the Grimrock 1 a bigger value was always better, but unfortunately the values were quite abstract. For example, the graphical interface showed an abstract statistic called “attack speed” and the player probably had no way of telling how attack speed was internally translated to a cooldown value. One of the goals of the new system is to make it less opaque, so that’s why instead of abstract “attack power” and “attack speed” statistics, the item tooltip now display a damage range and a cooldown value in seconds.

However, a much bigger improvement is the addition of secondary actions. Many items in Grimrock 2 will have two actions. The first one is the primary action that is most natural for the item and it can be activated quickly with the familiar click on the attack button. For example, the primary action of the dagger is a melee attack, but in Grimrock 2 you can also throw a dagger by holding the attack button down briefly. The buildup time for secondary attacks varies per action, so that simple actions such as throwing can be executed very fast, but more powerful attacks and abilities take considerably longer.

Some secondary attacks can be very powerful. For example, the longsword (see below) can deliver mighty Thrust attacks that have improved damage and much higher accuracy. It can also bypass enemy’s armor to some extend — enemy’s armor value is reduced by 20 points for the duration of attack so it’s much more effective against armored foes. To keep you from spamming special attacks and increase the importance of tactics, the special actions usually have an energy cost and sometimes a limited number of charges. We are also toying with ideas of level and skill requirements for some of the most powerful special attacks.

Talking about charges, the problem with items with charges, is typically that the player saves these items for special combats. Usually this means that these items will actually never be used and just pile up in the inventory. That’s why most items with charges will have another use in Grimrock 2. For example, the Meteor Hammer, a new weapon for Grimrock 2, has a melee attack in addition to its devastating Meteor Storm attack. This way a front line fighter can still use the weapon even after all charges have been used. Also, its much more convenient to shoot a fiery storm of death from an item held in hand than go rummaging through the backpack in the middle of hectic combat.

We are still toying with the secondary attacks and things might still change considerably. We have some pretty interesting abilities planned for new items, and there are other things in the plans as well, for example, to make certain monsters resistant and weak against certain attacks. But the addition of secondary actions has already made a big impact on the feel of the combat. More choices, more tactics. Buildup times of special attacks affect the rhythm and pacing of combat. Combat in Grimrock 2 will be different affair than in Grimrock 1!

 

It is the thirtyeighth day of my journey. The sea has been strangely calm for weeks with nought but a slight breeze and no drops of water from the heavens. The Ratling captain says that this is an ill omen, for in this season rains should be plentiful.

The reports of strange structures on the Island are perplexing to my mind. Surely some of them were made by the natives now long lost to the mists of time. But the tales of seafarers also tell about more recent, grander constructions towering above the trees. The natives and the priestesses long gone, who are building these structures and why?

The seamen believe that the Island is cursed — I say guarded by strong Magicks — since no ship sailing close to the Island has ever returned. Perhaps the ancient statues reported by the few survivors of shipwrecks are there to guards the secrets of the Island until the constructionwork is complete? Perhaps with the careful usage of the Art we are able to dispell the shields and grant us entrance to the Island? Perhaps the King’s endless thrist for knowledge shall be finally quenched? Perhaps.

There are black clouds billowing in the horizon. The storm is rising.

– Alarast the Sage of Royal Library

Hello all! We have been pushing hard on the development of Legend of Grimrock 2 and now we are going to have a brief but sweet summer break. But before we go a recap of what has been happening is in order!

The focus of work recently has been on the building blocks of the game, the monsters, puzzles, and environment assets. After the holiday break we are going to start putting the pieces together and building the (final) game world. (I put “final” in parenthesis because I know we are going to polish and tweak the levels to the very last moment before the game ships.)

With the added musclepower of Jyri and Jyri, we have been able to push an impossibly large amount of 3D models, animations and textures out of the oven in a very short time. For example, we have 16 complete new monsters and more is coming. Combined with the monsters from Grimrock 1 we have something like 40 unique monsters, although many of the old monsters won’t make a come back in the new game. The monsters of Grimrock 2 are also much more complex, many with multiple types of special attacks and unique AI behavior.

On the wallset side, we have seven completely new environments, more than double what we had in Grimrock 1. The amount of model files, material definitions and scripts is getting really tough to handle! :)

On the tech side, we have implemented water rendering and integrated a video player. After carefully evaluating our options we chose to use an open source WebM/VP8 video format. Being open source means that mods can also contain cinematic videos without licensing limitations. This was very important to us. The cinematics can also be played whenever needed, no longer just at the start and end of the game.

That’s it! Have a great summer!

 

Phew, it took quite a while but finally it’s here: the Linux version of Legend of Grimrock is on Steam! This means that Steam now carries all the versions of the game: PC, Mac and Linux.

The standalone Linux version of the game has also now been updated to version 1.3.7 which eliminates a few annoying bugs. Most importantly text input and mouse look troubles have been fixed as well as the issue some users have had where they have been unable to export custom dungeons. You can get the update for the standalone version by redownloading the game from the link that was emailed to you when you purchased the game from Humble Bundle or from our store. If you’ve lost the email with the details, you can get it resent but you can of course also email us as well if you need any assistance.

In other news, the development of Grimrock 2 continues! Monsters have been learning some new maneuvers and we’ve also done some work on how items, especially weapons, work and right now as I’m writing this, the guys sitting on the sofas behind my back are thinking about how to do the intro and other cinematics. We have also selected a good artist for the portrait freelancing gig we posted about a while earlier. And boy, the blog post was really effective: we got 234 applications in our inbox from artists all over the world and I’d like to thank all the applicants. I’m sure Juho, who had to sort through all the mails and portfolios himself, is equally thankful! ;)

 

Welcome to the second official dev update of Legend of Grimrock 2!

For the past weeks we have been progressing at a steady pace towards our goal looming in the horizon, the first playable alpha. I’ll go through some of the major events that have happened in development.

First of all we got a new team member, YAY!! Welcome aboard, Mr. Jyri #2 aka Jykä! Jykä will be working as an animator and will essentially double our animation content creation throughput. Jykä is already working on his first monster while getting accustomed with our content creation pipeline. We are know 6 men strong which is 50% more than when we were working on LoG1.

Jykä is an especially important addition to the team because he’s the only man who knows how to properly use a coffee maker (an important skill e.g. if you have high profile visitors) :-D

Continue reading »

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