January Update – Second Wind

Hello world! We’re officially in the build up to Kickstarter and all the events that go with it – including two gaming expos! But first, here’s a brief look at the state of the game. This month has seen a lot of behind the scenes improvements and incremental updates as everything is prepared for kicking off work on the game’s first trailer, which will be produced by the talented M Joshua.

You may notice in this video that there’s a lot more variety in the different outfits worn by the dwarves. These have been produced by Derek Restivo based on Anthony Avon’s character concepts and we’re excited to be able to present the final (first) set of them soon. There’s also now a full set of tools for the dwarves to use (and produce themselves) as the basics of the crafting system are put into place. We’re hoping to be able to show you some workshops and actual crafting in the very near future!

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Magic in King under the Mountain

We’re not just building a game with King under the Mountain, but a whole world with its own lore and history to act as a unique setting. This is the first of several worldbuilding articles which will help design and inspire both the artwork and mechanics of the game. This time, we’re going to talk about magic – what it is, how it works, and what it means to your characters.

An illustration of the magic system
An illustration of the magic system featuring a human mage

There’s more to the world of King under the Mountain than meets the eye, quite literally. The game takes place in the physical, material world. Invisible to the naked eye, there also exists a spiritual, immaterial reflection of the world known as the Immaterial. These two planes of existence are tied together by a substance known as æther – intangible and external – which permeates the entire world much like air and the wind. Complementing æther, all living creatures and the planet itself contain what is known as mana – a well of spiritual, immaterial energy. Much like yin and yang, these differing yet complementing essences can be combined to produce magic – fantastic displays of power produced by harnessing the energy of æther and mana in tandem.

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December update – Road to the world

There’s so much to get through this month, I thought it would be best to start with one of the recent in-game progress videos:

Above you can see that the dwarves are now able to haul resources (stone boulders and wooden logs in this video) to stockpiles as required. I felt it was very important to visually show the items being carried around in this way, in an effort to recreate the look and feel of The Settlers which is a big inspiration to King under the Mountain. We’re really aiming at recreating that feeling of a peaceful, industrious ant-farm-like hustle and bustle of a small society.

Easily the biggest news this month is that we’ll be attending EGX Rezzed in London from March 30th. Rezzed is the indie-focused sister event of the Eurogamer Expo and its incredibly exciting to announce we’ll have a playable demo of King under the Mountain for attendees to play!

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Having this playable demo ready is also the primary milestone towards launching our Kickstarter campaign so with this event booked in I can also confirm that we plan to launch on Kickstarter on March 27th! It’s worth noting that this demo will be the most minimal set of features that we’re comfortable showing off – meaning most gameplay systems and features will be missing. It’s intended to show that King under the Mountain is a real game that people can play already (compared to some Kickstarter campaigns that end up being vaporware) and to give an impression of what it can become with more development time and effort. We’ll have more details about the launch in the coming weeks, but for now if you’re interested in the game, the best thing you could do is to sign up to our one-shot mailing list to remind you when we launch on Kickstarter (if you haven’t already)!

In other news this month, I’m very happy to say I’ll be working with Derek Restivo as an in-game character and environment artist. We’re working together on all the assets needed for the playable prototype and I very much hope we can continue to work together following a successful Kickstarter 🙂 Here you can see some of Derek’s work on implementing the dwarven character concept clothing into in-game sprites.

Character concepts with in-progress sprites
Character concepts with in-progress sprites

In other development updates, I’m currently working on a more detailed method of designing and placing rooms such as workshops containing furniture. Here’s a short video with a behind the scenes look at our furniture asset tool, which helps test out the metadata attached to a piece of furniture such as which tiles it covers or otherwise uses.

I’m hoping to shortly have workshops properly implemented so that the dwarves are able to process stone and logs into blocks and planks for further crafting or other constructions.

Finally, be on the lookout for our first article on worldbuilding in King under the Mountain which will go into some detail on how magic works and affects the world. This is to be the first of several articles that digs into the background of the world and lore in the game, to give us a solid basis for designing further mechanics and systems that contribute to gameplay. For now, here’s a sneak preview of an illustration of the magic system, created by Jeff Ward.

An illustration of the magic system
An illustration of the magic system

That’s all for now! If you’re in the UK or already visiting London at the end of March we’d love for you to drop by our stand at EGX Rezzed and say hi! We might even have some freebies to give away!

November Update – The difficult path

Hey everyone, good news and bad news this month, though nothing *too* bad fortunately.

I’ll start with the good news – Anthony Avon (the concept artist for King under the Mountain) has finished the second major piece of concept art, this time depicting a dwarven settlement in one of the massive caverns that make up the underground sections of the world. Although this concept mostly focuses on dwarven structures and underground flora (like the giant mushrooms), you may notice a small party discovering the settlement on the left side of the image. This both introduces orcs as one of the other playable races and the concept of dispatching small teams of heroes or champions to go on an adventure to other player’s creations. These adventures can be thought of as classic RPG-style dungeon crawls through player-generated content that will make up one of the major gameplay goals of King under the Mountain, so watch out for more info on this in the future! Check out Anthony’s concept of an orc in this world for a sneak peek of what might be next 🙂

Concept art of a subterranean dwarven settlement
Concept art of a subterranean dwarven settlement

There’s more good news in that the extremely talented Jordan Chin has composed and produced his first track for King under the Mountain, hopefully with more to follow! You may recognise Jordan’s work from his contributions to the Materia Collective such as MATERIA: Final Fantasy VII Remixed which I’m a big fan of, and it’s a delight to have Jordan contributing his talents to the game! Start Anew is intended as a piece of background music to be played while the player is peacefully building up their settlement. Let us know what you think in the comments!

The bad news is that Dave Rigley, the animator and artist responsible for the in-game character sprites (and upcoming resources) has had to pull out of the project due to personal commitments. We’re in the process of looking for a replacement sprite artist and it looks like we’re close to finding the right replacement. Along with the fact that development has been a little slow in November, it means the existing prototype release timeline has had to slip a little. It’s unfortunate, but better to wait a little longer for the right vision of the game, rather than a rushed release to meet an arbitrary deadline. This means we’re now aiming at February for the first playable prototype of the game, with a view to launching on Kickstarter around April – May. If you haven’t already, it would mean a lot to us if you sign up to our Kickstarter notification list and we’ll let you know the moment we go live. We’ll only email you once from this email list – we all hate spam as much as you do! That being said, signing up to be notified in this way means we’ll have the momentum we’ll need to make a success out of Kickstarter, and ultimately, the game itself. So if you want to get your hands on the game you know what to do!

In terms of development updates, I’m working on having the dwarves carry around resources such as stone and logs. This will unlock the ability to haul items such as these to workshops for processing into other resources, forming the basics of the economy and production chain. Hopefully I’ll have more to share on this topic in the near future, including an example of how easy it will be to mod your own assets and resources into the game. Modding is a key “pillar” in the design of King under the Mountain and its important to get these basic systems correct before adding the polish and more complex systems that will make up the game proper.

Also, for a bit of a behind-the-scenes look at the design process, I’ve put together a short document describing how the initial setup and gameplay might play out that you can read here. Let us know in the comments if you’ve anything to add or any questions!

October Update – Setting Goals

A lot to cover this month! First of all, here’s a little video showing some of the main progress in the last month with dwarves being assigned to mining jobs and removing rock walls, producing large stone resources in their place.

However the biggest news this month is that after last month’s update covering the procedurally coloured leaves in Autumn, we were featured in article on Rock Paper Shotgun! As a huge fan of RPS, this was personally incredibly exciting (one ticked off the bucket list). Even better than that, the coverage effectively doubled awareness of the game, so here’s hoping for more articles in the future 🙂
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Refer-a-friend and win a free copy of the game!

Today we’re unveiling our plan to launch a Kickstarter in early 2017 to make King under the Mountain a reality. The rest of the development effort for this year is aimed at building a small slice as a proof of concept for the game and to have something concrete and actually playable to back up the crowd funding effort. If successful, this will allow us to massively ramp up development efforts and bring in more talented creators to build the content and gameplay required.

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To do this, we’re going to need your help!

Our one-shot mailing list is going to let you know when the Kickstarter launches so you don’t miss out. Subscribe once, and we’ll email you once and no more (no spam from us!). What we really need though, is your help to spread the word to your friends that you think would be interested in this game we’re making. To add a little incentive, everyone who refers a backer to the signup form will be entered with a 1 in 10 chance of winning a free copy of the game! So if you haven’t already, send your friends on over to http://kingunderthemounta.in/download/ and this could be you 🙂

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Concept page now up on Steam Greenlight!

Though it’s early days yet, given the recent interest in the game from a wider community I thought it would be a good idea to add King under the Mountain to the “concept” section of Steam Greenlight. While I’m working hard on getting a playable alpha together for a proper greenlight process for distribution on Steam, please keep an eye on the Steam page for updates and feedback on what you’d like to see.

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Modding in King under the Mountain

In this article I’m going to talk a bit about the design decisions and goals when it comes to modding in King under the Mountain. Please excuse the poor programmer art!

modding example

A bit too long ago when I was studying at university, dreaming of being a game developer, I read the first few entries in the Game Programming Gems series. The very first chapter in the first volume stuck in my mind and stayed there, it was titled “The Magic of Data-Driven Design” by Steve Rabin. Here’s a decent article (from the same time period) by Kyle Wilson on the subject (and here’s a good stack overflow post), but it can be summed up as not having any game-specific data hard-coded into the game engine, instead it is all pulled in from external data files. All the weapons, enemies, levels, AI and anything else is driven by easily modifiable data files so that additions and changes can be made easily without needing a single line of code to be changed. Internally for a team of game developers, this lets artists and designers plug their assets or variables/scripts into the game they’re working on without needing a programmer to make any code changes, speeding up the development process considerably. There’s a potentially even bigger win for game devs however, in that this also opens up your game to the modding community, who often come up with weird and wonderful additions that the original devs wouldn’t (or couldn’t) have managed on their own.

Having as much as possible in the game open to modding is one of the architectural design goals of King under the Mountain. Not only does this make new content easier to add as the game developer, modding communities tend to extend the life and enjoyment factor of a game massively. Despite some complicated algorithms going on under the hood (such as the lighting algorithms and figuring out which wall tiles to draw), I wanted the data-driven side of the game to be as easy and accessible as possible. I decided to use JSON as the data format of choice (here’s an intro for non-programmers by Scott Lowe) because it’s a fairly compact text format, easy for humans to read and edit, and has good support in terms of coding tools and libraries.  Next I’ll show you some examples of how this is being used under the hood.

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August Update – I love it when a plan comes together

If you look back at the development progress so far, you’ll see that most of the early updates were on designing and implementing a dynamic lighting system for the game engine. This month, it all comes together as dwarf characters can now be shown in-game with dynamic lighting applied. Read on to see how we did it!

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