Ash of Gods: visual novel and tactical RPG

Discussion in 'Feedback Requests' started by Necrozaurus, Dec 21, 2016.

  1. Necrozaurus

    Necrozaurus
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    Hail and Joy to all the people of the game world!
    I would like to show you some pieces from the game Ash of Gods: Redemption which is now in development by AurumDust Studio - tactical RPG, implemented in a form of visual novel.

    This is the leading protagonist of the game, baron Thorn Brenin of Albus city.

    [​IMG]

    This is his daughter Gleda.

    [​IMG]

    Hode, young soldier from the Albus regiment

    [​IMG]

    And wandering healer Hoper Rouley

    [​IMG]

    Wait... I forgot to show you Dorpkhal the Reaper, one of the major antagonists of the game.

    [​IMG]

    All these images are dialogue portraits from the visual storyline. During combat encounters characters will look this way:

    [​IMG]


    How do you think, are these images conclusive enough to be implemented in the game? And - would you like to see more stuff from Ash of Gods, including animations, videos, developer diaries, etc?

    Thank you!
     
  2. Necrozaurus

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    Ash of Gods team wishes you merry upcoming Christmas! And our characters too)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  3. kevintrepanier

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    The drawings are fabulous, good job! Depending on the mood you want, the colors may be a little dull though. I'd try something more vibrant with either more contrasts or more saturation.
     
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  4. Necrozaurus

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    Thank you very much!
     
  5. Necrozaurus

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    For all the people who're interested how its all is made: here is the first part of our developer diary.


    Words by AurumDust's CEO Nikolay Bondarenko



    I’m eager to complete the game in the space of a year. It’s damn hard, even when you know exactly what to do. It was obvious from the very beginning that we’d have to do everything simultaneously: write a novel, turn it into a script, work on its technical adaptation so we could launch it in Unity, draw backgrounds and characters, and create visual effects and animation for the combat system. All in the best traditions of indie agile: fast, steady movement forward, even when you have no idea which exact route will take you to your goal. But on the other hand, after four months of intensive work on this game we still don’t have a build in which everything we did can be shown off as an integral product. Right now we are moving towards this goal with giant strides.

    In search of a style


    Most part of August and all of September we spent on searching for the right style and techique for scene drawing. At this stage I failed a bit as a newborn “I-know-everything’ guy. I hoped that concept artist Vladimir Malakhovsky, my mate and a close friend of our art director, Igor, would help with the adaptation of the scenes’ style. I’ve worked with Vladimir before, on a game called Cradle of Magic – he did cool graphics in the old-school manner, which, as I supposed, would fit into our new project too.

    I really wanted it to look like Disney’s Fire and Ice and LoTR, and The Snow Queen (1957) and Twelve Months (1956) by the Soviet studio Soyuzmultfilm – thin lines, simple forms and fills, a warm palette. At the same time, it would have to be quite close to comic books in its aesthetics.

    However, Vladimir’s current style turned out to be closer to classic oil paintings and it wasn’t the manner that we wanted to see.

    The effort of bringing more realism and clarity has required too much time for drawing the scenes. And the style turned out to be too complex for other artists to work in without making the difference stand out.

    We’ve lost almost a month with these experiments and it was exhausting and demotivating. It seemed to be a total failure given the fact that with the characters we did everything right from the first attempt. Fortunately, Igor (our art director) remembered about Andrey Zherdev – and the very first sketches he did already had the feeling we were looking for.

    At the end of August (thanks to social networks) we found Julia Jokhova – a great artist who had experience in making illustrations according to the technique that we need. We started to search for references and also the stylistics which would manage to express the atmosphere of the story accurately. It took almost one and a half months to create the city of Albus and its vicinities and the yard of Thorn Brenin’s mansion. Despite all its seeming simplicity, this elaborate techique of drawing (the brushes, coloring and light) still demanded a lot of time. We had to design the greenery separately: individual trees, groves and bushes. We had to understand how to correctly draw the building materials. So, in its first version our city of Albus looked like it had been created by genie a minute ago, out of materials freshly arrived from the factory.

    Parallax (That’s when different layers on the screen are moving at different velocities) is “our everything”, but during the work on the first scene we just had no tools to test the stuff that the guys drew in Photoshop. We did it “quick-and-dirty”, creating the animatics directly in Photoshop.

    The first attempt to build animatic scenes in Unity was made at the end of September:



    We had to find a solution that wouldn’t only satisfy each one of us, but would also allow us to create the content quickly. I’m not sure, however, that we really managed to do it: with each new scene there appears something new and interesting that was missed in the stuff which was already created. You want to go back and redo everything – or, at least, redraw it. By the middle of December we’ve learned how to draw one scene one-and-a-half to two screens in width. We did it in 2-3 weeks – from idea to Unity build. This scene – “the village at Arch” near the town of Ursus – was one of our first victories.

    In this scene Julia used some of the methods that were previously used by Andrey Zherdev in the third game’s episode (we didn’t show these scene anywhere): elements of work with color, mountains on the background, greenery, the stylistics of drawing the Menhirs (those huge stones which form the arch). Such things helped us to finish the illustration faster.
     
    #5 Necrozaurus, Dec 27, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2016
  6. Necrozaurus

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    Hello, Unity


    This image showcases what the basic episode direction looks like: managing the camera and the points where the dialogues begin. This is the part that we’re intensively coding right now. The first urge – to pick Fungus (the only distinct solution for visual novels in Unity) – didn’t work for us. The storytelling in the episodes is tightly bound to the camera work and the author’s text. Fungus doesn’t contain anything like this while its tools for work with story trees aren’t as convenient as in Articy (I will talk about this thing some later).

    We began with something else, however – we moved the main rules from the prototype into the game’s code, we built our own animation controller – to play the animations on the battle field – and we wrote a little tool for importing the individual clips of battle animations.

    We had to solve several problems simultaneously. So, the current sequence of the “Rush” hit contains 53 frames and the character in this animation moves quite a lot – he crouches, turns his body from side to side, steps back. The battle field is presented in isometric perspective and if you want the animations to flow smoothly from one into another, each of these frames needs an accurately set point of binding. In other words, this is how you center one set of frames in relation to others. Being a naive man, I thought that Unity would include this operation, which is so easy and regular for any 2D game (and I have a pretty extensive amount of experience working with stuff like that in Flash). But, as it turned out, Unity doesn’t have this functionality (just as it lacks many other things which you expect from a platform intended for making 2D games). Moreover, almost everything you can find in open source or in the Unity store for 2D games is intended for platformers. So we had to code the import and alignment of the battle animations by ourselves.

    Then we focused on the part that plays the animations – to make sure that our clips with walking, strikes and the master poses are done right and look good.

    When we began coding in Unity, we already had a combat system prototype that was written by me in JavaScript. Currently we are still adding and testing new classes in it, following the next rule: code fast and don’t think about the consequences. I think that the main hurdle about implementation in Unity was our attempt to port our prototype proof-of-concept combat system into it without any changes, keeping all the features which were in the Web version. And this was long before the work on AI begins. Either we’ll decide to incorporate the completed animations, or do something serious with this part of the game in general. It was important for me to do this as soon as possible – so we could understand how difficult it would turn out to be and on what general principles to base development as a whole.

    It was also very important to let all the mathematics and mechanics be ready for quick incorporation into the final version of the game: the skills and parameters of the different battle classes, the rules of motion and all the rest.

    Each skill is a little text file in YAML format that describes, in declarative form, how this skill works. You can quickly change the parameters, add or remove effects, or simply change individual classes’ behavior mechanics. This allows us to quickly try out the ideas we get from the people playing our prototype. For instance, the idea of the Hammerman class was suggested by Voice of Reason. This is a class that can move across the entire battlefield and has only one goal – to deprive your enemy’s characters who haven’t moved yet of the opportunity to move. A few minutes are all you need to create a new class and begin to watch how it plays and affects the game process.

    The plot?


    During all this time Sergey Malitsky (the author of the script) and Dmitry Erokhin (the game designer) worked with Articy. Articy is the gizmo that allows us to write and check the script independently from the creation of the game’s code. You can’t play the novel in its entirety yet, but we’re already able to play the first 5 episodes in Articy – to check how the decision trees and choices work.

    For almost a month, since the middle of November, we’ve been engaged concurrently in the directing of the dialogs – how to place characters correctly in dialogs, how to do the switchover of backgrounds in 2D scenes. Such dialogs in the game have up to a maximum of seven characters. This is how we arrived at the “three scenes” model: two general and one additional. Game designers sets the place where each of characters is standing, while Articy controls who’s speaking at the current moment.

    Any course in film photography will give you the essential theory – where to place the camera correctly when filming the conversation of several people, how to do the switchover of backgrounds, and which rules you shouldn’t break. But when you try to emulate these rules in 2D, you encounter some difficulties: you can’t turn the camera in different directions, so you have to somehow simulate motion which is natural for a 3D scene. When you’re making a movie, it’s enough for the director to give a command, and the cameraman will shoot the episode from another point of view. But when your making a game, we very badly wanted to avoid having to place the camera manually, because that looks a lot like suicide : even now the game already contains about 2000 of speech lines (if I calculated correctly). We’ve spent almost a week to understand when and how we should change the views to make everything look nice.

    And yes, articy:access api is a big headache. In practice working in it turned out not to be as simple as the ads promised. This wasn’t a story of “start it up and everything just works out of the box”. I’m also thinking with some trepidation about the localization process – the internationalization tools which were promised in 2014 still haven’t appeared in Articy. Not that it’s that big a deal, but it makes us nervous anyway.

    What’s next
    There are 37 characters, 21 scenes and 12 battlefields to be done. We’ve drawn seven scenes and three battlefields so far. Since the beginning of September we’ve drawn 22 dialogue portraits of characters and six individual miniatures of the enemies. This is a bit more than two thirds of all the characters in the game. It looks like we’ll manage to draw all the characters we need in time. We’ve also done tons of concept art for the intro video.

    By the end of December the first animation packs for the battle miniatures will be ready: Fisk, Rumlin, Krieger, Ark and Sopp. By the middle of February – another ten characters and by the beginning of summer there will be around 30 of them. Unfortunately, we are four or five calendar weeks behind schedule with the scenes, and two to three weeks late with the script plan. Right now we’re still deciding what to do with all of this. Should we reduce the amount of content or speed up? I don’t know.

    Sometimes it’s harder to finish something than to start. So, here is the brief list of things that fucked us up. Aaaargh, we don’t have time! The winter is torturing us. It already gets dark by 16:30 and it seems daylight doesn’t exist anymore – you wake up when it’s still dark and you finish up when it’s already dark. The neighbor with his electric hammer drill is making it really hard to write the storyline. And for some reason, there is such a small number of hours in a day.
     

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  7. Necrozaurus

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    New character for the game is ready: the warrior named Eik.

    [​IMG]

    Eik is a simple man – a huge soldier with iron fists and a bull’s neck rather than a sharp mind, so he prefers a good punch in the forehead (giving it, not getting it) to philosophical disputes about the nature of good and evil. His criteria of good and bad are simple too: if everybody is alive and healthy that means everything is alright. And if there’s some good beer in a tankard and some gold coins in his pockets, that means everything is wonderful. Eik is exactly what you’d call an expert in the intricacies of human nature. That’s why he doesn’t believe anyone except himself, probably. He’s never been noticed talking to himself, though.

    What do you think about this character? What do you like/dislike the most in him?
     
  8. Necrozaurus

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    Here you can see the battle animation of the guard Fisk demonstrating him while providing a strike and receiving the damage. This is a result of scrupulous work, and we hope that we did everything right. You can find details of its creation in our devblog. Any questions or advices are appreciated.

    [​IMG]
     
  9. L.C.Nohansen

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    Hello !

    Since you've made the effort to get out there and walk us through your development process in such a detailed, friendly manner, I'll do my best to provide you thought-out, honest feedback !

    I'm not an artist, so I don't know if I'll manage to word this right : in my (humble and personal) opinion, the dialogue art looks really good and professional, but...it also feels static and cold. It's very richly detailed, but paradoxically, it feels to me like it lacks energy, life and movement - like the character portraits are actually frozen as opposed to, well, simply being showcased in a given posture at a given time. I don't know if it has to do with their posture, their facial expression, the shading, the colors, the sense of movement, the "inking"...but it bugs me.

    I have absolutely no criticism when it comes to the actual in-game models, though. As far as I'm concerned, they're really good - the shading and movement are spot on and it gives them a really neat, fresh "realistic med-fan" style : once again, that's gonna sound weird, but the models have more personality than the dialogue art does, in my opinion.

    With an artist as talented as yours, however, I'm sure whatever visual issue you may come across won't stay unsolved for long. There's a problem I'm a lot more concerned about, though, and I'll try to find the least rude way possible to tackle it without sugarcoating it either !

    You folks look very gifted and productive when it comes to writing, there's no doubt about it - apart from the fact that your posts were really well-written (I mean, as silly as that sounds, you wanna give a good impression of your writing skills when you're advertising a narrative-driven game which you mention many times is basically thought of as a novel plot-wise, haha), you display very promising creativity and depth in the way you talk about the game and its elements.
    But...
    But.

    Everything I've seen so far - the characters you've walked us through, their design, and the story elements you've teased, it all sounds extraordinarily boring, overdone and stale.
    I mean...once again, I'm really not trying to be rude here. But not only is every single character you've introduced to us a walking, breathing cliché you're bound to find in literally every fantasy story out there (and a respectable chunk of non-fantasy works as well). I'm not exaggerating - I'm a big fantasy reader and I can tell you from a fact that I could literally walk to my bookshelf and find not one, but a couple characters built from exactly the same archetype as every single one you've introduced so far.
    Don't get me wrong - I absolutely don't think archetypes are a bad thing on their own. Even the best fantasy books (and, well, non-fantasy works in general) use them from times to times - but for one, they're generally giving them a twist and significantly altering the base they come from, (or they're thrown into such an unique, singular and creative universe that they soon develop into their own character, which breaks the mold) and for two, they're used cleverly and parsimoniously.

    I'll take Eik as an example to try and explain why this is an issue to me, but that's more or less applicable to the rest of the cast, not only based on face value, but also on what you've told us about them so far : his description is well-written, comprehensive and sharp-witted, and the art looks good, but...there's nothing, nothing at all that makes him memorable, by any stretch. Nothing that makes him stand out, no element of personality that's out of the "ordinary". You give him a look, you're like "Oh, here's -that- character" and, well. That's about it. I'm not saying every single character in a story has to be groundbreaking and extremely creative, but I feel like they should at least have some element of flavor, personality or depth to them if they're going to be very stereotypical, otherwise there's no reason to get interested in them and, therefore, to feel involved in their story at all.

    Now of course - I'm being harsh here, because a character that's very archetypal and generic on the outside could be made interesting and memorable through clever writing, great dialogue, deep backstories and plot developments. The best examples that comes to my mind are the Shadowrun - Returns games, where every single character feels like you'll never forget them, or the books by Joe Abercrombie - which makes an excellent, innovative use of fantasy tropes to build intricate, riveting and unpredictable stories.

    Where I'm going with this is that if you think there's some elements of truth in what I said, something that could really take your narrative to the next level would be to think of how to give more liveliness, more flavor, or simply more "oomph" to your character's personality, traits and designs. If your dialogue, backstories and character development are amazing, it'll just make them even better and more memorable - otherwise, it'll help with making them amazing, which is a win-win situation, haha. And you really don't have (and shouldn't have) to take the realistic, down-to-earth aspect and design you're going for in order to do this. Look at Glen Cook's novels - he's doing a hell of a job at making extremely realistic, easily forgettable and generic characters absolutely memorable and impactful.

    Well, those were my two cents. Once again, I really, really hope I didn't come across as rude or mean - you're looking like an extremely talented and motivated team with a potential to make amazing games, and all I hope for this criticism is to help you clear the way towards great content.

    Best regards !
     
  10. Necrozaurus

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    L.C.Nohansen, thank you for such detailed reply. We'll analyze it and consider your opinion.
     
  11. Necrozaurus

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    Meanwhile new character is ready for the game.

    [​IMG]

    Baron Trobbel is the indispensable burgomaster of Albus. A distant relative of the King. Persistent and stubborn – that’s why he’s retained his mayorship for so long. People joke that Trobbel doesn’t die because Death didn’t manage to convince him that he should.

    Does he look trustworthy?
     
  12. Necrozaurus

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    [​IMG]

    Let me also mention one interesting fact.
    The literary base of our game is a novel by popular Russian fantasy fiction writer Sergey Malitsky. He creates new chapters simultaneously with making of the game. These two parts of the process are influencing each other, and sometimes something can be changed in the novel if it's required by the game's plot. Or the opposite. Of course, such changes concern only the further chapters which aren't implemented in the game yet.
    Do you like this story?
     
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  13. Necrozaurus

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    Another character for the game is ready - Coronzon.

    [​IMG]

    He is a cardinal of Divine Retribution Temple. His eyes are as tenacious as his long thin fingers – and if his glance stopped on somebody’s face for more than a couple of seconds, it means that Coronzon has seen right through this man – and has already decided on his destiny. Do you consider him good or the bad guy?
     
  14. Necrozaurus

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    This is a sample of the game's dialogues' interface:

    [​IMG]

    We actually had to sweat a bit over it - at first glance it might seem to be a standard look for a visual novel. However, we wanted to produce something similar to traditional cinema, with the protagonist presnet in the shot and the camera changing its position. Also, to make things clearer, artist Lekso Tyger has drown several shields for the characters portraits which also show its class.

    What do you think of this look? The icon is not unnessesary, is it?
    By the way, we have used the latest Dorpkhal's version for this illustration. What do you think of it?
     
  15. metateen

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    Holy! Man that animation is fabulous!
     
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  16. Necrozaurus

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    Thank you, your words encourage us to force up the pace! \m/
     
  17. Necrozaurus

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    Let me also tell some words about Ash of Gods combat system.

    [​IMG]



    First of all - Ash of Gods will have turn-based combat that will take place in various moments during the playthrough on dedicated battlefields. Here is some information about it:
    1. We're developing our own ruleset with some unique and (hopefully) exciting mechanics
    2. We do not have RND, so no rolls and hit/miss chances.
    3. Besides the characters in his party the player can use powerful cards during the battle.
    4. Each character has only 3 basic parameters
      HP - health points, once it reaches 0 the char dies;
      MP - energy points, they are used for special moves and rushing across the tactical field. Once it reaches 0 - any further damage toward MP will deal x2 towards HP;
      AT - attack, servers as the base parameter for skills.
    5. Any attack can be aimed at either opponent's HP or MP.
    6. Powerful attack use HP points (and not only for a berserker or a blood mage but across many of the classes).
    If you don't mind to read long articles - you can read about the process of creating the combat system on our website https://ashofgods.com/news/new-approach-to-turn-based-strategies/ (or should I share it here?). You can also get your hands on the prototype and check it out for yourself here http://game.aurumdust.com/. It has very limited UI and player support so it's pretty hardcore at this point, but we will greatly appreciate if you give it a shot and share some feedback here. Beware that there is no AI yet, so you can do 1 out of the 3 things:

    • Open it in 2 browser tabs and play with yourself (we don't judge);
    • If you happen to have a friend - send him the link and fight against him;
    • I'd be happy to play against you - so just shoot me a PM with the time that you'd like to give it a shot.
    As always - feel free to ask me anything about it (ie classes, skills, mechanics, etc.)
     
  18. Necrozaurus

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    Another character we've finished - Treeg, Jerana's crown prince.



    [​IMG]

    Being a crown prince, Treeg is very scrupulous about matters of national importance. Sometimes so scrupulous that you may even consider him a dictator. Still, despite his slight arrogance (what else did you expect from the prince?), Treeg is an honest and fair man, and he never will commit a dastardly act. But if you screw up your duties and jeopardize the greater mission, Treeg will be ruthless and see to it that you get a thorough flogging. Just to assist in your comprehension.

    What are your impressions of this character?
     
  19. Necrozaurus

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    Hello again! Please take a look at combat animation of the wizard named Rumlin (his portrait version is upper in the thread). What do you think of this? Is it lifelike?



    [​IMG]
     
  20. Necrozaurus

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    Check out Ash of Gods main menu theme that was made by Adam Skorupa during January 2017. As we think, the mood and the atmosphere of our game is captured very well in this music theme, and we're very glad to share it with you. What are your impressions of it?

     
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