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!

 

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!

 

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 »

 

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!

 

During the past weeks we have been brainstorming and prototyping ideas for LoG2. During this process it is important to keep an open mind to have the creative fluids flowing, so we have tried to not restrict ourselves too much. Many game designs were tried and at least three different storylines were written before nailing down the design for LoG2. In this blog post, I’ll talk about two scrapped designs we found interesting. As many times happen, these designs worked great on paper but not so well in practice.

Grimrogue

Everybody loves a good roguelike, right? Antti and I are big fans of roguelike games here at the office, so it was only natural that this idea, the amalgamation of a roguelike game with Grimrock, has popped up every now and then in our discussions. After all, the tile-based nature of Grimrock seems to be a perfect match with roguelike game design.

With this design levels would be procedurally generated, with some custom made levels here and there. Turn-based combat would probably work better than pure realtime. We even made a quick prototype entitled Grimrogue with turn-based combat and a minimap in one corner of the screen.

One problem we quickly realized was that the player would be focused on the minimap when exploring the randomly generated dungeon and all the gorgeous 3D graphics would be almost like a gimmick. We also had our doubts about turn-based combat. Turn based combat works really well from a topdown perspective where you can see all the units and can think about the best tactics. In first person view where you can only see in one direction, turn-based combat takes away tactical movement and reduces combat to a locked in place affair.

In the end, we felt that with this design we would lose lots of the appeal of Grimrock, the puzzles and the chaotic nature of realtime combat, so the design was scrapped. It would certainly be possible to make this sort of game but it wouldn’t have been Grimrock.

Travel around the Northern Realms in 30 days

Another concept which we tried to make work really hard was travelling in many locations around the Northern Realms, the world of Grimrock. We were initially really excited about this idea, and we made a prototype of the world map, with towns, villages and adventuring locations. There would have been a storyline that ties the main locations together much like the main quest in many RPGs.

In the prototype, the party could travel between the map nodes and choose where to go next. Towns and other encounters were menu based “resource management nodes” and adventuring locations were dungeons with puzzles and monsters. We were so happy about this design that we were about to write a lengthy blog post about it, when doubts began to haunt our heads.

Here’s a snippet of this unreleased blog post:

“One of the themes in Grimrock 2 will be travelling. We would like to explore the outside world that we hinted in the first game. Travelling vast distances in the world would of course not work tile by tile (btw. tile-based movement is definitely a keeper feature), so Grimrock 2 will have multiple locations and a greater variety of environments. Multiple locations will hopefully improve the pacing of the game (a breather after completing an area), give immediate subgoals for the player (complete the current locale), and more choices (where to travel next).

However, one thing that Grimrock 2 will not be is a massive modern RPG. There won’t be zillions of NPCs doing their business and endless wastes of wilderness to travel in. Grimrock 2 will be a different kind of experience with an oldschool heart. We want to keep the core gameplay still tightly centered around the party, tricky puzzles, scary monsters and exploration. Our goal is to make sure that anybody who played the first Grimrock, should be instantly at home with the new game.”

We really wanted this idea to work. The final paragraph of the unreleased post gives some hints about the problem with this design: “tightly centered around the party”, “focus on exploration”, “instantly familiar with the new game”… The problem with this design is the lack of focus. We believe that the charm of Grimrock is compactness, tight focus and emphasis on fun core gameplay. In Grimrock 1, the environment, the dungeon itself has personality and the quest was personal to the characters. Having multiple locations with different atmospheres and multiple linked goals would take some of that charm away.

A game of this sort could surely be made, but, again, it would not be a Grimrock game.

Conclusion

Some might think that brainstorming these ideas and making these elaborate prototypes was a waste of time. Surely we spent time on working on things that will not be in the final game, but more importantly we now know what we don’t want to have in the game. This is very important because it helps us to focus on the essentials.

What is Grimrock 2 going to be like then? Well, I’ve got good news and bad news. Which ones would you like to hear first? Ok, good news: we now know crystal clear what Grimrock 2 will be like. We are really, really happy, relieved and excited that we have settled on a design that feels good and has that magical Grimrock feeling to it. Bad news: you’ll have to wait for another blog post to find out the juicy details!

 

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.
Continue reading »

 

Quick update!

While Olli and Juho are churning out new monsters as fast as they can and Antti is working on puzzles and levels, I have been super busy with adding RPG elements for the last couple of days. Skill and talent systems are now in place and we have currently around 10 skills and 10 talents implemented (more to come!). You can customize each prisoner with a point buy system and talents are special (secret) abilities that can be learned by doing various things in the game. So, skills have levels and talents are cool on/off powers. Skills are usually class specific but there are some overlapping skills as well. Oh, and we have spells now and they look sweet :) . I should really do a gameplay video about them.

And yes, we hear you, we are trying to squeeze character generation system into our busy schedule.

 

We had a long game design discussion yesterday and one of the things we talked about was the class & xp system. Here are some tidbits:

- There will be no multi-classing; party based games do not really need multi-classing and single classing helps to differentiate the characters better. Single classing also adds more emphasis on character generation (a party with 3 fighters and a mage is very different from a party of 3 mages and a fighter). It also allows us to add new character classes later, for example Druid, without having to worry about how they mix and match with other classes when multi-classing.
- There could be ways to bring in some class features from another class at higher levels. For example, choosing a talent or equipping a certain item could allow a rogue to gain limited access to spells. This could be very cool but first things first, let’s see if we have enough time to implement all this!
- We are implementing three core classes for starters: Fighter, Rogue and Mage. More classes can be added later if needed.
- Fighters gain xp primarily by damaging opponents with melee attacks
- Rogues gain xp primarily by damaging opponents with ranged attacks
- Mages gain xp primarily by casting spells and using magic items
- The whole party gains xp by solving puzzles & finding secrets
- Each class has their unique set of skills. New skills can be learned and existing skill ranks can be improved when leveling up.

Of course anything could still change but we are happy with these basic premises. What do you think?

 

If you’ve found your way into this blog, you should be interested in what the game is all about. Legend of Grimrock is a fantasy game loaded with underground adventuring, tricky puzzles, combat and role-playing elements. In other words, it’s a dungeon crawl game.

It’s a genre that a lot of people consider old fashioned since nowadays there are huge open world RPGs filled to the brim with stuff like customizable horses, several-hundred-page scripts for subplots alone and, uh, talking dragons or spaceships I think. But we feel that some of the simple charms of dungeon crawl games have been forgotten and for no good reason too. To many, it might feel silly to make a 3D game in this day and age that constrains itself to grid based movement and environments but it actually works rather nicely when you think of combat as a game of tactics and timing. It works very well when designing puzzles too, which is an element we feel is very lacking, and in some cases completely absent, in modern RPGs. And, possibly most importantly, it also makes it possible for a small team of four developers to make a rather sizeable game!

Obviously it won’t have the same mainstream appeal as many big budget RPGs, but when you don’t have too much money you can afford to make niche games. And I’m not even joking! It’s pretty darn expensive to compete with the industry giants in their own game (ha!), so why not play the game by your own rules? That being said, we do hope that we can attract some players new to the genre too. After all it is a nice genre. It’s just that its fans have not been treated very well in the past, uhh, ten years or so… But we are doing our best to ease their plight!

So. Legend of Grimrock is a dungeon crawl game. It will be influenced by oldschool games of the genre but it won’t be a game that would have been possible to make fifteen years ago. It will look great, have loads of atmosphere, sound good and play well. We won’t be making many promises during the development since things will often change down the line, but those aforementioned parameters I can pretty much guarantee. And lastly, we’re hoping on bringing this game for iOS, PC and Mac and possibly some other platforms as well.

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