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December 4th, 2016, 22:56
Hi, guys, I'm part of the team working on an upcoming RPG "Ash of Gods" and I'd be happy to tell you everything about it.

Ash of Gods is а multi-genre project that features most of the typical elements of a visual novel, tactical turn-based role-playing game and card strategy.

Here's the game's page in the RPGWatch database.

We're currently in early stages of development, but we already have a website with lots of info on the game https://ashofgods.com/ash-of-gods/.

Here's an album with existing characters' art http://imgur.com/a/7rXAi

This is the latest one - Thorn Brenin, one of the game protagonists



I'll be posting regularly new materials in this thread, stick around if you like it .

And feel free to ask me anything
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December 8th, 2016, 00:06
To give you a glimpse of what the battles will look like - last week I have shared Thorn character here, specifically the way he will be shown during the dialogues. On the battlefield, just as all the other characters, he will be represented by a suchlike miniature.

Thorn's class is the guardian and his general mission is to draw off attacks on himself, defending, counter-attacking and not letting enemies move forward. You can learn more about this and other classes on the game's website https://ashofgods.com/ash-of-gods/classes/

We plan to draw every character with this level of detail. What do you think of this?
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December 8th, 2016, 00:19
Nice art-style.
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December 12th, 2016, 03:22
To expand on the topic of the look of the battles: the miniatures (as the one above) will be used on the tactical battlefields.

Here you can see how one battlefiled like that is created:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s__r_yWh5rw

The actual battle will look something like this



And just to be clear - all the characters will be fully animated - we're working on the animations now, here are some behind the scenes of creating the materials for the rotoscoping (it's a cheap but still offering good value way to use videos with actors to create 2D animations):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEJLCh3BfMc
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December 13th, 2016, 20:33
This is the final version of Dorpkhal, the antagonist who started the reaping in the game’s world. In the old times, he served as an “avatar” for his god in his native world. Now, just as other umbras do, he exercises his power the way he sees fit. Many of the ensa warriors imitate Dorpkhal's look by braiding their hair into dreadlocks and scaring their bodies.

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December 13th, 2016, 20:41
Rotoscoping - that's interesting. I remember that from the Ralph Bakshi animations.

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December 15th, 2016, 21:53
Originally Posted by Ripper View Post
Rotoscoping - that's interesting. I remember that from the Ralph Bakshi animations.
Thank you for this reference - I will share it with others on the team (though I'm sure some of the more artistic guys have seen it).

Meanwhile - we've shared a video that captures the process of character creation. This is a speed paint of creating a character named Bran Vichti. He is far from the nicest person, more of a straight up asshole, and we wanted you to be able to tell it from the first glance. Several times during his work Igor Podmogilnikov had created different versions and kept the best one, as was decided by other members of the Ash of Gods team.

Here's the final result

You can find the speedpaint video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fasa2EDrrY
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December 16th, 2016, 02:19
Is this the same artist as the Banner Saga? It looks great.
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December 16th, 2016, 04:07
Originally Posted by Hexprone View Post
Is this the same artist as the Banner Saga? It looks great.
I asked in the same question on the games original thread.

Here was the answer.
HmI'm getting a Banner Saga feeling from your concept art. So I have to ask are you licensing the Banner Saga game engine like a few other developers also?

No, we like the art style but are working on our own.
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December 16th, 2016, 12:36
Originally Posted by Hexprone View Post
Is this the same artist as the Banner Saga? It looks great.
God forbid! Because I want to buy this game here.
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December 16th, 2016, 18:06
Originally Posted by Hexprone View Post
Is this the same artist as the Banner Saga? It looks great.
Originally Posted by Couchpotato View Post
I asked in the same question on the games original thread.

Here was the answer.
Yes, that is correct - we see their work as an inspiration but we are not related to them anyhow.

We also have a new piece of art ready - it is a village next to the Arch in the premises of the Ursus city.

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December 16th, 2016, 18:32
Please don't be inspired by anything phonerelated, pretty please!
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December 17th, 2016, 00:36
Originally Posted by joxer View Post
Please don't be inspired by anything phonerelated, pretty please!
Hold on, are you sure we are talking of the same thing?

The Banner Saga was a cRPG first that was later ported to the mobile devices. It's not one of those free to play mobile games with in-app purchases.

So it's not really phone-related, I guess.
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December 17th, 2016, 01:14
Originally Posted by Sneaky_seal View Post
Hold on, are you sure we are talking of the same thing?

The Banner Saga was a cRPG first that was later ported to the mobile devices. It's not one of those free to play mobile games with in-app purchases.

So it's not really phone-related, I guess.
A few things to know about joxer:
  • he calls phonegames anything that runs on mobile/phone
  • he calls any game with an online gameplay feature a MMO
  • he doesn't like enemy respawns
  • he doesn't like bears since Dragon Age Inquisition
  • he complains all the time about DLCs and season passes

By the way, nice artworks, I really like the style and look.
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December 18th, 2016, 20:13
Resembling Banner Saga is a good thing, imo. I most definitely will be interested in this one when it is released.
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December 19th, 2016, 22:27
Originally Posted by azarhal View Post
A few things to know about joxer:
  • he calls phonegames anything that runs on mobile/phone
  • he calls any game with an online gameplay feature a MMO
  • he doesn't like enemy respawns
  • he doesn't like bears since Dragon Age Inquisition
  • he complains all the time about DLCs and season passes

By the way, nice artworks, I really like the style and look.
Hahaha, thank you for the heads up and your support.

Originally Posted by Carnifex View Post
Resembling Banner Saga is a good thing, imo. I most definitely will be interested in this one when it is released.
Yep, we also think so and thank you for your interest.
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December 22nd, 2016, 10:54
Another character we've finished working on - Fisk.

"Long ago he was a brave soldier and even committed some acts of heroism – but today he’s just a simple guard and not even one of the best – all because of his love for firewater, although that is a disaster that can befall most people. Fisk always spends his salary in the nearest tavern and then borrows money from friends. The strange side effect of his drunkenness is a tendency to long conversations – and with the bullshit that he talks this shabby dude is able to torture to death anyone he didn’t get with his spear."

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December 27th, 2016, 23:56
We have decided to start writing developer diaries to record our work on the game.

Here I bring to your judgement the first one of those. Let us know please, whether you would like more technical details or is it overcomplex as it is now.

The diary is avaiable at our website:
https://ashofgods.com/news/dev-diary-1/

DEVELOPER DIARY #1



I’m eager to complete the game in the space of a year. It’s damn hard, even when you know exactly what to do. It was obvious from the very beginning that we’d have to do everything simultaneously: write a novel, turn it into a script, work on its technical adaptation so we could launch it in Unity, draw backgrounds and characters, and create visual effects and animation for the combat system. All in the best traditions of indie agile: fast, steady movement forward, even when you have no idea which exact route will take you to your goal. But on the other hand, after four months of intensive work on this game we still don’t have a build in which everything we did can be shown off as an integral product. Right now we are moving towards this goal with giant strides.

In search of a style
Most part of August and all of September we spent on searching for the right style and techique for scene drawing. At this stage I failed a bit as a newborn “I-know-everything’ guy. I hoped that concept artist Vladimir Malakhovsky, my mate and a close friend of our art director, Igor, would help with the adaptation of the scenes’ style. I’ve worked with Vladimir before, on a game called Cradle of Magic – he did cool graphics in the old-school manner, which, as I supposed, would fit into our new project too.

I really wanted it to look like Disney’s Fire and Ice and LoTR, and The Snow Queen (1957) and Twelve Months (1956) by the Soviet studio Soyuzmultfilm – thin lines, simple forms and fills, a warm palette. At the same time, it would have to be quite close to comic books in its aesthetics.



However, Vladimir’s current style turned out to be closer to classic oil paintings and it wasn’t the manner that we wanted to see.

The effort of bringing more realism and clarity has required too much time for drawing the scenes. And the style turned out to be too complex for other artists to work in without making the difference stand out.

We’ve lost almost a month with these experiments and it was exhausting and demotivating. It seemed to be a total failure given the fact that with the characters we did everything right from the first attempt. Fortunately, Igor (our art director) remembered about Andrey Zherdev – and the very first sketches he did already had the feeling we were looking for.



At the end of August (thanks to social networks) we found Julia Jokhova – a great artist who had experience in making illustrations according to the technique that we need. We started to search for references and also the stylistics which would manage to express the atmosphere of the story accurately. It took almost one and a half months to create the city of Albus and its vicinities and the yard of Thorn Brenin’s mansion. Despite all its seeming simplicity, this elaborate techique of drawing (the brushes, coloring and light) still demanded a lot of time. We had to design the greenery separately: individual trees, groves and bushes. We had to understand how to correctly draw the building materials. So, in its first version our city of Albus looked like it had been created by genie a minute ago, out of materials freshly arrived from the factory.

Parallax (That’s when different layers on the screen are moving at different velocities) is “our everything”, but during the work on the first scene we just had no tools to test the stuff that the guys drew in Photoshop. We did it “quick-and-dirty”, creating the animatics directly in Photoshop.
The first attempt to build animatic scenes in Unity was made at the end of September:

Video avaiable here

We had to find a solution that wouldn’t only satisfy each one of us, but would also allow us to create the content quickly. I’m not sure, however, that we really managed to do it: with each new scene there appears something new and interesting that was missed in the stuff which was already created. You want to go back and redo everything – or, at least, redraw it. By the middle of December we’ve learned how to draw one scene one-and-a-half to two screens in width. We did it in 2-3 weeks – from idea to Unity build. This scene – “the village at Arch” near the town of Ursus – was one of our first victories.



In this scene Julia used some of the methods that were previously used by Andrey Zherdev in the third game’s episode (we didn’t show these scene anywhere): elements of work with color, mountains on the background, greenery, the stylistics of drawing the Menhirs (those huge stones which form the arch). Such things helped us to finish the illustration faster.

Hello, Unity


This image showcases what the basic episode direction looks like: managing the camera and the points where the dialogues begin. This is the part that we’re intensively coding right now. The first urge – to pick Fungus (the only distinct solution for visual novels in Unity) – didn’t work for us. The storytelling in the episodes is tightly bound to the camera work and the author’s text. Fungus doesn’t contain anything like this while its tools for work with story trees aren’t as convenient as in Articy (I will talk about this thing some later).

We began with something else, however – we moved the main rules from the prototype into the game’s code, we built our own animation controller – to play the animations on the battle field – and we wrote a little tool for importing the individual clips of battle animations:



We had to solve several problems simultaneously. So, the current sequence of the “Rush” hit contains 53 frames and the character in this animation moves quite a lot – he crouches, turns his body from side to side, steps back. The battle field is presented in isometric perspective and if you want the animations to flow smoothly from one into another, each of these frames needs an accurately set point of binding. In other words, this is how you center one set of frames in relation to others. Being a naive man, I thought that Unity would include this operation, which is so easy and regular for any 2D game (and I have a pretty extensive amount of experience working with stuff like that in Flash). But, as it turned out, Unity doesn’t have this functionality (just as it lacks many other things which you expect from a platform intended for making 2D games). Moreover, almost everything you can find in open source or in the Unity store for 2D games is intended for platformers. So we had to code the import and alignment of the battle animations by ourselves.

Then we focused on the part that plays the animations – to make sure that our clips with walking, strikes and the master poses are done right and look good.



When we began coding in Unity, we already had a combat system prototype that was written by me in JavaScript. Currently we are still adding and testing new classes in it, following the next rule: code fast and don’t think about the consequences. I think that the main hurdle about implementation in Unity was our attempt to port our prototype proof-of-concept combat system into it without any changes, keeping all the features which were in the Web version. And this was long before the work on AI begins. Either we’ll decide to incorporate the completed animations, or do something serious with this part of the game in general. It was important for me to do this as soon as possible – so we could understand how difficult it would turn out to be and on what general principles to base development as a whole.

It was also very important to let all the mathematics and mechanics be ready for quick incorporation into the final version of the game: the skills and parameters of the different battle classes, the rules of motion and all the rest.



Each skill is a little text file in YAML format that describes, in declarative form, how this skill works. You can quickly change the parameters, add or remove effects, or simply change individual classes’ behavior mechanics. This allows us to quickly try out the ideas we get from the people playing our prototype. For instance, the idea of the Hammerman class was suggested by Voice of Reason. This is a class that can move across the entire battlefield and has only one goal – to deprive your enemy’s characters who haven’t moved yet of the opportunity to move. A few minutes are all you need to create a new class and begin to watch how it plays and affects the game process.

The plot?


During all this time Sergey Malitsky (the author of the script) and Dmitry Erokhin (the game designer) worked with Articy. Articy is the gizmo that allows us to write and check the script independently from the creation of the game’s code. You can’t play the novel in its entirety yet, but we’re already able to play the first 5 episodes in Articy – to check how the decision trees and choices work.

For almost a month, since the middle of November, we’ve been engaged concurrently in the directing of the dialogs – how to place characters correctly in dialogs, how to do the switchover of backgrounds in 2D scenes. Such dialogs in the game have up to a maximum of seven characters. This is how we arrived at the “three scenes” model: two general and one additional. Game designers sets the place where each of characters is standing, while Articy controls who’s speaking at the current moment.



Any course in film photography will give you the essential theory – where to place the camera correctly when filming the conversation of several people, how to do the switchover of backgrounds, and which rules you shouldn’t break. But when you try to emulate these rules in 2D, you encounter some difficulties: you can’t turn the camera in different directions, so you have to somehow simulate motion which is natural for a 3D scene. When you’re making a movie, it’s enough for the director to give a command, and the cameraman will shoot the episode from another point of view. But when your making a game, we very badly wanted to avoid having to place the camera manually, because that looks a lot like suicide : even now the game already contains about 2000 of speech lines (if I calculated correctly). We’ve spent almost a week to understand when and how we should change the views to make everything look nice.



And yes, articy:access api is a big headache. In practice working in it turned out not to be as simple as the ads promised. This wasn’t a story of “start it up and everything just works out of the box”. I’m also thinking with some trepidation about the localization process – the internationalization tools which were promised in 2014 still haven’t appeared in Articy. Not that it’s that big a deal, but it makes us nervous anyway.

What’s next
There are 37 characters, 21 scenes and 12 battlefields to be done. We’ve drawn seven scenes and three battlefields so far. Since the beginning of September we’ve drawn 22 dialogue portraits of characters and six individual miniatures of the enemies. This is a bit more than two thirds of all the characters in the game. It looks like we’ll manage to draw all the characters we need in time. We’ve also done tons of concept art for the intro video.

By the end of December the first animation packs for the battle miniatures will be ready: Fisk, Rumlin, Krieger, Ark and Sopp. By the middle of February – another ten characters and by the beginning of summer there will be around 30 of them. Unfortunately, we are four or five calendar weeks behind schedule with the scenes, and two to three weeks late with the script plan. Right now we’re still deciding what to do with all of this. Should we reduce the amount of content or speed up? I don’t know.

Sometimes it’s harder to finish something than to start. So, here is the brief list of things that fucked us up. Aaaargh, we don’t have time! The winter is torturing us. It already gets dark by 16:30 and it seems daylight doesn’t exist anymore – you wake up when it’s still dark and you finish up when it’s already dark. The neighbor with his electric hammer drill is making it really hard to write the storyline. And for some reason, there is such a small number of hours in a day.

By Nikolay Bondarenko, the Main Dude

What would you like to read about in the next one?
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December 30th, 2016, 22:10
We have another character ready:



So this time would you like to take a guess what is he all about? What is his personality like? What are his goals? What are his tendancies? How often and what for does he use his big sword?

We try to make sure that each character gives off the right emotions – so I woner if we manage to do it right.
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December 30th, 2016, 22:30
I love this art style. Retro and pixelated is overdone these days, but there's not nearly enough of this type.
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