Devlog 11 - The Sound of Zealot

Hello again!

Hope everyone’s been having a great week! We’re back with a new devlog and I’m excited to say that we’re finally going to be addressing the sound and music of Zealot, as well as announcing the composer/sound designer that has been working with us recently to help us shape the soundtrack into something great.

As far as inspirations go, the theme of Orthodox Christianity vs Slavic Paganism was a good base to start, both religions have very distinct and unique musical traditions, and we wanted to showcase both of them in the soundtrack, sometimes on their own, sometimes doing a mix of both.

Early on we were lucky enough to partner with BENI.MARU, who came to us with great ideas of what he envisioned the soundtrack to sound like. We asked him to write a bit about himself:

“At heart, BENI.MARU is a traveler.  He explores worlds - Sanctuary, Lordaeron, Ivalice, and the likes – in a never-ending search for the perfect sound.  His recent ventures have brought him to The Land of ZEALOT, where he would draw from the very roots of Paganism to conjure the sounds and music needed keep the Orthodox encroachment at bay.”

Since then we’ve been working closely in creating the soundscape for Zealot and the results are nothing short of fantastic, BENI.MARU has been doing a great job of accompanying the visuals and themes of the game with music and sounds that really emphasize the action and setting, and I’m thrilled to see everyone’s reaction to the soundtrack.

With this, allow me to show a sample track from the first boss fight we’re working on implementing, take a listen.

If you’re interested in hearing more of BENI.MARU’s work, here’s a link to his SoundCloud, where you can hear more great tracks such as this one.

That pretty much covers it for this week’s update. As usual we are hard at work at finalizing our first internal build, so more updates about that soon! Thanks for reading, and see you in another 2 weeks.

Cheers,

Vasco

Devlog 10 - Resource Management

Hello everyone!

On today’s devlog I’ll be explaining our health and stamina system, with a final note about the overall development of the game.

healthBreakGif.gif

Our Health system is inspired by both Diablo-like games and other more unforgiving Souls-like ones. The glass globe represents 25% of the player’s total health, with this same portion being the only percentage of health that can be regened outside of the use of checkpoints, brief stops that will be distributed around the world (more on those in future devlogs). 

As seen in the Gif, when our zealot takes more damage than the orb’s maximum capacity, the orb shatters semi-permanently, only regening after a long period of not being hit or when the player exits a combat encounter. After the shattering, any damage taken will be chipped away from what we call the permanent health bar, a consistent 75% chunk that won’t be refilled commonly. We plan to use this system to avoid messing around with health items too much while also rewarding skilled players by … not dying.

The stamina system is our main way to control usage of everything outside of basic attack combos and charge attacks, which means that rolling and relic usage are the main drains for this resource. Rolling will always take a flat amount of stamina to perform, but different relics will have different resource costs depending on their usability and overall power.

healthbars (1).png

Above is an image of the evolution of our health bar throughout the development so far, with the main concern being how we could fit Relic/Prayer Sheet icons and an easily understood stamina bar while keeping the in-game UI as minimalist as possible.

As a final note, we are currently eradicating all the nasty bugs and polishing up our first private vertical slice, which means that we are close to once more create new stuff to show you guys, so be on the lookout for that!

Catch you later,

João

Devlog 9 - Hub Area Layout

Hello people!

As we move past implementing basic mechanics and towards starting to build content, we began thinking about the layout and design of the hub area of the game.as well as the various “equipment stations” the player will be able to interact with.

startingareas.png

Excuse the messy sketch, but here you can see the general layout I imagined for the area. With this draft what I’m trying to do is figure out the best arrangement the different stations so that it would be effortless and intuitive for the player to move between them to switch up their loadout. This is all of course subject to change until we get a grasp of how it feels in-engine, some things like the central square with the monuments could probably be a little bigger and wider to make traversal simpler.

reliquarys.png

That previous sketch is also helping me visualize the context and scale for each of these stations before I begin their concept art, so with the reliquary for example, since its been sitting outside of the cathedral for assumedly many years it would make sense that it’d show some wear and tear from being exposed to the environment and all of the foliage surrounding it. Another important thing to note is the actual interactivity of these assets, we’re trying to make the UI for these stations diegetic whenever possible, so for the reliquary I made sure that all the relics preserved within were on display for the player to see and equip with ease and without breaking up the gameplay, avoiding “menu-ing” as much as we can.

That’s about it for this week’s write-up, thank you for reading and be sure to check in with us again in our next devlog!

Vasco

Devlog 8 - Pray

Hey everyone!

For this week’s devlog I’ll be talking about our prayer system and show you guys two different specific examples of our praying sheet items!

These sheets are collectable items scattered throughout the world of Zealot. When collected, the player will be able to recite the written prayer when praying at the altar of the ruined Orthodox Cathedral (see devlog 4 for more information), granting the priest passive enhancements. 

finalPrayerUI.gif

There are three types of prayers, the first ones grant passive modifications that are strictly positive, like a health or damage boost. These are often found incomplete and their effects are expanded when the player collects more versions of the sheet.

Next, are the forbidden prayers, powerful benedictions with trade-offs associated, for example, giving a larger damage boost while also greatly reducing resistance to enemy attacks.

Lastly, we have the pagan prayers, heretic incantations that the player can optionally burn at the Orthodox settlement to increase the overall difficulty of the enemies, angering the old deities. Only for those seeking a challenge, or increased rewards ...

Most of our prayer sheets are inspired by excerpts of real life Orthodox prayers, matching their theme with the effects that it grants to the player in-game. Here are some examples:

prayerVit.png

The first prayer sheet is Postnaya Molitva (Lenten Prayer), a prayer referencing one of the most important seasons for Orthodoxy practitioners, the Great Lent. During this period of fasting, the believer’s character is uplifted and strengthened. We interpreted this prayer as a strength increase in-game, increasing the priest’s damage.

prayerStr.png

The second sheet is Vremya Nuzhdy (Time of Need), a prayer that practitioners use when asking God’s mercy and help in erasing the believer’s fears and bolstering their courage. In-game, the prayer increases the priest’s vitality, augmenting its defence.

Thanks for reading, and for a final note, with this main feature described, we will start making devlogs based on what we are currently working. In order for those to be detailed enough, we will be changing the schedule of these to a bimonthly cadence starting now. Look forward to the next one!

See you next time,

João

Devlog 7 - Relics

Hello again!

This week we’ve started implementing relics into the game. In this devlog I’m going to be giving you a brief run-down of how they work, as well as showing off the first of these relics, the cross.

Basically, relics are re-usable active items that offer various combat advantages. You can think of them like the alternate weapons from Castlevania games, or how shop items work in A Link Between Worlds.

example.png

Relics require energy to use, represented by that blue-ish bar below the health, energy is also tied to a number of actions such as rolls and alternate attacks, in order to incentivize a more thoughtful style of play and to prevent spamming.

Under that you can see a picture of a cross inside a frame, with another one stacked underneath, this is how relics are represented to let the player knows which one is currently equipped, at the moment we allow for 2 different relics to be equipped at any given time, but we’re considering implementing a way of expanding the maximum number of equippable relics in the future.

To inspect and equip relics, the player will have to make use of a large reliquary that can be found inside of the hub cathedral, there, they will be able to scroll through all of the relics they have collected throughout the land as well as to learn about their effects in combat, all accompanied by some flavour text, of course.

CrossR3x.gif

Moving on to the cross itself then, as you can see in the gif above, this relic when used emits a cross-shaped shockwave in the direction the player is facing, This shockwave serves to push back any oncoming foes that are stricken by it, dealing some minor damage, as well as interrupting their attacks.

This is massively helpful for when the player finds themselves overwhelmed by smaller foes and is in the need of creating some space between themselves and the enemy for evading, or just for focusing on a specific enemy at a time. It will definitely be very handy when facing those quick wax-men grunts that are found in the beginning area of the game, which is coincidentally where you find this relic also.

We are currently working on polishing this mechanic in our build and will likely have something to show off come next saturday, so be on the lookout for that!

Thank you for reading! Until next week.

Vasco

Devlog 6 - The Land

Hey everyone!

On today’s devlog I’ll cover the starting area of the game, as well as explain a bit about the rest of Zealot’s game world!

The Ruins

The first area in-game is composed by the ruins of the first and only attempt from the Orthodoxy to colonize Zealot’s land. At first, the colony grew and reached a town’s size, complete with walls and a fully fledged cathedral as the central point. After the big revolt from the united Pagan tribes, most of the infrastructure was ruined, leaving nature free to reclaim the settlement. Although the settlement was ruined and overrun, most of the walls still stand proud to this day.

walls2.png

The Purpose

This starting area serves as both an immersive tutorial and the main hub for the entirety of the game’s duration. For the remainder of the game world to be “unlocked”, the player will have to complete a series of challenges and learn about most of the game mechanics, progressing through the ruins in a semi-contained experience of what the other zones are going to feel like.

The priest will find himself returning to the cathedral often to make use of the blacksmithing station, change up his arsenal of weapons and relics and to pray at the holy altar using found prayer sheets, whose effect will passively increase or decrease the main character’s statistics. The settlement is also the central point of the game world, making travelling back to it an even more enticing offer when exploring or just travelling to different areas.

The Land

Zealot’s land is controlled by Pagan tribes, with different ones claiming unique territories for the worship of their gods. There will be four major zones, each controlled by a tribe dedicated to a major deity from Slavic mythology, and each containing both different styles of combat related challenges and unique exploration related secrets. The areas are all going to be visually distinct, keeping in theme with the god worshiped there. We’ll go more into the specifics of every area in future devlogs.

(Very early version of the world map, all subject to change.)

(Very early version of the world map, all subject to change.)

The map above is a representation of the different explorable areas of Zealot. It depicts the Orthodox settlement at the centre, surrounded by the plains, a neutral area where defectors from each tribe live unaffiliated. Surrounding the plains are the different zones controlled by each of the four main ruling tribes, marked by their corresponding deity’s symbol!

See you next week!

João

Devlog 5 - Visuals Breakdown

Hey everyone!

This time around in this week’s devlog, I thought it would be interesting to talk about the Zealot’s artstyle, some of the creative influences behind it, and the pipeline used to achieve this look.

Influences

As many of you wonderfully pointed out, the game takes a huge amount of inspiration from games from the PSX era, which combine 2D and 3D in a similar way. This at the time was, of course, due to resource limitations, you couldn’t have both detailed 3D characters and backgrounds due to the low poly-count limit. So a lot of games ended up compromising by combining both aesthetics, some by having 3D real-time characters on pre-rendered backgrounds (like FFVII), and some by having hand drawn sprites on fully rendered 3D environments (like Xenogears, BoFIV).

I’m, of course, a huge fan of this look, and I find it a shame that it hasn’t been further explored past that console generation, aside from a couple of more recent examples (Octopath Traveller). So with this, and considering our team’s skillset, we thought it would be a fantastic idea to adapt this visual style to a modern action/adventure type of game.

bATGAiB.gif

Gameplay

While most of the game plays from a top-down isometric-ish perspective, having 3D environments allows us to move the camera freely to explore them (as you saw in our previous screenshotsaturday tweet). Nier:Automata is a great example of an RPG that is not constricted by its camera at all, often times seamlessly turning the game from a third-person hack and slash into a sidescroller, which results in some really beautiful cinematic moments. You can expect a similar degree of perspective shifts from Zealot.

ezgif-3-df6b5a4aa574.gif

Characters

Characters in Zealot are then, all hand drawn with pixel-art. Given the 3D and top-down nature of the environments, this means each move set needs to be animated 3 to 5 times to accommodate for all the different directions the characters can be facing. I went a little more in-depth about this on our second devlog.

macesheet.png

Well, that sounds like a lot of work (and it is), which is why each character design is done very deliberately to consider how many resources it will take to fully animate. Even a simple enemy grunt like the one below, which only has 5 animation states (idle, run, attack, hurt, and death) can take upwards of 2 weeks to complete, due to having to animate this moveset a total of 3 times.

Image9beeg.gif

Environments

The main challenge with the environment and props was to make sure that they share a consistent look with the characters. When you have 2D characters running around in a 3D environment it’s very important that the two aesthetics don’t look awkward together, so, to avoid this clash, it’s a matter of making the 3D look as much as pixel-art as possible.

To accomplish this, we make sure that the texture unwraps have a consistent texel density with the characters. For example, our priest has a height of roughly 64 pixels (hat included), so from there we can conclude that 32 pixels is roughly 1 meter. We model all the 3D assets with this scale in mind to avoid too small or too big pixels in the textures.

It took us much trial and error to make this aesthetic work, but in the end, it was when we completely removed all anti-aliasing and filtering that we arrived at a result that we were excited about. (Sully has a fantastic tutorial on how to achieve this look in case you’re interested in learning more about it)

58008095_637461266697301_829001651032424448_n.png

Thank you for reading and we hope that this devlog was an interesting insight into the workflow that goes into the creation of Zealot’s aesthetics. Stay tuned for future devlogs! See you next week.

Vasco and Sam

Devlog 4 - The Cathedral

Hey people!

In this week’s menu, we’re going to be talking a bit about one of the biggest setpieces in Zealot’s world: the settlement’s cathedral.

catedral exterior4.png

This is the original concept piece I drew for the cathedral, which dates back to the very first month of Zealot’s development. Back then we weren’t sure what it’s purpose would be aside from being the place where our main character awakened, but since then it’s evolved into what is essentially a hub area for the game, a place the player will find themselves constantly returning to perform various upgrades, changing up their arsenal, and to pay respects to his god, of course.

church2.png

In search of inspiration, the team organized a field-trip to the All Saints Russian Orthodox Church, which is found in our hometown of Lisbon, Portugal. When we arrived there the church was closed, but the church’s keeper was kind enough to let us in to take some reference pictures and ask some questions regarding the symbolism behind the imagery found within it. Overall it was a very informative and worth-while experience that further fueled our imagination to help create this very important landmark in the world of Zealot.

ezgif-3-df6b5a4aa574.gif

Knowing that this would be a reoccurring location, it was very important that we got the mood for the area just right. Since this was once a place of worship now desecrated by the Pagan counter offensive, there’s a deep seeded nostalgia that’s felt by the player character, and we wanted to transmit that same feeling to the player too!

ezgif-3-fb1a84550f45.gif

Entering the cathedral, you come across a number of paintings depicting various saints and the great prophet himself. These serve the purpose of reminding the player of their predestined mission: to bring back the old glory and reinstate the one true faith. The four saints are Orthodox representations of the major four Pagan deities the player has to defeat in order to purify the land, can you guess who those might be?

saints.png

I sincerely hope you enjoyed reading this week’s devlog as much as I enjoyed writing it! Be sure to let us know how you felt about it and whatever feedback you have to give.

In another note, myself and the team want to give you our most sincere gratitude for helping us reach 500 followers on the Zealot Twitter! We couldn’t ever have imagined our first month of sharing our humble project could have had such a well-received turn out. So a big big thank you from everyone at Prime Cut for all the likes, retweets, and positive comments and feedback you’ve left us across Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and on the TigSource Forums! We’ve got a lot more coming in the future, so stay tuned for that!

Thank you all and see you next week!

Vasco