Shifting to the new art style in Ark Fantastic

Shifting to the new art style in Ark Fantastic

We never said it would be easy.

In our last development blog, we have presented what we’ve been working on lately, and it has been, yes, a new art style.

This time, we are going to dive a bit deeper. Our esteemed artists; Serena and Ivana are the ones who have been working hard on the new art style, and so far, the reception has been positive. Of course, we also have to take some of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” comments into an account, but generally, we are pretty satisfied with reactions.

So, before we delve into the gameplay of the “new” Trip the Ark Fantastic, Serena and Ivana are going to share a few words with us.

From the beginning

So, when it comes to the art style in general, Trip the Ark Fantastic has been all over the place in the beginning.

This is how our boy Charlie looked in the super-early stage of the development

“The first version of the game didn’t look bad – it’s just that it didn’t have a clear visual direction. Everyone had their own idea of how the game should look, but we didn’t communicate well.”, Serena said to us.

Welp, some startup issues right there.

“Thankfully after months of struggle and feedback from investors, we all sat down on a meeting and talked everything through.”, continued Serena.

Environment design for the new art style

When it comes to designing anything really, the first step is to collect references. With that, we had a better art direction, and it was easier to work with. We tried to stick to strong, readable shapes, with well-grouped colors, a tiny bit of texture when rendering, depending on the material. We didn’t want the clean mobile game look, but not too painterly either.

Ivana made a layout of the perspective for this lovely environment, while Serena drew in details and rendered it.

Objects in the environment had to respond to the quest to make sense. Unlike the old environment, the new environment is set in a 2-point perspective to give it depth and will include parallax when fully animated.

Prior to that, Serena says that she had little to no knowledge of art fundamentals. So, implementing color theory was a game-changer. Making small, thumbnail composition with firstly values and then colors. That was used with the purpose so the colors are not scattered everywhere, and the overall composition will look more pleasing.

At some point, we had to tone colors down because they were too saturated, and that’s one of the reasons the final picture looks a little bit different from the sample.

And, the sample of the style:

Laying out value composition and color composition on a bigger thumbnail to see how everything will look:

Final illustration (with layers for parallax) in its actual size (4k) after a few days of rendering.  

Click the image to open it in full size.

Character design

So, you’ve seen how our boy Charles evolved in time. Pretty awesome read right here:

But here is something new, not related to Charles. Ivana has made a pretty cool collage that shows how our new, never-before-seen character Wolf Guard evolved in stages for the new art style.

So, what do y’all think? Let us know in the comments!

Why and how we completely redid our art style (for the last time!)

Trip the Ark Fantastic is a project that we love to take our time with. That shows when it comes to the art style, which has been changed several times during the production.

Here’s how our main protagonist, Charles looked early in the production. Those are the two early production iteration of the character.

The second one stood for a while, but there was something “missing”. For the main protagonist, Charles looked relatively bland. So, Charles is a scientist, right. Scientists usually have glasses. This is something that would give him a bit of a character.

That is where the newer design direction took us, and our merry hedgehog looked like:

With that character design, we also slightly updated our environmental design, with widely-liked Scurries scene:

That was awesome! Or so we thought. We sent our latest build to several parties, and most of them complained about the “blandness” of the interior design; primarily the Burrows.

The good part? At least we knew what’s wrong, and how we could change it. Btw, while you’re here, check out how we pitched the game to the publishers, and how we made our game brochure.

Welp, back to the drawing board, it seemed! Back to the drawing board, we went, indeed.

The idea? We couldn’t simply imitate the previous design and build upon it, so it was a rather difficult task for our artists Serena and Ivana.

First, something a bit, well, Tim Burton-ish?

Looks great. Pretty “edgy”. But, too dark. Scrap that.

The second one? Yeah, looks pretty good, but at the end of the day, it looks too similar to the previous designs. Let’s do something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT! But great-looking at the same time.

So, we did.

Behold, the brand-new Trip the Ark Fantastic art style, in several stages:

Also, if you were wondering, yep, this is our new Charles! With several types of shading.

Got ideas? Suggestions? Write us in the comments!

Plans for 2021!

Recap 2020Moving to Croatia

Even though most of us are from Croatia, 2020 was the year the entire Gamechuck team moved here, even our composer relocated here from the UK and our Belgian coder found a nice flat in Velika Gorica. We’ve expanded the team only slightly and carried on completing our various projects, including Trip the Ark Fantastic.

Usually moving to Croatia means enjoying the sunny bars and seaside but this year was a bit different. Like everyone else, we’ve had to work from home during various lockdowns, and even when there was no imposed lockdown, many people continued to work from home so they can take care of their loved ones and stay in other cities (be it Čakovec, Varaždin, Rijeka, Zadar or something else entirely – we’re from all around).

Circled in blue: strategic places we’ve occupied during the lockdown. If you’re wondering where this little country even is, there’s a more famous country on the bottom left called Italy (that’s almost where the Pope lives).

Then we’ve also had a 5.5 earthquake in March and a 6.5 earthquake near Zagreb just last week. The Zagreb Innovation Center where we host our offices suffered some minor damage but the real damage was of course the psychological stress that many people feel when they figure out that they live on top of an angry pile of rocks.

It’s become a faux pas to ask “can I get a Corona?” in a bar. Now even “can I get a shake?” is getting a bad rep.

There’s also some wild (and cool?) conspiracy theories looming around. Like this tweet from a few weeks before the biggest earthquake in 140 years that got a lot of interest:

Of course, the pandemic had other interesting effects on our business – since everything is digital now, we’ve been able to attend more game development conferences and gaming events than ever before, at a fraction of the cost, so our “business development” side is booming. More on that in our 3 year recap from July.

Anyway, enough about the past. You’re REALLY here to hear about the future!

THE FUTURE?

Well, we’ve come very close to finally making a polished and working prototype of the game. We’re still playing around with making the UI work as shown on e.g. this animation:

The other game we’ve made (the retro action game Speed Limit where every level is a completely different arcade genre) is about to release on PC and all consoles next month so that’s a big deal now too. Here’s how that looks if you’ve somehow missed it, straight from our publisher’s Youtube account:

Speaking of publishers, as soon as we make the Trip the Ark Fantastic prototype, we’ll continue our hunt for interested parties. We’ve received plenty of feedback already regarding art and so on, so we’ll implement all that in the demo once we have it.

Since we’re done with Speed Limit, the retro team is also brewing something else entirely, but more on that later. For now, here’s a mysterious picture to fire up your imagination:

Suddenly there came a chucking, a new game chucking in the Gamechuck store.

The Fantastic Prototype

Ok, back to Trip the Ark Fantastic prototype.

It is going to be a few hours long – it will feature the beginning of the game – the first city in the Animal Kingdom – the hometown of our protagonist Charles and also the center of the Rabbit Mining Company – “The Burrows”.

Charles has went through a few iterations over the past year and we’ve finally nailed him down to a good combination of introverted scholar + cute hedgehog:

https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/641248267979456512/777882083775348746/unknown.png

This prototype will contain almost 50.000 words (check some on the link) and showcase several quests in the Burrows, including a strange illness that the rabbits caught and Charles can help cure, as well as several some engineering shenanigans with the old steam engine.

We’ve also completed the graphics for the second town in the Kingdom, the Scurries, which is ready to be animated and scripted as well:

We’re also drafting the final city of the first act (before Charles sets off to unexplored territory on behest of the King), and that’s Pride:

So 2021 should be the year when we finish those cities and start working on Act 2 (which includes the Kingdom’s trade colony in the southern continent, a penal colony and, if rumors are true, even a secret native city made of SOLID GOLD).

Then in 2022 we should finish up with the end-game where you wrap up your investigation on the Ark myth and by doing so change the Kingdom forever.

The game could be out some time in 2022 or if we wish to port it to a billion next-gen consoles then perhaps a bit later.

WHAT? THE GAME WILL BE OUT IN 2022?! BUT WE WANT TO PLAY IT NOW!!! BUNNY RAAAAGEEE!

These are lofty goals but let’s focus on the short-term now, just 2020:

  1. We’ll finish up the prototype hopefully before summer. It will be a 2 hour experience and will showcase maybe around 5-10% of the full game. We’ll showcase it to interested parties in hopes of getting someone to finance the rest of the development of the game.
  2. We’ll also produce a new trailer as the teaser from December 2019 is now over a year old.
  3. Once we’ve secured financing of the production phase, we’ll get more animators, writers, artists and so on, and head onwards to polishing the rest of the game.
  4. A crowdfunding campaign is also not out of the question, perhaps in the summer time.
  5. By the end of 2021, we hope to have an interesting (and playable) first half of the game.

What else is there to say? Not much. Here’s another mysterious picutre from a potential project from the Gamechuck oven, and be sure to visit us on our Discord!

https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/585767972505649152/795982495891193896/izmjena1_100.jpg
Who are these people? Why are they dancing this weird dance?

Thanks for reading up to here and have a great 2021!

The Scientific Method, Peer Review and Fake News: Gameplay Mechanics of Trip the Ark Fantastic

scientific report title

The Scientific Method, Peer Review and Fake News: Gameplay Mechanics of Trip the Ark Fantastic Explained Step By Step

With Trip the Ark Fantastic, we’re striving for a rich and varied narrative experience, but that doesn’t mean that story takes a back-seat to gameplay, quite the opposite. So let’s talk about the gameplay.

Btw, we’ve talked about it before but it didn’t have concrete examples back then:

SCIENTIFIC METHOD

As a scholar, your main method of solving the quests and mysteries of the Kingdom is by employing the scientific method.

This means that you first gather clues – such as testimonies from other animals, physical evidence, facts from books and so on.

Afterwards you choose which one of those clues you want to use to form your thesis or argument. Specific combinations of clues unlock unique conclusions, which you can then use to submit your report and finish the quest.

The Burrows Epidemic

PEER REVIEW

As a famous scholar, your scientific peers will diligently follow and review your work, which you always can read about in the Kingdom’s newspapers, and so can all other animals.

This means that you have to be careful because if your report meets with disapproval from the other scholars, you will lose reputation in the scientific community, or in extreme cases, when many of your reports sway too much towards one single faction, you might be seen as a political pawn and some doors in society might be closed to you.

While this might seem very punishing at a glance, there will be many sidequests and smaller scientific reports which will give the player an opportunity to rebuild his bad reputation

EXAMPLE

While gathering clues is intuitive as it features gameplay mechanics seen in other RPGs such as Exploration, Branching dialogues and Interaction with the environment; the scientific report mechanic and the reputation needs a more in-depth explanation.

The Blackbark Discrepancy

In the example above, the player is investigating a famous legend that general Lav infiltrated the city of Blackbark using the sewers. The legend holds an important place in the public perception of the Lav rebellion.

However, modern architectural accounts agree that the sewers become flooded during heavy rain and are therefore un-traversable.

The player could conclude that the whole thing is just a tall tale, but he decides to purposefully ommit an important weather report from his thesis and conclude that the legend is true.

Btw, here is a bit more about Blackbark from one of our previous blogs:

REPLAYABILITY

As there are many ways to find clues – such as from books or from testimonies, and many ways to combine them and weave them into different conclusions, all of which impacts the world in a different way, the game will offer a significant replay value.

Also, as the story unfolds, you will get entangled further and further in the social, scientific and mythological intricacies of the world: will you adjust your discoveries to suit your political goals, or will you follow the evidence wherever it leads you? Do you wish the Kingdom to prevail or to change, and how?

Questions like these form of the brunt of the conflict the player will need to resolve, culminating not only in different quest outcomes but ultimately in three distinct endings – the preservation of monarchy, a demoratic reform, or a revolutionary coup.

Btw, more about the factions can be found in a separate blog:

QUESTIONS?

Don’t forget to ask them here or elsewhere. On our Discord perhaps.

This is how we made our brochure for publishers

This is how we made our Trip the Ark Fantastic brochure for publishers and investors

In our last blog we talked about how we made our pitch video aimed for publishers and investors. In this blog, we are talking about something similar – a brochure.

For starters, you may ask yourselves: why would you make a brochure if you made a pitch video? Pitch video is much more cooler and, at the end of the day, way more dynamic. And, yep, we agree. That’s why we’ve made the brochure much before the pitch video. Look at it as the first step in getting closer to getting a publisher/investor.

If you’re an indie developer and looking into making your own brochure, here are a few tips ‘n tricks.

What to talk about in your brochure?

Sure, you decided to make a shiny new brochure that will blow away your potential publisher, but first, you need to know what will you talk about in it. So, here are a few bullet points to get you started:

  • What is your game about
  • Three to five key features in your game (and explain them a bit)
  • A bit about the story and lore (if you have any)
  • Gameplay mechanics
  • Your team
  • Your inspirations
  • SWOT analysis
  • Some facts about marketing you did by yourself so far (if you did, that is)
  • Details about your budget, e.g., what will you spend on all those millions you get from the publisher
  • Also, don’t forget about the timeline for the production of your game

We used only free and open-source software for the brochure

When you’re an indie developer, you’re always on the budget. Until you get the investment or a publisher, you’ll have to find a workaround for everything. Luckily, Gamechuck comes to a rescue!

For this brochure, we used three completely free and open-source software solutions. For image manipulation (and much, much more) we used Krita, which we already wrote about. Read more about Krita below.

Now, for everything design-wise, Inkscape is the way to go.

Basically, you’ll have to do the brochure page-by-page, and Inkscape is a pretty powerful tool for that purpose. Inkscape is made for designers, illustrators and magazine/newspaper publishing, so you may say it’s rather capable. The UI is a bit rough around the edges, but you’ll get the hang of it relatively quickly.

The software saves your progress as a SVG file, but it can export the page in various formats, as shown below.

Considering we use an open-source desktop publishing tool, Scribus, we have exported each page in PDF format.

Scribus is another neat open-source software, and pretty easy to use. Basically, all you have to do is to know the dimensions for your brochure, and you’re ready to go. Why the dimensions? Well, because you’ll also want to print your brochure for all the events you’ll attend when this pandemic goes away.

When you generate a new document, then you’ll just import all the PDF files you’ve made with Inkscape; page by page, of course. Like so:

And, that’s basically it. When you’re satisfied with the layout, just export the thing, and you’re ready to spam the publishers and investors about the awesome new game you’re making!

Does making a brochure take a lot of time which I could use for making my game instead?

Glad you asked that!

It definitely depends on how much you want to show in your brochure. It took us about a week of continuous work only on the brochure with additional fixes and updates. So, in total, we spent around two weeks on it.

Does it mean that you could have spent that time for game development instead? Well, yeah, but your brochure is definitely necessary as a communication tool you’ll use to reach the publisher and/or investor.

Or you could just ask your colleague/friend/family member to help you with it. It’s up to you.

But, before you go, here’s something really cool!

As a token of gratitude for reading this blog, you can download our Trip the Ark Fantastic brochure on this link.

How did you like it? Let us know in the comments below, or on our TwitterFacebook and Insta!

This is how we made our Pitch Video

This is how we made our Publisher & Investor Pitch Video

In our quest towards making Trip the Ark Fantastic an adventure RPG like no other, the development of the game is made on several fronts. The one of the key fronts is business side of game development.

Yep, we made a pretty cool brochure, too. Also exclusively for publishers and investors. BUT! We are going to show it to you in our next blog!

Basically, we are looking for a publisher that is going to help us with our vision for Trip the Ark Fantastic. But, you have to gain some interest from potential publishers, right? Sure, the brochures and Powerpoint presentations are cool and all, but the form of a pitch video is much more tangible and personal. So, we decided to do just that.

Making the storyboard

Every video out there starts with an idea. For our Trip the Ark Fantastic pitch video specifically, Alex, Gamechuck CEO, and the game’s project manager first created a storyboard that contained all the scenes. Then, we were ready for some rough sketches that looked like this. And, nope, we are not kidding.

In the first idea, Alex was supposed to stand near Gamechuck arcade cabinet, but we later changed that

This was pretty much enough to make a first rough draft, so we did just that. Igor, our marketing guy, and community manager powered-up his favourite video editing program and created the first version of the pitch video.

Our very first Ark pitch video draft!

Upon finishing that, we wanted to show that cool office dynamic!

Time for filming some scenes at the office!

Gameplay, artwork, trailers. Those are always great to see, although for this occasion, we simply had to catch our team on camera. Luckily, every month we have one of those major production meetings, so it was a perfect time to film people how they work, and catch some of the meeting itself.

Some casual photos of the team as they arrive to the office.

Also, seems like Matija wasn’t that amused 😀

Resemblance is uncanny.

One of the most important scenes to film was the one when Alex introduces himself, so we filmed several takes. The last one was selected for the pitch video.

Then, it was the time to get some videos and stills of people working. Granted, this was somewhat staged. Each team member has a role in production, so we wanted it to be obvious on the video. So, for example:

Piet working in Godot Engine
Jan using Ink for story and the dialogues
Ivana using Krita for some sketches and animations
Fenton working on the composition for the soundtrack

Finally, the meeting itself, where we talked about the next steps needed to be done for the game.

And, this is basically it. The next step was to put everything in the video editing software, record the narration, make several more changes and the video is almost ready for sending!

Do you have any tips or suggestions? Let us know in the comments below, on our Twitter, Facebook or Insta!

New Day – New Coder

New Day – New Coder

Since last month, we have a new coder on our team! It’s Krunoslav Gregorec, who has years of experience in several Croatian gamedev companies, including on his own hobby projects (such as Orc Dentist!).

Orc Dentist, Kruno’s hobby project

He isn’t a senior in Godot but has learned many engines during his career (including making his own engine at some point!)

He is currently learning the ropes and making some tutorial projects, and then he’ll move on to working in our shared codebase on Git.

Here’s a few questions we asked him:

Why did you decide to join Gamechuck?

Well, I loved your titles (even though I personally don’t play that kind of games) primarily because they show a lot of creativity from you guys, and an attitude, “We do what we want!”.

It shows you’re driven with a creative and artistic spirit. Additionally, Gamechuck is the only company in Croatia with this level of worker rights and everything around that.


What are your top 3 games ever?

I would definitely put Final Fantasy up there as the first. I literally named my daughter after the character from one of the Final Fantasy titles hahaha. It’s “Aeris”.

The other two? Horizon: Zero Dawn and Half-Life franchise.


What do you do in your free time?

I don’t have free time, I have kids hahaha. Jokes aside, I’m mostly watching YouTube and similar services for coding topics, e-sport, quantum physics and similar scientific topics. I’m also driving a bike, and one of my biggest wishes is downhill. I often find myself exploring interesting stuff in nature around Zagreb.

I also play guitar, and I even started teaching my kid to play the violin. In the past, I used to do handwork with wood or similar material.


How did you spend the quarantine time?

If you mean the lockdown period, well, at home usually coding stuff. When we were bored with everything, we’d take our kids to the nearest lake and have a picnic, somewhere with no people around, of course.


What do you think about the Godot engine and why is it the best game engine in the universe?

Well, I don’t have a complete picture about Godot since I’ve been using it for a short time, but what I definitely dig about it – it’s so lightweight! The whole engine can fit on a floppy disc haha!

Also, some things around the workflow are a lot better than in e.g. Unity. Those damned collision matrices. Although, it’s lacking in the scripting editor. Inability to natively open the project in Visual Studio, and that everything works like you’re using C# is slightly frustrating. Not being able to re-arrange the docking window is also a bit weird. But, the rest of it is pretty damn good.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

In 5 years? In this situation around the world is very difficult to predict where the hell will I be in a year!


How about in 55 years?

Oh, this is definitely much easier to predict! I’ll probably be dead hahaha!


Follow our progress on this development blog, on our Twitter, Facebook and Insta!

Naming places for our fantasy game

Naming places for our fantasy game

How to name things in fantasy is always a tough one. On the one hand, you don’t want to sound too mundane, and on the other, crazy hyphenated and apostrophated names like Gi’zzor the Terrible and Duke Belerofont are done to death. Tolkien did it in a nice way – as a linguist, he made up entire languages and then emulgated the names for things he needed from these languages. For example, Gandalf means elf-friend in elvish, but humans call him Mithrandir, meaning Grey Pilgrim, and his original name is Olorin, which translates to “dreamer” in the Quenya tongue.

Naming places
Our version of Gandalf??? No, but almost.

However, we’re not Tolkien, and also we’re leaning heavily on not inventing languages but just treating the game as translated from the animal languages to modern English for the player. So when they use a latinised word like Superb!, we don’t imply that there was a Latin language that the Animals spoke, it’s just our translation of their animal word for this language.

On the other hand, personal names and city names need some thought. Our idea was to make the locations correspond to the group nouns for the animals that live there. For example:

– A group of lions is called a Pride of Lions, so the city of lions is called Pride

– A group of squirrels is a Scurries of Squirrels, so the city of squirrels is called Scurries.

Naming places
Does this look like The Scurries or what?

The same with Flocks, Skulks, Packs et cetera. Most of these cities are not going to be accessible to the player in the game as they are far away and not related to the plot, but we’d like the name itself to explain the city. So, for example, when you hear of the count Urlich von Packs, you should immediately summon forth an image of a wolf nobleman, as Packs is a group name for wolves.

We use group names for other things as well, because they fit so well in the context of the animal kingdom. For example, in the case of the Scurries, their elected “mayor” is called The Dreymaster, because another group noun for squirrels is “a drey of squirrels”, so a ruler of squirrels could be called a dreymaster.

https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/619813078636429322/707978360051073134/ograda_copy.jpg
The noun for a group of tigers is – Streak of Tigers, so… Welcome to the Streaks!

Of course not all cities are called by these group names. There are cities whose names bear historical significance in the game, such as Valencia, the colonial city built by King Valent.

We believe such things will resonate well with the players. What do you think – let us know in the comments below, or on our Facebook, Twitter, and Discord!

Everything about the hamlet of Scurries

Everything about the hamlet of Scurries

Hello again, dear readers! After a few weeks of summer holidaying, we’ve decided to go back on track and continue the tradition of bombarding you with blogposts every Tuesday and Thursday, starting with this expansive Ark Lore Tuesday about the town of Scurries.

Scurries is a small trading town that was built on the crossroads of many important routes – to the east, there is the road to Pride (once the summer palace of kings, now the capital of the Kingdom), to the west it leads to the mining town of Burrows, and to the north the road leads to Flocks (a famous wool factory made of course by the sheep themselves).

https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/619813078636429322/701917769662201958/Screen_Shot_2020-04-20_at_23.53.46.png
From left to right: The Dreyhouse, the waterfall, the school

There are different types of buildings in the Scurries – those by squirrels and birds are mostly on treetops, but those of other animals are mostly built on the ground from either fallen trees or built. The biggest and most luxorious house in the Scurries is of course the Dreyhouse, where the current dreymaster resides with his family.

The Dreymaster is something like the mayor and judge of Scurries, he is elected once every five years and has the administrative power over what will be done in the Scurries, such as repairing bridges or fixing water-pumps, as well as presiding over grievance cases.

This system is an anomaly in the Kingdom, and there is a historical mystery of when this system came to be, and why isn’t it more aligned with the caste system as in the rest of the Kingdom – with a noble family from the Steward caste presiding over administration. It was a point of great interest to young Coriolanus as he studied the bureauology of the Kingdom. The common explanation for this is that the Scurries, as a small very dynamic market-town with animals moving in and out continuously, never had the capacity to impose a noble or a heavy tax system. If this were done, the traveling merchants from Flocks and Burrows would just move elsewhere down the road.

However, as time went on, the marketplace expanded and is now a real bustling town with a newspaper printing press, and even one of Lav‘s public schools of the Kingdom.

https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/619813078636429322/709280200944386188/Screen_Shot_2020-05-10_at_23.26.23.png
Most of the animals of the Scurries such as the squirrels and birds live on treetops but there are some buildings on the ground as well, mostly for land animals situated in the Scurries.

The western-most part of the Scurries, which is closest to the Flocks-road and the northern pass which leads to the northern lands, is where the Scurries Inn is located.

This inn is also a place where royals of the north come to stay the night if they were caught by nightfall on their long trip to Pride, so it’s probably the most elegant and rich building in the Scurries.

Now the tough question. What will the entrance to the Inn say? And – in which language?

If you liked the city, tune in on Thursday to read all about how we decided to go about naming the various toponyms of the Kingdom – Scurries, Dreymaster, Flocks, Pride, et cetera.