First of all, a happy new year to all our fellow readers!

This blog post will explain one of the most important features in Chaos Chronicles: a game engine that includes both systems, turn-based as well as real-time.

There used to be a time when pretty much every role-playing and strategy game out there was turn-based. That was partially due to technological restrictions but also due to the fact that these games were derived from pen & paper rpgs and board games which are both usually ‘turn-based’.

In the early nineties, Dune 2 (by Westwood) created the RTS genre (at least on the PC, because Herzog Zwei was Sega exklusive) or, as some would say, changed strategy games to be real-time instead of turn-based. At the same time games like Ultima Underworld did the same for the RPG genre. In both genres the change usually implied the change from boards to analogous movement. And interestingly, in the RPG genre, it also implied a change from character parties towards single character games.

Yes, Dungeon Master and its imitators, i.e. ‘the subgenre of dungeon crawlers’ (revived by the great Grimrock) had a little headstart compared to the rest of the RPG genre and, yes, real-time-with-pause-RPGs revived character parties, but that didn’t change what happened next: With real time combat being new and exciting and turn-based being (or being said to be) old and boring developers ceased to make turn-based games. Not because all devs were morons but rather simply because no one – including gamers – was interested in turn-based games any more at that time. But even if we (and hopefully you RPG vets out there) are eager to see turn-based combat revived, we have also gotten used to the amenities of real-time, regarding, e.g., the exploration of the game world. For us that meant that we would have to feature both real-time and grid movement.

Marketing experts probably couldn’t resist using pretentious terms like ‘hybrid’ at this point, but we’ll restrain ourselves to saying that our levels have to feature *both*.

As already implied in this blog post’s introduction, (real-time) analogous movement is much harder to achieve than (turn-based) field movement.

Luckily, our editor already featured automatic navmesh generation from our last project. And it was obvious that we could make use of that navigation mesh to automatically compute a game board for combats. To do this we basically just have to lay a 2d grid of potential board fields on the navmesh polygons, and use navmesh raycasts to test in which directions they should be connected to their neighbours.

We had a prototype up and running rather quickly and from there it was a long way of improving data structures and implementing algorithms to make use of the board data, i.e. path search, flooding with weighing of fields, etc. and to get the board (including combat animations and stuff) neatly visualized (neither being overly prominent, nor to technical, nor too hard to see and so on). Also there’s always a list of problems that you don’t expect in the first place and it took time to handle those. Especially party movement in real-time mode and immeersive examination of objects in the game world were tasks on their own which we will probably cover in blog posts to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By now, the logical stuff is mostly solved and we (even our level-designers) are pretty content with our auto-generated combat boards. Hexagons were definitely the right choice for this, as you can just build levels looking as naturally as you expect them to, and the hexes will mostly fit themselves into it like a charm.

As far as gameplay is concerned, there are still some open questions. E.g. a player moving his party around in exploration mode has little control over the dynamic movement of the party following him. However when a combat starts the characters’ positions suddenly become relevant as characters are simply placed on the closest board field. The resulting lack of influence you have in your party’s initial positioning is cool for surprise combats but might be annoying for a combat you already expect. We considered manual placing of the chars but found it too immersion-breaking. Depending on our polishing prioritization we might leave this as it is, but as always we appreciate your opinion or suggestions.

These days the development of RPGs – if you have a closer look at the technical side – focused on the graphics-part. Sure, music and sound effects are somehow important, too. But the main focus is definitely on the graphics side. That’s sad.

You know, the first real cRPGs had their focus not on the graphics. Graphics weren’t as good as these days of course. That wasn’t possible due to the hardware-limitations. People had to use the music, they had to use sound effects to create atmosphere. Nowadays you use some super hyper graphics, put in some epic music and think “well, that’s atmosphere!”. And in this case you couldn’t be more wrong.

AngklungMusic is a very subliminal way to manipulate the mood of the player. Especially in videogames it can affect the mood in so many ways.  And that’s why we not only have a look at the graphics but also on the music (and on the sound effects, as you already know). We’ve given and we will give a lot of attention to the creation of the music for Chaos Chronicles.

Currently we are working on the different combat themes. You’re eyes aren’t foolin’ you: To achieve a deep atmosphere here we decided to not only have one, but several themes. We had the feeling that the players feeling should differ if he (or she) is fighting against different types of opponents. So we made the decision to go for unique themes for each type of enemy.

An example: Skeletons are different from human knights. They do not only look different, they do not only fight different, no, they also have to sound different. And you need another atmosphere for both of them. Or think about goblins vs. a diabolic demon. Shouldn’t be the same theme, should it?

Dilruba

What does that mean? We’ll explain that. Every type of enemy will have it’s own rhythm, harmony or melody and even it’s own signature instruments as an addition to the original Chaos Chronicles instrument setup (which consists of a string sextet, some large o-Daiko Drums and several more instruments that have a very unique sound that perfectly fits to the dark and gloomy mood of our game).

We guess you want to see (or hear) some example, right? Alright. Let’s have a look at the undead. If you fight against these you will hear (besides the mentioned instruments) a scary sounding Indian dilruba and anklungs which sound a bit like rattling bones.

Now that you’ve read so many words you’ll also get something to listen. Three examples. Each one standing for a different type of enemy. But please keep in mind: We have reduced the quality of these MP3s for several reasons. The first one being the traffic on the blog (as visitor numbers are growing and growing). The second reason is the fact that you’ll be able to enjoy the final quality in the final game (and keep in mind that some music parts might change during the process as everything is still work in progress).

As promised, we just released the first Trailer of Chaos Chronicles. Yes, it still does show a work in progress stadium, but we didn’t want to postpone the video again. The old grid is still shown in some scenes but we still hope that you like it!

And with the first trailer being available now we’d also like to confirm that Chaos Chronicles has been approved by Steam. So yes, the game will be available there once it’s ready. The product page itself should be available very soon however. And yes, we’d also like to confirm that we are in discussions with several other digital platforms as well.

Please keep in mind that all materials shown in the trailer are still work in progress.

It’s time for an update. The last days we’re pretty much full of work. Some of you may have noticed that we also posted some screenshots here and there on several forums or provided some sites with new material (e.g. the guys from RPG France who did an interview with our producer). Now we have added all the screenshots to our very own media-section, too. Yes, that’s an unusual thing for us. So far we just released a batch of new screenshots once per month. And it’s not yet December. So, why are we doing this?

Well. We’d like to announce today that there won’t be new screenshots in December. We’d also like to announce the reason for that. We promised a trailer several times before. And now we can officially say that the trailer indeed isn’t far away anymore. Instead of static screenshots you’ll see Chaos Chronicles in movement for the first time in December. And not at the end of December but much, much earlier. It will, of course, contain a lot of WiP-material. A short example: If you have read our blog for quite a while you’ll notice the old grid here and there. With the release of the trailer another small announcement will be made – just as a little hint.

Chaos Chronicles Screenshot Chaos Chronicles Screenshot Chaos Chronicles Screenshot

 

 

 

 

As of now we have covered a lot of topics on the blog already. And yes, we know that we owe you still an update for the combat system. And this one will take some more time as we’d like to stay in time and therefore need to continue working. And you may understand that in a turn based RPG especially the combat system is of great importance. And it still needs some time before we are convinced that what we have to show won’t disappoint you. Having said that, let’s have a look on the sound design.

Realms of Arkania Inventory Screenshot

It’s an obvious thing: Atmosphere is not only created by graphics or by gameplay but by so many factors, it’s hard to even count them. Atmosphere is what you have if you put everything together and everything fits. And one of the most important things to create a deep atmosphere is the sound design.  Think about it: What would an RPG be without epic combat themes, an epic main theme? But not only the music is of importance. The details make the difference.

But what are details? Let’s talk about one. If you look back at games like the Realms of Arkania series you’ll find a lot of details which nowadays aren’t used anymore, which is a shame. For example have look at the inventory. When you did put some new leather gloves to one of your characters a little sound appeared. Over the years the sound design in this case has changed: What happens these days when you put on some new clothes? Right. A little bling bling sound can be heard. In some cases it’s more atmospheric. But often it’s just a non-saying something. That isn’t bad at all, but it doesn’t create atmosphere. Back in the days you had different sounds. Not for each item, but for different item-classes. For swords, for leather gloves, for steel gloves, for helmets. You had little sounds which told you: Alright, you just put on a heavy armor. And you knew it just by the sound.

Chaos Chronicles Inventory WIP

And that’s exactly what we want to achieve in Chaos Chronicles. Sure, not every item will have it’s own sound (if we did that we could ship the game on several Blu-Ray discs just because of the massive number of sounds), but there will be a lot of small sounds for several item-classes. If you change from a dagger to a heavy sword, you’ll hear a steel-sound, the leather gloves will lead to a different sound and so on and so on.

Many people don’t realize how much impact such a little detail has on the atmosphere but once you’ve tried it, you’ll feel kinda weird if you play a modern RPG where this little detail is missing. Cause you’ll expect it to be there. We even didn’t believe our own ears and that it made such a difference. But it did. And it will.