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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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?

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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

Devlog 3 - The Heretics

Hey everyone!

On today’s devlog I’ll cover our main enemies for the tutorial zone, the decisions behind their design and tease a little of our future plans!

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Thematically speaking, the demo’s enemies are candle wax covered humanoids, skin charred and feral minded. Their appearance is based on the idea that some humans of Zealot’s land, after seeing the power that the deities wield and the influence they hold over the populace, decided to live a life of fear and seclusion, purposely covering themselves in wax to ward out any outside interference with their minds. With time, the constant self induced paranoia of these hermits made them feral, turning them aggressive towards anyone who is unfortunate enough to be spotted. Some say that most of these hermits are descendants of the Orthodox colonists from centuries past.

In terms of gameplay, we wanted from the get go to have a balanced group of enemies in the demo, a cast diverse enough to challenge the player, especially when thrown together as groups. We decided on three very distinct types of enemy, each one introduced at a different point in the demo, allowing for a natural increase in combat difficulty, while also helping with learning enemy attack patterns and behavior.

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For starters we made a basic type enemy, a fast unit capable of easily outrunning the player, that will swipe away when in range. The fodder type unit that isn’t that strong alone but considerably dangerous when grouped with others of its kind, or even with the other types of enemy below.

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Next is the heavy type enemy, a slower unit featuring larger health values, and gifted with the capacity to charge at the player when in range, following up with a devastating combo when it successfully hits. When not charging, the heavy will also unleash periodic high damage swipes in close quarters.

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Lastly we complimented the two melee types with a ranged enemy, slightly easier to kill than a basic one but capable of lighting on fire a flammable projectile and throwing it in an arc. The projectile itself explodes on contact , leaving a damaging trail of flames in the collision area that fades away after a while, encouraging the player to move around the battlefield.

Each of the attacks that any enemy performs has a predictable tell, allowing for an attentive player to counter or avoid damage by correctly identifying the attack animation.

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As for the future, we are planning on having different enemy types for each area, with some more general ones being re-utilized mechanically, but with a visual overall, something like a basic tribal grunt whose look will change depending on what tribe he adheres to.

Let us know what you though of our enemies so far, and look forward to the next devlog!

See you next week,

João

Devlog 2 - The Priest

Hello everybody!

For this week’s devlog, we thought it would be interesting to talk a bit about Zealot’s protagonist and the inspirations behind his design.

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Once we knew the narrative of the game would be about the confrontation between Slavic and Orthodox beliefs, we were sold on the idea of having a priest as the main character, it just seemed like the obvious decision. So that became the main influence for his design, specifically, Great Schema monks from the Russian Orthodox Church, which are members of the religious group who believe they’ve reached the highest level of spiritual excellence.

(Pictures above may be subject to copyright)

(Pictures above may be subject to copyright)

Given the 3D nature of the game, every design decision had to be made very carefully, since for every animation we would need to make 3 to 5 different directions (the same is true for every character in the game), so it was all about finding the sweet spot between a design detailed enough to be recognizable, yet economic enough as to not break our creative bank. As you can probably tell, we took some liberties regarding the vestments for the sake of readability, and gave him some pauldrons for a more “battle-ready” appearance.

Currently the Zealot has 297 unique frames of animation and counting!

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We hope you enjoyed this bit of insight about our character, let us know what your thoughts are about this weeks devlog and stay tuned for future ones!

Until next week,

Vasco

Devlog 1 - Introduction

Hey everyone!

With this first devlog we aim to make a brief summary of our game and team, to give everyone reading some context for future posts. If you want to know even more about us and our project, check out the rest of our website!

Who are we?

We are Prime Cut Games, a very young indie studio founded in 2018 by four people of which some could be considered cool. The idea to form a studio first came from our project lead Eric, who arranged for all of us to meet: Vasco, Sam and João (me). At the time, most of us were finishing various courses at different universities. Since we all shared a big love for indie games in general and wanted to try our hand at working in the games industry, we accepted Eric’s offer and opened our own office space here in Lisbon, Portugal.  

The first thing we did was brainstorm a lot and develop multiple demos to showcase different ideas. Eventually we settled on a theme and gameplay style that we were all excited about and development on Zealot finally started.

What is Zealot?

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Zealot is a brutal action / adventure game set in a world inspired by Slavic culture in the middle ages, where most of the land is tribal in nature and the people are completely devoted to Pagan gods.

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Our main character is a forgotten priest of a long abandoned church in the middle of the first and only Orthodox settlement in the area, ruined and sealed long ago by those who feared change. Not knowing his purpose, our recently awakened zealot will arm himself in the name of the one true God and destroy the shackles that bind the pagans to their false deities.

How does it play?

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The game is a top down action game at its core, focused on correctly identifying enemy patterns of attack to engage in a successful fight. The element of adventure / exploration comes from the existence of what we are currently calling boss items, collectible tools that, as the name implies, drop from a boss and have a combat application, as well as granting the player access to areas previously inaccessible in the game world.

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In summary, think of the gameplay as a mixture of Diablo-like combat, with Dark Souls enemy pattern recognition and Metroidvania style of exploration.

Player progression will be done through creating new weapons and upgrading them in a blacksmithing station, finding reusable active items throughout the land that spice up the combat and recovering lost prayer sheets that when prayed to grant passive buffs, sometimes with drawbacks associated. We will get more into each of these progression systems in future devlogs, so watch out for those.

How does it look?

About the visuals, very early on we knew that we wanted to employ an artstyle that would set Zealot apart from other games in the genre, which is where the idea of mixing 3D environments with 2D characters (similarly to Xenogears or Breath of Fire IV) came about.

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Being a small team with people from both animation and modelling backgrounds, we combined our strengths and decided on a low-poly aesthetic mixed with retro inspired pixel-art - all placed within the environment of a modern game engine (Unity) allowing us to take full advantage of newer lighting and post-processing technologies - which gives the game a nostalgic yet refreshing look.

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Every week we will post a devlog here and at the TIGForums and we want as much feedback as you guys are willing to share about any and all aspects of what we have to show so far, so that Zealot can be constantly improved on based on those that enjoy it.

To keep updated, follow us on twitter!

See you next week,

João