....Aaaand it's high time for another Mixed Bag! 

First up, smoothing out the cave wall edges to create water edges:

Next, as we implemented more and more of the Tai Ming 2nd zone backgrounds, we came to realize we wanted to change some things around. One of those things were the placement of the cave entrance seen below:

Since this cave will be a puzzle cave, we thought it'd be a little bit funny if it was next to the graveyard, in order to illustrate how poor the owner's business choices are. But we found it got a little bit too crowded, so we decided to move the entrance further to the right, and add a small fence to illustrate the end of the graveyard. 

In the present, the puzzle cave has closed since many years, and instead the path to it has been filled with new tombstones:

Another thing we wanted to change was the windows of the monkey lab. Since this building is where a lot of scientific experiments take place, we want to highlight that this building is different from the rest, and in a way, more modern. We already have the more industrialized chimneys, but we also decided to add glass windows rather than the hollow ones from before:

And in the present, as time has passed and worn things down, the glass windows have broken and fallen apart:

Finally, a little sneak peek of our next prototyping business: another 'puzzle' in the puzzle cave. Only it's not a puzzle: instead you're in the present, and the key you need keeps getting snatched away by monkeys:

How annoying!

Time for another guest post by Teddy, this time on the Housing system! :D

A long time ago, I was working on the Housing systems to keep myself occupied while waiting for some new graphic assets from Vilya and Fred. After a few days I got the graphics I was waiting for, and I left Housing behind to continue working on the story. Now I find myself in a similar situation as back then, and so I decided to go back to tinkering on the Housing systems!

Firing up the old prototype I had made, I remember a grim realization we had made about it: we’d have to scrap the squares.

Take a gander at this perfectly neat and nice 20x20 grid:

Looks like an excellent foundation for a cocobolo desk, right? Well… if the game was viewed directly from above, that might be so. However...

On a 1:1 grid of squares, this is how furniture will look when rotated. The vertical desk on the bottom looks thinner and longer than the horizontal desk, even though they have the exact same surface area: 20x40 pixels! Our brain decodes the drawn perspective on the furniture and decides we’re viewing them at an angle, and when viewed at an angle, surfaces become distorted. The protests of our brain is indeed correct!

Needless to say, the picture above just doesn’t cut it (and trust me - rotating the desks in game felt even worse), so I did some experimenting. First I tried a ratio of 24:15, or 1:0.615, resulting in the exact opposite visual effect:

I was surprised at first, as that is a ratio I’ve used with great results when composing particle effects surrounding players, monsters and NPCs. A short moment later, I remembered that the character sprites are made to be viewed as if they were basically from the side, while our environments are made at a slightly more elevated angle. Mixing perspectives like that might sound weird, but it actually makes both NPCs and the environment look a lot better, and thankfully does not cause any alarm in our brains!

With this in mind, I went for a new ratio of 20:15, or 1:0.75

Behold! The brain is now content, and both desks are perceived to be of a similar size! After finding this superior grid size, I reworked the prototype and added a bunch of things, currently resulting in this award winning home decoration software:

The housing system is still some ways from being done - especially when it comes to user interface and ease of use. We also want to have a solid amount of furniture available, as well as other related game systems to support it (including, of course, being able to visit one another’s houses in online play).

When all is done, we think this addition will make many creative players very happy! Please look forward to it!

The housing system will be made available for player testing during the subsystem fiesta, which we plan to have after we’re finished with Tai Ming.

The portrait creation continues! This fellow here is the key to a very old mystery: why do the guards in Tai Ming all look alike? The answer is simple - they're all brothers! And their father is non other than this scientist, who currently works in the monkey lab:

When making this portrait I used the guard portrait as a base and recolored and repainted where needed, to make them look similar enough to be related. 

Now, whether there's a similar explanation to why the guards in Evergrind City look the same as well remains to be seen :)

Over the last year since we launched Early Access on steam, we've received a bunch of recurring questions about the game and it's development. As such, it's long overdue that we update our FAQ on the website, and so, I've gathered a bunch of the questions we get a lot and tried to answer them to the best of my ability:

Why should I buy into Early Access?
If you're asking this question, the correct answer is that you probably shouldn't

Buying into EA is mainly recommended for people who wish to be a part of the development: helping us finding bugs, coming up with suggestions or are curious to see how a game develops over time. If you prefer to play a finished game, we highly encourage you to wait with your purchase until it's properly released!

Can you remind me when the game is actually released?
Yes! We have this mailing list for this very purpose. Just add your mail through that page and we'll send you a reminder once Secrets of Grindea leaves Early Access :)

Why is the development so slow? Are you just lazy?
The reason for the development appearing slow is that it's a hand-made RPG made by 3 people who have no interest in rushing the development only to release a subpar product. Instead, we put in the hours we need to make this game as good as we possibly can. 

That means, if we need to add another week of development time to fix some unforeseen bugs, that's what we'll do (and this is why we won't give a proper release date until we're 99% sure we can make it)!

Why don't you have sales?
The most important thing for us during this Early Access period is that buyers are aware of what they purchase in terms of stability, content, etc (which is why we only recommend EA for people who want to be part of the development process in some way). The idea behind a sale is the complete opposite of that philosophy, as it creates an impulse to buy something before it gets more expensive again. Therefore, a sale increases the risk of people buying the game without reading our EA disclaimers, and as such end up disappointed that the game isn't completely finished, or simply not what they expected.

Once we've added everything we want to the game and it's properly released, we will begin having sales, but until then we don't want to lure people into Early Access with time-limited offers. 

For a more thorough answer, see this post on the Steam forums!

Note: This will be the last blog post until next week. Yes, I'm actually gonna take a couple days off! CRAZY right? I actually haven't had a single day off this year, unless you count the time we spent taking care of our cat Link when he went back and forth between our home and the animal hospital earlier this year (not exactly a relaxing time). 

So, I'm gonna take a few days to try and enjoy what's left of summer and try to recharge these batteries! The blog will be back as usual on Sunday 28th :D


Now that that's been taken care of: here's another new character - a potion salesman in Tai Ming:

When I made this guy (yes, it's a he - or it's supposed to be, anyway), I had some a vision of some kind of mix between Remedi the alchemist in Evergrind City, and a vampire. Yeah I know, don't ask where these ideas come from. I have no idea!

Over the course of the development of Secrets of Grindea, which has gone on for five (5!) years now, we've had many different ways of keeping track of decisions made in the past and where to head in the future.

Unfortunately they've varied in usefulness - turns out, simply talking about something in the group and then expecting everyone to remember the outcome of that conversation doesn't work quite that well. In fact, more than once we've had the exact same conversation several times, with different outcomes, where people have changed their opinion over time, or we simply don't remember which idea we thought was best.

To solve this we've used a variety of documentation methods - we've kept our meetings documented physically through a notebook I've brought to them, and sometimes we've used our "agenda" document (basically a to-talk-about list for each upcoming meeting) to document what we talked about and what it resulted in. There's also been attempts to have a Upcoming Quests document, an Arcade Mode document (with future arcade mode mechanics), and a Story Mode document with random bits and pieces about the game written down randomly.

After trying to navigate through these documents for a while, searching for the answer to another one of our eternal "what did we say about subject x?" questions, I decided it was time to clean things up.

So, over the last few days I've been merging all of our documentation - the quest documents, the contents of my notebook, the Story Mode- and Arcade Mode- documents and ordered them properly in a single Google Docs document:

We tend to merge Swedish and English for all our documentation. Sorry about that... :)

In order to keep things easy to find, we decided to sort this new all-powerful list area by area in chronological order, starting with a "General" section for things affecting general gameplay (such as visible healthbars for co-op), and ending with all things Arcade Mode. Thanks to their "new" (at least, I hadn't seen it before) outline feature, it became very easy to navigate through the content once I was done, but if the feature wasn't available I'd probably created something similar in a regular text document, adding a table of contents in the beginning.

We're very glad to have this new documentation method, which hopefully will save us some time when looking up what exactly we decided after having discussions, and why we came to that conclusion. It is likely we'll still have to talk about some things again, of course, as we do tend to change our minds around - but at least now we don't have to take it all from the beginning again!
As I (probably) mentioned before, the giant Thorn-Worm boss fight will take place outside the HQ! But as you can see below, this place is already filled with training dummies and boxes! Things that will most definitely disrupt your fight in an annoying way:

So, in order to solve this, while still keeping the fight area somewhat decorated, I made a version of the area where the giant Thorn-Worm's you'll battle have trashed the area, leaving the dummies and boxes in ruins. The progress of doing this can be viewed in the video below:

Basically, I create a bunch of smaller parts of each of the props and tear up the Collector banners. Some of the pieces are taken from the crate- and barrel break animations and adjusted slightly colorwise. These parts are almost all small enough that you can walk over them without hitting a collider, and those that are bigger are placed near the edges of the area where it's unlikely you'll run around a lot.

We haven't tested this new background with the actual boss fight yet, so if it looks weird in any way (like the Thorn-Worm animations overlapping the decorations in odd ways), we might move things further to the sides or remove some stuff completely. For now though, this is the final result:

Moving on to the present version, this building is pretty much the same - only less clean. And the carpets broke, as it seems they tend to do?!

Present Version

While Tessen's house resembled her old home in Tai Ming's first zone, this building is supposed to hint back at the left house next to the exit of that same zone. Like this place, it was a place of administration, only difference is this building deals with the actual villagers of Tai Ming, while the one in zone01 dealt with visitors and people wanting to enter the city for the first time. 


So, as with Tessen's house, I reused a bunch of things from its predecessor, such as the green colors, and actual props like the couches and pinboard. I also made a new variant of the desk, facing sideways rather than down, like rest of them, to fit this room!

The chests in the past are purple, like all past chests are supposed to be in Tai Ming! Right now I think the chests in the beta are the regular brown because of miscommunication (unless it's been fixed lately without me noticing). In the present they'll be brown, due to their color fading :)

Next on our interior list, we have the government/administration building (we just keep calling it random things), where your goal is to get a citizenship-emblem in order to progress the story. Since you're not from Tai Ming, and have only spent a very short while in this town, this might prove harder to get than you'd first hope.  

After all, with a several year long wait list to even visit the city, getting citizenship here must be quite hard indeed. But I guess, if you could find another way into the building, there's a chance you might accidentally happen upon one of those citizenship emblems, and nobody would blame you for keeping it, right? 

Super detailed, extremely professional sketch

The finished thing
Remember I talked about the puzzle cave design a while back? The prototyping has officially begun, and here is our very first in house testing of two of the puzzles!

The first one is the phase shift challenge, where you'll phase through time to reach your goal. For this puzzle, you have to move mirror blocks around both in the past and the present in order to reach your goal. When we make the correct graphics for this, we'll have to make some kind of indicator for where the time rift is on the puzzle (currently simple blue u-shapes in this sketch version):

This is actually already the second iteration of this phase puzzle. The first one turned out to be more complicated than we first thought, even though the solution itself really wasn't. The problem was that going back and forth in time really confused our brains (and, I admit, mine was the worst - I just panicked trying to figure out what to do, without finding a solution at all - ha)! So, we had to make the puzzle a bit easier. I guess we'll save the mind-warping ones for an optional puzzle somewhere :)

Next up - the statue puzzle. Here you have to push some statues around, trying to figure our which one to move where. The only way of doing this is to cross check between the past and the present: where do I need to move statue x in order for it to hit button y as it falls? There's also a hole that needs filling, and a cage of some sort holding a statue that needs to be released (currently illustrated by a barrel, hehe):

I'm currently very positive about these puzzles - they make you think a little, but they're not too hard to solve once you know what to do! Definitely looking forward to completing this puzzle cave and give it some proper artwork :)
In game development, sometimes you encounter things that are so annoying to implement that you need to vent on someone else’s blog. This is one of those times.

Task: make a short transition between low water and high water, to be played when you close or open the dam in Tai Ming. Easy enough, right? Well, yes, but sometimes it’s the easy things that end up melting your mind!

Here are the assets involved (excluding the background) in creating the transition above:

The stuff in the pink square (top left) are overlays needed to preserve the illusion of depth. These had to be placed at heights intertwined with the stuff in the light blue square (bottom left), to make sure the right mass of water is behind and in front the right rock piece. Oh, and the rock pieces had to be cut out of the background with pixel perfect precision! The piece of grass was needed to hide the edge of the water on the left side.

In the dark blue section (top middle) are all the waterfall animations that Fred had to make! Each of them was a small puzzle of their own. The top four sprite sheets were pieces that can be used to create waterfalls of any height, needed for when the waterfall rises. This custom made waterfall must appear and disappear the correct way to fit with the “appear” and “disappear” animations. Note on the bottom spritesheet how the foam does not despawn until frame 5, meaning it must keep playing until then!

In the green square (middle bottom) you find Fred’s favorite pastime: animated water edges. These appear when the water has reached the top, hiding seams and creating some nice motion. Due to the uneven edges of the rock walls, however, these things don’t look proper at all while the water is moving! Something else was needed to hide the water’s edge during this period.

To this end, Fred made ten tiny particles, to be placed along the water’s edges! These are found in the red square (upper right). I had to be careful that these particles didn’t behave nonsensically, for example making sure that the water drops always flew away from the walls, to avoid water ripples on the vertical parts of the background.

After a few decades of fine tuning positions, timings, particle abundance and fading, we finally arrived at the point you see in the gif. I should’ve never quit law school!

Note: In reality, Teddy loves even the dreary parts of his job, and is quite happy he quit law school!
And now, another mixed bag. This one is focused on the Inn I made, which I felt lacked a few decorations, both in the past and present states!

First, I add a slight shadow below the wall

Then, additional flower decorations!

Moving the flowers over to the present

Some cracks in the walls

Vines growing from inside the walls

Some glass lying around

The new past version (still no NPCs T_T)

...and the new present version!

And it's time for another portrait, of another collector! Since Tai Ming has a Collector's HQ, it's only logical that there are a few collectors running around doing collector-y stuff. 

Where exactly this guy will appear and what he'll do hasn't been decided yet, but it's likely he'll be near the Collector's HQ in map 2 :)

Time to move on to the next house! This one belongs to Tessen, the young girl you met in the first map of Tai Ming. She has now grown up to be a young lady, living in her own house in the second zone.

When making this map, I wanted it to resemble her grandfather's home in the first zone, so before making the sketch I knew I wanted to bring some of those items along here, to give the player a sense of recognition (hopefully). 

Since I created a lot of interiors at this stage already, I didn't get to create so many new things for this room. Instead I brought in previous items, or tweaked old ones to fit my needs. Unless we reused a bunch of stuff in new ways, creating this game would probably take much longer, so it's good to keep in mind what previous props you've made, in order to reuse them efficiently!

For this house, the main thing I made, that hadn't been made before, is this doorway to the right: 

All the other houses had their entrance from the ground level, so there hadn't been a doorway to the sides made yet! I actually hadn't thought about that, hehe~

The rest of the items are either brought in the way they were (the painting, bookcase, bed and lower right box have been added from her grandpa Sizou's house), or resized and/or recolored (the carpets, bedside table, etc).

As such, this GIF of the work in progress may not exactly be super interesting, as it's basically just adding in one thing after another:

But in either case, I'm happy with the end result and I think Tessen would feel at home living here:

I think it's time to throw in another portrait! Looks like we're gonna keep it around one-two per week :)

This guy is another one of those "silly" portraits, featuring the villager in charge of Tai Ming's dam. You kind of need to get access to the dam mechanics, allowing you to lower or raise the water levels, but unfortunately this guy won't let you waltz around doing that as you wish! 

At least not until you've completed a quest for him... ;)

Work in Progress
Finished Sprite

Next up, turning the storage room into it's present self! Abandoned and ruined - you know the drill by now! 

The Storage Room in the Past

Progress GIF

The Storage Room in the Present!

Moving below stairs, it's time to take a look at the inn's storage room! Here the innkeeper stores whatever things he does not need, and it also houses something you need to interact with in order to progress the story...! 

Can you guess what? :)

Progress GIF

The Finished Room

Today I bring to you our first prototype of the giant Thorn-Worm boss! 

Of course, the graphics are mostly WIP, and the boss fight won't take place here (we just used this area for testing purposes), but the encounter itself is fully playable and just in need of some minor tweaks:

Remember, this is just the first step of the encounter. Once you've done some damage to this guy, you'll end up with two of these on the playfield! Oh dear..
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