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Forest / Desert Environment Concept Talk!

Hello blog friends! It’s been a while! Real life has been crazy, but we’ve been chugging along on the game! [EDIT: holy heck, this post has been sitting in drafts for like, a month! I completely forgot to post it, aaa] Last time I posted, I wrapped up on talking about the starter Phantoms in the game. Now it’s time to talk about where all of the Phantoms, NPCs, and the Player live–the different worlds and environments.

I’m going to let you in on a secret πŸ‘€: I don’t particularly like doing environment stuff. Yep, crazy. My drawing passions lie with character and creature design, not quite UI and backgrounds. However! I do really like learning about new things and drawing inspiration from places I’d never thought to look before. So, I spent a lot of time looking at architecture from all over the world and used my newfound love of houseplants to fuel my sketching! (I have… too many houseplants for someone who just got into the hobby a few months ago πŸ˜…)

The Forest 🌳

You’ve seen the forest a lot, and you’ve probably even seen the concept art I’ve done for it in Claire’s posts! But I’m going to touch on it briefly just because it was the first environment we figured out and the first one that the player will see upon entering the game.

So, this is what the forest looks like in-game at the moment! A lot of darker colors, with a few pops of bright colors with the mushrooms. I did all of the textures for the trees and ground that you’re seeing here, with no bump mapping, if you know what that means! Basically, it just means that I painted them completely flat, with no computer magic to create actual 3-dimensionality in the game! Just good old-fashioned shadows and highlights πŸ˜‰

We used a lot of purples and dark greens, with a fairly strong blue tone over both. Cooler colors feel naturally a little less cozy and, well, warm than warm tones! We wanted to get a somewhat creepy vibes without making everything too dark to read.

And here’s the concept sheet I did for some props for the area! Some big mushrooms to platform on, some greenery to fill in the forested parts you can’t get to, and more!

The Desert 🌡

This is the hub world of the game! The second place the player will visit! There was some apprehension about the idea of a desert world in the game, since the deserts in many other games are pretty… barren. Monochromatic. But I think there’s a lot of room for color and beauty in a big sandy expanse too! My favorite biome in Minecraft is the painted desert, so it kinda influenced a lot of my colors choices here πŸ˜…

This is my colored sketch for the environment. A lot of larger than life succulents, painted terracotta and clay buildings, and color! Lots of color. I referenced a lot of African architecture (among others, the painted village of TiΓ©bΓ©lΓ© in Burkina Faso, Ndebele house painting, and the traditional architecture of Morocco and Mali), plus a few references from India and… the Tatooine set from Star Wars. The stairs are cool, okay?

Some of the images I used as reference/inspiration are below!

I’m pretty… wary of borrowing inspiration from cultures I don’t know personally, so I tried to be respectful about my approach. I won’t be using any specific buildings as a mold for ones in the game, and I’m making an effort to establish my own set of rules for patterns and color palette in this area. This isn’t just for aesthetics, but so that I don’t accidentally grab parts of the culture that hold significance that I’ve missed. By the way, if there’s ever any part of these blog posts or art that I’ve done for the game that you think isn’t culturally sensitive, please message me or comment! I want to include influences from various cultures within my art, and I do research on all of it, but I’ve only been deeply entrenched in the cultures I grew up in myself so I’m bound to miss certain nuances.

In Conclusion

Anyways! I have 2 more environments to share in a future blog post, so look forward to that! Until then, stay cool, make good choices, and… uhh… don’t do drugs ok bye!!

Sorry for being Quiet, but Here’s Some Phantoms!

Why hello there, stranger! It’s been awhile hasn’t it? Summer here at Pine Drake was absolutely NUTS, and we’ve got so much stuff to show you and talk about! We appreciate you all sticking around here with us, and we hope the stuff we’ve been working on will make it worth your while. πŸ™‚

Since I’m me (Claire, if you did see the picture πŸ‘€) I’ve been working on bringing all of our Kindred Phantoms to life! We’re super close to having all of our starters animated and in-game (only one more left to go!) so without further ado, let’s dive right in!

So our first new Phantom is Kalfin, the Love type! Kalfin is a coyingly sweet Phantom based on the cryptid rhinoceros dolphin. While its round and huggable shape may make you lower your guard, Kalfin can actually be quite sharp and dangerous when it needs to be, especially against enemies or those it distrusts. It’ll never show its true face for too long, however, and always finds a way to hide its powerful jaws under a lovable facade!

This friendly pal doesn’t have a name yet, but represents the Calm Phantom in the Kindred set. Armed with a powerful calming energy, it has the ability to lull its foes to sleep when given the opportunity. This Phantom floats around without a care in the world – perhaps that crown on its head has something to do with it!

Last but not least, we have the newest member of the crew – a Sadness Phantom with an unknown name! Not much is known about this ghostly axolotl, but it seems to really need a friend – maybe you can help it feel better!

Another awesome thing about this Phantom – I recorded the process I took to create it! Creating a Phantom is usually a 6-8 hour process, and I recorded it and sped it into a nice 2 minute video πŸ™‚ Check it out below!

One last important update before I sign off. Pine Drake Games is growing as a studio and family, and we are happy to announce that we have made two key hires for our Human Resources department. State Alchemists Edward and Alphonse Elric have joined the team full time, and they have been delightful to work with thus far! You can see them here in their work clothes.

(In all seriousness, CJ and I adopted two kitties and their names are Edward (left) and Alphonse (right) and we love them so much!!)

As always, thanks for reading everyone! We hope you like the content the next few months have in store <3

Overworld Movement or Something

Hey guys! It’s CJ again, here to tell you some more stuff about The Phantom Keeper.

A lot of what I’ve been focused on and talking about in these posts is the battle mechanics – but I haven’t talked much about the overworld movement yet, so I figured for this post I’d give an update on how that’s going!

A lot of the overworld gameplay is going to be heavily inspired by Paper Mario TTYD, and people who’ve played it will probably feel the similarities. Here’s a few things that you can do and expect in the overworld of The Phantom Keeper:

Classic 3D platformer movement!

For navigating the overworld, the basics are the same as many other 3D platforms – you can move around in all 4 directions, you can jump, and you can attack stuff with your scythe. When the game starts, that’ll be all of your movement options – and things will be focused more on exploring around and solving puzzles! We plan on having some more movement controls that you unlock throughout the game, but I’ll talk about those some other time.

The player’s movement is going to be a bit more physics-based, which means that you’ll be able to do some cool things like jump off of moving platforms and keep the momentum! Also, something cool we have right now is that attacking cancels your momentum – so you can stall yourself in the air as a way to save yourself if you mistime a jump!

Staged Perspective

For the majority of the game, the camera will be from a staged perspective (That’s probably not the actual technical term for it, but that’s what I call it). Staged perspective is when the camera follows the player, but stays at one angle – in our case, meaning that most of the movement will be left to right, but with a bit of added depth. You might be thinking ‘why?‘ or ‘Wouldn’t just a normal 2D or 3D camera be better?’ or maybe ‘What’s a camera‘, so here’s a few reasons why I like Forced perspective:

  • You don’t have to control the camera at all! Makes it much more relaxing, and easier for less experienced gamers.
  • It’s usually easier to figure out where to go next – when in doubt, going right usually works!
  • Still preserves a bit of that exploration feel that 3D games give
  • This is more for us, but it’s much easier and quicker to make levels that you only look at from one angle!

There may be a few places where we break this idea of a single camera angle, like in towns or particularly big areas – but we’ll still have the camera automatically controlled in those cases, so no need for camera controls!

I don’t know how to end blog posts! Bye! πŸ‘‹

Meet Bing!

What’s up, everybody? Some might say it is warm outside for this lovely early June week, but it’s nowhere near as hot as we were on Twitter last week! (Like that transition?) If you’re not on Twitter or our Discord, then YOU SHOULD BE, but more importantly you should check out the gameplay trailer that we posted there! We participated in #PitchYaGame, which is a pitching competition held live on Twitter, and we talked a whole bunch about our plans for the game. Check out the trailer!

(In case you were wondering, that music was made by the awesome Kev Matthews, who we’re bringing on to make the music for The Phantom Keeper! :0 )

While the trailer is exciting and all, you might have noticed some new content in there that you haven’t seen before, specifically that little fella right at the beginning. Who’s that guy?

Why does he care what I smell like?

That, my friends, is Sir Binghamton Matthew Thomas Elliot the Fourth, but you can call him Bing! He is the first character you meet after falling to Akeron, and he’ll be sure to take care of you… probably. Bing was once a Keeper many decades ago (perhaps centuries? His memory isn’t very trustworthy) but now he keeps to himself in a small shack in the mushroom forest. He considers himself a mushroom farmer, and collects all the rarest shrooms for use in some of his most scrumptious teas. But don’t let his humble lifestyle fool you – Bing was once one of the strongest Keepers in Akeron, specializing in Hope Phantoms.

While Bing might be a bit eccentric, he sees something in you that revitalizes his Hope. While the Keepers have been dissolved and in hiding for centuries, he thinks that a new recruit might be just what they need to reunite once again! While he can only teach you the basics of Hope, he gives you everything you need to start your journey to master all the emotions, including teaching you how to catch Phantoms in the wild.

Along with our gameplay teaser, we’ve officially spilled the beans on some other exciting news – we’re working on a demo version of The Phantom Keeper, which we hope to release by the end of 2021. This demo will take you through the mushroom forest, unite you with your Kindred Phantom, allow you to experience Bing’s training, and ready you to catch your first Phantoms as you begin your exciting journey! We’ll be sure to keep the demo info updated here, but there might be sneak peeks and extra content to be found on our Discord server, so be sure to join us there!

That’s all I have for today, but enjoy the summer heat, and I’ll see you next time! 🌞

Final Starters – Shame and Calm!

Hello world! It’s ya girl, Sera, back at it again in the devblog! …anyways.

Today’s post is about the final 2 starters that I haven’t talked about yet: shame and calm! Now! I didn’t leave these ones till the end for any reason in particular, so don’t get your hopes up too high πŸ˜… But I do think these designs came out pretty rad, and I hope everyone else does too!

Shame Starter 😷

Now this one was, surprisingly, a big favorite among people who playtested our Phantom starter quiz a while back! I didn’t expect Shame to be such a hit (my favorite is still Anger!), but a lot of people really like them for some reason!

Their design process was rather short, with the final design being pretty much the same as one in the first round of rough sketches!

The idea of designing something around the concept of shame is a weird one, and a lot of my ideas revolved around the actual creature hiding either in or behind something. The one we ended up going with is probably the least extreme use of that idea, just sorta chilling underneath a lilypad. The Shame starter is extremely loosely based on a Japanese yokai, the kappa! Very loosely. Pretty much the only thing they have in common is a tendency to hide underwater and some kind of plant-y camouflage on their heads! I’ll probably make another Phantom more based on kappas so I can talk about them some other time πŸ™‚

The Shame starter ended up much more shrew-like than anything, and I think people ended up liking them because they’re just a bit sassier than a lot of the other starters!

Calm Starter 😌

The Calm starter! They had to go through a lot of adjustment to get some proportions exactly how we wanted, but ended but fairly close to one of the first designs (that seems to be a trend πŸ€”).

The first idea I went to when thinking about “Calm” as a principle emotion for a character to have was to make them sleepy! But other than that… I didn’t have a lot of ideas for shapes, or much inspiration for somewhere to start! One of the Phantoms in the first round (number 2) is based on Sandman, and I still really like the design! But it felt a little too on the nose looking like a ghost for a starter.

So! The idea we ended up going with is based on fae in general, but a bit more on the ones in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, solely based on the idea of royalty and a fae court. A lot of people seemed to think this Phantom was kinda froggish, but my intention was to make them more bug-like… πŸ˜“ I see where the confusion comes from, though.

So! Flowers, royalty, bugginess, butterflies, that’s a lot of ideas to pack into one design! I think we did a decent job, but they do end up being the most complicated-looking Phantom! I think that’s ok πŸ™‚ One of the notes we got from playtesters was that this Phantom gave them a smug vibe, which was unintentional, but I like it 😈 I’m always extremely down to make Phantoms that aren’t all sunshine and rainbows!

You may have also noticed that some of the my reference sheets include a sketch labeled either “peeled” or “naked”… That’s not just me being weird! It’s so Claire has a better reference when she starts modeling the Phantom πŸ˜…

Conclusion

Soo, yeah! That wraps up all of the starter Phantoms! I still have plenty more to talk about, though! I’ve done more NPCs, environments, and Phantoms so I still have loads to rant about! Thanks for sticking with me and reading my blog posts! I really do appreciate it, and I enjoy writing these! If you have any questions at all, please feel free to either comment or join our Discord!

Oh! And you probably already know this if you’ve been reading Claire and CJ’s own posts, but we’ve been working on some business stuff, and I did a few cleaned up little drawings of our starters for that, so I’ll leave off with those! πŸ‘‹

Relics!

Hello again! It’s CJ. This week I wanted to talk a bit more about ANOTHER part of our battle system, Relics! I know my last few posts have been about battle stuff, but honestly that’s the majority of what I’ve been working on recently (and probably will be for a good bit longer). Hopefully this just means that our battle system is gonna have lots of fun parts at play to keep it interesting!

So, what are Relics? Well, in a story sense, we’re not exactly sure yet – the idea is that they were items left behind by the living that somehow made it into Akeron. All we know is that they can be pretty useful, and pretty powerful!

But in a gameplay sense, they’re one of the major ways that players will be able to customize both their Keeper and their Phantoms! Each Relic has a different effect, and that effect can be applied by equipping it to either yourself or your Phantoms. If you’re familiar with the held items in PokΓ©mon or badges in Paper Mario, it’s a similar idea – each Relic gives a unique benefit.

So how do they work?

Each Relic will have both an effect when equipped, and an equip cost. These equip costs will range from very expensive for powerful Relics, to cheap or free for ones with minor effects. Both the Player and their Phantoms also have a set amount of ‘Relic Points’ which can increase as they level up. The amount of Relic Points that the Player or Phantoms have is the limit of Relic equip points they can take. Basically, if the Player has 5 Relic Points, they can either equip 1 Relic with an equip cost of 5, or 2 Relics with an equip cost of 2 and 3, or even 5 Relics each with an equip cost of 1!

Also, equipping Relics doesn’t use them up – you are free to unequip them at any time, and rearrange them as needed! (Except during battles.) Sorry if the explanation was a bit complicated, but for anyone familiar with the Badge system in Paper Mario, it’s almost exactly like that, with the addition equipping them to your phantoms.

In terms of what the Relics actually do when equipped, there’s going to be lots of options! We still need to play around with the different effects, but to list a few different types of relics we have planned:

  • Stat buffs! (Increase things like max HP, attack, defense, etc.)
  • New moves! (Unlock new abilities that can be used in battles)
  • Status Effects, both good for you and bad for your enemies! (Things like a slow HP heal every turn, or starting with your opponents being de-buffed!)
  • And more! A good bunch of Relics we have planned don’t fit in a particular category, as they do very unique things – like improve your chance to catch a phantom, or increase the rewards from fighting.
A look back at the first Paper Mario’s Badge menu. Look at all those pixels!

So yeah! By adding Relics into the mix, this opens up a lot of possibilities for customization and optimization when playing the game, with the freedom to change up your playstyle whenever a new idea hits you. We’re going to be spending a lot of time making different Relics and balancing them around, just to make sure that each Relic has a use. Next time I blog I promise I’ll try to come up with something different to talk about than more battle stuff (but no promises).

Me working hard on battle stuff

…Update?

Hello everyone! Sorry for the missed update last week… and also sort of this week. We attended TWO Super Fancy Online Business Conferences for Game Business People the last few days, which was just as fun as it sounded! So, unfortunately, I don’t have a ton of *~artistic~* progress to show, since most of it was done in spreadsheets and documents. But I swear it will be worth it! We’re on the hunt for awesome folks who can help make The Phantom Keeper a reality, so hopefully we’ll have something cool to show for it in the next few weeks. In the meantime, here’s a rough artistic interpretation of my life currently.

Oh, what’s that? You want to see some content??? Some real beautiful imagery?? Well, perhaps I can let just a little bit slide…

Oh yeah. That’s the good stuff.

The rest of the team has been making some cooler stuff (like…. actual gameplay??) that we’ll totally get back to talking about next week. In the meantime, I just need to write more emails and probably take a nap. Hope to see you then! πŸ‘‹

Love and Fear Starters

Heya! Sera here! Devblog time!

So! Today I’m going to be chatting about the Love starter and Fear starter! By the way, the order in which I talk about the starters is somewhat random and mostly just based on what I feel like writing about on any particular day πŸ˜… Here we go!

Love Starter πŸ’–

The Love starter! There were a lot of directions to go, but we kind of knew from the start that at least one of our starters was going to be based on a dolphin. One of our friends from college has always wanted a dolphin Pokemon, and has yet to be granted that wish, so this one’s for her!

I looked into some cryptids that were dolphin-like, and most of them were pretty boring to be honest. A lot of globsters (animal carcasses that wash up on beaches and are misidentified as monsters, extinct animals, etc), and just not a lot of particularly original creatures. Which is to be expected when looking up a monster based on what it probably is in real life! But I did find one that gave me at least a bit of a starting point for our design: the rhinoceros dolphin.

The rhinoceros dolphin supposedly was spotted in 1820 off the coast of the Sandwich Islands and New South Wales, and was described as a large dolphin (around 9 feet long), with a black and white splotchy patterned skin and two dorsal fins. The men who originally spotted this “species”, Jean Rene Constant Quoy (who was a zoologist and anatomist) and Joseph Paul Gaimard (a naturalist) claimed to have spotted a whole pod of them, about 9 in total. No known cetacean has two dorsal fins (they all either have one or none at all), and despite a few more sightings of dolphins with two dorsal fins over the years, the rhinoceros dolphin is thought to be an old classic–misidentification!

There are a few explanations for what Quoy and Gaimard saw that day: a dolphin with a remora stuck on its head, a dolphin exhibiting “somersault” behavior (lying on its side with a flipper and fluke out of the water), or a pod of inbred beaked whales with some genetic mutations among them. I personally believe that the most likely explanation is a pair of beaked whales that appeared as one creature because of perspective! Baby dolphins sticking closely to their mothers’ side is a commonly observed behavior, and could easily explain the strange placement of a second dorsal fin on the animal’s head!

Our dolphin Phantom takes a lot of inspiration from this cryptid! I incorporated the two dorsal fins, since those are the most obvious feature of the original rhinoceros dolphins, and converted the big black and white splotches into little heart shaped ones! I also took the liberty of giving our Love starter a more obvious reference to the cryptid’s name with a little rhino horn on its snout.

Fear Starter 😱

The Fear starter was the second Phantom to be finalized, after our little Joy friend (you can read about the Joy starter here)! I actually drew this Phantom up before we’d decided on what emotions we were going to use as types in the game, so its expressions originally weren’t entirely fearful πŸ˜…

My idea from the start had been based on another mythological creature: the Dullahan! The Dullahan is a mythological headless horseman (sometimes horsewoman!) from Ireland. They’re pretty dang spooky sounding! They carry a whip made from a human spine, has a hideous grin and rotting flesh, and typically carries their own head under their arm! They are also somewhat commonly portrayed with a ghostly flame coming from the stump where their head once sat πŸ‘»

Scary! But our little Fear friend isn’t quite so intimidating. However, they do take a few similarities from the Dullahan. For one, their head is, indeed, detached. Around the stump is a ring of ghostly purple flames (to be animated… soon πŸ‘€). It would have been easy to make a bat-like creature draw from vampire mythos, but I like to make things hard for myself πŸ™ƒ

In Conclusion

Thanks for reading! These creatures and myths have been really fun to research! Congratulations for reading this far, and I hope you have an awesome day πŸ˜€

Action Commands!

Hey, It’s CJ again! I’ve been spending a lot of time lately working on the action commands for the combat, and so while I briefly talked about the action commands in my last blog post, I wanted to go a bit more in depth into what we’re planning for them, and give a couple examples!

2 quick warnings before you read ahead:

  1. The art in the screenshots are not final, ESPECIALLY the UI. It’ll look prettier in the end, promise!
  2. The action commands haven’t been tested extensively yet, so they may change or be entirely swapped out – this is just to give an idea of our current direction!

How will they work?

For the action commands, we want to make them quick enough so that they don’t disrupt the flow of the fight, but still be fun and unique – without getting too repetitive! These are some hard things to juggle, and so we’ll probably have to go through a lot of iterations to balance everything just right. Another big challenge is that we want to have a bunch of different phantoms that the player can catch, and we want each one to have unique moves and action commands – and with each phantom having multiple abilities, the amount of action commands really starts to add up!

So, how are we going to have unique action commands for each phantom? In short, the way we plan on setting them up is to have one type of action command for each emotion type, and then have variance in the command for each individual phantom and ability. This means that two phantoms of the same type will have similar style of action commands, but will still have a unique differences for each move – so that every move will be it’s own unique action command. To do this, when making action commands, we set it up so that each ability can have different settings for the action command. It’s a bit hard to explain without examples, so here are some of the different types of action commands we plan to have!

Joy

The Joy Action command – a straightforward ‘press the button when the thing lights up’

For the Joy action command, the minigame is a simple ‘press buttons with timing’ kinda deal. The meter will fill up, and once it lines up with the target, you gotta put in the input! This is very reminiscent of the basic hammer attack in Paper Mario, just with a slightly different approach. The basic idea of this minigame is pretty straightforward – in fact, the only input is just pushing a single button! However, there are quite a few things that can change in between different versions of joy abilities. To list a few:

  • Have different button inputs, or make the required button random each time!
  • More than one button – needing to press the same button at different times, or different buttons!
  • Different speeds – some filling faster, some slower

And so, by changing these variables, we can make a ton of different versions of the same action command! One Joy phantom might have some quicker action commands but with random buttons, while another might be slower, but with multiple buttons required for each!

Fear

What are you talking about, I didn’t steal anything from undertale

For the fear minigame, we wanted something a bit more different from action commands in other games. We also wanted one that reflected the emotion of fear – and thought that a bullet-dodging style of minigame would be perfect! For this action command, the name of the game is survival – avoiding the projectiles that fly at you, and successfully using your ability if you survive. Because we want the action commands to be quick, we plan on making the timer for ones like this short – and so we’ll instead add some difficulty by having different ways of launching projectiles at you! A few variables that the fear action commands will have include:

  • Modifying the speed/movement of the player (Maybe restricting the movement to only one axis?)
  • Changing how many projectiles/how fast they are/where they come from/how big they are/
  • Giving the player room for a few extra hits, if needed πŸ™‚

So yeah! Hopefully you have a better idea now of how action commands will work in The Phantom Keeper. We’re excited to keep experimenting with new variables and new styles of action commands, so stay tuned for probably more blog posts about action commands in the future!

The Forest of Akeron

Hi everyone, it’s Claire back at it again with some fun environment art updates! We’ve been working to flesh out the world of Akeron, and I wanted to share some art with you that we’ve made for the first section of the game. (Also get ready to see a lot of our lost soul taking in the scenery!)

Our current environment for the first chapter of The Phantom Keeper – a work in progress!

When you begin your journey in The Phantom Keeper, you have just fallen into the land of Akeron, in a forest just outside one of the major cities. While some paths exist, they aren’t often travelled, and there’s a lot of exploring to be done – and a lot of Phantoms to find!

Since this is the game’s first impression, we wanted to make sure to nail the feel and aesthetic of the area. After doing a very simple color pallete sketch, Sera did an awesome concept sheet full of trees, plants, and mushrooms and the two of us got to work implementing it.

Once we had these sketches, Sera and I worked together to create everything needed. I used blender to create the models, and we split the task of creating textures for the models and for the ground. While we still have lots of props to go, we’re happy with the overall look of an other-worldly forest.

In addition to the props, it’s important that there be some amount of movement in the background. It is a forest after all, it’s alive and moving! Having all objects be static can be distracting for the player, and make it feel unrealistic. So I decided to try my hand at developing a wind shader!

A shader is essentially a piece of code that tells the game where to put the pixels at any point in time. I added some noise to the shader’s code, so that it warps the image based on a set of numbers that can be easily adjusted, as seen in the gif above. This shader is applied to all of our plants to create some idle movement in the background. It was fun to make, and you can see it in action below!

He’s just vibin in the forest

Aaaand that’s it! Thanks so much for checking these out, be sure to hop into the discord server or comment below if you have any questions! Till next time! πŸ™‚