No Working Sundays in the Animal Kingdom (All Hail King Lav!)

King’s Rest

There’s a lot of talk these days in our country (Croatia) about making Sunday an obligatory holiday, pros and cons, etc… This reminded us of this little piece of lore that’s been lying in Nuclino for a while, called “King’s Rest”, as part of our calendar series, so let’s share it:

As part of his efforts in modernising the Kingdom to be in touch with the changing structure of society (from the mostly agricultural to an industrial one), King Leonard the Wise introduced a law guaranteeing a day off to every working animal, so that all animals may have the time to enjoy arts and sciences.

In today's Ark Lore Tuesday, we talk about King's Rest, a non-working day during the week, that we, earthlings know as Sunday.
No exploration and adventure today, boys. It’s Sunday!

This was a formalization of an existing norm for farmers of the market day, in which farmers went to the markets to sell things, and other animals bought the items, as was similar in many regions of our world as well (see Nundinae for example).

However, codifying this in law made sense to Leonard as the exact day in the week wasn’t unified across the Kingdom before the introduction of the King’s Rest (the northern Lynx-held regions had Midday Markets on the third day of the week, and so on) . This made organisation of commerce and general trade easier and also allowed animals to all have a common day of socialising with each other (resulting in the 1820 “cub boom” among other things).

The unified free day was also benificial in the creation of the Kingdom’s first worker’s unions, as many professions needed a day when they could all meet and organise that was outside the watchful eye of certain workplace cadres, being a thorn in the side of several industry leaders. Even so, the obligatory day off remained even after Leonard’s reign, the King’s Rest law was renamed to Lionday, and has remained in place in both the reigns of Leopold and King Lav.

In today's Ark Lore Tuesday, we talk about King's Rest, a non-working day during the week, that we, earthlings know as Sunday.
What do you mean, you need to send the postcard to your grandmother, Carl? It’s Sunday!

Lest you think we’re just making these things up out of boredom, actually – aside from botany, history and chemistry, Charles will also dabble in Kingdom law. One of the side-quests in the game will have the player dive deep into the minutiae of the Kingdom’s legal system to try and figure out a situation regarding the non-implementation of Lionsday in a certain coal mine. Here’s what happens to start off the quest (no spoilers, don’t worry):

As seen in a by-law regarding Lionsday – “during times of distress or hardship, in order to preserve the smooth operation of certain industries, the King’s Rest may be waived by local administrators for a limited time.

Yeah, we may have a disease going on, but it’s Sunday, Charles, so screw it.

This waiver may not extend beyond the period of distress, and should be duly compensated as a regular workday.” Of course, this becomes a point of contention between the workforce and the bureau, and Charles has to use his skills as a bylaw-interpreting-hedgehog to help one side out.

Sure, jump on our Discord and tell us all about what you think of work-free Sundays or whatnot.

Art re-evaluation time!

We’ve been working full-time on Trip the Ark Fantastic for almost a year now! It’s a large undertaking for a small indie developer such as us so we decided very early on we’d like to find a publisher to help us out. For this reason, we’ve been sending our Trip the Ark Fantastic brochure to a lot of publishers these past months.

The good news here is that literally everybody loves the idea of the game. We sent the brochure to almost 30 publishers and everybody was enticed by the atmosphere, themes and gameplay decisions!

Continue reading “Art re-evaluation time!”

How we made a plan for development: GDDs, techdocs, charts and more…

How we made a plan for development: GDDs, techdocs, charts and more…

Hi, it’s me again, Alex. Last week I wrote about the short history of our company and our other cool stuff we’re cooking that’s not Trip the Ark Fantastic.

This week I’m going to explain the process of planning we had prior to starting on the development of Trip the Ark Fantastic. There’s a lot of game developers who just dive in (myself included on numerous occasions) but for this project, we decided to really figure everything out prior to starting, including making GDDs, Tech Docs, Gantt charts, etc. That’s not to say we carved everything in stone, we’re still having a lot of discussions, even very fundamental ones, but at least we have a good starting cornerstone.

And since we’ve had great success with previous blogs that deal with gamedev methodology, such as the one where we discuss our asset pipeline or how we write dialogues for the game, this time we’ll write up a blog about our project methodology, how we made a plan, and hopefully some people will find it interesting! So, let’s start.

Before the flood, there was a GDD!

First off, even before we started working on the project, we made a huge GDD with all our ideas, and it was over 50 pages long and created collaboratively by Piet and me:

The process of making a plan we had prior to starting on the development of Trip the Ark Fantastic.
20.000 words of design decisions, gameplay mechanics, lore, quests etc.

This was important so that we can figure out more-or-less exactly the scope of the project even before starting it.

The next step was deciding on the art style we want. Of course, an art director would be great for this, but having none yet, we decided that we’re going to have to decide this ourselves for now. So we made another document, quite huge and pin-pointed a lot of different styles that could work, and finally decided on one to start off with.

The process of making a plan we had prior to starting on the development of Trip the Ark Fantastic.
Some of the more obscure styles we considered. Yes, very thorough.

We then settled on a fantasy-ish 2D cartoon-animated art style and found someone to make a few key artworks which we added into the new and shortened GDD, available here:

This GDD was what we sent to the Creative Europe grant (which we received) and also to our investors, prior to their investment. And then, it was time to decide on the scope of the team. Do we need a specialised composer full time or will a freelancer work? Do we need 2, 3 or 4 artists working on the visuals? How about programmers? Et cetera. So, for this, we started creating specialised documents that nail down each of these things.

Making a plan: Creating a Technical Design Document

There was the Technical Design Document where we decided on how to approach certain technical issues arising from our new mechanics (will we use SQLite for storing data, or our own search with data in JSON, what format we’ll store the game script in, et cetera). It looked a bit like this:

The process of making a plan we had prior to starting on the development of Trip the Ark Fantastic.
24 pages of this stuff. Yay, fun.

There was also a lot of other documents, including a “music design document”. Of course, this document was revised once we found the right composer, but it helped to show the potential composers what we want in terms of musical style and complexity.

Lots of weird graphs and charts in that one.

And then, after all that was done (cca mid 2019), we started gathering the team to work on the game. It took us most of 2019 but we finally found some great artists, the last of which was our character artist Serena whose first blog was about the awesome tool Krita that she uses for character design.

After the whole team was finalised, we reworked a lot of the documents (now with more realistic timesheets and expectations, especially regarding music and art), and then created a nice big 2 year plan for the development of the game, in the form of a timesheet:

We should update it for July. At some point.

This way we figured the earliest possible release-date for the game to be in 2022 (that’s why it’s called a 2 year plan!) and then when we knew everything about the game and had the whole team on board we proceeded to create a teaser trailer to showcase the atmosphere of the game and drive people to our website where they can read more about the game and follow our work (including reading these blog posts of course).

If you haven’t seen it, here’s the trailer!

And then we started working full time on the game proper, starting with making a playable demo of the first city in the game – art, story, music et cetera. The city quest was reworked a bit to feature the main mechanic already (we wanted to introduce it later but decided that for showcasing purposes earlier is better). And that’s where we’re at now.

The various documents have been replaced by more awesome tools (like Nuclino for world building) and/or more detailed charts and sheets for art and music deliverables.

Hopefully, we won’t miss our internal deadline too much (or maybe hopefully we will and the game will be 10x better for it?) but in any case, this is the long and winding road we took to ensure we know what we’re doing and we don’t enter some kind of unforeseen development hell, as none of us are really senior experts in gamedev.

And that’s it. Hopefully some of these ideas have inspired you to plan ahead for your own game! If you have any questions or would like to see some of these documents irl, ping us via social media or join our Discord!

Ark Fantastic stories: A Concise History of The Animal Kingdom

Part IX: Tyranny’s end by Scholar Bernard

This tale from the Animal Kingdom is considered to be “official”, although only the copy of the book series has been found. Scholar Bernard is long gone, and there is no actual proof the scholar is the author.

Although, there is an interesting tidbit about Bernard. Just before his passing, he asked “What door?”, while standing before a massive wooden door, when he died of a heart attack. There was no formal autopsy following Bernard’s passing, but apparently, he was getting blind. Intriguing, to say the least.

Author’s remark: The images seen in this blog may not be related to the characters or the places of the story.

The royalists had sacked the entire capital, taking every piece of grain from the storehouses and moving it to the citadel. In their effort to inconvenience the approaching army they had also poisoned all possible water sources. Everything to make the siege of the citadel as taxing as possible for the prince’s army.

This tale of the Animal Kingdom is about the prince who saved his starving people from the brutal tyranny, and set the foundations for today's capital.
Read the blog about the caste system in Animal Kingdom

The tyrant and the remaining loyal part of his army were safely stacked away in the citadel, with supplies that would last them at least a year. The populace of the capital was left behind and without any food remaining in storage they were left starving by the indifferent king.

When prince Lav arrived, he found his entrance into the capital uncontested by any royalists. What he did however find was a malnourished populace on the brink of starvation. One of the first commands Vincent ordered when entering the city was to evict all remaining citizens from the capital and relocate them to temporary shelters in the private royal estates.

This tale of the Animal Kingdom is about the prince who saved his starving people from the brutal tyranny, and set the foundations for today's capital.
Read everything about the tyranny in the KIngdom’s past

Most of these refugees would set up shop permanently in these estates, giving birth to the new capital we have today in the Redwood Forest. After dealing with the civilians, it was time to set up a siege. The walls of the ancient citadel were not easy to breach as it was carved out of solid rock directly in a steep cliff face. Even with the help of the birds the prince’s army was not able to crack the defenses of the bastion, even after weeks of trying.

The prince knew that he could not supply his army for much longer, nor could he allow the royal affairs in the remainder of the kingdom to go unattended. Without a system to oversee them, the nobles and magistrates of the kingdom had taken it upon themselves to bend the rules and regulations for their own benefit and comfort.

This behaviour could not be tolerated much longer as the prince was advised that soon there wouldn’t be a kingdom left to rule. It was then that he made the decision to call upon a cadre of his most trusted companions, to make one of the most difficult decisions the young prince had faced in his life and would scar him for years to come.

Another great article

Initially, the prince had liked to see the tyrant brought to justice, to make his brother see the error of his ways, but those delusions could not last, the tyrant king would have to die and the royalists that still clung to his rule broken. And this would have to happen as soon as possible…

Enjoyed this tale? Let us know what you thought on our Facebook, Twitter, Discord, or on the blog itself, just below in the comments!

Three Years of Gamechuck

Three Years of Gamechuck

Hi, it’s Alex, the CEO of Gamechuck (the company making Trip the Ark Fantastic) and also one of the idea-guys behind the game concept.

Although it might not be as interesting for the gamers who read us, I believe gamedevs will be very glad to read about our journey and experiences as a company. So in the next few Thursday blogs I’ll try to guide you through some of the important things that helped us out, starting with a broad overview of the first three years of our company, and moving on to our GDD procedures, choice of next games, publisher relations, etc.

So to start off, today I’m here to tell you that the company making this game is already three years old already, so I’ll take this time to write about our short trip from 2017 to today.

Press - Gamechuck Home
One of the many Gamechuck conference incidents we WON’T cover in this blogpost!
Continue reading “Three Years of Gamechuck”

The Fellowship of the Ark

The Fellowship of the Ark

Following the Charles’ biography lore blog, where we’ve put everything you wanted to know about the game’s main character (but were too afraid to ask), here we have a nice blog about the three unexpected friends that went on a grand adventure.

Charles

Charles is your introvert prototype. He doesn’t like socialising, is even less fond of big crowds of people, and gets very shy around strangers. Although, when there is a conversation topic revolving around scholarly stuff, especially those that are his domain, Charles gets very excited and quite talkative.

Following the Charles' biography lore blog, here we have a nice blog about the three unexpected friends that went on a grand adventure.
Our creative process of making new Charles

Also, did you know that Charles is actually a pretty famous hedgehog? The folk won’t remember him if you mention his name, but everyone knows who is the inventor of the shower; a byproduct of Charles’ artificial herbarium. Charles feels a strong sense of responsibility at being given the task to find the Ark, while also placing a large emphasis on his dedication to the truth. Which is more important to him (truth or duty) is up to the player to decide.

The moment when Charles receives a letter from His Highness, king Lav.

His relationship with Philippe and Andre, his journey’s companions, starts as cold and distant. However, after engaging in conversations with them more often, Charles becomes close friends with one or even both of them.

Philippe

A witty fox, many would say. Philippe is usually sarcastic and shrewd. A bit arrogant, too, and wants to show off that he is correct. He might not sit well with everyone, but he gets the job done. In case you’ve played D&D before, he would be charactarised as “lawful neutral”.

Philippe, the youngest and most ambitious member of the King’s inner circle.

Philippe volunteered to accompany Charles on his mission in attempt to steer his decisions in the correct direction. He believes that finding and proving the Ark’s existence will consolidate the Kingdom’s power structure for the next few decades. Some people don’t like his sarcasm and attitude, but most can agree with his sound arguments.

When he’s not busy checking up on his “contacts”, he enjoys a good philosophical discussion with Charles while smoking some of his favorite tobacco.

André

André , honor bound captain of the Royal Guard.

With such a rich background as André, many would simply embrace all the benefits of their status, but not this boar. Despite having rich parents and a profitable farmland, André decided to join the military. As one of the most loyal members of the Guard, the
King tasked him with keeping Charles safe during this potentially perilous mission.

He doesn’t really get into complex abstract arguments with Philippe and Charles but he has strong opinions on the royalty but he doesn’t like to discuss them because he believes he couldn’t defend them properly.

He believes the system is fair and his experience is that if you try hard you can succeed and that the people against the king are plotters and schemers and generally not honest folk. Nevertheless, he has fairly strong opinions on the Kingdom’s hierarchical system and his place in the world. As a result, he accepts Philippe’s superiority and obeys his orders without hardly any question. He loves eating and drinking and finds joy in the simple things in life.

Enjoyed this blog? Let us know what you thought on our FacebookTwitterDiscord, or on the blog itself, just below in the comments!

General Horse and the Guest Blog of Doom

You may be wondering why you are suddenly surrounded by photos of ugly old people and screenshots depicting a trashy video game.
Ah yes. The revenge of the guest blog.

You may be wondering why you are suddenly surrounded by photos of ugly old people in a place where you would expect pretty drawings of bunnies and hedgehogs. The answer is simple: It’s another guest blog!

You may be wondering why you are suddenly surrounded by photos of ugly old people and screenshots depicting a trashy video game.
Not CGI but real sets!

Hi, I’m Zvonimir and I work with Studio Spektar, an indie game company known for bringing you the true indie experience of games made by just a few people, weird art, inappropriate humor and everything going wrong all the time. Back in 2013, while larping, Sven and I met
Gamechuck’s own Aleksandar and together we started working on Viktor, a Steampunk Adventure.

It was a very silly point and click adventure about an unemployed street sweeper Viktor who decides to become an emperor of Austria-Hungary by overthrowing the current emperor:

https://steamcdn-a.akamaihd.net/steam/apps/550990/header.jpg?t=1569425421
https://store.steampowered.com/app/550990/Viktor_a_Steampunk_Adventure/

After three years of on and off work, we finished the game and launched it onto the unsuspecting public. After seeing the sales figures, Alex went on to found Gamechuck and become filthy rich (I hope), while Sven and I decided to keep making games in our spare
time.

We wanted something simpler. Something where we would have fun making the game and with minimal programming work. So I suggested we build a short ’90s style trashy FMV game, but with a bunch of original concepts and completely improvised acting. After half-listening, Sven took my suggestion with complete enthusiasm, but also a few caveats:

a) he had absolutely no idea what an “FMV” is, but he figured he’ll learn along the way.

b) the game needs to be bigger. Much bigger! Lots of encounters! Lots of planets! And no, it wouldn’t be just the two of us with puppets and silly voices, we are going to recruit a bunch of larpers to improvise with us.

Thus, the adventure began. We bought a large green sheet after realising my blue bed sheet is a bit sheety. We traveled across Croatia, from abandoned communist monuments to my grandma’s backyard.

We used all the costumes, masks, and props we could build, borrow, or dig out of our LARP equipment. We brought friends who were given a nice vacation and/or up-to their weight in alcohol to improvise silly voices, terrible accents, and vague goals that often went in a completely different direction.

You may be wondering why you are suddenly surrounded by photos of ugly old people and screenshots depicting a trashy video game.
These screenshots make you wonder why you’re following Trip the Ark Fantastic at all.

Of course, after a party comes a hangover. It took us literal years to assemble all the material with horrid mistakes, bad focus, wrong sounds, green-screen-unfriendly lighting, and a plethora of other issues. It is now stuck together in surprisingly coherent gameplay.

You may be wondering why you are suddenly surrounded by photos of ugly old people and screenshots depicting a trashy video game.
Green screen magic.

“But what the hell do you do in this game is this even game what is wrong with you”, I hear you ask. It’s a travel game with resource management. Think Oregon Trail, but everything that happens is a live action movie sequence.

You obtain and spend resources like food or fuel by interacting with people who LARP at the camera. Your choices decide how much you get or lose. There are many more random encounters than you can see in one or two playthroughs, so every new game is a different adventure.

And the audience? As is normal with this kind of game, the audience is small but dedicated. But it seems that people on Twitch love it.

There’s just something about a trash film full of improvised acting with russian-like accents that turns every streamer into a member of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Apparently, we unknowingly made a great party game to play in a room with friends.

If you have or are planning to have a trash movie party, I definitely recommend you bring this new piece of modern history.

Here’s the link again, have fun with this GOTY title:

https://store.steampowered.com/app/813480/General_Horse_and_the_Package_of_Doom/

Ark Fantastic stories: Legion of the bloodthirsty undead

Ark Fantastic stories: Legion of the bloodthirsty undead

Unlike in some other RPG titles, you should not believe just everything you read, and not everything is a part of the game lore. Or is it? As a reputable scholar, Charles will often be in a position to debunk such stories, or, better yet, use his scholarly reputation to prove them true!

In this Ark Lore, we bring another tale from the Animal Kingdom, written in the form of a diary by an unknown hero, who fought a legion of the Undead.

Author’s remark: The images seen in this blog may not be related to the characters or the places of the story.

“How I defeated the Scourge of Blavgoz and his legion of bloodthirsty undead” – A true story

Dear reader, How I would love to tell you of my successful infiltration into the wolf’s den! 

Infiltrating the lair of the villainous monstrosity has become quite easy after using my superior intellect.  Letting the poor townspeople deliver me in an empty casket of wine, as an offer to the wolf, was really an ingenious plan!

"How I defeated the Scourge of Blavgoz and his legion of bloodthirsty undead" - A true story
The hero is unknown, but his diary has been preserved. Legends about his adventures are still alive among the town folk who occasionally talk about the grim past of the Kingdom. But, they are just legends, after all.

But now came the more difficult part of my quest: finding and destroying the ritual foci so that these bloodthirsty undead might finally be put to rest.

Unfortunately, I found myself in quite an ordeal: They had delivered the barrel right in the midst of their living quarters and from the sounds permeating the thick oaken barrel, I could hear their vile gurgles and cries, as well as smell the thick rancid stench coming from the decomposing bodies of the undead soldiers.

The only thing that stopped them from breaching the barrel this instant was a speech from their master, the dretched scourge of Blavgoz himself! 

"How I defeated the Scourge of Blavgoz and his legion of bloodthirsty undead" - A true story
The legend says, some herbs can protect from the “blood-suckers”. Garlic is the best, apparently.

I was sure that I could take out a dozen or so of these creatures with my martial prowess alone. (My rapier was left behind in Blavgoz as the still wine-coated inside of the barrel would taint the fine steel of the blade, a risk I was not willing to take.)

There were, going from the sounds, hundreds of those creatures just waiting for their master’s speech to finish! Even my formidable abilities would be tested to their utmost limits when faced with a horde of that magnitude! 

And suddenly, in a flash of insight, I connected every puzzle piece and clearly understood what I had to do. From my satchel, I took the wooden doll I had found by the roadside. This, dear reader, was the doll that started this entire adventure, the doll of which I had traced the origin the entire way to the downtrodden village of Blavgoz.

"How I defeated the Scourge of Blavgoz and his legion of bloodthirsty undead" - A true story
An ominous-looking gate.

All the while under the impression that I had to find the poor little girl to whom it belonged.  Nothing could be more false… I actually had the ritual totem on me all the time and I didn’t even realize it! 

I took another look at the doll and clearly saw the vile miasma surrounding it, why hadn’t I seen this before? I made my decision and snapped the doll to pieces in a single, fluid motion.

Suddenly I heard bodies collapsing on the ground, at least a hundred of these bound creatures were finally free from their wretched curse. The wolf almost choked in the middle of one of his sentences and it became quiet…. Very quiet…

"How I defeated the Scourge of Blavgoz and his legion of bloodthirsty undead" - A true story
If you want to hear some scary stories from the legends of the Kingdom, camping is the best activity for that.

“Well”, I thought, “Time for some fine ass-whooping!” as I burst from my barrel in a cloud of oaken shards and metal fringes. And let out one of my world-famous battle cries. Before beating the ever-living snot out of the still bedazzled scourge of Blavgoz.

Enjoyed this tale? Let us know what you thought on our Facebook, Twitter, Discord, or on the blog itself, just below in the comments!

Guest blog: Support Saint Kotar on Kickstarter!

Guest blog: Support Saint Kotar on Kickstarter!

Hello, mighty community of Trip the Ark Fantastic! You really are something special, you are following a fantastic project!

I’m Marko, the CEO of Red Martyr Entertainment. Just like Gamechuck, we are also from Croatia. Although, we are on the coastline, in Pula, and the guys and girls from Gamechuck couldn’t be more jealous of us. They just don’t want to admit it.

I’m also the game director, writer and narrative designer of Saint Kotar, a psychological horror point & click adventure.

Saint Kotar latest trailer

Not to worry, the focus is on the psychological side, not the horror side, and the story actually has many other genres as well: detective, mystery, crime and drama.

The interesting thing about Saint Kotar is that its story takes place in Gorski kotar, a mountain region of Croatia. A beautiful and mysterious region and a perfect setting for our game which recounts a tale plagued by macabre murders and strange phenomena, allegedly related to devil worship and witchcraft.

Saint Kotar screenshot

Image 1 of 5

What’s also interesting is that the Saint Kotar’s prologue was released a week ago. It is completely free, offers 2 to 3 hours of gameplay time, it is fully voiced and localized into multiple languages. Players are giving very positive review ratings on Steam!

And here comes the sad truth: Red Martyr Entertainment needs more funds to develop the rest of the full game Saint Kotar.

Saint Kotar screenshot

Image 1 of 5

We turned to Kickstarter for that matter, and the campaign was launched on the same day of the prologue’s release. Right now the project is 33% funded, with over 400 backers, but we need more people to come aboard and get the word out. Consider backing us:

Also, don’t forget to continue following this great devblog! The Gamechuck team is doing a great job and they deserve to be supported as well.

Stay safe!

Mr. Moles and the Hollow Prospect

Mr. Moles and the Hollow Prospect

As with many role-playing games out there, Trip the Ark Fantastic has its fair share of tales and stories that complement the game lore.

During Charles’ adventure, the player has to do research to find the location of the Ark as well as to discover the truth behind other mysteries. Charles will stumble upon both research books and lore books. Lore books are not necessary for research purposes but are nuggets of information for the player to enjoy and get a sense of the world that Charles is living in. This is one of those stories.

This lore book was written by our programmer Piet Bronders, and he hopes you enjoy it.

Continue reading “Mr. Moles and the Hollow Prospect”