Elysian Shadows

Kickstarter Update #17: Team Drama, Combat Engine, 4 Player Local Multiplayer, Delays

Alrighty, this is going to be a gigantic update. Yes, we have been horrible at updating Kickstarter, and yes, the game will be delayed, but the silence was not due to stagnation. We had another pretty fundamental team shake-up that has left the project understaffed, and those of us remaining have been slaving away every day in a state of silent depression, doing our jobs along with the jobs of those who deserted us, hoping to god we could make the December dead-line, but always knowing in the back of our minds that we were attempting the impossible and sacrificing our health to do so... Despite the fact that these last few months have been some of the hardest months of our lives, we have continued to make significant progress on the game and we will continue to do so into 2016. This update was also delayed due to something really, really, really exciting happening for us and the project that we cannot yet disclose, but expect another update as soon as I get the green light. We are literally itching with anticipation.

Strafing with the L-trigger and attacking.
Crystal Golem idle animation.

I never really know what to say when stuff like this happens, but I feel an obligation to be completely transparent with our backers. My father and some of my colleagues think posting intimate team drama is unprofessional, and they would probably be right... Only the majority of our fans are what we would consider friends, and you all know we aren't some big AAA studio with PR reps. We're a bunch of dudes with a dream. You've seen us grow up on YouTube, you've seen us pour our hearts and souls into this project, and we have alwas communicated on a very real, imtimate level with you... I feel like throwing our hands up now and saying we're too "professional" to be sincere and transparent is disrespectful to our fanbase... So I'm fine with being judged as unprofessional.

Tyler Rogers, our gameplay engineer, left us not long after the last Kickstarter udpate. Only he didn't just leave us. He ripped his server out from under us, took Patrick's bed, took monitors, and took routers, without even so much as a minute's heads up to commit code we were currently working on. Normally I don't like to advertise team drama like this, but this was a pretty signficiant setback for us. We lost a significant amount of time and momentum having to redo our setup. This was a pretty large financial setback we hadn't planned on, and now in addition to creating a cross-platform engine and toolkit to compete with Unity2D, I'm also charged with all gameplay programming and scripting.

Setting up the new studio and getting back to work, the same day Tyler quit.

I'm sure his rebuttal will be that Patrick and I were "mean" to him towards the end of his days, and he would absolutely be telling the truth. He was the one who once told me that a man should let his work speak for himself. With this in mind, please rewatch the last 6 chapters of Adventures in Game Development. He had a grand total of one scene of progress to show off during this time period, which was only after insisting and begging after he would usually disappear for 2-3 days at a time for every day or two he worked. Between amazing progress on the engine, tools, and graphics, it has been insanely demoralizing for Patrick and I to work ourselves literally to the point of illness and not see any of our hard work come together during this last year into a cohesive gameplay experience... Combine this with the ever-lingering anxiety of knowing 2k people supported your dream and are expecting a game from you, then sure, I could see "mean" being used to describe us urging him to show up for work and threatening him with his job if he didn't... seems legit.

Just one of the many times I caught Patrick napping under his desk.

Yes, many of you probably think this is my fault for hiring someone incompetent to do such a fundamental task, and honestly, this is something I've beaten myself up over for the last several months since his departure. He wasn't just an "employee" of Elysian Shadows any more than I am. He was my best friend, and this was a dream we shared and fought for together for YEARS. He was just as invested in this project emotionally and financially as any one of us, and this was never about employers and employees--this was a band of brothers. In the end, I'm glad he decided to leave of his own free will, as much as he did it in an exceptionally unprofessional manner, because I don't know if I would have had the resolve to actually kick him off... and just for the record, it was easier for me to redo his work than it was for me to use it. Not a single line of code remains in the project from Tyler, and this has been a clean break.

It isn't all depression and misery on this front. Tyler leaving was actually one of the best things to ever happen to this team and the game. Yes, it has resulted in setbacks, as we were already overworked, but taking over his job has allowed me to make serious progress and focus exclusively on the combat system and gameplay for the first time, and it has been slowly materializing into something freaking awesome that has remotivated all of us. We've had lots of people stop by the studio and play around with it, fine-tuning every little variable and tweaking gameplay mechanics until they just "felt right." It's slowly evolving into what I think feels like a combination of Super Smash Bros (double-tap dashes, hard-hitting "smash attack" feelings), Secret of Mana, and MegaMan X (Charged magic shots, platforming mechanics).

Family and friends gathered around on Thanksgiving to beta test the new combat engine.

There was a significant amount of work put into creating a fully skeletal animation system, allowing us to do very complex animations smoothly. Swords and shields show up on the character and can be sheathed. The player can pick up and throw objects and fireballs, animations can use advanced particle effects, etc. We modified quite a bit of the spine run-time to take advantage of the power of our engine.

Julien's basic skeletal animation. Everything is separate sprites, allowing for maximum versatility.. He can even be beheaded by enemies!
Movement is all analog-based in every direction. Lightly moving it walks, fully pressing runs.

In addition to walking, running, and strafing, the player can double-tap the analog stick to dash as in Megaman X or Smash brothers. He can also jump, jump dash, pick up, throw, and shatter objects (even hitting enemies) with the rigid body physics engine. All weapons will show up visibly on the player as in Secret of Mana.

I know, I know. The game is already late, how the HELL is the engine developer justifying multiplayer? By not writing shitty code... After the controller API and subsystem was implemented for each platform, we realized it would be easier to control two characters to test combat against each other than it would be to write party-based AI... As we kept going, it just felt "right." So ES is now supporting 4 player co-op, in the same fashion as Secret of Mana, only less annoyingly. Since we have a truly 3D dynamic camera, the world will zoom in and out to keep the action and each player onscreen in the same manner as Super Smash Brothers. Yes, it will also be 4 player local multiplayer on the Sega Dreamcast.

We had a slew of robberies right around our development studio the other day... Didn't stop us.
My girlfriend and I didn't spend much time alone for awhile... Haha.
Concept art for one of the later party members: "Magas.LUA" She is literally a Lua script.
Environment for Crystal Mines (before dynamic lights)
Crystal Golem attacking animation.
I guess all the animation work killed poor Patrick...
Concept art for a Crystal Cube
Crystal Golems running animation.

Animations for an exploding Crystal Golem.

Concept and Gameplay Mechanics for the Crystal Ruins
Just another day at the office!
Politechnica's Insides
Politechnica's Exteriors (without dynamic lighting yet). Conceptually influenced by Final Fantasy 8's Balamb Garden and SEED academy
Art for the festival in the beginning of the game. Highly inspired by Chrono Trigger's Millenial Fair.
Meticulously testing with every controller we could get our hands on... OUYA, Dreamcast, Gamecube, PS3, Xbox 360, etc. The map is actually a little deathmatch area we built to play around in.
Crystal Rats all chilling...

I just wanted to quickly update everyone on this front. You've probably all seen the drama in the indie gaming news regarding Razer's purchase of OUYA and the fate of the Free the Games Fund... Elysian Shadows was the highest FTG'd game, and we had planned on receiving the funding ever since we were Kickstarted. Luckily it does look as though Razer is honoring the deal. We haven't signed anything official yet, so theoretically it could still fall through, but things are looking bright on that front. The only thing we don't know about yet is the fate of the actual OUYA console itself. We aren't sure whether we will be supporting the original hardware or Razer's new hardware under our new obligations. If anybody reading this purchased ES for the original OUYA and really, really doesn't want the game on any other platform, please speak up!

OUYA's Free the Games Fund

Since the last Kickstarter update, there has been one chapter of Adventures in Game Development released. Its pacing is a little weird, since part of it took place right around the time Tyler left, then we picked the camera back up and continued on with the new setup. You can see us setting servers back up and even see us continuing to code and work on the game as Tyler's stuff was moved out. There is also a lot of great progress on iOS builds and skeletal animation.

I wanted to apologize just one last time for the silence and lack of updates. I mean no disrespect to the rest of the team, but I am stuck as the PR person in addition to every aspect of programming now just because I am a halfway decent writer, which is more than slightly overwhelming. I will try my best to continue these updates semi-regularly, and I will also be continuing the AiGD series once we have the combat system down. Hopefully in the near future we will be getting a PR rep, so I will never have to do this again. ;)

If anybody has any questions, comments, complaints, or you just want to say you hate us for being late, feel free to post it in the comments below. I will personally be checking the comments every morning for about a week before I open up my IDE and start coding for the day. I am so sorry for the delays, but trust me, in a few years nobody is going to remember that we were late. We will be remembered for having a kick ass game. :)

--Falco Girgis

Falco Girgis
Falco Girgis is the founder and lead software architect of the Elysian Shadows project. He was previously employed in the telecom industry before taking a chance on Kickstarter and quitting his job to live the dream. He is currently pursuing his masters in Computer Engineering with a focus on GPU architecture.