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. :)

 

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!

 

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

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Time flies when you’re working hard on something and, oh man, have we been working hard lately. It’s time for a first proper dev update for Legend of Grimrock 2!

The codebase has been in quite a bad shape after working so furiously on the first game. So I’ve been doing a lot of code refactoring which is a bit unthankful work because I’m rewriting a lot code and on the surface nothing seem to be changing. But still it’s very important and will speed up development in the future tremendously. Almost everything is now component based (except for the Party class which is a bugger to refactor because it’s so tightly connected to many places). Also I have rewritten the save game system, so that it’s easier to add new components that store their state automatically in save games.

I’ve also worked on the AI and as a result some critters are now noticeably harder to deal with. A completely new AI behavior has also been added. You can tell the difference immediately when this new behavior is activated but I don’t want to spoil the fun by revealing all the secrets yet!

The Dungeon Editor has also seen some changes. The inspector is now tree-based and shows the components of the selected entity. The “Paint Wall” tool has been extended quite a bit. It is now possible to paint different types of walls and floors in the same level. Shift-clicking on the map flood fills large areas. The editor also has a zoom feature, so tightly packed levels are easier to deal with.

Meanwhile Antti has been busy designing the levels. We have now about 5-6 playable levels in pre-alpha stage depending on how you count them. The levels have puzzles in them but monsters and extra polish will be added later. Antti has also been prototyping on a cool new puzzle mechanic which will eventually help extend our repertoire of tricky and brainteasing puzzles.

Juho and Olli have been modeling and animating new monsters and we have now eight new nasty critters, including two new spellcasters in development. We are trying to get a wider variety of monsters with different abilities in the game this time. If time permits we would like to implement unique AI behavior for most of them.

Jyri has been working on a new interior wallset and dungeon props. Jyri has also helped Juho and Olli by creating the very first monster that you will encounter in LoG2! Jyri reports that the monster has 3192 polygons, uses three textures, has 17 deformers and fits approximately inside a 3×3 meter cubic block. Can you guess what it is? :-)

So all in all, I’d say we are progressing at a good pace. But there’s still a lot of work left, so better get back to banging the keyboard!

 

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!

 

Welcome to the first development update of Grimrock 2! In this post I’m going to talk about a big internal change under the hood of the engine. The discussion should be especially interesting to modders.

A small disclaimer before we get started: many things that we talk about in these updates are work in progress, incomplete or ideas that may not have been proven in practice to work. Therefore many things could very well change or be removed in the shipping version. We also want to keep some things, especially the puzzles, the plotline and probably most of the monsters as secrets to avoid spoiling the fun. Ok, I think that should be clear, so let’s get rolling!
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We realized that we really haven’t listed the Dungeon Editor’s features and capabilities in any single place clearly so hey, why not compile a list here. This should give you a better overall picture about what you can create with the editor. Let me switch on my marketing droid -mode here for a moment… There! Let’s go:

  • Simple and straightforward user interface.
  • Instant preview lets you test play the dungeon instantly: no need to leave the editor or wait for the level to export.
  • Create puzzles, traps and contraptions simply by connecting buttons, pressure plates and other triggers to trapdoors, spawners or teleporters for example.
  • Use Lua scripts to create even more complex logic and go beyond what would otherwise be possible.
  • Fill your dungeons with any of the 350+ original Legend of Grimrock assets.
  • Create new items, complete with new graphics and functionality like new magical weapons or potions with their own custom effects.
  • If you want a cow-on-wheels roaming the tunnels, it’s no problem: you can use your own custom monsters!
  • Totally transform how the dungeon looks and feels like by using custom environment graphics and objects.
  • Trigger your own sounds or replace the background music.
  • Tell a story with custom intro and ending cinematics.
  • Create hellish demon snails simply by changing the textures of the original snail: you can modify, replace or recycle the original Legend of Grimrock textures, meshes or other assets to suit your needs.
  • Publish your creations by using the built-in Steam Workshop support – or just freely upload the dungeon data anywhere or hand it out directly to your friends.

Some of you might know that we’ve previously had a policy in place that has prevented modders from modifying/distributing the game assets found in our game data. We will still have that policy in place as far as reverse-engineered assets are regarded but we will release a comprehensive pack of assets along with the editor that you can use and modify to create Legend of Grimrock mods. This is just due to the fact that we can’t, for example, give away sounds we have bought and give people the permission to use and modify those assets. But don’t worry, the majority of our assets will be in the pack for you to use. We will release the revised modding and asset usage terms soon.

Oh, and there won’t be a need to hack the game to access the developer console anymore either: to make it easier to debug your custom dungeons, we have implemented an option to enable the console.

If you’ve got any more questions on what could be done with the editor, ask in the comments or on the forum.

 

Hello, it’s time for a proper weekly update once again!

It almost seems like there’s a rule in the universe that the amount of kick ass graphics produced at any given time is a constant. You see, we hired a new guy in the field of kick ass graphics production and almost at the same time Juho (who also operates in the very same field [kick ass graphics production -Editor]) manages to break his collarbone with his mountain bike, rendering him temporarily useless (for our twisted purposes, that is). Luckily though, he is left handed so he should be able to continue with us pretty soon and he also happened to have a camera mounted on his chest so we’re eagerly waiting to see what the tumble looked like!

Anyways, we wish him a speedy recovery but let’s get back to the topic at hand. Almost Human made a big leap and we did our first hire! Let’s all welcome Jyri, who’s an old colleague/friend of ours. He has previously worked on Trine 2 and Shattered Horizon, among other things, and his special skills include ZBrush and mucking around on an electronic drumset. He already started working on some 3D objects that will certainly find their home in a dark dungeon somewhere but right now as I’m writing this, he’s having fun by assembling some Swedish furniture which incidentally will also find their home in a dark dungeon somewhere (e.g. our office).

We also opened a Cafepress store where you can buy Legend of Grimrock and Almost Human shirts, hoodies and pet bowls! Tell us what you think and if there’s something you would like to see in the store, do let us know and we’ll take a look if it’s doable!

The dungeon editor is also progressing well. I know there’s a lot of folks out there who have been asking if using custom assets, like new environment graphics, monsters, sounds, items etc., would be possible and I’m glad to say that we have now solved all remaining issues with those! I’m sure we’ll see a lot of awesome new fan made graphics and other things of immeasurable beauty :) . There’s also a handful of usability improvements like better filtering of the asset list (no more scrolling, yay!) and we think we could call the editor pretty much feature complete. This means that it’s now possible to do everything necessary with the editor to create functional custom dungeons but there’s still a few improvements we want to make and we’ll also have to update the game itself a little so you can load the custom dungeons there. But all in all, we’re very close to the finish line here!

 

Editor’s Note: For the next couple of weeks we are going to feature a set of articles that should shed some light on how Legend of Grimrock was made. The articles range from graphics and animation to sound design and programming. For gamers or hobbyists we hope to give you some idea what game development is about. If you’re a fellow game developer hopefully these articles will give you some ideas for your projects. Without further due, let’s give the floor to Juho! -Petri

Legend of Grimrock has a storyline running under its hood and to help it get it moving we needed an intro sequence in the beginning of the game. Naturally some fancy big money cinematic was out of the question, so we had to come up with some more down to earth type of solution. Pretty quickly we narrowed our options to still images with overlaid text. That was relatively easy and fast to do, but allowed more freedom for the player to watch the images and read the texts in his/her own pace. Intro sequences’ main purpose was to set the mood and setting for the game with the help of iconic tune by Stakula (which we talked earlier in here).

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Hello everyone! Let’s kick things off in this weekly update with a small announcement: Legend of Grimrock is now available through GamersGate as well so if you haven’t gotten yours already, there’s now another way to get it (although I do have a feeling that I’m preaching to the choir here)!

And then let’s continue the weekly update with another announcement: we’ve had good progress with the dungeon editor and we have hit the alpha milestone! Since we now have the core features of the editor done, we are now ready to extend the testing even outside the walls of this office but don’t get too excited yet: it’s not a public testing phase, it’s just something we will handle with a handful of friends at least for the time being. We’re not only concentrating on finding bugs (or locating potential for improvement) in the editor alone because the base game itself needs some rigorous testing too since there have been some fundamental architecture changes to the game we have had to do in order to support the loading of custom dungeons and such. This testing round probably also means that we’ll have to slow down with adding new features to the editor for some time since I’m certain there will be a lot of things we need to fix and stabilize before we should proceed to add some more functionality. But the good news is that it seems like there isn’t a massive amount of things missing from the editor anymore either but we’ll have to wait and see what the testers can come up with!

Oh, and just so that you know: if nothing terribly exciting on the development front has happened during a week, we’re going to serve you a dose of “making of” -style documentation from Legend of Grimrock on our weekly updates. Like for example once we get a build out of the doors for testers to mess with, we’re certainly going to be occupied by ironing out usability issues and bugs so we might not have anything profound or exciting to tell you and since we wouldn’t want to stay completely silent either, we’ll give you a behind the scenes glimpse on what goes into making a game like Legend of Grimrock! But in essence this is nothing new since that’s basically what we did early on in the development too when we were doing features on things like monster design, level scripting or graphics here on the blog. We just haven’t done that in a while now and I think that will be more fun than trying to come up with something interesting to say when nothing dramatic has happened.

Alright, that’s it for this time. Take care!

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